- THE MYTHICAL "MYTH" OF THE STIGMA of PRINT
The Tudor stigma of
print is a factor in my discussion of Shakespeare's authorship. I
discuss the matter in chapter 12 to explain why an aristocratic
author would wish to conceal his or her identity, either in
anonymity or behind a pen name. This essay responds to those critics
who challenge the very existence of a Tudor "stigma of print" and
further assert that my alleged failure to support my claims with
adequate evidence is symptomatic of slipshod scholarship.
It is my perception
that Tudor aristocrats did not wish to be perceived as interested in
earning money for professional work. That was the province of the
commercial class, and earning money by writing was viewed as
professional activity. The stigma of print therefore affected what
the aristocrat wrote and whether it was published.
Tudor England was still largely a
manuscript culture, and "the recognized medium of communication was
the manuscript, either in the autograph of the author, or in the
transcription of a friend" (Marotti, Donne, 4). The
transmission of manuscript into print was influenced by a
socially-imposed stigma of print which affected some genres
much more than others. It had less effect, for example, on the
publication of pious or didactic works, learned translations,
historical treatises, or the like. Such educational or devotional
tracts had no taint of commercialism.
More to the point here,
any nobleman good enough to write
professionally could not be seen to be doing so.
I argue that in the social
caste system of Tudor England, aristocrats chose not to publish
certain genres considered
commercial, such as satires, broadsides,
or plays written for the public stage, or frivolous genres,
such as poetry. Some of these distinctions are covered in chapter
12, where I cite the evidence concerning the dramatic writing of the
earls of Derby and Oxford. This essay is to augment the evidence in
that chapter and respond to recent criticism.
David Kathman and
Terry Ross, authors of The Shakespeare Authorship Home Page,
propose that the stigma of print is an anti-Stratfordian fantasy. As
far as I can tell, their challenge relies entirely upon a 1980
article by Stephen May, Tudor
Aristocrats and the Mythical "Stigma of Print," which is reproduced on the
web site with accompanying commentary:
demonstrates, "Tudor aristocrats published regularly." The "stigma
of print" is a myth. May does concede that there was for a time a
"stigma of verse" among the early Tudor aristocrats, "but even this
inhibition dissolved during the reign of Elizabeth until anyone, of
whatever exalted standing in society, might issue a sonnet or play
without fear of losing status." This essay first appeared in
Renaissance Papers. (Kathman & Ross)
More recently, in a
review on Amazon and on his own website, Tom Veal has attempted to
provide some more meat on the bone, although his reliance on The
Shakespeare Authorship Home Page is evident. In his dismissal of
my scholarship, David Kathman recommended Veal's criticism to the
orthodox discussion group, "Shaksper" (Feb. 8, 2002):
I hope you'll allow me to direct SHAKSPER
readers to a lengthy review of Ms. Price's book which points out
just some of its multitudinous faults:
Terry Ross and I have both been far too busy
with more important matters to write up a comprehensive response to
Price (doing exciting real scholarship is somehow much more
fulfilling than refuting pseudo-scholarship), but last year Terry
wrote up some rather lengthy responses to specific points and posted
them at humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare. [links via Google; see
book presents a superficial appearance of scholarship which may fool
those not trained in the field, but in many ways this makes it more
dangerous than the more obviously wacko anti-Stratfordian tomes
which litter bookstore shelves. See the above review and posts for a
small fraction of the problems with it.
endorsement of Veal's review, I decided to begin to respond to major
points of criticism, and the allegedly "mythical" stigma of print
seemed a good place to start.
I disagree with Prof.
May's conclusion for several reasons. One, the very evidence that he
cites to demonstrate why the "myth" of the stigma of print was first
postulated is, in my view, evidence of a genuine social dynamic.
Among that evidence is The Arte of English Poesie (1589):
Now also of such
among the Nobilities or gentrie as to be very well seene in many
laudable sciences, and especially in making or poesie, it is so come
to passe that they have no courage to write, &, if they have,
yet are loath to be a knowen of their skill., So as I know very many
notable Gentlemen in the Court that have written commendably, and
suppressed it agayne, or els suffred it to be publisht without their
owne names to it: as if it were a discredit for a Gentleman to seeme
learned and to show him selfe amorous of any good Art.
(Elizabethan Critical Essays:2:22).
And in her Maiesties
time that now is are sprong up an other crew of Courtly makers,
Noble men and Gentlemen of her Maiesties owne servaunts, who have
written excellently well as it would appeare if their doings could
be found out and made publicke with the rest; of which number is
first that noble Gentleman Edward Earle of Oxford.
Thomas Lord of Bukhurst, when he was young, Henry Lord
Paget, Sir Philip Sydney, Sir Walter Rawleigh, Master
Edward Dyar, Maister Fulke Grevell, Gascon,
Britton, Turberuille and a great many other learned
Gentlemen, whose names I do not omit for envie, but to avoyde
tediousneffe, and who have deserved no little commendation.
(Elizabethan Critical Essays:2:63-64).
The stigma of print, as
discussed here, especially applies to verse. It is worth noting that
the author of The Arte of English Poesie chose to remain
May concludes that
there was a "stigma of verse" but no general "stigma of print." I would
infer, then, that the stigma of print, such as it was, was confined
to the genre of poetry. By extension, other genres,
regardless of worth or respectability (including plays, whether
verse or prose), must have remained unaffected. But that scenario
does not, in my view, sufficiently distinguish between either social
class or genre, nor does it explain the absence of creative
works published by the nobility.
George Pettie offers
testimony to a general reluctance of the Tudor gentleman to betray
his learning by writing and publishing anything, even serious
matter, and his statements support the existence of a stigma of
print. Pettie adopts some typical poses to explain his own
appearance in print:
Palace is prefaced by three letters that fictitiously describe
how it came to press against the will of its author. In the first,
"To the Gentle Gentlewoman Readers," one "R. B." recounts his role
in the "faithless enterprise," claiming that he named the work after
Painter's Palace of Pleasure. Having heard Pettie give the
stories "in a manner ex tempore" on many "private occasions"
and having learned that he had then written them down, R. B.
apparently begged the manuscript from his friend, promising to keep
it for private use. But fervent admiration for the opposite sex
drove R. B. to "transgress the bounds of faithful friendship" and
publish the stories for the "common profit and pleasure" of readers
"whom by my will I would have only gentlewomen.
In the second
prefatory letter -- supposed to have accompanied the manuscript when
Pettie confided it to his treacherous friend -- Pettie asks R. B. to
keep the manuscript secret because "divers discourses touch nearly
divers of my near friends." The third letter is from the printer,
who claims to know neither Pettie nor R. B. but to have been given
the manuscript by a third party. Alarmed by the "too wanton" nature
of the work, the printer then "gelded" it of "such matters as may
seem offensive." Authorial disavowal of an intention to publish was
not uncommon in the late sixteenth century; such a stance represents
an attempt to circumvent the class derogation attached to print. But
Pettie's second work, The Civil Conversation, maintains the
fiction that his first was published without his permission."
(Juliet Fleming, Dictionary of Literary Biography 136:
Sixteenth-Century British Nondramatic Writers. Ed. David A.
Richardson. The Gale Group, 1994.)
In Pettie's preface
to his translation of The Civile Conversation, we read
trifling woorke of mine [Pettie Palace] (which by reason of
the lightnesse of it, or at the least of the keeper of it, flewe
abroade before I knewe of it). ... I thought it stood mee upon, to
purchase to my selfe some better fame by some better worke, and to
countervayle my former Vanitie, with some formal gravitie. ...for the
men which wyll assayle me, are in deede rather to be counted
friendly foes, then deadly enemies, as those who wyll neyther
mislyke with me, nor with the matter which I shall present unto
them, but tendryng, as it were, my credite, thynke it convenient
that such as I am (whose profession should chiefly be armes) should
eyther spende the tyme writing Bookes, or publyshe them being
written. Those which mislyke studie or learning in Gentlemen, are
some fresh water Souldiers, who thynke that in warre it is the body
which only must beare the brunt of all, now knowyng that the body is
ruled by the minde, and that in all doubtfull and daungerour
matters: but having shewed els where how necessarie learning is for
Souldiers, I ad only, that if we in England shall frame our selves
only for warre, yf we be not very well Oyled, we shall hardly keepe
our selves from rusting, with such long continuance of peace. ...
Those which myslike that a Gentleman should publish the fruites of
his learning, are some curious Gentlemen, who thynke it most
commendable in a Gentleman, to cloake his arte and skill in every
thing, and to seeme to doo all things of his owne mother witte as it
were: ... they wyll at the seconde woorde make protestation that they
are no Schollers: whereas notwithstanding they have spent all theyr
time in studie. Why Gentlemen is it a shame to shewe to be that,
which it is a shame not to be? In divers thynges, nothynge to good
Pettie defends the
idea of publishing serious work, although he explains that he is
publishing Civile Conversations to make up for the triviality
of Pettie Palace. There is of course no reason for Pettie to
recite such an exercise if there was no stigma attached to
publishing in the first place.
Pettie's words also suggest perceived
distinctions between serious and not-so-serious genres. May cites numerous
publications to demonstrate the non-stigma of print, but most of
these works could not be characterized either as frivolous or as
commercial. Some even include apologies for poetry (such as Sir John
Harington, who writes in the preface to his translation of Ariosto: "Some grave men
misliked that I should spend so much good time on such a trifling
worke as they deemed a Poeme to be" (Elizabethan Critical
Essays, 2:219). According to McClure, Harington "despised the professional
man of letters. ... In an age when the writing of verse was a gentleman's
pastime, he employed his talents for the entertainment of himself
and his friends": "I near desearvd that gloriows name of
Poet; / No Maker I ... / Let others Muses fayn; / Myne never sought to
set to sale her writing" (Epigrams, 34). (Note also
that when his translation was first published, Harington had no title.)
Creative poems were
considered literary trifles or frivolous toys, which accounts for
the reluctance to be seen writing poetry as a full-time occupation.
In contrast translations and closet dramas were educational and
suitable for study. But plays written for the public stage were
worse than frivolous. They were commercial, and public theater
itself was often viewed as downright disreputable. Nevertheless, if
there was no stigma of print, or if any authorial shyness was just
an affectation, then we should expect to identify various members of
the nobility who published their poems and plays, with or without
On the other hand, if
there was a stigma of print, we should expect to find some
sort of correlation between social rank, genre, and
publishing, i.e., the higher the social rank of the author, the more
reluctance to publish; and the more frivolous or commercial the
genre, the more reluctant the author. According to Arthur
Marotti, "literary communication was socially positioned and
socially mediated: styles and genres were arranged in hierarchies
homologous with those of rank, class, and prestige" (Marotti,
"Patronage," 1). One would therefore expect to see the effect of the
stigma of print on something of a
sliding scale, having even an exponential effect on publishing as we climb
the social ladder. At the top end, we should expect find very few,
if any, of the nobility choosing to publish anything. Of those few
books that might be published with authorization, the
genre should be serious, educational, political, or
devotional. Then, as we descend the social ladder, we
should expect less serious genres to appear, with or without
authorization, or with apology. And when at last we find
self-proclaimed poets or dramatists (or satirists or fiction
writers) freely and openly publishing their creative work, we should
be looking at the lowest rungs of the gentry and the commoners, the
would-be's, the aspiring amateurs, the professionals affecting
the conduct of the gentleman-amateur. And that is exactly what we
Many members on the
top rungs of the Tudor aristocracy had outstanding reputations as
poets. But none of them published their creative work. The
earl of Surrey's attributed poems were published in
miscellanies after his death. So were Thomas, [Baron] Lord
Vaux's. The earl of Oxford published nothing
during his lifetime. Further down the social ladder were Sir
Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Edward
Dyer, and Sir Fulke Greville, all of whom also earned
reputations as writers. None of them published their work, either.
Like those of their social betters, the relatively few poems that
appeared in print turned up in miscellanies. So here we have just
what we should expect if there were a stigma of print. All these
poets established literary reputations either on works transmitted
orally, circulated in manuscript, or in miscellanies published by
someone with access to those circulating manuscripts. It is not
until one descends to the aspiring gentlemen, the would-be's, those
seeking preferment, and of course the newly emerging class of
professionals (e.g., Greene and Nashe) that one finds unrestrained
(and even then often apologetic) efforts to publish.
May acknowledges that
"To all appearances the code [of the stigma] was upheld by the next
generation of courtier poets, insofar as Sidney, Dyer, Ralegh, and
the Earl of Essex, among the more prominent Elizabethan courtiers,
likewise made no provision to publish their works." But it is that
appearance of conformity to the social code -- that very failure to
publish -- by the highest-ranking poets of reputation in Elizabethan
and Stuart England that demonstrates the stigma of print. The stigma
of print is manifested first and foremost with the nobility, and is
gradually diluted as we descend the social ladder. The members of
the nobility in Tudor and early Stuart England are relatively few in number,
and their ventures into publishing almost nil.
Most of the plays written by aristocrats
were closet dramas, not intended to be performed, and more properly
categorized as learned translations or political treatises. Even so,
nearly all the closet dramas that were published were either
unauthorized or were printed posthumously. The
countess of Pembroke was the highest ranking aristocrat who
published a (possibly authorized) play, and it was closet drama. The
earl of Derby wrote plays for common players, but none
survive, at least not under his own name. If other aristocrats wrote
plays for the public stage, history does not record what those plays
were, and none were published with attribution. William
Alexander was a Scot and had no title when he published his four
closet dramas. Greville recorded his reluctance to see any of
his plays published, even posthumously.
Many of the works May
cites to deny a stigma of print are political, pious, or didactic
works and translations, which, as we move down the social ladder,
were published with less restraint and, even so, often with apology
by the upper classes. And those aristocrats (e.g., Oxford or
Raleigh) who contributed prefatory material to other men's work were
appearing in the role of patron, which did not constitute a social
May concludes that
"the substantial number of upper-class authors who published during
the sixteenth century effectively discredits any notion of a
generally accepted code which forbade publication, since noblemen
and knights, courtiers and royalty, trafficked with the press in
ever-increasing numbers." But this is contradicted not only by
Pettie's testimony but also by the publishing record. No member of
the Tudor nobility published poetry, plays, satires, or the like.
May's examples include authors from the Caroline period (e.g., the
Cavendishes or Fanshawe), too late to be relevant to the period. He
also lumps the top rungs of the aristocracy in with the middle and
lower gentry and even those yet to receive their title. The only
verse pamphlet by Sir John Beaumont was published when he was less
than 20 years old, and he did not become a "Sir" until just before
he died. Thomas Sackville had no title when Gorboduc was
Finally, we have the
testimony of dozens of untitled writers who aspired to the code of
the gentlemen-amateurs, who wished to wash the money and printer's ink off
their hands. Ca. 1603, Samuel Daniel wrote:
About a year
since, upon the great reproach given to the Professors of Rime and
the use thereof, I wrote a private letter, as a defense of mine owne
undertakings in that kinde, to a learned Gentleman, a great friend
of mine, then in Court. Which I did rather to confirm my selfe in
mine owne courses, and to hold him from being wonne from us, then
with any desire to publish the same to the world" (A Defense of
Rhyme, in Elizabethan Critical Essays:2:357).
Here we see Daniel
posturing to emulate the code of the aristocracy. Like Daniel,
numerous writers apologized for publishing their work, and since
there is an absence of published work by the top-ranking
aristocrats, I conclude that these apologies were not entirely
I now wish to relate
all this to Veal's specific criticism, which relies heavily on
Kathman and Ross's web page. Following is the section of Veal's
review relevant to the "stigma of print":
As in other anti-Stratfordian works, the
"stigma of print" looms large in Miss Price's picture of Elizabethan
society. It is vital to her position, because it furnishes her sole
explanation of why the real Shakespeare hid his
Elizabethan gentlemen wrote for others in
their social circle with no thought of seeing their compositions in
print. Custom prohibited the upper class gentleman from having any
profession at all, writing included. To publish for public
consumption was the business of the paid professional, not the
The "stigma" theory, devised in the 19th
Century to explain why so few Tudor aristocrats published their
works, has fallen out of favor for the simple reason that the
phenomenon that it sought to explain did not really exist. As Steven
May, the leading authority on Elizabethan courtier poets, has
demonstrated, those Elizabethan gentlemen who wrote at all (a small
minority) published quite a bit and were not disgraced thereby. Miss
Price ignores Professor May's article in her book, though she claims
on her Web site to have read it (one of many instances in which she
deals with uncongenial analysis by averting her eyes). More
importantly, she makes no effort to examine the directly pertinent
question: Would an Elizabethan or Jacobean courtier who wrote plays
have had any strong motive to hide his authorship?
The case for a "stigma" is much weakened by the
fact that persons of high station did in fact write, or attempt to
write, for the theater. Sir Thomas Sackville, a cousin of the Queen
and later a baron and earl, co-authored Gorboduc, the first
noteworthy Elizabethan tragedy. It was printed under his name in
about 1570, evidently from a manuscript that he supplied. Two plays
by William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle, were presented at
Blackfriars, London's most popular theater, in the early 1640's.
Manuscripts, dated about 1600, survive of several dramas written by
Lord William Percy, a younger son of the Earl of Northumberland, for
production by the Children of Paul's. Noble authors whose works
never, so far as we know, reached the stage include Fulk Greville,
Lord Brooke, Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (translator of a
blood-and-thunder French tragedy) and William Alexander, Earl of
Stirling. Many of these pieces are conventionally labeled "closet
dramas", but, unlike Goethe's Faust or Hardy's The
Dynasts, they are not unactable epics or novels in dialogue.
Their form and structure differ not at all from popular
The "stigma of print"
in Tudor England was not "devised" in the 19th century.
According to May, it was Edward Arber who first wrote about the
Tudor stigma of print, but then Arber is merely the first to have
noticed the phenomenon. Far from having fallen out of
fashion, the "stigma of print" remains an integral part of literary
The landmark study on
this subject is J.W. Saunders's 1951 essay "The Stigma of Print." I
also refer to his related article, "From Manuscript to Print," and
The Profession of English Letters. According to Saunders, the
professional poet had "his eye on personal profit," whereas the
gentleman-amateur "attempted to keep poetry within private genteel
circles and attached to appearance in print a formidable social
stigma ("Stigma," 155; "Manuscript," 509). Saunders considered some
of the mystifications that cloaked the well-born author in print, as
well as some of the apologies and disclaimers that appeared when a
work escaped into print: "Underlying many of the quotations ... is a
certain moral hesitation about the value of the imaginative literary
arts, lyric poetry, drama, and so on, in which the Court excelled"
(Profession, 60), so here Saunders touches on the frivolous
nature of poetry, fiction, and drama.
Many Tudor gentlemen
describe writing poetry as vain or foolish (e.g., Spenser's "ydle
rimes ... The labor of lost time" (FQ, verse to Burghley); or
Thomas Blenergasset's "learned men, yet none which spende their tyme
so vainely as in Poetrie" (Mirrour for Magistrates, cit. by Saunders,
"Manuscript," 512). According to Richard Helgerson, "as a
plaything of youth, a pastime for idle hours, poetry might be
allowed. ... But as an end in itself, as the main activity of a man's
life, poetry had no place. ... For the courtier, poetry could be only
an avocation, never a vocation" ("Role," 550). Pettie articulated
this value in the preface cited above. It is this value system that
underlies the aristocrat's reluctance to be published.
Helgerson also notes that while "the amateurs
avoided print; the laureates sought it out." He views Sidney as
"that most nearly laureate of amateur poets" ("Laureate," 201, 202),
and of course, Sidney published none of his work during his
characteristics common to both poetry and drama, Helgerson writes
If playwriting could so easily be made to
occupy the place more commonly taken in an amateur career by
verse-making, it was because both were supposed to be equally
frivolous. Neither private verse nor public drama made the claim to
literary greatness that distinguishes the laureate and his work. The
courtly amateur claimed to write only for his own amusement and that
of his friends; the professional, for money and the entertainment of
the paying audience ("Laureate," 206).
described two principal factors behind the stigma of publishing
plays written for the public theaters; they were perceived as
commercial and frivolous.
20th century authorities who have incorporated the
concept of the stigma of print into their studies are:
- F.B. Williams, who writes that "the death of
Sir John Harington in November, 1612, removed the courtly taboo
against the publication of his epigrams, which had gained wide
repute in manuscript" ("Feathers," 1,021).
Edward Rollins, who notes the while "more impressive names, more
really fine poets, were connected with The Phoenix Nest
than with any previous anthology, ... not a single author is
definitely named. ... In those days, to have made a parade of one's
poetical compositions [i.e., in print] would have been vulgar"
Marotti, who writes that "Gentlemen-amateurs avoided what J.W.
Saunders has called the "stigma of print" by refusing to publish
their verse, publishing it anonymously, or (accurately or
inaccurately) disclaiming responsibility for its appearance in
book form" (Donne, 3).
Riggs, who writes that "Gentleman still regarded poetry as a form
of elegant recreation. They wrote for themselves, or circulated
their poems in manuscript among their friends, but shunned the
medium of print" (Jonson,
Lacey, who writes that Raleigh and his friends "wrote their poems
for private circulation, not for publication ... It was considered
most infra dig [beneath
one's dignity] for a gentleman to allow what he wrote to be
distributed through commercial publication" (Raleigh, 130).
- Richard Dutton, who writes that "Another
notable aristocratic mark was the aversion to print, with its
connotations of artisan labor and writing for money" ("Birth,"
editors of works of the Countess of Pembroke, who propose that one
reason so little of her work survives "may have been her
reluctance to put her original works into print, despite her
boldness in printing her translations under own name. ... The stigma
of print was, as Harold Love observes, 'particularly hard on women
writers.' ... Manuscript circulation was the preferred form of
circulation" (Hannay, 54).
demonstrate that current scholarship accepts the stigma of print as
a genuine phenomenon. However, the above cited authorities generally
discuss the stigma in connection with poetry (but occasionally prose
or drama). Let us now consider the works of aristocratic dramatists.
Veal claims that the
aristocratic plays that were published in Tudor or Stuart England
"are conventionally labeled 'closet dramas' [but] ... they are not
unactable epics or novels in dialogue. Their form and structure
differ not at all from popular drama." Closet drama is not intended
for performance, but it is not the actability of the plays
that is at issue. It is the question of whether the aristocrat wrote
plays to be performed on the public stage and published them
with attribution. The purpose, the intended audience, and the venue
are all of concern.
So, let us consider
the published works that, according to Veal, demonstrate that there
was no stigma of print. To arrive at a judgment, at least two
factors need to be examined, (1) genre, and (2) circumstances
of publication, including irregularities, signs of piracy or
unauthorized publication, disclaimers, and so on.
Sackville : Gorboduc
was son of Sir Richard Sackville, became Lord Buckhurst in 1567, and
the earl of Dorset in 1604. Gorboduc was acted in 1562 at the
Inner Temple, published in 1565, and reprinted in 1570 and 1590. At
the time of publication, Sackville had no title, so its publication
is irrelevant to the discussion.
1565 edition was pirated (see Chambers, Stage 3:457 or Brooks,
Printing, 30-31). According to the title page of the 1570
edition, the play was "written about nine years ago by the right
honorable now Lord Buckhurst, and by T. Norton," "was never intended
by the authors thereof to be published," and the original publisher
obtained the play from "some yongmans hand that lacked a little
money and much discretion." There's the disclaimer that demonstrates
the stigma of print, in this case invoked perhaps since by 1570 one
of its authors did have a title.
Cavendish (1592-1676), the earl of
Newcastle's plays from the 1640s are too late to be relevant to the
Percy (1575-1648) was
the third son of the 8th earl
of Northumberland. The surviving plays in question are
preserved in manuscripts that bear the initials "W.P., Esq."
According to Chambers (Stage, 3:464-65), Percy's
"authorship appears to be fixed by a correspondence between an
epigram in the MS. to Charles Fitzgeffry with one Ad Gulielmum Percium in Fitzgeoffridi Affaniae
(1601)." It is not know if they were ever performed at St. Paul's,
but it is certain that they were never printed during the author's
lifetime. The first play was not printed until 1824. Percy's plays
therefore cannot be cited to dispute the stigma of print.
Sir Fulke Greville :
was knighted in 1603 and created Baron Brooke in 1621.
Mustapha is a closet drama (May, Courtier, 167).
According to M.E. Lamb, Mustapha is "overtly
political in purpose and show[s] more concern in reforming the state
than the stage" ("Myth," 201). In the Dictionary of Literary
Charles Larson writes:
gentleman amateur, Greville never permitted any of his writings to
be published while he was alive, and it was probably a considerable
annoyance to him when an unauthorized printing of Mustapha
appeared in 1609. His was not a drama written for the popular
theater, and, indeed, he claimed in the Life of Sidney never
to have had any intention of having his plays staged under any
circumstances: "I have made these Tragedies, no Plaies for the
Stage.... But he that will behold these Acts upon their true Stage,
let him look on that Stage wherein himself is an Actor, even the
state he lives in, and for every part he may perchance find a
Player, and for every Line (it may be) an instance of life." This is
one of the most explicit statements extant on the theory of
Elizabethan closet drama, and it is important to put a positive face
on it: Greville most certainly does approve of drama as a literary
form. Staged plays might be merely entertainment and thus the fit
recipients of the attacks that the Puritans were waging against the
theater at that moment, but the drama as a literary text engages the
mind seriously and leads to important discoveries about the nature
Greville "had difficulty writing ideological drama that is credible
as dramatic literature. Of course, one should recall that he did not
intend these plays for the stage" (Larson, DLB).
Mustapha was published
without attribution. Even May describes the edition of Mustapha as "surreptitious"
Greville's own surviving papers tell us explicitly about his
ambivalence and reluctance to have any of his works published, even
posthumously: "These pamphlets [i.e., his plays] which having slept
out my own time, if they happen to be seene herafter, shall at their
own peril rise upon the stage when I am not."
Mary Sidney Herbert :
countess of Pembroke, was Sir Philip Sidney's sister and a
distinguished member of the nobility. According to the editors of
her Works, the countess's
translation of Garnier's Marc
Antoine "emphasized political commentary" (Hannay, 38). It is
classified as a "closet drama" (May, Courtier, 167), and
"with its discussion of moral issues presented in set speeches
rather than stage action, the genre would have been
particularly suited to reading aloud by the assembled guests at an
English country house like Wilson. Marc Antoine was
successfully staged in France; however, there is no record that
Pembroke's translation was ever performed, even at Wilton" (Hannay,
41; see also Bergeron, "Women," 70). Further, "the genre was also particularly
suited for women who desired to write plays but would not be
permitted to write for the public arena" (Hannay, 41).
Hannay et al.
assume the countess authorized publication of her translation. May
cautiously states that "the countess probably [emphasis
added] authorized the publication of Antonie because it
illustrated the precepts of dramatic tragedy formulated in [her
brother's] Defense... and
asserted that a good ruler seeks to be loved rather than feared by
his subjects" (May, Courtier, 167).
William Alexander : The Monarchicke
(1567-1640) was tutor to Prince Henry and came down to London from
Scotland when James acceded the throne. He was raised to the rank of
viscount in 1630 and to the earldom in 1633. His four historical
tragedies on classical subjects, Darius, Alexander, Caesar, and
Croesus, were first published at the beginning of James I's reign
and issued collectively as The Monarchicke Tragedies.
tragedies are closet dramas. The only entry for him in the Dictionary of Literary
Biography appears, significantly, in the volume of
17th century British Nondramatic [emphasis
added] Poets. Beckett writes that "The plays in The
Monarchicke Tragedies were never intended for the stage, as its
dedication to King James makes clear. Each deals with the dangers of
ambition in a monarch, and each is both didactic and sententious."
According to Lamb, "the grave political advice which fills his
Tragedies, dedicated to the new English king, strongly suggest a
desire to establish himself as a wise counselor, not as a budding
playwright" ("Myth," 200). The circumstances of publication are
straightforward, but at time of publication, he had no title. So
again, this is irrelevant to the stigma of print as it affected the
Of crucial importance too was the attitude of
the monarch. Although plays were considered scarcely better than
pornography in Puritan circles, those were not the sentiments that
prevailed at the fons honoris. Elizabeth and James were
theatrical enthusiasts. The Queen saw six to ten plays in an average
season, the King twice as many. Virtually all of those works
were drawn from the repertories that the leading professional
companies presented in London. Contrary to what Miss Price imagines
, there was, during the period of Shakespeare's activity, no
special category of "court plays" distinct from the commercial
theater. There is, in short, no credible reason to think that a late
Tudor aristocrat would have suffered at all from being known as the
mind behind some of the most popular dramas of the day.
Veale must have
missed the distinction between writing plays for academic, private,
or royal venues, and being recognized as having written and published a
commercial play. In addition, it was one thing to patronize a play at court; it
was another to be seen as the author who wrote for public
closet drama was a respectable pastime, few aristocratic authors
published their dramas. The countess of Pembroke "probably"
authorized the publication of Antonie, but the circumstances
remain unclear. Young master Percy's plays were not published during
his lifetime. Alexander wrote his plays, not for the stage, but to
convince King James that he was fit to serve as a counselor to a
monarch, and at the time that he did publish, he was newly arrived
from Scotland and had no title. Gorboduc and Mustapha were printed
without authorization, and at the time of publication, Sackville had
In my book, I build
the case that the works of Shakespeare were written by an unnamed
nobleman, and that the stigma of print was a contributing factor to
the appearance of another man's name on the works. Having
reconsidered the stigma of print in light of the criticism from
Mssrs. Veal and Kathman, I have no reason to amend anything on this
topic in my book. If the works of Shakespeare were written by an
aristocrat, then that aristocrat had good reason to conceal his
identity. In short, there is ample evidence to demonstrate the Tudor
"stigma of print." Today, literary critics continue to incorporate
the phenomenon into their studies, and it remains a factor relevant
to the Shakespeare authorship question.
to Veal, "a bevy of gentlemen of rank
wrote the prefatory verses to Spenser's Faerie
Queene," but he has that back-to-front. Spenser addressed
prefatory verses to a bevy of aristocrats, not they to him.
Robert D. " William Alexander" in the Dictionary of Literary
Biography 121: Seventeenth-Century British Nondramatic
Poets, ed. M. Thomas Hester. The Gale Group,
David M. "Women as Patrons of English Renaissance Drama." In Readings in Renaissance Women's
Drama: Criticism, History, and Performance 1594-1998. Ed. S.P.
Cerasano and Marion Wynne-Davies. London: Routledge, 1998.
Douglas A. From Playhouse to
Printing House. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
K. The Elizabethan Stage.
4 vols. 1961. Reprint, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923.
Richard. "The Birth of the Author." In Elizabethan Theater: Essays in
Honor of S. Schoenbaum, ed. R.B. Parker and S. P. Zitner, 71-92.
Newark: University of Delaware Press. 1996.
Critical Essays. Ed. G. Gregory Smith. 2 vols. 1904. Reprint,
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.
Margarget P., Noel J. Kinnamon, and Michael G. Brennan, ed. The Collected Works of Mary
Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. Oxford: Clarendon Press,
Richard. "The Elizabethan Laureate: Self-Presentation and the
Literary System." ELH
46:2 (summer 1979): 193-220.
"Role of the Poet." Entry in Spenser Encyclopedia. Ed. A. C.
Hamilton. University of Toronto Press, 1990.
Norman, and Paul Whitfield White. "Gorboduc and Royal
Marriage Politics." English Literary Renaissance 26:1 (winter
David and Terry Ross. The Shakespeare Authorship Home Page:
Robert. Sir Walter
Raleigh. New York: Atheneum, 1974.
Ellen. "The Countess of Pembroke's Patronage," English Literary Renaissance
12 (spring 1982): 162-79.
"The Myth of the Countess of Pembroke" in The Yearbook of English Studies
11, London: Modern Humanities Research Assoc., London, 1981:
Charles. "Sir Fulke Greville," Dictionary of Literary Biography,
Volume 62: Elizabethan Dramatists. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book.
Edited by Fredson Bowers, University of Virginia. The Gale Group,
Arthur F. John Donne, Coterie
Poet. The Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1986.
"Patronage, Poetry, and Print." The Yearbook of English Studies:
Politics, Patronage and Literature in England 1558-1658, Special
Number 21, (1991): 1-26.
W. "Tudor Aristocrats and the Mythical 'Stigma of Print.'"
Renaissance Papers, 1980 (on-line at The Shakespeare
Authorship Home Page).
The Elizabethan Courtier
Poets: the Poems and Their Contexts. Columbia: University of
Missouri Press, 1991.
Egbert.The Epigrams of Sir John Harington., Philadelphia, 1926.
Companion to English Literature. Ed. Margaret Drabble. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1985.
W. "The Stigma of Print." Essays in Criticism 1,
139-164. 1968. Reprint; Amsterdam: Swets and Zeitlinger N.V.,
"From Manuscript to Print." Proceedings of the Leeds
Philosophical and Literary Society 6 (1951): 507-28.
The Profession of English Letters. London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1964.
Edmund. The Faerie Queene. Ed. Ernest Rhys. London: J.M. Dent
& Sons, 1910.
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Drama: Criticism, History, and Performance 1594-1998. London:
David.Ben Jonson: A Life.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989.
Hyder Edward. Introduction to The Phoenix Nest 1593.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1931.
Authorship Home Page. http://ShakespeareAuthorship.com/.
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Author's Home Page.
F.B. "Henry Parrott's
Stolen Feathers." PMLA
52:4 (1937): 1019-30.