1. Oxford and the Fenton Expedition

           Oxford, according to Nelson, would have invested "in a venture similar to Drake's, this time to the tune of £500." (p. 188) Nelson follows Captain Ward – both are most probably wrong. It may be questioned whether Oxford, eventually, was an adventurer in this expedition. Sure, his name is on a list of shareholders, but it is absent from another list of shareholders which must be considered, if not a s the definitive one, as a later and more definitive list. Which means that Oxford backed out of the whole enterprise.

            As to the two lists, a similar problem exists with the different lists kept by Micheal Lok for the Frobisher voyages. After the second voyage we find list of newcomers, adventurers to whose discretion it is left to reserve their share for a third expedition or to include it in the stock of the completed second voyage. All these adventurers are identified as as newcomers, obe being Oxford. Oxford must have preferred to allocate his share to the third voyage; his name appears nowhere on a list for the first and second voyage for which three lists exist. On two of them we find, among others, the following names: the earl of Bedford, Mr. Controller (sir James Croft), Lord Hunsdon, Lord Charles Howard. But these four men re-appear on the list of newcomers. Which means, if it were not impossible, that they would have subscribed retro-effectively for the first and second voyage. It is impossible because these two lists were drawn up before the second voyage, before they were registered as newcomers. Only the third list was set up after the second voyage. On this third list we find the name of another newcomer, John Dee. Of all 26 newcomers he alone subscribed for the first and second voyage. But we do not find the names of Bedford, Croft, Hunsdon and Howard. This third list is later. That it is later can be seen that the shareholders were assessed at the rate of 20% for freight of the second voyage. The queen had a share £1,000 in the second voyage and the "cessement" (assessment) for her is £200, Burghley and Sussex (here not quite adequately styled Lord High Chamberlain, but there can be no doubt it is Sussex; on the other, earlier, lists he is once named as Lord Chamberlain and once as earl of Sussex) held a share of £100 and were assessed at £20. Of course, if Bedford and the three others were not actual but only potential shareholders, they could not be charged for freight. Why then were their names on the two first lists? The answer can only be that either they had subscribed but not paid and withdrew before having paid in their share or that they had neither paid nor subscribed but had been named as probable adventurers. In a document of July 1577 (Colonial, 48)– during the second voyage – are listed "of those who have subscribed and not performed" (Here the earl of Bedford is named) and "of those who were named but have not subscribed" (here is named the Lord Keeper, who is also on the list of newcomers; but the three other names do not show up in this document).

            But it means that some names on a list might be provisional. If they do not appear on a later list, we may think they were forgotten. But this is a somewhat loose assumption, given the need for capital. It is more probable that the participation never materialized.

The two lists of adventurers in the Fenton voyage

            It is doubful that Oxford, eventually, was an adventurer in Edward Fenton's voyage. His name appears on one list but not another. This latter list ic clearly the later and (more) definitive list for the following reasons:

1)      In the first list, called O for Oxford, the main ship is still named after her original owner "the Galleon Oughtred"; in the escond list, called NO for non-Oxford, it is simply called "the Galleon". But w eknow that it was later renamed into "the Galleon Leicester" and alternatively "the Bear Galleon", the bear being Leicester's heraldic animal.

2)      In list O the value of this ship is estimated at £5,000; in list NO the value is exactly fixed at £6,035 and 10s.

3)      In list O it is stated that the ship "Mary Edwards" is to be valued by alderman Martin. But this ship did not sail. The ship which sailed is that mentioned in list NO, the "Edward Bonaventure", valued at £3,457 and 5s.

4)      It may be ruled out that so many adventurers appearing for the first time in list O would have been forgotten in list O: Lord Burghley, the earl of Shrewsbury, sir Thomas Heneage and four more.

5)      It can also be ruled out that Oxford's substantial contribution of £500 would have been forgotten in list NO. His and that of customer (receiver of customs) Thomas Smith are the only names who are in list O and not in list NO. Both Oxford and customer Smith seem to have had great confidence in Martin Frobisher who was still the commander. Therefore, it could be that they backed out when in February 1581(2) Frobisher resigned his command.

Frobisher and the Northwest Passage

            Gold was never the main objective of Frobisher. He was wholly dedicated to the discovery of the Northwest Passage. The driging force behind the search for gold was undoubtedly Michael Lok. It was he who could not content himself with the negative expertises of the London assayers and, despite of sir Francis Walsingham's skeptical attitude, persisted in his looking for someone who would give a positive attest. Walsingham warned him that he was being played upon by an alchemist. Those who have read Nelson might think this alchemist was John Dee. But no, it was mainly an Italian, Giovanni Baptista Agnello. John Dee's role was, in fact, very marginal. He was a member of the commission who watched the whole affair. In one of his many distorsions Nelson tries to foist the responsibility on Dee, stating: "while John Dee estimated a prospective yield of 7 ounces of silver per hundredweight." (p. 187) Nelson gives no reference. The document to which he refers is Colonial, 91 and I quote from it more extensively, though it is rather marginal. But it is another instance of Nelson's saucy manipulations:

"Account taken at Muscovy House of 2 cwt. Of ore brought by Mr. Frobisher, molten and tried by Jonas Schutz, an Almain [a German], assisted by Humphrey Cole, John Brode, and Robert Denham, Englishmen. The 2 cwt. Yielded in silver 6 oz. 7dwt. 13 gr., valued at 5s. per oz.; in gold, 5 dwt. 5 gr., valued at 3s. the dwt.... Signed by Sir Wm. Wynter, Edward Dyar, Martin Frobisher, Rich. Yonge, Mathew Fyeld, Edmund Hogan, Michael Lok, and Andrew Palmer. In another copy "John Dee"...".

No question of an estimate, let alone by John Dee. Why he did sign separately in this case is not known, but it is certainly merely accidental, as in other documents of that nature his name always appears together with the other members of the commission: Wynter, Dyer, etc. The quantities were no estimates but the results, whether right or wrong, obtained by Jonas Schutz, a specialized melter from Saxony, and the three other men, who were also experienced miners. 

            To Frobisher gold was only a means to his dream of exploration of the Northwest Passage. George best, in his account of the third voyage, writes:

"And because it was assuredly made account of, that the commodity of mines, there already discovered, would at the least countervail in all respects the adventurers' charge and give further hope and likelihood of greater matters to follow..." (Voyages, p. 226)

            The "greater matters" were the exploration of new countries and, above all, the passage to Cathay (China).

            When Frobisher took the command of the prospective fourth voyage, mainly sponsored by the earl of Leicester, he obviously intended to resume his explorations. But, at first unknown to him, it was ordered that the voyage, after the idea of privateering (piracy, in fact) under letters of marque of Dom Antonio, the Portuguese rival of Philip II, had been abandoned, should principally serve trading objectives. The notes of Arthur Atye, Leicester's secretary in charge of the organisation of the voyage, contained the following passage:

"We enjoin the General [Frobisher] etc. not to pass China to the northeastward: so will the traffic be better made, and the reason of this charge to be given him is, lest perhaps he shows some desire to search out his formerly pretended passage NW and so hinder this voyage which is only for trade." (The Troublesome Voyage of Captain Edward Fenton – 1582-1583, ed. for The Hakluyt Society by Eva G.R. Taylor, Cambridge: UP, 1959, p. 16)

            And so it was repeated in the instructions issued by the Privy Council to Frobisher.

"Frobisher, who swore he had  in 1576 seen the 'capes' (extremities) of Asia and America on his right hand and his left was justifiably suspected of a wish to view them from the Pacific side." (Taylor, p. 54-55, n. 9)

Thus, Frobisher would have sailed along the Westafrican and then along the Southamerican westcoast, turned northeast in the direction of Alaska along the Northamerican westcoast, to enter the NW Passage from the northeast. It was upon receiving these instructions that Frobisher resigned his command.

Oxford and Frobisher

            In his letter of 21 May 1578 (the date given by document 154, Colonial; Nelson gives 25 May, but this is not very relevant) announcing his contribution of £1,000 to Frobisher's third voyage Oxford writes:

"understanding of the wise proceeding & orderly dealing for continuance of the voyage for the discovery of Cathay by the North-west, which this bearer my friend Mr Frobisher has already very honorably attempted... "  

"Friend" or "very loving friend" were formulaic phrases in letters. But in this case it may have been more than just a formula. On 1 October 1581 Frobisher wrote to Leicester:

"Here is no answer come from my L. of friends here, as yet I have not more need Sir Francis Walsingham, nor any of the rest but my L. of Oxford, who bears me in hand; he will buy the Edward Bonaventure, and Mr. Bowland & I have offered fifteen hundred pounds for her, but they hold her at eighteen hundred." (Taylor, Fenton, p. 19)

It should be noted that ath this time it was still believed the discovery of the passage to Cathay was on the agenda.

            Oxford and Frobisher seem to have some treats in common. That gold, money was only a means to achieve "greater things", not a goal in itself for Frobisher is likely to have awaked Oxford's sympathy ("mine is not made for mine but for me and myself"). Also, they seems to have shared a certain irritability. They also shared a less pleasant feature – for their nearest entourage: to subordinate anything else to the achievement of their dreams. In 1577 Frobisher's wife complained in a petition to Walsingham that Frobisher, her second husband, had spent all the estate she had inherited from her first husband "and put them to the wide world to shift" (Colonial, 43).

            The list of adventurers on which Oxford's name appears cannot be earlier than 10 October 1581, rather later. On this list we also find the name of customer Smith, on whom David B. Quinn remarks: "William Hawkins [elder brother of Sir John Hawkins] and Thomas Smith, Customer of London, who were among the most active speculators of their age." (Quinn, Voyages sir Humphrey Gilbert, Vol. I, p. 46). In December 1582 customer Smith was an adventurer in Gilbert's expedition (Voyage Gilbert, Vol. II, p. 332). The amount of his investment is not known. It seems possible, however, that by then he had preferred to invest in Gilbert's voyage instead of Fenton's. For the voyage still planned with Frobisher as "general", as the chief captain was called, he paid £200 to Frobisher who acknowledged the receipt on 12 October 1582. It must be around this time that Arthur Atye, Leicester's secretary, put him on the list. But neither Oxford nor Smith are on the (undated) list which we should consider as definitive. As an expedient we may take one of the few dated lists, the list of adventurers set up by Michael Lok for Frobisher's second voyage (Frobisher, p. 108-9), starting on 28 May 1577. This list is dated 30 March 1577. Fenton set sail on 1 May 1582. So, the second list of adventurers (without Oxford and customer Smith) could be dated about 1 March 1581(2), a few weeks after Frobisher's resignation and Fenton's take-over. So that we could conclude that Oxford, and customer Smith too, backed out because Frobisher was replaced by Fenton and they shared Frobisher's rejection to exclude the exploration of the NW Passage in favour of mere trading. I see no way of further corroborating this plausible hypothesis from the extant documents.

However,it will be seen that Hamlet confirms it.

Fenton and the Hawkins

            If one name can figure as eponym for outstanding navigation in Tudor England, it is rather the name Hawkins than Drake because the Hawkins can be regarded as a dynasty of navigators in Tudor times. The first William Hawkins was a famous seaman in Henry VIII's reign, his sons William and John and his grandson William, son of the second William in Elizabeth's reign.

            Sir John Hawkins was not enthusiastic about Frobisher's voyage. Asked by Leicester to invest in the voyage he refused on the ground of bad finances and health. "My sickness does continually abide with me, and every second day I have a fit." (Fenton, p. 26) As if further insisting would have aggravated his bad state of health by accelerating the fits to one daily.

An excursion on the Bark Talbot.  B.M. Ward writes (p. 241) regarding Fenton's expedition: "There were three ships: the galleon Ughtrede (renamed the Leicester), the Edward Bonaventure, and the bark Talbot." This is an error, the Bark Talbot did not sail in Fenton's voyage. It was originally proposed by the earl of Shrewsbury who later withdrew his proposal and preferred a share of £200. Possibly Shrewsbury's withdrawal of the Talbot was due to John Hawkins. Shrewsbury made a similar proposal and, in May 1582, withdrawal for an expedition to the East Indies under the command of Thomas Carleill, Francis Walsingham's stepson who should have been captain at land under Fenton, but had drawn back at the last minute because of an ague. He soon recovered after Fenton had left England. Less than two weeks later he was projecting his own voyage. "Before 14 May he had approached Thomas Bawdewyn, the earl fo Shrewsbury's factor in London to try to raise £100 from the earl. In his reply on 20 May Shrewsbury suggested first of all that instead of contributing money he would be willing to allow Carleill to take his ship, the Bark Talbot, with him, if John Hawkins, who had apparently some interest in the vessel, agreed. While he was writing he received a further letter from Bawdewyn, and one from John Hawkins himself, about the Carleill venture. These made him change his mind and offer to contribute a hundred marks in money instead of the ship." (David B. Quinn, Voyages Humphrey Gilbert, Vol. I, p. 78-9). Nothing came of it, but after Gilbert's death in September 1583 the plans for an expedition were resumed, this time to Newfoundland. Hawkins had now also recovered as there were rumours he would sail with Carleill. He did not sail but apparently took a favourable stand. Carleill, finally, got the Bark Talbot. Fenton's ships were: Galleon Leicester, Edward Bonaventure, and the barks Francis (named after Drake) and Elizabeth (Taylor, p. xliii). Nelson, on p. 189, writes: "Instead, the Edward Bonaventure (named after Edward VI) came under the control of Fenton, along with a galleon called the Leicester (formerly the Ughtrede) and the Talbot." He makes exactly the same mistakes as B.M. Ward but gives as source Irvin Matus, who certainly took over the mistake from Ward. Had Nelson known he was making a mistake he had certainly given Ward as source and corrected him. But at least Ward can be excused for writing in 1928 when neither the Hakluyt studies on Fenton by E.G.R. Taylor (1959) nor on Sir Humphrey Gilbert by David B. Quinn (1940) were available. Matus and Nelson don't have this excuse. Nelson could claim that he has not read Taylor, which is an explanation, not an excuse, the Hakluyt editions being basic literature. It is not wise to omit them, not if one wishes to play the wiseacre like Nelson. In the case of Quinn's study there is no explanation and no excuse. It is listed in Nelson's bibliography, but he apparently did not read enough of it.

            The sympathy of the Hawkins is likely to have further dwindled when Edward Fenton took over from Frobisher, having under his command young William Hawkins. The shipowner Henry Oughtred, together with Leicester the biggest adventurer, communicated his concern to Leicester in a letter of 17 March 1581(2):

"Mr Hawkins... is the chief hope of the voyage, but with all I find you have made him an underling to one who is without knowledge, which at the sea will make great discontent, his experience is very small, his mind high, his temper... choleric... I rather wish Mr Hawkins to have the place of government... Besides there is an honest gentleman, , also prepared forr this voyage, son in law [actually stepson] to Mr Secretary Walsingham, named Mr Carleyle..." (Taylor, p. 33-34)

            In his own representation of the voyage William Hawkings jr. does not mince his words and leaves no opportunity out to call in question Fenton's abilities:

"The general not being able to do this feat without Captain Warde... the same month they departed out of that bay with determination (in outward shew) of the general and Ward: But... nothing at all meant, but dissembled for a further policy so to blind their company." (Taylor, p. 277)

Oxford's class-specific comportment as adventurer

            In the voyages of Frobisher and John Davis Oxford socially behaved as an exemplar member of the aristocracy. With respect to Frobisher's third voyage and the third voyage as long as Frobisher was in command even as a paragon of the aristocracy. " The purely trading enterprises interested noticeably fewer gentlemen. This was mainly, but not entirely, due to their usual organization as regulated companies... But in fact the gentry appeared only when these companies were originally founded, amid great expectations and fanfare, and they paid them little attention thereafter." (Theodor K. Rabb. Enterprise & Empire, Merchant and Gentry Investment in the Expansion of England, 1575-1630. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967)

            In this he did not stand out alone. Leicester assumed a similar role in the Fenton voyage and other companies but " though willing to take advantage of the membership in the Barbary Company he had obtained in return for ensuring the creation of a monopoly, evidently took no direct part in the trade" (p. 28). As in ancient Greece and Rome, aristocrats figured as capital spenders, not as entrpreneurs. Still today the leading class in societies emerged from tribal communities such as Saudi-Arabia and Kuwait, though majority shareholders, keeps aloof from the day-to-day activities which are often carried on by aliens, mainly Indians and Pakistani. But even when gentry and merchants joined their capital the social barrier remained visible in the different way an enterprise was advertised to the gentry and to the merchants:

"In 1583, writing in support of a project for the colonization of Newfoundland, Sir George Peckham considered it "convenient that I do divide the adventurers into two sorts: the noblemen and gentlemen by themselves, and the merchant by themselves." He said he had heard that in fact two companies were going to be established, one for each class. And he shaped the propaganda accordingly. For the gentry he stressed the fine climate, the conditions favorable to landowners, the crops that could be produced, and the excellent hunting, including a description of a moose. For the merchants he provided a list of over 70 commodities which could bring them profit - with leopards, silkworms, pepper, and rubies quite unabashedly claimed for Newfoundland." (p. 35)

            Rabb also roughly defines the two different types of joint-stock companies to which the gentry on the one hand and the merchants on the other felt attracted:

"The purposes for which a company was formed also exercised a major influence on its composition. While merchants could be attracted to almost any undertaking that promised a profit, the gentry were particularly interested in colonization and spectacular explorations, such as the search for the North-West Passage." (p. 31)

100% of the capital for the expeditions of Thomas Cavendish in 1586 and 1591, whose purpose was circumnavigation, and of George Weymouth's exploration voyage to Virginia in 1605 was paid in by members of the nobility. The percentages for the Fenton voyage were 70% and 30% respectively. Of course, the gentry was interested in money but the source of income mattered. Income from commerce was sought, but no active involvment in commerce. Enterprises in which the gentry invested needed at least the appearance of some "greater matters", some benefit which could be presented not as the search for private gain but for the benefit of the whole and not motivated by the search for personal profit.

"The original impulse for gentry participation in commerce came from the leading members of the government and great nobles whose principal occupation was the service of the Queen and the realm. The semiofficial atmosphere that surrounded some of their early efforts, particularly the exploits directed against Spain, only served the impression that they were acting for the public benefit." (p. 39)

"Public benefit", "care for the whole of the realm", "welfare of the commonwealth as a whole" as against "personal profit" guiding the merchant, so ran the main legitimation for the courtly aristocracy as ruling elite. From the distance of over four centuries it is difficult to understand how such an ideology of non-profit seeking could work. But there can be no doubt that it worked. To understand how deeply it was rooted in the minds of Elizabethans and still afterwards we may leap back to the times of Adam Smith and his famous notion of the "invisible hand" which would automatically lead to the benefit of all if every individual was pursuing his own egoist interests. The notoriety this maxim could achieve cannot be understood without realizing how notorious had been the opposite view. From a mere scientific viewpoint Adam Smith's theorem is rather a hocus-pocus. Its significance, however, lies not in his scientific but in its political and social consequences. The claim of the courtly aristocracy to assume the political leadership can be epitomized as the negation of Smith's theorem, the need of a "visible hand" assuring the public benefit beyond the personal profit. It was the genuine role of the aristocracy to act as this "visible hand". With regard to the Northwest Passage this belief transpires through the words of George Best when he comments on the difficulties Frobisher originally met in his search for capital:

"But perceiving that hardly he was harkened unto of the mechants, which never regard virtue without sure, certain, and present gains, he repaired to the court (from whence, as from the fountain of our commonwealth, all good causes have their chief increase and maintenance), and there laid open to many great estates and learned men, the plot and sum of his devise. And among many honorable minds which favoured his honest and commendable enterprise, he was specially bound and beholding to the right honorable Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick..." (Frobisher, p. 70-1)

            When in his letter of 21 May 1578 (according to Colonial, 154. XV; Nelson has 25 May) Oxford wrote: "... understanding of the wise proceeding & orderly dealing for the continuing of the voyage for the discovery of Cathay by the Northwest", he wrote exactly what as a prominent courtier he had to write. Nelson seems to think in earnest that a courtier could overtly proclaim to be interested in mere profit, when he comments: "His reference to 'the continuing of the voyage for the discovery of Cathay by the Northwest' suggests either that he had bought into the fictional cover for Frobisher's third expedition, or that he allowed himself to be deceived as to its true purpose." (p. 187). By this comment Nelson more than suggests, he proves beyond doubt that his whole knowledge about the social roles and rules of a courtly aristocratic society into which he is hazarding needs no more room than a deflated balloon. And when he is filling this balloon of ignorance with airs of know-all-better-than-all he is as authoritative as a preacher roaring against sex and alcohol with the last issue of Playboy jutting from his right and the bottle of whisky from his left pocket, in the middle the fly wide open.

Oceanic feeling and acquisitive gullibility

            Class-specific attitudes alone cannot explain Oxford's comportment as adventurer, though.

            Hamlet could be "bounded in a nutshell and count himself a king of infinite space." To Oxford "my mind a kingdom" was. Professor May has brought forward Oxford as the most likely author of this song. And the most likely candidate for its authorship next to Oxford is Shakespeare, as the same is expressed partly in almost the same words in 3 Henry VI. From Nashe's witness in Summer's Last Will and Testament we know that Ver could not live "within his bounds" (line 241). And from sir Thomas Smith that Oxford's imagination sometimes transcended reality (though in this particular case sir Thomas Smith's imagination was behind reality). Oxford was certainly moved by a feeling which Freud, borrowing from the French author Romain Rolland, in his essay Civilization and its Discontents called "oceanic feeling", a word singularly appropriate in the case of his support for Frobisher's quest for the Northwest Passage. The "oceanic feeling", Freud writes, "decribes the longing for something vast and eternal of which he [Romain Rolland] and other felt aware, and which he suggested as a possible source of religious feelings... It is a feeling which he would like to call a sensation of 'eternity', a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded, something'oceanic'." Actually, it is a religion closer to pantheism than to any institutionalized religion. It implies a search for undiscovered boundaries of the self, for some "meta incognita". One might cherish the idea that it was Oxford who coined this name. Be that as it may, Frobisher's search symbolized Oxford's inner disposition and I think that we must here look for explaining the particular enthusiasm he obviously developed for Frobisher.

            The other side of the "oceanic feeling" is the neglect of down-to-earth exigencies. Properly spoken, Oxford was like an albatross, the bird which to the French poet George Baudelaire was the symbol of the poet, the most majestic flight of all birds, but on the ground "His giant wings make walking heavy." It is not exactly known how and when the partnership between Michael Lok and  Oxford came about. Michael Lok denied he had already known the ore to be valueless when Oxford entered into the partnership to the amount of £2,000 (it should be noted that Lok was imprisoned but not on this count; he was brought into prison by William Burrough, a London shipowner, from which Lok had claimed payment of his share; Burrough could prove that his share was a down-payment by Lok for the ship bought from him and for which Lok was still in debt to Burrough). Lok was certainly not the scoundrel Frobisher took him for after the third voyage. But he had run into serious financial difficulties and was using sharp practice to struggle out of them. Why should he offer such a share to Oxford if he was convinced that the ore would yield the quantities of gold he had been hoping for? He might not yet have known, as Frobisher pretended in the second half of November, that the ore was valueless. It is possible to consider his move to make Oxford his partner as fraud; it is also possible that it was just a kind of hedging. But Lok cannot have been confident as to the results of the trial of the ore. Otherwise he would have kept his stock and not shared it with Oxford. However, these are considerations Oxford himself could have pondered before agreeing to the partnership. But this was not the kind of questions he was wont to muse on. when, moved by oceanic feelings, he was dreaming of infinite spaces. That he acted inconsiderately cannot be doubted. And, it will be seen, he knew it himself.

            Nevertheless, it is most unlikely that he lost the £500 investment in Fenton's voyage. The evidence points to his backing out of this venture. His name was cancelled from the later list. Whatever his motives, it proved a wise decision. I have presumed that he bowed out on Frobisher's resignation and Fenton's appointment. It is a plausible hypothesis, consistent with the known details. Complete verification is not possible from the extant documents. But it seems possible from Hamlet.

Hamlet's confirmation

            In act II.ii (374-5) Hamlet says:

I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.

Words which have caused and are still causing great trouble to commentators. As introduction here Harold Jenkins's annotations to these two lines in the Arden edition.

North-north-west and southerly:

"Commentators explain that, with birds flying before the wind, if the 'wind is southerly', the watcher's eye is turned away from the sun and so can see more clearly. But this is surely to be too literal-minded (and in that case why 'north-north-west'? Common beliefs about madness concerned its fluctuating nature and its supposed dependence on the weather. Hamlet's wit is in the fanciful particularization with which he applies these to his own case. Cf. Bright, p. 257, 'The air meet for melancholic folk ought to be thin, pure, subtle and open, and patent to all winds: in respect of their temper, especially to the south, and southeast'. Hence, we may paraphrase when the wind is southerly as in 'my more lucid moments'."

Still, the question why north-north-west is left without answer.

And for hawk and handsaw:

"Hamlet issues a warning that he is able to distinguish one thing from another and to see through false pretences; perhaps also that he can reconize a bird of prey when he sees one."

            If in his more lucid moments he can tell the difference between a hawk and a handsaw, his discrimatory powers in his more lucid moments are still poor.

            The OED notes: "no other instances of the phrase, except as quotations of Shakespeare." But if the use is so singularly Shakespeare's and if, on the other hand, Jenkins holds that " Hamlet's wit is in the fanciful particularization with which he applies these to his own case", maybe that Shakespeare, too, applied it to his own case.

            Now, north-north-west must not necessarily been associated with winds. It can also mean the course of a ship. It was the course taken by Frobisher: first sailing west, than more to the north, than direction Antartic, ever more northward, hence north-north-west. Oxford was an adventurer in the third voyage and committed the folly of becoming a partner of Michael Lok. Similarly, "when the wind is southerly" must not necessarily mean winds blowing from the south, but blowing to the south, favourable for the course to the south. Let us look into Fenton's journal: "we set sail with the wind at n.n.e." The second day: "wind at n.e. & by n. and having brought them n.est of us direct our course S.W. & by S." (pp. 83-4). Fenton's course was: southerly, to the Canary Islands, Sierre Leone, Sao Vicente in Brazil. On this occasion Hamlet was not mad, because he saw the difference between a hawk and a handsaw.

            Of course, "hawk" and "handsaw " alliterate well. But they have at least a double significance beyond that.

            We can discern a first level of signification. It should be remembered that Theodor K. Rabb points to the different incentives which were stressed for the gentry and merchants at the promotion of an enterprise. For the gentry: fine climate, excellent hunting. "Hawk" is a good representative for these aristocratic values, "handsaw" for artisanal and commercial values, or, as it was generally called, values appealing to those practising "mechanical arts", which included merchants. And in Fenton's voyage, the "greater matters", the search for the Northwest Passage, had been wholly subordinated to trade. The reason why Frobisher stepped down. And, on our hypothesis, Oxford followed him.

            The pair "hawk" and "handsaw" makes sense on another level. "Hawk" evokes the name Hawkins. We have seen that before and during the Fenton voyage there were serious frictions between William Hawkins, a scion of the Hawkins dynasty, and Fenton. The shipowner Oughtred wrote to Leicester not only that William Hawkins should not be placed under Fenton's command but also that Fenton had little experience at sea: "which at the sea will make great discontent, his experience is very small." Under the navigators Fenton, a soldier but not a seaman, was no Hawkins, he was what the handsaw was under the tools of a shipwright, "the smallest of the saws used by shipwrights, and used by one hand". Moreover, the cheapest saw: "a handsaw price" (OED, example from 1497).

            Hamlet tells us: I was but mad as an adventurer in the voyage which took Frobisher to the north-north-west, I was made a fool by Michael Lok. But in the voyage, when the wind carried the ship southward, seeing the poor quality of Fenton as navigator and captain – no Hawk(ins) – I bowed out timely.

            Hamlet could have added: that's why my name is absent from the list, the list NO, the list not with Oxford.