Hi everyone!

A busy family life means I have little time for research, but I’ll leave this website here for the next generation of Shakespeare researchers. Please support the resource by sharing (or at least referencing) the research herein. Thank you.

Here is a list of some excellent reading on Shakespeare from my personal experience – I recommend you take a look.



To Bowdlerise, or not to…

Thomas Bowdler Family Shakespeare

Thomas Bowdler Family Shakespeare

Shakespeare wasn’t always spelt as such. Prior to the 19th century there were numerous variations, the most common being Shakspeare (without the first ‘e’). That all changed thanks to Thomas Bowdler (1754 – 1825) who re-published an adapted works of Shakespeare to cater for women and children of his time. Bowdler’s edition, stripped of obscenities and blasphemies, was published as The Family Shakespeare (1807). This process of expurgation, especially in regard to published works, became known as bowdlerisation.

Thomas Bowdler - The Family Shakespeare - The Times

Thomas Bowdler – The Family Shakespeare – The Times

Shakespeare’s ring to a sailor’s ear

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare Chandos Portrait 1610

The Chandos portrait depicts Shakespeare as having a receding hairline, facial scruff, and a shiny gold hoop hanging from his left ear. Many renditions of Shakespeare’s image have derived from this portrait, also depicting Shakespeare to wear an earring.

The question is, did he?

Earrings were a common fashion on men during the English Renaissance. Sailor’s would wear them at sea to cover funeral costs in the event of their death, and the fashion caught on among courtiers in the 1590s. In Bill Bryson’s book Shakespeare : The World as Stage, he suggests Shakespeare would’ve worn an earring for the same reason men wear them today – “to show that they have an unconventional, adventurous disposition.” He also speaks of Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, also believed to have worn earrings.

In the 1577 text Description of England by William Harrison can be found the following:

Some lusty courtiers and gentlemen of courage do wear either rings of gold, stones or pearls in their ears whereby they imagine the workmanship of God to be not a little amended. But herein they rather disgrace than adorn their persons.

Sir Walter Raleigh's earring

Sir Walter Raleigh with an Earring

Despite the fashion of the time, it remains debatable whether Shakespeare himself wore an earring. There is no substantial evidence that the Chandos portrait was of the man himself, whereas the Droeshout engraving from the First Folio (1623), a far more likely depiction, shows Shakespeare without an earring. The bust on Shakespeare’s monument in Holy Trinity Church (c. 1623), also without an earring, is further evidence that makes it unlikely.

An occasion for a duel

During the Renaissance, the denigration of a man’s name was occasion for a duel. Naturally.
shakespeare duel

My dear dear lord,
The purest treasure mortal times afford
Is spotless reputation—that away,
Men are but gilded loam, or painted clay.
A jewel in a ten-times barr’d-up chest
Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast.

A quote of Mowbury, Richard The Second

Without public honor, a man’s inner virtues are like a jewel locked with ten bolts in an obscure chest.

A quote of Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing


The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don’t want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don’t have a soul.

from Utopia by Thomas More (1515 – 1516)

Thomas More was a visionary, and his imagination shows such a depth in his writings. He had a fascination with Roman and Greek myths and beliefs which are displayed throughout this text. Unlike a lot of material from the time, Utopia is relatively easy to understand. He was more a politician than an author, and with this piece he simply tried to convey his vision of the Island of Utopia.

His vision is of a perfect world. The scene is set on an imaginary island, with it’s own society and customs. There are no problems, no unloving relationships, no proletarians, and no division of classes. It is a world where everyone loves, and everyone is equal.

Authors of note – English Renaissance

Francis Bacon 1561 - 1626

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626

Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) was a philosopher, scientist, and literary pioneer, as well as a political career surmounting in a banishment from his role as Lord Chancellor on counts of bribery. His masterpiece Essayes (first published 1597) solidifies his place among the top echelons of 17th Century authors.

There have been claims, albeit fanatical, that Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s works, but it is almost certain that these claims are false.

Thomas Dekker 1572 - 1632

Thomas Dekker 1572 – 1632

Thomas Dekker (1572 – 1632) was an Elizabethan dramatist and pamphleteer. He collaborated with many prominent dramatists of the time, with a career spanning decades. Dekker’s most popular pamphlets were of the tricks and scams of confidence-men and thieves, including thieve’s can’tThe Belman of LondonVillainies Discovered by Candlelight, and English Villianies.

John Donne 1572 - 1631

John Donne 1572 – 1631

John Donne (1572 – 1631) was a poet, satirist, lawyer, Protestant priest, and a pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets. Donne had an abundance of artistic flair, using metaphors, paradoxes, ironies, and dislocations. Despite his talent, he spent most of his years living in poverty, but was able to live with the aid of a number of wealthy friends. Over his life he wrote many poems, most only in manuscript form. A monument to John Donne, having survived the 1666 fire, still exists on display in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

John Fletcher 1579 - 1625

John Fletcher 1579 – 1625

John Fletcher (1579 – 1625) was a Jacobean playwright and successor to William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King’s Men. During his time his fame rivaled that of Shakespeare himself, although this dwindled over time. He collaborated with Shakespeare on Henry VIIIThe Two Noble Kinsmen, and the lost Cardenio.

John Ford (baptised 1586 – 1639) was a Jacobean dramatist, playwright, and poet.

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson (c. 1572 – 1637) was a Renaissance dramatist, poet, and actor. Jonson had a prominent success in 1598 with Every Man in His Humour, of which Shakespeare was cast as an actor. It is said that Jonson was critical of Shakespeare’s work, and a rivalry was established between the two.

Thomas Kyd (1558 – 1594) was a dramatist, most famous for his work The Spanish Tragedy which was later drawn on by Shakespeare in his play Hamlet. Kyd’s play Ur-Hamlet also pre-dates Shakespeare’s Hamlet and has a number of similarities, so it is likely Shakespeare used it as a reference.

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe (1564 – 1593) was a foremost dramatist and Elizabethan tragedian, said to have greatly influenced Shakespeare who was of the same age. There are many unknowns about Marlowe’s life, and it is surrounded by conspiracies and theories. During a period when he was under warrant for arrest for allegations of blasphemy and “vile heretical conceipts”, he was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer, a confidence-trickster. There are allegations that Marlowe framed his own death to avoid the authorities, and continued to write under the name William Shakespeare.

Philip Massinger

Philip Massinger

Philip Massinger (1583 – 1640) was a dramatist who often used political and social themes. He is most prominently known for his well constructed plays A New Way to Pay Old DebtsThe City Madam, and The Roman Actor. In the later stages of his career he wrote for the King’s Men.

Thomas Middleton

Thomas Middleton

Thomas Middleton (1580 – 1627) was a Jacobean poet and playwright. Along with Ben Jonson and John Fletcher he is one of the most prolific playwrights of the period. He wrote a variety of plays, both comedy and tragedy. He has been dubbed by the poet T. S. Eliot as second only to Shakespeare.

Thomas More

Thomas More

Thomas More (1478 – 1535) was more of a political figure than a dramatist, but his work History of King Richard III was said to greatly influence Shakespeare’s work Richard III. More coined the term “Utopia”, his idealistic view for the nation.

Thomas Nashe Woodcut

Thomas Nashe

Thomas Nashe (1567 – 1601) was an Elizabethan pamphleteer, playwright, poet, and satirist. Despite his major works, he produced an erotic poem during the early 1590s entitled The Choice of Valentines. The poem speaks of a young man named Tomalin, who, on a visit to see his ‘girlfriend’ Frankie at her brothel, suffers impotence and premature ejaculation.

William Rowley (c.1585 – 1626) was a Jacobean dramatist, known more for his collaborations with more prominent writers than his own work. He would often play the role of a clown, or a fat clown as it is believed he was of hefty build. Of note he played the role of the Fat Bishop in Thomas Middleton’s A Game at Chess, and as Plumporridge in Inner Temple Masque. In addition to this he worked in collaboration with John Fletcher amongst others.

Rowley’s dramatist roots is believed to have begun in Queen Ann’s Men at the Red Bull Theatre, and later in life joined the King’s Men at the Globe.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, need we say more.

James Shirley

James Shirley (1596 – 1666)

James Shirley (or Sherley) (1596 – 1666) was a dramatist and poet. Most of his work was performed by Queen Henrietta’s Men where he served as house dramatist, and later his work was performed by the Kings Men.

Philip Sidney (1554 - 1586)

Philip Sidney (1554 – 1586)

Sir Philip Sidney was a poet, courtier and soldier, a prominent figure in the Elizabethan Age. His notable works include Astrophel and StellaThe Defence of Poetry, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, and an earlier and less notable work The Lady of May.

Sidney died at the age of 31 after suffering for 26 days from a gunshot wound in his thigh. It is said, while lying wounded, he offered his water bottle to another wounded soldier, to whom he said “Thy necessity is yet greater than mine.” This elevated his recognition as a noble gentleman.

Edmund Spenser (1552 - 1599)

Edmund Spenser (1552 – 1599)

Edmund Spenser (1552 – 1599) was a poet, most notably known for his epic poem The Faerie Queene. It is said the phrase without rhyme or reason stemmed from a quatrain Spenser sent to Queen Elizabeth.

John Webster (c. 1580 – c. 1634) was a Jacobean dramatist most famous for his plays The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi. He was considered more of a serious playwright, unable to write comedy, and many of his plays were found to be too intellectual for the audiences liking. He tended towards a morbid, gothic view of the world. John Webster collaborated a great deal with Thomas Dekker, Thomas Middleton, and William Rowley, with plays being staged at the Red Bull Theatre.  He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare.

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503 – 1542) was an English lyrical poet, assigned by Henry VIII as Ambassador at home and abroad. Wyatt is credited in introducing the sonnet into English. It is rumoured that Wyatt had a love interest with Anne Boleyn, 2nd wife of Henry VIII, and Queen of England (1533 – 1536). The love interest was prior to Boleyn’s marriage to Henry VIII, between mid to late 1520s.

A history of the Tudor ruff

Elizabethan Tudor Ruff c.1600

To quote from Blackadder II:

Blackadder : What are you wearing around your neck?
Percy : Ah! It’s my new ruff!
Blackadder : You look like a bird who’s swallowed a plate.
Percy : It’s the latest fashion actually and as a matter of fact it makes me look rather sexy!
Blackadder : To another plate swallowing bird perhaps. If it was blind and hadn’t had it in months.

The Ermine Portrait by Nicholas Hilliard (1585)

The Ermine Portrait by Nicholas Hilliard (1585)

The ruff, one of the more eccentric garments of the Elizabethan era, was a fashion statement to rival those of the 1970s. Starting life as a simple collar, the ruff grew more elaborate through the course of Elizabeth I’s rule to become symbolic of the era. It was a circular collar made from a pleated frill worn by both men and women. On women it covered the neck, chin, shoulders, and breast, and on men it covered the neck and shoulders.

The quality of a ruff was a sign of status. They were worn by aristocrats and proletarians alike, although the quality of material would vary greatly. In the aristocracy, a ruff was likely made of lawne or camerick, both very expensive fine linens. Quality ruff’s were decorated with lace, gold, silver, and fine silk. Ruff’s belonging to wealthy women would often be decorated with decorations to represent the sun, moon, and stars. For the poorer folk, a ruff would likely be made of cheap fabric that would have likely irritated the skin.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh

When the first ruff came into fashion in the 1560’s, it was a simple accessory measuring approximately 3″ wide by 2″ deep. This was known as either the cartwheel ruff or a fan-shaped ruff. This was a common adornment of the adventurer and courtier to Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh.

As the ruff became bigger and more flamboyant, it was necessary to use a metal wire frame (gauze wings) at the back to the neck to hold it in place. Laces or strings (band strings) were attached to the opening of the ruff to secure it around the neck. It was common for an elaborate ruff to be held together with hundreds of pins. The material to create a single ruff, in later stages, amounted to as much as five metres of material. Pins were an essential part of Elizabethan clothing which in turn led to a very buoyant pin-making industry.

Cleaning the ruff was far from trivial. Being a fashion accessory it was mandatory to keep the garment in pristine condition, and this was done using vast quantities of starch. This also helped to maintain the shape of the ruff and keep it upright.

The ruff was at times used to add finesse to cuffs and sleeves of clothes.

The ruff was eventually replaced by the standing collar during the reign of James I, but it could be said it led the way for neck ware in years to come.

Portraits of ruffs

Portrait by Michiel Jansz van Miereveldt of Elizabeth Queen of Bohemia 1623

Portrait by Michiel Jansz van Miereveldt of Elizabeth Queen of Bohemia 1623

Portrait by Abraham Rombouts of Anna de Looper c1627

Portrait by Abraham Rombouts of Anna de Looper c1627

Portrait by Michiel Jansz van Miereveldt c1628

Portrait by Michiel Jansz van Miereveldt c1628

Portrait by Michiel Jansz van Miereveldt c1630

Portrait by Michiel Jansz van Miereveldt c1630

Portrait by Thomas de Keyser 1596-1667

Portrait by Thomas de Keyser 1596-1667

He who dispatched King Charles

Execution of Charles I

Execution of Charles I

This is the confession allegedly made by the hangman who dispatched Charles I (from 1649):

His beheading his late Majesty the King of Great Brittain (upon his Death bed) who was buried on Thursday night last, in white Chappell Church-yard, with the manner thereof.
Upon Wednesday last (being the 20. of this instant June, 1649.) Richard Brandon, the late Executioner and Hang-man, who beheaded his late Majesty, King of Great Brittain, departed this life. But during the time of His sicknesse, his Conscience was much troubled, and exceedingly perplexed in mind, yet little shew of repentance, for remission of his sins, and by-past transgressions, which had so much power and influence upon him, that he seemed to live in them and they in him. And upon Sunday last, a young man of his acquaintance going in to visite him, fell into discourse, asked him how he did, and whether he was not troubled in conscience for cutting off of the Kings head?

He replyed, yes! by reason that (upon the time of his tryall, and at the denouncing of Sentence against him) he had taken a vow and protestation, Wishing God to perish him body and soul, if ever he appeared on the scaffold to do the act or lift up his hand against him. Further acknowledging, That he was no sooner entred upon the scaffold, but immediatly he fell a trembling, and hath ever since continued in the like agony.

He likewise confessed, that he had 30. pounds for his pains, all paid him in half Crowns, within an hour after the blow was given, and that he had an Orenge stuck full of Cloves, and a handkircher out of the Kings pocket, so soon as he was carryed off from the Scaffold, for which Orenge, he was proffered 20. shillings by a Gentleman in Whitehall, but refused the same, and afterwards sold it for tens in Rose-mary Lane.

About 6 of the clock at night, he returned home to his wife living in Rose-mary lane, and gave her the money, saying, That it was the deerest money that ever he earn’d in his life, for it would cost him his life. Which propheticall words were soon made manifest; for it appeared, that ever since he hath been in a most sad condition, and upon the Almighties first scourging of him with the Rod of meeknesse, and the friendly admonition of divers friends, for the calling of him to repentance, yet he persisted on in his vicious Vices, and would not hearken thereunto, but lay raging and swearing, and still pointing at one thing or another, which he conceived to appear visible before him.

About three dayes before he dy’d he lay speechlesse, uttering many a sigh and heavy groan, and so in a most desparate manner departed from his bed of sorrow. For the buriall whereof, a great store of Wines were sent in, by the Sheriff of the City of London, and a great multitude of people stood wayting to see his Corps carryed to the Church-yard, some crying out, Hang him Rogue, bury him in the Dung-hill; others pressing upon him, saying, They would quarter him, for executing of the King: Insomuch, that the Church-wardens and Masters of the Parish were fain to come for the suppressing of them, and (with great difficulty) he was at last carryed to White-chappell Church-yard, having (as it is said) a bunch of Rosemary at each end of the coffin, on the top thereof, with a Rope tyed crosse from one end to the other.

And a merry conceited Cook living at the sign of the Crown, having a black Fan (worth the value of 30 shillings) took a resolution to rent the same in pieces, and to every feather tyed a piece of pack-thread dy’d in black Ink, and gave them to divers persons, who (in derision) for a while, wore them in their hats.

The Choice of Valentines

A colourful poem of Thomas Nashe. The scene is set for our young man Tomalin, who, on a visit to see his ‘girlfriend’ Frankie at her brothel, suffers impotence and premature ejaculation.

Pardon sweete flower of matchless Poetrie,
And fairest bud the red rose euer bare ;
Although my Muse deuor’st from deeper care
Presents thee with a wanton Elegie.
Ne blame my verse of loose unchastitie
For painting forth the things that hidden are,
Since all men acte what I in speache declare,
Onelie induced by varietie.
Complaints and praises euerie one can write,
And passion-out their pangu’s in statelie rimes,
But of loues pleasure’s none did euer write
That hath succeeded in theis latter times.
Accept of it Dear Lord in gentle gree,
And better lynes ere long shall honor thee.

It was the merie moneth of Februarie
When yong-men in their iollie roguerie
Rose earelie in the morne fore breake of daie
To seeke them valentines so trimme and gaie.
With whom they maie consorte in summer sheene,
And dance the heidegeies on our toune-greene.
As Ale’s at Easter or at Pentecost
Perambulate the fields that flourish most,
And goe to som village abbordring neere
To taste the creame, and cakes and such good cheere,
Or see a playe of strange moralitie
Shewen by Bachelrie of Maningtree ;
Whereto the Contrie franklins flock-meale swarme,
And Ihon and Jone com marching arme in arme,
Euen on the hallowes of the blessed Saint,
That doeth true louers with those ioyes acquaint
I went poore pilgrim to my ladies shrine
To see if she would be my valentine.
But woe-alass, she was not to be found,
For she was shifted to an upper-ground.
Good Iustice Dudgein-haft, and crab-tree face,
With bills and staues had scared her from the place;
And now she was compell’d for Sanctuarie
To flye unto an house of venerie.
Thither went I, and bouldlie made enquire
If they had hackneis to lett-out to hire
And what they crau’d by order of their trade
To lett one ride a iournie on a iade.
Therwith out stept a foggie three-chinnd dame,
That us’d to take yong wenches for to tame,
And ask’t me, if I ment as I profest,
Or onelie ask’t a question but in iest.
In iest? quoth I; that terme it as you will,
I com for game, therfore giue me my Jill,
Why Sir, quoth shee, if that be your demande,
Come, laye me a Gods-pennie in my hand;
For, in our Oratorie siccarlie,
None enters heere to doe his nicerie,
But he must paye his offertorie first,
And then perhaps wee’le ease him of his thirst.
I hearing hir so ernest for the box
Gaue hir hir due, and shee the dore unlocks.
In am I entered : venus be my speede ;
But where’s this female, that must doe this deede?
By blinde meanders, and by crankled wayes
Shee leades me onward (as my Aucthor saies)
Vntill we came within a shadie loft
Where venus bounzing vestalls skirmish oft.
And there shee sett me in a leather chaire,
And brought me forth of prettie Trulls a paire,
To chuse of them which might content myne eye;
But hir I sought I could nowhere espie.
I spake them faire, and wisht them well to fare,
Yett so it is, I must haue fresher ware.
Wherfore, dame Bawde, as daintie as yow bee,
Fetch gentle mistris Francis forth to me.
By Halliedame, quoth she, and Gods oune mother,
I well perceaue yow are a wylie brother.
For if there be a morsell of more price,
Yow’l smell it out, though I be ner’e so nice.
As yow desire, so shall yow swiue with hir,
But think your purse-strings shall abye-it deare ;
For, he that will eate quaile’s must lauish crounes ;
And mistris Francis in hir veluet goune’s
And ruffs, and periwigs as fresh as Maye,
Can not be kept with half a croune a daye.
Of price good hostess, we will not debate,
Though yow assize me at the highest rate ;
Onelie conduct me to this bonnie bell,
And tenne good gobs I will unto thee tell
Of golde or siluer, which shall lyke thee best,
So much doe I hir companie request.
Awaie she went : So sweete a thing is golde,
That (mauger) will inuade the strongest holde.
Hey-ho, she coms, that hath my heart in keepe,
Sing lullabie my cares, and falle a-sleepe.
Sweeping she coms, as she would brush the ground,
Hir ratling silke’s my sences doe confound.
Oh, I am rauisht ; voide the chamber streight,
For, I must needs upon hir with my weight.
My Tomalin, quoth shee, and then she smilde,
I, I, quoth I ; so more men are beguilde
With smiles, with flatt’ring worde’s, and fained cheere,
When in their deede’s their falsehood doeth appeere.
As how my lambkin? (blushing, she replide)
Because I in this dancing-schoole abide?
If that be it, that brede’s this discontent,
We will remoue the camp incontinent.
For shelter onelie, sweete heart came I hither
And to auoide the troublous stormie weather.
But nowe the coast is cleare, we wilbe gonne,
Since but thy self, true louer I haue none.
With that she sprung full lightlie to my lips,
And fast about the neck me colle’s and clips.
She wanton faint’s, and falle’s upon hir bed,
And often tosseth too and fro hir head.
She shutts hir eyes, and waggles with hir tongue:
Oh, who is able to abstaine so long?
I com, I com; sweete lyning be thy leaue,
Softlie my fingers, up theis curtaine, heaue
And make me happie stealing by degreese.
First bare hir leggs, then creepe up to hir kneese.
From thence ascend unto hir mannely thigh.
(A pox on lingring when I am so nighe)
Smock climbe a-pace, that I maie see my ioyes,
Oh heauen, and paradize are all but toyes,
Compar’d with this sight, I now behould,
Which well might keepe a man from being olde.
A prettie rysing wombe without a weame,
That shone as bright as anie siluer streame;
And bare out lyke the bending of an hill,
At whose decline a fountaine dwelleth still,
That hath his mouth besett with uglie bryers
Resembling much a duskie nett of wyres.
A loftie buttock barred with azure veine’s
Whose comelie swelling, when my hand distreine’s
Or wanton checketh with a harmeless stype,
It makes the fruites of loue eftsoone be rype ;
And pleasure pluckt too tymelie from the stemme
To dye ere it hath seene Ierusalem.
Oh Gods, that euer anie thing so sweete
So suddenlie shuld fade awaie and fleete.
Hir arme’s are spread, and I am all unarm’d
Lyke one with Ouids cursed hemlock charm’d,
So are my limm’s unwealdie for the fight,
That spend their strength in thought of hir delight.
What shall I doe to shewe myself a man?
It will not be for ought that beawtie can.
I kisse, I clap, I feele, I view at will,
Yett dead he lyes not thinking good or ill.
Vnhappie me, quoth shee, and wilt’ not stand?
Com, lett me rubb and chafe it with my hand.
Perhaps the sillie worme is labour’d sore,
And wearied that it can doe no more.
If it be so (as I am greate a-dread)
I wish tenne thousand times, that I were dead.
How ere it is; no meanes shall want in me,
That maie auaile to his recouerie.
Which saide, she tooke and rould it on hir thigh,
And when she lookt’ on’t, she would weepe and sighe,
And dandled it, and dance’t it up and doune,
Not ceasing, till she rais’d it from his swoune.
And then he flue on hir as he were wood,
And on her breeche did thack, and foyne a-good;
He rubd’, and prickt, and pierst hir to the bones,
Digging as farre as eath he might for stones.
Now high, now lowe, now stryking short and thick ;
Now dyuing deepe he toucht hir to the quick.
Now with a gird, he would his course rebate;
Streite would he take him to a statelie gate,
Plaie while him list ; and thrust he neare so hard,
Poore pacient Grisill lyeth at hir warde,
And giue’s, and take’s as blythe and free as Maye,
And ere-more meete’s him in the midle waye.
On him hir eyes continualy were fixt,
With hir eye-beames his melting looke’s were mixt,
Which lyke the Sunne, that twixt tuo glasses plaies
From one to th’other cast’s rebounding rayes.
He lyke a starre, that to reguild his beames
Sucks-in the influence of Phebus streames,
Imbathe’s the lynes of his descending light
In the bright fountaines of hir clearest sight.
She faire as fairest Planet in the Skye
Hir purity to no man doeth denye.
The verie chamber, that enclowds hir shine,
Looke’s lyke the pallace of that God deuine,
Who leade’s the daie about the zodiake,
And everie euen discends to th’Oceane lake :
So fierce and feruent is hir radiance,
Such fyrie stake’s she darts at euerie glance,
As might inflame the icie limmes of age,
And make pale death his surquedrie aswage
To stand and gaze upon hir Orient lamps
Where Cupid all his chiefest ioyes encamps,
And sitts, and playes with euerie atomie
That in hir Sunne-beames swarme aboundantlie.
Thus gazing, and thus striuing we perseuer,
But what so firme, that maie continue euer?
Oh not so fast, my rauisht Mistriss cryes,
Least my content, that on thy life relyes
Be brought too-soone from his delightfull seate,
And me unwares of hoped bliss defeate.
[Togeather lett our equall motions stirr
Togeather let vs liue and dye my deere]
Together lett us marche unto content,
And be consumed with one blandishment.
As she prescrib’d, so kept we crotchet-time,
And euerie stroake in ordre lyke a chyme.
Whilst she, that had preseru’d me by hir pittie,
Vnto our musike fram’d a groaning dittie.
Alass, alass, that loue should be a sinne,
Euen nowe my blisse and sorrow doeth beginne.
Houlde wyde thy lap, my louelie Danae,
And entretaine the golden shoure so free,
That trilling falles into thy treasurie,
As Aprill-drops not half so pleasant be,
Nor Nilus ouerflowe, to Ægipt-plaines,
As this sweet-streames, that all hir ioints imbaynes ;
With Oh, and Oh, she itching moues hir hipps,
And to and fro, full lightlie starts and skips.
She ierks hir leggs, and sprauleth with hir heeles,
No tongue maie tell the solace that she feeles.
I faint, I yeald; Oh death rock me a-sleepe ;
Sleepe – sleepe desire, entombed in the deepe.
Not so, my deare ; my dearest Saint replyde ;
For, from us yett thy spirit maie not glide
Vntill the sinnowie channels of our blood
Withould their source from this imprisoned flood ;
And then will we (that then will com to soone)
Dissolued lye as-though our dayes were donne.
The whilst I speake, my soule is fleeting hence,
And life forsakes his fleshie residence.
Staie, staie sweete ioye, and leaue me not forlorne,
Why shouldst thou fade, that art but newlie borne?
Staie but an houre ; an houre is not so much,
But half an houre ; if that thy haste be such :
Naie but a quarter ; I will aske no more,
That thy departure (which torments me sore)
Maie be alightned with a little pause,
And take awaie this passions sudden cause.
He heare’s me not, hard-hearted as he is :
He is the sonne of Time, and hate’s my blisse.
Time ner’e looke’s back, the riuers ner’e returne ;
A second spring must help me or I burne.
No, no, the well is drye that should refresh me,
The glass is runne of all my destinie.
Nature of winter learneth nigardize,
Who, as he ouer-beare’s the streame with ice,
That man nor beaste maie of their pleasance taste,
So shutts she up hir conduit all in haste,
And will not let hir Nectar ouer-flowe,
Least mortall men immortall ioyes should knowe.
Adiew unconstant loue, to thy disporte,
Adiew false mirth, and melodie too-short.
Adiew faint-hearted instrument of lust,
That falselie hast betrayde our equale trust.
Hence-forth no more will I implore thine ayde,
Or thee, or men of cowardize upbrayde.
My little dildo shall supply their kinde :
A knaue, that moues as light as leaues by winde ;
That bendeth not, nor fouldeth anie deale,
But stands as stiff, as he were made of steele,
And playes at peacock twixt my leggs right blythe,
And doeth my tickling swage with manie a sighe ;
For, by Saint Runnion he’le refresh me well,
And neuer make my tender bellie swell.
Poor Priapus, whose triumph now must falle,
Except thow thrust this weakeling to the walle.
Behould how he usurps in bed and bowre,
And undermine’s thy kingdom euerie howre.
How slye he creepe’s betwixt the barke and tree,
And sucks the sap, whilst sleepe detaineth thee.
He is my Mistris page at euerie stound,
And soone will tent a deepe intrenched wound.
He wayte’s on Courtlie Nimphs, that be so coye,
And bids them skorne the blynd-alluring boye.
He giue’s yong guirls their gamesom sustenance,
And euerie gaping mouth his full sufficeance.
He fortifies disdaine with forraine artes,
And wanton-chaste deludes all louing hearts.
If anie wight a cruell mistris serue’s,
Or in dispaire (unhappie) pines and steru’s
Curse Eunuke dilldo, senceless, counterfet,
Who sooth maie fill, but neuer can begett:
But if reuenge enraged with dispaire,
That such a dwarfe his wellfare should empaire,
Would faine this womans secretarie knowe,
Lett him attend the marks’ that I shall showe.
He is a youth almost tuo handfulls highe,
Streight, round, and plumb, yett hauing but one eye,
Wherin the rhewme so feruentlie doeth raigne,
That Stigian gulph maie scarce his teares containe ;
Attired in white veluet or in silk,
And nourisht with whott water or with milk ;
Arm’d otherwhile in thick congealed glasse,
When he more glib to hell be lowe would passe,
Vpon a charriot of fiue wheeles he rydes,
The which an arme strong driuer stedfast guide’s,
And often alters pace, as wayes grow deepe ;
(For who in pathe’s unknowen, one gate can keepe?)
Sometimes he smoothlie slideth doune the hill ;
Another while the stones his feete doe kill :
In clammie waies he treaddeth by and by,
And plasheth and sprayeth all that be him nye.
So fares this iollie rider in his race,
Plunging, and soursing forward in lyke case,
Bedasht, bespurted, and beplodded foule,
God giue thee shame, thow blinde mischapen owle.
Fy – fy for grief ; a ladies chamberlaine,
And canst not thow thy tatling tongue refraine?
I reade thee beardles blab, beware of stripes,
And be aduised what thow vainelie pipes.
Thow wilt be whipt with nettles for this geare
If Cicelie shewe but of thy knauerie heere.
Saint Denis shield me from such female sprites.
Regarde not Dames, what Cupid’s Poete writes.
I pennd this storie onelie for my self,
Who giuing suck unto a childish Elfe,
And quite discourag’d in my nurserie,
Since all my store seemes to hir, penurie.
I am not as was Hercules the stout,
That to the seauenth iournie could hould out.
I want those hearbe’s and rootes of Indian soile,
That strengthen wearie members in their toile ;
Druggs and Electuaries of new deuise
Doe shunne my purse ; that trembles at the price.
Sufficeth, all I haue, I yeald hir hole,
Which for a poore man is a princelie dole.
I paie our hostess scott and lott at moste,
And looke as leane and lank as anie ghoste.
What can be added more to my renowne?
She lyeth breathlesse, I am taken doune,
The waues doe swell, the tydes climbe or’e the banks,
Iudge gentlemen if I deserue not thanks,
And so good night unto yow eue’rie one,
For loe, our threed is spunne, our plaie is donne.

Claudito iam riuos Priape, sat prata biberunt.

Thus hath my penne presum’d to please my friend ;
Oh mightst thow lykewise please Apollo’s eye.
No: Honor brooke’s no such impietie ;
Yett Ouids wanton Muse did not offend.
He is the fountain whence my streames doe flowe.
Forgiue me if I speake as I was taught,
A lyke to women, utter all I knowe,
As longing to unlade so bad a fraught.
My mynde once purg’d of such lasciuious witt,
With purifide word’s, and hallowed verse
Thy praises in large volumes shall rehearce,
That better maie thy grauer view befitt.
Meanewhile yett rests, yow smile at what I write,
Or for attempting, banish me your sight.

The editors notes state To the right Honorable the lord S.

The many faces of Shakespeare

Shakespeare's First Folio

Shakespeare’s First Folio, published 1623.

The First Folio was published  in 1623, featuring the first picture in print of Shakespeare. Taken from a copper engraving by Flemish engraver Martin Droeshout, it is believed to be an accurate depiction of Shakespeare. Both editors of the First Folio, John Heminges and Henry Condell, were colleagues of Shakespeare and knew him personally. This makes the likeness even more probable.

Grafton Portrait 1588

Grafton Portrait 1588

The Grafton Portrait is inscribed with the date 1588, which would make Shakespeare a 24-year-old man. It is said by experts to depict Shakespeare accurately in his younger years.

The portrait was named in the early 20th century, from being bequeathed to the owner’s ancestor by one of the Dukes of Grafton. The artist is not known.

Sanders Portrait 1603

Sanders Portrait 1603

The Sanders Portrait, said to be the work of the little-known artist John Sanders in 1603, is one of the most disputed portraits of Shakespeare. There is only circumstantial evidence that ties the portrait to Shakespeare, and a large section where the sitter’s right shoulder should’ve been is missing.

Chandos Portrait 1610

Chandos Portrait 1610

The Chandos Portrait, possibly by Richard Burbage or John Taylor, dates back to 1610 and is believed to be an accurate rendition of Shakespeare at an age of 46.

Janssen Portrait 1610

Janssen Portrait 1610

The Janssen Portrait, believed to be from 1610 by artist Cornelis Janssen (1581-1613), was originally believed to be an accurate rendition of Shakespeare at the time. A more recent investigation found the portrait to have been altered to make the subject look balder. These alterations were professionally removed in 1988.

The work is now believed to be of the Jacobean courtier Thomas Overbury, and it is now debated whether Cornelis Janssen was the true artist.

Flower Portrait 1623

Flower Portrait 1623

The Flower Portrait is one of the most widely recognised paintings of Shakespeare, originally believed to date c1820 to 1840. It is a rendition of the famous engraving which appeared in the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623. The portrait was bought by Edgar Flower in 1892 and donated to the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1895.

The portrait was later determined to be a fake based on chrome yellow pigment which was not available during the period it was believed to be painted. This evidence dates the portrait to be late 19th century.

Soest Portrait 1660s

Soest Portrait 1660s

The Soest Portrait, by Dutch-born artist Gerard (Gilbert) Soest, is believed to be one of the earliest examples of a memorial portrait and was likely produced in the late 1660s.

There are likenesses in the features to the Chandos Portrait, although given the date it is apparent Shakespeare is depicted as a younger man. In later years Shakespeare is said to wear a bohemian earring, but there is no reliable evidence of this.