A Post Stratfordian Shake-speare Blog
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Do We Know These Guys?

Medice/Mendice in The Gentleman Usher is identified as Shakspere of Stratford via allusion. The name, Mendice, is derived from mendicus, which means beggar.  Rambler’s discussion of actor as beggar is here. Are there other Mendice/beggar/Shakspere characters out there? If we’re looking for beggars, Chapman’s Blind Beggar of Alexandria is a good place to start.  Rambler has touched on the play here and elsewhere in his blog.

There is a composite character in Blind Beggar, one of whose manifestations is Leon the Usurer. Shakspere’s involvement in usury is well documented.  Interestingly, Leon gives his story at the beginning of Beggar, and it’s presented similarly to Mendice’s story at the end of Usher.

“Yet but a shepherd’s son at Memphis born;
And I will tell you how I got that name:
My father was a fortune-teller and from him I learnt his art,
And, knowing to grow great was to grow rich,

Such money as I got by palmistry
I put to use, and by that means became
To take the shape of Leon, by which name
I am 
well known a wealthy usurer;” (1, 112-119)

Leon’s short bio – Out of town guy makes some money in the theatrical arts and puts it to work as a loan shark.  Do we know this guy?   And I love his name, “Leon the Usurer.”  A gangster nickname that pre-dates Runyon by three centuries!

Another interesting character occurs in one of the University Plays,  Lingua, attributed to Thomis Thomkis, registered with the stationers in 1607.  The play may date from as early as 1602. This nugget was sent on to me by Rambler.

The character’s name is Mendacio, quite close to Mendice.  Where Mendice is a beggar, Mendacio is a liar.

“Appetitus. … talk no more of state-matters : but in brief tell me, my little rascal, how thou hast spent thy time this many a day.

Mendacio. Faith, in some credit since thou saw’st me last.

Appetitus. How so, where ?

Mendacio. Every where; in the court your gentlewomen hang me at their apron strings, and that makes them answer so readily. In the city I am honoured like a God ; none so well acquainted with your tradesmen. Your lawyers, all the Term-time, hire me of my lady ; your gallants, if they hear my name abused, they stab for my sake; your travellers so dote upon me as S7 passes;  O, they have good reason, for I have carried them to many a good meal, under the countenance of my familiarity. Nay your statesmen have oftentimes closely conveyed me under their tongues, to make their policies more current. As for old men, they challenge my company by authority.

Appetitus. I am exceeding glad of your great promotion.

Mendacio. Now when I am disposed, I can philosophy it in the university, with the subtlest of them all.

Appetitus.  I cannot be persuaded that thou art acquainted with scholars, ever since thou wert prest to death in a printing-house.

Mendacio.  No ! why I was the first founder of the three sects of philosophy, except one of the Peripate tics, who acknowledge Aristotle, I confess, their great grandfather.

Appetitus. Thou boy ! how is this possible? thou art but a child, and there were sects of philosophy before thou wert born.

Mendacio. Appetitus, thou mistakest me ; I tell thee three thousand years ago was Mendacio born in Greece, nurs’d in Crete, and ever since honoured every where : I’ll be sworn I held old Homer’s pen when he writ his Iliads and his Odysseys.

Appetitus. Thou hadst need, for I hear say he was blind.

Mendacio. I help’d Herodotus to pen some part of his Muses, lent Pliny ink to write his history, * rounded Rabelais in the ear when he historified Pantagruell ; as for Lucian, I was his genius ; O, those two books de Vera Historia, howsoever they go under his name, I’ll be sworn I writ them every tittle.

Appetitus. Sure as I am hungry, thou’st have it for lying. But hast thou rusted this latter time for want of exercise ?

Mendacio. Nothing less. I must confess I would fain have jogged Stow and great Hollingshed on their elbows, when they were about their chronicles ; and, as I remember, Sir John Mandevill’s travels, and a great part of the Decads, were of my doing. But for the Mirror of Knighthood, Bevis of Southampton, Palmerin of England, Amadis of Gaul, Huon de Bour-deaux, Sir Guy of Warwick, Martin Marprelate, Robin Hood, Garragantua, Gerilion, and a thousand such exquisite monuments as these, no doubt but they breathe in my breath up and down.

Appetitus. Downwards I’ll swear, for there’s stinking lies in them. 

Mendacio. But what should I light a candle to the bright sun-shine of my glorious renown ? The whole world is full of Mendacio’s fame.

It’s nice that Mendacio is willing to light a candle to his good fortune.

Mendacio claims to author all the books!  Appetitus can’t believe he’s become so close with scholars “ever since thou wert prest to death in a printing-house.”  Strip away the exaggeration of the satire and, simply put, this is a dramatization of an authorship dispute.  Do we know this guy?  

There’s an interesting etymylogical angle here.  As noted, Mendice is derived from mendicus, latin for beggar. Mendacio is derived from mendax, latin for liar.  Mendicus and mendax have a common root, mendum, meaning ‘fault.’  Mendacity and mendacious are English words taken from latin during this period of language revolution. The earliest known use of mendacity is 1646, for mendacious, it’s 1616.  The use of Mendacio pre-dates mendacious by a decade.  We have the tantalizing possibility that adapting the latin word mendax to describe lying behavior in the English language originates with the authorship fraud of that man in London who claimed to write all those books that carried his name!

And Stratfordians tell us no one noticed.

October 23, 2013   No Comments