GABRIEL HARVEY met the Court at Audley End to welcome the Queen and
her entourage with heroic Latin verses which he had composed for the
Addressing the premier Earl, Edward de Vere, Lord Oxford, Harvey began:
This is my welcome; this is how I have decided to bid All Hail! to
thee and to the other Nobles.
Thy splendid fame, great Earl, demands even more than in the case
of others the services of a poet possessing lofty eloquence. Thy merit
doth not creep along the ground, nor can it be confined within the
limits of a song. It is a wonder which reaches as far as the heavenly
Fulsome praise was to be expected, but it is noteworthy that Harvey
honored him far above the rest. The Earl's imperious spirit was glanced
at as he proceeded, in words that were prophetic:
O thou great-hearted one, strong in thy mind and thy fiery will,
thou wilt conquer thyself, thou wilt conquer others; thy glory will
spread out in all directions beyond the Arctic Ocean; and England
will put thee to the test and prove thee to be a native-born Achilles.
Do thou go forward boldly and without hesitation. Mars will obey thee,
Hermes will be thy messenger, Pallas striking her shield with her
spear-shaft will attend thee.
We shall break in here to quote from Edwin Reed's Prefatory Address
to the Folio: "In Grecian mythology," he writes, "Pallas Athena
was the goddess of wisdom, philosophy, poetry, and the fine arts.
Her original name simply Pallas ... from pallein, signifying
to brandish or shake. Athens, the home of the drama, was
under the protection of this spear-shaker." 1
It may be added that the helmet she wore was supposed to convey
To the young Elizabethan who had been acclaimed the champion spear-shaker
of the lists, whose crest, as Lord Bolebec, was a Lion shaking a broken
Spear, and who was himself a dramatist and patron of writers, these
facts of which Harvey was reminding him would have had considerable
relevance and interest.
For a long time past [the speaker went on] Phoebus Apollo has cultivated
thy mind in the arts. English poetical measures have been sung by thee
long enough. Let that Courtly Epistlemore polished than the
writings of Castiglione himself 2Witness
how greatly thou dost excel in letters. I have seen many Latin verses
of thine, yea, even more English verses are extant; thou hast drunk
deep draughts not only of the Muses in France and Italy, but hast
learned the manners of many men, and the arts of foreign countries.
The reference to Phoebus Apollo is arresting, because Harvey's expression
"drunk deep draughts, . . . of the Muses" suggests the couplet from
Ovid which prefaces Venus and Adonis and which Jonson translated:
Kneel hinds to trashme let bright Phoebus swell
With cups full flowing from the Muses' well.
Further, it is interesting to have testimony of Oxford's prolific writing,
so much of which has been lost or perhaps, by him, destroyed.
The Earl had known Gabriel Harvey during his student days at Cambridge,
where, "in the prime of his gallantest youth," as Harvey once said,
"he bestowed Angels [i.e., gold coins] upon me in Christ's College .
. . and otherwise vouchsafed me many gracious favours."
The oration continued:
It was not for nothing that Sturmius himself was visited by thee;
neither in France, Italy nor Germany are any such cultivated and
polished men. O thou hero worthy of renown, throw away the insignificant
pen, throw away bloodless books, and writings that serve no useful
purpose; now must the sword be brought into play, now is the time
for thee to sharpen the spear and to handle great engines of
war. On all sides men are talking of camps and of deadly weapons;
war and the Furies are everywhere, and Bellona reigns supreme.
The pedant spoke truly. As Ward put it, "The Spanish menace had begun
in earnest. Protestantism in England was standing on the threshold of
the great struggle that lasted to the end of Elizabeth's reign." It
is to Spanish "Furies," as well as classical, that the speaker alludes.
While Harvey considered it an estimable thing for a nobleman to engage
in literary work as a pleasant avocation, even he deplored too exclusive
a concentration upon the arts and exhorted the Earl to remember his
No one would have been in more perfect agreement with him than Edward
de Vere himself. 3 But the
Queen was an interested auditor too. Who can say that she may not at
this moment have conceived a plan which she was later effectively to
execute?to have her brilliant poet-dramatist shake his spear in
more potent fashion than on the field of battle? However, at this very
time he was begging for leave to fight in Flanders.
Now may all martial influence support thy eager mind [declaimed Harvey]
driving out the cares of Peace. Pull Hannibal up short at the gates
of Britain. Defended though he be by a mighty host, let Don John
of Austria come on only to be driven home again. Fate is unknown
to man, nor are the counsels of the Thunderer fully determined.
And what if suddenly the most powerful enemy should invade our borders?
If the Turk should be arming his savage hosts against us? What though
the terrible war-trumpet is even now sounding its blast? Thou wilt
see it all; even at this very moment thou art fiercely longing
for the fray. I feel it. Our whole country knows it. In thy breast
is noble blood. Courage animates thy brow, Mars lives in thy tongue,
Minerva strengthens thy right hand, Bellona reigns in thy body, within
thee burns the fire of Mars. Thine eyes flash fire, thy countenance
shakes a spear; who would not swear that Achilles had come to
life again? 4
These words cannot but thrill with pride those who know to whom they
were addressed. Harvey's oration may have been somewhat florid, but
it was fervent and it was sincere. Moreover, it gave honor to him to
whom honor was due. And that is more than any Englishman was to do
again, save with the extremest caution, for three hundred and forty-two
A point here, the importance of which cannot be overestimated, is the
fact that Cymbeline, which would be presented at court before
this year was over, has a long passagePosthumus's dream (V.4.30-122)
which shows his parents and his noble brothersthe Leonati,
who correspond to the Veresreturning to intercede for him with
"the Thunderer" to restore him to his rights. It is no mere coincidence
that the dramatist writes of "the Thunderer" so soon after Harvey's
reference to him in the last paragraph of his address to Edward de Vere.
Jupiter himself speaks of "the thunderer" (94-102) when he says:
No care of yours it is; you know 'tis ours.
Whom best I love I cross; to make my gift
The more delay'd, delighted.
This scene alone, especially taken together with the passages in Titus
Andronicus about the warlike and valiant Andronici, who also
represent the noble Veres, offers a persuasive argument that Edward
de Vere wrote these two plays in his young manhood. It is only in his
early dramas that he celebrates his own ancestry.
In the dream, where Posthumus sees his great father, Sicilius Leonatus
(in The Winter's Tale, Leontes, King of Sicilia, will
stand for Lord Oxford), the dramatist reveals his identity unmistakably.
Posthumus' opening speech (V.4) has these lines (8-11):
My conscience, thou art fetter'd
More than my shanks and wrists: you good gods, give me
The penitent instrument to pick that bolt;
Then, free for ever!
All this scene shows the influence of classical drama, apparent in
the poet's work before he had developed his own mode. At this time Oxford's
"conscience" was indeed "fetter'd," partly by his powerlessness to follow
the Vere tradition and fight for his country, partly by his abandonment
of his wife, who is to some extent represented by Imogen.
Two of the foreign dignitaries accompanying the Queen on this progress
were de Bacqueville and de Quincy, Alenςon's
envoys sent to negotiate the marriage. They had joined the court at
Long Melford. Another was the new Spanish Ambassador, Bernardino de
Mendoza, and he gave an interesting report of events to King Philip.
The Queen [he wrote] has greatly feasted Alençon's Ambassador,
and on one occasion when she was entertaining him at dinner she, thought
the sideboard was not so well furnished with pieces of plate as she
would have liked the Frenchmen to have seen it; she therefore called
the Earl of Sussex the Lord Steward, who has charge of these things,
and asked him how it was there was so little plate. The Earl replied
that he had, for many years, accompanied her and other Sovereigns
of England in their Progresses, and he had never seen them take so
much plate as she was carrying then. The Queen told him to hold his
tongue, that he was a great rogue, and that the more good that was
done to people like him the worse they got.
This behavior was characteristic of Elizabeth in her obstreperous moods:
she was at times hard and faithless, turning against her most devoted
ministers and servants to berate them sharply, never failing to remind
them that they owed everything to her bounty. Sussex had been undeviatingly
loyal and considerate, and she knew it, but that was of no consequence
when she wished to use him as a scapegoat. He was Oxford's staunch friend
and Leicester's inveterate enemy: the two elder men were always ranged
upon opposite sides. At this time Sussex, a Catholic, approved the Alençon
marriage, while Leicester, as head of the Puritan party, bitterly opposed
it, for politic as well as personal reasons. All this being the case,
it was unfortunate that Leicester was brought into the altercation Mendoza
describes. But he was and he acted true to type, as the letter goes
on to relate:
She [the Queen] then turned to a certain North, who was there in
the room and asked him whether he thought there was much or little
plate on the sideboard, to which he replied there was very little
and threw the blame on Sussex. When North left the Queen's Chamber
Sussex told him he had spoken wrongly and falsely in what he said
to the Queen; whereupon North replied that if he [Sussex] did not
belong to the Council he would prove what he said to his teeth. Sussex
went to Leicester and complained of the knavish behavior of North,
but Leicester told him the words he used should not be applied to
such persons as North. Sussex answered that whatever he might think
of the words, North was a great knave; so that they remained offended
with one another as they had been before on other matters. . . . the
next day the Queen sent twice to tell the Earl of Oxford, who is a
very gallant lad, to dance before the Ambassadors; whereupon he replied
that he hoped Her Majesty would not order him to do so, as he did
not wish to entertain Frenchmen. When the Lord Steward took him the
message the second time he replied that he would not give pleasure
to Frenchmen, nor listen to such a message, and with that he left
the room. He is a lad who has a great following in the country. 5
Since the "Lord Steward," through whom these messages were sent, was
Sussex himself, the Queen would not have failed to get the point.
The young Earl must have been very sure of his position to dare thus
to stand up to the Queen. Although later he favored the Alençon
marriageor at least supported Elizabeth in her pretended enthusiasm
for ithe had not yet come round; quite the contrary. However,
it was not necessarily the Frenchmen he objected to obliging, but Elizabeth
herself, after her outrageous treatment of Sussex, his friend, whom
he loved. He undoubtedly believed Leicester had been influencing her
against Sussex, and this infuriated him further against Leicester whom
he considered a peacockand his rival band of courtiers.
It was at this time that Oxford wrote the drama first entitled An
history of the crueltie of a Stepmother, in which a wicked queen
endeavors to contrive a match between her stupid, villainous son and
the daughter of a king of ancient Britain, whose stepmother she is,
hoping to advance her cause of making her son King of Britain by the
judicious use of poisonous herbs and compounds. The prototype of this
wicked Queen was, as we have said before, Catherine de' Medici who,
while practicing occultism and astrology, was supposed to have poisoned
more than one person whom she wished out of the way.
In this play which, incidentally, was given by Sussex's company of
actors "at Richmond on Innocentes daie at night," December 28, 1578,
Lord Oxford followed his custom of dramatizing certain circumstances
of his own lifehere his relationship with Elizabeth and also that
of the chaste wife wronged by her jealous husbandtogether with
events of topical interest. Holinshed's Chronicles, published early
in this same year, had given an account of Cymbeline and his two sons;
and to his own adaptation of this, Oxford added several features of
Boccaccio's story of an attempt on the virtue of a chaste wife.
The scene of the drama, Colchester, was very near his own estate, Wivenhoe,
at the mouth of the Colne river, where it flows into the North Sea.
An ancient town, once the fortified capital of Cymbeline, Colchester
is now the largest city in Essex. "Cambria at Milford Haven" isaccording
to Mrs. Clarka disguise for Cambridge, where the 1578 progress
made its first important stop, and for Long Melford, near which stands
the hero's residence (and Oxford's Castle Hedingham). Long Melford was
the place where the Queen received Alençon's envoys while on
her Cambridge progress. 6
Catherine de' Medici was the real ruler of France during this time.
While careful to make no overt move against Philip of Spain, she would
have strengthened her own position appreciably by arranging a marriage
between her son, Alençon (whom, by the way, Motley described
as a "despicable personage") and Queen Elizabeth.
The English Queen had been for some time in a precarious position.
Philip, unable yet to wage war against her, steadily contrived subversive
activities in every way he could. "The Irish malcontents were encouraged
with the aid of Papal money; and Catholic plots with Spanish and Guisan
aid, for the rescue of Mary Stuart, the assassination of Elizabeth,
and the like, kept the English Court in alarm," augmented by "Philip's
many paid agents and friends in Elizabeth's counsels." The Catholics
were casting about "for another prince with a greater following than
Mathias," who would be a good Catholic and, at the same time acceptable
to the Protestant William of Orange and his following. 7
France was in an unquiet state, with Huguenots and malcontents fleeing
to the Flemish frontier; and Catherine was deeply disturbed. She knew
that her son, Alençon, who had escaped from the Louvre where
he had been a prisoner, would willingly make trouble between France
and Spain by espousing the cause of the malcontents in Flanders. Henry
III assured Mendoza that his brother, Alençon, would do nothing
against the interests of Spain; but no one believed that, and everyone
knew that if Alençon led a French force against the Spanish,
England also would become involved. It was a crucial situation which
demanded careful measures.
Mendoza wrote Philip in 1578, soon after his arrival in England:
I have found the Queen much opposed to your Majesty's interests,
and most of her ministers are quite alienated from us.... The bulk
of the business (here) really depends upon the, Queen, Leicester,
Walsingham, and Cecil.
And these men, he knew, were staunch Protestants, Leicester and Walsingham.
"being much wedded to the States [i.e., the Netherlands] and extremely
But after Alençon's envoys had made his proposal of marriage
to Elizabeth, assuring her of his complete dependence upon her, she
became even more wary, encouraging Mendoza to believe that she was now
"turning her eyes" in greater friendliness toward Philip, while
her ministers sedulously cultivated Mendoza.
It was because of this temporary policy that Lord Oxford was able to
portray Catherine de' Medici and her son Alençon as the stepmother
Queen and her son Cloten, in so adverse a light. It has been said that
Elizabeth permitted her Turk immense latitude in the plays; but in this
one he was serving her political interests quite as effectively as he
could have served them on the field of battle, so perhaps he was content.
At the same time, he was serving his own too, for he abhorred the Alençon
match for personal as well as public reasons. He himself is Posthumus
and Elizabeth partially Imogen. This was the time of Oxford's highest
favor with the Queen, and there was reason for him to believe she might
make him her consort. 8
Therefore Posthumus's banishment by Cymbeline, although he is married
to Imogen, is Oxford's situation of having to give up his hope of having
a recognized union with Elizabeth, because England (Cymbeline) and Catherine
de' Medici (the Queen) wish to marry her to Alençon (Cloten).
To his description of Posthumus's noble ancestry and intellectual gifts
(I.1.28 et seq.), which is in the main a description
of Oxford's (especially 43-54), the First Gentleman adds:
... to his mistress,
For whom he now is banish'd, her own price
Proclaims how she esteem'd him and his virtue;
By her election may be truly read
What kind of man he is.
Oxford was writing this forand atthe Queen: a practice
from which he never wavered. She did esteem "him and his virtue."
Posthumus. My queen, my mistress!
O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause
To be suspected of more tenderness
Than doth become a man. I will remain
The loyal'st husband that did e'er plight troth. (I.1.92-6.)
When Pisanio describes Posthumus's departure to Imogen (I.3.1 et
seq.) she asks what was the last word he spoke.
Pisanio. It was his queen, his queen!
The stressing of the word "queen," when Imogen was not a queen, is
significant. Posthumus's reluctant leave-taking is Oxford's own. But
lachimo states the case realistically when he says (I.4.14-23):
This matter of his marrying the king's daughterwherein
he must be weighed rather by her value than his ownwords him
... a great deal from the matter . . . and the approbation of those
that weep this lamentable divorce under her colours are wonderfully
to extend him; be it but to fortify her judgment, which else
an easy battery might lay flat, for taking a beggar without less
That is, Oxford had friends (Sussex one, no doubt) who approved and
took his part, though he was no longer rich and not of royal blood.
(Actually Oxford's ancestry was nobler than Elizabeth's; still, she
always made a point of saying she could not marry one of her subjects,
but only a prince of the blood royal.) If she were subjected to a "battery"
of criticism, she would be confounded, "laid flat."
When Posthumus joins the company, he introduces himself, thanking them
for courtesies, which I will be ever to pay. By your pardon,
sir, I was then a young traveller. . . . (I.4.37-46.)
And the QueenImogen's stepmothersays of Posthumus (I.5.52-60):
His fortunes all lie speechless, and his name
Is at last gasp ...
Who cannot be new built, nor has no friends
So much as but to prop him....
Oxford knew how seriously his reputation had suffered through his split
with the powerful Burghley. He was now stating the adverse side of his
case. Like Timon, he had lost friends when his fortunes had dwindled;
he had lost those among the Howard faction when Elizabeth had granted
him the Manor of Rysing and alsowhich is much more importantwhen
he had written Titus Andronicus in protest against the Catholic
plotters. He still had Sussex and others who did what they could "to
extend him," but he knew what his enemies were saying, and characteristically
he states it with candor.
But he warns Elizabeth what she may expect from Catherine de' Medici,
if she becomes her daughter-in-law, first in I.5, and again in the speech
of the Second Lord (II.1.53-66):
That such a crafty devil as his mother
Should yield the world this ass! a woman that
Bears all down with her brain, and this her son
Cannot take two from twenty for his heart
And leave eighteen. Alas! poor princess,
Thou divine Imogen, what thou endur'st
Betwixt a father and thy step-dame govern'd
A mother hourly coining plots, a wooer
More hateful than the foul expulsion is
Of thy dear husband, than the horrid act
Of the divorce he'd make. The heavens hold firm
The walls of thy dear honour; keep unshak'd
That temple, thy fair mind; that thou mayst stand
To enjoy thy banish'd lord and this great land!
This is the Earl's plea against Elizabeth's degrading herself by marriage
to the illiterate Alençon, who even had to have his subsequent
love-letters to her written by his secretaries. Once he added a scrawled
postscript in his childish French: "Madame, je vous supli mescuser
si sete letre nest tout escripte de ma min, et croies que nay peu faire
Imogen, in her character of Elizabeth, is described (I.6.17) as being
alone the Arabian bird": that is, the phoenix. The appellation will
be given the Queen again, as Cleopatra and elsewhere, and by other poets
Before leaving Cloten-Alençon we should like to suggest that
the passage between him and the two Lords (I.2) probably has
reference to some of the courtiers, it may be of the Leicester faction,
and was inserted by Oxford because of the incident about the plate.
He would hardly have known that Alençon was odoriferousalthough
it is possible that he had smelled him while at the French court! He
certainly stresses his foulness. There are of course many barbs aimed
at contemporaries for which we now have no clue.
So much for the French allusions. As for the Spanish, Caius Lucius
represents Mendoza, the Ambassador from Augustus, who is Philip of Spain.
We cannot go into this very fullyindeed, every play requires several
chapters for an adequate analysisbut a few points must be made.
Philario says to Posthumus (II.4.10 et seq.):
this your king
Hath heard of great Augustus; Caius Lucius
Will do 's commission thoroughly, and I think
He'll grant the tribute, send the arrearages,
Or look upon our Romans, whose remembrance
Is yet fresh in their grief.
the "Romans" are the Catholics headed by Philip.
Posthumus. I do believe
Statist though I am none, nor like to be
That this will prove a war; and you shall hear
The legions now in Gallia sooner landed
In our not-fearing Britain than have tidings
Of any penny tribute paid.
Though he held no political office, Oxford knew what was going on.
Gallia represents the Low Countries, where Don John, Philip's halfbrother,
was in command of an army, which might, at any time, invade England.
Gabriel Harvey had said in his oration at Cambridge in July:
Pull Hannibal up short at the gates of Britain. Defended though he
be by a mighty host, let Don John of Austria come on only to be driven
This fear was in the heart of every informed Englishman at that time.
Cymbeline stands for Elizabeth as the English monarch when greeted
by Lucius (III.1.62-9):
Lucius. I am sorry, Cymbeline,
That I am to pronounce Augustus Caesar
Caesar that hath more kings his servants than
Thyself domestic officersthine enemy.
Receive it from me, then: war and confusion
In Caesar's name pronounce I 'gainst thee: look
For fury not to be resisted. Thus defied,
I thank thee for myself.
Philip had under his sovereignty at this time, besides Spain, the Netherlands,
Naples, Sicily, Milan, and a large part of South America. A year later
he had Portugal. The word "fury" is of course used with intent, recalling
the Spanish Fury of November 1576, as Harvey had spoken of the "Furies."
The English nation had been horrified by the massacre.
Cymbeline is speaking in the person of the contemporary ruler of England,
Elizabeth, when he says:
Thy Caesar knighted me; my youth I spent
Much under him; of him I gather'd honour;
Which he, to seek of me again, perforce,
Behoves me keep at utterance. (70-3.)
This clearly refers to Philip's kindness to the young Elizabeth while
he was married to Mary: he had made her lot somewhat easier; later he
sued for her hand in marriage, but Elizabeth and her ministers were
always too clever for "the lonely figure in the Escorial."
Afterward Cymbeline remarks (III.5.21-2):
Lucius hath wrote already to the emperor
How it goes here;
which is indeed what Mendoza had done.
In the passage (V.3.52 et seq.) where Posthumus makes extempore
rhymes with a Lordas Oxford himself must frequently have done
he speaks of
Two boys, an old man twice a boy, a lane,
Preserv'd the Britons, was the Romans' bane;
his secondary meaning concerns his own subsequent stand against Catholic
conspiracy. But it is obvious that all the part about Belarius and the
two boys, Cymbeline's sons, belongs to a later revision (III.3, most
of IV-2, and IV.4.) In the first version the dramatist got the boys
of the chronicle out of the way, in order to stress the story concerning
Elizabeth and the proposed French match. She had told Alençon's
emissary, de Bacqueville, that "If the Prince liked to come, he might
do so; but he must not take offence if she did not like him when she
saw him." Oxford was doing all he could at this time to keep her from
We have said that, in 1578, the Queen was trying to make Mendoza believe
she was turning toward Philip and away from the French. Thus Cymbeline
says to Lucius at the close of the play (V.5.459-63):
And Caius Lucius,
Although the victor, we submit to Caesar,
And to the Roman empire: promising
To pay our wonted tribute, from the which
We were dissuaded by our wicked queen. . . .
Regarding the passages pointing to Oxford's state of mind about his
wife, Anne Cecil, it is impossible to say whether they were written
for the early version or later: perhaps the bitter ones were early and
the remorseful ones later. Certainly part of Posthumus's long speech
(II.5) was added very late, for it takes in the Dark Lady; so was much
of the long soliloquy (V.1). But Pisanio's reproach, which is also a
soliloquy (III.2), where we should read "Catholic" for "Italian," was
probably in the original version:
What false Italian
As poisonous-tongu'd as handed-hath prevail'd
On thy too ready hearing? ... O my master!
Thy mind to her is now as low as were
Thy fortunes. (4-11.)
And presently he says (III.4.122-3):
Some villain, ay, and singular in his art,
Hath done you both this cursed injury.
The allusion is, of course, to the agent of the Catholic Henry Howard
who conveyed the slanderous story about his wife to Oxford in Paris.
The name of the Italian lachimo is similar to that of Iago.
Imogen's speech (III.4-74 et seq.) gives a poignant picture
of Anne keeping the Greek Testament her husband had sent her next her
What is here?
The scriptures of the loyal Leonatus
All turn'd to heresv.
With what irony the conscience-smitten Oxford castigates himself! He
had written on the flyleaf of this book of "scriptures": "Words of truth
are fitting to a Verethis "loyal Leonatus." (He even uses Posthumus's
surname, Leonatus, to stress the correspondence with Vere.)
There is one thing that could be said of the Earl of Oxford from the
beginning to the end. If he was scathing about others, he was scathing
about himself as well. He never let himself off anything. He had had
many an anguished hour in which he wondered how much truth there was
in the terrible suspicion; he would write many an eloquent word about
"slander" and "calumny," as here when Pisanio says (III.4.33-9):
No, 'tis slander,
Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
Rides on the posting winds and doth belie
All corners of the world; kings, queens, and states,
Maids, matrons, nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous slander enters.
It is interesting to note that Lucrece is foreshadowed
in two passages: the Frenchman's speech (I.4.57-64) and Iachimo's
(II.2-12 et seq.); and further, that lachimo finds Imogen has
been reading "The tale of Tereus . . . where Philomel gave up" (45-6);
for this is the basis of Titus Andronicus, which Oxford had
so recently written. Striking also is his choice of the name, Posthumus,
to represent himself, since in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, a poem
upon which he will draw again for As You Like It, the following
passage occurs (Book XLII):
Great Posthumus, to whom a double wreath
Pallas shall there, and Phoebus here bequeath.
Gabriel Harvey had bequeathed to the young Earl just such a "double
The exquisite "Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings" (II.320-28)
is reminiscent of Lord Oxford's youthful poem, Desire and of
a much later one, Sonnet 29, as well as of the lovely passage in Romeo
and Juliet (III.5):
It was the lark, the herald of the morn.
Another point which connects the young Oxford intimately with this
play is his use of the word "Cassibelan" instead of the customary "Cassivellaunus"
(III.1-5): "Cassibelan" was the form used by his uncle, Arthur
Golding, in his Caesar's Commentaries.
As for the early title, we find the clue to that in the words of Cornelius,
the doctor, reporting the death of the Queen who has previously been
called Imogen's "stepmother" (V.5.31-3):
With horror, madly dying, like her life;
Which, being cruel to the world, concluded
Most cruel to herself.
It is gratifying to record that Coleridge, unlike most of the commentators,
believed Cymbeline to be an early play, and that the German critics
During this period when the situation was so critical for England,
there were elaborate festivities at court. From the last of December
through the second week of January four plays of Lord Oxford's were
presented, all primed with contemporary reference, political, social,
and personal. What the French envoys thought of Cymbeline is
not recorded. Mendoza must have been pleased and disarmed. And that
suited Elizabeth very well at this particular juncture.
1. Quoted in Shaksper Not Shakespeare, by Win. H. Edwards; note,
p. 11. back
2. The Earl of Oxford's letter "to the reader," prefaced to The
3. Aeschylus's epitaph praises the soldier, not the great dramatist:
"Aeschylus, the Athenian, Euphorion's son, is dead. This tomb in Gela's
cornlands covers him. His glorious courage the hallowed field of Marathon
could tell, and the long-haired Mede had knowledge of it."Tr.
by Edith Hamilton: The Greek Way; p. 152. back
4. Ward; pp. 157-8; quot. Gratulationes Valdinenses, libri
quator, 1578. back
5. Ward; pp. 160-2; cit. Cal. S.P.Spanish (1568-79), p. 607. back
6. This is undoubtedly true, if the place were, indeed, called Milford
Haven in the early version. In the revision, the name was used, or retained,
for a definite purpose, as we shall show. back
7. Abstracted from the account in Hume's The Gr. Ld. B.; pp.
8. This matter will be elucidated when we come to discuss the Sonnets.
9. Hume: The Courtships of Q. Eliz.; p. 167. back
10. Anyone who supposes Cymbeline to have been written in 1609-10
misses the whole point and depth of the drama. back
Contents | Chapter Fifteen