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The Secret Code Word Shakespeare Devilishly Hid in Plain Sight in Romeo & Juliet that Shakespeare Uncovered DIDN’T Uncover—but John Milton (and then I) did!

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.117  Monday, 9 March 2015


From:        Arnie Perlstein < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 7, 2015 at 12:45:04 PM EST

Subject:    “…as no delay of PREFACE BROOKING…”: Milton’s Satanic allusion to the PREFACE of BROOKE’s Romeus & Juliet


I have a follow-up to my earlier post about the acrostic SATAN that Brooke hid in Romeus & Juliet, and which Shakespeare hid in Romeo & Juliet, and which Milton hid in Paradise Lost.


But first a recap of the basic details:




There is a perfect acrostic of the name “SATAN” right in the middle of the speech by Friar Laurence as he successfully cajoles Juliet to drink the Elizabethan Kool-Aid. In the stranger than fiction category, this SATAN acrostic was actually discovered and noted a century ago! But it was in a tiny footnote, by William Stone Booth, a Baconian obsessive (and member of the famous Booth family, of theatrical fame and assassinatory infamy), in a book filled with Byzantinely geometric supposed variations on the name (Francis) “Bacon”, whom Booth believed was Shakespeare in disguise. So, Booth passed right by Friar Laurence’s acrostic SATAN it in order to get to what Booth thought was ‘the good stuff’, and I only found his footnote because I had already independently rediscovered Shakespeare’s SATAN myself—and here it is:

Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death:

And in this borrow’d likeness of shrunk death

Thou shalt continue two and forty hours,

And then awake as from a pleasant sleep.
Now, when the bridegroom in the morning comes



The perfect “SATAN” acrostic in the passage from Paradise Lost was discovered in 1977 by Prof. Paul Klemp, then a young graduate student, whom I have been in touch with since last year, and who has endured 38 years of skepticism from smug Miltonian scholarly colleagues, who have danced on the heads of pins angsting over whether it was intentional on Milton’s part or not, and also as to what it might have meant, in a poem in which Satan is the protagonist. (Really?????)


Scipio the highth of Rome. With tract oblique     

At first, as one who sought access, but feard

To interrupt, side-long he works his way.

As when a Ship by Skilful Stearsman wrought

Nigh Rivers mouth or Foreland, where the Wind


But the strongest proof of all, that both Shakespeare and Milton wrote their respective SATAN acrostics intentionally, is that there are in Brooke’s poem not one but two SATAN acrostics which are both perfect, one going down, one coming up, like snakes “touching tails” where they meet—the tails being the letters “AN” which begin consecutive lines—exactly like the line beginning with “AN” in the middle of Shakespeare’s famous TitANia acrostic. Those 2 touching SATAN acrostics in that passage from Brooke’s poem could never in a million million million years occur by coincidence in a scene so strongly parallel thematically to both Shakespeare’s and Milton’s:

Sooner or later than it should, or else, not work at all? 

And then my CRAFT descried as open as the day,

The people's tale and laughing-stock shall I remain for aye."

"ANd what know I," quoth she, "if SERPENTS odious,
ANd other beasts and worms that are of nature VENOMOUS,

That wonted are to LURK in DARK caves underground,

And commonly, as I have heard, in dead men's tombs are found,

Shall harm me, yea or nay, where I shall lie as dead


In the aftermath of posting the above summary, I myself couldn’t stop wondering about one loose end.  I was 100% certain from the above textual evidence that (1) Shakespeare’s SATAN acrostic was intended by Shakespeare to allude to Brooke’s SATAN twin acrostics; and (2) Milton’s SATAN acrostic was intended by Milton to allude to Shakespeare’s SATAN acrostic. However, it seemed by no means certain that Milton’s SATAN acrostic was also intended to allude to Brooke’s SATAN twin acrostics.  After all, perhaps Milton had never read or even heard of Brooke’s forgettable 1562 poem? Even though Brooke’s  “masterpiece” had been republished in 1587, shortly before Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, Brooke’s poem doesn’t seem to have been republished or mentioned in print any time during the latter half of the 17th century, when Milton composed his masterpiece.


But…then again, Milton was indisputably one of the greatest literary scholars of all time, with an encyclopedic knowledge of all literature, both ancient and contemporary to him. Therefore, while he could still read with his own eyes, he must have had one hell (ha ha) of a personal library to draw upon, supplementing his seeming photographic memory, in order to embed the truly Joycean number of literary and historical allusions he scattered everywhere in Paradise Lost.


And finally…it is also well known that Milton’s knowledge of, and interest in, Shakespeare in particular was comprehensive. Milton would have been extremely interested in Shakespeare’s sources, particularly in THE source for Romeo and Juliet, the very play which inspired Milton to write his SATAN acrostic, and which also (as has been noted by Milton scholars) was a key source for his earlier poem Comus


So, recognizing in Milton an author who embedded a literary puzzle like his SATAN acrostic in Paradise Lost, I had another hunch I hoped would also turn out lucky. I wondered if there might be another passage or two somewhere in Paradise Lost which would have pointed, in code, specifically to Brooke’s poem?  


I first checked my files on acrostics in Paradise Lost (“SATAN” is only one of a number which have been identified, by others and by myself), but, alas, I found no indication of an acrostic on the name “BROOKE” in Paradise Lost.  But I ‘m stubborn, so I kept digging. What if Milton had been more brazen, and had hidden a reference to Brooke horizontally in his epic poem, instead of with a vertical acrostic? I.e. what if he had hidden the reference via some sort of pun on Brooke’s name?  Two common meanings came immediately to mind---a “brook” as a noun meaning “a narrow country stream”, and “to brook” as a verb meaning “to tolerate”. 


And sure enough, when I searched PL for the word “brook”, I struck the punny mother lode! There were only four variants of the word “brook” in PL, and the first and fourth referred to a stream, and were not very interesting. But the other two both appear in Book 8, the very same Book 8 where the SATAN acrostic appears, and both use “brook” as a verb.


But, more telling, the first of the two appears a mere 139 lines after the end of Milton’s SATAN acrostic, in a poem in excess of ten thousand lines in length (i.e., EXTREMELY near)! And, Milton’s “brook” is not randomly proximate to his SATAN, they both appears in the same crucial episode in the poem’s narrative as his SATAN acrostic—in the enactment of Satan’s temptation of Eve! 


Recall that the SATAN acrostic you read, above, occurs as Milton describes Satan’s highly erotic seduction of Eve’s eye with his graceful, serpentine, phallic shape. Now, here, 139 lines later, is a passage in which SATAN has now progressed to the second stage of his seduction, via his intoxicating oratory. So, without further ado, here is the first of Milton’s two verbal “brooks”:


  …[Eve] scarse had said, though brief, when now more bold
  The Tempter, but with shew of Zeale and Love
  To Man, and indignation at his wrong,
  New part puts on, and as to passion mov'd,
  Fluctuats disturbd, yet comely, and in act
  Rais'd, as of som great matter to begin. 

  As when of old som Orator renound

  In Athens or free ROME, where Eloquence   

  Flourishd, since mute, to som great cause addrest,

  Stood in himself collected, while each part,

  Motion, each act won audience ere the tongue,

  Somtimes in HIGHTH began, as no delay

    Of PREFACE BROOKING through his Zeal of Right.

  So standing, moving, or to HIGHTH upgrown

  The Tempter all impassiond thus began….


I don’t have to tell you how unique a phrase “of preface brooking” is—but what’s noteworthy is that the PREFACE to BROOKE’s poem has long been recognized by Shakespeare scholars interested in the enigmatic character of Friar Laurence as presenting a contradictory picture of the gardening Friar to that depicted in Brooke’s poem. I.e., while Brooke’s Friar Laurence in the poem seems to be a good man whose well intentioned plans go terribly awry, check out how Brooke describes Friar Laurence and Juliet’s Nurse in his Preface—you don’t need to see either one’s name to identify the “drunken gossip” and the “superstitious friar” Brooke is talking about:


“…So, to like effect, by sundry means the good man’s example biddeth men to be good, and the evil man’s mischief warneth men not to be evil. To this good end serve all ill ends of ill beginnings.  And to this end, good Reader, is this tragical matter written, to describe unto thee a couple of unfortunate lovers, thrilling themselves to unhonest desire; neglecting the authority and advice of parents and friends; conferring  their principal counsels with DRUNKEN GOSSIPS AND SUPERSTITIOUS  FRIARS (THE NATURALLY FIT INSTRUMENTS OF UNCHASTITY); attempting all adventures of peril for th’ attaining of THEIR WISHED LUST; USING AURICULAR CONFESSION THE KEY OF WHOREDOM AND TREASON, for furtherance of their purpose; ABUSING the honourable name of LAWFUL marriage to cloak the shame of stolen contracts; finally by all means of UNHONEST life hasting to most unhappy death. This precedent, good Reader, shall be to thee, as the slaves of Lacedemon, oppressed with excess of drink, deformed and altered from likeness of men both in mind and use of body, were to the freeborn children, so shewed to them by their parents, to th’ intent to raise in them an HATEFUL LOATHING of so FILTHY BEASTLINESS….”


Ouch! It’s pretty clear that Brooke is saying, in so many words, that Friar Laurence is Satan, an immoral beast who leads Juliet into whoredom and unchastity. And so, for Milton to allude both to Shakespeare’s and Brooke’s SATAN acrostics is to say that Milton totally got what his predecessors were both saying, in code, and he used their Friar Laurences as a major allusive source for his Satan. 


And as if that weren’t enough evidence by itself to demonstrate that Milton tagged Brooke’s Preface with the phrase “of preface booking”, Milton added two other major hints in that short passage which tagged his own SATAN acrostic 139 lines earlier—he uses the word “highth” in the lines which immediately precede and follow the line with “of preface booking”; and for good measure Milton also refers to ROME (as in ROME-O) in that latter passage, a word which (surprisingly) Milton only used three times in all of Paradise Lost, and one of the other two was….you guessed it!—smack in the middle of his own SATAN acrostic, in the phrase “Scipio the HIGHTH of ROME”! So, Milton really made sure that anyone who recognized the “Brooke” in “brooking” would instantly find corroboration there that this was not imaginary, it was a real clue left by Milton.


But you’ll also want to see Milton’s other verbal “brook”, in the lines which end Book 8, as Adam answers Eve’s accusation that he failed to guard her strongly enough from temptation. Note that Adam rues that Eve “will not brook” restraint by him, just as Satan’s zeal to instantly reach the “highth” of rhetoric would not brook a warm-up “preface”:


And am I now upbraided, as the cause
Of thy transgressing? not enough severe,

It seems, in thy restraint: what could I more?

I warn'd thee, I admonish'd thee, foretoldThe danger, and the lurking Enemie

That lay in wait; beyond this had bin force,

And force upon free Will hath here no place.

But confidence then bore thee on, secure

Either to meet no danger, or to finde

Matter of glorious trial; and perhaps

I also err'd in overmuch admiring

What seemd in thee so perfet, that I thought

No evil durst attempt thee, but I rueThat errour now, which is become my crime,

And thou th' accuser. Thus it shall befall

Him who to worth in Women overtrusting

Lets her Will rule; restraint she will not BROOK,

And left to her self, if evil thence ensue,

Shee first his weak indulgence will accuse.

Thus they in mutual accusation spent
The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning

 And of thir vain contest appeer'd no end.


As I noted in my first post, there are so many implications which ripple from my discovery of this triple SATAN connection from 1562 to 1597 to 1667. I conclude, for now, by pointing out that all of the above is news to the worlds of both Shakespearean and Miltonian scholarship, which have heretofore been highly skeptical of claims of such coding in the works of both of those literary titans. So, if you like what you’ve read, above, please help me spread the word. Just send people who might be interested the link to this post, shown below! 


Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Peter Holland, Tiffany Stern, and Zachary Lesser New General Editors of Arden Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.116  Monday, 9 March 2015


From:        Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         Monday, March 9, 2015

Subject:    Peter Holland, Tiffany Stern, and Zachary Lesser New General Editors of Arden Shakespeare.


[Editor’s Note: My sincerest congratulations to my mentor, supporter and friend Peter Holland and friend Tiffany Stern as well as Zachary Lesser for this honor. From Notre Dame Web site. –Hardy]


Peter Holland Named General Editor of The Arden Shakespeare


Professor Peter Holland has been named one of the general editors of The Arden Shakespeare (fourth series), along with Zachary Lesser (University of Pennsylvania) and Tiffany Stern (Oxford University).


In 1899, Edward Dowden’s edition of Hamlet was published, the first ever volume in the Arden Shakespeare series. Rapidly, Arden became established as the most prestigious of all Shakespeare editions for the quality of its editing and the authority of its extensive commentary and introductions. Now, as the third series of Arden editions nears completion, 20 years after it began publication, it is time to start all over again. Bloomsbury Academic, now Arden’s publishers, have begun the process of planning and commissioning the Arden fourth series by appointing Holland, Lesser, and Stern as general editors for the series. The general editors’ first task over the months and years ahead will be to imagine what a Shakespeare edition for the twenty-first century will be like—not least in terms of its online version as well as print publication. The first volumes will appear in the 2020s and the whole should be finished about a quarter century from now!


Professor Holland is the McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre; Concurrent Professor of English; and Associate Dean for the Arts in the College of Arts and Letters. Visit the Arden Shakespeare website here.


Originally published by Andrew Deliyannides at on March 03, 2015.

Maxine Peake as Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.115  Monday, 9 March 2015


From:        Hardy Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 6, 2015 at 12:56:43 PM EST

Subject:    Maxine Peake as Hamlet 


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in Britain’s The Independent online. –Hardy]


Maxine Peake as Hamlet is coming to a cinema near you


Maxine Peake’s acclaimed turn as Hamlet in Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy is coming to a cinema near you this spring.


The first trailer of Margaret Williams’ stage-to-screen adaptation has been released, starring The Theory of Everything actress in the traditionally male lead role.


Sarah Frankcom’s original sell-out production at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre received rave reviews, with The Independent’s critic praising Peake’s “emotional ferocity”.


“As a director I think you can only begin to think about doing Hamlet if you are absolutely passionate about a particular actor,” said Frankcom.


“Right from the beginning of this production it felt like a thrilling opportunity to explore, excavate and interrogate something with Maxine Peake, the most fearless and courageous actor that I’ve ever worked with.”


Joining Peake in the cast are John Shrapnel, Barbara Marten, Gillian Bevan, Katie West and Thomas Arnold.


Peake was Bafta-nominated for her performances in The Village and Hancock and Joan and is also known for playing Myra Hindley in See No Evil.


Opens on 23 March in 300 cinemas nationwide.

From TLS: Browsing Paratexts

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.114  Monday, 9 March 2015


From:        Hardy Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 7, 2015 at 7:12:56 PM EST

Subject:    From TLS: Browsing Paratexts


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in this week’s TLS. I will provide excerpts here; and if anyone wishes the entire article and does not have access to TLS, please contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . -Hardy]



Browsing paratexts 

Review by Lois Potter


Book Details 

Thomas L. Berger and Sonia Massai, editors 


Two volumes, 1,040pp. Cambridge University Press. £150 (US $250). 

978 0 521 85184 8 


Enlarging our view of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century drama 

By Lois Potter 


Editors of early modern drama traditionally believed that their job was to pay attention only to the aesthetic context of their play, ignoring the material conditions of its publication. They included the prologue and epilogue, if present, and dedications or commendatory poems by friends of the author, if these happened to reflect on the quality of the work itself. Sometimes the printer’s statement was considered relevant, as when Richard Jones, Marlowe’s first publisher, blandly stated that he had omitted “fond and friuolous Iestures” from Marlowe’s Tamburlaine; Ben Jonson’s dedications and prefaces have been treated as essays on drama or mined for information on a play’s theatrical reception. Even scholarly editions, however, don’t always bother to reprint flattering dedications to wealthy non-entities, Latin verses by an author’s university friends, or a volume’s errata list. They are not easy to find even in the electronic media, and, until recently, no one wanted to find them. 


Now, however, these assorted materials have acquired a name – paratexts – and have attracted the interest both of those who view drama as a branch of social history and those who study the “history of the book” as an artefact. Thomas L. Berger and Sonia Massai have collected them into two volumes keyed to the numbering in W.W. Greg’s distinguished Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration (1939–59), to which they see their work as a supplement. Greg’s was the handsome product of a more affluent age, with reproductions of many illustrated title pages and frontispieces; moreover, his printer could still reproduce blackletter typeface, which now seems to be impossible. However, Paratexts is a definite improvement in one respect. Greg listed all editions of a play under one heading, whether singly published or part of a collection. Berger and Massai have separated the two categories: individually published plays appear in chronological order of publication while collected editions are listed alphabetically by author. This decision is helpful for Shakespeare, and even more so for Ben Jonson, since for his 1616 Folio he often changed the dedications and commendatory poems printed in earlier editions of his plays. Some of the most interesting paratextual ­materials occur in these collected editions, where publishers and friends of the author often provide considered assessments of the contents. 


As the editors note in their introduction, it is not always easy to distinguish paratext from text, and some of their decisions result (as they are well aware) in curious anomalies. A number of plays, like The Battle of Alcazar and Pericles, have both dumb shows and explanatory choruses. The editors treat the dumb shows as part of the play, and therefore omit them, but include the choruses in which they are explained. 


The book, which has been a long time in the making, is the kind of publication that might seem to have been made superfluous by online databases like EEBO (Early English Books Online) that photograph the original pages. It can be more enjoyable to read texts this way than in the Paratexts transcripts, which are printed in unlovable double columns, with verse lines separated by slashes, one poem following another without space between, and the original formatting replaced by the arcane vocabulary and abbreviations of bibliographical description. But this is not necessarily true in every case. Although a spot check of a page from one playtext on EEBO revealed an error in the Paratexts transcription, the photocopy itself was often hard to read because of the ink showing through from the other side. Techniques of reproduction are getting better all the time, but at present it is still true that both the transcriptions in Paratexts and the online photocopy serve mainly as signposts pointing towards books that conscientious researchers will need to see for themselves. 


[ . . . ]

A Catalogue of Early Modern Sonnet Sequences

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.113  Monday, 9 March 2015


From:        Hardy Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 7, 2015 at 3:14:56 PM EST

Subject:    A Catalogue of Early Modern Sonnet Sequences


A Catalogue of Early Modern Sonnet Sequences | English Sequences Published 1560-1640


This site and the catalogue is the work of John Burton at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.


This site is an online catalogue of sonnet sequences published in the United Kingdom in the early modern period, 1560-1640.  It aims to provide scholars with information about each sonnet sequence, including its author, theme, year published, and bibliographic information.


Usually characterised as the poetry of love’s complaint in the Petrarchan style, it’s my hope to demonstrate that sonnet sequences were also written about religious love, death, metaphysics, and social connections.  In fact, about forty per cent of sequences treat topics other than courtly love.


I made sonnet sequences the subject of my PhD research at the University of Wales, and I developed this catalogue in order to classify and understand a nebulous and yet popular literary format.  I also investigated two sub-genres of sonnet: the dream sonnet, and the Trinity sonnet.


My forthcoming book project Desire and Devotion in Early Modern England: Generic Tensions and Sectarian Poetics in the Sonnet Sequence explores sequences that combine Petrarchan desire and religious devotion into a lyric synthesis; John Davies of Hereford’s Wittes Pilgrimage and Fulke Greville’s ‘Caelica’.


Sidney Lee’s Elizabethan Sonnets (1904) is the first attempt at an anthology of the sonnet sequence form.  In his introduction he describes the work of the English sonneteers as largely without merit, and omitted Shakespeare’s sonnets from the collection.  His collection includes fifteen love sequences.  While Lee remained sceptical of the merits of the general output of English sonneteers, Holger M. Klein’s two-volume English and Scottish sonnet sequences of the Renaissance attempts to bring together those sequences Lee excluded.  Although remaining unwilling to publish Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence with those of his contemporaries, Klein’s collection brings together a further eight love sequences, bringing the total number of those sequences collected and published in the last one hundred years to twenty-three.  However, the number of thematically linked groups of sonnets far exceeds even this number.  The present research has identified 59 distinct sonnet sequences published in England between 1560 and 1633.


If you would like to contact me, please feel free to use the form below, or click here for my blog.


You can follow me on twitter, facebook, or academia.

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