Original Research on
Elizabethan Authorship Issues

Dedicated to
the Ever-Living Memory
of Ruth L. Miller (1922-2005)

The Harvey-Nashe Quarrel and Love's Labor's Lost

by Robert Detobel and K.C. Ligon; copyright 2009 PART ONE

KC Ligon

Katharine Ligon was born in 1948 in Santa Monica, California, into a theatrical family (her mother was actress and dialect coach Nora Dunfee and her father was veteran Broadway and film actor David Clarke). She made her Broadway debut in Under Milk Wood at the age of eight, and subsequently appeared with her parents in the National Tour of The Visit with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. She attended the Professional Children's School from the first grade through high school, and was a member of the first graduating class of what is now the Graduate Acting Program, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Her stage credits include Subject to Fits at the New York Public Theater; Hamlet, The Importance of Being Earnest and Travesties at the Mark Taper Forum; "Merton of the Movies" at the Ahmanson, and Crowbar at the Victory Theater in New York. K.C. Ligon was a dialect coach on Broadway with an extensive private coaching of prominent performers for theatre and film.On television, KC appeared in The Paper Chase, Starsky & Hutch, The Adams Chronicles, The Bob Newhart Show, and Marcus Welby, M.D.

In her free time, KC was also an avid reader and researcher into the many mysteries of the Elizabethan era. She was a close friend to Ruth Miller, and worked with German scholar, Robert Detobel, to help bring his work to the attention of those in the English speaking world. KC died on March 23, 2009, in Manhattan, NY.

Biography adapted and enlarged from entry at www.imdb.com

by Robert Detobel and K.C. Ligon -- copyright 2009

"The play's the thing." Hamlet's words sound as familiar as "there's no business like show business." The play The Mousetrap within the play of Hamlet is not merely the thing. The thing has an object: to catch the conscience of the king; it is not entirely contained within its own world, it trangresses its borders and works outside its own reality. Ironically, the phrase is now being used to urge quite the opposite motion. It has become a catch phrase to intimate that it does not matter who wrote Shakespeare's plays, whether a man with the name Shakespeare or a man who called himself Shakespeare or a Mister Nobody. We have the play, let us be silently grateful and not ask irrelevant questions. The play should be entirely understood from within itself. The play is the thing with no other object than itself.

The play Love's Labour's Lost is perhaps not the thing, not the whole thing. This play, especially the subplot, contains puns and jokes which some scholars would like Shakespeare never to have written. "Although its situations", Alfred Harbage wrote,  "are conventional, there is a curious open-endedness about them which sends the fancies groping, and although all its jokes are explicable as jokes, some of them are so execrably bad as to create hope for ulterior meanings." [Harbage, Alfred. "Love's Labour's Lost and the Early Shakespeare" in Philological Quarterly, XLI, 1962, p. 23.]

There was a time when many a scholar would have welcomed the play's removal from the canon. Richard David, the Arden editor, commences his introduction with a brief survey of its reception. "If we were to part with any of the author's comedies it should be this, wrote Hazlitt of Love's Labour's Lost, and his opinion was shared by most critics between Shakespeare's day and our own. Their reason was partly the belief that this was one of the earliest of Shakespeare's plays, if not the very earliest, a beginner's clumsy effort, full of stilted rhyming couplets and over-elaborate puns, the characters unlifelike, and the actions constantly held up for skirmishes of what the uneducated countryman from Stratford mistakenly took for wit. Pope found the comic scenes so generally barren that he cut whole pages of them out of his text, printing them at the page-foot for those curious archaelogists who might wish to see what blunders Shakespeare made before he learnt his business." [Love's Labour's Lost, The Arden Shakespeare, ed. Richard David, 1968, p. xiii]

1. The eel of Ely

The following dialogue between Don Armado and Moth is probably one of  the jokes Harbage would term "execrably bad". It is, at any rate, "curiously open-ended".  

Armado. Pretty and apt.
Moth.  How mean you, sir? I pretty, and my saying apt? or I apt, and my saying pretty?
Armado. Thou pretty, because little.
Moth.   Little pretty, because little. Wherefore apt?
Armado. And therefore apt, because quick.
Moth.   Speak you this in my praise, master?
Armado. In thy condign praise.
Moth.   I will praise an eel with the same praise.
Armado. That an eel is ingenious?
Moth.   That an eel is quick.
Armado. I do say thou art quick in answers; thou heat'st my blood
Moth.   I am answer'd, sir.
Armado. I love not to be cross'd.  (I.i.21-32)

The meaning is clear. To Don Armado ("Sir Armed"), the Spanish miles gloriosus, his page Moth is pretty because he is of low stature, this makes him apt because it makes him quick. Moth wants to give an eel the same praise, which infuriates Armado because he feels crossed by Moth's praising an eel for its quickness. Imitating the above dialogue, we may ask: So what, Shakespeare? Are you funny because you are Willy and therefore witty? If the play is the whole thing, this is the very thin thing indeed.

But the play is not the whole thing. The Arden editor remarks on "an eel is quick": "There must be a topical allusion here, since Armado so much resents it." But where do we look for the source of this topicality?

Probably few commentators would deny that the subplot of the play contains several clues to the Harvey-Nashe quarrel, Don Armado representing to a certain extent Gabriel Harvey and Moth Thomas Nashe, "Moth" being perhaps an anagram of "Thom". Still, E.K. Chambers has warned against the hunt for real-life persons in the play. Though he concedes there might be "personal touches" of Harvey and Nashe in Don Armado and Moth, he considers the quest for "portraits" as "pressing the thing too far" and too often "beating the air." [Chambers, E.K.: William Shakespeare, 2 vols. , Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1930, I. pp. 336-7.] Against this, however, it can, on the one hand, be held that a number of allusions may very well supply a profile or caricature allowing for an identification without making for a full portrait; on the other hand, that beating the air might be as effective a method to catch an eel as any other.

If we can digest the following sentence from Harvey's Pierce's Supererogation the eel is soon on the hook: "The Ægyptian Mercury would provide to plant his foot upon a square; and his image in Athens was quadrangular, whatsoever the figure of his hat: and although he were sometime a ball of Fortune (who can assure himself of Fortune?) yet was he never a wheel of folly, or an eel of Ely." [ Harvey, Works, II.56.]We cannot square this quadrangular image of Mercury with any cogent meaning, even if Harvey should mean the Egyptian god Anubis who was sometimes represented with a black square, signifying death, behind him and was, besides another god, Thoth, identified by the Greeks with Mercury. But a meaning can be wrested from it by representing Harvey's mental movement as a triple jump, consisting of a hop, a skip and a jump. The precise mark he wants to reach by jumping is the eel. The remark on Mercury represents the hop, that on the quadrangular hats (of Cambridge) the skip, that on the eel the jump. The quadrangular figure refer almost certainly to the pillars to which the bust of the god Hermes was affixed in Athens. From thence he can skip to the black square hat of the university of Cambridge and jump to the "eel of Ely", "mercury" suggesting the quickness of both quicksilver and eel. As to whom Harvey means by "eel of Ely" there can hardly be any doubt. The goddess Fortune may turn her wheel and toss one up and down; the wheel of folly leads to disaster by inertia; but the eel keeps its fortunes smooth in changing environments. It is in water what the chameleon is on land and the turncoat in human society. The "eel of Ely" is Dr. Turncoat, as was nicknamed Dr. Andrew Perne, vice-chancellor of Cambridge and dean of Ely, Harvey's sworn enemy, who equally flourished in the reign of the protestant zealot Edward VI, the catholic zealot Mary and the pragmatic zealot Elizabeth, and in 1580 presented in Harvey's letter to Spenser as "The man you wot of, conformable, with his square Cappe on his rounde heade..." [Ibid., I.71.]  It was not this changeability which embittered Harvey, it was the fact that Dr. , Perne had thwarted Harvey's academic career: the eel of Ely had crossed  Harvey. As already noted in the preceding part, Harvey's pamphlet contains numerous pages of diatribe against the "slippery" Dr Perne. "I thank Nashe for something: Greene for more: Papp-hatchet for much more: Perne for most of all. Of him I learned to know him, to know my friends, to know the world, to know fortune, to know the mutability of times, the slipperiness of occasions..." [Ibid., II.296.] As seen, in the second of his Three Familiar Letters, published in 1580, Harvey calls Dr Perne "a wooden wit... a right juggler, as full of sleights... as his skin can hold." [Ibid., I.72.] But in 1593, in Pierce's Supererogation, the bitterness of tone is mixed with admiration. Perne, who had died four years before, "had more wit in his hoary head than six hundred of these flourishing green heads... No man could bear a heavy injury more lightly: or forbear a learned adversary more cunningly... or transform himself into all shapes more deftly... such a sly dexterity, as might quicken the dullest spirit... Some of us, by way of experiment, assayed to feel his pulse, and to tickle his wily veins in his own vein with smoothing and glosing as handsomely, but the bottom of his mind was a gulf of the main." [Ibid., pp. II.295-6.] As smooth as an eel. In Strange News, published early in 1593, Nashe reminds Harvey of some names he has applied to Perne, one of them being "slippery eel". [Nashe, I.283.]

Despite the growing animadversion between Harvey and Nashe from the fall 1592 to the summer 1593, Harvey admired Nashe's talent and seems to have hoped to be the young man's fatherly friend. In 1592 he attests Nashe "a delicate wit", full of "quaintest inventions," and a "deviseful brain". [Harvey, Works, I.196.] He advises him "to employ his golden talent" [Ibid., I. 217] the right way. He calls him a "springing wit". [Ibid., I. 219.] This patronizing attitude in 1592 and earlier resembles that of Don Armado toward his page Moth. Only would Nashe sometimes be too quick. It is not his person, Harvey writes, which caused him to write against him but his "rash and desperate proceeding against his well-willers". [Ibid., I.220.] In 1593 only a few undertones on Nashe's talent remain perceptible. The stress shifts to the misuse of that talent in the service of what is to Harvey base, "villain" literature. "Master Villainy became an author; and Sir Nash a gentleman." [Ibid., II.41] The "quaintest inventions" of 1592 have become "fresh invention from the tap" [Ibid., II.44] in 1593. Nashe's position in Harvey's fight with the ghost of Dr Perne is simple: right or wrong, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Perne would have sensed Harvey's true nature. "The old fox Doctor Perne thoroughly discovered you a young fop." [Nashe, I.295] This is repeated in 1596 in Have With You to Saffron-Walden: "Doctor Perne in this plight nor at any other time met him, but he would shake his hand and cry vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas, vanity of vanities, and all things is vanity." [Ibid., III.79]

In 1592 Harvey complains of the practice of mocking living persons in the theatre: "... and it is the luck of some pelting comedies to busy the stage, as well as some graver tragedies." [Harvey, I. 223.] In 1593 he expresses the fear of being thrown on the stage himself: "Such an antagonist has Fortune allotted me, to purge melancholy and to thrust me upon the stage." [Ibid., II.273.] Whom did Harvey mean? Probably not Nashe, though Nashe had in the meantime announced Harvey would be played by Will Kempe, the clown of the Chamberlain's Men (see next chapter). Possibly he meant Shakespeare. Harvey had been thrust upon the stage before 1593. Perhaps first in 1581 in the Latin comedy Pedantius acted at Cambridge. The model for Pedantius is thought to be Gabriel Harvey, though it is possible that Harvey was likened to Pedantius after the play had been staged. But he had also been caricatured about 1585 in John Lyly's comedy Endimion, in some aspects, particularly with respect to the subplot, comparable to Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. The main characters of the subplot of Endimion are Sir Tophas, a Chaucerian figure, a warrior-like pedant like Don Armado, and his quick-witted page Epiton. Sir Tophas is hunting the monster Ovis, which is a black sheep, a reference to grammar which is also found in Shakespeare's play. [V.i.43-53. The puns on „sheep" and "oueia", the Spanish word for sheep, used as a mnemonic for the vowels in Vives' Exercitatio Linguae. F.A. Yates. A Study of Love's Labour's Lost. Cambridge : At the University Press, 1936, pp. 57 ff] Sir Tophas dotingly loves the hag Dipsas, a personification of antiquity. "Argumentum ab antiquitate, My master loveth anticke worke", the page Epiton says, and "Nothing hath made my master a fool but flat scholarship." (V.ii.32 and 38). Another allusion seems leveled at Harvey in Lyly's play:

Tophas. Then I am but three quarters of a noun substantive.
But alas, Epi, to tell thee the truth, I am a noun  adjective.

Epiton. Why?

Tophas. Because I cannot stand without another. (III.iii.16-19)

Harvey was this "adjective", who in the 1570s and early 1580s could not stand without his friend Edmund Spenser, on whom he piggybacked his own ambition. But Harvey was an adjective striving to take the place of the substantive. He "would have killed Spenser poetically" if he had let him. [Lewis, C.S. English Literature in the Sixteenth Century -- Excluding Drama. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1954, p. 355] One has only to read the epistle of the "wellwiller" to his Three Familiar Letters to realize that Harvey was using Spenser's fame for his own glory. He would have killed Nashe's talent too.

If we step out of the play to the Harvey-Nashe quarrel and replace Don Armado with Harvey and Moth with Nashe the passage on the "quick eel" becomes transparent. Like Moth in the play Thomas Nashe seems to have been of low stature. In the anonymous The Trimming of Thomas Nash (1597; the presumed author is Gabriel's brother Richard) he is portrayed as a little boy in chains.  Harvey is attracted by Nashe's quick wit and praises him. But Nashe reminds him that Dr. Perne, the eel (of Ely), is also quick,, [Harvey's own words, Perne was "not rash, but quick", II. 298] which immediately sets Harvey afire, because he does not "love to be crossed". For these lines to be amusing, the public had to be aware of the travesty of Harvey/Don Armado, Nashe/Moth, Dr. Perne, dean of Ely/eel of Ely ("eel of Ely" would have suggested itself as a sobriquet of Dr. Perne). To an informed public the allusions would be witty. Alfred Harbage rightly has called Love's Labour's Lost a "coterie" play, written for a select informed public in the private theatre, at an Inn of Court or at court.

Thus the play itself is, without knowledge of the context in which it was presented, no longer 'the thing' for modern readers or spectators, as it had been for that segment of the Elizabethan audience, reflecting a common experience of author, player and spectator.        

2. Costard's broken shin

In III.i Costard is sent for in order to carry a letter of Don Armado to Jacquenetta. Moth fetches Costard and introduces him:

            "A wonder, master! here's a costard broken in a shin."

"Costard" means "head". A head broken in a shin does excite wonder, but at first glance the pun itself does not look that wonderful. Armado's reaction seems to carry no senseful relation to Moth's words:

"Some enigma, some riddle; come, thy l'envoy; begin."

Certainly, a few lines later Armado explains that an envoy "is an epilogue or discourse to make plain some obscure precedence that hath tofore been sain." But what is this "obscure precedent"? Is it the rather unusual form "broken in a shin" for "a broken shin"? As the scene contains cross-punning between English and French words, this might be why Shakespeare chooses this curious locution. "A shin" sounds like the French échine, "backbone". In Nashe's Strange News we find a passage which could shed light on the use of this form. Speaking of Dr Perne at whom Harvey in 1580 had been shouting in Billingsgate manner, Nashe warns him: "He that wraps himself in earth, like the Fox, to catch birds, may haps have a heavy cart go over him before he be aware and break his back." [[Nashe, I.260] Harvey's insults against Dr Perne in his Three Familar Letters in 1580 did definitively break the back of his academic career. By "heavy cart" Nashe could have meant Lord Burghley, chancellor of the University. We have here a first possible, if debatable,  reference to the Harvey-Nashe quarrel in scene III.i. About the other reference of "broken in a shin" we need not doubt.

The next work Nashe published after Strange News is Christ's Tears over Jerusalem. It must have been published between 8 September 1593, the date of registration in Stationers' Register, and 16 September next. The "Epistle to the Reader" contained an offer of truce to Harvey. "Even of Maister Doctor Harvey, I heartily desire the like, whose fame and reputation though, through some precedent injurious provocations, and fervent incitements of young heads, I rashly assailed: yet now better advised, and of his perfections more confirmedly persuaded, unfeignedly I entreat of the whole world, from my pen his worths  may receive no impeachment." [Ibid., II.12.]

Harvey bluntly rejected Nashe's offer by return of post in a separate pamphlet dated 16 September under the title A New Letter of Notable Contents. As always, some droll poems were appended, in this case three, two of them ending with a "l'envoy." Nashe's offer for peace was rejected in these words: "... or accept of a silly recantation, as it were a sory plaister to a broken shin, that could knock malice on the head, and cut the windpipe of the railing throat?" [Harvey, I.276.] [our emphases] In this sentence we find the head "Costard" and his "broken shin". It seems as if Shakespeare had re-arranged Harvey's reply.

Costard. No egma, no riddle, no l'envoy; no salve in the mail, sir.
O, sir, plantain, a plain plantain; no l'envoy, no l'envoy;
no salve, sir, but a plantain!

Armado.  By virtue thou enforcest laughter; thy silly thought, my
spleen; the heaving of my lungs provokes me to ridiculous
smiling. O, pardon me, my stars! Doth the inconsiderate
take salve for l'envoy, and the word 'l'envoy' for a salve?

By naming the clown Costard ("head"), having him break a shin and ask for a plantain plaister, one connexion is established with the Harvey-Nashe quarrel, another if one accepts the pun on "a shin" and échine, ('backbone'). But the allusions do not end there. Shakespeare returns to it. Armado asks:

Armado. But tell me: how was there a costard broken in a shin?
Moth.   I will tell you sensibly.

Nashe's reply to Harvey's rebuttal in the epistle to the second issue of Christ's Tears over Jerusalem resounds in Moth's "I will tell you sensibly". "Thrice more convenient time I will pick out to stretch him forth limb by limb on the rack, and afield as large as Achilles' race to bait him to death with darts according to the custom of baiting bulls in Spain." [Nashe, II. 181] Is it merely fortuitous that in Love's Labour's Lost Don Armado is a Spaniard, that in the show of the Nine Worthies at the end of the play Don Armado represents Hector and Nashe announces he will drag Harvey like Achilles dragged Hector, or that in the same show Moth represents Hercules to whom Nashe is likened in Harvey's pamphlets more than once? For instance, "his Pen is his mace, his lance, his two-edged sword, his scepter, his Hercules club." [Harvey, I.233] Or where he calls Nashe "the mighty Hercules of rhetoric and poetry"? [Ibid., II.114] Or "Many are the miracles of right virtue. And he enters an infinite labyrinth, that goes about to praise Hercules or the Ass, whose labours exceed the labours of Hercules..." [Ibid., II.265] Then Moth is interrupted by Costard:

"Thou hast no feeling of it, Moth; I will speak that l'envoy.
I, Costard, running out, that was safely within,
Fell over the threshold and broke my shin."

In the quatrain of the fox, the ape and the humble bee, however, it is the goose which comes out of door. The goose is Harvey. But at this point, Armado wants to drop the theme:

            We will talk no more of this matter.

But Costard digs his toes in:

Till there be more matter in the shin.
No doubt, more matter in the shin is to be found outside the play.

The association between "l'envoy" and "goose" is not merely based on the French word for "goose", "oie." Moreover, what senseful way leads from "broken shin" to "l'envoy"? If we stay within the borders of the play, we have to find the senseful thing in the play. We will have to grope in the dark, while the light shines outside the play in Harvey's rejection of  Nashe's truce proposal in his pamphlet A New Letter of Notable Contents and the odd poems with an "envoy" ending it.

"Sudden Shakespeare" [Davis, Philip. Sudden Shakespeare -- The Shaping of Shakespeare's Creative Thought. London: Athlone. 1996] is clearly writing on two levels at once, in play and out of play.

3. Harvey, the goose

Armado.    I will example it:
The fox, the ape, and the humble-bee,
Were still at odds, being but three.
There's the moral. Now the l'envoy.

The l'envoy goes:

Until the goose came out of door,
And stay'd the odds by adding four.

The couplet, called the moral, refers to Nashe's tale of the bear in Pierce Penniless. The couplet called "l'envoy" refers to the role the Harvey brothers Gabriel and Richard aimed at in the Martin Marprelate controversy.

Probably less than a week after the publication of Pierce Penniless, Harvey warned Nashe: "... they can tell parlous tales of bears and foxes, as shrewdly as Mother Hubbard's Tale." [Harvey, I.205] As noted in part II.1, Spenser had run into difficulties the previous year, though probably more because of the ape than the fox. In his tale Spenser had made an ape a successful courtier. Nashe's tale of the bear in Pierce Penniless is about Leicester, who had died in 1588. It draws heavily upon an anonymous pamphlet Leicester's Commonwealth published in 1584. In it the Earl of Leicester was accused of nearly all the evils in Pandora's Box and, above all, of his ambition to get hold of the English throne in one way or another. In his "Epistle to the Readers" in Strange News Nashe warns his readers against doing what, actually, he is doing brazenly. His rectification represents the most common subterfuge with which authors sought to shield themselves from the charge of libel, often at the same time drawing the attention of the reader to the presence of a hidden meaning. His tale, Nashe states, was not meant individually "but generally applied to a general vice. Now a man may not talk of a dog, but it is surmised he aims at him that gives the dog in his crest." [Nashe, I.260-1]The dog was the crest of the earl of Shrewsbury; no dog plays a significant part in Nashe's tale. But the bear was the crest of the Earl of Leicester. Leicester is sometimes spoken of as the bear in Leicester's Commonwealth. "You know the bear's love, said the gentleman, which is all for his own paunch, and so this Bearwhelp turneth all to his own commodity, and for greediness thereof will overturn all if he be not stopped or muzzled in time."

[see Dwight Peck (ed.). Leicester's Commonwealth. Athens and London: Ohio University Press, 1985, p. 6]

 In Nashe's fable Leicester is marked out in almost every respect but in name. He is called the "chief Burgomaster of all the beasts under the Lion"; the use of the Dutch term for ‘mayor' higlights once more that the former governor-general of the Low Countries is meant. The lion was so fond of the bear that he turned a blind eye to his crimes; the lion is the crest of the English monarchs; it cannot have been difficult for contemporaries to identify the lion as the queen and the lion's fondness for the bear as her complaisance for Leicester. In Leicester's Commonwealth the earl is accused of having poisoned the earl of Essex to marry his widow; in Nashe's fable the bear poisons the stream from which the deer was wont to drink; the deer was the crest of the earl of Essex. In Leicester's Commonwealth he is accused of having murdered the duchess of Lennox (who through the descendance from Henry VII's daughter Margaret had a claim to the succession) during a visit at her house in Hackney; in Nashe's fable the bear "assailed the Unicorn as he slept in his den" [Nashe, I. 223];the unicorn was the crest of the duke of Lennox.

How closely Nashe follows Leicester's Commonwealth in this part of his tale appears most palpably from the account of the planned marriage between Mary Stuart and the duke of Norfolk, leading to the duke's execution in 1574, in the pamphlet and in the corresponding allegory in Nashe's fable. "But the sum of all is this, in effect, that Leicester, having a secret desire to pull down the said Duke, to the end that he might have no man above himself to hinder him in that which he most desireth, by a thousand cunning devices drew in the Duke to the cogitation of that marriage with the Queen of Scotland which afterward was the cause or occasion of his ruin" [Leicester's Commonwealth, p. 64] Leicester would have approached the duke of Norfolk, feigning warmest friendship and highest respect, giving him a counsel "to plunge his friend over the ears in suspicion and disgrace, in such sort as he should never be able to draw himself out of the ditch again..." [Ibid., p. 65], wherein he was seconded by sir Nicholas Throckmorton. In Nashe's fable Norfolk appears both as "fat camel and a horse"; the horse was the crest of of his first wife, Mary FitzAlan, daughter of the Earl of Arundel, whose title and crest passed to Norfolk; the "camel" probably hints at Norfolk's gullibility. The bear was longing for "horse-flesh, and went presently to a meadow, where a fat camel was grazing, whom fearing to encounter with force because he was a huge beast and well shod, he thought to betray under the colour of demanding homage." [Nashe, I.221]The bear is advised by the ape "to dig a pit with his paws right in the way where this big-boned Gentleman should pass, that so stumbling and falling in, he might lightly skip on his back." [Nashe, I.222]

It is probably sheer coincidence that in Leicester's Commonwealth the "ape" who helped the "bear" dig the pit for Norfolk must represent Sir Nicholas Throckmorton (who died in 1571), whereas in Shakespeare's quatrain in Love's Labour's Lost the ape is the pseudonymous pamphleteer Martin Mar-prelate in 1589-90, whom many now take to be Job Throckmorton. Sir Nicholas and Job Throckmorton, however, were not related. One could presume that Nashe was using the identical surname to link Leicester with Marprelate. However, the ape disappears from Nashe's tale after the bear/Leicester has trapped the horse-camel/Norfolk. Moreover, in his anti-Martinist pamphlet An Almond for a Parrat, published in 1590 anonymously, but generally and for good reasons ascribed to Nashe, he seems convinced that Martin Marprelate was the Welsh divine John Penry, whom some scholars still consider to be the main author of the Marprelate tracts. Toward the end of Strange News he nevertheless suggests that the Fox might have had something to do with Martin Marprelate. "The tale of the bear and the fox, however it may set fools' heads a-work afar off, yet I had no concealed end in it but, in the one, to describe the right nature of a bloodthirsty tyrant,... for the other, to figure an hypocrite: let it be Martin, if you will, or some old dog that bites sorer than he, who secretly goes and seduces country swains. [Ibid., I. 321]The old dog which bites sorer and seduces country swains is here probably the same as the fox in the tale, namely Thomas Cartwright, protégé of Leicester and his brother, the earl of Warwick. Cartwright, the leading Calvinist adversary of John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, had been invested by Leicester with a living in Warwick.

In Nashe's tale the bear, seeing he cannot reach his ends by his accustomed methods, changes his tactics and "bethought him what a pleasant thing it was to eat nothing but honey." [Ibid., I.223] "Honey" is a metaphor for religion. The Fox starts on a preaching tour in the country to persuade the husbandmen that they can have cheaper and purer honey than the poisoned native one by importing it from other countries like "Scotland, Denmark and some purer parts of the Seventeen Provinces." [Ibid., I.224]The purer parts of the Seventeen Provinces are, of course, the Calvinist northern Low Countries not governed by the Spaniards. The principal bone of contention between the Anglican Church and the more radical Calvinists, including Martin Marprelate, was the office of bishop, which according to the Calvinists was of Popish origin and unwarranted by the Scripture. In Nashe's fable the Fox tries to convince the people that most of their bees are drones, "and what should such idle drones do with such stately hives, or lie sucking at such precious honeycombs." [Ibid., I.224]Nashe's metaphor for the bishops might have been inspired by Martin Marprelate, who was used to writing "bishops" as "Bb."

Nashe's representation of Leicester using Puritan preachers, symbolized by the Fox, as a tool to overthrow the established order and by this device to achieve the long sought-for hegemony, inverts the causal direction in which Leicester's patronage of the Puritans actually worked. It rather operated as a check on radicalism in the interest of the Royal Supremacy. Leicester's death, followed by Thomas Cartwright's eclipse, creating a vacuum into which rushed Martin Marprelate in October 1588, a month after Leicester's death. Today Job Throckmorton has emerged as the most likely candidate for Martin Marprelate. Other candidates have been contemplated by the contemporary authorities and modern scholars as well. One argument makes their candidature highly improbable. In his fourth pamphlet, Hay, any work for Cooper, published in March 1589, Martin himself cheerfully refutes the authorship of those who have been contemplated as authors of the Marprelate tracts. "You haue and do suspect diuers, as master Paggett / master Wiggington / master Udall / & master Penri / &c. to make Martin. If they cannot cleare their selues their sillinesse is pitifull / and they are worthy to beare Martin's punishment" [The Marprelate Tracts. Ed. John D. Lewis. www.anglicanlibrary.org/marprelate, p. 87], an ominous statement in the light of the subsequent fate of John Penry, who was hanged, and John Udall, who died in prison. The battleground on which Martin Marprelate chose to challenge the bishops of the Anglican church was not the open battlefield of theological dispute. In a colloquial language he harassed them in a sort of humorous one-man guerilla, a railing wrestle in which the dignitaries of the Anglican church could not engage without either forsaking their dignified countenance or being wrenched in the hip by a rollicking messenger of God. Martin justified his non-conformist procedure by appeal to the will of the Lord. "The Lord being the author both of mirth and gravity, is it not lawful in itself for the truth to use either of these ways when the circumstances do make it lawful?" [Ibid., p. 83] The bishops had to look for other means, "to purge this field of such a hilding foe" (Henry V). If Thomas Nashe was sometimes called the English Aretine, Martin Marprelate deserves to be called the Puritan Aretine. This or a similar idea might have occurred to Richard Bancroft, then chaplain of the Archbishop of Canterbury, generally thought to be the originator of the plan to engage professional writers who could meet Martin on his own ground. One of them was Nashe, another Lyly. Anthony Munday could have been another. A series of anti-Martinist pamphlets was launched, including some plays, which are no longer extant. Henceforth Martin was called "the ape", so in a pamphlet in verses, A Whip for an Ape, ascribed to John Lyly:

A Dizard late skipt out upon our Stage;
But in a sacke, that no man might him sée:
And though we knowe not yet the paltrie page,
Himself hath Martin made his name to bée.
A proper name, and for his feates most fit;
The only thing wherein he hath shew'd wit.
Who knoweth not, that Apes men Martins call;
Which beast this baggage seemes as t'were himselfe:
So as both nature, nurture, name and all
Of that's expressed in this apish elfe.
Which I'll make good to Martin Marr-als face
In thrée plaine poynts, and will not bate an ace.

[Lyly, John, The Complete Works of, R.Warwick Bond (ed.), 3 vols., Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1902, Vo. III, p. 418.]

The strategy pleased neither all Anglicans nor all Puritans. Francis Bacon held that the jesting tone and the substitution of the pulpit by the public stage was unworthy of the Church. In two letters to Lord Burghley the Puritan Thomas Cartwright condemned "Martin's disordered discourse" and expressed his "dislike and sorrow for such kind of disorderly proceeding." [Strype, Annals, Vol. III.2, p. 67 and p. 73] Thus the "fox" disagreed with the "ape" and both disagreed with the bees. "The fox, the ape, and the humble-bee/ Were still at odds, being but three."

In 1589 a fourth party entered the lists. The party was composed of the Harvey brothers Gabriel and Richard. Early in 1590 Richard Harvey published his sermon The Lamb of God (entered in the Stationers' Register on 23 October 1589) in an attempt, according to Nashe, "to play the Jack of both sides twixt Martin and us." [Nashe, I.270]In his dedication to the earl of Essex Richard Harvey, surely with the silent assistance of his elder brother, censured both Martin and the anti-Martinist pamphleteers, the latter, however, in more contemptuous terms, being "unworthy any witty stage, and too piperly for Tarleton's mouth. Scurrility was odious even among the heathen Romans... grave matters would be debated gravely." [Nashe, V.177]He equated Nashe to Martin for "railing incivility". Nashe would be doing for "civil learning" what Martin Marprelate was doing in religion. The same year appeared the anonymous pamphlet Plaine Percevall, the Peace-Maker of England, dedicated to the "new upstart Martin" but also to his adversaries "Cavaliero Pasquill,... Marforius and all Cutting Huffsnuffs" etc. Richard Harvey's authorship seems beyond doubt: he never denied Nashe's ascription to him. Richard's position was of course shared by his brother Gabriel, who wrote his own pamphlet in 1589, but did not publish it until 1593 as second part of his Pierce's Supererogation, unwittingly lending the title a self-ironic connotation. Gabriel Harvey's publication of his position in the Martin Marprelate controversy in 1593 was itself a supererogation. Martin Marprelate had published his last tract in September 1589, exactly four years before Gabriel Harvey brought his commentary to the printer. His position was in nothing different from that of his brother, only much later and longer. Again, his attitude to Martin (who had anyway decamped by then) was more friendly than to the other adversary, John Lyly, despite the fact that there was no substantial difference between him and Lyly on the religious issue. He, too, deplored the scurrilous level to which the debate had been pulled down.  "Alas poor miserable desolate Church, had it no other builders, but such architects of their own fantasies, and such maisons of infinite contradiction." [Harvey, II.133] And he charitably implored Martin to hold his peace. "Sweet Martin, as well Junior as Senior... and you sweet whirlwinds, that so fiercely bestir you at this instant; now, again and again, I beseech you, either be content to take a sweeter course; or take all for me." [Ibid., II.205] Martin had fled into silence for almost four years.

But what then had moved Gabriel Harvey to publish this text? First of all, Harvey had sollicited in vain the office of Public Orator at Cambridge; a public orator is nothing without public, and Harvey wanted to go public. Shakespeare expresses this motive in his wonted pithiness and precision.  Harvey had decided to 'go public', simply to 'come out of door':

Until the goose came out of door,
And stay'd the odds by adding four.

How apt and appropriate! Indeed, going public was the sole cause and staying the odds by adding up to four the sole effect of Harvey's intervention in 1593. But why the goose?

There are several ways in which Gabriel Harvey can be associated with the "goose". First, because of his fondness of "l'envoy", "oie" or "oye" being the French word for goose. Secondly, because of his "honking" verse. After he had been allowed to kiss the queen's hand at Audley End in 1578, his dark complexion prompting the queen's remark that he looked like an Italian, he composed a Latin poem "De vultu Itali" ("Concerning the look of an Italian") which was , in fact, a variation of Virgil's ninth eclogue. Harvey writes:

"Me also do the shepherds call a poet,
But I am slow to credit what they say.
O may I always recollect his warning:
Don't credit more what others say of thee
Than what thyself dost say unto thyself." [Ibid., I.xl]


"The muses made me
A poet too. There are songs of mine. The shepherd folk
Call me their bard -- though I am not deluded by what they say.
I know I cannot be mentioned in the same breath with Cinna
Or Varius -- a honking goose with silver-throated swans."

[Virgil. Eclogues. Translated by C. Day Lewis. Oxford: At the Alden Press. 1963, p. 42. The lines in the original are: "Nam neque adhuc Vario videor, nec dicere Cinna/digna, sed argutos inter strepere anser olores."]

In Vergil's eclogue the shepherd's humility must be understood in social, not in aesthetical terms. Cinna, Varius, Gallus, Pollio were members of the Roman nobility and therefore accounted more "refined" than the common shepherd Lycidas.[A similar attitude is adopted by Edmund Spenser in his dedicatory poems to Lord Buckhurst and Sir Walter Raleigh prefacing his Fairie Queen. To Lord Buckhurst: "But sith thou maist not so, give leave a while/ To baser wit his power therein to spend,/Whose grosse defaults thy daintie pen may file,/And unadvised oversights amend." To Ralegh: "To thee that are the sommer's Nightingale,/Thy soveraine Goddess most deare delight,/Why doe I send this rustic Madrigale,/ That may thy tunefull eare unseason quite?"] For Harvey's English poems, however, "honking goose" is a fit characterisation.

Finally, the Earl of Oxford would have a special reason to call Harvey the "goose". In his Latin address at Audley End in 1578 he had lauded Sidney and Oxford as excellent poets. Notwithstanding, he had urged the earl of Oxford to throw away the "insignificant pen" and to accomplish heroical feats. "Pull Hannibal up short at the gates of Britain. Defended though he be by a mighty host, let Don John of Austria come on only to be driven home again. And what if suddenly a most powerful enemy should invade our borders? If the Turk be arming his savage hosts against us?" [Ward, B.M. The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, 1550-1604. London: John Murray. 1928, p. 158; Ogburn, Charlton. The Mysterious William Shakespeare. McLean, VA: EPM Publications, Inc. 1984, p. 597.]When the Gaules stood at the gates of Rome, the geese grazing before the Capitol alarmed the Romans; in 1578 at Audley End the rhetorician Harvey was playing the same role -- solo. Some five years after the Spanish Armada had assailed the English coast, Harvey's military rhetoric might have called forth the name of Don Armado.

Even with the Martin Marprelate controversy being over, Harvey conserved a motive, his inmost motive, to publish his paper on the controversy. His position paper on the Marprelate affair also addressed another controversy, not on religious but on literary matters: the long-standing feud between Harvey and the Euphuists and their wider circle: John Lyly, Robert Greene, Thomas Lodge but also authors who cannot properly be considered as Euphuists like Thomas Watson, Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe. And above all the Euphuists' patron-poet, the earl of Oxford.

4. Harvey and English literature

Apart from several scattered general declarations of allegiance to the model of the ancients, to the sacred union of poetry and virtue, in his pamphlets of 1592 and 1593, Gabriel Harvey has left us only two letters on versifying, addressed to Edmund Spenser, both published in 1580 but in two separate volumes: Three Proper and wittie, familiar Letters: lately passed betweene two Universitie men: touching the Earthquake in April last, and our English reformed Versifying -- With the Preface of a Wellwiller to both and Two Other very commendable Letters, of the same men's writing: both touching the foresaid Artificiall Versifying, and certain other Patriculars : More lately delivered unto the Printer. If it is the roots of the Harvey-Nashe quarrel we are seeking,  they are here, not in the Marprelate controversy. McKerrow remarks that the "quarrel between Nashe and the Harveys seems in its origin to be an offshoot of the well-known one between Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and Sir Philip Sidney in 1579, and to have arisen out of what may have been a simple misunderstanding of a harmless piece of impersonal satire." [Nashe, V.73] This assessment cannot be accepted in its entirety. Harvey's libel "Speculum Tuscanismi" was not an "impersonal" satire. The mockery of Oxford's Italianate and effete manners was immediately followed by an umistakably personal quip.[See Part II, chapter 2] The battle was continued without any visible further implication of Sidney in 1583. In his Mamillia, second part, registered in September 1583, Robert Greene (possibly the Earl of Oxford himself within Greene's work) wrote a witty reply to Harvey's libel, a sort of  "Retro-Speculum Tuscanismi". In "Speculum Tuscanismi" Harvey had mocked womanish behaviour, the lack of manly valour, commemorating the old times of knightly ardour:

Since Galateo came in, and Tuscanisme gan usurpe,
Vanitie above all: Villanie next her, Stateliness Empresse.
No man, but Minion, Stout, Lout, Plaine, swain, quoth a Lording:
No words but valorous, no works but woomanish only.
For life Magnificoes, not a beck but glorious in shew,
In deede most frivolous, not a looke but Tuscanish always.

Galateo is the title of Giovanni della Casa's famous treatise on education, written in 1560, translated into English in 1576. It is difficult to understand how Harvey, who at Audley End in 1578, two years before his Familiar Letters, had claimed for himself the succession of Castiglione, Giovanni della Casa and Stefano Guazzo,  could link this treatise with the scorned "Tuscanism" or "Italianateness".  In the satire on Harvey's satire in Greene's Mammillia II the situation is inverted. Here the complaint was about the decline of the old female values, the masculinity of women:

Since Ladie milde (too base in array) hath lived as an exile,
None of account but stout: if plaine? Stale slut not a courtresse
Dames nowadayes? fie none, sauced with conceits, quick wits very wily.
Words of a Saint, but deeds guess how, feigned faith to deceive men.
Courtsies coy, no vale but a vaunt tucked up like a Tuscan.

[Greene, Life and Complete Works, Vol. 2, p. 219]

Continue Reading Harvey-Nashe Quarrel---part2

Back to Research Articles Portal

Back to Elizabethan Authors HOME PAGE