The Alchemist & The Tempest: anti-masque and masque

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Have you ever read The Alchemist and The Tempest at the same time?  I don’t mean consecutively, one after the other, but literally, at the same time, Act by Act and scene by scene?  If you do, I guarantee you will be amazed to find out how closely the two plays “talk back” to each other.

Right from the opening scene, Jonson’s thunderous altercation between Face, Subtle and Doll slaps the audience with an in-your-face parody of The Tempest’s thunderous altercation between The Boatswain, Antonio & Co. and The Master, with “The Master” ingeniously split between the ship’s captain and God himself, king of all roarers, who commands the “Elements”.

In both plays, beastly insults foul the air, with “dogs” as a constant theme.  In The Alchemist, Face – who is a mere servant in the house of his absent master – tags his senior partner, Subtle the Alchemist, with several doggy epithets:  “You most notorious whelp”; “my mongrel” and “Doctor Dog”.  Doll calls them both “perpetual curs.”

In The Tempest, we find the reverse situation, with a passel of frightened Lords barking out the canine curses.  Sebastian hollers at the Boatswain, “A poxe o’your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable Dog!”  When the Boatswain dares to backtalk, Antonio roars, “Hang, cur, hang, you whoreson insolent Noise-maker.”

If you look closer, the parallels only intensify.  At line 9 of The Alchemist, Doll warns the two growling pups, “Hark, I hear somebody,” after which Subtle snarls, “I shall mar/All that the tailor has made, if you approach.”  Compare this to The Tempest, line 10, when Antonio demands, “Where is the Master, Boson?”  and the Boatswain growls, “Do you not hear him?  You mar our labour/ Keep your Cabins: you do assist the storm.”

And the correspondences keep on coming.  Read the two in tandem, and this image of keeping within cabins will call to mind the claustrophobic setting of The Alchemist, where the trio of cony-catching rascals have set up shop in Lovewit’s house – “Lovewit” being Face’s absent master.  The Boatswain’s “You do assist the storm,” will have you flipping back the pages of The Alchemist to find Doll’s attempts to quiet her two madmen, with “Will you  betray all?”, and a few lines later, “Will you mar all?” and finally, “Will you be/your own destructions, gentlemen?”

The Tempest’s Boatswain asks a similar question of his “gentlemen” passengers, as he frantically does his best to save the ship:

A plague— [A cry within.  Enter Sebastian, Antonio & Gonzalo.] —upon this howling: they are louder then the weather, or our office.  Yet again?  What do you here?  Shall we give o’er and drown?  Have you a mind to sink?

As you pick up the scent, each pungent echo leads on to the next.  In The Alchemist, Face threatens to turn Subtle in for practicing magic, thus putting the rogue’s “neck/ within a noose.”  In The Tempest, Gonzalo says the Boatswain’s complexion is “perfect Gallows.”  And why does that “gallows” complexion suddenly stop you in your tracks?  Flip some more pages, and you’ll find Face’s vivid description of Subtle-the-bankrupt-and-worthy-to-be-hanged magician, with his “…complexion, of the Roman wash/Stuck full of black and melancholic worms.”

Not convinced yet?  Here’s one more, this time beginning with The Tempest, and Gonzalo’s strange comment on the sinking ship:

“I”ll warrant him for drowning, though the Ship were no stronger then a Nut-shell, and as leaky as an unstanched wench.”

Following this “unsavory simile” (so uncharacteristic of Shakespeare, I might add; where else does he so crudely refer to the privy topic of a woman’s menses?), the Boatswain does his best to save them all, but to no avail.  In come the wet Mariners, crying,  “All lost, to prayers, to prayers, all lost.”  Now turn back to The Alchemist, where you’ll find that the raging human storm also climaxes in a cry of “Lost!”:

SUBTLE:  Cow-herd.

FACE:                           Conjuror.

SUBTLE:                                            Cutpurse.

FACE:                                                                    Witch.

DOLL:                                                                                  O me!

We are ruin’d! Lost!

A few lines later, we hear the shattering of a vessel, as Doll takes matters firmly in hand:

She catcheth out Face his sword: and breaks Subtle’s glass.

Subtle’s glass is one of his alchemical vessels, variously termed curcurbits, gripe’s eggs and bolt’s-heads within The Alchemist.  In The Tempest, the three uses of “vessel” all refer to the cracked ship, which as we’ve just seen, the author oddly and imprecisely likens to an “unstanched wench”.  Which brings us to Doll’s highly significant command to Subtle, after she breaks his alchemical glass:  “And you, sir, with your menstrue, gather it up.”  Menstrue, as you’ll see if you click the link to George Ripley’s work, was a term used in alchemy, as Jonson no doubt knew, given his mention of Ripley within The Alchemist.

David Lucking has many more correspondences in “Carrying Tempest in his Hand and Voice“, but he doesn’t seem to know what to make of it all.  One conclusion he shyly offers is that Ben Jonson’s cynical Alchemist must be commenting on Shakespeare’s Romantic Tempest, rather than the other way around, as the traditional dating has led scholars to believe.  But how does all this intertextuality play out from the Oxfordian perspective, given Oxford’s death in 1604, and the sure dating of The Alchemist to 1610?

The way I see it, these plays are two golden eggs, hatched by the same cackling bird.  Or fraternal twins, nursed on the same rich Shakespearean Boar’s milk.  They are anti-masque and masque, the Cain and Abel,  or Romulus and Remus,  of Ben Jonson’s fiercely independent Novo Orbe.

You cannot fathom the mystery of The Tempest without the aid of The Alchemist.  That’s how the Master planned it.

  1. January 27th, 2014 at 20:38 | #1

    @Marie Merkel
    Hi Marie!!
    Some more fun for ya…

    1) Regarding Jonson’s vanity.
    >>What better than to spiffy all nice and neat your own play AND load it in the First Folio as the FIRST play people will see… Now there is your vain person.

    2) The Sonnets are published in 1609.
    >>What would be more loyal than to follow-up with a spoof play knowing de Vere couldn’t possibly have written it.
    >>Side note: Christopher Baker “The Alchemist and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129” *Notes and Queries* Jun 1993, pp. 211-12. This sounds interesting but I don’t have access to the article.

    3) Per Gurr {AJC, 2011, p. 28}: “the idea that Shakespeare mocked Jonson… with the figure of Ajax in Troilus and Cressida…”
    >>N-I-C-E !! What better way to diss a diss on one’s self than to “forget” to list T&C in the Table of Contents of the First Folio.

    4) Arlene Oseman {“Going Round in Circles with Jonson and Shakespeare”, *Shakespeare in Southern Africa*, 2003, p. 75} notes that Ian Donaldson discusses “the significance of the recurring motif of the circle in Jonson’s work, seeming to symbolize and body forth a sense of completion, wholeness, and inviolable cohesion.” Oseman herself notes: “Even more telling than the probable symbolism of the reiterated figure of the circle in Jonson’s work, is his adoption of a circle, or compass, for his personal emblem.”
    >> Think Prospero’s circle and all the characters coming together from the four corners of the island (think compass). In what other play(s) does Shax have his main character invite ALL the other characters into his inner circle?

    5) Strachey’s sonnet “Upon Sejanus” was published in the 1605 edition of Jonson’s *Sejanus His Fall* (1603).
    >>So why not return your friend’s favor by using his 1610 letter in your play which letter must have been the talk of the town.

    6) Back to Lynne’s response : “If Jonson wrote Alchemist, why would he want to repeat himself in Tempest? Or probably I should say: If Jonson wrote Tempest, why would he want to repeat himself in Alchemist?”
    >>So why not write 2 plays at the same time and throw suspicion away from yourself since obviously no one would think it could be done.

    7) Jonson owned a copy of Nicholaus Hill’s *Philosophia Epicurea, Democritiana, Theophrastica ….* (1601). Hill was de Vere’s secretary. David McPherson {“Ben Jonson’s Library and Marginalia: An Annotated Catalogue”, *Studies in Philology*, 1974, pp. 51-52} notes that the copy was discovered in 1955 by John Sparrow who states the hexameter written by Jonson on the verso of the title page is “evidently a disparaging comment on the contents of the book.” McPherson further notes: “Sparrow points out that Jonson in Epigram CXXXIII, 127-9, makes fun of Hill’s book. Jonson also told [William] Drummond a joke about Hill.”
    >>So why not make fun of de Vere to throw off the masses that you are in cahoots with him.

    8) As Roger noted, Henry de Vere gave 3 vols. of Plato in Greek and Latin to Jonson.

    9) Ceri Sullivan {“Ben Jonson and Hugh Broughton”, *Notes and Queries*, Dec 2012, p. 571} notes: “According to the play’s [Alchemist] editor, F. H. Meres, Dol’s words in IV.v and II.iii come straight from Broughton’s *A Concent of Scripture*, published in 1590.”

    10) Plantation and Ireland. Per Wikipedia: “In 1600, most of Ireland was heavily wooded, apart from the bogs…. By 1700, Ireland’s native woodland had been decimated, having been intensively exploited by the new settlers for commercial ventures such as shipbuilding. Several native species such as the wolf had been hunted to extinction.”
    >>Seb: “A pox o’ your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!” (Tempest I, i)…
    This description fits the wolf. And we know there were dogs on the island.
    >>Opening of Act II, scene ii… “Enter CALIBAN with a burden of wood. A noise of thunder heard”
    Cal: “All the infections that the sun sucks up From bogs, fens, flats,…”
    Note ‘bogs’.
    >>J. M. Robertson *The Baconian Heresy* (1913, p. 530) notes: “In the Essays and in his [Bacon’s] State Papers concerning Ireland he is deeply concerned about ‘plantations’: in all the Plays the word occurs but once, in the line: ‘Had I plantation of this isle, my lord.’ Tempest II, i, 143.”

    Marie, I think you’ve nailed it that people don’t want Tempest to not be Shakespeare’s. My thing: What difference does it make who wrote it? Either you like the play, or you don’t. A rose by any other name… The play’s the thing…

    Girl, the pieces are nicely lining up! This is just too easy!! And too much F-U-N !!

    Special thank yous for Gurr’s essay! I’m looking forward to your “review” as I do note several items of interest but will keep them locked tight all to my independent self :)

    BTW Marie, without revealing the secret stuff behind the magic, suffice it to say that somehow I just knew you would enjoy having an independent noodler come up with your own idea :)


    P.S. Broughton’s *Revelation* at

    • Marie Merkel
      January 28th, 2014 at 14:50 | #2

      Thanks for sharing your latest noodles, Libby. Want to play some guessing games? I’ll sprinkle a few puzzlers in between my comments:

      1) Isn’t he a cunning fellow? RE: Jonson’s “vanity”: that word is in my “unusual usages” Tempest file. Can you figure out why?

      2) 1609: note that this is also the year Troilus & Cressida came out, with the alleged mockery of Jonson in the person of Ajax, and that very strange introductory letter about it never having been “clapper-clawed”… Each time I read T&C looking to dig out more Poet’s War paper bullets, I have this sense that Jonson may have put his 2 cents into the mix in 1609. Either that, or Shakespeare’s parody of Jonson’s voice was pretty darn good.

      The Baker article on Alchemist/Sonnet 129 does sound like a must read. Wish I could be more use in researching, but I’m still stuck at home, hours away from the library where I can download these things…

      3) re: TOC missing Troilus & Cressida and the diss of BJ: I’d never thought of it that way, but figured it had something to do with publication rights. However, the FF TOC may still yield some hints of other suspect plays in the line-up of first & last. Coriolanus is another good candidate for co-authored play.

      4) THANK YOU LIBBY! It does feel good to see you finding the same things that caught my eye. I printed out that essay on going round in circles a few years ago. If you look at #9 of the Appendix of my essay, you’ll find a passage from Jonson’s Magnetic Lady, where he outlines his own method of creating a story, based on that magical, magnetic circle. Well might you ask where else does Shakespeare do this!

      5) Strachey the friend of Jonson: and I’m sure you’ll have noted the tempest imagery in Strachey’s sonnet. While I do think the Sea Venture news inspired the direction of The Tempest, it seems possible that Strachey’s longer version of his letter may have borrowed from the play, rather than the play borrow from the still-damp-from-the-ship private letter to an unknown lady. In any case, Jonson was well-placed to have exclusive early access to Strachey’s news of the adventure.

      6) re: Lynne’s question, “If Jonson wrote The Tempest, why would he want to repeat himself in The Alchemist?” If Lynne had been thinking more clearly that day, I don’t believe she would have posted this question, because I’m sure she knows that neither of these vastly different plays “repeats” the other! Roger’s response to her was properly cautious, but both ignore my suggestion in the blog essay that the two plays are anti-masque and masque. You might almost say like yin and yang, or white and black, negative and positive. Note that R&L also ignore the significance of the titles, that the job of an alchemist was to bring about a “tempest”.

      7) Ah, yes, Oxford’s last secretary minion, Nicholas Hill, and Jonson’s dissing of him. If I ever knew about Jonson having a book of Hill’s, or about the hexameter, I’d forgotten, so many thanks for pointing it out. If you haven’t already, you must read Jonson’s long, stinking epigram in which Nick Hill merits a mention. Lots of flatulence in that one, so come prepared. Reminds me of the stinking mess through which Prospero’s hounds chase Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo.

      You wrote: “>>So why not make fun of de Vere to throw off the masses that you are in cahoots with him.” Hmm… maybe, maybe not. The way I see it is Jonson got himself in deep do-do with de Vere over the Isle of Dogs, which probably had a parody of the Essex-Countess of Derby affair in it (later recycled in Eastward Ho!). That was the true start of the Poet’s War – as Captain Tucca tells us in Satiromastix.

      8) Henry de Vere’s gift to Jonson: yes, it is interesting. But probably not proof of any affection between Edward and Ben, as I believe I’ve seen someone claim. Note that Jonson never wrote an epigram honoring either Shakespeare or Oxford.

      9) I haven’t given enough time to Jonson’s issues with Broughton, so thanks for reminding me of Meres’ modern edition of the play.

      10) Plantation in Ireland and dogs: I’m still feeling that one out. For the unique use of “plantation” in the canon, you may be right in linking to Ireland, but I think the dogs – and bogs – are a separate reference and may be closer to home. Have you read Jonson’s The Case is Altered?

      I made a start on collating all of Gurr’s very useful observations with my file on the Tempest’s masque, but still have more work to do – and not much time this week in which to do it. No doubt you’ve noticed how very close Gurr comes to recognizing the masque’s absolute dependence on Jonson. In another discussion group, (on LinkedIn) one astute commentator noted the “deadly accurate” imitation of Jonson.

      all best,


  2. January 24th, 2014 at 19:07 | #3

    Howdy again!

    Gonz: “Had I plantation of this isle, my lord,–” (Tempest II, i, 143)

    Per Wikipedia, the Plantation of Ulster was the organized colonization (plantation) of Ulster by people from Britain during the reign of James I. Most of the colonists came from Scotland and England. Small private plantation by wealthy landowners began in 1606, while the official plantation began in 1609. James wanted the Plantation to be “a civilizing enterprise” that would settle Protestants in Ulster, a land that was mainly Gaelic-speaking and of the Catholic faith. Legal titles of all native landowners in the province were expropriated in order to prepare to colonize the province.

    This sounds very Tempest-like with Prospero taking over Caliban’s land, its strange voices, and its seeming location in Catholic purgatory.

    To me, Tempest keeps dating closer and closer to 1610. Strachey may have used a prior source(s), but there’s no reason Shax could not be influenced by Strachey. His letter was certainly big news at that time.

    Marie, have you seen Roger’s “Ben Jonson’s last laugh”

    I think Dr. Heward’s and Roger’s comments to the post are exceptionally revealing.

    Now really. If the Oxfordians suggest Jonson played a part in the “cover up”, why couldn’t he “finish” plays after de Vere’s death? And so, why would they hesitate to say Tempest was strictly of Jonson’s doing to assist in said “cover up”? If prior scholars suggest Jonson could mimic other writers, why not Shax? i.e. the “likeness” as in Jonson’s statement “For never no Imitator, ever grew up to his Author”.

    Note Roger says: “Jonson has already given the tip. No matter how excellent your source, do not rely solely on him (or any author) for creating your mental map. It is a type of admonition found over and again in varied permutations throughout Jonson’s writing.” So why do the scholars insist every play in the First Folio is written by Shax?

    Best wishes,

    • Marie Merkel
      January 25th, 2014 at 03:04 | #4

      Thank you Libby! I was pretty tickled that you had the same thought, apparently without reading my essay, about Jonson’s cunning diversion, and how he might have laid a little catbird egg in the nest, to be raised up by posterity as Shakespeare’s own. One of the first objections people always have to my theory is that Jonson was too vain, he would never given away a play as good as The Tempest. But if you’re a forger, and you’re so good you can forge a Rembrandt or Vermeer so that it passes for the master’s own, wouldn’t that be a terribly sweet “revenge” on the man whose genius eclipsed your own?

      I’m also loving how your mind works, Libby, and am most excited about your Broughton find! I will have to get a hold of his 1610 Revelation, and see what happens when I try to read it through Jonson’s eyes. “Plantation” is a word that I’ve tried to place a connection for in the past, but never came up with Ulster, so that’s also an appealing possibility.

      Roger’s little piece on Jonson made me sad, since I couldn’t agree with any of his interpretations, beginning with his take on “this side idolatry”. I find it healthier for my brain to be content to walk away from his creative misreadings. As for scholars insisting that every play was written by Shax, right now, just the opposite is all the rage: guess what, folks? Shakespeare collaborated! Right now, I’m working on showing Jonson’s hand in the play’s masque, using Andrew Gurr’s essay “Another Jonson Critic” as my launch pad. I’d give you a link, but it didn’t work when I tried to share it on a LinkedIn board yesterday. Just google and you’ll find a PDF in the Ben Jonson journal.

      I’ll have more time later this week and will get back to you with some thoughts and questions on all that you’ve shared.

      All best,


  3. January 24th, 2014 at 02:20 | #5

    Hi again,
    I see the link on your sidebar to my blog is coming up incorrectly… If it could be re-addressed please… Much appreciated and thank you for your support!!

  4. January 24th, 2014 at 02:12 | #6

    @Marie Merkel
    Hi Marie,

    I am so sorry I missed seeing your essay “Ben Jonson & The Tempest: ‘The Copie may be Mistaken for the Principall’” before offering my prior noodles!!

    But now that I’ve read it, I’m loving that you also notice that no one really knows who wrote Tempest. And {my favorite part!} that you also think it would be easy for Jonson to slip his own play into the 1st Folio thus shifting the focus away from Oxford. I love how your mind works!! This is a rare treat for me finding someone whose brain functions properly :)

    Just some quick noodles re Tempest vs Alchemist:

    1. Jonsonian elements in the Tempest (very nicely done Marie!) i.e. structure; content (masques, etc.); etc.

    2. Jonson 1616 Folio… How are the plays ordered? Is the first play his latest? Is there a play in the folio that’s not listed in its table of contents à‎ la Troilus & Cressida?

    3. How do we know Shax wrote Tempest? His 3rd Folio includes plays scholars don’t accept as his.

    4. Tempest is unique for Shax i.e. shortest play in the canon; least amount of biblical parallels (none IIRC based on prior sources); tight/polished; why the first play in 1st Folio?

    5. Futhermore, Jonson owned a 1599 Latin edition of the Bible. Per *Habits of Mind: Evidence and Effects of Ben Jonson’s Reading* Robert C. Evans (1995, p. 47): “[M]any of the passages he highlights share common thematic concerns. Perhaps inevitably in the Hebrew scriptures, many of the marked passages deal with such matters as genealogy, familial strife, God’s personal grace, and especially divine punishments for sin.” Interestingly, all of these themes coincide with Shakespeare.

    6. Question: Could Jonson mimic Shax? (Again, nicely done!!)

    7. Interestingly, Broughton wrote about “twelve yeres agoe” and “Wintonia have but a sack full of wind, which Aeolus gave to Ulisses, when his fellowes thought it full of a great treasure, and forced him to open it, and so by tempest drowned themselves” in ‘The Aut[h]our to the Reader’ section of his 1610 *Revelation of the Holy Apocalyps*. Also, he focuses on the idea that purgatory does not exist.

    Marie, I think you’ve got a great handle on this and are doing an exceptional job! I’m really pleased you’ve found prior scholarship which supports your arguments and I hope you’ll continue to grow from there. That you’ve gone outside the Shax-Oxford arena is very much to your credit and I certainly wish you much continued success with your efforts!!

    It really tickles me to think Jonson could do something so simple and no one would be the wiser. I think you’ve come up with the perfect solution!! :)

    BTW, a further curiosity regarding Tempest… The ‘Tempests’ are supposedly one of England’s oldest Catholic landed gentry families. And guess what? Apparently, they’ve owned an estate named ‘Broughton’ since 1407. Also, according to Wikipedia, one branch of the family was granted a former monastic property by Elizabeth I c1600. Certainly, without the author’s notes in our hand, we are all guessing what Tempest means. That is the joy of independent reading.


  5. Marie Merkel
    January 6th, 2014 at 22:58 | #7

    @Knit Witted
    Thanks for the links! I’ve read these in the past, (maybe two years ago or more) and they set me off on a two-month project of reading everything I could find on Marlowe’s Faustus. These are really exciting avenues, for me at least, so I’m glad to now have copies of the articles on hand, to read again, soon. IIRC, at the time it seemed to me worth investigating Jonson as possibly responsible for the 1602 additions to Faustus.

    One thing I wanted to clarify, re what you wrote to Roger: My theory of Jonson’s authorship of The Tempest doesn’t arise from the dialogue that Lucking found with The Alchemist; instead, Lucking’s observations happily reinforce my original theory.

    That theory is based on shared choices of language, phrases, collocations, rhyme pairs, stage directions, grammar, figures of speech, unusual usages, dramatic structure, and idiosyncratic use of sources, as well as biographical parallels and intertextual curiosities.

    Due to more weather events and power outages, I wasn’t able to get to the library, as planned. In the meantime, I’ve been revising my short essay on “Who Wrote Prospero’s Epilogue”, adding a few bit and pieces of research I’d left out of the original.

  6. January 6th, 2014 at 20:32 | #8

    @Marie Merkel
    Hi Marie,

    Some quick links re essays by Dr. Lucking:

    “Our Devils Now Are Ended: A Comparative Analysis of The Tempest and Doctor Faustus”. Dalhousie Review 80:2 (Summer 2000): 151-67

    “‘Burn but his books’: Rough Magic in Doctor Faustus and The Tempest“
    … and …
    “Carrying Tempest in His Hand and Voice: The Figure of the Magician in Jonson and Shakespeare”

    Look forward to your ideas!

  7. December 28th, 2013 at 21:39 | #9

    @Marie Merkel
    Howdy again Marie,

    Some “interesting” responses from Roger and Lynne

    Must’ve stirred up some sort of hornets’ nest. Not to worry… We will think up something better!!

    Best wishes,

    • Marie Merkel
      December 29th, 2013 at 00:10 | #10

      Girl, you sure know how to stir the pot. Couldn’t take the buzz tonight. Will take two aspirin and think on this again in the morning. ;)

    • Marie Merkel
      December 31st, 2013 at 16:07 | #11

      Hi Libby,

      Just to let you know I’m still thinking! We’ve had ice storms, power outages, furnace trouble, family get-togethers and partings, and in my few spare moments I’ve been caught up with a LinkedIn Shakespeare discussion, which has now quieted down. I’ll be going to the university library on Friday, and will pick up Shaheen’s book, and search the Jonson section for anything that seems useful. From a quick search of MaineCats’ holdings for “Jonson, Ben” as a subject, I don’t find anything comparable to Shaheen’s study of Shakespeare’s biblical references. I’ll also check the periodical literature (which I can’t do effectively from home). The Alchemist has many overt references to contemporary use and abuse of scripture, not only with the parody of Broughton, but also in the send-up of the Puritans. But these are of a different nature, of course, than a conscious or unconscious snatch of phrase or collocation from the bible.

      Putting aside their evident discomfort with the ideas you shared, Roger and Lynne actually made some useful comments; more later…

      Thanks again for your interest, but don’t feel obliged to continue! I really like the first part of your final comments to R&L, and will work out a paraphrase that fits more closely what I’m hoping to discover, which is a little different from your outline.

      All best,


  8. December 27th, 2013 at 21:53 | #12

    @Marie Merkel
    Very sweet of you Marie! Much appreciate your nice comments and your support!

    I’m not certain I’d be the right person to tackle this. I’d like to put a bug in Roger’s ear about this since he’s the real bible scholar and is knowledgeable on Jonson. I think he would be one who could easily whip this out AND get the results published mainstream which I think is really important.

    You know, Marie, if there really was some sort of trickery/deception going on back then and Jonson was truly in on Oxford wrote Shax, wouldn’t that be a fabulous ploy to insert one of your own plays in the FF knowing it was written after de Vere’s death. And that such ploy would easily silence the “conspiracy” in that people would never connect Oxford with Shax.


  9. December 23rd, 2013 at 21:11 | #13

    Hi Marie,

    I’m still finding it a fascinating idea that Tempest was written by Jonson. I’m curious what a comparison between the two plays’ (1) biblical parallels and (2) prior sources would reveal. According to Dr. Naseeb Shaheen, Tempest, of all the plays, contains the least amount of biblical parallels having, in fact, very few. And IIRC none came from prior sources. That would certainly be a new game if both plays were comparable in both these areas!!

    Best wishes and Happy Holidays,

    • December 26th, 2013 at 23:04 | #14

      Hi Libby,

      Though I don’t recall ever seeing a study or book devoted to Jonson’s use of the bible, I’m sure this would be a fruitful avenue of inquiry. His known use of source material is similar to what we see in The Tempest, with no one work seeming to provide the narrative or plot, (Jonson seems allergic to plots, per se). Jonson, like the author of TT, was a wide-ranging reader, very comfortable with classical material (Virgil included) as well as contemporary translations (Montaigne; he was a close friend of John Florio), and we know he’d been reading up on magic and witches for his masques (Agrippa in Masque of Queens). We know he bought (or attempted to buy) occult books from the late John Dee’s library. And Jonson was no stranger to Ovid, with examples of Ovidian imitation in his Poetaster.

      You’ve got quite a grasp of the biblical field, Libby; I’m always impressed with your critiques and/or defenses of Roger’s dissertation. If you want to pursue this, I’ll happily forward any articles or info I come across, re the bible and The Alchemist. I imagine the first thing you’ll have to wade through, on the religious front, is Jonson’s problem with Hugh Broughton.

      Best wishes to you as well. It’s good to see you back on the boards, keeping everyone on their toes. You had me worried for a day or two!


  10. June 6th, 2013 at 09:03 | #15

    Nice work! There is dialogue between Ben’s work and Will’s (and Ben and that of other Elizabethan dramatists) throughout his career. It’s harder to find Will taking a sideswipe at Ben than the other way round but I had never considered any closer relationship before now.

    Nothing is more natural in drama than one artist’s current work should reflect another’s and that style should change over time. As you point out in your conclusion, the fact that these relationships and changes continue to be discernible and continue to develop long after the Earl leaves the scene (in a coffin) is a big problem for Oxfordian theory in general and for dating The Tempest in particular.

    • Marie Merkel
      September 2nd, 2013 at 15:27 | #16

      Sorry for the belated reply, alfa; my mother was very ill at the time you wrote, and passed away a few days later. I don’t know how to contact you privately so I’ll ask you here: Would you mind putting your real name to your comment?

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