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Posts from — April 2014

Who Is Clinias?

There is quite a bit of unfinished business with A Tale of a Tub, but that will have to wait.  A discussion over on ShakesVere has spent time pondering the identity of Gullio from the first of the Parnassus plays. Frankly, I don’t care who Gullio was. He seems to get inordinate attention because “Shakespeare” is mentioned in the play. There are more interesting characters, as Rambler has unearthed, in writing from that period that doesn’t mention Shakespeare.

Today I’d like to look at Clinias, from Philip Sidney’s “New” Arcadia. Rambler has quite a bit to say about Clinias. This handy link will pull up all of Rambler’s posts that mention Clinias in reverse chronological order.

Here’s the paragraph from the Arcadia where Clinias is introduced.

“This Clinias in his youth had been a scholar, so far as to learn rather words than manners, and of words rather plenty than order; and oft had used to be an actor in tragedies, where he had learned, besides a slidingness of language, acquaintance with many passions, and to frame his face to bear the figure of them, long used to the eyes and ears of men, and to reckon no fault but shamefastness in nature; a most notable coward, and yet more strangely than rarely venturous in privy practices.”

Here are a few things we know about Clinias from that paragraph and other parts of the Arcadia.

  1. He’s a scholar.
  2. Ill-mannered.
  3. He’d been an actor in tragedies.
  4. Known for using a lot of words.
  5. “…tongue (perhaps unfortunate, never false.)
  6. ‘acquaintance with many passions’
  7. “a verbal crafty coward” – “Fulke Greville –ed.
  8. “…the wickedest worm that ever went on two legs.”
  9. Sidney disliked him.
  10. Butted heads with Burghley.


Let’s take these one at a time.

1. Scholar – could be Vere, not Shaksper.

2. Could be Vere or Shaksper.  Vere was certainly a bad boy at court.

3. Many theater professionals insist that whoever wrote Shakespeare had trod the boards.

4. A lot of words – Here’s Ben Jonson discussing Shakespeare from the Discoveries.

“…Hee was (indeed) honest, and of an open, and free nature : had an excellent Phantsie ; brave notions, and gentle expressions : wherein hee flow’d with that facility, that sometime it was necessary he should be stop’d : Sufflaminandus erat ; as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his owne power ; would the rule of it had beene so too. Many times hee fell into those things, could not escape laughter :”

Shakespeare didn’t know when to shut up. The late Peter Moore noted that Vere was similarly described in the Arundel libels.

“… this lie is verye rife with him and in it he glories greatlie, diverslie hathe he told it, and when he enters into it, he can hardlie owte, whiche hathe made suche sporte as often have I bin driven to rise from his table laugheinge…”

As Moore notes, Vere was known as quite the storyteller.  Arundel’s ‘hardly owte’ and Jonson’s ‘should be stopped’ sound like the same man. In modern parlance, from time to time he needed to put a sock in it.

5.   From another passage in the New Arcadia;

“Clinias purposing indeede to tell him the trueth of al, saving what did touch himself, or Cecropia, first, dipping his hand in the blood of his woud, Now by this blood (said he) which is more deare to me, then al the rest that is in my body, since it is spent for your safety : this togue (perchance unfortunate, but never false) shall not now begin to lie unto my Prince, of me most beloved.”

Clinia’s tongue gets him into trouble. He says unfortunate things. But he is never false.  What a remarkable expression that incorporates both never (Ned Vere) while alluding to truth, vero.

6. Clinias had an ‘acquaintance with many passions’ from his time as an actor.   This description is similar to Lord Frampul from Jonson’s The New Inn some forty or so years later. In his past, Frampul, a ‘noble poet’ had spent some time with the gypsies (acting troupe) along with his sidekick, Fly, a Shaksper character.  Jonson lists Frampul’s ‘addictions;

“The cause of all this trouble. I am he,
Have measured all the shires of England over:
Wales, and her mountains, seen those wilder nations,
Of people in the Peak, and Lancashire;
Their pipers, fiddlers, rushers, puppet-masters,
Jugglers and gypsies, all the sorts of canters,
And colonies of beggars, tumblers, ape carriers;
For to these savages I was addicted,
To search their natures, and make odd discoveries;”

Rambler’s discussion of this passage from The New Inn is here. Frampul’s many addictions (devotions) are theater-related. Frampul’s “addictions” align with Clinias’ “passions.”

7.  A “verbal crafty coward.” That’s Fulke Greville,the  editor’s description of Clinias from the 1590 edition. Rambler’s discussion covers the Vere clue word that’s obvious.

8.  More from the Arcadia;

“O Clinias, thou Clinias, the wickedest worme that ever went upon two legges ; the very fritter of fraude, and seething pot of iniquitie:”

Worm in French is ver, as Rambler has noted many times.  E.A.J. Honigmann in his 1982 Shakespeare’s Impact on his Contemporaries subtitiles chapter 1, “A Waspish Little Worme” taken from Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit.  Honigmann argues that the worme Greene is referencing is Shakespeare.   Clinias and Shakespeare have something in common, both are called ver.

9. Clinias is called a ‘coward’ over and over again in the Arcadia. Whoever he was, Sidney didn’t like Clinias.  Tennis quarrel anyone?

10. The scholarly identification between Dametas in the Arcadia and Lord Burghley is covered by Rambler here. The life-long tug of war between Burghley and Vere is well known to Oxfordians.

There’s more in Rambler’s discussions of Clinias that I haven’t touched on here, including Sidney’s description of Clinias’ slidingness of language. This quick look at a few aspects of Clinias shows a character who has quite a bit in common with both Shakespeare the author, and Edward de Vere  the man.


April 21, 2014   No Comments