A Post Stratfordian Shake-speare Blog
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The Gentleman Usher

George Chapman’s, The Gentleman Usher, which likely dates from 1602-1604, contains a seemingly quite specific allusion to William Shakspere. This allusion was discovered by, and discussed in, Rambler’s Quake-speare Shorterly blog post of June 14 .

This series of posts will examine that allusion in detail. I’ll consider what Chapman’s information tells us about how William Shakspere came to be known as the author of the canon. I’ll also look at what was the likely relationship between Vere and Shakspere.

I believe The Gentleman Usher contains not just an allusion to William Shakespere, but also an allusion to the circumstances of the authorship deception. A close reading of The Gentleman Usher tells us, how the authorship ruse went down.

The character in question in this play is Lord Medice.  He is the villain. The duke Alphonso’s son Vincentio and his friend Strozza begin the play by describing Medice as a fraud and phony. They set in motion one of the play’s story arcs to expose Medice for who he truly is. They begin by noting his commonness, which doesn’t fit his claims to nobility.

“Strozza. The Duke has none for him, but Medice,
That fustian lord, who in his buckram face
Bewrays, in my conceit, a map of baseness.

Vincentio.  Ay, there’s a parcel of unconstrued stuff,
That unknown minion rais’d to honour’s height,
Without the help of virtue, or of art
Or (to say true) [of any] honest part.
Oh, how he shames my father! He goes like
A prince’s footman, in old-fashioned silks,
And most times in his hose and doublet only;
So miserable, that his own few men
Do beg by virtue of his livery;
For he gives none, for any service done him,
Or any honour, any least reward.

Strozza: ’Tis pity such should live about a prince:
 I would have such a noble counterfeit nail’d
Upon the pillory, and, after, whipp’d
For his adultery with nobility.

Vincentio. Faith, I would fain disgrace him by all means,
As enemy to his base-bred ignorance,
That, being a great lord, cannot write nor read.”    (I, i, 107-126)

Fustian and buckram denote commonness. “That unknown minion rais’d to honour’s height,” certainly sounds like our man Shakespere. His cheapness is also noted, “Do beg by virtue of his livery”.  And of course, his illiteracy is explicitly stated. There are other points of note we’ll return to later. But here, at the beginning, we see the case against Medice outlined by Vincentio and Strozza.

The pair expose Strozza in two different scenes. The first is where he’s asked to read a poem that sounds quite a bit like Venus and Adonis. As he is illiterate, he can’t read the poem.  Rambler’s discussion of this scene is thorough, especially in regards to the connection to Venus and Adonis. Rambler’s take is here. 

In another scene, the Duke is preparing a ‘device’ to woo Earl Lasso’s daughter. He asks Medice to perform a part in the device. The device concerns a hunter (Duke Alphonso) who’s been hunting boars.  Who is this duke?

“Medice. My lord, away with these scholastic wits,
Lay the invention of your speech on me,
And the performance too; I’ll play my part
That you shall say, Nature yields more than Art.

Alphonso. Be’t so resolv’d; unartificial truth
An unfeign’d passion can decipher best.

Vincentio. But ’twill be hard, my lord, for one unleam’d.

Med. Unleam’d! I cry you mercy, sir; unleam’d ?

Vincentio. I mean untaught, my lord, to make a speech
As a pretended actor, without clothes
More gracious than your doublet and your hose.” (I, i, 228-240)

When he fails to perform, Medice later complains…

Medice: …  Oh, I would give a limb

To have their knavery limn’d and painted out.
They stand upon their wits and paper-learning;
Give me a fellow with a natural wit
That can make wit of no wit; and wade through
Great things with nothing, when their wits stick fast.  (II, i, 54-61)

Medice’s wit is ‘natural,’ not from paper learning. In the previous segment, he complains when he is called ‘unlearned’ but admits to being ‘untaught.’

A comparison of these passages with Jonson’s statements on Art and Nature in the First Folio will be a separate post.

The primary point to make here is that Chapman is taking pains to show that Medice is BOTH unable to read poetry AND unable to act in a device. Why was it important to make BOTH of those points about Medice?  Who is this character alluding to who both claimed to be a poet (writing something like Venus and Adonis) and an actor?  Anyone we know?





1 Anka Z { 10.04.13 at 3:10 pm }

Great stuff here, Chris!

2 Bastian Conrad { 06.13.15 at 10:13 am }

Some remarks to Chapman
(I apologize for my insufficient English)

I am a Marlowian and came across your blog and have started to read it with great profit.. I wrote a german book on “The true Shakespeare: Christopher Marlowe”(2011) but could never find an english publisher interested in translating and printing this book. I am a professsor(Emeritus) of neuroscience in Munich Germany.- The main thesis of my book is not, that Marlowe is by far the most likely candidate for Shakespeare (thats more ore less self evident) but that our poet genius wrote under a multiplicity of pseudonyms. (including Chapman & Shake-speare – as absurd as it may sound…..)-

A few arguments for the Chapman=Marlowe Thesis

▷ For its first 35 years of life no sources about Chapmans literary work can be substantiated.
▷ There is a complete lack of biographic sources for Chapmans training and studies
▷ The late start of his poetic activity in 35.LJ is hardly understandable
▷ The many plagiarism Chapmans at Marlowe dispense cannot be understood ( one example:
Marlowe: Tamburlaine I. Act V, Scene. 1
Like to Flora in her morning’s pride
Shaking her silver tresses in the aire,
Rain’st on the earth resolved pearl in showers.
Chapman: England’s Parnassus, Extract 2054 p.417,
As Flora to salute the morning Sunne:
Who When She shakes her dresses in the ayre.
Raines on the earth Dissolved Pearle in showres …
▷ Chapman’s first work “The Shadow of Night Σκἰὰ νyκτōς” (1594) was not published until after Marlowe’s death (similar to “Venus and Adonis” ,Shakespeare’s op.1).
▷ “The Shadow of Night” bears all autobiographical traits and details of a previous disaster (similar to Shakespeare’s “Lucrece) – (” … that I may Quickly weepe the shipwracke of the world: or let self sleepe (Binding my sences) loose My working souls … “). The motive of the author, to begin in 1594 his poetic work with a hymn to his concealment, his blackout, his death (along with a hymn to the Queen, “Hymn in Cynthiam ) is only comprehensible for Marlowe, but not for Chapman.
▷ There are significant close linguistic and literary relationships between Chapman and Shakespeare (JMRobertson “Chapman and Shakespeare”, 1917)
▷ There are links to the “Pembroke’s” and “Philip Sidney”. Chapmans “Ovid’s Banquet of Sence” (1595) can be regarded as a response to the erotic poems like “Astrophel and Stella” by Phillip Sydney, and “Venus and Adonis”.
▷ The deliberately ambiguous dedicatory poem of JD (John Davies) to Chapman in “Ovid’s Banquet of Sence” (1595) is his concealment and double nature (First Maister dyed – she [Queene] calles thee Second Maister)
Since Ovid (Joves first gentle Maister) dyed
He hath a most notorious trueant beene,
And hath not once in thrice five ages seene
(…)Which unto thee (sweet Chapman) she [Queene] hath doone:
She makes (in thee the Spirit of Ovid move,
And calles thee[Chapman] second Maister of her love)
Futurum invisible.

▷ The dedication for “Hero and Leander [” finished by George Chapman “] in 1598 by EB [Edward Blount] to Thomas Walsingham is full of allegorical references to a covert further existence of the poet Marlowe. (” … Living in afterlife … putteth us in Minde of farther obsequies …. what-soever we may judge shall make his living to credit …. this unfinished Tragedy happens under a double duty, the one to your selfe, the other to the diseased (!) “, among others
▷ In the dedication of Chapman’s part of “Hero and Leander” to Audrey (Shelton), Lady Walsingham, Chapman a) identifies her husband, Thomas [Marlowe’s friend and patron] as “my best friend honored” in his hidden state ” (my) still-obscured estate “, and b) “to Which the unhappines of my life hath hitherto been uncomfortable and painfull dumbnes “.
▷ In Chapman’s translation of “The Georgicks of Hesiod ‘(1618), the confidentiality of the dedicatory text to Francis Bacon is indicative for a personal proximity of both persons who may be assumed for Marlowe (chapt 12-Tobias Matthew, p.571ff). Correspondences between Chapman and Bacon are not known.
▷ Contents of the dedication to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (1598) and the outstanding quality of the Iliad translation speak for an outstanding poet and translator recognized at court .
▷ John Davies’ rated Chapman in “The Scourge of Folly (1611)” (epigram, S.476 – To my highly vallued Mr. George Chapman) as “Father of our English Poets”. This may actually apply only to Shakespeare / alias Marlowe.
▷ The excellence of Chapman’s translations [• “Iliad” of Homer (1616), • “Georgics” of Virgil (1618), • “Workes” of Hesiod, • “Hero and Leander” of Musaeus (1618), • “Fifth Satire “Juvenal (1624)] has to be reconciled with the extreme linguistic quality and relationship to Shakespeare.
▷ allusions in the dedication of Chapman’s “Banquet of Ovid Sence (1595)” points to Marlowe’s fate … Not Affecting glory for mine owne sleight laboratories, but desirous other Should be more worthely glorious, nor precessing sacred poetry in any degree ….. With that darkness I want to quietly labor to be shadowed)
▷ in Chapman’s “The Conspiracie, and tragedie of Charles Duke of Byron” (1608) the contents of the dedication to Thomas Walsingham (“my honorable and constant friend”) and his son (“to my much beloved from his birth, right toward and worthy gentleman his sun Thomas Walsingham, Esquire “) and the references in the prologue (” … not the fair shadow of himself: Which of empoisened Spring; … and Rising, sinckes: which now behold in our Conspirator “) is indicative or mandatory only for Marlowe’s fate, but not for Chapman.
▷ In Chapman’s “All Fooles” (1605) the content of his intimate dedication to Thomas Walsingham (“My Long loved friend”) with the “biographical” outlining of his situation (▷ “Should I expose to every common eye, the least allow’d birth of my shaken brain “▷” without my passport patched with other’s wit, “▷” my olde Fortune keep me silent obscure “) is indicative for Marlowe, but not Chapman.
▷ For Chapmans successful stage play “The Blind Beggar of Alexandria”, 1596/7, ( disguised as a beggar for the main and double figures “Cleanthes” / “Irus” “[= Marlowe] there are significant parable-like references to literary contents (such as Tamburlaine) and the biography of the author [Marlowe] (eg: Queen Aegiale to Irus: Ah my Cleanthes, Where Art Thou become But since I saved thy guiltless life from death, And turn’d it only into banishment …!?) ..
▷ According to Chapman’s conviction, he represented the heritage of the literary inspiration Marlowe’s (!)
▷ in Thomas Freemans »Rubbe, and A Great Cast” (1614 –Book II) Epigram 87 “To George Chapman” reveals a split identity between Chapman and the author . Freeman is also a cover identity Marlowe’s (“No Chapman but thy selfe were to be sought”) . (Epigr.I / 35 and 82, II / 57, 92, 100)

These are a only a few examples of arguments that raises doubts that Chapman was an authentic poet . It is more likely to give up the established view and adopt a hidden poet [Marlowe] behind the name .of Chapman

It never made enough sense to me to accept the bizarre fact that within month after the first print of Marlowes “Hero and Leander” (1598 , registered 1593 sept) Chapman enlarged the poem by two thirds ( not to mention many significant textual allusions) and Henry Petowe wrote a continuation….

The english part of my german/engl.webside

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