3.6.3. The Parnassus Plays


The Returne from Parnassus I & II (1599 & 1601)


As incomprehensible it may seem: during William Shake-speare’s - and Will Shaksper’s - lifetime only four minor authors acknowledged the greatest poet and dramatist of all time: Thomas Edwards (1593), Francis Meres (1598), John Weever (1599) and John Davies of Hereford (1610). - Henry Willobie (1594), Richard Barnfield (1598), Anthony Scoloker (1604), William Barksted (1607), John Webster (1612) and Thomas Freeman (1614) each mentioned him with a brief remark in passing. Gabriel Harvey (1593), Thomas Nashe (1596), Joseph Hall (1597) and John Marston (1599) praised Shakespeare but they encrypted their praise giving him names like, “the excellent Gentlewoman”, or “Phoebus”, or “Labeo”, or “Mutius”. In the light of these circumstances, one is pleased to see that the anonymous author of the student’s Parnassus Plays speak so freely (though not always respectfully) of Shakespeare. The Anonymous obviously admires Shakespeare, but he is not unconditionally enthusiastic about his works. Just like the witty puritan Joseph Hall (1574-1636) the anonymous author takes offence at Shakespeare’s ribald humor and to his general approach to the subject of sexuality.     

Who loves not Adon’s love, or Lucrece’ rape;
His sweeter verse contains heart-robbing life,
Could but a graver subject him content,
Without love’s foolish lazy languishment.

Because his feelings toward Shakespeare are those of admiration as opposed to affectation the satirist of the student stage creates the character of Gullio, the wannabe courtier. Motivated only by affectation, Gullio pretends to be a fan of Shakespeare so as to fit in with the courtier’s fashion. Gullio shows off by quoting Shakespeare all the time, by laying a copy of Venus and Adonis under his pillow and by hanging a picture of Shakespeare above his living room couch. As it turns out the only person whom he knows who is slightly connected to the royal court is ‘Lord Coulton’, a tailor from Cambridge, and that he lives in a single room flat in the unfashionable district of Shoreditch and not, as he claims, in a grand house. Scholars have conducted long discussions as to the character on which the figure “Gullio” is based. These discussions fall into silence when one considers the likelihood that Gullio is based on two or three comedic characters merged into one. In The Returne from Parnassus, Part 2 (IV/3) the actors Richard Burbage and Richard Kempe are featured when the poor students Philomusus and Studiosus ask to be taken on as apprentices. Surprisingly, the clown Will Kempe speaks about William Shakespeare in a very candid manner, calling him: “Our fellow”. A scene that makes us top prick up our ears.

Letting Gullio, the Shakespeare clown, speak: “bovem ex unguibus aestimate!”  Recognize an Ox by it’s claws!



The Returne from Parnassus, Part I

Act III Scene I


Ingenioso. Gullio.

INGENIOSO. Now gentlemen you may laugh if you will, for here comes a Gullio[1].

GULLIO. This rapier I bought when I sojourned in the University of Padua[2]. By the heavens, it's a pure toledo. It was the death of a Polonian, a German and a Dutchman, because they would not pledge the health of England.

INGENIOSO. (He was never any further than Flushing, and then he came home sick of the scurveys.)
Surely, sir, a notable exploit, worthy to be chronicled! But had you any witness of your valiancy?

GULLIO. Why, I could never abide to fight privately, because I would not have obscurity so familiar with my virtues. Since my arrival in England (which is now six months I take since) I had been the death of one of our puling Littletonians[3] for passing by me in the Moorefields unsaluted, but that there was no historiographer by to have recorded it.

INGENIOSO. Please you now, sir, to lay the reins on the neck of your virtuous disposition, you have gotten a suppliant poet that will teach mossy posterity to know how that this earth in such a reign was blessed with a young Iupiter.

GULLIO. I'faith I care not for fame, but valour and virtue will be spoken of in spite of oblivion. Had I cared for that prating Echo, fame, my exploits at Cosmopolis, at Cals [Cadiz], at Portingale voyage, and now very lately in Ireland[4] had been jetting ere this through every by-street, and talked of as well at the wheel of a country maid as the tilts and tournaments of the court.

INGENIOSO. I dare swear your worship escaped knighting very hardly[5].

GULLIO. That's but a petty requital to good deserts. He that esteems me of less worth than a knight is a peasant, and a gull [simpleton, fool]! Give me a new knight of them all, in fence school at a Nimbrocado [imbroccata] or at a Stoccado. Sir Oliver, Sir Randal - base, base chamber-terms! I am saluted every morning by the name of, Good morrow captain, my sword is at your service!

INGENIOSO. (Good faith, an honourable title.)
Why, this is the life of a man - to command a quick rapier in a tavern, to blow two or three simple fellows out of a room with a valiant oath, to bestow more smoke on the world with the draught of a pipe of tobacco than proceeds from the chimney of a solitary hall! But say, sir, you were telling me a tale even now of your Helen, your Venus, that better part of your amorous soul.

GULLIO. Well remembered. Aetas prima canit venere, postrema tumultus:[6] since soldiery is not regarded I'll make the Ladies happy with enjoying my youth, and hang up my sword and buckler to the beholders. Among many dainty court nymphs that with petitioning looks have sued for my love, it pleased me to bestow love, this pleasing fire, upon lady Lesbia. Many a health have I drunk to her upon my native knees, eating that happy glass in honour of my mistress.

INGENIOSO. Valiantly done! Admirable, admirable.

GULLIO. And, for matters of wit, oft have I sonneted it in the commendations of her squirrel. And, very lately (I remember that time I had a musk jerkin, laid all with gold lace, and the rest of my furniture answerable - pretty sleighty apparel, stood me in not long past in two hundred pounds) - the froward fates cut her monkey's thread asunder, and I, in the abundance of poetry, bestowed an epitaph upon the deceased little creature!

INGENIOSO. I’faith, an excellent wit, that can poetize upon such mean subjects. Every Iohn Dringle[7] can make a book in the commendations of Temperance, against the Seven Deadly Sins; but that's a rare wit that can make something of nothing, that can make an epigram of a mouse, and an epitaph on a monkey. But, love is very costly: for I have heard that you were wont to wear seven sundry suits of apparel in a week - and them no mean ones.

GULLIO. Tush! man, at the court I think I should grow lousy if I wore less than two a day.

INGENIOSO.  (The devil of a suit hath he but this, and that's not paid for yet.)

GULLIO. I am never seen at the court twice in one suit of apparel! That's base. As for boots, I never wore one pair above two hours; as for bands, stockings, and handkerchiefs - mine hostess, where my trunks lie near the court, hath enough to make her sheets for her household.

INGENIOSO. I wonder such a gallant as you are escapes the marriage of some countess!

GULLIO. Nay, I cannot abide to be tied to Cleopatra, if she were alive. It's enough for me to crop virginity, and to take heed that no ladies die Vestals and lead apes in hell. But seest thou this? -- O, touch it not! it is divine. Why man, it was a humble retainer to her busk.
And here is another favour which I snatched from her, as I was in a gentlemanlike courtesy tying of her shoe strings. - It is my nature to be debonair [of gentle disposition] with fair ladies, and vouchsafe to employ this happy hand in any service, either domestical, or private.

INGENIOSO. Among other of your virtues I do observe your stile to be most pure - your English tongue comes as near Tully's as any man's living.

GULLIO. Oh sir, that was my care, to prove a complete gentleman, to be tam Marti quam Mercurio [as much to Mars as to Mercur]; insomuch that I am pointed at for a poet in Paul's church yard, and in the tilt yard for a champion, - nay every man enquires after my abode:
Gnats are unnoted where so ere they fly,
But Eagles waited on with every eye.[8]
I had in my days not unfitly been likened to Sir Philip Sidney, only with this difference - that I had the better leg and more amiable face. His Arcadia was pretty, so are my sonnets; he had been at Paris, I at Padua; he fought, and so dare I; he died in the low countries, and so I think shall I; he loved a scholar, I maintain them - witness thyself, now: because I saw thee have the wit to acknowledge those virtues to be mine, which indeed are, I have restored thy delaniated [torn to pieces] back and ruinous estate to those pretty clothes wherein thou now walkest.

INGENIOSO. (Oh! it is a most lousy cast suit of his, that he before bought of an Irish soldier.) Durst envy otherwise report of your excellency than I have done, I would bob him on the pate, and make forlorn malice recant. If I live, I will limn out your virtues, in such rude colours as I have, that your late nephews may know what good wits were. - Your worship's most bounden!

GULLIO. Nay, I have not only recreated thy cold state with the warmth of my bounty, but also maintain other poetical spirits, that live upon my trenchers; insomuch that I cannot come to my Inn in Oxford without a dozen congratulatory orations, made by 'Genus-and-Species' [an University scholar] and his ragged companions. I reward the poor 'ergos' most bountifully, and send them away. I am very lately registered in the rolls of fame in an Epigram made by a Cambridge man, one Weaver[9] - fellow, I warrant him, else could he never have had such a quick sight into my virtues. Howsoever, I merit his praise. If I meet with him I will vouchsafe to give him condign thanks.

INGENIOSO. Great reason the Muses should flutter about your immortal head, since your body is nothing but a fair inn of fairer guests, that dwell therein. But you have digressed from your Mistress, for whose sake you and I began this parley.

GULLIO. Marry, well remembered. I’ll repeat unto you an enthusiastical oration wherewith my new Mistress’s ears were made happy. The carriage of my body, by the report of my Mistress, was excellent. - I stood stroking up my hair, which became me very admirably, gave a low conge at the beginning of each period, made every sentence end sweetly, with an oath. It is the part of an orator to persuade! and I know not how better, than to conclude with such earnest protestations. - Suppose also that thou wert my Mistress, as sometimes wooden statues represent the goddesses; thus I would look amorously -- thus I would pace -- thus I would salute thee –

INGENIOSO. (It will be my luck to die no other death than by hearing of his follies. I fear this speech that’s a-coming will breed a deadly disease in my ears.)

GULLIO.  Pardon fair lady, though sick-thoughted Gullio makes amain unto thee, and like a bold-faced suitor ’gins to woo thee![10]

INGENIOSO. We shall have nothing but pure Shakspeare, and shreds of poetry that he hath gathered at the theatres.

GULLIO.  Pardon mee moy mittressa, ast am a gentleman, the moon in comparison of thy bright hue a mere slut, Anthony's Cleopatra a black-browed milkmaid, Helen a dowdy.[11]

INGENIOSO. (Mark! Romeo and Iuliet, o monstrous theft! I think he will run through a whole book of Samuel Daniel's.)

Thrice fairer than my self, thus I began,
The gods fair riches, sweet above compare,
Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man,
More white and red than doves and roses are:
Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life.[12]

INGENIOSO. Sweet Mr Shakespeare!

GULLIO. As I am a scholar, these arms of mine are long and strong withall: Thus elms by vines are compast ere they fall.[13]

INGENIOSO. Faith, gentleman, your reading is wonderful in our English poets!

GULLIO. Sweet mistress, I vouchsafe to take some of their words and apply them to mine own matters by a scholastical imitation. -- Report thou upon thy credit - is not my vein in courting gallant and honourable?

INGENIOSO. Admirable sans compare. Never was so mellifluous a wit joined to so pure a phrase, such comely gesture, such - gentleman-like behaviour!

GULLIO. But stay, it's very true - good wits have bad memories: I had almost forgotten the chief point I called thee out for! New Year’s Day approacheth, and whereas other gallants bestow jewels upon their mistresses (as I have done whilom), I now count it base to do as the common people do. I will bestow upon them the precious stones of my wit, a diamond of Invention, that shall be above all value and esteem!... Therefore, since I am employed in some weighty affairs of the court, I will have thee, Ingenioso, to make them: and when thou hast done, I will peruse, polish, and correct them.

INGENIOSO. My pen is your bounden vassal to command; but what vein would it please you to have them in?

GULLIO. Not in a vain vein. Pretty, I’faith! - make me them in two or three diverse veins, in Chaucer's, Gower's and Spencer's, and - Mr Shakspeare's. Marry, I think I shall entertain those verses which run like these:
Even as the sun with purple-coloured face
Had ta'en his last leave on
the weeping morn, etc.[14]
O sweet Mr Shakspeare! I'll have his picture in my study at the court.[15]

INGENIOSO. (Take heed, my masters, he’ll kill you with tediousness ere I can rid him of the stage.)

GULLIO. Come, let us in. I'll eat a bite of pheasant, and drink a cup of wine in my cellar, and straight to the court I’ll go. A countess and two lords expect me today at dinner, they are my very honourable friends, I must not disappoint them.

Act IV Scene I

Gullio. Ingenioso.

GULLIO. The Countess and my lord entertained me very honorablely. Indeed they used my advise in some state matters, and I perceived the Earl would fain have thrust one of his daughters upon me; but I will have no knave prized to meddle with my ring. I bestowed 20 angels upon the officers of the house at my departure, kissed the Countess, took my leave of my Lord, and came away.

INGENIOSO. (I think he means to poison me with a lie! Why he is acquainted with near a Lord except my lord Coulton[16], and for Countesses, he never came in the country where a Countess dwells!)
Faith, Sir, I must needs commend your generous high spirit that cannot endure to be stinted to one, though she were a goddess, considering that there are so many Ladies that sue for your favour.

GULLIO. I think there is such a saying in Homer ut ameris amabilis esto[17] [to be loved, be lovable] , that is, be a complete gentleman, and they Ladies will love thee; howsoever prating Tully [Cicero] in his poem saith, Cum amarem eram miser[18] [when I loved, I was a wretch], when I loved I was a drivel [a drudge, an imbecile]; yet he was well taunted by another poet in this golden saying, vir sapit qui parum loquitur[19] [it is a wise man who speaks not enough], that is, Tully might have hold his peace with more honesty. True it is that Ronsard spake Chi pecora si pha il lupo [se] la mangia [Who behaves like a sheep is devoured by the wolf], which I thus translated Quisquis amat ranam, ranam putat esse Dianam [Who loves a frog, the same thinks to be Diane], and thus extempore into English,
What man soever loves a crane
The same he thinks to be Diane.
A dull university's head would have been a month about thus much !

INGENIOSO. Is it possible you should utter such high spirited poetry without premeditation?

GULLIO. As I am a gentleman and a scholar, it was but a sudden flash of my Invention. It is my custom in my common talk to make use of my reading in the Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish poets, and to adorn my oratory with some pretty choice extraordinary sayings. But have you finished those verses in an Ambrosial vein that must kiss my Mistress’ dainty hand? I’le now steal some time from my weighty affairs to peruse them.

INGENIOSO. Yes, Sir, I have made them in there several veins. Let them be judged by your elegant ears, and so acquitted or condemned.

GULLIO. Let me hear Chaucer's vein first. I love antiquity, if it be not harsh.

Even as the flowers in the cold of night
Yclosed sleepen in their stalkes low,
Redressen them the sun bright
And spreaden in their kind course by row,
Right so mine eyne, when I up to thee throw
They been yclear’d ; therfore, O Venus dear,
Thy might, thy grace, yheried be it here.[20]
Nor scrivenly nor craftily I write,
Blot I a little the paper with my tears[21],
Nought might me gladden while I [did] indite
But this poor scroll that thy name y bears.
Go, blessed scroll! a blisfull destiny
Is shapen thee, my lady shalt thou see.
Nought fiteth me in this sad thing I fear
To usen jolly terms of merriment;
Solemne termes better fitten this mattere
Then to usen terms of good content.
For if a painter a pike[-fish] would paint
With asse’s feet and headed like an ape,
It cordeth not; so were it but a jape.[22]

GULLIO. No more! now, in my discrete judgment, this I judge of them, that they are dull, harsh and spiritless; my Mistress will soon find them not to savour of my sweet vein. Besides, there’s a word in the last canto[23] which my chaste Lady will never endure the reading of. Thou shouldst have insinuated so much, and not told it plainly. What is become of art ? Well, die when I will, I shall leave but little learning behind me upon the earth! Well, those verses have purchased my implacable anger; let me hear your other veins.

INGENIOSO. Sir, the word as Chaucer useth it hath no unhonest meaning in it, for it signifieth a jest.

GULLIO. Tush! Chaucer is a fool, and you are another for defending of him.

INGENIOSO. Then you shall hear Spenser’s vein.

A gentle pen rides pricking on the plain,
This paper plain, to resalute my love.[24]

GULLIO. Stay, man! thou hast a very lecherous wit; what wordes are these ? Though thou comes somwhat near my meaning yet it doth not become my gentle wit to set it down so plainly. You scholars are simple fellows, men that never came where Ladies grow; I that have spent my life among them knows best what becometh my pen, and their Ladyship’s ears. Let me hear Mr. Shakspear’s vein.

Fair Venus, queen of beauty and of love,
Thy red doth stain the blushing of the morn,
Thy snowy neck shameth the milkwhite dove,
Thy presence doth this naked world adorn;
Gazing on thee all other nymphes I scorn.
Whene're thou diest slow shine that Saturday,
Beauty and grace must sleep with thee for aye![25]

GULLIO. No more! I am one that can judge according to the proverb, bovem ex unguibus[26]. Aye marry, Sir, these have some life in them! Let this duncified world esteem of Spenser and Chaucer, I’le worship sweet Mr. Shakspeare, and to honour him will lay his Venus and Adonis under my pillow[27], as we read of one (I do not well remember his name, but I am sure he was a king) slept with Homer under his bed’s head. Well, I’le bestow a French crown in the fair writing of them out, and then I’le instruct thee about the delivery of them. Meanwhile I’le have thee make an elegant description of my Mistress; liken the worst part of her to Cynthia; make also a familiar Dialogue betwixt her and myself. I’le now in, and correct these verses.

INGENIOSO. Why, who could endure this post put into a satin suit, this haberdasher of lies, this Bracchidochio[28], this Lady monger, this mere rapier and dagger, this cringer [servile creature], this foretop [fop], but a man that’s ordained to misery ! Well, madam Pecunia, one more for thy sake will I wait on this trunk, and with soothing him up in time will leave him a greater fool than I found him.

Act V, Scene I

Gullio. Ingenioso.

GULLIO. How now, Ingenioso, didst thou according to my direction deliver my letters ?

INGENIOSO. I did, if it please your worship.

GULLIO. What answer did fair Lesbia, the Mistress of thoughts, return me?

INGENIOSO. She took your letter, and read it over.

GULLIO. Then surely by this time she is mightily enamour’d of me.

INGENIOSO. And after she had read over your letter, she gave it me again, as if she knew you not.

GULLIO. Not know me ? You are a very Iack to mistake my Mistress in that sort! Such an inhuman word could not proceed from the mouth of my sweet Mistress. No less than a million of times have I participated unto her both Mercurial and Martial discourses in the active and chivalrous vaunt of Don Bellerephon![29] How often of yore have I sung my sonnets under her window to a consort of music, I myself playing upon my Ivory lute most enchantingly![30]

INGENIOSO. (The devil of the musician is he acquainted with, but only Iack fiddler!)

GULLIO. Whence should this change of hers proceed ? canst thou guess ?

INGENIOSO. I cannot imagine, except that young gallant that stood dallying with her be some rival in your love.

GULLIO. Have I a rival? by Bellona my goddess, he should die, could I meet with any such audacious puny long cloak! I would make him not refuse the humblest vassalage to the sole of my boots. But I warrant my Mistress mistook! Indeed, I use not to send on such messages such unmannerly knaves as thyself. Thou shouldst, according to thy portion of wit, have described unto her the perfections of my mind and body.

INGENIOSO. I gave you as sweet a report as was possible; I said there is not a more complete gentleman on the earth; but all would not serve the turn: she gave you a nescio [I don’t know], and your letter a scornful smile.

GULLIO. True it is that Virgil saith,
Quid pluma levius ? Flamen. Quid flamine? Ventus.
Quid vento? Mulier. Quid muliere? Nihil.[31]
These puling minions had rather have a carpet knight, a capering page, than a man of war and a scholar! Ha, Ha, see thee now! I smell it! It was your duncery wrought me this disgrace, and yet I adorn’d thy seely Invention with a pretty witty Latin sentence. Heneforth I will not nourish any such unlearned Pedants. These Universities send not forth a good wit in an age! I’le travel to Paris myself, and there commence for filius nobilis [son of a nobleman], and converse no more with any of our base English wits, which have somewhat corrupted the generous spirit of my poetry. As for the suit, thy witty lines have thus dishonoured me, thy Maecenas here cashiers thee, and doth bequeath thee to the travelling trade.

INGENIOSO. Sir, it was not my lines but your Latin that spoiled your love market. To say the truth, I deliver’d your letter, and was rewarded with the terms of  ‘What, you saucy groom, are you bringing me such paper wisps? from what satin suit I pray you comes this? What foretop bewrayed this, this paper?’ - and when I named you, ‘What? Gullio, that known fool,’ said she.

GULLIO. Why, that’s very true, my fame is spread far and near, but why said she that she knew me not?

INGENIOSO. Belike she was ashamed of you before her gallant; but interrupt me not. 'If it be his' (said she) ‘I am sure not a word of it proceeds from his pen but a sentence of Latin’ (which I was told is false): ‘well, warn him that he look to his rheumatic wit, that he bespit paper pages no more to me; if he do, I’le have some porter or bearward to cudgel the vain Braggadochio.’

GULLIO. Peace, you impecunious peasant! As I am a soldier, I was never so abus’d since I first bore arms! What, you vassal, if a lunatic bawdy trull, a pocketing queen, detract from my vertues, will thy audacious self dare to repeat them in the presence of this blade? Were it not that I will not file my hands upon such a contemptible rascal, and that I will not have my name in the time to come, where myself shall be chronicled, disgraced with the base victory of such an earth worm, I would prove it upon that carrion of thy wit[32], that my Latin was pure Latin, and such as they speak in Reims and Padua. Why, it is not the custom in Padua to observe such base rules as Lily, Priscian, and such base companions have set down; we of the better sort have a privilege to create Latin like knights, and to say, Rise up, Sir Phrase. But, Sirra, begone [be off]! thou hast moved my choler; report of my clemency that in mine anger, contrary to my custom, I suffer thy contemptible carcass to possess thy cowardly ghost.

INGENIOSO. What, you whoreson tintunabulum, thou that art the scorn of all good wits, the ague of all soldiers, that never spokest witty thing but out of a play, never heardst the report of a gun without trembling, why, Mounsier Mingo, is your asse's head grown proud[33] with scratching? - thinkest thou a man of art can endure thy base usage?

GULLIO. Terence, thou art a gentleman of thy word: familiaritas par it contemptum! [Der vertraute Umgang geht einher mit Verachtung][34] Sirra, Alexander did never strive with any but kings, and Gullio will fight with none but gallants. Farewell, base peasant, and thank God thy fathers were no gentlemen; else thou shouldest not live an hour longer. Base, base, base peasant, peasant! So hares may pull dead lions by the beard![35]


Farewell base carle clothed in a satin suit
Farewell guilty ass, base broker’s post.
Too oft have I rubbed o’er thy mule’s dead head,
Fed like a fly on thy corruption:
Now had I rather live in poverty
Than be tormented with the tedious tales
Of Gullio’s wench and of his luxuries,
To hear a thousand lies in one short day
Of his false wars at Portingale or Calls[36].
My freer spirit did lie in tedious woe
Whiles it applauded bragging Gullio
Applied my vein to sottish Gullio
Made wanton lines to please lewd Gullio[37].
Attend henceforth on Gulls for me who list,
For Gullio’s sake I’ll prove a Satirist.
I heard that Studioso and Philomusus, discontented with their fortunes, mean to try another air; they appointed to call on me at Gullio’s chamber in Shoreditch[38]; I'le thither, and truss up my trinkets, and enquire after them, that our fortunes may shake hands before they part. Then I’le go to the press, they to the seas.

The Return from Parnassus, Part II


Act I Scene II

IUDICIO. Here is a book, Ingenioso:[39] why, to condemn it to Cloaca, the usuall Tiburn of all misliving papers, were too fair a death for so foul an offender.

INGENIOSO. What’s the name of it, I pray thee, Iudicio? 

IUDICIO.  Look, its here—Belvedere.

INGENIOSO. What a bell-wether in Paul’s Church-yard, so called because it keeps a bleating, or because it hath the tinkling bell of so many Poets about the neck of it ? What is the rest of the title?

IUDICIO.  The garden of the Muses.

INGENIOSO. What have we here? The Poet garish,

               Gaily bedecked, like fore-horse of the Parish[40] ...

IUDICIO. Turn over the leaf, Ingenioso, and thou shalt see the pains of this worthy gentleman; Sentences gathered out of all kind of Poets, referred to certain methodical heads, profitable for the use of these times, to rhyme upon any occasion at a little warning. Read the names.

INGENIOSO. So I will, if thou wilt help me to censure them.

Edmund Spenser. Henry Constable. Thomas Lodge. Samuel Daniel. Thomas Watson.
Michael Drayton. Iohn Davies. Iohn Marston. Kit. Marlowe.
Good men and true; stand together; hear your censure. What's thy judgment of Spenser ?

IUDICIO. A sweeter swan than ever song in Po,
A shriller nightingale than ever blessed,
The prouder groves of self-admiring Rome.
Blith was each valley, and each shepherd proud.
While he did chaunt his rural minstrelsy.
Attentive was full many a dainty ear;
Nay, hearers hung upon his melting tongue.
While sweetly of his Fairy Queen he sung.
While to the waters’ fall he tuned for fame,
And in each bark engraved Eliza's name.
And yet for all this,unregarding soil
Unlaced the line of his desired life,
Denying maintenance for his dear relief.
Careless care to prevent his exequy,
Scarce deigning to shut up his dying eye.

Pity it is that gentler wits should breed,
Where thick-skin chuffes laugh at a scholar’s need.
But softly may our Homer’s ashes rest,
That lie by merry Chaucer’s noble chest.
But I pray thee proceed briefly in thy censure, that I may be proud of my self, as in the first, so in the last, my censure may jump with thine. Henry Constable, Samuel Daniel, Thomas Lodge, Thomas Watson.

IUDICIO. Sweet Constable doth take the wondering ear,
And lays it up in willing prisonment;
Sweet honey dropping Daniel may wage
War with the proudest big Italian,
That melts his heart in sugared sonneting.
Only let him more sparingly make use
Of others’ wit, and use his own the more;
That well may scorn base imitation.
For Lodge and Watson, men of some desert,
Yet subject to a Critic’s marginal:
Lodge for his oar in every paper boat,
He that turns over Galen every day,
To sit and simper Euphues’ legacy.

INGENIOSO. Michael Drayton.

IUDICIO. Drayton’s sweet muse is like a sanguine dye,
Able to ravish the rash gazer’s eye.

INGENIOSO. However, he wants one true note of a Poet of our times, and that is this, he cannot swagger it well in a tavern, nor domineer in a hothouse.
Iohn Davis.

Acute Iohn Davis, I affect thy rhymes.
That jerk in hidden charms these looser times :
Thy plainer verse, thy unaffected vein,
Is graced with a fair and a sweeping train.

INGENIOSO. Locke and Hudson.

IUDICIO. Locke and Hudson, sleep you quiet shavers, among the shavings of the press, and let your books lie in some old nooks amongst old boots and shoes, so you may avoid my censure.

INGENIOSO. Why then clap a lock on their feet, and turn them to commons.
Iohn Marston.

IUDICIO. What, Monsieur Kinsayder, lifting up your leg and pissing against the world? Put up man, put up for shame.

INGENIOSO. Methinks he is a ruffian in his style,
Withouten bands or garters ornament.
He quaffs a cup of Frenchman’s Helicon.
Then roisterdoister in his oily terms,
Cuts, thrusts, and foines at whomsoever he meets.
And strews about Ram-ally meditations[41].
Tut’ what cares he for modest close-couched terms,
Cleanly to gird our looser libertines?
Give him plain naked words stripped from their shirts,
That might beseem plain-dealing Aretine.

IUDICIO. Aye! there is one that backs a paper steed
And manageth a pen-knife gallantly;
Strikes his poignado at a button’s breadth,
Brings the great battering ram of terms to towns[42],
And at first volley of his Cannon shot
Batters the walls of the old fusty world.

INGENIOSO. Christopher Marlowe.

IUDICIO. Marlowe was happy in his buskined muse,
Alas! unhappy in his life and end;
Pity it is that wit so ill should dwell,
Wit lent from heaven, but vices sent from hell.

INGENIOSO. Our Theatre hath lost, Pluto hath got,
A tragic penman for a dreary plot.
Benjamin Ionson.

IUDICIO. The wittiest fellow of a Bricklayer in England[43].

INGENIOSO.  A mere Empiric, one that gets what he hath by observation, and makes only nature privy to what he indites; so slow an inventor, that he were better betake himself, to his old trade of Bricklaying; a bold whoreson, as confident now in making of a book, as he was in times past in laying of a brick.
William Shakespeare.[44]

IUDICIO. Who loves not Adon’s love, or Lucrece’ rape,
His sweeter verse contains heart-robbing life,
Could but a graver subject him content,
Without love’s foolish lazy languishment.

INGENIOSO. Churchyard.
Hath not Shore’s wife [a ballad], although a light-skirts she,
Given him a chaste long-lasting memory?

IUDICIO. No, all light pamphlets once, aye, finden shall,
A Church-yard and a grave to bury all.

INGENIOSO. Thomas Nash.
Ay! here is a fellow, Iudicio, that carried the deadly Stockado in his pen, whose muse was armed with a gagtooth, and his pen possessed with Hercules’ furies.

IUDICIO. Let all his faults sleep with his mournful chest,
And then for ever with his ashes rest.
His style was witty, though he had some gall.
Some things he might have mended, so may all.
Yet this I say, that for a mother wit,
Few men have ever seen the like of it.
Ingenioso reads the rest of the names.

IUDICIO. As for these, they have some of them been the old hedgestakes of the press, and some of them are at this instant the bots and glanders of the printing house. Fellows that stand only upon terms to serve the turn, with their blotted papers, write as men go to stool, for needs, and when they write, they write as a bear pisses, now and then drop a pamphlet.

INGENIOSO. Durum telum necessitas [necessity is a keen dart] . Good faith they do as I do, exchange words for money...

Act IV Scene III

Burbage. Kempe.[45]

BURBAGE. Now, Will Kempe, if we can entertain these scholars at a low rate, it will be well, they have oftentimes a good conceit in a part.

KEMPE. It’s true indeed, honest Dick, but the slaves are somewhat proud; and besides, it is a good sport in a part to see them never speak in their walk, but at the end of the stage, just as though in walking with a fellow we should never speak but at a stile, a gate, or a ditch, where a man can go no further. I was once at a Comedy in Cambridge, and there I saw a parasite make faces and mouths of all sorts on this fashion[46].

BURBAGE. A little teaching will mend these faults, and it may be besides they will be able to pen a part.

KEMPE. Few of the university men play well; they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphosis[47], and talk too much of Proserpina and Iupiter. Why here’s our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down, aye, and Ben Ionson too[48]. O that Ben Ionson is a pestilent fellow; he brought up Horace, giving the poets a pill; but our fellow Shakspeare hath given him a purge, that made him beray [befoul] his credit[49].

BURBAGE. It’s a shrewd fellow indeed. I wonder these scholars stay so long, they appointed to be here presently, that we might try them: oh, here they come.

Act IV Scene IV

Enter Philomusus, Studioso.

STUDIOSO. Take heart, these lets our clouded thoughts refine; The sun shines brightest when it 'gins decline.

BURBAGE. Master Philomusus and Master Studioso, God save you.

KEMPE. Master Philomusus and Master Otioso[50], well met.

PHILOMUSUS. The same to you, good Master Burbage. What Master Kempe, how doth the Emperor of Germany?

STUDIOSO. God save you, Master Kempe; welcome, Master Kempe, from dancing the morrice over the Alps[51].


KEMPE. Well, you merry knaves, you may come to the honour of it one day. Is it not better to make a fool of the world as I have done, than to be fooled of the world, as you scholars are? But be merry, my lads, you have happened upon the most excellent vocation in the world for money: they come north and south to bring it to our playhouse; and for honours, who of more report than Dick Burbage, and Will Kempe? he is not counted a Gentleman, that knows not Dick Burbage, and Will Kempe; there’s not a country wench that can dance Sellengers Round but can talk of Dick Burbage, and Will Kempe.

PHILOMUSUS. Indeed, M. Kempe, you are very famous; but that is as well for works in print, as your parts in cue [in the right manner].

KEMPE. You are at Cambridge still with size cue [a half-farthing portion], and be lusty humorous poets, you must untruss[52] ; I rode this my last circuit, purposely because I would be judge of your actions.

BURBAGE. Master Studioso, I pray you, take some part in this book, and act it, that I may see what will fit you best; I think your voice would serve for Hieronimo ; observe how I act it, and then imitate me. Who calls Hieronimo from his naked bed?[53]

STUDIOSO. Who calls Hieronimo from his naked bed? etc.

BURBAGE. You will do well after a while.

KEMPE. Now for you. Methinks you should belong to my tuition, and your face methinks would be good for a foolish mayor, or a foolish justice of the peace. Mark me.
Forasmuch as there be two states of a commonwealth, the one of peace, the other of tranquillity; two states of war, the one of discord, the other of dissension; two states of an incorporation, the one of the aldermen, the other of the brethren; two states of magistrates, the one of governing, the other of bearing rule: now, as I said even now, for a good thing cannot be said too often: virtue is the shoeing-horn of justice; that is, virtue is the shoeing-horn of doing well; that is, virtue is the shoeing-horn of doing justly: it behoveth me, and is my part to commend this shoeing-horn unto you. I hope this word shoeing-horn doth not offend any of you, my worshipful brethren; for you being the worshipful headsmen of the town, know well what the horn meaneth. Now therefore I am determined not only to teach, but also to instruct, not only the ignorant, but also the simple, not only what is their duty towards their betters, but also what is their duty towards their superiors. Come, let me see how you can do; sit down in the chair.

PHILOMUSUS. Forasmuch as there be two states etc etc.

KEMPE. Thou wilt do well in time, if thou wilt be ruled by thy betters, that is, by myself, and such grave aldermen of the playhouse as I am.

BURBAGE. I like your face, and the proportion of your body for Richard the third; I pray [you] Master Philomusus let me see you act a little of it.

PHILOMUSUS. Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by the sun of York[54], etc.

BURBAGE. Very well, I assure you; well. Master Philomusus and Master Studioso, we see what ability you are of; I pray walk with us to our fellows, and we'll agree presently.

PHILOMUSUS. We will follow you straight. Master Burbage.

KEMPE. It’s good manners to follow us, Master Philomusus and Master Otioso.



[1] “you may laugh if you will, for here comes a Gullio”: The figure of Gullio, the braggart and popinjay seems to be based on Shakespeare’s Don Adriano de Armado (Love’s Labour’s Lost), a figure well known for his pompous affectations, Ben Jonson’s Captain Bobadil (Eyery Man in His Humour, 1598) and Jonson’s Fastidious Briske (Every Man out of His Humour, 1599). James B. Leishman, the publisher of the Parnassus Plays  wrote in 1949: “Like Bobadil, Gullio boasts of the excellence of his rapier, of the exploits he had performed with it, and of the admiration he has excited among other swordsmen; like Fastidious Briske, he boasts of his friendships among lords and ladies, exhibits his Lesbia’s ‘favours’ much as Briske exhibits ‘Madonna Saviolina’s’, and, again like Briske, loves to refer to the richness and variety of his wardrobe; to gain the reputation of a poet, he is ready ‘to harken out a vein, and buy’…” – We find a character with a very similar name (“Gallio”)  in Hall’s satires (Book IV 1598):

Now, Gallio, ‘gins thy youthful heat to reign
In every vigorous limb and swelling vein;
Time bids the raise thine headstrong thoughts on high,
To valour and adventurous chivalry …
Gallio may pull me roses ere they fall,
Or in his net entrap the tennis-ball,
Or tend his spar-hawk mantling [fluttering] in her mew,
Or yelping beagles’ busy heels pursue,
Or watch a sinking cork [=angling] upon the shore,
Or halter finches through a privy door [a pit-fall]:
Or list he spend the time in sportful game,
in daily courting of his lovely dame,
Hang on her lips, melt in her wanton eye,
Dance in hand, joy in her jollity.

However the truth of the matter is that such activities are way beyond Gullio’s scope.

[2] “This rapier I bought when I sojourned in the University of Padua”: Gullio’s stories don’t contain a grain of truth.

[3] “one of our our puling Littletonians”: Refers to the students of law who still studied the Tenures of Sir Thomas Littleton (1422-1481).

[4] “my exploits at Cosmopolis, at Cals, at Portingale voyage, and now very lately in Ireland”: One would have to be very gullible to believe that any connection whatsoever exists between Gullio and Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. (See note 36.)

[5] “I dare swear your worship escaped knighting very hardly”: The ingenious disrespectful jokes and the candid irony are reminescent of Thomas Nashe. All the same it would be wrong to say that Ingenioso is Thomas Nashe.( In the second part of The Returne from Parnassuss,  Ingenioso praises the memory of the deceased Nashe.) Hoping for a hand out in some form, the penniless Ingenioso feigns praise for the Gullio even though he considers him to be stupid.

[6]Aetas prima canit venere, postrema tumultus”: Propertius, Elegiarum Liber Secundus: “aetas prima canat Veneres, extrema tumultus” – “Let first youth sing of Love, the end of life of tumult.“

[7] “Every Iohn Dringle”: John Dringle, a fool. See Thomas Nashe, Have with You to Saffron Walden (1596): “I shall persuade they are Pachecos, Poldavisses and Dringles…”

[8] “Gnats are unnoted where so ere they fly,/ But Eagles waited on with every eye”: Making a ridiculous comparison between himself and an eagle, Gullio quotes, almost word for word from Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece (1014-15):

Gnats are unnoted wheresoere they flie,

But Eagles gaz’d uppon with everie eye.

[9] “I am very lately registered in the rolls of fame in an Epigram made by a Cambridge man, one Weaver”:  This is no doubt an allusion to an epigram In obitum sepulcrum Gullionus in John Weever's Epigrammes (1599). It describes him as one who had been hanged at Tyburn. 

Here lies fat Gullio, who caperd in a cord
To highest heav’n for all his huge great weight,
His friends left at Tiburn in the year of our Lord
1 5 9 and 8.
What part of his body French men did not eat,
That part he gives freely to worms for their meat.

John Weever (1576–1632), an English antiquary and poet, was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge; his first tutor was William Covell, the author of Polimanteia (1595) which contains one of the first printed mentions of Shakespeare. In late 1599 he published Epigrammes in the Oldest Cut, and Newest Fashion, containing a sonnet on Shakespeare, and epigrams on Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson, Edmund Spenser, William Warner and Christopher Middleton.

[10] “though sick-thoughted Gullio makes amain unto thee, and like a bold-faced suitor ’gins to woo thee!”: Gullio is indeed a foolish man yet he is capable of a certain low cunning. The anonymous and disrespectful author of The Parnassus Plays has Gullio quote from the first verse of Venus and Adonis.

Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,
And like a bold fac’d suitor ’gins to woo him.

[11] “the moon in comparison of thy bright hue a mere slut, Anthony's Cleopatra a black-browed milkmaid, Helen a dowdy”: Playing to the gallery, Gullio paraphrases Romeo and Juliet, II/4:

MERCURIO. O flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified! Now is he for the numbers that Petrarch flowed in. Laura, to his lady, was but a kitchen wench (marry, she had a better love to berhyme her), Dido a dowdy, Cleopatra a gypsy, Helen and Hero hildings and harlots...

[12] “Thrice fairer than my self, thus I began … Saith that the world hath ending with thy life”: Gullio’s adaptation of the second verse from Venus and Adonis.

Thrise fairer than my selfe, (thus she began)
The fields chiefe flower, sweet above compare,
Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man,
More white and red than doves or roses are;
Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life.

[13] “As I am a scholar, these arms of mine are long and strong withall: Thus elms by vines are compast ere they fall”: Gullio forages through all of the literature of the period looking for pickings. On this occasion he takes a quote from Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy (II/4):

Nay then, my arms are large and strong withall:
Thus Elms by vines are compast till they fall.

[14]Even as the sun with purple-coloured face / Had ta'en his last leave on the weeping morn”: With the exception of substituting the word of for Shakespeare’s on Gullio quotes the first two lines of  Venus and Adonis. Shakespeare’s version is as follows:

Even as the sun with purple-colour’d face
Had ta’en his last leave of the weeping morn…

[15] “O sweet Mr Shakspeare! I’ll have his picture in my study at the court”: The “study in the court” was, of course, a figment of Gullio’s imagination. In reality he lodged in a room in Shoreditch. (See note 38.)

[16] “Why he is acquainted with near a Lord except my lord Coulton”: See Henry Peacham, The Worth of a Penny (1647): “In Cambridge there dwelt, some twenty or thirty years ago, one Godfrey Colton, who was by his Trade a Tailor, but a merry companion with  his taber and pipe, and for singing all manner of Northern songs before Noble and Gentlemen, who much delighted in his company; besides, he was Lord of Stourbridge Fair, and all the misorders there.”

[17] “a saying in Homer ut ameris amabilis esto” : Another of Gullio’s malapropisms; the quote is from: Ovid, Ars Amatoria, Book II, 107.

[18] “howsoever prating Tully in his poem saith, Cum amarem eram miser”: The source is William Lily’s Grammar, Shorte Introduction (1574). (J. B. Leishman: “The audience was perhaps intended to infer that Gullio had derived his knowledge of Tully mainly from Greene’s romance, Ciceronis Amor, Tullies Love, 1589.”)

[19]vir sapit qui parum loquitur”: This is a falsified version of the Latin phrase: “Vir sapit qui pauca loquitur” – “It is a wise man who speaks little”. The source is William Lily. – The substitution of parum for pauca is probably intended to exemplify Gullio’s ignorance.

Chi pecora si fa, il lupo se la mangia: old Italian proverb; Gullio ascribes it to the French poet Pierre de Ronsard.

[20] “Even as the flowers … yheried be it here”: From Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde II, 967-73. 

But right as floures, thorugh the colde of nyght
Iclosed, stoupen on hire stalkes lowe,
Redressen hem ayein the sonne bright,
And spreden on hire kynde cours by rowe,
Right so gan tho his eighen vp to throwe
This Troilus and seyde, "O Venus deere,
Thi myght, thi grace, y-heried be it here.

[21] “Nor scrivenly nor craftily I write, / Blot I a little the paper with my tears”: From Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde II, 1026-27:

Ne scryuenyssh or craftily thow it write;
Biblotte it with thi teris ek a lite

(Nor scrivenish nor crafty thou it write.
Be-blot it with thy tears also a little)

[22] “Nought fiteth me … ; so were it but a jape” : From Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde II, 1037-43:

Ne iompre ek no discordant thyng y-feere,
As thus, to vsen termes of Phisik
In loues termes; hold of thi matere
The forme alwey and do that it be lik;
ffor if a peyntour wolde peynte a pyk
With asses feet and hedde it as an ape,
It cordeth naught, so nere it but a iape.

[23] “there’s a word in the last canto”: The word jape. Formerly the verb “jape” had two meanings: 1) to trick, to deceive; 2) to seduce a woman.

[24] “A gentle pen rides pricking on the plain, / This paper plain, to resalute my love”: See Edmund Spenser, Faery Queene, I.1:

A Gentle Knight was pricking on the Plain,
Yclad in mightie Arms and silver Shield …

[25] “Fair Venus, queen of beauty …Beauty and grace must sleep with thee for aye!”: These lines are not from Shakespeare. However, in his ignorance Gullio thinks that they are.

[26] “I am one that can judge according to the proverb, bovem ex unguibus”: At this point the author makes a highly significant slip that tears off the mask of Shakespeare. - Alexander Waugh notes that: “As the clever audience of Cambridge scholars would have known, Gullio is misquoting from Erasmus: ‘Leonem ex unguibus aestimare’ – ‘To recognise a lion by it’s claws.’ But the Erasmus quotation has been changed to ‘to recognise an ox by it's claws.’ Why, I wonder does Gullio need to say he can recognise an ox by it's claws (changing it from lion to ox) in reaction to hearing Ingenioso’s Shakespearean lines?”

As far as the authorship of the Shakespearian works is concerned, this is the key passage in the Parnassus Plays.

[27] “and to honour him will lay his Venus and Adonis under my pillow”: The author is poking fun at Gullio’s adulation of Shakespeare. 

[28] “this Bracchidochio”: This braggart. “Braggadocchio“ is a scurrilous knight with no sense of honour in Edmund Spenser’s Faery Queene (1590). He is not evil, just a dishonourable braggart. Nashe und Harvey like to mock each other as “Braggadocchio“.

[29] “her both Mercurial and Martial discourses in the active and chivalrous vaunt of Don Bellerephon!”: An allusion to Gabriel Harvey’s pompous manner of speech. See Harvey, Pierces Supererogation (1593): “‘Such Mercurial, and Martial Discourses, in the active, and chivalrous vein; plead their own eternal honour: and write everlasting shame in the forhead of a thousand frivolous, and ten thousand phantastical Pamphlets.” And: “He will soon be ripe, that already giveth so lusty onsets, & threateneth such desperate main careers, as surpass the fiercest cavalcades of Bellerophon, or Don Alonso d'Avalos.”

[30] “I myself playing upon my Ivory lute moste enchantingly!”: See Harvey, Pierces Supererogation: “Apollo sitting in the midst, and playing upon his ivory harp most enchantingly.”

[31]Quid pluma levius ? Flamen. Quid flamine? Ventus. / Quid vento? Mulier. Quid muliere? Nihil”: Its earliest form appears in Greenes Vision (1592). – It next appears in Davison’s Poetical Rhapsody (1602) with the following translation: “Dust is lighter than a Feather, / And the wind more light than eather. / But a Woman’ fickle mind, / more than Feather, Dust or Wind.”

[32] “I woulde prove it upon that carrion of thy witt”: See Harvey, Pierces Supererogation (1593): “a vainglorious Ass in thy pen, as I will prove upon the carcass of thy wit and courage throughout all the predicaments of proof.” – The fact that he quotes Harvey does not necessarily mean that the character of Gullio is based on Harvey. If we’re looking for Harvey in the Parnassus Plays then we find that the character “Luxurio” is a closer match. (See note 37.)

[33] “why, Mounsier Mingo, is your asse's head grown proud”: An allusion to 2Henry IV, V/3:

Do me right,
And dub me knight, Samingo [=Sir Mingo].

[34]familiaritas parit contemptum”: A phrase of Publilius Syrus, also used by Thomas Nashe, Strange Newes (1593): “Vexed with discredit (Gabriel) I never was, as thou hast been ever since Familiaritas peperit contemptum [familiarity bred contempt], thy familiar epistles brought thee in contempt. (J. B. Leishman, 1949: “The ascription of this proverb to Terence is, of course, as absurd as the ascriptions above, and is intended, like them, as an exeample of Gullio’s pretentious ignorance.”)

[35] “So hares may pull dead lions by the beard”: A reference to the Harvey-Nashe quarrel. In Strange Newes Nashe goads Harvey with the words: “Out upon thee for an arrant dog-killer; strike a man when he is dead? So hares may pull dead lions by the beard.” – As ludicrous as it may seem, Gullio compares himself to the dead lion.  (Nashe himself took the quote from Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (I.i.72), also possibly from Shakespeare’s King John (II.i.137-8): “You are the hare of whom the proverb goes,/ Whose valour plucks dead lions by the beard.”) 

[36] “Of his false wars at Portingale or Calls”: The journeys to Portugal to Portugal and Cadiz are a complete fabrication. As Ingeniosos pointed out; Gullio never went any further than Flushing.   

[37] “Made wanton lines to please lewd Gullio”: Just like Thomas Nashe, Ingenioso (who actually shares certain character traits with Nashe) also writes poems for rich clients. See Nashe, Have with You to Saffron Walden (1596):

As newfangled and idle, and prostituting my pen like a courtesan is the next item that you [Harvey] tax me with, well, it may and it may not be so, for neither will I deny it nor will I grant it, only thus far I'll go with you, that twice or thrice in a month, when res est angusta domi, the bottom of my purse is turned downward, & my conduit of ink will no longer flow for want of reparations, I am fain to let my plow stand still in the midst of a furrow, and follow some of these newfangled galiardos and Seignior Fantasticos, to whose amorous villanellas and quipassas I prostitute my pen in hope of gain, but otherwise there is no newfangleness in me but poverty.

This cannot be understood as an allusion to Henry Wriothesley (Earl of Southampton) on whom Nashe  wrote the erotic poem “The Choosing of Valentines”. In view of the fact that Gullio is not only a braggart, but a whole range of negative character traits rolled into one person, this would indeed be a very short sighted assumption.  

[38] “at Gullio’s chamber in Shoreditch”: The harsh reality bears no resemblance to the house that Gullio occupies in his pipe dreams. In truth, he lives in a single room apartment in the unfashionable district of  Shoreditch.


[39] “IUDICIO. Here is a book, Ingenioso”: Judicio, a “corrector of  the press”, has been complaining of his trade and of “the paper wars in Paul’s Churchyard”. - Even though the scene does not bear any relevance to the Oxford-Shakespeare debate, it evidences how well the author was keeping abreast with the newest publications. 

[40]The Poet garish,/ Gaily bedecked, like fore-horse of the Parish”: This is a thinly disguised quote from Thomas Nashe, Strange Newes (1593): “Here Bedlam is, and here a poet garish, / Gaily bedecked, like fore-horse of the parish.” Nashe himself quotes from Gabriel Harvey’s Foure Letters (1592): ”It is not your poet garish and your fore-horse of the parish that shall redeem you from her fingers, but she will make actual proof of you, according as you desire of God in the underfollowing lines.” (“She” is Greene’s hostess Mrs Isam. Harvey writes about  Greene’s funeral: “One that wished him a better lodging, then in a poore Iourneymans house, & a better grave…: Heere Bedlam is: and here a Poet garish,/ Gaily bedeck’d, like forehorse of the parish.” - See 3.1.4. Harvey, Foure Letters.

[41] “And strews about Ram-ally meditations”: J. B. Leishman, the editor of the Parnassus plays (1949) notes: “One of the avenues to the Temple from Fleet-street, a place formerly privileged from arrest, and consequently the resort of sharpers and necessitous person of very ill fame, and both of sexes.”

[42] “Brings the great battering ram of terms to towns”: See Gabriel Harvey, Pierces Supererogation (1593): “they shall bring the mighty battering-ram of terms, and the great ordinance of miracles, to town.”

[43] “The wittiest fellow of a Bricklayer in England”: The sensitive though argumentative Ben Jonson made himself enemies during the “poet’s war” that waged between 1599 and 1601, among these enemies were John Marston and Thomas Dekker.

[44]William Shakspeare”: The most surprising feature of this statement is its brevity. The students seem to prefer the works of Samuel Daniel to Venus and Adonis. Laughing, they turn their backs on the ardent declarations of love.  - In the first quarto (1601) of Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour (V.iii.284-7), not in the later version of 1616, the would-be gallant Matheo, sort of twin-brother of Gullio, also pass off as his own the first lines of the first sonnet of Samuel Daniel’s sonnet cycle Delia. (Thanks to Robert Detobel.)

[45]Burbage. Kempe”: Richard Burbage (1567-1619), the most famous tragic actor, and William Kempe (c.1560-1603), the most famous comedian, in the Lord Chamberlain’s company (later the King’s Men), of which Will Shakspere was a member from 1594.

[46] “and there I saw a parasite make faces and mouths of all sorts on this fashion”: It may well be that Kempe is referring to a performance of the Parnassus Plays in 1599. We will never know if he was referring to the student actor in the play or to the character he was playing.

[47] “they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphosis”: Kempe assumes that the poem Metamorphoses is an author, or he alludes to John Marston, the author of The Metamorphosis of Pigmalion’s Image.

[48] “Why here’s our fellow Shakspeare puts them all down, aye, and Ben Ionson too”: Kempe is of the opinion that “his fellow Shakespeare” wipes the floor with all of the incomprehensible Ovids, Metamorphosis, Proserperinas [= Prosperinas]  and what have you. Kempe states that his acting colleague Will Shaksper and the author William Shakespeare are one and the same person. The students of 1601 will have laughed heartily at this joke. However, over the last two hundred years it hasn’t been funny anymore.

[49] “Jonson … brought up Horace, giving the poets a pill; but our fellow Shakspeare hath given him a purge, that made him beray [befoul] his credit”: In his satires Cynthia’s Revels (1600) and The Poetaster (1601) Ben Jonson makes fun of his literary colleagues John Marston and Thomas Dekker- he was not above weaving a few aperçus about Shakespeare’s works  into his disrespectful musings. In Poetaster he presents Captain Tucca, an outrageous Falstaff and he parodies both the reception of the actors in Hamlet and the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare punishes the somewhat overbearing  Jonson for his impertinence by having the Greek hero Ajax (actually the epitome of dull wittedness) speak like Jonson’s mouthpiece Asper in the induction of Every Man Out of His Humour.- Alexander mocks Ajax in Troilus and Cressida (I/2):

This man, lady, hath robb'd many beasts of their particular additions: he is as valiant as a lion, churlish as the bear, slow as the elephant-a man into whom nature hath so crowded
humours [!] that his valour is crush'd into folly, his folly sauced with discretion. There is no man hath a virtue that he hath not a glimpse of, nor any man an attaint but he carries some stain of it; he is melancholy without cause and merry against the hair; he hath the joints of every thing; but everything so out of joint that he is a gouty Briareus, many hands and no use, or purblind Argus, all eyes and no sight.

[50] “Master Philomusus and Master Otioso”: The author’s intention is to represent the illiterate Kempe as ignorant of the difference between studiosus and otiosus (= idle).

[51] “dancing the morrice over the Alps”: In 1599, William Kempe left “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men”  In 1600 he performed a marathon morris dancing tour from London to Norwich. He set out from London in February 1600 and arrived in Norwich in March 1600, later writing his own account of the dance: Kemps Nine Day Wonder (1600) in which he settles the account with the balladeers who spread lies about him:

These are by these presents to certify unto your block-headships, that I, William Kempe, whom you had never rent asunder with your unreasonable rimes, am shortly God willing to set forward as merrily as I may; whether I wish ye, employ not your little wits in certifying the world that I am gone to Rome, Jerusalem, Venice, or any other place at your idle appoint. I knowe the best of you by the lies you write of me, got not the price of a good hat to cover your brainless heads...

The “shake-rags”, which James Shapiro in 1599 – A  Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (London, 2005, p.38) curiously interpreted as Kempe’s backlash against Shakespeare after the latter would have obliged Kempe to leave the Chamberlain’s Men early in 1599 — for which, needless to say, there is not a shred or rag of evidence; by “shake-rags” Kempe simply mean the ballad-makers.

[52] “and be lusty humorous poets, you must untruss”: An allusion to Satiromastix, or The Untrussing of the Humorous Poet (1601), a stage play by Thomas Dekker; one of the plays involved in the Poetomachia or “War of the Theatres”. – To untruss: to put off.

[53]Who calls Hieronimo from his naked bed?”: From Thomas Kyd, Spanish Tragedy (c.1587): “What out-cries pluck me from my naked bed? … Who calls Hieronimo?”

[54] “Now is the winter of our discontent  / Made glorious summer by the sun of York”: The opening of Shakespeare’s King Richard III (ed. 1597).