THE TROILUS AND CRESSIDA :
Our first record of Troilus and Cressida comes from an entry in the Stationers' Register on February 7, 1603 when James Roberts 'Entered for his copie in Full Court holden this day, to print when he hath gotten sufficient authority for yt. The booke of Troilus and Cresseda as yt is acted by my lord Chamberlins Men'.
For six years no more was heard of Troilus and Cressida. Then in 1609 a number of related, but seemingly unrelated events occurred. Francis Bacon published his original, Latin version, of The Wisdom of the Ancients printed by the King's printer, Robert Baker. "Shake-Speares Sonnets" were published by "T. T.", printed by G. Eld. Thomas Thorpe ("T. T."), had the following dedication (which some have found a bit perplexing) at the beginning of the Sonnets:
A quarto edition of Troilus and Cressida was published with the following title page:
THE HISTORIE OF TROYLUS
As it was acted by the Kings Maiesties
servants at the Globe
Written by William Shakespeare
Imprinted by G. Eld for R. Bonian and H. Walley
and are to be sold at the Spred Eagle in Paules
Church-yeard over against the
This was immediately followed by another quarto edition of the play with the following title page:
Famous Historie of
Troylus and Cresseid.
Excellently expressing the beginning
of their loves, with the conceited wooing
of Pandarus Prince of Litia
Written by William Shakespeare
Imprinted by G. Eld for R. Bonian and H. Walley, and
are to be sold at the spred Eagle in Paules
Church-yeard, over against the
Apart from the changes on the title page of this second quarto edition of the play the only other change was the following advertisement in a preface inserted by the publisher at the beginning of the play:
TO AN EVER READER:
Eternal reader, you have here a new play, never staled
with the stage, never clapper-clawed with the palms of
the vulgar, and yet passing full of the palm comical; for it
is a birth of your brain that never undertook anything
comical vainly. And were but the vain names of comedies
changed for the titles of commodities, or of plays for
pleas, you should see all those grand censors, that now
style them such vanities, flock to them for the main grace
of their gravities, especially this author's comedies, that
are so framed to the life that they serve for the most com-
mon commentaries of all the actions of our lives, show-
ing such a dexterity and power of wit that the most
displeased with plays are pleased with his comedies. And
all such dull and heavy-witted worldlings as were never
capable of the wit of a comedy, coming by report of
them to his representations, have found that wit there
that they never found in themselves and have parted bet-
ter witted than they came, feeling and edge of wit set
upon them more than ever they dreamed they had brain
to grind it on. So much and such savored salt of wit is in
his comedies that they seem, for their height of pleasure,
to be born in that sea that brought forth Venus.
Amongst all there is none more witty than this, and had
I time I would comment upon it, though I know it needs
not, for so much as will make you think your testern well
bestowed, but for so much worth as even poor I know to
be stuffed in it. It deserves such a labor as well as the best
comedy in Terence or Plautus. And believe this, that
when he is gone and his comedies out of sale, you will
scramble for them and set up a new English Inquisition.
Take this for a warning, and at the peril of your pleasure's
loss, and judgment's, refuse not, nor like this the less for
not being sullied with the smoky breath of the multi-
tude, but thank fortune for the scape it hath made
amongst you, since by the grand possessors' wills I be-
lieve you should have prayed for them rather than been
prayed. And so I leave all such to be prayed for, for the
state of their wits' healths, that will not praise it. Vale.
Fourteen years later in 1623, the first edition of the collected works of Mr. William SHAKESPEARES Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies was finally published. Troilus and Cressida was included in the work. However, it was now labeled "The Tragedie Of Troylus and Cressida", and incorporated some 500 minor changes from the quarto version. It was placed at the beginning of the tragedies in the book, but it was omitted from the table of contents:
Moreover, only the second and third pages were numbered (79 and 80), and the pagination began again with "1"at the beginning of "The Tragedy of Coriolanus", the second tragedy in the volume, and proceeded normally from there.
To recap, the following anomalies exist in connection with the play of Troilus and Cressida: (1) The first record of the play was an entry in the Stationers' Register in 1603 that stated 'Mr Robertes' intends to publish 'the booke of Troilus and Cresseda as yt is acted by my lo: Chamberlens Man', yet six years pass before it is was actually published, and when it was published it was published by someone else, (2) Two quarto editions appeared close together in 1609, the first proclaiming, "As it was acted by the Kings Maiesties servants at the Globe", (3) The second with this advertisement dropped, but now prefaced with the curious "Never writer to an Ever Reader heading", stating that it is a new play never before acted. (4) The two quarto editions were clearly labeled "Histories" on the title page, however (5) The "Ever Reader" advertisement at the beginning of the second quarto, said the play had never been acted before, in direct contradiction to the blurb on the title page of the first quarto, and referred six times to the play as a comedy, and (6) When the play appeared in the First Folio it was labeled as the tragedy of Troilus and Cressida, and appeared at the beginning of the tragedies, however (7) The play was not included in the table of contents in the First Folio, and the pages were not numbered, except for the second and third pages which were numbered 79 and 80, and (8) The second play in the tragedies, Coriolanus, then commenced with page 1 and proceeded with the ordinary pagination sequence..
In this strange world of ours in which the mentally challenged jostle elbow to elbow with the challenged 'mentals' there are people, on the one hand, who believe that Gulielmus Shakspere, an underachiever from Stratford on Avon, wrote the 'Shakespeare' plays; and people, on the other hand, who believe that the Elizabethan Pepe Le Pew,- Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote the 'Shakespeare' plays. The first group are known as Stratfordians, the second as Oxfordians. The Oxfordian Looney Tunes gang were particularly struck by the "Never writer ever reader" advertisement. Considering their subsequent reasoning, or lack thereof, that may not be the only thing they were struck by. In any event, they immediately perceived what other (saner?) people failed to perceive, i.e., that the 'ever' in the heading revealed the identity of the author. (An interesting fact about the Oxfordians is while they presume to be authorities on the authorship question they have absolutely no understanding of the 'Shakespeare' works. The hollow sound when their heads collide with the First Folio certainly does not come from the book.)
By way of scraping something unpleasant off my shoe before proceeding on down the path of my inquiry, I will deal with the Oxfordians claims now. The Oxfordians say that, instead of merely trying to interject novelty into an advertisement in an attempt to promote sales, the 'ever' by Thorpe in the preface to the Sonnets, and by whomever in the preface to Troilus, (are you ready for this?) are coded messages telling us Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was the author of both. And, not resting on their laurels, they extrapolate from this to make him the author of the entire "Shakespeare" corpus. Before I label these people members in good standing of the ranks of those who have some screws in urgent need of retightening I will afford them the courtesy of first carefully examining their evidence. Then I will label them members in good standing of the ranks of those who have some screws in urgent need of retightening.
Here's their evidence. In an "echo verse" Oxford played with 'Vere', and its anagram 'ever', and with other words that echoed this sound, viz:
"Oh heavens! who was the first that bred in me this fever? Vere.
Who was the first that gave the wound whose fear
I wear for ever? Vere."
Based on this bit of verse, a bit of verse I might add that, according to the Oxfordians, has a quality uncannily similar to that of Shakespeare's verse (although no one other than the Oxfordians has ever been able to detect that similarity), the Oxfordians with sublime disregard for all vestiges of good sense, believe the word "ever" anywhere in the Shakespeare corpus means Edward De Vere. One of their number, William Plumer Fowler Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Letters, in one of his happy as a clam at high tide moments that gave fresh meaning to the _expression, 'as happy as if he had good sense', proclaimed that the word "ever" was nothing less than the Rosetta Stone to the entire authorship question. (Never mind that Oxford never signed himself E. Ver, or even E. Vere. His letters were always signed: Edward Oxinford, Edward Oxenford, Edward Oxeford, or E. Oxenford). This fact didn't faze the Oxfordians a bit. Oh no, the 'ever' was rock solid proof of Oxford's authorship of the Sonnets with its "Ever living poet' dedication; of Troilus and Cressida with its "Ever Reader" advertisement; and, indeed of the entire 'Shakespeare' works. Wasn't the word "ever" scattered all through the First Folio?
Actually, the 'ever' in the address, which at a cursory glance seems a somewhat curious, can easily be explained. The Sonnets and the two Troilus and Cressida quartos were printed by G. [George] Eld in 1609. In the Sonnets, Thomas Thorpe obviously put his 'eternitie promised by our ever living poet' in the dedication because the constant theme of the sonnets (a theme the poet states over and over) was that immortal lines of rhyme flowed from his pen, that his writing would live forever, and ergo, that he was an ever living, immortal poet. All of this should be obvious to anyone who, unlike the Oxfordians, have taken the trouble to read the Sonnets:
"Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this pow'rful rhyme,"
Nor shall Death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see.
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
"When all the breathers of this world are dead.
You still shall live-such virtue hath my pen-"
"Against confounding Age's cruel knife
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love's beauty, though my lover's life,
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green."
"Yet do thy worst, old Time; despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young."
"And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent."
When Thorpe spoke of that 'eternitie promised by our ever living poet' he was merely referring to the theme stated repeatedly in the sonnets. And when the dedication to Troilus and Cressida said, "A never writer to a ever reader", it was by the same printer, and merely echoed Thorpe's dedication to the sonnets.
In addition, by the time Troilus and Cressida was written, Oxford, as one biographer notes, was a broken man, "sans friends, sans money, sans health, sans everything." All he had left to show for the fortune he squandered that had been gifted to him, and the dubious and dissolute life style that he had gifted to himself, was the final stages of an even more dubious gift from the French,- 'Morbus Gallicus', 'The French Disease', i.e., syphilis. (A contemporary, Charles Arundel, in the early 1580s said that Oxford 'hathe a yerelie celebracion' of the disease, and, in All's Well That Ends Well, written around 1602, Francis Bacon implied Oxford had syphilis). Since he was in the final stages of this degenerative disease, Oxford's health may have been in an even more deplorable state than his finances. In 1590, in one of his letters to Burghley, Oxford said,
' I have not had my helthe'.
In 1597, in another letter to Burghley, pleading for money after squandering all the vast fortune that had been bequeathed to him, Oxford said, "I have not an able bodie". In 1601 he became more specific about his illness. At this time he first began to refer to a "lame arm" that made it difficult for him to write even the short letters he wrote out of the dire necessity that compelled him to make repeated pleas for money, and he made additional references to this "lame arm" in subsequent letters.
The point is, that at the time Troilus and Cressida was written Oxford had great difficulty writing even short letters. He certainly couldn't have written a document as long as Troilus and Cressida. True, he might have dictated such a document, however, the fact that he was forced to write his letters himself, despite the difficulty he had in doing so, shows that, due to his indigent state, he did not have the money to pay anyone to take his dictation. In addition, it must not be forgotten that Oxford died in 1604, and that between the time the quarto editions of the play were published in 1609 and the First Folio version was published in 1623, changes were made to the play. These changes could not have been made by Oxford because he was dead,- just as dead as the idea that he wrote the play.
If I have been unduly harsh in dealing with the Oxfordians, I must say, in my own defense, that it has been for their own good. A kick in the ass applied with the right spirit, and right force, can mean a step forward for the recipient. And, to say at least one good word about the Oxfordians, before leaving the subject (after having put my worse foot forward in my efforts to propel them forward onto the right track) I personally believe that, in the future, their stock could go way up. With medical advances in the transplant of human organs continuing at the present rate, the time may come when it will be possible to transplant human brains. If this time ever comes, Oxfordian brains will be in great demand, because the recipient will be certain of getting a brain that has never been used.
In general Oxfordians treat a rational thought the way the body treats a strange protein, they reject it. However, to give credit where credit is not due, they did realize that the 'Ever Reader' heading constituted some kind of anomaly that called for an explanation. Of course the explanation they gave tends to support the idea that they are in serious need of an operation to separate their sphincter from their brain, but what can I say? What the 'Ever Reader' heading actually does is makes a connection between Troilus and Cressida and the Sonnets.