The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2233 Tuesday, 25 November 2003
From: Richard Kennedy <
Date: Monday, 24 Nov 2003 15:53:41 -0800
Subject: The Fayre Mayde of the Exchange
The Fayre Mayde of the Exchange: With the pleasaunt Humours of the
Cripple of Fanchurch. Very delectable, and full of mirth.
The Shakspere Allusion Book, Vol I, gives this play to Thomas Heywood,
but it is anonymous and much doubted. The allusion they give is this:
Bowdler speaks: "...as for example, Venus her selfe with all her skill
could not winne Adonis...." The editors then give several passages that
are somewhat alike to Shakespeare, L.L.Lost, Much Ado, As you like it,
and Merry Wives of Windsor.
But there's much more for our curiosity. If Oxford was praised for his
comedy, where are his comedies? Dr. Dodypoll may be one of them, and
this I think is another.
E.K.Chambers, "The Elizabethan Stage" Vol. IV gives us much doubt about
the author, as follows:
"Heywood's authorship was asserted by Kirkman in 1671 (Greg, "Masques,"
lxvii), denied by Langbaine in 1687, accepted by Charles Lamb and out of
respect to him by Ward, ii. 572, and is still a matter of dispute.
Fleay, ii. 329, assigned it to Machin on quite inadequate grounds.
Hibberd argues the case for Heywood, and Aaronstein attempts a
compromise by giving ii. I, iv. I, and v to Heywood and the rest to some
young academic student of Shakespeare and Jonson. The imitations of
these point to a date c. 1602. I do not offer an opinion."
The plot falls out that some letters must be written, and Cripple
volunteers himself for the work:
Crip. Why, thinkst thou that I cannot write a letter,
Ditty, or Sonnet with judiciall phrase,
As pretty, pleasing, and patheticall,
As the best Ovid-immitating dunce
In all the towne.
Franke. I thinke thou canst not.
Crip. Yea, ile sweare I cannot,
Yet sirra, I could conny-catch the world,
Make my selfe famous for a sodaine wit,
And be admirde for my dexteritie,
Were I disposde.
Franke. I pre thee how.
Crip. Why thus there liv'd a Poet in this towne,
(If we may terme our moderne Writers Poets)
Sharpe-witted, bitter-tongd, his penne of steele,
His incke was temperd with the biting juice
And extracts of the bitterst weedes that grew,
He never wrote but when the elements
Of Fire and Water tilted in his braine:
This fellow ready to give up his ghost
To Luciaes bosome, did bequeathe to me
His Library, which was just nothing,
But rolles, and scrolles, and bundles of cast wit,
Such as durst never visit Paules churchyard:
Amongst them all, I happened on quire
Or two of paper filld with Songs and Ditties,
And heere and there a hungry Epigramme,
These I reserve to my owne proper use,
And Pater-noster-like have kon'd them all.
I could now when I am in company,
At alehouse, taverne, or an ordinarie,
Upon a theame make an extemporall ditty,
(Or one at least should seeme extemporall)
Out of th'aboundance of this Legacie,
That all would judge it, and report it too,
To be the infant of a sodaine wit,
And then were I an admirable fellow.
Franke. This were a peece of cunning.
Crip. I could doe more, for I could make enquirie
Where the best witted Gallants use to dine,
Follow them to the taverne, and there sit
In the next rowme with a calves head and brimstone,
And over heare their talke, observe their humours,
Collect their jeasts, put them into a play,
And tire them too with payment to behold
What I have filcht from them. This I could doe:
But O for shame that men should so arraigne
Their own feesimple wits, for verball theft!
Yet men there be that have done this and that,
And more by much more than the most of them.
If these passages were set as a footnote regarding the identity of
Shake-scene in Groatsworth, the conclusion must be that Shake-scene was
the man from Stratford, who had the same eaves-dropping and bombasting
talents Cripple describes. But if not, it's an interesting piece of
reporting, and can be added to our bumbling efforts to know who wrote
what. It's much like Shakespeare.
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