The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0144 Tuesday, 13 February 2007
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Subject: Thorpe Query
Comment: SHK 18.0135 Thorpe Query
Yesterday, I posted Gerald E. Downs's exceedingly long response to mine
and Peter Holland's replies to an earlier post of his
I really don't have time for this, but I feel compelled even though I do
not like 'engaging in fights with tar babies' and even though I have a
seminar tonight that I want to spend more time preparing for.
Nota Bene: 'engaging in fights with tar babies' is an allusion that
describes my feelings about continuing to argue with Gerald E. Downs
about these matters. In no way is the allusion intended to be anything
but figurative - I am NOT calling Gerald Downs a name nor am I LITERALLY
describing our disagreements on these matters as a fight.
In the interests of full disclosure and because I do not believe in
having hidden agendas, I want to explain why I feel compelled to respond
to Downs. Peter Holland, a prominent Shakespeare scholar, took the time
to respond helpfully to a query, AN ORDINARY LISTSERV QUESTION (a
question was not terribly important, nor was it in a peer-review
journal, such as _Shakespeare Survey_, the journal that he edits). In
return, his response was characterized in a manner that called into
question his scholarship and ridiculed my efforts to introduce the
Roundtable feature to SHAKSPER: "Peter Holland's contribution falls
short of the 'valuable resource' necessary to a raised level of
On several occasions, similar instances of this sort of behavior have
occurred. A distinguished, senior Shakespearean scholar, who once
replied to query that resulting in his being viciously attacked by some
members, confided to me at a conference that in the past when he had
replied to questions he had sometimes taken upwards to an hour to
research the information he included in his reply. He was, thus,
justifiably upset that the response in question had garnered such
noxious replies to a tangential point he had made that was not even
related to the content of the response but to a minor misunderstanding
on his part. He, then, made it clear to me that as a consequence of what
had happened he was less inclined to respond publicly on the list than
he had been. We are all deprived of the contributions of this seasoned
and respected scholar because of this.
Marvin Krims had posed the query to which Peter Holland responded:
>Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I have a
>memory of a comment by one of Shakespeare's
>contemporaries that Shakespeare was troubled by
>Thorpe's unauthorized publication of the Sonnets.
>But I can't confirm this.
>Can someone please shed light on this?
In his response <http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2007/0075.html>,
Holland included a quotation from Heywood, which he most likely cut and
pasted from his own biography of Shakespeare prepared for the ODNB. In
this biography, Holland in the section "Shakespeare in London,
1598-1601" organizes the last portion around the use of Shakespeare's
name as a "good marketing ploy." In order to preserve the context in
which the Heywood quotation appears I am going to include the two
Shakespeare's plays were also starting to appear in print both in
versions that give unauthorized and often inaccurate versions of the
plays and in reasonably carefully prepared versions, the latter often in
response to the former: for example the quarto of Romeo and Juliet
published in 1599, 'Newly corrected, augmented, and amended', in answer
to the imperfections of the 1595 quarto. The suspect quartos often bear
apparent traces of performance in their more elaborate stage directions.
A positive flurry of editions appeared in 1600: 2 Henry IV, Henry V, The
Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Much Ado about
Nothing, as well as reprints of three other plays and The Rape of
Lucrece. Some of these published editions of his plays now carried the
author's name on their title-pages-for example, Love's Labour's Lost,
the second quartos of Richard II and Richard III all published in 1598,
or the third quarto of 1 Henry IV in 1599-another indication of
Shakespeare's growing reputation and significance, since playwrights
were not usually named on their plays.
In 1605 the placing of Shakespeare's name on the title-page of The
London Prodigal, a play certainly not by Shakespeare, is a further sign
that his name was a good marketing ploy; the same (presumably
deliberate) misattribution happened with the publication of Middleton's
A Yorkshire Tragedy in 1608 (though some have argued that the play is by
Similarly, in 1599 William Jaggard published the second edition of a
collection of poems called The Passionate Pilgrim (the date of the first
edition is uncertain) which the title-page also attributed to
Shakespeare, much to Shakespeare's annoyance that Jaggard, as Thomas
Heywood noted, 'altogether unknowne to him ... presumed to make so bold
with his name' (Schoenbaum, Documentary Life, 219). Very little of the
collection was by Shakespeare but it included pirated and unattributed
printings of three extracts from Love's Labour's Lost offered as poems
and of two of Shakespeare's sonnets (138 and 144). Meres had noted that
'the sweete wittie soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous & hony-tongued
Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred
Sonnets among his private friends, &c.' (F. Meres, Palladis tamia, fols.
281v-282r). Whenever the sonnets were written, these two at least were
by 1599 available in versions Jaggard could use.
Holland as Schoenbaum had done in _Lives_ includes the latter comments
by Heywood in his discussion of the second edition of The Passionate
Pilgrim, to elaborate, I assume, on the issue of Shakespeare reception
in the late 1590s and early 1600s.
Somehow during the move from ODNB to listserv response, Peter's
quotation from Heywood became "altogether unknowne to him . presumed to
make so bold with his name" instead of the way it appeared in the
biography: "altogether unknowne to him ... presumed to make so bold with
his name." Those of us have less time on our hands than others have all
had such things happen when we in haste to complete a task inadvertently
introduce an error in transmission.
After disparaging Holland and me, Downs used the opportunity to launch
an attack on the work of the twentieth-century's most accomplished
Shakespeare biographer, Sam Schoenbaum, someone I had casually known but
greatly admired. Downs characterized what Schoenbaum and Holland had
done as "misquotation." Misquotation implies to me a serious
misrepresentation of the original. Schoenbaum and Holland had changed
ONE parenthesis in the interest of clarity to be greeted with Downs's
smug critique of an accidental, not a substantive, an accidental.
Hardy M. Cook
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
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