Comments on Bryan H. Wildentahl: Reflections on Spelling and the Shakespeare Authorship Question: 'What's in (the Spelling of) a Name?'

Agreeing by and large, I none the less want to add one point: Even the hyphenating can be significant, and highly so.

Mr. Kathman has denied any relevance of the spelling or hyphen. My own viewpoint is that depending on the context both spelling and hyphenating might be relevant. Surely not for so formidable a “decontextualizer” like Kathman. Though only the context allows to decide whether a particular spelling/hyphen  is significant or not. While generalizing the importance of spelling/hyphenation issue leads into error, an overall denial has the same negative effect. Evidently, it is vital for Kathman to deny any impact of spelling/hyphenation on the authorship issue, recognizing that in certain cases there might be an impact is lethal to his (over-confident) hypothesis.

The following text is only concerned with hyphenating.

 Hyphenated forms


I want to thank Dr David Kathman for having drawn my attention to the following: “When Anthony Munday wrote a pageant in honor of Sir Thomas Campbell's installation as Lord Mayor of London in 1609, the title of the printed version was "Camp-bell, or, The ironmonger's faire field."

So the name “Campbell” was hyphenated on the title-page, and thereby was restored a meaning to the constituents, or rather to their Latin form: “campus bellum”,  meaning “field of war”, a meaningful allusion in connection with the Mayor Thomas Campbell, a member of the ironmongers company. At the same time “camp-bell” might have been intended as a Latin-French pun on “campus”  and “beau/bel” , the “fair field of war.” Anyway, the hyphen operates as a  restorer of the autonomous meaning of the constituents.  The battle-field, so Munday, was the ironmonger’s fair field.

As in Thomas Fuller’s comment (Chambers, II.245).               

Thomas Fuller’s comment, probably written between 1643 and 1661, falls outside the purview scope of Kathman’s investigation, but it is not indifferent to his purpose. Had he included it, it would have given him the opportunity to widen his perspective. Fuller writes:

“WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born at Stratford on Avon in this County, in whom three poets may seem in some sort to be compounded.  Martial in the Warlike sound of his Sur-name (whence some may conjecture him of a Military extraction,) Hasti-vibrans, or Shake-speare. Ovid, the most natural and witty of alle Poets… Plautus.
Thoman Fuller, Worthies of England (1662).                                                                                                                                                                     
 (Quoted from Chambers, E.K., William Shakespeare, 2 vol., Oxford, 1930, Vol. II, 245).

Francis Meres had already compared Shakespeare with Ovid and Plautus, but Fuller was probably the first to liken him to Martial, obviously because of the mere sound of the name… which name? Shakespeare or Shake-speare? Fuller meant the hyphenated name.

Again, through the hyphen a concordance is established between surname and its bearer’s occupation.

Fuller was writing about 1662. But others within Kathman’s reference time frame had also associated the name with “shaking a spear”. Vicars wrote of the “famous poet poet who take his name from shaking a spear” in 1628. In 1599 the anonymous M.L. addresses him in 1599 as “poet supported by a spear”.

Also and perfectly within the same time frame, another witness whom Kathman seems to have overlooked. Overlooked or avoided? A principal witness he is. His name: Ben Jonson. I’ve been fervently looking for this particular spelling in the list of spellings  Kathman supplies: It is missing.

Not surprisingly after all.

Shakespeare or Shake-Spear as actor?

In 1616 Ben Jonson publishes the folio of his collected works. Each of his plays is preceded by a list of the principal players acting in them. Those lists should not be mistaken as “casts” In 1942 Felix Schelling had remarked: “But it is a mistake to infer, because Shakespeare’s name stands first in the list of actors and the elder Kno’well first in the dramatis personae, that Shakespeare took that particular part. The order of a list of Elizabethan players was generally that of their importance or priority as shareholders in the company and seldom if ever corresponded to the list of characters.” “Cast lists” is a misleading term for the lists of shareholders in Jonson’s folio of 1616. Cast lists were not already being printed in 1616. See GE Bentley, The Profession of player in Shakespeare’s time, p. 247” Jonson’s lists do not indicate which actor had taken which role, they only tell us which actors were involved in the performance, in the order of the size of their shareholdings. This can be safely concluded from the list below: The play had a major female character named Bianca (Bianca means white, an allusion to Desdemona in Othello, not yet written in 1598 according to the orthodox chronology!). This major female character must have been played by a young man. The best candidate seems to me Christopher Beeston, born 1579, former apprentice of Augustine Philips (see Philips’s last will).

The first play in which according to Jonson Shakespeare had performed is Every Man in His Humour in 1598:

“This Comoedie was first Acted, in the yeere 1598. By the then L. Chamberlayne his Servants. The principall Comœdians were.

            Will. Shakespeare.                                         Ric. Burbadge.

            Aug. Philips.                                                  Ioh. Hemings.

            Hen. Condel.                                                 Tho. Pope.

            Will Slye.                                                       Chr. Beeston.

            Will. Kempe.                                                  Ioh. Duke.”


The next (and last) was Sejanus:

“1603 c. Christmas. Note after text of Sejanus in First Folio of Ben Jonson’s Workes (1616). [On the date, cf. Eliz. Stage, iii.367.]

            Ric. Burbadge.                                             Will. Shake-Speare.

            Aug. Philips.                                                  Ioh. Hemings.

            Will. Sly.                                                        Hen. Condel.

            Ioh. Lowin.                                                     Alex. Cooke.”

Jonson’s spelling of names is IMO (and in Bryan Wildentahl’s and Pointon’s opinion as well) remarkably consistent. “Burbage” is always spelled “Burbadge” as in every other of his lists. “Heminge” is always spelled “Hemings”. “Condell” is always spelled “Condel”, never “Cundall” or “Condall”. “Philips” always “Philips”, never “Philllips”. Only in the name “Slye” the terminal “e” is once dropped, as in the name “Tooley” in later lists (1x Tooley, 1x Tooly). Only the name Shakespeare is spelled conspicuously differently: with hyphen and a capital letter for each of the components, thereby restoring the components to their original semantic status.

But the names “Shakespeare” are spelled very differently. Was Ben Jonson referring to the same man? Would David Kathman risk one of his leveling explanations? This time he might prefer to stay mute. Even more than Thomas Fuller’s “hasti-vibrans” or “shake-speare”, William Shake-Speare evokes a person of “military extraction”. He could very well have been the Will.  Shake-speare John Davies of Hereford bore in mind when he wrote his famous epigram on “our English Terence” who lost the favour of the court for playing; and the Will. Shake-Speare Jonson had in mind.

Here he would have been playing at Court. Here Shake-Speare rather than Shakespeare might have been the one who acted. For in the year 1603 the public theatres were closed because of the plague epidemic. The first stageing in 1603 must have taken place either privately or at Court. Playing in itself was not disgracing for an aristocrat. Neither in ancient Rome nor in early modern England. What was incompatible with the aristocratic behavioral codex — and this might be not easily comprehensible to a modern mind — was playing before the broad public, in view of the “vulgar multitude”.

Shakespeare or Shake-Spear as author?

In the epistle to the readers prefacing the quarto edition of 1605 Jonson wrote:

“Lastly, I would inform you, that this book, in all numbers, is not the same with that which was acted on the public stage; wherein a second: pen had good share: in place of which, I have rather chosen to put weaker,  and no doubt, less pleasing, of mine own, than to defraud so happy a genius of his right by my loathed usurpation.”

 As far as I know not many scholars have bothered to know who this “happy genius” could have been. Chapman has been conjectured— but would Jonson have been reticent about naming Chapman if in the same year 1605 he overtly cooperated with Chapman (and Marston) for Eastward Ho! Shakespeare too has been thought of on the plausible ground that no other author than Shakespeare would be deemed superior to himself by Jonson.

 As author Shake-Speare seems even more likely.

Robert Detobel