Shakespeare and Florio Again


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0404  Thursday, 22 August 2013


[1] From:        Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         August 12, 2013 8:55:02 AM EDT

     Subject:     Saul Frampton on the Dark Lady of the Sonnets 


[2] From:        William Sutton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         August 14, 2013 12:49:15 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: Florio Again 




From:        Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 12, 2013 8:55:02 AM EDT

Subject:     Saul Frampton on the Dark Lady of the Sonnets


The British newspaper The Guardian published on Saturday last a piece by Saul Frampton identifying the historical person he supposes to have been the model for the Dark Lady of the Sonnets.


Frampton’s piece is full of errors of fact. He thinks that by searching Early English Books Online (EEBO) he is searching “128,000 books from the 15th the 17th century” and that when, in doing that searching, he fails to find a word or phrase he has thereby established that no-one in the period used that word or phrase. He seems not to understand what his searches are really doing, since he must in fact be searching the Text Creation Partnership (TCP) add-on to EEBO, which holds not 128,000 but 40,000 searchable books.


Moreover, Frampton’s summaries of the results of his searches treat as identical the following two assertions:


1) this word/phrase was not used by Shakespeare or Marlowe or Jonson


2) this word/phrase was not used by Shakespeare’s contemporaries


So, when Frampton finds that a word/phrase was not used by Shakespeare, Marlowe or Jonson but was used by Florio, he asserts that Florio was being unusual in using that word/phrase. By this method he identifies the following words as the “linguistic fingerprints” of Florio: 


storming (1115)

defiling (2033)

maund (844)

blend (473)

blazoned (672)

outwards (1746)

gouty (1111)

amorously (362)

oblations (6087)

plenitude (1502)

laugher (32)

weepingly (24)

unshorn (189)


The number that I’ve put in brackets after each word is how many times that word appears in the EEBO-TCP collection of full-text searchable books of the period. So, far from being the linguistic fingerprints of Florio, these are all common words in the period.


Frampton’s argument about Florio being the author of ‘A Lover’s Complaint’ and his wife being the Dark Lady rests upon these entirely mistaken assertions about word preferences and should be ignored as error.


I have trouble convincing myself that in his experiments with EEBO-TCP Frampton first went looking for certain words in the Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson canons rather than just seeing how often those words come up in all books from the period. It’s considerably easier to do an all-books search than a canon-specific search, and my suspicion is that Frampton applied the latter restriction only after he’d found, as I have, that his supposed Florio-only words are in fact common outside the Shakespeare/Marlowe/Jonson canons. If that’s true, then Frampton is not merely inept in his method but is in fact a charlatan who knows that his method does not work and in his writing up he deliberately blurred the distinction between “not common in the period” and “not found in Shakespeare/Marlowe/Jonson” to conceal the problem and fool the newspaper into publishing his work.


Gabriel Egan



From:        William Sutton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 14, 2013 12:49:15 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Florio Again


Hi All,


Giulia Harding daughter of John Harding is carrying on her father’s investigations on John Florio. The website Shakespeare and Florio has some interesting speculative pdf’s: http://www.shakespeareandflorio.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=12&Itemid=32


It’s not an authorship site per se as is the johnflorioisshakespeare website. It sees Florio as a collaborator with Shakespeare and he as a plagiarist of Florio.


Giulia’s pdf’s on Florio and the sonnets pose the 19th June 1609 as the publication date. This being the date that Edward Alleyne recorded as having bought his copy. Coincidentally it was also King James birthday and her novel suggestion is that Queen Anne wrote A Lover’s Complaint. Florio of course being her private secretary and tutor in poesy. The stigma of print forces this marriage of minds and birthday surprise for James.


She goes on to say that Florio, who on January 18th that same year published A discovery of a New World with Thorpe, solicited funding from William Herbert (i.e. the WH of the dedication) also in on the Discovery publication, and collaborated with Shakespeare to produce the 154 sonnets.


Her best ‘proof’ of Florio’s involvement with the quarto lies in the world of printing itself. I quote:


Take a look at the decorative strap which ornaments the title page of ‘Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ . . .


The identical ornament had appeared across the dedication pages of Florio’s translation of Montaigne’s essays just a few years earlier . . . 


I have searched the microfilm archives of books published by the parties involved in both publications and can find no other use of this decorative device anywhere. If the block from which it was printed did not belong to any of the printers or publishers, one must conclude it belonged to the author, and indeed we know that Florio owned a magnificent set of expensive, German-made engraved copper blocks of this type. He used them repeatedly through work with different publishers and printers during his career. At the end of a print-run, they would have been cleaned, wrapped and returned to him for future use. The splendid frontispiece we find at the opening of ‘First Fruits’ (a folio sized volume) he also owned in a Quarto version as it re-appeared in ‘Second Fruits’, the smaller work. Banners and headings were also re-used and this elaborate device in the Sonnets is obviously one of his. The band which heads the first sonnet is from the same set, although a slightly different design, this time with griffins; each resembles a pair of stylised letters ‘A’ in mirror image; like twisting and elaborate ladders in one version, floral skeins form the design in the other . . .


Take a closer look at the strap and study the faces of the cherubs, they suggest a much earlier date than 1609. Depictions of the human face are the most obvious clue to dating artwork of this type and these faces suggest a date at least half a century earlier than the Sonnets. The inclusion of a pair of hares in the design is typically German, a magical symbol of good fortune in their folk-lore and one of their favorite motifs in popular art. English printers and publishers generally used English made blocks, carved from wood which soon suffered from being relentlessly soaked in ink and crushed in the press.



The pdf can be downloaded here: http://www.shakespeareandflorio.net/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=11&Itemid=27&limitstart=35


Florio is then everywhere in the period and more ubiquitous amongst the players than Eddie de Vere ever was. There’s another beautiful pdf showing Florio’s connection to the Earl of Leicester’s Men in the 1570’s where indeed four of them commend his first fruits of 1578.  Hopefully some reactions will follow.







The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0403  Thursday, 22 August 2013


From:        Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 17, 2013 3:37:38 PM EDT

Subject:     Query: Verges




I am reviewing Much Ado about Nothing (a play I often go back to). In the Arden edition, this is the annotation on Verges’s name:


i.e. verjuice, the acid juice of unripe fruit, formerly used in cookery and medicine. The name occurs in a satirical rhyme, ‘Uppon old Father Varges, a misserable usurer’—‘Here lies father Varges/Who died to save charges’ (MS. Ashmolean 38) Verges seems by no means as acidulous as the name suggests.


My question: Because the case against Borachio and Conrade ends up before a sexton in 4.2, why not consider Verges as associated with “verger,” a minor church official often associated with a sexton?


Jack Heller


The End (of Shakespeare Studies) Is Near!


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0400  Thursday, 22 August 2013


From:        Anthony Burton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 11, 2013 9:20:35 PM EDT

Subject:     The End (of Shakespeare Studies) Is Near!


That is, if computer programs continue to replace the humanities. Is the below attachment prophetic?  


Find it at http://blog.inkyfool.com/2013/08/hamletisbanned.html?m=1 The links are not live in the attachment.


Tony Burton



Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Hamlet is Banned


On Monday, I was sitting in the British Library frantically trying to write my new book in a shturmovshchina. I had to quickly check a particular line in Hamlet, so I Googled Hamlet MIT, because the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has put the entire works of Shakespeare up on the Internet. (It takes 70 mins to order a physical book). I clicked on the link and . . . 


A message came up from the British Library telling me that access to site was blocked due to “violent content”. 


Now, Hamlet is a violent play. I see that. When the curtain comes down there's a lot of bodies on the boards. But . . . 


But . . . 


I tried it again. It told me that my attempts to access this violent content were being logged. 


I took my computer over to the information desk, and after I had explained to them what MIT stood for (really), they called the IT department and told them about the webpage that I had been blocked from. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/full.html


They had to spell out Shakespeare letter by letter. Really. Ess. Aitch. Ay. Kay . . . 


I asked them if they were surprised that Hamlet was now banned in the British Library. They shrugged. I asked them how it was that I could still access YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I asked why the girl at the next desk to me had been able to spend the last half hour on Guardian Soulmates, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s website was banned. They shrugged. 


I asked if they saw the problem, perhaps just the symbolism, of Hamlet being banned in the British Library. They shrugged.


The IT department said there was nothing to be done, as it was only the British Library’s wifi service that was blocking Hamlet, and the British Library’s wifi service, they seemed sure, had nothing to do with the British Library. They were merely ships that passed in the night. Children crying to each other from either bank of an uncrossable river. 


‘But,’ I said. It’s one of those points where you just want somebody to understand the central point. ‘The British Library has banned Hamlet for being too violent.’


And the lady behind the desk nodded and smiled.


It’s one of those points where I don’t know whether they’re insane, or if it’s me. Maybe Hamlet should be banned. I wrote an angry e-mail, and this morning I got one back saying they’re looking into it. But maybe I should give all this up and get a job as a lighthouse keeper. But I fear I’d still have those dreams, those dreams about that man with poison sword and the people fighting in the grave and the venom being poured down my throat. O God! God!


UPDATE: The British Library has just tweeted to say that Hamlet is now unbanned. 



Malcolm Evans, Man of Mystery


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0402  Thursday, 22 August 2013


From:        Robert Shaughnessy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 13, 2013 8:18:50 AM EDT

Subject:     Malcolm Evans, Man of Mystery 


Dear Colleagues 


A couple of years ago, I wrote about the critical work of Malcolm Evans, who was visible briefly in the mid-1980s with s superb essay in the first volume of Alternative Shakespeares, and the brilliantly multi-faceted Signifying Nothing, which appeared in 1986. One of the many things I liked about the book was its playful way with post-structuralism, which extended to the use of unreliable narrative: as part of his investigation of Shakespeare, appropriation and postcolonialism, Evans fabricated the figure of ‘Edward Harrison’, a teacher of Shakespeare based in British Honduras in the late 1920s, who may of may not have been one of the anonymous Cambridge undergraduates quoted in I. A. Richards’s Practical Criticism, and whose unpublished journals provide the basis for a radical counter-reading of The Tempest.  According to Evans, Harrison was last heard of planning ‘an eccentric scheme to carry ice, by dory, from Punta Garda to the Sarstoon River to the Indians and chicleros of the Peten Rainforests’.  


Evans was clearly playing games here; what I found almost as intriguing is that, acting like a character in his own critical fiction, he too disappeared, quitting his university post not long after Signifying Nothing was published, and founding the marketing agency Semiotic Solutions (‘applying semiotics to marketing needs, developing accessible tools that deliver actionable insight and competitive advantage for brands’), which then mutated into Space Doctors. Whether or not there are lessons to be drawn here about the uses of ‘theory’, it’s an unusual career trajectory. But that’s not the end of it: a few days ago I received a courteous email from Malcolm Evans himself, thanking me for my comments on his work and hinting that the truth about his exit from the academy was even stranger than I had imagined. Anyone interested in following the trail can do so here: 




Best wishes 



Devon Made Macbeth


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0399  Thursday, 22 August 2013


From:        Alex White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 17, 2013 9:49:01 AM EDT

Subject:     Devon Made Macbeth


Devon Made Macbeth


By the pricking of my thumbs, something exciting this way comes! A local not-for-profit group of writers, performers, publishers and multi-media producers, known as Devon Made, is just embarking on their latest project – an audio production of Shakespeare’s famous supernatural tragedy, Macbeth. They are intending to bring this chilling story to life in time for Hallowe’en.


Devon Made’s previous projects include a free audio adaptation of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” and an e-book adaptation of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, both of which are available for download. With Macbeth, the group is hoping to take their work further and produce not only a high-quality audio version of the play, but also undertake a costumed photoshoot to illustrate the story.


Producer Alex White explained that the group is launching an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to raise funds for the project. “Everyone working on Macbeth is a volunteer, so we are looking for people to support us by making a small pledge in return for ‘perks’”, he explained. “We’re hoping to raise £1200. Half of this is for production costs and the other half will be used to produce the rewards for our supporters - we are offering some excellent rewards to anyone who can help us bring Macbeth to life.”


Contributors can make their pledge of £10, £20 or £50 on the group’s crowdfunding website http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/devon-made-macbeth


The campaign is time-limited and is due to end on 31st August 2013.


The perks include free digital downloads and CDs of Devon Made’s Macbeth, as well as a glossy, West End-style brochure to both accompany and enhance the production. The group is intending to include images in the brochure which are not usually seen on stage, such as the murder of King Duncan and the last moments of Lady Macbeth.


Alex explained that the Indiegogo campaign is being run on an “all-or-nothing” basis. “If we don’t raise the full amount, we get nothing,” he said. “That’s why we want to reach out to as many people as possible, so we have the best chance of funding our vision. I would appeal to anyone with an interest in local arts to support both Devon Made and Shakespeare’s superb play – and in return, we will give you a real treat this Hallowe’en.”


The group has assembled a stellar cast of Devon talent, including South Devon actor Lee Boyle as Macbeth (insert best known/most recent roles). His Lady Macbeth is Tracey Norman, who has over 25 years’ stage experience. They are joined by Macbeth’s manservant Seyton, played by Exeter-based actor James Cotter, most recently seen on tour in the South West with Transitions Theatre Group in “The Adventures of Mr Toad”. Sam Pike is Macbeth’s nemesis, Macduff.


Please visit http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/devon-made-macbeth and

help us bring this project to life.


Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.