The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0216 Friday, 24 March 2006
 From: Bob Grumman <
Date: Thursday, 23 Mar 2006 18:18:39 -0500
Subj: Re: SHK 17.0194 Chettle, Greene, Shake-scene
 From: Gerald E. Downs <
Date: Friday, 24 Mar 2006 02:12:22 EST
Subj: Re: SHK 17.0204 Chettle, Greene, Shake-scene
From: Bob Grumman <
Date: Thursday, 23 Mar 2006 18:18:39 -0500
Subject: 17.0194 Chettle, Greene, Shake-scene
Comment: Re: SHK 17.0194 Chettle, Greene, Shake-scene
Gerald E. Downs writes in detail about the way some biographers of
Shakespeare too often have presented their assumption as to what Chettle
thought of Shakespeare as though it were a fact. However, I believe that
almost all biographers of Shakespeare say somewhere or other that much
of what they say is based on guesswork. Perhaps footnotes stating that
not all scholars believe Chettle mentioned Shakespeare in his famous
Epistle to Kind-Harts Dreame would be proper in the works of those
biographers. On the other hand, loading a biography with caveats about
every detail the biography is based on would (if even practical) cost
the biography far more in readability than it would add to it in
Moreover, as I have shown
(http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Cafe/1492/chettle), it is near-certain
that Chettle was speaking of Shakespeare. Yes, we all are aware that
since "A target not included in (the group of three playwrights the
Groatsworth letter was addressed to) will not qualify without convincing
argument." But I present such convincing argument--as have many others
besides "The only post-Erne publication" Downs saw "arguing this
issue"--D. Allen Carroll's *Reading the 1592 Groatsworth Attack on
Shakespeare", Tennessee Law Review, v. 72, Fall 2004) that Downs bothers
to consider. Rather than present my arguments yet again, I will limit
myself here to comments on what Downs says in his post against
Shakespeare as one of the playwrights Chettle apologized to.
1. Downs says, "To say that "If the apology is directed to Shakespeare,
then 'quality' refers to acting," then argue that "Peele was not an
actor," is to beg the question. If the apology was not directed to
Shakespeare, then 'quality' was in reference to someone else. This seems
rather to be arguing that 'quality' referred to acting with an
exclusivity that is not warranted by surviving usage, as Erne notes (&
may be noted further)."
Who says "if the apology is directed to Shakespeare, then 'quality'
refers to acting? What I and others say is that "quality" could refer to
acting; Shakespeare was an actor; ergo, the use of the word "quality"
suggests that Chettle was referring to the actor Shakespeare. No
2. Downs says that "Comparing insults does not narrow the field. One may
offend another deeply and not give a hoot, but regret a minor slight to
yet another." This is supposed to demonstrate that several persons
besides Marlowe and the Crow could have been offended by the
Groatsworth, so Chettle could as easily have been apologizing to two of
the former as to Marlowe and the Crow. It demonstrates no such thing.
If, as is clear, the Groatsworth insults Marlowe and the Crow
significantly more that it insults anyone else (and it partly
compliments Peele), then we can properly reason that Marlowe and the
Crow were MORE LIKELY to have been offended than the others, and more
likely to have gone to Chettle about the matter and gotten an apology
3. I agree with Downs that Chettle's "spare' is not very likely a
reference to Shake"spare."
4. Downs thinks "Erne effectively argues that Shakespeare is not likely
to be referred to as 'scholar.'" I don't. Chettle's letter is clearly
rushed. He doesn't directly call the play-makers he apologizes to
scholars, he just reminds his readers that he has long "hindered the
bitter inueying against schollers." This suggests he means "schollers"
as writers, to me--but what if he didn't think the second playwright he
apologizes to was a "scholler?" Would he have said, "With neither of
them that take offence, one of whom was not a schollar, was I
acquainted?" He's concerned in this sentence with the two who took
offence, not with whether they were scholars or not.
I doubt he was trying for great accuracy, anyway. Moreover, he could
simply not have known whether or not the second playwright was a
university man. He himself was not. So he used the term (as I once
addressed a jr. college teacher of mine as "doctor," thinking he must
have had a Ph.D., although it turned out he did not). Or he could have
known the man was not a university graduate but wanted to compliment him
by suggesting, very indirectly, that he was. Still, I think Chettle was
just writing fast, as everything in his preface indicates. This also, of
course, is my (main) explanation for his forgetting that the second
playwright was not one of the "divers play-makers" the Groatsworth was
5. Downs: "The opinion that Chettle is responsible for the 'lying
pamphlet' is not an assumption but a carefully argued case paralleling
the 'apology' issue."
Me: Actually, it is an inconclusive, standard scholarly attempt to show
superior counter-intuitive originality by going against direct evidence.
According to Downs, however, "The strong prima facie case for Chettle's
forgery was effectively told by Chauncey Sanders in the thirties, but
the facts almost speak for themselves. The copy was in Chettle's hand.
The book was entered at his 'peril.' Most importantly to my mind, the
very friends addressed in GGW pegged it for a forgery. They were in a
better position to judge, in every way."
This doesn't mean much to me. Should the book have been published at
Greene's peril? And Nashe is the only one of the three it addressed who
wrote anything about it, and I don't believe he claimed it was a
forgery. Without, so far as we know, having read it.
As for the thing being in Chettle's hand, Chettle himself says he copied
it out for the printer. I note that among the facts overlooked are the
6. Downs introduces the possibility that Chettle wrote the Groatsworth,
because "If Chettle wrote the vicious attack on Shakespeare, would he so
easily be motivated to apologize for it? If he inadvertently offended
one of 'Greene's' addressees (while purposely attacking Marlowe); in the
process bringing suspicion on himself as the perp, wouldn't his apology
make sense? In other words, it may matter if Chettle wrote the letter."
Not at all does it matter. If he wrote the letter, Chettle's apology
could make good sense for any or all of the following (and other
similar) reasons: (a) he really didn't know Shakespeare but targetted
him because of a rumor he mistakenly accepted, and when he found out the
rumor was wrong, he apologized; (b) he knew little about Shakespeare but
was jealous of the success of his HenryVI play so attacked him, later
realizing how petty he'd been; (c) he attacked him because he thought
him a marginal figure but found out he had powerful friends, so tried to
get on his good side with his apology; (d) he attacked him because he
knew Greene would have, then found him a decent fellow, so apologized to
him; (e) he thought apologizing to him would help distance him from
authorship of the Groatsworth--that is, if he was seen to think
Shakespeare a good chap, it would be less likely that he'd be suspected
of having attacked him.
7. "As Carroll shows, Greene's previously published material was
ingeniously used to mimic Greene, taking advantage of Greene's own habit
of borrowing from himself." I quote Downs here only to reveal how he
takes Carroll's opinion as a fact after inveighing against biographers
who have taken Chettle's apology as to Shakespeare as a fact.
Downs ends with an assertion that errors were caught long ago. "Because
publications have been slow to address these problems, a forum such as
this has a chance to discuss them with clarifying effect." That I can
agree with, but with the understanding that, for me, "the problems" are
not the allegedly caught errors but the misguided attempts of certain
scholars to prove themselves superior to common sense.
From: Gerald E. Downs <
Date: Friday, 24 Mar 2006 02:12:22 EST
Subject: 17.0204 Chettle, Greene, Shake-scene
Comment: Re: SHK 17.0204 Chettle, Greene, Shake-scene
Julia Griffin asks:
>On the issue of Greene and GGW: does Professor Downs [I'm not]
>have an opinion about the image of Greene himself in this work?
>I'm interested in the representation it gives of his misery and
>degradation, which some critics (e.g., Lorna Hutson) have dismissed
>as a literary trope. The same wretched picture emerges from the
>flurry of Greene pamphlets that appeared after his death, and from
>Gabriel Harvey's cruel Four Letters, but it seems to be denied, or
>partially denied, by Nashe in Strange News.
I am skeptical of all accounts, for various reasons (most forgotten).
The later pamphlets are not credible. Greene's own works set the stage
and publication of 'Quip' coincident with the death of Harvey's brother
seems to account for a cruelty that probably included lies. Nashe's
engaging style makes him a better witness. GGW follows Harvey's 2nd of
the 4 Letters from the press, which may have set the scene.
Marcus Dahl asks:
>As I'm sure everyone will be aware, if Chettle is the [main] author
>of GGW and the supposed attack on Shakespeare is actually
>aimed at Marlowe/ Nashe/ Peele, then it also seems to affect the
>issue (to which it is always attached) of the authorship of 1HVI.
>I wonder if you have a view on this?
Bob Grumman answers for me: "He does," but Bob has not read carefully.
Don Bloom responds to the question differently:
>I find myself puzzled. Is he saying that "Shake-scene" does not
>refer to Shake-speare? Or, the puppet, the upstart crow, and
I didn't address the GGW attack on "Shake-scene." I did mention the
attack on Marlowe (based on the atheism 'Greene' renounces), to whom
Chettle did not apologize. Dahl's question should then be restated
before anyone can properly respond. However, the point I take from
Erne's argument is that the attack on 'Shake-scene' should be read
unmixed with the KHD apology unless better argument comes to its rescue.
As unwelcome as this may be to tradition, it is a simplification of the
I'm not sure what is asked of 1H6 if the parodied line is from 3H6. I
have not studied Dahl's arguments (or anyone else's lately) on these
plays. With little certain about GGW, I take 'Shake-scene' to be
Shakespeare and agree that the parodied line is attributed to him. I
assume the passage it comes from was much admired.. The play it comes
from is problematic because the derivative H6 bad quartos were in the
offing. Did Chettle refer to True Tragedy or to 3H6?
Gerald E. Downs
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