Sunday, April 10, 2011

Was Shakespeare at Cambridge?

Shake-Speare from Cambridge?

There is evidence of various sorts that suggest that the author of the Shakespeare works was a student of Cambridge University.  Below is just a portion of this evidence.  

    N.B. Cockburn writes that F.S Boas in his Shakespeare and the Universities (1923), p. 47-8 refer to “the curious fact that Shakespeare shows familiarity with certain distinctively Cambridge terms.” The word ‘keeps’ was one of these words.
     Melsome, in The Bacon-Shakespeare Anatomy (1945) says that the word, keep, in the sense of meaning live, lodge, dwell, or reside is purely a Cambridge University term and is not used elsewhere in the British Empire. It was not used in that sense at Oxford.  But occurs in Shakespeare in one tense or another nineteen times.

1, Knock at his  study where they say he keepsTitus Andr., 5.2.5
2. A Spaniard that keeps here in the court.  L.L.L. 4.1.99
3. As an outlaw in his castle keeps.   1H6 3.1.47
4. His chief followers lodge in towns …. While he himself keeps in the cold field.  3H6,  4 3.14
5. Where youth, and cost, and witless bravery keepsMeasure, 1.3.10
6. This habitation where thou keep’stMeasure 1.3.10
7. Favours that keep within.  Measure, 5.1.16
8. And where they keep.   Hamlet, 2.1.8
9. I will keep where there is wit stirring.  Troilus, 2.1.117
10. In what place of the field doth Calchas keepTroilus, 4.5.278
11. Keeps still in Dunsinand.  Macbeth, 5.4.9
12. Keep in Tunis.  Tempest,  2.1.264
13. Where the madcap duke his uncle kept.  1H4, 1.3.241
14. It kept where I kept.  Pericles, 2.1.131
15. The most impenetrable cur that ever kept with men.  Merchant, 3.3.19
16. Creatures of prey that keep upon’t.  Winters Tale, 3.3.12
17. And sometime where earth-delving conies keepVenus and Adonis, line 687
18. Treason and murder ever kept together.  H5  2.2.105
19. Call you that keeping for a gentleman, that differs not from the stalling of an ox? 
   As You Like It  1.1.8-10

Other Cambridge terms refer to stages in a student’s advancement. Candidates for a degree were required to maintain a syllogistical dispute which was called ‘The Act'. If he was successful and admitted to the full privileges of a graduate, he was said to ‘commence’ in Arts or a Faculty.
  Now notice Falstaff’s unusual use of these terms:
“Learning is a mere hoard of gold kept by a devil till sack commences it and sets it in act and use.” 2Henry4, 4.3.113-5
And then also: “The acts commenced on this ball of earth.” 2 Henry 4, Induction 3.2.116

   Next, notice this phrase by Lear [2.4.170]: “Tis not in thee . . . to scant my sizes.”  ‘Size’, as defined by Minsheu, in Guide to Tongues (1617) is ‘a portion of brew and drink; it is a farthing which scholars at Cambridge have at the buttery’.  To be ‘scanted of sizes’ was a punishment for undergraduates.

Prior to Melsome’s book there were Cambridge students that argued that Shakespeare had been a student of their school. They searched both the university and College records from 1580-1600 but couldn’t find any semblance of his name there.

Francis Bacon attended Trinity College, Cambridge from 1573-1576.

See more evidence of Shakespeare’s ties to Cambridge in the post on Dr. Caius, the character in The Merry Wives of Windsor

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