Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 3

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 3

Next is a brief summary of Nigel Cockburn from his chapter on this evidence.

The Baconian Basil E. Lawrence in his Notes on the Authorship of the Shakespeare Plays and Poems (1925), pp. 93-4, recorded that he submitted his arguments on the Hall and Marston satires to an unnamed Stratfordian scholar who replied: “Mediocria firma must stand for Bacon, but does it stand for Labeo? It seems probable, but it seems difficult to prove it”. Then he added: “It is only an assumption that Labeo is Bacon”. But it is not “an assumption” unsupported by evidence, else the Stratfordian himself could not have described it as “probable”. It is a high probability based on valid inference to be drawn from the 6 points I have listed. (Note: his 6 points are best read in the context of his whole analysis).


  1. Hall says that Labeo, a superior poet, was writing poetry (which may include plays) under the name of a man of low degree.  
  2. This, especially when coupled with a reference to erotic poetry and apparent references to 1 Henry IV, makes it very probable that by Labeo and the thirsty swain Hall meant Shake-Speare(the author) and Shakspere (the actor of Stratford). We know of no other pair of Elizabethans who could fit these roles.   
  3. Hall gives no clue as to the identity of Labeo/Shake-Speare except that the name Labeo tends to imply that he was a lawyer.

  1. In his Postcript to Pigmalion’s Image he clearly identifies Labeo as the author of Venus and Adonis.
  2. In his Certain Satires, Satire 4 (Reactio), he reveals that Bacon had written “mirror” poetry.
  3. Very probably he believed that poetry to be Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.

Were Hall and Marston mistaken?

If Hall and Marston were right, the Baconian theory is proved, as to the narrative poems at least. So what are the chances of their having been mistaken? [note: here Cockburn gives 6 reasons why they probably were not mistaken]. Here is a summary of them:

  1.  It is likely that, at any rate to some extent, they had separate sources of information.
  2.  A challenge to a printed authorship ascription is much more significant than an acceptance of it. Where an authorship ascription is disputed, the challenge is likely to be based on some evidence.
  3.  A man may speculate freely in private as to the true authorship of a  work; he is less likely to commit himself in print unless he feels reasonably sure. The assertions of both Hall and Marston are categorical.
  4.  If Hall and Marston were merely guessing at the identity of the true author, Bacon would have been a most improbable choice.
  5.  Marston, as a barrister and a major poet himself, is likely to have been in quite a good position to know if his fellow barrister, Bacon, was the true author. As to Hall, it was said that “he was well acquainted with members of the elder branch of the Bacon family”.
  6. The view which Hall held about Labeo’s identity was not a passing fancy but was maintained over a period. And there is no evidence that either Hall or Marston ever changed their minds about Labeo’s identity.

One of the very few Stratfordian scholars that have at least half-heartedly considered this evidence, H.N. Gibson in The Shakespeare Claimants (1962), after saying that Hall and Marston had “hazarded a guess” about who “Labeo” was, concluded that “It may prove that Hall and Marston were the first exponents (back in 1597) of the Baconian theory, but it does not, and cannot, prove that the Baconian theory is true”. Cockburn’s response is that “But it can and does prove that the theory is true, at least as to the narrative poems, if Hall and Marston were right. And for the reasons I have given “hazarded a guess” is unlikely to be a fair description of their identification”.  Keep in mind that probably none of the evidence posted here has been viewed by Baconians as ever having received “a fair description” from Shakespeare scholars.

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