TRIGGERED THE ASPERSIONS OF NASHE, HARVEY AND THE PARNASSUS
several references to the world of theatre in the Parnassus plays,
written for St John's College, Cambridge, around 1600. These imply
resentment by scholars (ie university graduates) of the wealth of
actors and unqualified playwrights. But references specific to
Shakespeare suggest only that he was, by then, an acclaimed poet,
playwright and actor.
However, in one amusing sequence he is
hero-worshipped by a fatuous aristocrat named Gullio, who is the
niggardly patron of Ingenioso, a poverty-stricken scholar and
author. The satire becomes intriguing once it is realised that these
characters are caricatures of illustrious former members of the
college. The gullible aristocrat is an unflattering parody of
Shakespeare's patron, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. And
the hard-up author represents the waspish Thomas Nashe, who, some
years earlier, had mocked the Earl in a lampoon of Shakespeare's
Venus & Adonis
- notoriously quick to pick a fight - had also engaged in a lengthy
war of words with a fellow Cambridge man, Gabriel Harvey. These
exchanges, though often obscured by satirical references now opaque
to us, provide much insight into the affairs of the day. In one
voluminous riposte Harvey provides hints of a nobleman who is short
of cash and who has been improperly insulted by Nashe. This
nobleman appears to be associated in some scandalous way with Venus
& Adonis and an actor. However, Harvey
withholds his name, supposedly out of sensitivity and respect. Some
Oxfordians allege Nashe's involvement in a rental dispute caused by
the Earl of Oxford, and cite these suggestions by Harvey as evidence
that Oxford secretly wrote Venus & Adonis
(and other works of Shakespeare).
In reality, the evidence
suggests that all the above aspersions and allusions arose from the
strained or unusual relationships between Nashe, Southampton and
Shakespeare. Nashe had long resented unqualified playwrights,
whom he saw as stealing bread from the mouths of scholars. As
I have shown (in my essay mentioned below), he attempted in vain in
1592 to extract a patron's remuneration from his fellow collegian,
the Earl of Southampton. He must have been galled to witness
Shakespeare's apparent success a few months later with Venus
& Adonis. And Harvey was quick to
gloat on Nashe's outdoing by an actor writing in the "idle
hours" of that poem's dedication.
Within his retaliatory
lampoon of the dedication, Nashe provides an invaluable snippet of
information. He implies that the young Earl has been a lover
to both an ungrammatical poet and that poet's lover.
Amazingly, the same relationship dynamics - involving Southampton
and Shakespeare - can be discerned in Shakespeare's Sonnets.
Taken with other evidence, the inference is that Nashe and the
Sonnets allude to the same real events, described more fully in Shakespeare: a Hidden Life Sung in a Hidden Song.
Those who are
interested in the - I warn you - detailed supporting evidence, may
read this in my essay, Crossing Paths with Thomas Nashe.