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Band of Brothers - Questions from the audience: Who wrote Hieronimo/The Spanish Tragedy?


Amanda Hinds
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Stephen Larsen: I've read that Thos Kyd and Thos Watson and Edward de Vere wrote Hieronimo/The Spanish Tragedy... Your thoughts, all or none of the above wrote it...?

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Ian K Johnson
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In my opinion, the question of who wrote The Spanish Tragedy is open. The principal basis for Kyd’s claim to its authorship lies solely with the unreliable Thomas Heywood in 1612, and but for Heywood, Watson (with his known knowledge of the classics and especially of Seneca) would have seemed a better candidate for its authorship. Likewise the Earl of Oxford. But, in the absence of hard evidence, these possibilities must be put to one side.

Bronson Feldman outlined his theory that Thomas Watson wrote the play in The Bard  (Volume 1, No 4, 1977, but written in 1951) in over twenty pages, employing phrases such as “in my opinion”, “could have come from Watson’s pen”, and “I suspect”none of which is verifiable. Tempting as the theory at first seems, lack of proof renders it no more than thata theory. Nevertheless, for daring to make such a radical suggestion and for taking on the academic establishment of the 1950s, Feldman deserves our admiration.

Bronson's article and my consideration of it can be found in Renaissance Man New Generation Publishing, 2020 (ISBN 978-1-78955-855-2).

 

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Stephen Larsen
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@ikjohnson Ian - Many thanks for your reply. I greatly enjoyed your presentation; it was quite timely to my current effort, I am writing 4 plays that tell the accurate life story of Edward de Vere, and I am at a point where I need to consider who was the author of The Spanish Tragedy re: its relationship to Hamlet. In fact, during your presentation, I ordered a copy of Renaissance Man and it is supposed to be delivered today - I greatly look forward to reading it. regards, Stephen Larsen

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Ian K Johnson
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I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for buying a copy.

All the best,

Ian

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Stephen Larsen
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@ikjohnson Ian: I finished reading Renaissance Man. The book not only fills in many blanks about Watson, but it is well-written, quite readable – kudos for an excellent book!

Regarding the question of authorship of The Spanish Tragedy, as you say in your book, the evidence is inconclusive for Kyd and/or Watson. My own feeling is that Oxford himself wrote it, shortly after Spain defeated Portugal in the battle of Alcantara in 1580... likely during his 1581-83 exile, using it as a means to vent his frustrations by depicting Henry Howard as the Machiavellian villain Lorenzo and Anne Vavesor as Bel-Imperia. Did any of his circle of writers assist...? My feeling is it was Watson if anyone, given the similarity of lines in Hekatompathia and The Spanish Tragedy.

If you don’t mind, after reading Renaissance Man I have a couple more questions:

  1. On p29, you wrote that Anne Cecil lived with Edward in the Savoy. Do you have any evidence of this? My own feeling is that Edward lived there but Anne Cecil did not. The Ogburns say in This Star of England: “In his twenty-third year Edward de Vere had begun renting apartments in the Savoy, where he was no doubt housing his “lewd friends,” as Burghley called them.” And they also imply Anne and Edward did not live together at the Savoy when they say: “...Burghley persisted tirelessly in his efforts to bring the Earl and Countess of Oxford back together, but without success. Oxford turned over to his wife his country house at Wivenhoe and his lodgings in the Savoy, but he apparently considered their relationship at an end.”
  2. Also on p29, you wrote that one of the advantages Fisher’s Folly offered Edward was that it “was just a short walk from the Boar's Head Inn in Eastcheap”... however, during a presentation to the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship in the U.S. (2018, in Oakland, CA), Kevin Gilvary said that the Boar's Head Inn in which Edward staged plays was the one behind Fisher's Folly near Aldgate – he distinctly pointed out it was not the Boar's Head Inn in Eastcheap, which was much further away from Fischer’s Folly, which he demonstrated on a map with a laser pointer. Do you have evidence that Edward indeed staged plays at the Boar's Head Inn in Eastcheap?

I thank you for considering my questions. If you wish to correspond offline, my email address is: Stephen.Larsen1095@gmail.com

Regards,

Steve

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Ian K Johnson
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Thanks, Steve. I, too, would like to think Watson alone, or with Oxford, wrote The Spanish Tragedy, but there is no evidence for anybody’s authorship apart from the Heywood attribution. The most recent discussion of the issues that I know of is in Manley and MacLean (2014, Yale University Press, details in Renaissance Man Bibliography), but they reach no conclusion.

 

Regarding the questionable six lines on page 29 of Renaissance Man:

 

1. The question of where Anne and Edward were living is none too clear. I thought it could be useful to quickly try to sort some of this out by looking through some of the (mainly secondary) sources I have here at home.

 

A basic chronology of Oxford’s London dwellings may be as follows:

1562-1571:    Cecil House, Strand (where Edward spent his youth as a Royal Ward of William Cecil).

1571-1573:    A letting at The Savoy (aka Savoy Hospital aka Lancaster House, aka Savoy Palace) facing Cecil (from 1571, Burghley) House across the                            Strand.

1571-1589:    Vere House aka Oxford House aka Oxford House, Candlewick Street, London Stone (near the later Mansion House) acquired by 15th Earl in                        1539, and used by 16th Earl as a town house rights to the property acquired by 17th Earl in 1573.

1580-1588:    Fisher’s Folly, Bishopsgate.

1596-1604:    King’s Place, Hackney.

 

Also note:

 

19 December 1571: Marriage of Anne and Edward followed by a great feast at Burleigh’s Cecil House, and according to Alan H Nelson (pp.76-7) they took up residence in the Savoy. Nelson seems to infer the residence of the Oxfords at the Savoy from Michael Lok’s letter of appeal, written in Edinburgh in 1590 (pps 77 and 326-7). However, it is not clear from the letter whether Anne, or indeed Edward, was at the house at that date, or in fact there at all. The important line in Lok’s letter is: “from my first coming to wait at your house in the Strand…” but he offers no date.

 

Nelson goes on to state that after their marriage Ann and Edward “may well have made” their first excursion to Castle Hedingham and to Wivenhoe, also inferring this from Michael Lok’s letter.

 

1573: It may (or may not) be significant that in the same year that he confirmed his rights to Vere House, Oxford paid £10.11s.8d to the “Hospital of the Savoy” for “part rent of two tenements within the Hospital”. Houses in the Hospital precinct were occupied by noblemen and high-ranking clergy. Lyly and Gabriel Harvey stayed there. In 1570 a Bill of Complaint had been filed against the Master of the Hospital, Thomas Thurland, claiming that he maintained his relatives there, rarely went to church, had sexual relationships with the Hospital staff, and that he owed the Hospital £2,500. However, he was not replaced. The London Encyclopaedia says that Stow wrote that vagabonds lay idly in the fields during the day and spent the night in the Hospital (I cannot find the reference to this in my copy of Stow, and the Encyclopaedia gives no date. [Ben Weinreb et al: The London Encyclopaedia, 3rd Edition 2008]). In 1581 the Recorder of London complained to Burleigh that the “chief nurserie of evil men” was the Savoy because criminals claimed sanctuary here from the law. So does it seem a suitable place for Anne Cecil to stay? It was conveniently across the road from her father’s Burghley House. Perhaps after initially staying at the Savoy, the Oxfords moved to Vere House in Candlewick Street.

 

1574: Oxford accompanied a Queen’s progress for six weeks. During this time, Anne wrote to the Earl of Sussex requesting larger apartments at Hampton Court because “the more commodious my lodging is the willinger I hope my Lord my husband will be to come thither, thereby the oftener to attend Her Majesty.” This shows very plainly the insecurity of Anne’s relationship with Oxford. Anne was staying at Theobalds (Burghley’s House near Hatfield), although Oxford left the progress from time to time to join her at Theobalds.

 

1575-6: Oxford travelled across Europe, without Anne.

 

1576-1581: Estrangement between Oxford and Anne.

 

**1576: Ogburn (The Mysterious William Shakespeare, 1984 Edition, p 561, citing B M Ward p 126 who, in turn, is citing a Hatfield MS) says “Oxford turned over to his wife the house at Wivenhoe and their lodging in the Savoy; live with her he would not.”

 

1580: Purchase of Fisher’s Folly.

 

4 November 1583: Oxford writes from Vere House making a payment to Anne of £200 yearly. According to Nelson (p 236) this is the only surviving evidence to place Oxford at Vere House in 1583.

 

1588. Death of Anne. Oxford sells Fisher’s Folly.

 

 

Wivinhoe

 

1572: Letter to Burleigh endorsed 1572 and dated 31 October by Oxford from Wivenhoe.

 

1573: In another letter Oxford writes “From his new country Muses of Wivenhoe”, which implies that he had only very recently acquired the property, and was then living there.

 

1576: See ** note above.

 

My overall feeling, although I have no evidence, is that when Oxford and Anne became estranged in 1578 Anne stayed either at the Savoy, at her father’s home of Burghley House opposite the Savoy, or at Wivenhoe. After the reconcilement in 1581 she may have moved to Oxford Court and/or Fisher’s Folly.

Almost certainly, other De Vere Society members will have ideas about this.

 

2. Thank you for pointing it out the reference to the “Boar’s Head Inn at Eastcheap”. This was a lapsus wordpresserae for The Boar’s Head “without Aldgate”, probably a public playhouse from at least 1557 when a “lewd play” was banned there. It was fully refurbished in 1594, and shared between the Earl of Derby’s Men and the Earl of Worcester’s Men. After 1600 it stayed open in defiance of a Privy Council order limiting performances to The Globe and The Fortune, but in 1602 a joint company of the Earl of Oxford’s Men and Worcester’s Men were granted a license to to play there.

The Boar’s Head tavern in Eastcheap (near modern Monument Station) was not so very far from Fisher’s Folly (near Liverpool Street Station), say about 15 minutes walk, or faster on horseback! Shakespeare set a couple of scenes in Henry IV (Parts I and II) there.

Thanks, Steve. I, too, would like to think Watson alone, or with Oxford, wrote The Spanish Tragedy, but there is no evidence for anybody’s authorship apart from the Heywood attribution. The most recent discussion of the issues that I know of is in Manley and MacLean (2014, Yale University Press, details in Renaissance Man Bibliography), but they reach no conclusion.

 

Regarding the questionable six lines on page 29 of Renaissance Man:

 

1. The question of where Anne and Edward were living is none too clear. I thought it could be useful to quickly try to sort some of this out by looking through some of the (mainly secondary) sources I have here at home.

 

A basic chronology of Oxford’s London dwellings may be as follows:

1562-1571: Cecil House, Strand (where Edward spent his youth as a Royal Ward of William Cecil).

1571-1573: A letting at The Savoy (aka Savoy Hospital aka Lancaster House, aka Savoy Palace) facing Cecil (from 1571, Burghley) House across the Strand.

1571-1589: Vere House aka Oxford House aka Oxford House, Candlewick Street, London Stone (near the later Mansion House) acquired by 15th Earl in 1539, and used by 16th Earl as a town house rights to the property acquired by 17th Earl in 1573.

1580-1588 Fisher’s Folly, Bishopsgate.

1596-1604: King’s Place, Hackney.

 

Also note:

 

19 December 1571: Marriage of Anne and Edward followed by a great feast at Burleigh’s Cecil House, and according to Alan H Nelson (pp.76-7) they took up residence in the Savoy. Nelson seems to infer the residence of the Oxfords at the Savoy from Michael Lok’s letter of appeal, written in Edinburgh in 1590 (pps 77 and 326-7). However, it is not clear from the letter whether Anne, or indeed Edward, was at the house at that date, or in fact there at all. The important line in Lok’s letter is: “from my first coming to wait at your house in the Strand…” but he offers no date.

 

Nelson goes on to state that after their marriage Ann and Edward “may well have made” their first excursion to Castle Hedingham and to Wivenhoe, also inferring this from Michael Lok’s letter.

 

1573: It may (or may not) be significant that in the same year that he confirmed his rights to Vere House, Oxford paid £10.11s.8d to the “Hospital of the Savoy” for “part rent of two tenements within the Hospital”. Houses in the Hospital precinct were occupied by noblemen and high-ranking clergy. Lyly and Gabriel Harvey stayed there. In 1570 a Bill of Complaint had been filed against the Master of the Hospital, Thomas Thurland, claiming that he maintained his relatives there, rarely went to church, had sexual relationships with the Hospital staff, and that he owed the Hospital £2,500. However, he was not replaced. The London Encyclopaedia says that Stow wrote of vagabonds laying idly by in the fields by day and spent the night in the Hospital (I cannot find the reference to this in my copy of Stow, and the Encyclopaedia gives no date. [Ben Weinreb et al: The London Encyclopaedia, 3rd Edition 2008]). In 1581 the Recorder of London complained to Burleigh that the “chief nurserie of evil men” was the Savoy because criminals claimed sanctuary here from the law. So does it seem a suitable place for Anne Cecil to stay? It was conveniently across the road from her father’s Burghley House. Perhaps after initially staying at the Savoy, the Oxfords moved to Vere House in Candlewick Street.

 

1574: Oxford accompanied a Queen’s progress for six weeks. During this time, Anne wrote to the Earl of Sussex requesting larger apartments at Hampton Court because “the more commodious my lodging is the willinger I hope my Lord my husband will be to come thither, thereby the oftener to attend Her Majesty.” This shows very plainly the insecurity of Anne’s relationship with Oxford. Anne was staying at Theobalds (Burghley’s House near Hatfield), although Oxford left the progress from time to time to join Anne at Theobalds.

 

1575-6: Oxford travelled across Europe, without Anne.

 

1576-1581: Estrangement between Oxford and Anne.

 

**1576: Ogburn (The Mysterious William Shakespeare, 1984 Edition, p 561, citing B M Ward p 126 who, in turn, is citing a Hatfield MS) says “Oxford turned over to his wife the house at Wivenhoe and their lodging in the Savoy; live with her he would not.”

 

1580: Purchase of Fisher’s Folly.

 

4 November 1583: Oxford writes from Vere House making a payment to Anne of £200 yearly. According to Nelson (p 236) this is the only surviving evidence to place Oxford at Vere House in 1583.

 

1588. Death of Anne. Oxford sells Fisher’s Folly.

 

 

Wivinhoe

 

1572: Letter to Burleigh endorsed 1572 and dated 31 October by Oxford from Wivenhoe.

 

1573: In another letter Oxford writes “From his new country Muses of Wivenhoe”, which implies that he had only very recently acquired the property, and was then living there.

 

1576: See ** note above.

 

 

My overall feeling, although I have no evidence, is that when Oxford and Anne became estranged in 1578 Anne stayed either at the Savoy, at her father’s home of Burghley House opposite the Savoy, or at Wivenhoe. After the reconcilement in 1581 she may have moved to Oxford Court and/or Fisher’s Folly.

Almost certainly, other De Vere Society members will have ideas about this.

 

2. Thank you for pointing it out the reference to the “Boar’s Head Inn at Eastcheap”. This was a lapsus wordpresserae for The Boar’s Head “without Aldgate”, probably a public playhouse from at least 1557 when a “lewd play” was banned there. It was fully refurbished in 1594, and shared between the Earl of Derby’s Men and the Earl of Worcester’s Men. After 1600 it stayed open in defiance of a Privy Council order limiting performances to The Globe and The Fortune, but in 1602 a joint company of the Earl of Oxford’s Men and Worcester’s Men were granted a license to to play there.

The Boar’s Head tavern in Eastcheap (near modern Monument Station) was not so very far from Fisher’s Folly (near Liverpool Street Station), say about 15 minutes walk, or faster on horseback! Shakespeare set a couple of scenes in Henry IV (Parts I and II) there.

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