Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 2

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 2

Dawkins’ second part of his summary:

In an exchange of satirical writings published during 1597-8, commenting on the Shakespeare poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece published a few years earlier (1593-4), the poets Joseph Hall and John Marston indicated that William Shakespeare was a mask for the real author of the poems and pointedly revealed the true author.

Hall attacked the love poetry of the Shakespeare poems; Marston defended it. In doing so they identified the author of the poems as being Francis Bacon. They begin their exchange of satires by referring to a certain poet as ‘Labeo’. In Hall’s second book of Certain Satires he reproves Labeo for the licentious tone of his writing and implies that Labeo was writing in conjunction with someone else:-

For shame write better Labeo, or write none,
Or better write, or Labeo write alone.[1]

In Satire 1 of his fourth book of Satires, Hall links Labeo with Shakespeare, satirising Labeo for his use of ‘But’ and ‘Oh’ with which he began his stanzas (‘While bit But OHs each stanze can begin’) and his use of hyphenated words as epithets (‘In Epithets to join two words as one, /Forsooth for Adjectives cannot stand alone’). These lines refer respectively to Shakespeare's poem Lucrece, where it is noticeable how many stanzas commence with ‘But’ or ‘Oh’, and to both Lucrece and Venus and Adonis in which hyphenated words are employed as epithets. Hall goes on further to imply that Labeo is writing under another person’s name (i.e. Shakespeare's name):-

Labeo is whip't and laughs me in the face.
Why? for I smite and hide the galled place,
Gird but the Cynicks Helmet on his head,
Cares he for Talus or his flayle of lead?
Long as the craftie Cuttle lieth sure
In the black cloud of his thick vomiture;
Who list complaine of wronged faith or fame
When hee may shift it on to anothers name? [2]

 The following year John Marston joined the game in his Metamorphosis of Pygmalion’s Image, confirming that Labeo was the author Shakespeare:-

So Labeo did complaine his loue was stone,
Obdurate, flinty, so relentless none;
Yet Lynceus knows, that in the end of this
He wrought as strange a metamorphosis.
Ends not my poem thus surprising ill?
Come, come, Augustus, crowne my laureat quill.[3]

The first two lines of this passage allude to lines 200 and 201 of Venus and Adonis (‘Art thou obdurate, flintie, hard as steele? /Nay more then flint, for stone at raine relenteth’), whilst in the remaining lines Marston compares the metamorphosis of Pygmalion as described in his own work to that of Adonis as described in Venus and Adonis.

So we have both Hall and Marston referring to the concealed author, whom the actor Shakespeare masked, as Labeo.

Marston himself was no stranger to the use of pseudonyms and masks. He had hidden himself under the pseudonym of W. Kinsayder for both his poems, The Metamorphosis of Pygmalion’s Image and The Scourge of Villainy. But why choose Labeo as a pseudonym for the author of the Shakespeare poems? It is a pointed allusion, in fact, for Antistius Labeo was a celebrated lawyer in the time of the Roman Emperor Augustus, who lost favour with the Emperor for opposing the Emperor’s views.

In 1593 such a crisis had occurred for Francis Bacon, who had dared to stand up in Parliament against an attempt by the Queen and Burghley to take away Parliament’s vitally important prerogative of raising taxes. Francis remained in disgrace with the Queen until November 1594, and lost the chance to be appointed either Solicitor-General or Attorney-General. Moreover, Francis was busy writing in conjunction with his brother Anthony, who had returned home from France in February 1592. Essex wrote to the Queen that the two brothers were busy writing stage plays and about to characterise him on stage.

After further exchanges, Marston finally identifies Labeo decisively. In his Certain Satires, Book 1, is another covert allusion to an author who 'presumst as if thou wert unseene'. In Satire 4, Marston defends various authors whom Hall had attacked and, without actually naming Labeo, refers to Labeo and identifies him in the following line:

What, not mediocria firma from thy spite? [4]
[ i.e., has not even mediocria firma escaped thy spite?]

Since this latin phrase, 'mediocria firma', is the motto of the Bacon family, as used by Anthony and Francis Bacon, and as Francis Bacon was a secret poet and lawyer who fell out of favour with the Queen, there can be no reasonable doubt that Marston was referring to Francis Bacon, whom he believed to be the author of the Shakespeare works. Clearly, Hall also was in on the secret.

Francis Bacon's Coat of Arms as Viscount St Alban

John Marston, who was a member of Middle Temple, was in a particularly good position to know the truth, since he was a close friend of Thomas Greene of Warwickshire, also a member of Middle Temple, who claimed to be the cousin of William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon (and possibly was by marriage). Greene had stood surety for John Marston's entry to the Middle Temple Inn of Court in 1594, and Marston had stood surety for Greene’s entry in 1595. Greene named his children, Anne and William, after the Shakespeares, and in 1609 rented the rooms in New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, from the actor. His brother, John Greene, who had been a student at Clement’s Inn, also settled in Stratford.

Peter Dawkins, 2006

(See the author’s book, The Shakespeare Enigma)

1. Joseph Hall, Satires Virgidemiarum (1597), Bk 2, p.25.
2. Joseph Hall, Satires Virgidemiarum (1597), Bk 4, Satire I.
3. John Marston, The Metamorphosis of Pygmalion’s Image (1598), p. 25.
4. John Marston, Certain Satires (1598), Book 1, line 77.

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