13) This next candidate is in The two Gentlemen of Verona, on page 24. There are three characters speaking. Valentine, one of the Gentlemen in the play, is pursuing Silvia. His servant is named Speed. Silvia has asked Valentine to write love letters for her to give to her secret friend to whom she’s attracted. What Valentine doesn’t catch on to, and that his servant Speed uses banter to awaken this insight, is that Silvia’s secret friend is Valentine himself. And that she had asked him to write a love letter “to one she loves” and so it would be a letter to himself. Silvia is pleased with Valentine’s effort “ ’tis very Clerkly-done”. Valentine complains that he didn’t know who it was for so he wrote doubtfully. When he asks if she liked the letter he wrote, Silvia replies “Yes, yes” saying “the lines are very quaintly writ” but she observes that they were done unwillingly. Valentine persists and says “Madam, they are for you”. To which Silvia then responds with some frustration this time “I, I” [meaning Aye, Aye] and that he had only written them for her because it was at her request and that she now doesn’t want them. When Silvia leaves then Speed complains to him that he had missed the jest and tries to explain it to him.
In their following banter we have:
Speed. To your selfe: why, she woes [woos] you by a figure.Val. What figure?
Speed. By a Letter, I should say.
Val. She gave me none, except an angry word.
Speed. Why she hath given you a Letter.
Val. That’s the Letter I writ to her friend.
Speed. And y [that] letter hath she deliver’d, & there an end.
So in these passages there is an emphasis on a Letter, and which Speed says is a ‘figure’ and that it’s being used to woo Valentine. Valentine never did get this jest or riddle and Speed stopped trying to get him to understand. Yet there seemed to be some more double meanings involved. A ‘Letter’ can also refer to a letter of the alphabet. And a figure can of course be a number. Modern editors assume that here ‘figure’ means a “figure of rhetoric” yet Speed doesn’t seem to be suggesting that Silvia was trying to woo Valentine with a rhetorical figure. “To woo” can also mean “to tempt or invite” as if the reader is somehow being tempted to figure something out. So if a letter of the alphabet was being referred to, then which letter was it? There seem to be clues suggesting that it is the letter ‘I’. This letter is self-referential and in the scene the talk is about a letter being written to oneself. Valentine says that Silvia had given him “an angry word”. And when Silvia was a bit angry with Valentine’s denseness she says “I, I” [“aye, aye” for “yes, yes”] whereas just a few lines earlier the word is spelt as “Yes, yes”. And when Speed said to Valentine that “she hath given you a Letter”, Valentine replied with “That’s the Letter I ….”
So why would the letter ‘I’ be hinted at in a jest? Well, the numerical figure associated with it is the number ‘9’. And why might the playwright want readers to derive this number? The only thing I can see is that it combines with the page number 24 to sum to 33 and that makes it meaningful. The self-referential ‘I’ and the figure ‘33’ together can suggest “I, Bacon”. This is similar to the 19 zodiacs and 14 years candidate we looked at earlier. From the Baconian authorship perspective this solves the riddle. Otherwise the dialogue can seem lacking at the end.