2. SHAKE-SPEARE a Pseudonym?

















The Sonnets


YES IT IS. There is no other explanation for the hyphen. As soon as the epic poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594) by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE were published, Henry Willobie wrote: “And Shake-speare paints poor Lucrece rape” (Willobie his AVISA, 1596). 

Furthermore, the first time that the name appears on the frontpage of a QUARTO, it was written with a hyphen. Pirate copies of Titus Andronicus, The Taming of a Shrew and 2+3Henry VI were published in 1594 and 1595, without naming the author. In 1597 and 1598 two good quartos of Richard the second and Richard the third were published, naming “William Shake-speare” and “W. Shake-speare” as the author. Eleven years later, the sonnets were published under the title: “SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS”.

The scholar and poet John Davies of Hereford continued in this tradition in 1611 when he wrote an epigram to Shakespeare with the dedication: “To our English Terence Mr. Will. Shake-speare”. The rhetoric teacher, John Vicars, refers to the famous poet (“celeber poeta”) in 1621 with the words: “qui a quassatione et hasta nomen habet” – ‘who takes his name from the shaking and spear’. In his introductory poem to the Folio edition of 1623 Ben Jonson gives an obvious clue to the reader: “his well torned and true filed lines, / In each of which he seems to shake a lance”. 

The actor, part owner of “The Globe” theatre and money lender from Stratford-upon-Avon always wrote his name “Will Shaksper” or “Shakspere”. William Beeston, the son of an actor colleague of Shaksper, said of his writing abilities: “if invited to write he was in paine” (Aubrey’s Brief Lives, ed. 1898).
Why should such a man call himself Shake-speare, the shaker of the spear? Furthermore, how can we expect him to write an epic poem in courtly style after his “lost years”, dedicating it, with an aristocratic turn of phrase, to the young Earl of Southampton? “...only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account my self highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour.”

A closer look at this pseudonym reveals more about the man who called himself Shake-speare. The mental picture of the SPEAR SHAKER is taken from the goddess Pallas Athena (=Minerva =Bellona) who was literary born shaking a spear. The goddess came to the world out of her father Zeus' head - in full armour. As well as being the goddess of palaces, military strategy crafts and weaving, she was foremost the guardian of art and wisdom. In her hand a spear, not as a sign of aggression but of vigilance. The Elizabethans were thoroughly familiar with the twentyeighth Homeric Hymn: “Athena sprang quickly from the immortal head and stood before Zeus who holds the aegis, shaking a sharp spear.” What better name could there be for a warrior poet?
In Lucian's  Dialogues of the Gods, Virgil's Aeneid and Apuleius’ Golden Ass, Pallas Athena was known as the Goddess of the thundering (or quivering) spear. In Charles Estienne's Dictionarium Historicum, Geographicum, Poeticum (1553), one of the established dictionaries on the classics, the entry on Pallas is as follows: “The helmet and shield lend her a formidable appearance, her lance seems to swing in her hand.”
The play-write and hater of theatre, Stephen Gosson, writes in Playes confuted in five Actions (1582): “Tertullian teacheth us that every part of the preparation of playes was dedicated to some heathen god or goddess; the penning to Minerva.” 
Abraham Fraunce wrote in 1592 (The Third part of the Countesse of Pembrokes Yuychurch): “Pallas was so called because shee slew Pallas a Gyant: or, of shaking her speare.”
In other words, generations of scholars and authors had paved the way for this choice of pseudonym.

We cannot overlook that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550 – 1604), “one of the best in comedy amongst us” (Francis Meres, Palladis Tamia, 1598) and the “most excellent” among the poets in her Majesty’s Court (William Webbe, A Discourse of English Poetry, 1586), was associated with Pallas Athena (Minerva) by two separate literary contemporaries. Gabriel Harvey praised the Earl in 1578: Your countenance is shaking spears [“vultus tela vibrat”]; and Edmund Spenser, alias Colin Clout, alias Pierce, alias E.K., 27 years old, wants the dramatist Edward de Vere, alias Cuddie, to write heroic histories, to bring the muses onto the stage accompanied by Bellona, goddess of war. (See: Kurt Kreiler, Anonymous SHAKE-SPEARE, pp. 125-127.)

William Shake-speare may well have been aware of the erotic connotations of the name. We can safely assume that he read the Epithalamium of Giovanni Giovano Pontano (1429-1503), telling a young man what was expected of him on his wedding night: “When the bride is overwhelmed with the heat of her desire in your passionate embraces, then is the time to attack- my friend, you must heatedly shake your spear to inflight the longed-for wound on her.” – “Telum cominus, hinc et inde vibrans,/ Dum vulnus ferus interferus amatum”. (Pontani carmina, Firenze 1902, vol.2, p. 262)



 HOMERIC HYMN 28 ( probably written in the seventh century BC)

To Pallas
Pallas-Minerva's Deitie, the renown'd,
My Muse in her variety must resound;
Mightie in counsailes; whose Illustrous Eyes
In all resemblance represent the skies.
A reverend Maid of an inflexible Minde;
In Spirit and Person strong; of Triple kinde;
Of Jove-the-great-in-counsaile's very Braine
Tooke Prime existence; his unbounded Brows
Could not containe her, such impetuous Throws
Her Birth gave way to that abrode she flew,
And stood in Gold arm'd in her Father's view,
Shaking her sharpe Lance. All Olympus shooke
So terriblie beneath her that it tooke
Up in amazes all the Deities there;
All Earth resounded with vociferous Feare;
The Sea was put up all in purple Waves,
And settld sodainly her rudest Raves;
Hyperion's radiant Sonne his swift-hov'd Steedes
A mighty Tyme staid, till her arming weedes,
As glorious as the Gods;, the blew-eyd Maid
Tooke from her Deathlesse shoulders. But then staid
All these distempers, and heaven's counsailor, Jove,
Rejoic't that all things else his stay could move.
So I salute thee still; and still in Praise
Thy Fame, and others', shall my Memorie raise.
                                                                            Tranlated by George Chapman [1624] 

VIRGIL (70 BC – 19 BC)

Her body ran with swet, and from the ground (wee wondred all)
Three times alone she leapt, and thrise her sheeld and speare she shooke.

                                                    Aeneid. Book II, translated by Phaer and Twyne, 1573

 LUCIAN (c.AD 125 – after AD 180)

What's here ? A woman arm'd leaps on the Plain : 
O Iove, thou had'st much mischiefe in thy brain. 
No marvell thou wert angry and much paind, 
When in thy Pia mater was containd 
A live Virago, arm'd, and having spread 
Castles and townes and towers about her head ; 
She leaps and capers, topt with rage divine,
And danceth (as she treads) the Matachine,
Shakes her steele pointed Lance, and strikes her Tardge,
As if she had the god of War in charge.
                          Dialogues of the Gods. Vulcan and Jupite, transl. by Thomas Heywood, 1637


Fiebat enim simalcrum galea et scuto terribile, et hastam manu tenens, quam veluti vibrare videbatur.
The helmet and shield lend her a formidable appearance, her lance seems to shake in her hand.

                                                                      Dictionarium historicum ac poeticum,1553

 GABRIEL HARVEY (c.1552 – 1630)

Anglia te Patrium iamque experietur Achillem. Perge modo, actutum tibi Mars, tibi serviet Hermes, aegisonansque aderit Pallas pectusque, animumque instruet ipsatuum: iampridem Phoebus Apollo artibus excoluit mentem [...] tu videris, an iam iamque velis pugnare ferox: ego sentio: tota patria nostra putat: feruescit pectore sanguis; virtus fronte habitat: Mars occupat ora; Minerva in dextra latitat: Bellona in corpore regnat: Martius ardor inest: scintellant lumina: vultus tela vibrat: quis non rediviuum iuret Achillem?

England will discover in you its hereditary Achilles. Go, Mars will see you in safety and Hermes attend you; aegis-sounding Pallas will be by and will instruct your heart and spirit, while long since did Phoebus Apollo cultivate your mind with the arts. [...] You are being observed as to whether you would care to fight boldly. I feel it; our whole country believes it; your blood boils in your breast, virtue dwells in your brow, Mars keeps your mouth, Minerva is in your right hand, Bellona reigns in your body, and Martial ardor, your eyes flash, your countenance is shaking spears: who wouldn't swear you Achilles reborn?
                                                     To the Earl of Oxford, In: Gratulationes Valdinenses, 1578 

   EDMUND SPENSER (1552-1599)

In Cuddie is set out the perfect pattern of a Poet, which finding no maintenance of his state and studies, complaineth of the contempt of Poetry, and the causes thereof ...

PIERCE [= Edmund Spenser].
Cuddie, for shame [modesty] hold up thy heavy head, 
And let us plan with what delight to chase: 
And weary this long lingering Phoebus race. 
Whilom [some time before] thou wont the shepherds lads to lead, 
In rimes, in riddles, and in bidding [prisoner's] base: 
Now they in thee, and thou in sleep art dead?
CUDDIE [= Edward de Vere].
The pretty ditties, that I wont devise, 
To feed youthes fancy, and th’offspring, 
Delighten much: what gain have I for that?
They have the pleasure, I a slender pr[a]ise. 
I beat the bush, the birds to them do fly: 
What good thereof to Cuddie can arise?
Abandon then the base and viler clown, 
Lift up thyself out of the lowly dust: 
And sing of bloody Mars, of wars, of jousts, 
Turne thee to those, that bear the awful crown. 
To r’doubted Knights, whose woundless armour rusts, 
And helms unbruised vexen daily brown.
O if my temples were distained with wine, 
And girt in girlands of wild Yvie twine, 
How I could rear the Muse on stately stage, 
And teach her tread aloft in buskin fine, 
With queint* Bellona in her order.

E.K.'s gloss
*Queint) strange Bellona; the goddess of battle, that is Pallas, which may therefore well be called queint for that (as Lucian saith) when Iupiter her father was in travail of her, he caused his son Vulcan with his axe to hew his head. Out which leaped forth lustily a valiant damsel armed at all points, whom seeing Vulcan so fair & comely, lightly leaping to her, proffered her some courtesy, which the Lady disdaining, shaked her speare at him, and threatened his sauciness. Therefore such strangeness is well applied to her.

ÆGLOGA DECIMA [October]. In: The Shepheard's Calender, 1579 [shortened, modern spelling] 


ABRAHAM FRAUNCE (c.1559 - 1593) 

Pallas was so called because shee slew Pallas a Gyant: or, of shaking her speare.

                                       The Third part of the Countesse of Pembrokes Yuychurch, 1592 


Yet Tarquyne pluckt his glistering grape,
And Shake-speare paints poore Lucrece rape.


H. W. being sodenly infected with the contagion of a fantasticall fit, at the first sight of A, pyneth a while in secret griefe, at length not able any longer to indure the burning heate of so fervent a humour, bewrayeth the secresy of his disease unto his familiar frend W. S. who not long before had tryed the curtesy of the like passion, and was now newly recovered of the like infection; yet finding his frend let bloud in the same vaine, he took pleasure for a tyme to see him bleed, & in steed of stopping the issue, he inlargeth the wound, with the sharpe rasor of a willing conceit, perswading him that he thought it a matter very easy to be compassed, & no doubt with payne, diligence & some cost in time to be obtayned. &c.


W. S.
Well, say no more: I know thy griefe,
And face from whence these flames aryse,
It is not hard to fynd reliefe,
If thou wilt follow good aduyse:
She is no Saynt, She is no Nonne,
I thinke in tyme she may be wonne…

Willobie his AVISA, Or The true Picture of a modest Maid, and of a chast and constant wife, 1596

 JOHN MARSTON (1576 – 1634)

Come, Cressida, my Cresset light,
Thy face doth shine both day and night;
Behold behold, thy garter blue,
Thy knight his valiant elbow wears, 
That when he shakes his furious Speare
The foe in shivering fearful sort
May lay him down in death to snort.

                                                                Histriomastix, performed 1599  


M. L. [= Gabriel Harvey ?]

Dear nurslings of Parnassus be not won
by rash credulity to leave to time
a shameful calendar of deeds misdone
by those which never yet committed crime;
My selfe instead a reverend wit have blamed
without desert, whereof I am ashamed.

Pardon sweet wit (which has a liberal part
of pure infusion in thy happy brain)
My sorowing sobs have bloodless left my heart,
that giddy rage so clear a spring did stain,
let worthless lines be scattered here and there,
but verses live supported by a speare. 

                                                 Envies Scourge and Vertues Honour by M. L. (c.1604) 

THOMAS VICARS (1589 – 1638)

Quo quidem in loco recenset ille poetas quosdam, quorum et numeros et laudavere sales nostri, de quibus forsitan non immerito Anglia nostra gloriatur, Galfridum Chaucerum, Edmundum Spencerum, Michaelem Draytonem, et Georgium Withersium. Istis annumerandos censeo celebrem illum poetam qui a quassatione et hasta nomen habet, Ioannem Davisium, et cognominem meum, poetam pium et doctum Ioannem Vicarsium.

That one [Charles Butler ,1597] compiled a list of the most important authors of the English literature, quite rightly praising the names of Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, Michael Drayton und George Withers. To these, I think, should be added that famous poet who takes his name from the shaking and spear – and John Davies - and a pious and learned poet who shares my surname: John Vicars.

                     Χειραγωγα, Manuductio ad Artem Rhetoricam…in usum Scholarum, 1621

  BEN JONSON (1572-1637)

And such wert thou ! Look how the father's face
Lives in his issue, even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly shines
In his well torned and true filed lines,
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandisht at the eyes of ignorance.
                                     To the Memory of My Beloved Master William Shakspeare, 1623