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IMITATION AND IMAGERY IN SHAKESPEARE:
FACTORS OF ORIGINALITY IN ROMEO AND
JULIET, AS YOU LIKE IT, AND
DON W. DER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
I wish to thank the chairman of my special supervisory
committee, Dr. T. Walter Herbert, for his guidance in planning my
dissertation and for his many helpful suggestions during the revi-
sion of the first draft, and the other members of the committee,
Drs. Aubrey L. Williams and Thomas L. Hanna, for their willingness
to give me their time in spite of delays and scheduling problems.
In addition I owe a great debt to the various academic units of
the University itself, without whose support I could not have
completed the degree; in particular, I am indebted to the Depart-
ments of Comprehensive English and Comprehensive Logic and the
University of Florida Libraries. Finally, I thank my wife for her
help in preparing the final version.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I 12
CHAPTER II 80
CHAPTER III 118
CHAPTER IV 162
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 216
Professor H. O. White says that "Shakspere's practise of
imitative composition is too well known to require comment. It is
a commonplace to say that the originality of his genius never appears
more clearly than when one of his works is compared with the sources
which he found useful in writing it."' Those who agree with
Professor White may possibly need to read no further, since one aim
of this study is to review evidence which shows that during
Shakespeare's lifetime, imitation, as a method of composition, was
a common, almost inevitable, literary practice and to argue that
imitation necessarily entailed certain commonly understood, if un-
promulgated, rules concerning the originality of an imitation.
Growing out of this first objective is a second, to demon-
strate that in his use of figurative and allusive language Shakespeare
achieved one kind of originality when transforming the work of another
author into a play. The comparison and interpretation involved also
reveal that Shakespeare, even though closely following his original's
story line, also achieved originality of theme and meaning.
If, as Professor White claims, these things were already
well known, then this study would be useless. However, I believe
that my approach will be of some interest even to those who are
somewhat familiar with the subject. Those who are as ignorant of
imitative composition as I when I started the study, and I suspect
they are in the majority, may find it informative and, I hope,
This study began when I read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
and its source, Brooke's Romeus and Juliet, in preparation for
another project. Source and play were remarkably alike in most
respects; yet each was undeniably different. The most obvious
explanation for this difference is that Shakespeare was the better
artist. Another more meaningful, but as unsatisfactory, explanation
is that Brooke and Shakespeare were writing in different genres.
Before I concluded that Shakespeare was imitating Brooke,
several questions nagged at me. Why did Shakespeare choose to
adapt Brooke's poem to the stage? That the playwright, an acknowl-
edged genius, should dramatize a poem which is certainly no master-
piece puzzled me. Again, there were the stock answers to this
question: Shakespeare's genius was such that he could not conceive
of an original plot; or, he was in such a hurry to produce plays
that he simply had no time to manufacture new stories. While the
latter explanation is better than the former, neither is as satis-
factory as the possibility that Shakespeare was capitalizing on the
popularity of his source, which would explain, to the modern reader
at least, his retention with but little change of the names of the
characters of the poem. None of these answers is finally conclusive,
Another question which concerned me was why the two works
were different. Given essentially the same cast of characters and
the same sequence of events, why was Shakespeare's play so completely
different from Brooke's poem? And, since the two were so obviously
unlike, why did Shakespeare choose Brooke as his source rather than
some work which might have been closer to his concerns at that time?
These questions will never be finally resolved, but I believe
my study offers a partial answer, not only for Romeo and Juliet and
its source, but also for As You Like It and Twelfth Night and their
sources. Furthermore, it is an answer peculiarly modern and local,
since there was a time in the not too distant past when the first
part of this study would have been superfluous. Only in relatively
recent times has the word "imitation" taken on pejorative connotations,
and the word's decline coincided with the decline of the so-called
classical education. In 1947, my wife, as a college freshman, used
a handbook of rhetoric written by a man educated in the South early
in this century and, therefore, in the more or less classical tradi-
tion. It included a section of sentence patterns which the student
was urged to "imitate." In the last few years I have examined a
number of books designed to teach freshmen to write. While most
provide "models" of various sorts for the student, none forthrightly
encourages him to imitate. Similarly, motion pictures sometimes so
faithfully reproduce a novel that they could be called imitations,
but are referred to as adaptations. The French, on the other hand,
seem to have a better understanding of imitation, whatever they call
the practice. Witness Anouilh's Antigone. Admittedly, circumstances
forced him to resort to subterfuge, but he and the educated among
his audience must have been aware that the play was, in the classical
sense, an imitation. Modern insistence in Britain and America that
originality in literature precludes any utilization of another's
work, particularly plot, has caused us to forget that imitation was
a time-honored method of composition. Thus, White, writing more than
thirty years ago, could assume widespread knowledge of the practice,
an assumption no longer correct.
White's book was the first thoroughly to explore imitative
composition and, as far as I can determine, the last. The failure
of scholars to exploit the subject is puzzling, particularly since
English literature from the Renaissance through the neo-classical
period affords any number of examples. The most obvious occur in
the eighteenth century and are often acknowledged by their authors
to be imitations. There are, for example, Samuel Johnson's The
Vanity of Human Wishes in Imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal
and Alexander Pope's Imitations of Horace. .Pope's imitation of
Donne's satires proves not only the classical authors were imitated.
Much earlier, Spenser acknowledged his "imitation" in The Shepheardes
Calender, and many of the sonnets of Wyatt and Surrey are imitations
of Petrarch. Despite the ample opportunities for scholarship in
this area, it has been largely neglected.
Unlike Pope and Johnson, Shakespeare failed to indicate
clearly when or whom he was imitating, and his unfortunate oversight
necessitates the first chapter of this study. That chapter accom-
plishes several aims. It distinguishes imitation from Aristotelian
mimesis, it identifies imitation as one of several practices subsumed
under the general heading of rhetoric, and it comments particularly
upon the common practice of basing a work of literature on some pre-
To establish Shakespeare's awareness of imitation as a method
of composition, the grammar school curriculum is surveyed. This
survey indicates that no one who had been exposed to such an educa-
tion could possibly have been ignorant of ic.itative composition,
since it and a closely allied practice, translation, were prominent
features of the curriculum from the time the student, no matter how
young, entered the school until his final departure. Most authori-
ties agree that Shakespeare was in grammar school for five or six
years, and he, therefore, would have been influenced by his training
Even if he had no formal schooling, he could hardly have
participated in the literary life of his time without an indoctrina-
tion in the practice. A review of the remarks of prominent writers
from Sidney to Daniel proves the widespread knowledge of, and interest
in, the subject. No one interested in literature could have avoided
amassing a workable knowledge of imitative composition.
Because Renaissance attitudes toward imitation stem from
classical theory, the comments of several Greek and Roman writers
are surveyed. These reveal their concern with the problems of
originality. The imitator was required to be original in his imita-
tion, and originality was possible through selection, reinterpreta-
tion, or improvement. It is clear that the English writers of the
Renaissance understood and followed this prescription of the ancients.
These facts have led me to conclude that Shakespeare, when
writing a play which closely followed a source, was engaged in the
practice of imitative composition and was therefore aware of, and
concerned with, the necessity for originality. To test this theory
I have examined three of Shakespeare's plays and their sources with
respect to one area wherein originality might be expected, imagery,
in the widest possible sense of that word. To simplify my task
further, I have chosen plays which in the consensus of critical
opinion are based on a single contemporary English source.
Neither of the two most comprehensive books on Shakespeare's
imagery is concerned with the kind of comparisons I make.
Professor Clemen's The Development of Shakespeare's Imagery3 is con-
cerned with the evolution of the imagery, and Professor Spurgeon's
Shakespeare's Imagery and 'What It Tells Us attempts to reach some
conclusions about the playwright's "personality, temperament and
thought" and "the themes and characters of the plays." 4 y method
of classifying the images more closely resembles that of
Caroline Spurgeon than of Clemen.
Professor Francis R. Johnson's "Shakespearian Imagery and
Senecan Imitation" demonstrates how Shakespeare and other Renaissance
authors utilized passages from Seneca; it is gratifying that his con-
clusions about the practice of imitation in the grammar schools and
its effect upon the students agree with mine.
Since Romeo and Juliet first stimulated my thinking about
the subject, I begin with it. Although there are a nur-ber of areas
from which the language of Brooke's poem is drawn, the most clearly
dominant one is that of fortune. This image suggests that at least
one concern of the poem is to present to its readers a world in which
man's fate is in the hands of chance.
Shakespeare, on the other hand, closely imitates Brooke's
plot but not his imagery, for my study of the language of the play
reveals a much more complex structure of figurative and allusive
language. The play is marked by a richness of imagery dominated by
darkness and light, wealth, and religion. This complexity of imagery,
further complicated by many inversions, portrays, in contrast to that
of Brooke's poem, a complex world capable of the many explanations
offered by the play's characters--explanations none of which are
Next to be examined is As You Like It and its source,
Thomas Lodge's euphuistic romance, Rosalynde. The romance is marked
by a diversity of figurative and allusive language determined not so
much by considerations of plot or theme as by the prescriptions of
the genre to which Rosalynde belongs. Among other imperatives,
euphuism demanded that its author draw upon unnatural natural history
for figures of speech, and, as a result, the romance portrays an often
exotic, but realistically detailed, world. Rosalynde represents a
successful attempt to capture a style, which comprised almost the
whole of the art. Consequently, it could not be expected to have
a dominant imagery, as a work concerned with theme or mood might
In imitating Lodge, Shakespeare, therefore, had to exercise
considerable originality, for his play was something more than an
exercise in style. The action of As You Like It takes place in a
never-never land, wherein ultimately all wrongs are righted and all
lovers find their true mates, a world only coincidentally similar
to that in which we live. The imagery of the play, while typically
varied, helps to achieve this vision. For example, as if in delib-
erate contrast to the exotic but real world of the romance, the
nature imagery of the play suggests a world ordinary in appearance,
yet ideal. Imagery drawn from one area, wealth, clearly dominates
and is instrumental in establishing the play's concern for value.
The last two works compared are Rich's Apolonius and Silla
and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Although the imagery of the tale
is drawn from a number of areas, two bodies of figurative and allu-
sive language can be seen to dominate; these are sickness and wealth.
This imagery suggests the tale's major concern: the worthlessness
of love in the absence of honor.
Shakespeare for the first time appears to have been strongly
influenced by his source's imagery. Although the play exhibits the
playwright's usual fecundity, he adopts these same dominant images,
but not without the significant variation which assures originality.
The wealth imagery in the play emphasizes the necessity of an equi-
table exchange of love, and,. most important, the sickness imagery
indicates that the malady with which Shakespeare is concerned in
the play is love melancholy, an affliction none can escape.
Other than the relationships which I have noted between
each of the pairs of sources and plays, I could see no uniformity
of treatment nor progression of technique. The immediate concerns
of each of the plays seem to have dictated that play's imagery.
Perhaps a similar study of the other plays which depend
largely upon a single source would produce some generalized knowl-
edge. The present study would be more useful if it included
Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure, King ear, and The Winter's
Tale, each of which is based largely upon a single English source.
All's Well That Ends Well very possibly deserves to be included since
it may also have a native source. In the writing of these and the
three plays examined here, Shakespeare was involved in the imitation
of his fellow countrymen.
Others of the comedies and tragedies present problems. For
some the source is not known, and for others it is not native. A
study of this latter group, however, might prove rewarding, for it
would be interesting to know if Shakespeare approached a foreign
source differently from an English one. Such a study might also
allow some inferences about the quantity and quality of the play-
wright's knowledge of Latin and Italian. One group of plays,
Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra, offers unique
problems; for their sources are not fictive. Should one satisfac-
torily analyze these plays, he would be in an ideal position to treat
the histories and their sources.
Quite probably the greatest value of my study is to remind
the modern reader of imitative composition and call his attention
to certain of its implications. It is,.ultimately, a kind of source
study in which I have tried, by concentrating on source and play in
turn, to avoid the fragmentation which Wellek and Warren claim
results from the attempt to isolate single traits. They point out:
The relationship between two or more works of literature can
be discussed profitably only when we see them in their proper
place within the scheme of literary development. Relation-
ships between works of art present a critical problem of
comparing two wholes, two configurations not to be broken
into isolated components except for preliminary study.6
This latter kind of analysis of Shakespeare's plays and their sources,
so essential to the establishment of the relationships between the
two, is no longer necessary, unless, of course, new possibilities
But, when the play is considered to be an imitation of the
source, and I believe it is, a different kind of comparison can be
made. As the authors.of Theory of Literature say:
When the comparison is really focused on two totalities,
we shall be able to come to conclusions on a fundamental
problem of literary history, that of originality. Original-
ity is usually risconceived in our time as meaning a mere
violation of tradition, or it is sought for at the wrong
place, in the mere material of the work of art, or in its
Smere scaffolding--the traditional plot, the conventional
framework. In earlier periods, there was a rounder under-
standing of the nature of literary creation, a recognition
that the artistic value of a merely original plot or subject
matter was small. The Renaissance and Neo-Classicism rightly
ascribed great importance to translating, especially the
translating of poetry, and to "imitation" in the sense in
which Pope imitated Horace's satires or Dr. Johnson, Juvenal's.
They could have easily cited Shakespeare's use of his sources to
illustrate the kind of imitation they meant.
In any case, this study is concerned with just that sort of
imitation and the comparison that reveals originality.
1. Harold Ogden White, Plagiarism and Imitation During the English
Renaissance (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935), p. 106.
Professor White's book has been indispensable to my study, as
will be further evident in the next chapter.
2. Shakespeare did vary the names of characters in the other two
plays studied, retaining some from the source and changing
others in the case of As You Like It, and retaining none in
Twelfth Night. These variations in names might be worth further
3. Wolfgang H. Clemen, The Development of Shakespeare's Imagery
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951).
4. Caroline F.E. Spurgeon, Shakespeare's Imagery and What It Tells
Us (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935), p. ix.
5. Francis R. Johnson, "Shakespearian Imagery and Senecan Imitation,"
John Quincy Adams Memorial Studies, ed. J. G. McManaway et al.
(Washington: The Folger Shakespeare Library, 1948).
6. Rene Wellek and Austin Warren, Theory of Literature (New York:
Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1956), pp. 247-249.
7. Ibid., p. 249.
This chapter has a number of interrelated goals. The term
"imitation" will first be defined, and it will be established that
a general awareness of imitation as a method of composition existed
throughout the English Renaissance, during which time the method was
taught in schools and assumed in literary discussions involving the
subject of composition. Then will be argued the proposition that
the English attitude toward imitation during this period reflected
the classical attitude, particularly insofar as originality of the
imitation is concerned.. Finally, a method of analyzing certain of
Shakespeare's plays and their sources, a method dependent upon the
Discussion of imitation presented in this chapter, will be introduced.
That method is simply to examine, by comparing'the imagery of a par-
ticular play by Shakespeare with the imagery of that play's source,
the modification Shakespeare made in that aspect of composition
called imagery. The results of such an examination will show that,
in the case of each of the pairs of play and source, the source has
an imagery, in some instances disorganized, and Shakespeare's play
has another, in every instance organized. The relationship between
each pair examined is clear, for Shakespeare retained enough of the
prior work to warrant the claim that, in the modern simple sense, he
imitated. This chapter will demonstrate that even when he was most
original, specifically when constructing a system of metaphor that
gives the completely distinctive flavor to a play, Shakespeare was
also, in the sixteenth-century sense, practicing imitation.
The word "imitation" was used somewhat ambiguously during
the English Renaissance, and nowhere is this ambiguity more apparent
than in Sir Philip Sidney's "An Apologie for Poetrie." Imitation can
mean the attempt to follow nature: "Poesie . is an arte of
imitation, for so Aristotle termeth it in his word Mimesis." But
it can also mean to follow in the footsteps of others. Hence, while
Sidney on the one hand can laud the "right Poets" as "they which
most properly do imitate to teach and delight, and to imitate borrow
nothing of what is, hath been, or shall be," he can also sanction
the practice of imitating others:
A Poet no industries can make, if his owne Genius bee not
carried unto it: and therefore is it an old Proverbe,
Orator fit, Poeta nascitur. Yet confesse I always that
as the firtilest ground must bee manured, so must the
highest flying wit have a Dedalus to guide him.3
The contradictions in these two passages are glaring. The paradox
of the first, as Harold Ogden White notes, can only be resolved if
it is remembered that "Elizabethan literary theorists . contin-
ually employ the word 'imitation,' without distinction, for following
nature mimesiss) and for following other writers." The same explana-
tion resolves the contradiction of the second passage, a contradiction
which Sidney himself seems to realize existed between the idea that
a poet was born, not made, and the idea that a poet needed a guide.
Despite the ambiguous usage of the word, examination of the
contexts in which it appears generally permits a clear distinction
between the two meanings. This study will be concerned with imita-
tion as a principle of composition involving the following of other
writers and not with the Aristotelian sense. Further distinctions
can be made in the meaning of the word as it applies to composition.
As C. S. Baldwin points out, imitation can be of form, of style,
or of composition.5 Imitation of form involves following another's
lead in the writing of orations, letters, dialogues, lyrics, pastorals,
or any other classifiable mode of prose or poetry. Imitation of
style involves the attempt to emulate one's model by closely follow-
ing his characteristic rhythm or copying his effects; Ciceronianism
in the study of Latin is the foremost example of this kind of imita-
tion. Imitation of composition, Baldwin explains:
Finally, imitation need not be of style; it may be of
composition; and for writing addressed to an actual public
this is at once more available and more promising. For
real writing, that is for a message intended to move the
public, imitation generally risks less, and gains more, in
guiding the plan, the whole scheme, the sequence.6
He further explains, by example, that he means a very general kind
of emulation when he speaks of imitation of composition:
But there is no Ciceronianism in Castiglione's adopting the
form of Cicero's De oratore for his Cortegiano. Though he
naturally shows awareness of Cicero's expert periods, he is
bent not on conformity of style, but on focusing the typical
man of his own time in the literary frame used by Cicero for
the typical Augustan Roman. Renaissance imitation of Vergil's
style was often futile; but Tasso's Jerusalem was animated
and guided by Vergil's epic sequence. Robert Garnier, imi-
tating the style of Euripides, missed the dramatic composi-
tion; but Corneille caught the whole scheme of a Greek
tragedy. Such larger imitation imposes no restraint on
originality. Its recognition of ancient achievement is in
practical adaptation to one's own conception and object and
In his concern for demonstrating the classical backgrounds of English
literary theory and practice, Baldwin chooses to ignore another kind
of imitation of composition, one much narrower than the grand con-
ceptions of Castiglione, Tasso, and Corneille, but one which was a
typically English approach to the idea of imitation of composition,
the utilization of contemporary models to adapt to one's own original
conception and object. It is this latter kind of imitation of com-
position and the attempts of the imitator at originality, particu-
larly those attempts resulting in originality of imagery, that are
the major concerns of this study.
There can be little doubt that most writers of the English
Renaissance, whether or not they were among those who did attempt
to discuss imitation as a principle of composition, were aware that
they had imitated some other writers. Certainly, if they had dis-
cussed the problems of literature as an art with one another, the
subject would have frequently been brought up. But, even if they
had not, the educational practices of the time would have operated
to prepare them to imitate some other author by having made them
imitate a number of classical writers from the very beginnings of
their formal schooling.
As everyone who has thought about education knows, one learns
more than subject matter in school. Probably as important as the
acquisition of facts is the development of methods of thinking and
methods of organizing thoughts. For example, all students of
Elizabethan drama are familiar with the theory of memorial reconstruc-
tion as one explanation of why some of the quarto editions of
Shakespeare's plays differ from the text of the First Folio. Despite
the faultiness of memory which probably explains variations between
quarto and folio, many modern students nevertheless are somewhat
impressed by the ability of those who remembered long enough to
commit to paper, very nearly word for word, approximately two
hours of stage traffic. Yet, when one understands that the average
grammar school student in sixteenth-century England was subjected
to a curriculum which necessitated that he, as a matter of survival,
develop his memory so that he could file away and recall on command
rather amazing masses of information, it is easy to see how the
individual with an exceptional memory further developed by this
training could perform feats which seem almost incredible today.
John Brinsley, writer on grammar school education and a contemporary
of Shakespeare, recommended the practice of memorization for rather
young boys: students were to bring short themes they had composed
and "the next day at the time appointed for shewing their Theames
each one to pronounce his Theame without booke."8 Donald Lemen Clark,
in reviewing the evidence concerning Milton's education, points out
that "memorizing both textbooks and authors was the prevailing method
of teaching in the grammar schools."9 And Ascham in The Scholemaster
paints a vivid picture of the practice of memorization while criti-
I remember, whan I was yong, in the North, they went to the
Grammer schole, little children: they came from thence great
lubbers: always learning, and little profiting: learning
without booke, every thing, understanding within the book,
little or nothing: Their whole knowledge, by learning without
the booke, was tied only to their tong and lips, and never
ascended up to the braine and head, and therefore was sone
spitte out of the mouth againe.-0
Despite the protest of Elizabeth's tutor, the practice of making
students memorize their lessons persisted in the grammar schools and
was, indubitably, a contributing factor in producing the men who were
to reconstruct the plays in the print shops.
If the practice of memorization was influential in producing
a mind that could readily and easily grasp and recall without effort
and with exactness whatever was placed before it, then the practice
of imitation in the schools was just as influential in producing a
mind that could readily and easily imitate any model set before it.
The English school system was admirably suited for providing the kind
of training which would insure that the human mind was receptive
to the ideas about, and techniques of, imitation suggested by the
classical and Renaissance writers, critics, and scholars. One of
the most frequently heard modern criticisms of the public schools
in America today is that they are too permissive. This was hardly
the case in Renaissance England, for there the boy was committed to
an educational regimen which, even though it can be described, is
almost beyond modern comprehension. And, while it might not have
endeared education to its victims, although there is evidence that
some nevertheless became enamored of education, there can be little
doubt of its efficaciousness in producing minds well prepared by
several years of strict and unvarying discipline to analyze litera-
ture in a certain way, particularly since the English grammar school
education was a literary one.1l
In the first form, for example, the child approximately
seven or eight years of age began the process which would continue
throughout his career in the grammar school. T. W. Baldwin speaks
of the authors studied by the young at St. Paul's School:
Their first authors are very "moral," being Sententiae
Pueriles, Cato, and Aesop. These were reinforced by their
exercises, which consisted principally in turning the
Proverbs and Psalms into Latin.12-
The translation that even the youngest students had to make
was probably modeled after Roger Aschar.'s system of double trans-
lation. After the child has learned the parts of speech, Ascham
says, the teacher should read to him Cicero's Epistles, explicating
the text as he does and translating what he has read into English.
This done thus, let the child . both construe and parse
it over again: so, that it may appeared, that the child
douteth in nothing, that his master taught him before. After
this, the child must take a paper booke, and sitting in some
place, where no man shall prompe him, by him self, let him
translate into Englishe his former lesson. Then shewing it
to his master, let the master take from him his latin booke,
and pausing an houre, at the least, then let the child
translate his owne Englishe into latin again, in an other
This method of teaching a child mastery of Latin was recommended
by Ascham in his Scholemaster, posthumously published in 1570, but
it was obviously the much earlier practice of Ascham, and possibly
the practice of other teachers as well, since there were considerably
earlier references to double translation.4
John Brinsley, writing in A Consolation for Our Grammar
Schools fifty-two years later, confirms.that the method of double
translation had been and should be employed in the schools:
That I do in this work so much account of Grammaticall
translations, . I hope that this wil be found true by
experience, that after children have bene well trained up
in their Accidence, and a little entered and acquainted with
them, following the courses directed for them, they will
go over their whole Authors so translated, by the help of
them, before they could have gone through one third part
of them without. And also that they will learned their
authors far more perfectly for each good use, and keepe
them much more surely, with lesse labour or trouble;
besides that they shall continually learned by them to make
Latine truly and purely, and to get matter and phrase, aswell
as to construe and parse.15
These are the practical reasons for translating; one not only learns
grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, one learns content and style, and,
as a consequence, is introduced to the imagery suggested by the
works studied. Brinsley freely admits he is indebted to Ascham for
the method of double translation.16
Like most Englishmen of the period, Brinsley had a veneration
for Queen Elizabeth, and this fond respect shows up in the illustra-
tion he uses to demonstrate the efficacy of translation as a method
By this means he saw that experience which might seemed
almost incredible, in that hopeful young Gentleman (whose
death he so much bewaileth) Maister John Whitney, in
Sir Anthony Dennies house, where the Ladie Elizabeth did
lye, when he came to serve her; that within lesse then the
space of a year, he had so profited in writing pure Latine,
that (as he saith) some in seven years in the Grammar
Schools, yea some in the Universities, could not do half
so well. So afterwards he saw the like in his happiest
Schollar that ever England had bred, our late Queene, who
made us all happie; who, as hee saith, did so farre surpasse
all of her years in excellence of Learning, and knowledge
of divers Tongues, that verie fewe of the rarest wits in the
Universities could any way reach unto her. And this seemeth
evidently to have bene the chief means; like as he prooveth
at large, by the authorities of many great learned, this way
of translating, to be either the only, or at least the chief,
readie, and sure means to attaine speedily to any tongue.17
If translation was good enough for Her Royal Majesty, it should be
good enough for anyone, argues Brinsley.
However, even that testi:.onial could be reinforced by another.
Brinsley remembers having spoken to Master Tovey, 'who had bene a
SchooLmaister, equally . to most of the chief in that kind,"18
inquiring about the means by which the latter had succeeded so
admirably with a young noble. Tovey answered;
That he had bene enforced to begin again, even from the
verie Accidence, causing him to get the perfect understand-
ing of the Rules, for the meaning and use, though he could
not the words in so short a time; and after that, he had
caused him to practise continual translating into Latine,
after this manner. That he himself had chosen easie
places of Tully, and other familiar Authors, which the
Gentleman knew not, and caused him to turne them into
Latino, and after brought him to the Author, to compare
that which he had written, to the same, just according to
this last manner mentioned out of Maister Askam.19
Tovey, however, is reluctant to take full credit for his pupil's
success, for Brinsley reports that after he had explained his method,
Tovey "rounding me in the eare . said; But shall I tell you, It
was by Prayer."20 Without further commentary on the assistance of
the Divine in pedagogical matters, Brinsley affirms that translation
was his constant practice for more than thirty years of teaching.
The usual result of learning any effective method is the
transference of that method from its primary application to other
areas. Such, surely, was the case for the method of double trans-
lation, as T. W. Baldwin suggests; to the method of construing prac-
ticed by Brinsley can be ascribed "a powerful shaping effect . .
upon the pupil's idea of sentence structure." That is, the indi-
vidual was influenced to imitate the form of the sentences he was
translating. By the same token, Brinsley's method inevitably in-
fluenced the pupil to imitate their content and, consequently, their
Since the students in the first four forms were by their age
limited in their abilities, their translations were limited to single
sentences. First former were further handicapped. Although students
in the first form were supposed to know how to read and write English
before they entered the grammar school, where their main purpose
was to learn Latin, they did not begin writing extensively until the
second form. Hence, the first form boys were pretty much limited
to oral recitation of their lessons. Nevertheless, the performances
of the first form children were sufficient to introduce them to the
somewhat related practicesof translation and imitation.
Even though he is writing from a point many years after
Shakespeare's death, Hoole describes what must have been the time-
tested procedure in the first form:
As they learn this book [Sententiae Pueriles], let them
but take three or four lines at once, which they should,
1. .Construe out of Latine into English, and then out of
English into Latine.
2. Decline the Nounes and form the Verbs in it throughout,
and give the rules for the concordance and construction of the
3. Bring their lessons fair writ out both in English and
Latine in a little paper book, which will exceedingly further
them in spelling and writing truly.
4. To fix their Lessons the better in their memories,
you may ask them such plain questions, as they can easily
answer by the words of a Sentence.
5. Let them also imitate a Sentence sometimes by changing
some of the words, and sometimes by altering their Accidents.
6. Give them sometimes the English of a Sentence to make
into Latine of themselves, and then let them compare it with
the Latine in the book, and see wherein they come short of
it, or in what Rule they faile.22
Earlier in his chapter on the first form, Hoole has outlined
what he means by letting the students imitate a sentence:
Let them have so many other examples besides those that
are in their book, as may clearly illustrate and evidence
the meaning of the Rule, and let them make it wholly their
own by practising upon it, either in imitating their present
examples or propounding others as plain. Thus that example
to the Rule of the first Concord may be first imitated;
Praeceptor legit, vos vero negligitis. The Master readeth,
and ye regard not. The Pastors preach, and the people regard
not. I speak, and ye hear not. We have read, and thou
mindest not. And the like may be propounded as, Whilst the
Cat sleepeth, the M.ice dance. When the Master is away the
boyes will play. Thou neglectest when I write.23
Note that the examples of possible variations suggested by Hoole in
this passage go beyond the mere imitation of sentence form; Hoole
also assumes the student will be able to select appropriate analog-
ical images imitative of those in the original sentence. There is
not a very clear distinction between what Hoole calls imitation and
the "propounding" of other sentences. It is certain, however, that
imitation includes variations and is not restricted to slavish copy-
ing of the original. As early as the first year in grammar school,
then, the process of indoctrinating students in the methods of imi-
tation was begun.
With a few changes, the second form continued the general
pattern introduced in the first. The students were given more
opportunity to write; for example, on Monday and Wednesday afternoons
they were to be given lessons from that part of the authorized grammar
beginning, "Qui mihi, which containeth pretty Precepts of good man-
ners."24 A part of the lesson consisted of an exercise in "true
writing": "It were good if they had a little paper-book, wherein
to write first the Latine, and then the English Distichs at full
length."25 Not only were the students of the grammar school expected
to practice translation and imitation in school, they were often
given homework. Hoole gives an example of one such exercise:
And that they may now do something of themselves by way
of night exercises, let them every evening translate a verse
at home out of the 119. Psalm, which I conceive is the most
easier for the purpose of making the three Concords, and some
of the more necessary Rules of construction familiar to them.
In making their Translations,
1 Let them be sure to write the English very fair and
true, observing its just phrases, and let them also make the
like notes of distinction in their Latine.
2 When they come to shew their Latines
1st Let one read and construe a verse.
2nd Let another tell you what part of speech every
word is, as well English as Latine, and what the English
Signes do note.
3rd Let the rest in order give you the right Analysis
of every word one by one, and the Rules of Noms and
Verbes, and of Concordance, and Construction.
These children in the second forr., it will be remembered, were usually
no older than nine. For this reason Hoole very charitably allowed
them to use a glossary of correct words instead of a dictionary,
from which they were liable to select the wrong word: "a Dictionary
. . is a great maime and hinderance to them in making Latine (and
caused Mr. Ascham to affirm, that making of Latines marreth children)."27
Despite such strictures as are outlined, the method of double trans-
lation provided ample opportunities to reinforce what was learned
about imitation in the first form.
In the third form the homework continued to be very much
the same, except that the student was to translate two verses of
Proverbs every night from English into Latin, and two from Latin
into English.28 There were other significant changes in the course
of study, however. Baldwin shows that Shakespeare knew Aesop's
Fables quite well, citing some twenty allusions to the fables as
evidence.29 Although there is ample evidence that Shakespeare
probably read Aesop in the second form, Hoole would have his stu-
dents read the fables in the third form. Whatever the case for
Shakespeare, among the other values of reading Aesop, called by
Hoole "a book of great antiquity and of more solid learning then
most men think,"31 would be its use as a model for imitation:
That they may learn to observe and get the true Latine
order of placing words, and the purity of expression either
in English or Latine Style, let them imitate a period or
more in a lesson, turning it out of English into Latine,
or out of Latine into English. A Cock, as he turned over
a dunghill found a pearl, saying, why do I find a thing so
bright? And in Latine, Gallus gallinaceus, dum vertit
stercorarium offendit gemman; Quid, inquiens, rem sic
nitidam reperio? They may imitate it by this or the like
expression; As a beggar raked in a dunghill, he found a
purse, saying; why do I finde so much money here? Mendicus
dum vertit stercorarium, offendit crumenam; quid inquiens,
tantum argenti hic reperio?32
The immediate practical use of this exercise, of course,
was to reinforce the students' knowledge of Latin grammar and
vocabulary. But indirectly they were being forced to compose varia-
tions on a theme.
A better example of this same sort of exercise is added by
Hoole. While their forenoon lessons were to be out of Aesop,
Mantuan was to be studied by the students on Monday and Wednesday
afternoons. Hoole demonstrates how the first Eclogue of Mantuan,
"a Poet both for style and matter, very familiar and grateful to
children," should be used. First he repeats the Latin:
Fauste, precor; gelida quando pecus omne sub umbra
Ruminat, antiques paulur recitemus amores.
Ne si forte sopor nos occupet ulla ferarum.,
Quae modo per segetes tacite insidiantur adults
Saeviat in pecudes. Melior vigilantia somno.
From these lines the student should make an English imitation:
Shepherds are wont sometimes to take of their old loves,
whilest the cattel chew the cud under the shade; for fear, if
they should fall asleep, some Fox or Wolf, or such like beast
of prey, which either lurk in the thick -woods, or lay wait in
the grown corn, should fall upon the cattel. And indeed,
watching is farre more commendable for a Prince, or Magistrate,
then immoderate, or unseasonable sleep.
Having done violence to the Latin, the child can then, without
reference to the original lines, turn his English imitation back
Pastores aliquando dum pecus sub umbra ruminat, antiques
suas amores recitare solent; ne, si soper ipsos occupet,
vulpes, aut lupus, aut aliqua eius generis fera praedabunda,
quae vel in densis sylvis latitant, vel per adults segetes
insidiatur, in pecudes saeviat; Imo enimvero, Principi vel
Magistratui vigilntia somno immodico ac intempestivo multo
This exercise as outlined by Hoole is an adaptation of the method
of double translation, differing from it in that the first step,
from Latin to English, was an imitation instead of a literal trans-
lation; however, the second step, from English to Latin, was a
translation. Of especial interest is the encouragement of the
student's originality. While the subject of the imitation is
essentially the same as that of the original, the imagery has been
varied with a resulting shift in meaning and tone best exemplified
by the contrast between "Melior vigilantia somno" and "watching is
farre more commendable for a Prince, or Magistrate, then immoderate,
or unseasonable sleep."
As if the students did not have enough to tax their resources,
Hoole suggests one further exercise for the third form. On Tuesday
and Thursday afternoons students were to read the Colloquies of
Helvicus, afterward construing the selection read. Hoole advises
the teacher to "cause them sometimes to imitate a whole Colloquie,
or a piece of one." In this way, so Hoole thought, the students
would become more fluent in their Latin. They would also become
adept at translating, not word for word, but with variations, and
these translations were almost synonymous to what Hoole considered
imitation to be, at least in the early forms. Before a child left
the lower grammar school, Hoole would, in fact, have him be tested
on his ability to translate "by causing him to turn an English into
Latine in imitation of . [a] Fable."
By the time, then, the student in an English grammar school
was approximately eleven years old he would have been, according to
Hoole's ideals, exposed to three or four years of education which,
among other things, had begun to lead him to think and write in
certain imitative patterns which were themselves designed to enable
his imagination to see the possibilities inherent in variation on
In the upper grammar school the study of Terence was begun.
The Roman playwright would provide many notable and realistic models
for the student, for in Terence the student "may observe many remark-
able things, sayings, and actions, which will hint much to abundant
matter of invention for future exercises.37 Hoole recounts a num-
ber of sentences which can be found in Terence and comments that
"such Dictates as these, the Master may give his Scholars sometimes
to turn into pure Latine, till they be able to make the like them-
selves."38 Again, emphasis on learning composition by imitation is
the implication of this statement.39
The student also begins to develop the Ciceronian style
through the study of Cicero's Epistles. Hoole remarks that he pre-
fers the edition of Sturm, the contemporary of Ascham who possibly
was the greatest Protestant scholar of his time. The method of
study Hoole suggests is'"the way Mr. Brinsley so much commendeth,
and Mr. Ascham was moved to think to be only, or chiefly the fittest,
for the speedy and perfect attaining of the Tongue." This, of
course, was double translation; and, as if he had not before, Hoole
again outlines the method:
I would have them be exercised in double translating
these Epistles, so as to render many of them into good
English, and after a while to turn the same again into
Latino, and to try how near they can come to their
Authour in the right choice, and orderly placing of
words in every distinct period.41
Should the student not be familiar with Cicero, Hoole would have
him translate, literally, a hundred epistles selected from those
of Cicero and others:
Then do I cause them . to make double translations
of themselves; one while writing down both the English and
Latino together, as they construe it . and another while,
and most frequently, writing English out of the Latine by
it self, which within ten dayes after, they try how to turn
into the like good Latine again.42
Once the student had proved his proficiency at double translation,
he would then be exercised by writing letters to his friends in
imitation of the models in Cicero's Epistles. Hoole illustrates
this procedure at length, advising his reader that "you may shew
them how to imitate it [the model]." And "they may imitate the same
Epistle again in framing an answer to the particulars of the fore-
going letter after this manner; observing the form of composition,
rather then the words."43 In this way one form was made to serve
for many separate letters, but.the student was further encouraged
not to copy slavishly Cicero's vocabulary:
Thus you may help them to take so much as is needfull
and fit for their purpose out of any Epistle, and to alter
and apply it fitly to their several occasions of writing to
their several friends; and where Tully's expressions will
not serve them, let them borrow words and phrases out of
the books that they have learnt, (but especially out of
Terence) and take care to place them so, that they may
continually seem to imitate Tullie's form of writing
EpistleJ, though they be not altogether tyed to his very
Quite obviously, if the student was "not altogether tyed" to
Cicero's words, he was very likely to vary the imagery of the letter
he was imitating and, indeed, was encouraged to do so. Although a
warning was issued against license in the use of the Latin vocabulary,
it was meant to stifle ignorance of proper usage rather than the
imagination of the user.
Hoole concludes his discussion of the way in which Cicero's
Epistles might be used by outlining a method in which the whole
class together could benefit from the imitation of the model. The
results of the class method are identical with those he has already
pointed out: "And thus you shall finde the same Epistle varied so
many several wayes, that every boy will seem to have an Epistle of
his own, and quite differing in words from all those of his fellows,
though the matter be one and the same." 5 That is, each of the
epistles written by the individual members of the class will be an
original work, even though all were modeled in form and subject on
one of Cicero's. Implicit in these remarks is the idea that origi-
nality can result from imitation. The subject of each of the many
letters resulting from the collective imitation of one of Cicero's
Epistles would in every case be the same, but each would be dif-
ferent in that each student would have worded his letter as he chose.
The obvious consequence of this freedom in the choice of words and
phrases would be a significant variation in meaning, tone, and
Poetry was also useful for grammatical purposes, and the
student was first introduced to Ovid in the Latin, not for the sake
of Ovid, but because he provided a useful model for Latin prosody.
Thus, the main reason for reading Ovid was "the scanning and proving
[of] verses." So that the tu3cnt might be given opportunity to
show any inclination he had toward poetry, Hoole would prepare him
for its composition by allowing him also to read translations of
Mantuan and Virgil, as well as certain English poets.7 Other
English poets might be added to the list so long as the teacher
selected "none which are stuff't with drollary or ribauldry, which
are fitter to be burnt, then to be sent abroad to corrupt good
manners in youth."4
Once his reading had provided the student with some knowledge
of prosody, he was allowed to demonstrate his poetic powers:
After they are thus become acquainted with variety of
meeter, you can cause them to turn a Fable of Aesop into
what kinde of verse you please to appoint them; and some-
times you may let them translate some select Epigrams out
of Owen, or those collected by Mr. Farnaby or some Emblemes
out of Alciat, or the like Flourishes of wit which you think
will more delight them and help their fansies. And when
you see they begin to exercise their own wits for enlargement,
and invention, you may leave them to themselves, to make
verse on any occasion of subject.49
Here the method of imitation is again used to prepare the
student for the composition of poetry. However, it must be remember-
ed that the underlying reason for all these exercises was to increase
the student's fluency in Latin, and, after he had learned Latin
prosody and tasted "the sweetnesse of poetizing in English," he
was to be prepared for writing Latin verses. The exercise Hoole
suggests would best prepare the student is setting him to explore
the variations possible in one or two lines of verse. By way of
illustration, Hoole cites two examples; the first, he says, can be
varied 104 ways, the second, 450 ways.51
Following these exercises the student returned to the study
of Ovid for the remainder of the year, but he did not escape translation
and variation. In addition to the grammatical approach to Ovid,
Hoole once more recommends exercises aimed at increasing the stu-
dent's ability to translate:
Let them strive (who can best) to turn the Fable into
English prose, and to adorn and amplifie it with fit Epi-
thetes, choice Phrases, acute Sentences, wittie Apophthegmes,
livelie similitudes, pat examples, and Proverbial Speeches,
all agreeing to the matter of moralitie therein couched;
all which they should divide into several Periods, and
return into proper Latine, rightlie placed according to the
Rules of Rhetorical composition.
Let them exercise their wits a little in trying who can
turn the same into most varieties of English verse.-5
The goal of this exercise, to make the student more adept at trans-
lation, was probably achieved, but it should be noted that the
exercise would also operate to strengthen further the principles
of imitative composition already suggested to the student.
To summarize, the upper grammar school, together with other
subjects, prepared its first-year students in three authors, Cicero,
Terence, and Ovid. In exercises based on all three the student
found it necessary to imitate and translate, and was given more than
ample opportunity to develop any talent he might have for these
skills. The lower grammar school forms had previously prepared the
pupil for these latest steps, although he was for the first time to
practice translation and imitation extensively.
Since he is more interested in Greek and Hebrew in the fifth
form and beyond, Hoole pays less attention to the teaching of Latin.
Nevertheless, there are some further instructions given which make
it clear that the student continued throughout his final two forms
in grammar school to practice imitation, which was, for that matter,
the way the student also learned Greek and Hebrew. Fifth former
were to read Virgil, and
As they read this Author, you may cause them sometimes
to relate a pleasing story in good English prose, and to
try who can soonest turn it into elegant Latine, or into
some other kinde of verses which you please for the present
to appoint them, either English or Latine or both.53
Sixth former were to read Lucan, Seneca, Martiall, "and the rest
of the finest Latine Poets" so that they might learn "how and
wherein they may imitate them, or borrow something out of them."54
Of particular interest here is the suggestion that the student
imitate matter but not form, since it is just this transference of
matter from one literary form to the other that is analogous to
Shakespeare's use of his sources in the plays which are the concern
of this study. The rigor of verse argues that, even had he wanted
to, the student who attempted to carry out this assignment very
likely was unable to preserve intact the imagery of the original.
Also of great interest are the instructions Hoole gives
concerning the teaching of rhetoric, for rhetorical methods laid
the foundation for most future composition the student was apt to
attempt. The student was to translate Cicero's Paradoxes "and pro-
nounce them also in English and Latine as if they were" his own.
Finishing this particular work of Cicero, he was next to turn to
other Latin orations:
And of these I would have them constantly to translate
one every day into English, beginning with those that are
the shortest, and once a week to strive amongst themselves,
who can best pronounce them both in English and Latine. . .
I have experienced it to be a most effectual means to draw on
my Scholars to emulate one another, who could make the best
exercises of their own in the most Rhetorical style, and
have often seen the most bashfull, and least promising boyes,
to out-strip their fellowes in pronouncing with a courage,
and comely gesture. . I found nothing that I did formerly
to put such spirit into my scholars, and make them, like so
many Nightingales, to contend, who could jAaOt2taAaL(4w
most melodiously tune his voyce and frame style, to
pronounce and imitate the aforementioned Orations.56
Of interest is the emphasis on competition, and on delivery. Still,
the major result of such exercises would be to teach the patterns
of thought and organization of material. Whatever else the student
was being taught, he was being taught to imitate, and the variations
on the original surely included variations on the imagery of the
Another of the fifth-form exercises, the weekly theme,
operated not only further to exercise the student in the method of
imitation, but also to provide him with a stock of matter, such as
information, conceits, devices, and images, from which he could
draw for the rest of his life. The student prepared by copying in
a commonplace book materials from his reading which might be useful,
after which he was given a theme. He was first to consult his common-
place book in class, copying down all that others had written on the
subjects suggested by the theme and reading his quotations. All
students, by this practice, would alwayss have store of matter for
invention ready at hand, which is far beyond what their own wit is
able to conceive."57 They were also to consult whatever sources
were available to them in the school library. That the student
would, of course, be expected to imitate form as well as matter is
made clear by Hoole's recommendation of a number of suitable books,
both English and Latin, in which the students would learnede how to
prosecute the several parts of a Theme more at large . to bring
their matter into handsome and plain order; and to flourish and
adorne it neatly with Rhetorical Tropes and Figures . according
to the best of their Authours."58
Once the student had done all this, the teacher should
propound a Theme [to his students] in English and Latine,
and let them strive who can soonest return you the best
Exordium in English, and then who can render it into the
best Latine, and so you may proceed to the narration, and
quite thorow every part of a Theme, not tying them to the
words of any Authour, but giving them liberty to contract,
or enlarge, or alter them as they please; so that they
still contend to go beyond then in purity of expression.
This being done, you may dismiss them to adventure to make
every one his own exercises in English and Latine and to
bring it fair written, and be able to pronounce it distinct-
ly memoriter at a time appointed. And when once you see
they have gained a perfect way of making Themes of them-
selves, you may let them go on to attain the habit by
their own constant practice, ever and anon minding them what
places in their Authours (as they read) are most worthy
notice and imitation, and for what purposes they may serve
Hoole here emphasizes the liberating power of imitation, urging
that a student should compete with his model in the hope of sur-
passing him "in purity of expression."
Not only were the fifth former schooled in the usual sub-
ject matter of rhetoric, they were also set to putting what they
had been taught earlier about poetry into use by writing verse.
First they were recommended certain texts in which they would find
patterns "for invention of further matter upon any occasion or sub-
ject they are to treat upon.60 But these texts were incidental to
Ovid and Virgil, the ultimate models for emulation:
But for gaining a smooth way of versifying, and to be able
to express much matter in few words, and very fully to the
life, I conceive it very necessary for Scholars to be very
frequent in perusing and rehearsing Ovid and Virgil. . .
And the Master indeed should cause his Scholars to recite
a piece of Ovid or Virgil, in his hearing now and then, that
the very tune of these pleasant verses may be imprinted in
their minds, so that when ever they are put to compose a
verse they make it glide as even [as] those in their
Authors. o e
Although this commentary is indicative of the high esteem Hoole has
for Virgil and Ovid, an opinion shared almost universally by the
learned during the English Renaissance, he is not so prescriptive
as to exclude all other poets. He admits that students might gain
from reading "such kind of Poets, as they are themselves delighted
with all, either for more variety of verse, or the wittinesse of
The students were to continue composition of prose and verse
in the sixth form and, in addition, the students of the sixth form
were encouraged to continue competing with each other:
They should often also vie wits amongst themselves, and
strive who can make the best Anagrams, Epigrams, Epitaphes,
Epithalamia, Eclogues, Acrosticks, and golden verses, English,
Latine, Greek, and Hebrew; which they will easily do after a
while, having good patterns before them to imitate, which
they may collect out of Authours, as they fansie them, for
their own use and delight.63
The wit combats which take place between Shakespearian characters
were obviously anticipated by those between students, and, even if
these intellectual jousts cannot be solely ascribed to pedagogical
practice, there can be no doubt that the practice of the schools at
least prepared a part of the audience to accept and enjoy them, just
as the necessity to accumulate a store of quotations and imitate in
various forms prepared authors for the kind of imitation they were
to present to their audiences.
Hoole is useful to us because of his methodical exposition.
No innovator, he was describing an ancient plan, even in some details
unchanged from the days of Henry VIII. Of course, Shakespeare was
not taught by Hoole nor is it possible even to say with certainty
that Shakespeare had a grammar school education. T. W. Baldwin, in
the conclusion to his monumental study of English education during
the latter half of the sixteenth century and its relation to
Shakespeare's works, chooses to conclude only that it was highly
probable the playwright did attend the gra:,ar school at Stratford:
The evidence appears to be conclusive that Shakspere had
such knowledge and techniques as gramnar school was calcu-
lated to give. We have no direct evidence that he ever attend-
ed any grammar school a single day. . Those nearest the
time either knew or assu-ed that Shakspere had attended the
grammar school at Stratford. It is reasonably certain that
he did attend school there for some period of time. The
internal evidence and such external evidence as survives
conspire together to indicate that Shakspere pretty certainly
had at Stra ford the benefits of the complete grammar school
Professor Baldwin is also uncertain about the exact nature of the
course of study at Stratford, for direct evidence about that is
likewise lacking.65 However, it seems reasonable to assume that
it was something similar to what has been outlined. Indeed,
Hoole's modern editor, Thiselton Mark, comments that in 1912 there
were "some comparatively young men still living who had to learn"
parts of the Latin grammar in exactly the same way that the seven-
teenth-century pedagogue recommended it be taught. And while
Baldwin did discern a shift in emphasis in the grammar school curri-
culum which was completed by the eighteenth century, he felt that
Hoole, despite the concentration on system and method, still present-
ed what was essentially the only course of study during the
Thus, Hoole's upper school follows for Latin the regular
sequences which had been provided in the sixteenth century.
Hoole has emphasized the transition from lower school to
upper school, and has differentiated meticulously the upper
forms. But all this is, so far as external form is concerned,
a mere tidying up of the sixteenth century system. 7
It is precisely Hoole's devotion to outlining in some detail the
systems and methods of instruction in the grammar schools which make
him valuable to this study, for these methods of instruction reveal
the extent to which the grar.-ar school student was instructed in
imitative methods, methods that often invited the student to alter
the imagery of that which he imitated.
Furthermore, it can be assumed with some assurance that the
lessons learned about imitation carried over into the later lives
of the students, particularly those whose vocation or avocation
was literature. T. W. Baldwin, in the case of Shakespeare, cites
the numerous allusions to the classical writers in the works as
evidence of the probability that Shakespeare read these authors in
grarnnar school. While no such wealth of internal evidence exists
to support the contention that Shakespeare was familiar with the
practice of imitation, H . whitee has discovered a few instances
which illustrate some knowledge of the practice. Most of these
are derisive of uninspired imitation. Berowne in Love's Labor's
Lost argues against Ferdinand's proposal that the nobles of Navarre
withdraw from the world by commenting,
Small have continual plodders ever won, 68
Save base authority from others' books.
Berowne's scorn for scholarship is repeated again when he expresses
his contempt for Boyet:
This fellow pecks up wit as pigeons pease
And utters it again when God doth please. 9
White also points out that .the role of Holofernes, the schoolmaster,
is obviously.meant to satirize academic imitation. Certainly, the
things Holofernes says are illustrative of the methods of Hoole.
Responding to Nathaniel's compliment on his ability to compose an
extemporall epitaph," the pedant modestly says,
This is a gift that I have, simple, simple; a foolish extrava-
gant spirit, full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas,
apprehensions, motions, revolutions.. These are begot in the
ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater, and
delivered upon the mellowing of occasion.70
Here is application of the type of imitative composition that enabled
students "upon fit occasion or subject, to compose a handsome"71 verse,
the result of "perusing and excerpting passages that may serve for
their occasions out of . moderne Orators, whose eloquence we
admire."72 A few lines later Holofernes is asked to read a letter;
before he begins he again displays his learning:
Fauste, precor, gelida quando pecus omne sub umbra
Ruminnt, and so forth. Ah, good old Mantuan! I may
speak of thee as the traveller doth of Venice:
Chi non ti vede, non ti pretia.
Old Mantuan! old Mantuan! Who understandeth thee not, loves
In these lines there occur two of the subjects about which
Hoole speaks. The first, interestingly, is Holofernes' repetition
of the opening line of the first Eclogue of Mantuan, the exact
example used by Hoole to demonstrate how that poet could be approached
in the classroom. The second is Holofernes' own demonstration of
the way in which variations on irrelevant lines of verse could be
turned to the speaker's use. What is risible here is not the inap-
propriateness of the comparison of Venice to Mantuan, but the recog-
nition by the audience that Holofernes was engaged in a typical
Part of Berowne's poem is read to Holofernes, and again the
schoolteacher's reactions are typical:
You find not the apostrophas, and so miss the accent. Let
me supervise the canzonet. Here are only numbers ratified;
but for the elegancy, facility, and golden cadence of poesy,
caret. Ovidius iaso was the man. And why indeed "Naso,"
but for selling out the odoriferous flowers of fancy, the
jerks of invention? ITitari is nothing. So doth the hound
his master, the ape his keeper, the tired horse his rider.75
This criticism by Holofernes acknowledges the mechanical
correctness of the poem he has just been read, but denies that it
is the work of a natural poet. The poem is nothing but an imitation
of the basest sort, containing little or nothing original. Internal
evidence of this type suggests very strongly that Shakespeare had
an intimate knowledge of the subjects and methods of instruction
taught in the grammar school.
But, even if a writer had never attended grammar school, he
could hardly have escaped some discussion of imitation as a principle
of composition, for the subject was constantly being talked about.
Sidney was one early commentator. Another was King James VI of
White points out that King James apparently condemns imita-
tion when he says, "Ye man also be warre with composing ony thing
in the same maner as hes bene ower oft usit of before."77 The
remainder of this passage, however, makes it very clear that the
Scottish king meant that one should be original in the way one used
the language. To imitate a subject was quite all right. In
speaking of one's love, the writer must be cautious about describing
his love's beauty lest he repeat the words of others. Similarly,
he must exercise caution when, at the beginning of a poem, he des-
cribes the morning sunrise, "for their things are sa oft and
dyverslie written upon be Poetis already, that gif ye do the lyke
it will appeared ye bot imitate, and that it cummis not of your awin
Iventioun, quhilk is ane of the cheif properteis of ane Poete."79
Invention, at least to King James VI, applies not to the choice of
subject matter; the question of originality is settled by the imagery
a poet uses. To invent is to seek new ways to express the universal
of human experience; the universals are beyond invention. Of
King James, White says:
The Essays of a Prentice in the Divine Art of Poesy (1584),
the volume of King James's poems to which his treatise was
appended, indicates on every page either that the royal
poet found it easier to teach "the docile bairns of knawl-
edge" than to follow his own instruction, or that he meant
"find" rather than "fabricate" when he wrote "it is best
that ye invent your awin subject your self."60
That King James did not mean fabricate is made even more clear by
his Sonnet Decifring The Perfyte Poete:
Ane rype ingyne, ane quick and walked witt,
With sorair reasons, suddenlie applyit,
For every purpose using reasons fitt,
With skilfulnes, where learning may be spyit,
With pithie words, for to express yow by it
His full intention in his proper leid,
The puritie quhairof well hes he tryit,
With memorie to heip quhat he dois reid,
With skilfulnes and figures, quhilks proceed
From Rhetorique, with everlasting fa.e,
With others wounriring, pressing with all speid
For to atteine to merite sic a name:
All their into the perfyte Poete be. 81
Goddis, grant I may obteine the Laurell trie.
Ingenuity is necessary for the poet, but so is rhetoric and study,
for the poet's job is to express learning with pithy words. Nowhere
does King James lay down any strictures on drawing from other's
matter. To be sure, he says, "Bot sen Invention is ane of the cheif
vertewis in a Poete, it is best that ye invent your awin subject
your self, and not to corr.pose of sene subjectss" Yet just before
he writes these words he gives instructions which make it clear what
he means by "subject." One subject may be "to prayse your Love,"
another may be "sic as ye man speik some thing of the morning or
Sunne rysing." Neither suggests that the poet should not imitate
others in the material he chooses to imitate; rather he is clearly
suggesting that the poet's approach to the material be original.
William Webbe's "A Discourse of English Poetrie" is another
source.of evidence that imitation was an accepted practice in
composition. Webbe's very lack of originality testifies to the
currency of the doctrine. Poetry, called by Webbe the sister of
rhetoric, needs reformation in England, particularly in regard to
prosody, and Webbe sets himself to this task. Like others, he
follows Horace, calls poetry an art,3 and cites Cicero as saying
"that a Poet cannot express verses abundantly, sufficiently, and
fully, neither his eloquence can flowe pleasantly, or his words
sound well and plenteously, without celestiall instinction."
But Webbe indicates how that "celestiall instinction" is to be
applied when, in offering Spenser's words as evidence of poets
recognizing the need for inspiration, he describes the author of
The Shepheardes Calender as one
whose fine poeticall witt and most exquisite learning, as he
shewed aboundantly in that peece of work, in my judgment
inferiour to the workers neither of Theocritus in Greeke
nor Virgill in Latine, whom he narrowly immitateth.85
The poet may be inspired, but he nevertheless imitates.
Thomas Nash, in his preface to Greene's Menaphon, suggests
the part imitation was playing in dramatic composition by 1589.
Early in the preface he attacks academic dramatists and their
translations of classical plays on the grounds that they are cor-
rupting the English language by introducing in these plays an
inkhorn eloquence which audience and actors mistakenly accept as
the best English:
I am not ignorant how eloquent our gowned age is growen of
late, so that everie moechanicall mate abhorres the english
he was borne too, and plucks with a solemne periphrasis his
ut vales from the inkhorne: which I impute not so much to
the perfection of arts as to the servile imitation of vain-
glorious tragoedians, who contend not so seriouslie to excell
in action as to embowell the clowdes in a speech of compari-
son; thinking themselves more than initiated in poets immor-
talitie if they but once get Boreas by the beard, and the
heavenlie bull by the deaw-lap. But herein I cannot so
fully bequeath them to follie, as their idiote art-masters,
that intrude themselves to our eares as the alcumists of
eloquence, who mountedd on the stage of arrogance) think to
outbrave better pens with the swelling burbast of a bragging
Included among these defilers of the well of English are Greene's
The academicians are also responsible for the efforts of the
less literate to capitalize on the popularity of bombastic classical
It is a common practise now a daies amongst a sort of
shifting companions, that runne through every arte and
thrive by none, to leave the trade of Noverint, whereto
they were borne, and busie themselves with the indevors of
Art, that could scarcelie latinize their necke-verse if they
should have needed; yet English Seneca read by candle light
yeeldes manie good sentences, as Bloud is a begger, and so
foorth; and, if you intreate him faire in a frostie morning,
he will afford y:8 whole Hamlets, I should say handfulls of
But even the rich vein of classical literature is not inexhaustible:
But 0 griefe! terpus e3ax rerum, what's that will last
alwaies? The sea exhaled by droppes will in continuance be
drie, and Seneca let bloud line by line and page by page
at length must needs die to our stage: which makes his
famisht followers to imitate the Kidde in Aesop, who, en-
amored with the Foxes newfangles, forsooke all hopes of life
to leape into a new occupation, and these men, renouncing
all possibilities of credit or estimation, to intermeddle
with Italian translations.
Nash's comment demonstrates many of the playwrights were quick to
adapt imitative methods to practical exigencies, despite the mis-
givings of those who measured excellence with a classical yardstick.
The next step was to be the imitation of English works.
Nash, in the course of praising Greene for his originality,
is harshly critical of a slavish kind of imitation which has not
progressed beyond that taught in the classroom and which dams the
flow of creativity:
Let other men . praise the mountain that in seven years
brings foorth a mouse, or the Italianate pen that of a packet
of pilfries affoordeth the press a pamphlet or two in an age,
and then in disguised arraie vaunts Ovids and Plutarchs plumes
as their owne.8
There is no reason why such imitations should be so'highly praised;
such contemporary authors, Nash asserts, may best be characterized
Indeed, I must needs say the descending years from the
Philosophers Athens have not been supplied with such present
Orators as were able in anie English vaine to be eloquent
of their owne, but either they must borrow invention of
Ariosto and his Countreymen, take up choyce of words by ex-
change in Tullies Tusculane and the Latine Historiographers
store-houses, similitudes, nay whole sheetes and tractacts
verbatim, from the plentie of Plutarch and Plinie, and, to
conclude, their whole method of writing from the liberties
of Comical fictions that have succeeded to our Rethoritians
by a second imitation: so that well may the Adage, Nil
dictum uod non dictum prius bee the most judicial esti-
mate of our latter Writers.Y'
Despite the tenor of these remarks, it is important to remem-
ber that they were not directed against the original kind of imitation,
not even against translation, nor against rhetoric. For example,
Nash lauds scholars and translators such as Ascham, Grindal, Erasmus,
Elyot, Moore, and others who "have, either by their private read-
ings or publique workers, repurged the errors of Arts expelde from
their puritie, and set before our eyes a more perfect Methode of
Studie."91 Art, which involved the use of imitation and other
areas of rhetoric, was not at fault; indeed, "amongst all the orna-
ments of Artes, Rethorick is to be had in highest reputation, with-
out the which all the rest are naked."92 The vices of art stem from
the artist rather than from the art, and those who would censure art
because of faults they see in study are simply attributing the prac-
tices of the artist to his art. "There is no such discredit of
Arte as an ignoraunt Artificer,--men of meaner judgement measuring
oft times the excellence of the one by the ignorance of the other."93
The point Nash is really concerned with is that Greene is the victim
of "men of meaner judgement" whose work shows them to be ignorant
artificers and therefore in no position to judge. As White makes
quite clear, evidence drawn from the body of Nash's work shows him
to be an enemy not of imitation, but of imitation wrongly practiced.
George Puttenham, in "The Arte of English Poesie," reflects
the ambiguity of meaning the word "imitation" had during the
Renaissance. To Puttenham, one who imitates might be a person who
was emulating forms introduced into literature by the Greeks, Romans,
So have we remembered and set forth to your Majestie very
briefly all the commended fourmes of the ancient Poesie,
which we in our vulgare makings do imitate and use under these
common names: enterlude, song, ballade, carroll, and ditty;
borrowing them also from the French, al saving this word
"song" which is our natural Saxon English word: the rest,
such as time and usurpation by customer have allowed us out of
the primitive Greeke & Latine, as Comedie, Tragedie, Ode,
Epitaphe, Elegie, Epigramme, and other moe.95
Or one who imitates could be a person who was following the moral
precepts set forth by classical poets Puttenham identifies as
There were others that for the peoples good instruction, and
trial of their owne witts, used in places of great assembly
to say by rote numbers of short and sententious meetres, very
pithie and of good edification, and thereupon were called
Poets Mimistes, as who would say, imitable and meet to be
followed for their wise and grave lessons.9b
Or, finally, he might be an artist engaged in the practice Aristotle
In another respect we say arte is neither an aider nor
a surmounter but only a bare immitatour of natures works,
following and counterfeiting her actions and effects, as the
Marmesot doth many countenances and gestures of man- of
which sorte are the artes of painting and kerving.9l
It is this latter kind of imitation to which Puttenham alludes when
And nevertheless, without any repugnancie at all, a Poet may
in some sort be said a follower or imitator, because he can
express the true and lively of every thing is set before
him, and which he taketh in hand to describe: and so in that
respect is both a maker and a counterfaitor: ad Poesie an
art not only of making, but also of imitation.9
Among his other concerns, Puttenham is interested in deline-
ating the true poet, and ideally that individual ought not to be any
sort of imitator other than the kind outlined above. The opening
words of his book emphasize the role of the poet as the wholly
A Poet is as much to say as a maker. And our English name
well conformes with the Greeke word. . Such as . .we
may say of God; who without any travel to his divine imagina-
tion mede all the world of nought, nor also by any paterne or
mould, as the Platonicks with their Idees do phantastically
,suppose. Even so the very Poet makes and contrives out of
his owne braine both the verse and matter of his poeme, and
not by any foreine copie or example, as doth the translator
who therefore may well be sayd a versifier, but not a Poet.99
By Puttenha~.'s definition, none who practiced the imitative method
of composition could be called poet.
Puttenham, as his use of the word "imitation" and his admis-
sion of the necessity of mimesis indicate, was not as rigorous as
his definition; and another point of confusion arises when he fails
to distinguish between the ideal poet described above and those who
have been called poets in the past. Preparing to compliment his
queen, he classifies poets:
It is therefore of Poets thus to be conceived, that if they
be able to devise and make all these things of them selves,
without any subject of veritie, that they be (by maner of
speech) as creating gods. If they do it by instinct divine
or natural, then surely much favoured from above; if by
their experience, then no doubt very wise men; if by any
president or paterne layd before them, then truly the most
excellent imitators & counterfaitors of all others.100
The order of classification is descending: the creating gods,
the divinely blessed, the wise, and the imitators. Poets who are
imitators, even though the worst of poets, are the "most excellent"
of all other imitators, whose ranks include painters and carvers.
Having established the distinction between makers and imi-
tators, Puttenham now compliments Elizabeth. She is both:
But you (Madame) my most Honored and Gracious, if I should
seeme to offer you this my devise for a discipline and not
a delight, I might well be reputed of all others the most
arrogant and injurious, your selfe being alreadie, of any
that I know in our time, the most excellent Poet; forsooth
by your Princely purse, favours, and countenance, making in
maner what ye list, the poor man rich, the lewd well learned,
the coward couragious, and vile both noble and valiant: then
for imitation no less, your person as a most cunning counter-
faitor lively representing Venus in countenance, in life
Diana, Pallas for government, and Juno in all honour and
Obviously, Elizabeth's imitation is not that of the translator, but
that of the artist who is able to recreate what is in nature.
Puttenham's insistence on the originality of the true poet
leads him either to neglect any discussion of imitation, as in his
survey of the verse forms of the Greeks, Romans, and French, or to
redefine an imitative practice in such a way that it no longer
constitutes imitation. Although, he claims, verbal ability is a
function of natural instinct, education, which it will be remembered
relied heavily on imitative methods, could be of use to the poet.
However, education according to Puttenham was not really imitative:
I call those artes of Gra&mer, Logicke, and Rhetorick, not
bare imitations . but by long and studious observation
rather a repetition or reminiscens natural, reduced into
perfection, and made prompt by use and exercise. And so
whatsoever a man speaks or perswades he doth it not by
imitation artificially, but by observation naturally
(though one follow another), because it is both the same
and the like that nature doth suggest.102
On the other hand, Puttcnhan's insistence on originality
does not blind him to the contribution of many earlier English poets,
even when he considers them translators or their work translations.
Of Chaucer he says, "though many of his books be but bare trans-
lations out of the Latin & French, yet are they wel handled, as his
books of Troilus and Cresseidand the Romant of the Rose."103
Lydgate, however, is a translatorr only, and no deviser of that
which he wrate, but one that wrate in good verse."10 And Puttenham
also commends Phaer and Golding "for a learned and well corrected
verse, specially in translation clear and very faithfully answer-
ing their authors intent." These and others are cited by
Puttenham as writers whose
names should not be defrauded of such honour as seemeth due
to them for having by their thankefull studies so much
beautified our English tong as at this day it will be found
our nation is in nothing inferiour to the French or Italian
for copie of language, subtiltie of device, good method and
proportion in any for me of poer:e, but that they may cor:pare
with the most, and perchance passe a great many of them.10
His attitude was not as benevolent, however, toward all he
called translators. One of his chief concerns is a description of
figurative speech, one of the areas wherein the poet should be ori-
ginal. Discussing foreign terms, Puttenhan shows how an unidentified
writer allowed himself to be discovered guilty of plagiarism:107
Another of reasonable good facilities in translation finding
certain of the hynnes of Pyndarus and of Anacreons odes
and other Lirickes a.ong the Greekes very well translated
by Rounsard the French Poet . comes our minion and
translates the same out of French into English . but
doth so impudently robbe the French Poet both of his prayse
and also of his French terms, that I cannot so much pitie
him as be angry with him for his injurious dealing . .
[he] makes his vaunt that never English finger but his
hath toucht Pindars string, which was nevertheless word by
word as Rounsard had said before by like braggery. .
This man deserves to be endited of pety larceny for pil-
fering other mens devises from them & converting them to
his owne use, for in deede as I would wish every inventour,
which is the very Poet, to receive the prayses of his
invention, so would I not have a translatoyr.to be
ashamed to be acknowen of his translation.10
Again Puttenham takes this opportunity to distinguish between the
true poet and the translator, and, for that matter, the literary
thief. He does make it clear that the translator's occupation is
in no way a dishonorable one; it is, however, distinguishable from
that of a poet.
Like Nash, Puttenham prizes originality in the poet above
all other qualities, and'his insistence on the distinction between
the poet who imitated only insofar as he copied nature and the trans-
lator who imitated closely the words, and consequently the imagery,
of a work written in some other language would have made no sense
in a literary world ignorant of the imitative method of composition.
Puttenham's words caused some consternation in literary
circles, for Sir John Harington, provoked by the distinctions among
poets Puttenham makes, answers him in his preface to his translation
of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (1591). Harington says that his pur-
pose is not
to trouble you with the curious definitions of a Poet and
Poesie, & with the subtill distinctions of their sundrie
kinds; nor to dispute how high and supernatural the name
of a Maker is, so christned in English by that unknown
God-father that this last year save one, viz. 1589, set
forth a book called the Art of English Poetrie: and
least of all do I purpose to bestow any long time to argue
whether Plato, Zenonhon, and Erasmus writing fictions and
Dialogues in prose may justly be called Poets, or whether
Lucan writing a story in verse be an historiographer, or
whether Master Faire translating Virgil, Master Golding
translating Ovids Metamorphosis, and my selfe in this
work that you see, be any nore then versifiers, as the
same Ignoto termeth all translators.109
The tone of Harington's words suggests that, insofar as he is con-
cerned, all the writers he mentions, himself included, "may justly
be called Poets."
That imitation as a principle of composition was practiced
and recognized as such is evidenced by Harington's defense of
Ariosto's poem. He begins his defense by noting similarities
between Ariosto and a universally approved poem:
I will make choise of some other Poeme that is allowed and
approved by all men, and a little compare them together.
And what work can serve this turned so fitly as Virgils
Aeneados, whom above all other it seemeth my author doth
follow, as appears both by his beginning and ending? The
Arma viru;r.que cano.
Le donne, i cavallier, l'arne, gli aori,
Le cortesie, 1'audaci iliprese io canto.
Virgill endes with the death of Turnus,
Vitague cum gemitu fu-it indignata sub umbras.
Ariosto ends with the death of Rooloront,
Beste:,iando fu.ri l'alma sdegnosa,
Che fu si altera al mrondo, e sT orgoliosa.
Virgill extolled Aeneas to please Augustus, of whose race he
was thought to coe; Ariosto prayeth Rogero to the honour of
the house of Este: Aeneas hath his Dido that retaineth him;
Rogero hath his Alcina:. finally, least I should note every
part, there is nothing of any special observation in 110
Virgill but my author hath with great felicitie imitated it.
As can be seen, the parallels Harington points to show that Ariosto
not only followed his mentor's form, he also, more or less, imitated
the Roman's matter. The variations between the two epics obviously
involve a shifting of imagery, however. Furthermore, in showing that
Ariosto paid heed to Aristotle and other critics in writing his epic,
Harington gives further evidence concerning the practice of imitation:
"Aristotle and the best censurers of Poesie would have the Epopeia,
that is the heroicall Poem, should ground on some historic, and take
some short time in the same to bewtifie with his Poetrie."11 Under
these conditions for writing the epic it would be impossible for
the poet not to be imitative in the broadest sense of that word,
since he would be following some historical source.
In Englishing Ariosto's poem, Harington suggests that he is
engaged in composition rather than in what is now usually called
Though for the matter I can challenge no praise, having but
borrowed it; & for the verse I do challenge none, being a
thing that every body that never scarce bayted their horse
at the Universitie take upon them to make. It is possible
that, if I would have employed that time that I have done
upon this upon some invention of mine owne, I could have by
this made it have risen to a just volume, &, if I wold, have
done, as many spare not to do, flowne very high with stolen
fethers. But I had rather men should see and know that I
borrow all then that I steale any: and I would wish to be
called rather one of the worst translators then one of the
meaner makers, specially sith the Earle of Surrey and
Sir Thomas Wiat, that are yet called the first refiners of
the English tong, were both translators out of Italian.112
There is, of course, every reason to suspect that Harington is being
overly modest about his translation. Certainly, by placing himself
in the same category as Wyatt and Surrey he indicates that transla-
tors are deserving of the title of poet. While he takes pains to
call his work a translation, his comments on those who have "flowne
very high with stolen fethers" indicate that, in his mind at least,
there was no distinction between translation and some kinds of compo-
sition other than acknowledging the source from which the later work
Yet another literary controversy supplies evidence for the
age's awareness of imitation. In an attack on Robert Greene,
Gabriel Harvey argues for a more moderate tone in such attacks. He
is quite possibly being satirical, since he called Greene a "Monarch
of Crossbiters and very Emperor of Shifters" in a series of letters
which one critic characterizes as "chiefly remarkable for their
virulent abuse."'13 Harvey refers to the uses and abuses of imita-
Salust and Clodius learned of Tully to frame artificial Decla-
mations and patheticall Invectives against Tully himself, and
other worthy members of that most florishing State: if mother
Hubbard, in the vaine of Chawcer, happen to tel one Canicular
.tale, father Elderton and his sonne Greene, in the vaine of
Skelton or Scoggin, will counterfeit an hundred dogged Fables,
Libles, Calumnies, Slaunders, Lies for the whetstone, what not,
& most currishly sparle & bite where they should most kindly
fawne and like.
Just as lesser men than Cicero had learned by imitating him how to
abuse their betters, so have lesser men than Spenser learned by
imitating him how to abuse their betters. The point Harvey is making
is that those who might be imitated should be careful what they write
lest their imitators, through malevolence or ignorance, misuse them.
Harvey also offers evidence of the imitation of form when
he modestly admits having invented the English hexameter, in imita-
tion, of course, of the classics. The Greeks and Latins reserved
the hexameter for poems describing brave and heroic acts; so too
should the English:
And I wis the English is nothing too good to imitat the Greeke,
or Latine, or other eloquent Languages that honour the Hexameter
as the soveraigne of verses and the high Controwler of Rimes.
If I never deserve anye better remembrance, let mee rather
be epitaphed, The Inventour of the English Hexameter--whome
learned M. Stanihurst imitated in his Virgill, and excellent
Sir Phillip Sidney disdained not to follow in his Arcadia &
Harvey's attack on Greene shows that at least a portion of
the contemporary audience encouraged writers to imitate one another.
Harvey disclaims any extensive knowledge of Greene's works, saying
that he has simply scanned some of them in the stationers' shops,
but what he has seen has alarmed him.
But I pray God they have not done more harme by corruption of
manners then good by quickening of witte: and I would some
Buyers had either more Reason to discerne, or lease Appetite
to desire such Novels. The world is full enough of fooleries,
though the humor be not feasted with such luxurious and
riotous Pamphlets. Howe unlike Tullies sweete Offices; or
Isocrates pithy instructions; or Plutarches holesome Morrals;
or the delicate Dialogues of Xenophon and Plato; or the sage
Tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides; or the fine Comedies
of the dainetiest Atticke wittes; or other excellent monu-
mentes of antiquity, never sufficientlie perused! Yet the
one as stale as oldest fashions; and what more freshly cur-
rent for awhile then the other? Even Guicciardines silver
Historic and Ariostos golden Cantoes grow out of request,
& the Countesse of Pembrookes Arcadia is not greene enough
for queasie stomackes; but they must have Greenes Arcadia,
and, I beleeve, most eagerlie longed for Greenes Faerie
Basically, Harvey is arguing that the pamphlets he is complaining
about imitate the wrong authors, for they ignore the classical
writers for those moderns who have become fashionable. But even
the more modern writers are not immune to the vagaries of popular
taste. Harvey's scorn for the practices of the pamphleteers is even
more graphically described when he says:
Better the dogges-meate of Agrippa or Cattes-meate of Poggius
then the swines-meate of Martial or goates-meate of Arretine.
Cannot an Italian ribald vomit out the infectious poyson of
the world but an Inglishe' horrel-lorrel must lick it up for
a restorative, and attempt to putrify gentle mindes with
the vilest impostumes of lewde corruption?117
It should be understood that Harvey, preferring genius to art,
censured all work that was merely imitative, but the discrimination
he makes above show that he feels even evils afford choice.
The allusion to the pamphleteers apparently stung, for
Thomas Nash chose to answer Harvey. Nash asserts that he is not an
imitator of other English poets:
Wherein I have borrowed from Greene or Tarlton, that I
should thanke them for all I have? Is my stile like Greenes,
or my jeasts like Tarltons? Do I take of any counterfeit
birds, or hearbs, or stones, or rake up any new-found poetry
from under the wals of Troy? . .
This I will proudly boast . that the vaine which I
have . is of my owne begetting, and cals no man father
in England but my selfe, neyther Euphues, nor Tarlton, nor
Greene. Not Tarlton nor Greene but have been contented to
let my simple judgement overrule them in some matters of
Nash is quite adamant about his originality, and had he written no
further, one might be justified in inferring that he was not con-
sciously aware of imitating any other Englishman, although the
tenor of his protest suggests that Harvey had indeed touched a sore
spot. But after he exonerates himself from the charge of imitating
his contemporaries, Nash admits, obliquely, to imitation of the ancients:
Euphues I readd when I was a little ape in Cambridge, and
then I thought it was Ipse ille; it may be excellent good
still for ought I know, for I lookt not on it this ten
year: but to imitate it I abhorre, otherwise than it
imitates Plutarch, Ovid, and the choisest Latine Authors. 19
gash here gives tacit approval to imitation of the ancients, as did
almost every other writer of the period.
This is not the place to adjudicate the quarrel between
Nash and Harvey; rather I am concerned with demonstrating that
English writers imitated and learned from one another by imitation.
For this purpose, the invective of Nash and Harvey, whether justified
or no, is highly instructive of the literary practices of the time,
To Harvey, Nash was nothing more than a copier: "His gayest
floorishes are but Gascoignes weedes, or Tarletons trickes, or
Greenes crankes, or Marlowes bravadoes; his jestes but the dregges
of common scurrilitie, or the shreds of the theater, or the of-
scouring of new Pamflets."0 Nash denied all the charges made by
Harvey, yet in his denial he admitted to the necessity of imitating
the ancients. While Harvey's words may not accurately characterize
Nash's work, they very probably are an accurate generalization about
the writings of other Renaissance pamphleteers who must have con-
stantly been on the qui vive for material, as they would say, to
imitate or, as Harvey would say, to copy.
Richard Carew, more sober in tone, speaks of imitation in
his "The Excellency of the English Tongue," an encomium of the language.
Among other excellencies of English, Carew notes that the extensive
vocabulary of English makes it particularly suitable for adapting
verse forms from some other literature: "Looke into our Imitacione
of all sortes of verses affoorded by any other Language, and you
shall find that Sr. Phillip Sidney, Mr. Stanihurst, and divers moe,
have made use how farre wee are within corpasse of a fore imagined
impossibility in that behalff" 1 A similar argument is advanced
in support of the proposition that the extensive word borrowing
of English results in its ability to reproduce the exact tone and
mood of another literature:
Adde hereunto, that what soever grace any other Languadge
carryeth, in Verse or Prose, in Tropes or Metaphors, in
Ecchoes or Agnominations, they maye all be lively and
exactly represented in ours. Will you have Platos vayne?
reede Sir Thomas Smith: The lonick? Sir Tho. Moor:
Ciceros? Ascha'.e: Varro? Chaucer: Demosthenes?
Sir John Cheeke. . Will yow reade Virgill? take the
Earll of Surrey: Catullus? Shakespheare, and Marlowes
fragment: Ovid? Daniell: Lucane? Spencer: Martiall?
Sir John Davis and others. Will yow have all in all for
prose and verse? take the miracle of our age Sir Philip
Carew's observations again make the point that imitation was a
quite respectable universal practice during the Renaissance.
George Chapman's preface to Seaven Bookes of the Iliades of
Homere contains a statement which supports Harington's view that the
translator's job is something more than that of rendering faithfully
a literal transcription of a foreign work into English: "The worth
of a skilfull and worthy translator is to observe the sentences,
figures, and forms of speech proposed in his author, his true sence
and height, and to adorned them with figures and forms of oration
fitted to the original in the same tongue to which they are trans-
lated."123 It is interesting that in addition to showing the measure
of artistic freedom allowed to the translator, a freedom which sug-
gests that the translation approached imitation, Chapman's words
also demonstrate the translator's dependence on rhetoric, the source
of adornment. Such dependence argues a thoroughgoing knowledge of
Francis Meres' "Palladis Tamia," best known for its references
to Shakespeare, reiterates commonplace attitudes toward imitation.
Among the many passages which might be cited from that section
called "A Comparative Discourse of Our English Poets with the
Greeke, Latine, and Italian Poets" is one praising Sidney:
As Xenophon, who did imitate so excellently as to give
us effigiem usti imperil, "the portraiture of a just empyre,"
under the name of Cyrus (as Cicero saieth of him), made there-
in an absolute heroicall poem; and as Heliodorus writ in prose
his sugred invention of that picture of Love in Theagines and
Cariclea; and yet both excellent admired poets: so Sir Philip
Sidney writ his immortal poem, The Countess of Pembrooke's
Arcadia in Prose; and yet our rarest Poet.=2;
The context of this passage, once more, clearly indicates the
Renaissance ambiguity about the meaning of "imitate." Here the
word apparently means to copy from nature rather than from some
work of literature. A few lines later, however, Meres praises
Spenser: "As Theocritus is famoused for his Idyllia in Greeke, and
Virgill for his Eclogs in Latine: so Spencer their imitator in his
Shepheardes Calender is renowned for the like argument."125 In this
context "imitate" means to use the same idea that an earlier writer
used. "Imitate" is used with yet another meaning when Meres praises
Drayton: "As Virgil doth imitate Catullus in the like matter of
Ariadne for his story of Queene Dido: so Michael Drayton doth imi-
tate Ovid in his England's Heroical Epistles." 26 In this instance
"imitate" means to borrow matter. While it is imitation in the lat-
ter two senses of the word which is of primary interest to this
essay, it should be recognized that, no matter the context, imita-
tion is usually grounds for praise, rarely for censure.
Even when there appears to be objection to imitation, closer
inspection usually reveals that such is not the case. For example,
in replying to Campion's treatise against rhyme, Samuel Daniel
argues that to follow Campion's suggestions would be comparable to
a prisoner changing prisons, and with just as little advantage:
"As good still to use ryme and a little reason as neither ryme nor
reason, for no doubt, as idle wits will write in that kinde, as do
now in this, imitation wil after, though it break her necke.127
The point being made by Daniel, however, is that indiscriminate poets
will indiscriminately emulate whatever is fashionable, and, if there
is any criticism implied by this remark, it is directed at such
unoriginal men, who cannot master a good method.
Campion also had urged English poets to follow the classical
in eschewing rhyme; Daniel replies that past admiration and imitation
of classical literature was based on its content, not its form: "We
admire them not for their smooth-gliding words, nor their measures,
but for their inventions. By invention Daniel apparently means
content or matter; he further explicates his remark:
For seeing it is matter that satisfies the judicial, appeared
it in what habite it will, all these pretended proportions of
words, howsoever placed, can be but words, and peradventure
serve but to embroyle our understanding; whilst seeking to
please our eare, we enthrall our judgement; to delight an ex-
terior sense, wee smooth up a weake confused sense, affecting
sound to be unsound, and all to seeme Servum pecus, only to
imitate Greekes and Latines, whose felicitie in this kinde
might be something to themselves, to home their owne idioma
was natural; but to us it can yeeld no other commoditie then
Daniel's argument here is simply that the quantitative verse of
classical literature is unsuitable to English and any attempt to
imitate the Greeks and Romans in this regard is liable to obscure
meaning. The words themselves, and the images they create, are what
is important in an imitation.
That the ancients are to be followed in some respects is
implied by his charge that Campion inconsistently alters their
rules at the same time he is urging Englishmen to emulate them by
abjuring rhyme: "First, we must heere imitate the Greekes and Latines,
and yet we are heere shewed to disobey them, even in their owne
numbers and quantities."30
It is conjectured that Daniel's "A Defence of Ryme" was written
in 1603, the year of Elizabeth's death, and, therefore, a convenient
time for ending this survey. Shakespeare was about thirty-nine years
old and in the middle of a successful career, already the author of
approximately fifteen plays. The survey leaves no possibility that
he, literate and English, could have been ignorant of the imitative
approach toward composition. He could only have escaped it had he
been educated without being schooled and informed without having
read or discussed.
The charges of unoriginality directed by one English writer
at another--Harvey's attack on Nash, for example--are almost without
exception provoked by personal rather than theoretical considerations.
A writer may be criticized because he is unoriginal, but not simply
because he imitated another. And should a writer such as Nash deny,
having imitated his contemporaries, he at the same time admits
imitating the ancients. Obliged to be original, the writer knew
originality could be achieved through imitation; failure to attain
originality was seen as the fault of the individual, not the method
of imitative composition.
Since the classical theory of imitation provided the basis
for the English theory, a glance in that direction might be instruc-
tive. Representative of the classical attitude toward imitation
is Quintilian, who devotes an entire chapter of his Institutes to
the subject. It begins:
It is from these and other authors worthy of our study
that we must draw our stock of words, the variety of our
figures and our methods of composition, while we must form
our minds on the model of every excellence. For there can
be no doubt that in art no small portion of our task lies in
imitation, since, although invention came first and is all-
important, it is expedient to imitate whatever has been
invented with success. And it is a universal rule of life
that we should wish to copy what we approve in others. It is
for this reason that boys copy the shapes of letters that
they may learn to write,-and that musicians take the voices
of their teachers, painters the works of their predecessors,
and peasants the principles of agriculture which have been
proved in practice, as models for their imitation. In fact,
we may note that the elementary study of every branch of
learning is directed by reference to some definite standard
that is placed before the learner. We must, in fact, either
be like or unlike those who have proved their excellence. It
is rare for nature to produce such resemblance, which is more
often the result of imitation.131
While not the ultimate classical authority, Quintilian,
writing in the first century A.D., is basing his advice on a tradi-
tion extending at least five centuries further back in the past.
Quintilian's statement implies the possibility of approaches to
excellence other than imitation, but imitation provides the quickest
route to that destination, as well as a means for the traveler to
know whether he has arrived. Prior to the discussion of imitation,
Quintilian reviews the authors he claims are worthy of study, all
of whom were themselves imitators and many of whom were imitated
by those who followed them. He studies these authors so that the
student might have some guide to the proper models for imitation.
Quintilian's ideal orator must fulfill three requirements: "the
power of speech is the first essential . the power of imitation
comes next, and third and last diligent practice in writing."132
The position of imitation in this triad is indicative of its impor-
tance, at least to Quintilian.
Longinus, approximately two centuries later, offers further
evidence of the general acceptance of imitation as a method of
composition when he remembers that Plato discovered a "path leading
to the sublime."
rhat is this path, and how do we describe it? It is the
imitation and emulation of the great writers of prose and
poetry of old. And . let us hold fast to this endeavor.
For many are inspired by a spirit not their own, as the
Pythian priestess, it is said, approaches a tripod, where
there is a crevasse in the earth, and breathes from thence
a holy vapor, whence she becomes big with superhuman power
and straightway prophesies through afflatus from on high:
thus from the surpassing genius of the ancients, as from
sacred outlets (one might say), channels run to the souls of
those who emulate their, whereby even those not greatly
susceptible to divine frenzy become inspired, and participate
in the grandeur of others. Was Herodotus the only one to be
"most Homeric"? Nay, Stesichorus was so before him and
Archilochus, and most of all these Plato, who has diverted
to himself countless rivulets fed from the great Homeric
stream. Perhaps we should have needed to demonstrate this,
if Ammonius had not collected the details and put them in
writing. This is not plagiarism, but like taking the impres-
sion of a fair form in sculpture or some other kind of art.133
It should be noted that Longinus in this passage recommends the method
of imitation, not only as a means of composition, but also as a pos-
sible source of inspiration as well. The Armonius he cites as his
authority for Plato's practice was an Alexandrian scholar who had
written a book entitled On Plato's Borrowings from Horer.1
While many other citations demonstrating the acceptance of
imitation by both Greeks and Romans could be drawn from classical
literature, the two quoted, particularly the latter, are represen-
tative. As H. 0. White says, imitation was essential to classical
literary theory, so much so that many considered independent fabri-
cation a dangerous practice.
But, as White also notes, none of the classical authors
thought imitation alone sufficient. The imitator was expected to
display originality. Indeed, early in his chapter on imitation,
The first point, then, that we must realise is that imi-
tation alone is not sufficient, if only for the reason that
a sluggish nature is only too ready to rest content with the
inventions of others. For what would have happened in the
days when models were not, if men had decided to do and think
of nothing that they did not know already?13b
Quintilian was hardly the first to call for originality.
About four hundred years before Quintilian, Isocrates in recommend-
ing imitation, although suggesting that it was impossible to be
unoriginal, reminded his listeners of the necessity for originality:
If it were possible to present the same subject matter in one
form and in no other, one might have reason to think it gratu-
itous to weary one's hearers by speaking again in the same
manner as his predecessors; but . one must not shun the
subjects upon which others have spoken before, but must try
to speak better than they. For the deeds of the past are,
indeed, an inheritance common to us all.137.
While there were those who undoubtedly recognized that ori-
ginality could be achieved by writing on some subject or in some way
never before attempted, all understood that originality was attain-
able through imitation, which was a perhaps better way of being
original. Certainly, Horace seemed to have thought so. Although
if you write of things abstruse or new,
Some of your own inventing may be us'd,
So it be seldom and discreetly done,
and repeats essentially the same advice a few lines later, he also
instructs in the preferable course of action by warning,
If your bold muse dare tread unbeaten paths,
And bring new characters upon the stage,
Be sure you keep them up to their first height.
New subjects are not easily explained,
And you had better choose a well-known th me,
Than trust to an invention of your own.139
Thus, the classical author was expected to imitate, but he was also
expected to be original when imitating.
H. 0. White distinguishes three kinds of originality sought
after by classical writers and speakers. There is, first, the kind
of originality which could be exercised in the selection of that
which was to be imitated.139 However, the classical authors reach
no final agreement on what is worthy of imitation. Opinion ranges
from Horace's dictum "you must not copy trivial things," to
Quintilian's catholic inclusion of all writers as potential sources:
I believe that there are few, indeed scarcely a single one
of those authors who have stood the test of time who will
not be of some use or other to judicious students, since
even Cicero himself admits that he owes a great debt even
to the earliest writers, who for all their talent were
totally devoid of art. And my opinion about the moderns is
much the same. For how few of them are so utterly crazy as
not to have the least shadow of hope that some portion or
other of their work may have claims upon the memory of
Although there may have been no substantial agreement on what was
to be imitated, there was general agreement that the imitator was
to exercise some standards of choice, thereby showing himself to be
A second kind of originality is called reinterpretation by
White. To reinterpret is "to reexpress an old idea in the spirit
of one's day, to give it the impress of one's individuality, to
supplement it with the results of one's experience and observation."
Isocrates includes reinterpretation as one of the objectives of
oratory: "Oratory is of such a nature that it-is possible to dis-
course on the same subject matter in many different ways . to
recount the things of old in a new manner or set forth events of
recent date in an old fashion.43 In addition to the kind of
reinterpretation suggested by Isocrates, the recasting of the old
in a modern form or the casting of the new in an ancient one, a
more complex kind of reinterpretation, by White called transforma-
tion, is implied by Quintilian's commentary on the treatment the
orator should accord arguments he imitates:
Must not the orator breathe life into the argument and develop
it? Must he not vary and diversify it by a thousand figures,
and do all this in such a way that it seems to come into being
as the very child of nature, not to reveal an artificial manu-
facture and a suspect art nor at every moment to show traces
of an instructor's hand?14l
That is, the imitator is obligated to add to whatever is imitated,
either to its matter or to its style, and the artistry involved in
the addition should be sufficient to conceal itself. Reinterpre-
tation, then, either the more simple type suggested by Isocrates
or the transformation of Quintilian, is another of the ways in
which the classical imitator could be original.
Seneca expresses the same ideas about transformation with
metaphors now commonplace. He writes of the complementary values
to be gained from alternately reading and writing; this course of
action will result in the writer's profiting from his reading
through imitation. "We should follow," he says, ". .. the example
of the bees, who flit about and cull the flowers that are suitable
for producing honey, and then arrange and assort in their cells all
that they have brought in. Having gathered the pollen, that
which he intends to imitate, the writer "by applying the supervising
care with which our nature has endowed us,--in other words, our
natural gifts,-- . should so blend those several flavours into
one delicious compound that, even though it betrays its origin,
yet it nevertheless is clearly a different thing from that whence
it came."46 A few sentences later Seneca introduces a second
metaphor, digestion, to describe the process of transformation. As
is the case with the food we eat, "so it is with the food which
nourishes our higher nature,--we should see to it that whatever we
have absorbed should not be allowed to remain unchanged, or it will
be no part of us." Finally, Seneca adds a third metaphor to
explain that the writer is obligated to transform that which he is
imitating: "Even if there shall appear in you a likeness to him
who, by reason of your admiration, has left a deep impress upon you,
I would have you resemble him as a child resembles his father, and
not as a picture resembles its original; for a picture is a lifeless
thing. Reinterpretation, then, either the more simple type sug-
gested by Isocrates or the transformation recommended by Quintilian
and Seneca, is another of the ways in which the classical imitator
could be original.
The third and final kind of originality White discerns
involves the requirement that an imitation be an improvement upon
the original, and about this ideal there is no lack of comment.
Almost all who mention the subject of imitation add that the work
of the orator or writer should be in some way better than that which
it imitates. Such is the case with Longinus, who adds a reason
why the imitator must attempt to improve on his model: "I think
Plato would never have come to such fulness of powers in the doc-
trines of philosophy nor have ventured, as so often he does, into
the subjects and expressions of poetry, if he had not with all his
force contended for the chief prize with Homer."1 The author of
On the Sublime makes it clear that the attempt to improve is what
is important, even in those cases where there is little likelihood
of success, for "this contest and the crown it brings is a noble
one, and well worth the winning, wherein even defeat at the hands
of older men is no disgrace.150 Similar thoughts are expressed
by Quintilian. One should not dispair of surpassing his models,
he says, for "there is not one [model] who has not some deficiency
or blemish."151 Even he who aims at something less than excellence
needs to attempt to improve upon that which he is imitating: "For
the man whose aim is to prove himself better than another, even
if he does not surpass him, may hope to equal him. But he can
never hope to equal him, if he thinks it his duty merely to tread
in his footsteps: for the mere follower must always lag behind."152
Hence, any attempt to be exactly imitative, to equal rather than
excel, is doomed to failure because "whatever is like another object,
must necessarily be inferior to the object of its imitation, just as
the shadow is inferior to the substance, the portrait to the features
which it portrays, and the acting of the player to the feelings which
he endeavours to reproduce."153 Horace, in recommending that the
poet select some subject about which many others have written, also
affirms the ideal that the writer improve upon his model:
And you had better'choose a well-known theme,
Than trust to an invention of your own,
For what originally others write,
Nay be so well disguised, and so improved 154
That with some justice it may pass for yours.
Horace's advice and the tone with which it is tendered allow the
inference that the process of disguising and improving the theme
selected for imitation was the practice approved by theory.
Clearly, classical literary theory encouraged imitation, but
required the imitator to strive for originality by selecting care-
fully what was to be imitated, or by reinterpreting that which was
imitated, or by improving upon that which was imitated, or by any
combination of these. Nor can there be any doubt that the English.
followed their classical masters in attempting to conform to the
conditions for originality.
The last time we looked at Sir John Harington we were con-
cerned with his contribution to the controversy about the meaning
and uses of imitation. He also, however, well illustrates the
principles of selection and reinterpretation. In his defense of his
so-called translation of Orlando Furioso, a work perhaps best des-
cribed as an imitation rather than a translation in the modern
sense, he shows his awareness of each of these criteria of origi-
Replying to the criticism that he "should spend so much
good time on such a trifling wore as they deemed a Poeme to be,"
Harington reasons that if he has selected unwisely "either it is
alreadie excused or it will never be excused; for I have I think
sufficiently proved both the art to be allowable and this work
to be commendable."155 Certain passages in the poem have caused
him to imagine what his tutor might have said to him upon discover-
ing he had translated Ariosto, "'Was it for this that I read
Aristotle and Plato to you, and instructed you so carefully both
in Greek & Latin, to have you now become a translator of Italian
toyes'"156 Harington's reply to the hypothetical question he
poses himself is that, if the poem were truly unworthy of serious
consideration, it would not have put such a serious thought in his
mind. Whether intentionally or not, Harington demonstrates his
awareness of the method of selection.
Insofar as reinterpretation is concerned, Harington achieves
originality by omission and by addition. He confesses to omitting
parts of various cantos of Ariosto's work, as well as combining in
some instances several of the verses of the original into one in
his translation, possibly in an attempt to make the poem a more
unified structure.157 Because some things in the Italian poem
would be relatively meaningless to the English reader, Harington
omits them. About all such excisions he says, "For my omitting and
abreviating some things, either in matters.impertinent to us, or
in some to tediouse flatteries of persons that we never heard of,
if I have done ill I crave pardon: for sure I did it for the
best."158 So that the poem would be sure to have something of his
own in it, Harington "added some notes to the end of every canto,
even as if some of my friends and my selfe reading it together . .
had after debated upon them what had bene most worthie considera-
tion."159 In these notes he mentions the names of his "owne friends
& kin," an addition for which he was apparently criticized rather
harshly by some of his contemporaries. Thus, while his reinterpre-
tation is not extensive, Harington takes care to show that his
work is original in that particular.
Finally, although he never directly suggests that his work
is an improvement on the original, he implies that this is the case
by the changes he makes, all the while being careful to point out
that his Orlando cannot be considered a literal translation. By
inviting comparison of his translation with the original, Harington
suggests that his work, because of the changes he has made, is the
better, even though he does no violence to the original, as will
be immediately apparent to the discriminating and knowledgeable
reader: "But if anie being studious of the Italian would for his
understanding compare them, the first sixe books, save a little of
the third, will stand him in steed."60 Nevertheless, the English
Orlando should not be considered a literal translation: "I would
not have any man except that I should observe his phrase so strictly
as an interpreter, nor the matter so carefully as if it had bene
a store, in which to varie were as great a sinne as it were sim-
plicitie in this to go word for word." Although Harington
speaks of himself as being only a translator, it is obvious that he
saw himself as a poet: "I would wish," he says, "to be called
rather one of the worst translators then one of the meaner makers,
specially sith the Earle of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wiat, that are
yet called the first refiners of the English tong, were both trans-
lators out of Italian."162 Furthermore, he saw himself working in
the tradition of imitative composition, as his statement acknowl-
edging his debt shows: "For the matter I can challenge no praise,
having but borowedit."163 His subsequent remarks are evidence that
he, and doubtless most other English writers of the period, were
aware of and conformed to the classical prescription requiring an
imitation to be original.
On the assumption, then, that Shakespeare understood and
practiced the imitative approach to composition, an approach that
insisted that the imitator be somehow original, this study will in
the following chapters demonstrate that, however else Shakespeare
achieved originality, a comparison of certain of his plays with
their sources reveals that one way was through a substantially
Many scholars have established that Shakespeare was a
borrower. Allardyce Nicoll claims that present-day critics agree
on the futility of further scholarship in the area of Shakespeare's
sources unless such studies apply themselves to "the essential task
--the imaginative consideration of Shakespeare's creative genius in
the light of these sources.16 The present study undertakes that
In the past, parallels between the language of a play and
its source, noted by Shakespearian scholars, are more often than
not cited as examples of how closely Shakespeare followed his sources.
Muir, for example, shows how a nonsensical line in Coriolanus can
be clarified by an examination of the corresponding passage in the
source of the play. Citing the lines from Act II, Scene 3,
And Nobly nam'd, so twice being Censor,
Was his great Ancestor,
Muir invites us to compare them with these similar lines from North's
translation of Plutarch,
And Censorinus that was so surnamed,
And Nobly nam'd so, twice being Censor.165
Another of Muir's examples derronstrates how the playwright's source
was responsible for an anachronism, and a third indicates that a
number of sources were used for one particular passage. This
kind of observation is valuable in that it always broadens our knowl-
edge about, and often increases our understanding of, a play. Where-
as the foregoing approach leads from a comparison of either to
establish the fact of source or at most to explicate difficulties
within the play, the present approach examines the distinctive
imageries of source and play in an attempt to describe how the two
differ in meaning.
It has been the judgment of history that the works used as
sources by Shakespeare for Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, and
Twelfth Night are something less than first-rate. Certainly, the
modern reader, diverted by the opportunity of reading the master-
works of other periods, usually neglects the considerable body of
second- and third-line literature which was produced in sixteenth-
century England. He is willing, since it is usually necessary, to
accept the evaluation made by those critics whose especial business
it is to read all of the literature of the Renaissance. Thus, these
works are usually forgotten, and forgotten also is the fact that in
the eyes of their creators and their contemporary audience they
were works of art. There may have been a division of opinion at
the time as to the merits of a particular work, but there was no
difference of opinion about the propriety of exercising critical
judgment over what was offered as art.
Therefore, one reason why the sources of Romeo and Juliet,
As You Like It, and Twelfth Night are particularly well suited for
this study is that each, itself a complete and separate work, was
somewhat popular with Shakespeare's audience, many of whom doubtless
had read it and immediately recognized the relationship of the
source to the play and, because of the imitative approach to compo-
sitibn, understood the playwright's obligation to achieve original-
ity. While that can only be seen dimly in Shakespeare today, it
was clearly seen then. The modern reader can only begin to appre-
ciate subtleties which would have been obvious to a well-read, well-
educated, sixteenth-century Londoner. To him, the knowledge of the
source of the play.and an understanding of the imitative approach
to composition would have suggested that the relation between the
two involved something more than a mere retelling of the same story.
If the modern reader neglects the sound sixteenth-century assumptions,
he will never reach a true understanding of the relationships that
contributed heavily to the intellectual joys of playgoing in the
An immediately practical reason for choosing Romeo and Juliet,
As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and their sources is that the consensus
of scholarly opinion has established that each play emanates almost
wholly from the single work identified as its source. Thus, each
pair offers an excellent opportunity to examine the imitative ap-
proach to composition.
In the succeeding chapters of this study the aforementioned
plays and their sources are analyzed for their imageries. This
comparison of imagery reveals an important component of the nature
and extent of Shakespeare's originality, his reinterpretation and
improvement upon his source. The investigation shows that in every
case the play follows the story line of the source very closely;
however, in each pair the i!:agery of the source and the imagery of
the play differ significantly. As we study Romeo and Juliet and
Twelfth Night, we shall find in each instance that both play and
source have organized imagery, but that the conclusions suggested
by the imagery of the source are not those suggested by the imagery
of the play, even though there are similarities between the language
of the source and the language of the play. As for As You Like It,
on the other hand, though the plots of play and source are very
similar, the source lacks any discernable organization of imagery
that allows interpretation.- In the play, however, there is a
highly organized imagery which does allow interpretation. Thus,
through this process another kind of originality dependent upon
interpretation evolves which can be seen, on the one hand, to
amount to a change of meaning between source and play, and, on the
other, the achievement of meaning where none was before.
1. Sir Philip Sidney, "An Apologie for Poetrie," Elizabethan Criti-
cal Essays, ed. G. Gregory Smith (London: Oxford University Press,
190&), I, 158.
2. Ibid., 159.
3. Ibid., 195.
4. Harold Ogden White, Plagiarism and Imitation During the English
Renaissance (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935), p. 61n.
5. Charles Sears Baldwin, Renaissance Literary Theory and Practice,
ed. Donald Lemen Clark (New York: Columbia University Press,
1939), PP. 39-154.
6. Ibid., p. 52.
7. Ibid., p. 53.
8. John Brinsley, Ludus Literarius (1612), p. 177, quoted in
Donald Lemen Clark, John Milton at St. Paul's School (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1946), p. 169.
9. Donald Lemen Clark, John Milton at St. Paul's School (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1945), p. 16
10. Roger Ascham, English Works, ed William Aldis Wright (Cambridge:
The University Press, 1904), p. 239, also cited by Clark, pp.
11. Clark, p. 3.
12. T. W. Baldwin, William Shakspere's Small Latine & Lesse Greeke
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1944),l 7 120.
13. Ascham, p. 183, also cited by Clark, p. 173.
14. Clark, p. 172.
15. John Brinsley, A Consolation for Our Grammar Schooles (New
York: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1943), pp. 31-32.
16. Ibid., pp. 32-41F.
17. Ibid., p. 35F2.
19. Ibid., p. 44.
21. T. W. Baldwin, I, 5F4.
22. Charles Hoole, A New Discovery of the Old Art of Teaching School,
ed. Thiselton Mark Syracuse: C. W. Bardeen, 1912), p. 107.
23. Ibid., p. 103.
24. Ibid., p. 114.
25. Ibid., p. 115.
26. Ibid., pp. 117-118.
27. Ibid., p. 118.
28. Ibid., p. 136.
29. T. W. Baldwin, I, 607-640.
31. Hoole, p. 123.
32. Ibid., p. 126.
33. Ibid., p. 127.
34. Ibid., pp. 127-128.
35. Ibid., p. 128.
36. Ibid., p. 149.
37. Ibid., p. 179.
38. Ibid., p. 180.
39. Interestingly, considering the date of Hoole's book, the peda-
gogue recommends the acting out of acts and scenes from Terence
as an aid in preparing the student for the delivery of orations
(Hoole, pp. 180-181).
40. Hoole, p. 183.
41. Ibid., p. 182.
42. Ibid., pp. 12-183.
43. Ibid., p. 185.
44. Ibid., p. 186.
45. Ibid., p. 188.
46. Ibid., p. 190.
47. Ibid., pp. 190-191.
48. Ibid., p. 192.
51. Ibid., p. 193.
52. Ibid., p. 194.
53. Ibid., p. 207.
54. Ibid., pp. 219-220.
55. Ibid., p. 202.
56. Ibid., pp. 202-203.
57. Ibid., p. 209.
58. Ibid., p. 210.
59. Ibid., pp. 210-211.
60. Ibid., p. 211.
61. Ibid., p. 212.
62. Ibid. Interestingly, Hoole adds a commentary that reveals the
basic division between those who ascribed poetic success to
nature and those who maintained poetry to derive from art:
From this little that hath been said, they that have a
natural aptness and delight in Poetry, may proceed to more
exquisite perfection in that Art, then any rules of teach-
ing can reach unto; and there are very few so meanly witted,
but by diligent use of the directions now given, may attain
to so much skill, as to be able to judge of any verse, and
upon a fit occasion or subject, to compose a handsome copy;
though not so fluently or neatly as they that have a natural
sharpnesse and dexterity in the Art of Poetry.
63. Ibid., p. 221.
64. T. W. Baldwin, II, 662.
66. Hoole, p. 108n.
67. T. W. Baldwin, I, 45.
68. William F-'esyeare, Love's Labor's Lost, in The Complete
Works of Shakesceare, ed. George Lyman Kittredge (Boston: Ginn
and Company, 1936), I.i.16-S7, also cited by White, p. 107.
69. Ibid., V.ii.315-316, also cited by White, p. 107.
70. Ibid., IV.ii.67-73.
71. Hoole, p. 212.
72. Ibid., p. 221.
73. Shakespeare, IV.ii.95-100.
74. See p. 24.
75. Shakespeare, IV.ii.123-132, also cited by White, p. 107.
76. T. W. Baldwin records many, many further examples which support
this contention, particularly in Vol. II, chaps, xxxviii-xli.
77. King James VI, "Ane Schort Treatise containing some Reulis and
Cautelis to be observit and eschewit in Scottis Poesie,"
Elizabethan Critical Essays, I, 220, also cited by White, p.
80. White, p. 65.
81. King James VI, p. 211.
82. Ibid., p. 221.
83. William Webbe, "A Discourse of English Poetrie," Elizabethan
Critical Essays, I, 230.
84. Ibid., 231-232.
85. Ibid., 232.
86. Thomas Nash, "Preface to Greene's Menaphon," Elizabethan
Critical Essays, I, 307-308.
87. Ibid., 311-312.
88. Ibid., 312. Some theorize the reference to Aesop to be an allusion
to Kyd (Elizabethan Critical Essays, I, 424).
89. Ibid., 308-309.
90. Ibid., 309.
91. Ibid., 313.
92. Ibid., 334.
94. White, p. 95.
95. George Puttenham, "The Arte of English Poesie," Elizabethan
Critical Essays, II, 27.
97. Ibid., 188.
98. Ibid., 3.
100. Ibid., 4.
101. Ibid., 4-5.
102. Ibid., 190-191.
103. Ibid., 64.
105. Ibid., 65-66.
106. Ibid., 62.
107. The editor of Elizabethan Critical Essays identifies this
individual as John Southern ibidd., 421).
108. George Puttenham, p. 171.
109. Sir John Harington, "A Preface, or rather a Briefe Apologie
of Poetrie," Elizabethan Critical Essays, II, 196.
110. rIid., 211-212.
111. Ibid., 216.
112. Ibid., 218-219.
113. Gabriel Harvey, "Foure Letters," Elizabethan Critical Essays,
114. Ibid., 229-230.
115. Ibid., 230-231.
116. Ibid., 231.
117. Gabriel Harvey, "Pierce's Supererogation," Elizabethan Criti-
cal Essays, II, 259.
118. Thomas Nash, "Strange Newes, or Foure Letters Confuted,"
Elizabethan Critical Essays, II, 243.
120. Gabriel Harvey, "Pierce's Supererogation," p. 266.
121. Richard Carew, "The Excellency of the English Tongue,"
Elizabethan Critical Essays, II, 292.
122. Ibid., 293.
123. George Chapman, "Preface to Seaven Bookes of the Iliades of
Homere," Elizabethan Critical Essays, II, 296.
124. Francis Meres, "Palladis Tamia," Elizabethan Critical Essays,
125. Ibid., 316.
127. Samuel Daniel, "A Defence of Ryme," Elizabethan Critical Essays,
128. Ibid., 364.
130. Ibid., 375. Daniel also furnishes further evidence of the in-
fluence of education on the writer when he, perhaps unkindly,
asks why Campion undertook his essay against rhyme. Was the
essay written for the learned? "If for the Learned, it was
to no purpose, for everie Grammarian in this land hath learned
his Prosodia, and alreadie knows all this Arte of numbers"
ibidd., 379). Was the essay supposed to benefit the igno-
rant? If so, "it was vaine, for if they become Versifiers,
wee are like to have leane Numbers instead of fat Ryme; and
if Tully would have his Orator skilld in all the knowledge
appertaining to God and man, what should they have who would
be a degree above Orators" ibidd., 379)? If neither for the
learned nor the ignorant,.the only purpose of Campion's
essay must have been self aggrandizement, and Daniel laments
that "it is ever the misfortune of Learning to be wounded
by her owne hand" ibidd., 374). It should be clear that
the object of Daniel's attack is Campion, or, more properly,
Campion's proposals. When Daniel touches upon imitation,
he is concerned with its misuse rather than its practice.
The generous sprinkling of classical allusions and Latin
phrases he uses to substantiate his arguments attests to
Daniel's learning, and, as he says, no learned man was igno-
rant of prosody, itself taught by imitation. To Daniel
emulation is "the strongest pulse that beats in high mindes"
131. Quintilian, The Institutio Oratoria, tr. H. E. Butler (London:
William HeinemannLtd, 1936), IV, 75. i am indebted to
Harold Ogden White for leading me to this and to the other
classical sources quoted in the following pages.
132. Ibid., 5.
133. Longinus, On the Sublime, tr. Benedict Einarson (Chicago:
Packard and Company, 1945), pp. 29-30.
134. Ibid., p. 30n.
135. White, p. 6.
136. Quintilian, IV, 77.
137. Isocrates, "Panegyricus," Isocrates, tr. George Norlin
(London: William HeinemannLtd, 1928), I, 123-125.
138. Horace, "The Art of Poetry," tr. the Earl of Roscommon, The
Complete Works of Horace, tr. by various hands (London:
J. M. Dent and Sons, Ltd, 1923), pp. 134, 137.
139. White, pp. 8-13.
140. Horace, p. 137.
141. Quintilian, IV, 25.
142. White, p. 9.
143. Isocrates, pp. 123-125.
144. Quintilian, II, 367.
145. Seneca, Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, tr. Richard M. Gummere
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), II, 277.
146. Ibid., 279.
147. Ibid., 281.
148. Ibid. Gummere in his edition of Seneca informs his readers
that "a considerable part of this letter is found in the
preface to the Saturnalia of Macrobius, without any acknowl-
edgment of indebtedness" ibidd., 276n.). Aside from the
irony afforded, this information further illustrates the
prevalence of the practice of imitation during the classical
149. Longinus, p. 30.
151. Quintilian, IV, 79.
153. Ibid., 79, 81.
154. Horace, p. 137.
155. Sir John Harington, pp. 219-220.
156. Ibid., p. 220.
158. Ibid., p. 222.
159. Ibid., p. 221.
160. Ibid., p. 222.
162. Ibid., p. 219.
163. Ibid., p. 218.
164. Kenneth Muir, Shakespeare's Sources, Vol. I: Comedies and
Tragedies (London: Methuen & Company,Ltd, 1961), p. vii.
165. Ibid., pp. 222-223.
The image dominating Romeus and Juliet is that of Fortune,
whereas Romeo and Juliet is characterized by a complex of dominating
images. By the same token, the dramatic statement made by Brooke's
poem is one-dimensional and conventional, whereas the complex of
dominating images in Roreo and Juliet reveals a story reinterpreted'
to present a similarly complex, and hence more believable, world.
Brooke's poem portrays a world in which the poem's characters have
no control over their destiny, but a world which affords a rational
explanation for this seeming chaos in the figure of Fortune. Reject-
ing this commonplace convention of the time, Shakespeare's play
presents a world capable of many rational explanations, but never
finally yielding to any single one.
So that there will be no misunderstanding about what is meant
by image in this and succeeding chapters, let us agree to accept
Caroline Spurgeon's definition. She says:
I use the term "image" here as the only available word
to cover every kind of simile, as well as every kind of what
is really compressed simile--metaphor. I suggest that we
divest our minds of the hint the term carries with it of
visual image only,j and think of it, for the present purpose,
as connoting any and every imaginative picture or other
experience, drawn in every kind of way, which may have come
to the poet, not only through any of his senses, but through
his mind and emotions as well, and which he uses, in the
forms of simile and metaphor in their widest sense, for
purposes of analogy.1
This definition is comprehensive, extending the boundaries of the term
far beyond the limits sometimes set for it. But in a study of imi-
tation such an all-encompassing definition has the advantage of
assuring that a dominant feature of an author's language--such as
the personification of Fortune in the case of Brooke--will not be
.The story Brooke tells is basically the story Shakespeare
tells. In Verona, ruled by Prince Escalus, are two feuding families,
the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeus, son of the head of the
Montague family, attends uninvited a ball given by the head of the
Capulet family. There, he and Juliet, daughter of his unwilling
host, meet and fall in love. They have a clandestine courtship and
are eventually married secretly by Friar Laurence. Subsequently,
Romeus kills Juliet's kinsman, Tybalt, in a duel, for which act of
violence the young husband is banished from Verona and Juliet. To
avoid being forced into a marriage, Juliet, upon the advice of
Friar Laurence, takes a sleeping potion which gives her the appear-
ance of death. She is entombed, and Romeus, ignorant of the device,
returns to Verona. Seeing Juliet in her tomb and believing her
dead, he poisons himself. Juliet awakens, sees her husband dead,
and kills herself with his dagger. Whoever has read Shakespeare's
Romeo and Juliet will recognize the essential similarities in plot
between the play and the poem; there are many other similarities
between the two, so many that it would be almost impossible to con-
clude Shakespeare did not knowingly imitate Brooke's poem. Further-
more, in both cases it is the imagery which gives this story life,
but the different image structure of the two works is evidence that,
whatever else Shakespeare might have borrowed, he did not find his
imagery in Brooke.
The images of Brooke's poem are diverse, but one dominates:
Fortune. There are an undeniably large number of references to that
cosmic force and to other closely related ideas suggested by words
and figures of speech such as "fate," "chance," "hap," "mishap,"
and "doom." The word "fortune" itself, capitalized or not, occurs
approximately forty times in the course of the poem; and, while
this statistic alone has little to recommend it as an indicator of
the dominating imagery of the poem, it together with the other avail-
able evidence strongly suggest Fortune is the poem's dominating
Another clue pointing to the dominance of Fortune in Brooke's
poem is his use of the concept of Fortune's wheel. The conventional
view of Fortune saw it as a cyclical process; witness the presenta-
tion of the theme in Fall of Princes, Lydgate's imitation of
Boccaccio, and the later Mirrour for Magistrates, the first volume
of which was printed only a few years before Brooke's poem and thus
may have influenced his treatment of his story. The worst position
to occupy on Fortune's wheel, of course, is the top position, be-
cause the most fortunate individual can only fall from Fortune's
favor, a fall made more poignant by his erstwhile good fortune.
Quite clearly, Brooke capitalized on this idea by his des-
cription of Verona and its ruler. Both occupy the highest position
on Fortune's wheel at the beginning of the poem:
There is beyond the Alps, a town of ancient fame,
WIhose bright renown yet shineth clear: Verona men it name;
Built in a happy time, built on a fertile soil,
Maintained by the heavenly fates, and by the townish toil.
The fruitful hills above, the pleasant vales below,
The silver stream with channel deep, that thro' the town doth
The store of springs that serve for use, and eke for ease,
And other more co-modities, which profit may and please,--
Eke many certain signs of things betid of old,
To fill the hungry eyes of those that curiously behold,
Do make this town to be preferred above the rest
Of Lombard towns, or at the least, compared with the best.
In which while Escalus as prince alone did reign,
To reach reward unto the good, to pay the lewd with pain,
Alas,-I rue to think, an heavy hap befell.2
Because Verona and Escalus cannot improve upon this happy state of
affairs, it follows that they must in some way be less fortunate at
the end of the poem.
Brooke establishes similar positions on Fortune's wheel for
the feuding families:
There were two ancient stocks, which Fortune high did
Above the rest, indued with wealth, and nobler of their race,
Loved of the common sort, loved of the prince alike,
And like unhappy were they both, when Fortune list to strike.3
What is to happen involves not only the city and its prince, but the
two leading families of Verona.
But it is Romeus and Juliet who are Fortune's special victims,
and Brooke employs the metaphor of Fortune and her wheel to describe
their happiness and forecast their doom. It is Fortune who is res-
ponsible for the lovers' happiness:
But Fortune such delight as theirs did never grant me yet.
The blindfold goddess that with frowning face doth fray,
And from their seat the mighty kings throws down with headlong
Beginneth now to turn to these her smiling face;
Needs must they taste of great delight, so much in Fortune's
Romeus and Juliet continue to enjoy Fortune's favor for a month or
Happiness is impossible to sustain in the world of Romeus
and Juliet because fickle Fortune is in control of man's fate. To
establish this, Brooke interrupts his narrative and employs the
metaphor of Fortune and her wheel in a lengthy discourse:
But who is he that can his present state assure?
And say unto himself, thy joys shall yet a day endure?
So wavering Fortune's wheel, her changes be so strange;
And every wight y-thralled is by Fate unto her change,
Who reigns so over all, that each man hath his part
(Although not aye, perchance, alike) of pleasure and of smart.
For after many joys some feel but little pain,
And from that little grief they turn to happy joy again.
But other some there are, that, living long in woe,
At length they be in quiet ease, but long abide not so;
Whose grief is much increased by mirth that went before,
Because the sudden change of things doth make it seem the
Of this unlucky sort our Romeus is one,
For all his hap turns to mishap, and all his mirth to moan.
And joyful Juliet another leaf must turn;
As wont she was, her joys bereft, she must begin to mourn.5
Should there be the reader who had not understood Romeus and Juliet
were Fortune's victims, Brooke reiterates two lines later:
Whom glorious Fortune erst had heaved to the skies, 6
By envious Fortune overthrown, on earth now grovelling lies.
Nor is Brooke content to indicate Fortune's role in the poem
solely by withdrawing to comment on the personification. Rather,
Fortune takes an active part in the lives of Romeus and Juliet
especially responsible for their tragedy. In a forecast of Romeus'
fate before he meets Juliet the identification of Fortune as the
villain is made: "False Fortune" it is who will create for Romeus
a "mischief" which will make him wish that he had "been never born."7
Upon discovering the identity of the other's family, both Romeus and
Juliet correctly blame Fortune for their plight. Juliet alludes to
Fortune's role in her life as she laments: "What hap have I .
to love my father's foe." And Romeus
with piteous plaint fierce Fortune doth he blame,
That in his ruth and wretched plight doth seek her laughing
Ironically, neither realizes the ultimate fate Fortune has in store.
Having fallen in love, Romeus and Juliet secretly marry, and,
anxious to consummate the marriage, both express a disregard for For-
tune. Romeus' determination to come to his bride is described thus:
For whether Fortune smile on him, or if she list to lower,
He will not miss to come to his appointed place.10
Of course, Romeus succeeds in finding his way to Juliet's bedroom,
and, after they passionately greet each other, Juliet reflects her
But now what is decreed by fatal destiny,
I force it not; let Fortune do, and death, their worst to
Their pessimism is, of course, to be justified. But it is this precise
moment when the lovers are most in Fortune's favor.
Romeus ironically chooses just this moment to blame "cruel
Fortune,"2 for making it impossible for him to demonstrate publicly
his love for Juliet, little realizing that Fortune's cruelty is soon
to be more amply manifested. The event that acts as a catalyst for
the plot is Romeus' duel with Tybalt. The duel and Escalus' sentence
of banishment take place on the day after Easter:
At holiest times, men say, most heinous crimes are done;
The morrow after Easter day the mischief new begun.13
The implications of this proverb is that God seems to be unconcerned
with man, whereas Fortune, responsible for the change in the affairs
of man, subjects him to her caprices. Certainly, in the eyes of many
of Verona's citizens, particularly the ladies, Fortune and not Romeus
is to blame for Tybalt's death and Romeus' banishment:
And other some bewail, but ladies most of all,
The luckless lot by Fortune's guilt that is so late befall,
Without his fault, unto the seely Romeus.14
Juliet also sees Fortune at work in the duel between Tybalt and
Romeus. She curses the window through which Romeus so often climbed
lamenting the "fading pleasure as by Fortune straight was reaved."15
Fainting, Juliet is revived by her nurse, who comforts her with the
prediction that Fortune will soon smile upon the lovers again:
With patience arm thyself, for though that Fortune's crime,
Without your fault, to both your griefs, depart you for a
I dare say, for amends of all your present pain,
She will restore your own to you, within a month or twain,
With such contented ease as never erst you had.16
Against a hostile Fortune, so the Stoic commonplace went, defenses
were available, and the nurse's admonition to patience was an obvious
and usual one.
Friar Laurence similarly provides.Romeus with defenses against
Fortune. Having been told of his banishment, Romeus, in despair,
reacts violently. He rages against Nature, his birth, the stars, his
nurse, the midwife who delivered him, Cupid, and Fortune:
On Fortune eke he railed, he called her deaf and blind,
Unconstant, fond, deceitful, rash, unruthful, and unkind.17
When Romeus' rage begins to ebby Friar Laurence admonishes his young
So, if thou still beweep
And seek not how to help the changes that do chance,
Thy cause of sorrow shall increase, thou cause of thy mis-
The wise man is not defenseless before Fortune.
A constant mind is the primary shield against Fortune's slings
and arrows, Friar Laurence advises. Romeus must control his emotions.
Sickness the body's gaol, grief gaol is of the mind,
If thou canst 'scape from heavy grief, true freedom shalt
Fortune can fill nothing so full of hearty grief,
But in the same a constant mind finds solace and relief.19
There is something to be gained from adversity, the holy man argues;
the man who has experienced it not only is better prepared for any
future troubles, but also he has a standard by which to judge any
future happiness. But first Romeus must
master quite the troubles that thee spill,
Endeavour first by reason's help to master witless will.20
By allowing his passions to overcome his reason, the young lover aids
Affection's foggy mist thy feebled sight doth blind;
But if that reason's beams again might shine into thy mind,
If thou would'st view thy state with an indifferent eye,
I think thou would'st condemn thy plaint, thy sighing and
Friar Laurence's advice, typical of the attitudes taken toward Fortune,
reflected the classical attitudes available to the literate man. Com-
pare, for example, the very similar comment made by Plutarch in his
life of Solon:
For it is not love but wenmes, which breedeth these extreme
sorowes, and exceeding feare, in men that are not exercised,
nor acquainted to fight against fortune with reason. And
this is the cause that plucketh from them the pleasure of that
they love and desire, by reason of the continually trouble,
feare and griefe they feele, by thinking howe in time they
maye be deprived of it. I;owe we must not arme ourselves with
povertie, against the griefe of losse of goodes: neither with
lacke of affection, against the losse of our friends: neither
with wanted of marriage, against the death of children: but
we must be armed with reason against misfortunes.22
Having mastered his emotions, a man is then able to defend
himself against Fortune with his reason, which enables him to under-
stand that Fortune is cyclical.
The world is always full of chances and of change,
Wherefore the change of chance must not seem to a wise man
For tickel Fortune doth, in changing, but her kind,
But all her changes cannot change a steady constant mind.
Though wavering Fortune turn from thee her smiling face,
And Sorrow seek to set himself in banished Pleasure's place,
Yet may thy marred state be mended in a while,
And she eftsoons that frowneth now, with pleasant cheer shall
For as her happy state no long while standeth sure,
Even so the heavy plight she brings, not always doth endure.23
The wise man, Friar Laurence tells Romeus, will be led to this con-
clusion by his reason. After all, the monk says, had Romeus not
been Fortune's victim just before he had enjoyed her favor in winning
Juliet? He can look forward to enjoying again the blessings of For-
tune with increased pleasure.
Those griefs and others like were haply overpast,
And thou in height of Fortune's wheel well placed at the
From whence thou art now fall'n, that, raised up again,
With great joy a greater while in pleasure may'st thou
Again, Brooke has Friar Laurence utter commonplace advice concerning
the defense against Fortune, advice that was similar to the encour-
aging words spoken by Aeneas to his discouraged followers on the
shores of Libya:
0 comrades, for not ere now are we ignorant of ill, 0
tried by heavier fortunes, to these also God will appoint an
end. The fury of Scylla and the roaring recesses of her
crags you have come nigh, and known the rocks of the Cyclops.
Recall your courage, put sorrow and fear away. This too
sometime we shall haply remember with delight. Through
chequered fortunes, through many perilous ways, we steer for
Latium, where destiny points us a quiet home. There the
realm of Troy may rise again unforbidden. Keep heart, and
endure till prosperous fortune come.25
Thus, although the individual cannot escape Fortune, he can soften
her blows by remembering her essential nature and acting accordingly;
Friar Laurence, as Aeneas had done, counsels Romeus to endure until
his fortunes change:
Compare the present while with times y-past before,
And think that Fortune hath for thee great pleasure yet in
And whilst, this little wrong receive thou patiently,
And what of force must needs be done, that do thou willingly.
Folly it is to fear that thou canst not avoid,
And madness to desire it much that cannot be enjoyed.
To give to Fortune place, not aye deserveth blame,
But skill it is, according to the times thyself to frame.26
Romeus at last accepts the friar's arguments as well as his sugges-
tion that he, Romeus, visit Juliet so that he may comfort her before
he begins his exile from Verona.
At the farewell meeting, both Romeus and Juliet blame Fortune
for their plight, and Romeus, of course, intending to soothe his
wife, begins by reminding her of the cyclical nature of Fortune:
My Juliet, my love, my only hope and care,
To you I purpose not as now with length of words declare
The diverseness and eke the accidents so strange
Of frail unconstant Fortune, that delighteth still in change;
Who in a moment heaves her friends up to the height
Of her swift-turning slippery wheel, then fleets her friend-
O wondrous change, even with the twinkling of an eye
Whom erst herself had rashly set in pleasant place so high,
The same in great despite down headlong doth she throw,
And while she treads and spurneth at the lofty state laid
More sorrow doth she shape within an hour's space,
Than pleasure in an hundred years; so season is her grace.27
He also reminds her of the noble motives which led to their marriage
and bewails his banishment, all preparatory
to exhort you now to prove yourself-a woman wise,
That patiently you bear my absent long abode,
For what above by fatal dooms decreed is, that God--2
But before he can pass on Friar Laurence's sage advice about
how to deal with Fortune, Juliet, enraged because her lover's talk
seems to be concerned with his fate and not hers, breaks in to rail
at him--and Fortune. She would be better off dead, she claims, yet
Fortune denies her even that:
Yet such is my mishap, 0 cruel destiny,
That still I live, and wish for death, but yet can never die;
So that just cause I have to think, as seemeth me,
That froward Fortune did of late with cruel Death agree
To lengthen loathed life, to pleasure in my pain.29
Romeus himself is described as
the instrument of Fortune's cruel will,
Without whose aid she can no way her tyrannous lust fulfil.30
She proposes either to kill herself or to go into exile with him.
Upon the cessation of her tirade, Romeus has an opportunity
to present a remedy for Fortune. He first points out the faults of
the alternatives Juliet has mentioned and then largely repeats
Friar Laurence's commentary on Fortune. Their situation can only
get better, Romeus says,
For Fortune changeth more than fickle fantasy;
In nothing Fortune constant is save in unconstancy.
Her hasty running wheel is of a restless course,
That turns the climbers headlong down, from better to the
And those that are beneath she heaveth up again:
So we shall rise to pleasure's mount, out of the pit of
If Fortune is at fault for their plight, as Romeus earlier suggested,
then their succor will also be at the hands of Fortune, for her wheel
'is constantly turning. Juliet, at last, becomes resigned to the
situation; and with the first signs of dawn the lovers part, unaware
that they are never again to rise up "out of the pit of pain."
Although there are few mentions of Fortune in the poem after
the parting of Romeus and Juliet, some of these are relatively signi-
ficant. Juliet twice conceives of herself as subject to the whims
of the goddess. In her attempt to evade her father's command to marry
Paris, she begs Capulet to allow her to continue living unmarried at
home, promising never again to be her parent's concern:
Cease all your troubles for my sake, and care for me no more;
But suffer Fortune fierce to work on me her will,
In her it lieth to do me boot, in her it lieth to spill.32
These lines are highly ironic, for they recall Romeus' prediction
that Juliet and he "shall rise . out of the pit of pain" even as
they forecast Juliet's ultimate fate. Again she accurately describes
her role as Fortune's victim when, just after drinking the sleeping
potion given her by Friar Laurence, she, perhaps unwittingly, questions
whether she is not
of all that yet were born,
The deepest drenched in despair, and most in Fortune's
The latter line could serve as her epitaph.
In addition, Juliet understands Romeus as the victim of Fortune.
Awakening in the tomb to find her lover dead beside her, she asks his
How could thy dainty youth agree with willing heart,
In this so foul-infected place to dwell, where now thou art?
Where spiteful Fortune hath appointed thee to be
The dainty food of greedy worms, unworthy, sure, of thee.
Shortly afterward, Juliet, equally unworthy to be "the dainty food
of greedy worms," follows Romeus to death. Both are the victims of
Friar Laurence also ascribes the fate of Romeus and Juliet to
Fortune. Beginning his tale of the events which have resulted in the
deaths of the two young lovers, he says that there is not a member
of his audience who considers
this heavy sight, the wreak of frantic Fortune's rage,
But that, amazed much, doth wonder at this change.35
This description of Fortune sharply contrasts with the impersonal, cycli-
cal description with which the monk had comforted Romeus and signals a
shift in Friar Laurence's attitude toward the nature of the forces
which govern the world.
By his actions more than his words, Friar Laurence acknowl-
edges that his view of Fortune and the defenses against her he had
recommended to Romeus are inadequate. Too late, the good friar
realizes the shortcomings of reason. Although he explains to the satis-
faction of the citizens and ruler of Verona that he is legally guilt-
less in the deaths of Romeus and Juliet, Brooke's description of
Friar Laurence's fate suggests another kind of guilt:
But now what shall betide of this grey-bearded sire?
Of Friar Laurence thus arraigned, that good barefooted friar?
Because that many times he worthily did serve
The commonwealth, and in his life was never found to swerve,
He was discharged quite, and no mark of defame
Did seem to blot or touch at all the honour of his name.36
That the deaths of the lovers only seemed not to affect the friar,
while in fact they did, is indicated by the holy man's voluntary
exile from Verona:
But of himself he went into an hermitage,
Two miles from Verona town, where he in prayers passed forth
Till that from earth to heaven his heavenly sprite did fly,
Five years he lived an hermit and an hermit did he die.37
In his hermitage Friar Laurence will no longer be available to counsel
others, nor would he want to, for in a world ruled by Fortune one has
a difficult enough time saving his own soul.
And the world of Brooke's poem is a world ruled by Fortune.
Of this there can be no doubt. The Romeus and Juliet of the poem are
indeed "unfortunate lovers." Fortune is as important to the poem
as Romeus, Juliet, the nurse, or Friar Laurence, for she is the villain
of the piece.
Although Farnham states that "the star-crossed lovers" in
Romeo and Juliet are "slaves of Fortune in the play very much as they
are in Arthur Brooke's poem,"3 a close reading of Shakespeare's play
reveals a significant shift in imagery from a single dominant metaphor
to a complex of images. The complex of images-that dominates in the
play does not allow the conclusion that the lovers are Fortune's
fools; rather it suggests a world which defies any such simple attempts
at understanding. There is no question that Shakespeare's Romeo and
Juliet closely imitates Brooke's Romeus and Juliet insofar as plot
is concerned; but there can be no question that Shakespeare did not
limit himself to the imagery of Brooke.
Interestingly, Caroline Spurgeon credits Brooke for the light
imagery she sees dominating in the play. "Shakespeare's extraordinary
susceptibility to suggestion and readiness to borrow are well exemp-
lified in this running imagery. He took the idea from the last
place we should expect, from the wooden doggerel of Arthur Brooke."39
To support her statement she cites a number of passages in Brooke's
poem which have parallels in Shakespeare's play, concluding that even
though Shakespeare borrowed the imagery from Brooke:
In taking it, he has transformed a few conventional and obvious
similes of little poetic worth into a continuous and consistent
running image of exquisite beauty, building up a definite pic-
ture and atmosphere of brilliance swiftly quenched which
powerfully affects the imagination of the reader.6
While Professor Spurgeon is not concerned with the idea of imitation,
had she been she could hardly have seen anything "extraordinary"
about "Shakespeare's extraordinary susceptibility to suggestion and
readiness to borrow." She would also have understood that, regard-
less of the execution of the task, Shakespeare was obligated to at-
tempt to improve upon whatever was borrowed or, more accurately,
imitated. Nevertheless, her insights concerning the imagery of the
play are valuable.
She speaks eloquently:
In Romeo and Juliet the beauty and ardour of young love
are seen by Shakespeare as the irradiating glory of sunlight
and starlight in a dark world. The dominating image is
light, every form and manifestation of it: the sun, moon,
stars, fire, lightning, the flash of gunpowder, and the re-
flected light of beauty and of love; while by contrast we
have night, darkness, clouds, rain, mist and smoke.
She offers evidence which adequately supports her contention, and
her conclusions as to the function of the imagery pleases the mind.
There can be no question, I think, that Shakespeare saw
the story, in its swift and tragic beauty, as an almost blind-.2
ing flash of light, suddenly ignited, and as swiftly quenched.
Other critics concur with Professor Spurgeon's view that light
is the dominating image in Romeo and Juliet. Donald A. Stauffer says
that "to convey his vivid intuition of the place and duration of love
in the dark world of time, Shakespeare finds the lightning-in-the-
night adequate as the germinating and organizing symbol for Romeo
and Juliet." He describes the contrast as that between "the dark
shades of hate" and "the brilliant lightning flash of passion.
Ifor Evans concentrates on the settings implied by the play
in reaching a similar conclusion about the light imagery:
Throughout, darkness and light are brought into contrast, until
they dwell in the memory as a symbol of the tragic contrast of
love and death which encircles the young lovers. Nuch of
this is established outside the language, by the setting
of the scenes themselves, with night, and the light of
torches upon the night, the dawn, the bright sunlight, and
straight keen shadows of the Italian day. The "rich jewel
in an Ethiope's ear" supplies the emotional image of the
play, which the setting has confirmed. 5
The eloquence with which Spurgeon, Stauffer, and Evans express their
views is persuasive, yet it is not finally convincing.
Certainly, the imagery of light is important in the play,
but it alone does not dominate. For the images of Romeo and Juliet
are drawn from various areas of human interest: birds, animals,
flowers, and fruit; the night, the stars, the moon, and the sun;
Fortune, religion, and love; books, weapons, and ships--images allud-
ing to these subjects and more are to be found in the play. Unlike
the author of the poem he imitated, however, Shakespeare does not
dwell on any single image or single group of related images.
Since there are only a handful of references, Fortune can
be dismissed as a dominant image. Of course, it is easy to see how
critics such as Farnham would be tempted by the idea that Shakespeare
imitated Brooke, for there are lines such as Romeo's "O I am fortunes
foole," and Juliet's
0 Fortune, Fortune, all men call thee fickle,
If thou art fickle, what dost thou with him
That is renowmd for faith: be fickle Fortune:
For then I hope thou wilt not keep him long,
But send him backe.47
Supporting these few clear-cut references to Fortune in the play is
the star imagery, such as the line in the prologue which identifies
Romeo and Juliet as "a paire of starre-crost lovers"8 and Romeo's
for my mind misgives,
Some consequence yet hanging in the starres,
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date,
With this nights revels.49
This imagery provides yet another metaphor for the idea of chance
operating in the universe, but both Fortune and the stars were common-
places of the period. And they are mentioned infrequently and with-
out any recognizable patterning in the play.
The single most revealing passage in the play is Romeo's
rhapsodic description of Juliet:
0 she doth teach the torches to burn bright:
It seems she hangs upon the cheeke of night:
As a rich Jewel in an Ethiops eare,
Bewtie too rich for use, for earth too deare:
So shoes a snowie Dove trooping with Crowes,
As yonder Lady ore her fellows shoes:
The measure done, lie watch her place of stand
And touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.56
These eight lines not only exemplify three important areas of imagery
--light, wealth, and religion--but, more importantly, they exemplify
the inversion or confusion which is characteristic of the imagery.
The beauty of the lines tends to conceal these inversions, but the
implications are very clear. There is first the paradox that Juliet's
beauty, mortal and mundane, is "too rich for use, for earth too deare."
More importantly, there is Romeo's confusion about the holiness of
Juliet. Love has blinded him into believing a mortal is a saint.
Throughout, Romeo and Juliet employ religious imagery to
describe love or the person beloved. Their first conversation sees
Romeo continuing the metaphor introduced in his suggestion that
Juliet is a saint:
Ro. If I prophane with my unworthiest hand,
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this,
My lips two blushing Pylgrims did readie stand,
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kis.