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Sir John Oldcastle and the Construction of Shakespeare's Authorship

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 12604

Douglas A. Brooks, Texas A&M University

Let vs returne vnto the Bench againe, And there examine further of this fray.

—Sir John Oldcastle, I.i. 124-5

A decade ago the editors of the Oxford William Shakespeare: The Complete Works replaced the name of the character called Falstaff in Henry IV Part I with a hypothetically earlier version of the character's name, Sir John Oldcastle. The restoration of Oldcastle to the Oxford edition makes it the first authoritative text to undo an alteration which, as scholars have long suspected, Shakespeare himself must have made sometime between a non-extant 1596 performance text and the 1598 quarto of the play. The resulting scholarly debate over this editorial decision has touched on a number of significant issues linked to the authority and authenticity of "Shakespearean" texts, and it has raised important questions about how these texts were shaped by the material, religious, and political conditions in which they were produced.1 In the case of Henry IV Part I, critics have struggled to reconstruct how an early version of the text with Oldcastle as the protagonist of the unworthy knight plot might have placed the play and its author in a complicated position between an individual's reputation and a nation's. Indeed, it is likely that a play featuring a fat rogue named Oldcastle would have insulted William Brooke, a titular descendent of the knight's Cobham Lordship who served briefly as Lord Chamberlain at about the time Henry TV Part I was first performed. Moreover, such a play certainly would have slurred the character's namesake, the Lord Cobham, a Lollard who was executed for treason and subsequently transformed by William Tyndale, John Bale, and John Foxe into one of England's greatest Protestant martyrs. Consequently, scholars have used the publication of the Oxford edition to speculate on Shakespeare's authorial intentions.

In this essay, I want to shift the discussion away from what Shakespeare might have intended by focusing instead on a significant aspect of the dramatist's authorship that has been under-examined in the recent debate over the Oxford Henry IV Part I. I argue that the initial deletion of Oldcastle from an early text of Henry IV Part I and its subsequent restoration to the Oxford edition constitute two important textual points in the history of Shakespeare's authorship; and I attempt to trace this history from the authorial attribution on the quarto title page of Henry IV Part II (1600) to the present moment in literary studies when Shakespeare's position as a canonical author faces reevaluation. Concomitantly, I try to account for the importance of Oldcastle's name to Shakespeare's authorial status by suggesting that the posthumous construction of Oldcastle's martyrdom has certain elements in common with the posthumous construction of Shakespeare's authorship.

I'd like to begin three years after Oldcastle became Falstaff. The title page of the 1600 edition of Sir John Oldcastle Part I indicates that the play was "Printed by V. S. for Thomas Pavier."2 V. S. is one Valentine Simmes, a printer of some reputation who printed several Shakespeare quartos as well as plays staged by the Admiral's Men. As with many such quarto editions of plays, no author is mentioned, but we know from Philip Henslowe's diary that ten pounds were allotted "to pay mr monday mr drayton & mr wilsson & haythway for the first pte of the lyfe of Sr Jhon Ouldcastell . . ."3 By the time of the 1619 reprint, however, "William Shakespeare" appears on the title page, and it is Pavier's turn to be abbreviated to "for T.P." The newfound importance bestowed on Shakespeare's authorial status...

(This entire section contains 12604 words.)

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underscores Pavier's efforts at that point to publish a collection of Shakespeare's plays three years after Ben Jonson's folioWORKES and four years before the First Folio appeared in print. Nevertheless, in the case of the Sir John Oldcastle reprint the author's name appears, oddly enough, on a title page that is falsely dated "1600" so Pavier can sidestep Stationers' restrictions by passing it off as the remnant of an earlier edition. Like the striking of the clock in Julius Caesar, the Shakespearean author-function is textually compelled to make an appearance before its time.

This brief but typical episode in the ongoing struggle between the early modern playhouse and printing house raises unsettling questions about the status of Shakespeare's authorship, especially when viewed from the perspective of current laws of intellectual property and Shakespeare's singular position in our culture. Pavier must have known in 1600 that the quarto he published was the collaboratively authored property of Henslowe. How could he republish it nineteen years later as a Shakespeare play? While it is impossible to answer with certainty, one thing seems clear: the proprietary status of printed drama in the period was so inconsequential that Pavier must have felt free to manipulate the identity of a given play's author(s) as the particular publishing circumstances required. In Shakespeare's case, there is ample textual evidence of such inconsequence if we consider the fact that nearly half of the plays that appeared in print before the 1623 Folio made no claims to Shakespeare's paternity. Only Nathaniel Butter's 1608 quarto edition of King Lear—printed for him by Nicholas Okes—accords top-of-the-title-page billing to "M. William Shak-speare": set in larger type than it had ever appeared before, the author's name is linked to the title of the play, "True Chronicle Historie of the life and / death of King LEAR and his three / daughters" with the possessive pronoun "HIS" set in italicized and widely spaced capital pica letters.4 The only other place that Shakespeare could have seen his name set in comparably large type was blazoned across the title page of the 1609 Sonnets in capital letters.5 In strictly typographic terms, Shakespeare, the poet, fared better as a "man in print"6 during his lifetime than Shakespeare, the playwright.

Okes and Butter's title page announces rather loudly that here is an author and here is a play, and the correspondence between them is a typographically emphatic genitive. No doubt one likely motive for typographically fetishizing the possessive pronoun on King Lear's 1608 title page was to differentiate Shakespeare's "True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King LEAR and his three daughters" from a non-Shakespearean "True Chronicle History of King LEIR and his three daughters" published in 1603. In this sense, the typographic emergence of Shakespeare's authorial selfhood is fashioned for him, courtesy of Okes and Butter, according to an epistemological schema that has been influentially characterized by Stephen Greenblatt as "resolutely dialectical"7—although here the oppositionally charged moment of recognition takes place within the utterly commercial world of the London printing house. Indeed, so powerful is this publishing venture's urge to drag Shakespeare into authorhood that, strangely enough, the author's name is printed a second time in the same large type as a head-title on the first page of play text (B1r), this time beneath a border ornament (9.5 by 1.25 centimeters);8 and once again a genitive relation between author and play is emphasized: "M. William Shak-speare / H I S Historie, of King Lear."

Typographically speaking, however, things were not usually so spectacular for Shakespeare's status as an author in print. The first quarto of a Shakespeare play to mention the playwright, Loves Labors Lost (1598), merely indicates in small type near the middle of the title page that it has been "Newly corrected and augmented / By W. Shakespere" (A1r). The logical assumption is that Shakespeare was newly correcting and augmenting what he himself had written, but the title page itself does not assert the play's authorship. Two years later, the title page of Henry IV Part II forecloses on the need to assume authorship by including for the first time the phrase, "Written by William Shakespeare" (A1r). It bears repeating that this "Written by William Shakespeare, "which appears near the bottom in the smallest type on the page, is the first intance of an unambiguously authorial attribution to Shakespeare on the title page of an early modern play.

Authors correct, sometimes they augment, and frequently enough in early modern England they endeavored to correct and augment other authors' work.9 Arguably, however, authors primarily write, and it is therefore significant that the first title page to attribute the writing of a play to Shakespeare belongs to a play that appears after its prequel, Henry IV Part I, had recently embroiled our playwright in something of a political—and perhaps religious—scandal. Here we find direct material evidence for Michael Foucault's claim that "[t]exts, books, and discourses really began to have authors (other than mythical, 'sacralized' and 'sacralizing' figures) to the extent that authors became subject to punishment, that is, to the extent that discourses could be transgressive."10 Having presumably selected Sir John Oldcastle as the signifier for a fat rogue knight in an earlier (non-extant performance text) version of Henry IV, Shakespeare was compelled to give the character an alternative name in a subsequent printed version of the play. Sir John Oldcastle was, of course, the name of a proto-Protestant martyr and an ancestor, by marriage to Elizabeth Brooke, of William Brooke, the seventh Baron Cobham who was the Lord Chamberlain from August of 1596 until his death in March of 1597.11

Whether Shakespeare intended to travesty the House of Cobham or indifferently went with the name of the Lollard thorn in Henry V's side because it was already in his major source text, The Famous Victories of Henry V, has been the subject of much critical debate, especially since the recent critical controversy over restoring the name "Oldcastle" to the Oxford edition of Henry IV Part I. For now, however, I think it is important to try to see the restoration debate in the strictly material terms of Shakespeare's career in print. Viewed from this perspective, it seems extremely significant that the Oldcastle/Falstaff problem, which has generated a number of critical questions that go to the heart of authorial intention, is so closely linked to Shakespeare's typographic emergence as an author. Indeed, the printing history of Shakespeare's texts provides us with a remarkable convergence of the material evidence of his status as an author with the metaphysical grounds of authorship itself. And yet this convergence has gone unremarked in the recent discussion of the authorial/textual fate of the name Oldcastle in Henry IV Part I, perhaps because, as D. F. McKenzie observes, "[d]ialects of written language—graphic, algebraic, hieroglyphic and, most significantly for our purposes, typographic—have suffered an exclusion from critical debate about the interpretation of texts because they are not speech-related."12

As was the case with the spectacular typographic appearance of the playwright's name on the title page of King Lear, Henry IV Part I is also "resolutely dialectical" in its relation to an earlier, anonymously authored The Famous Victories of Henry V. Sometime between 1596, when Shakespeare began his remake of Famous Victories for performance as The History of Henry IV, and 1598, when a quarto of Henry IV was first printed, the character of Sir John Oldcastle became Sir John Falstaff.13 The 1598 quarto of Famous Victories, printed by Thomas Creede, lists "Sir John Oldcastle, alias Jockey" in the Dramatis Personae;14 the 1598 quarto of Henry IV does not. In other words, the textual locus of the oppositionally constructed identity of Henry IV Part I is precisely the oppositional matter of Oldcastle vs. Falstaff, and Shakespeare must have removed the name Oldcastle from the performance text of Henry IV Part I and put Falstaff in its place in time for the change to be preserved in print.

Although the actual moment when matters of the world forced themselves on the materiality of Shakespeare's text can probably never be recovered, this much seems certain: by the time Henry IV Part II is published, the question of a character's name has given way to the initial attribution of Shakespeare's named authorship on the play's title page; and the play's epilogue specifically calls attention to the very oppositional construct that preempted the newly typographic status of the author's name: "for Olde-castle died a Martyre, and this is not the man" (L1v, 27-8). In short, Shakespeare's Henry IV Part I is not an earlier errant version of itself; the earlier version is not Famous Victories; and Falstaff is not Oldcastle. Furthermore, the publication of the authorially unattributed Henry IV quarto, cleansed of all but a punning reference to Oldcastle (I.ii.40-1) and a metrical irregularity haunted by the three syllables of his name (II.ii.102), anonymously constitutes Shakespeare's transition from the corrector/augmentor of Loves Labor Lost to the writer of Henry IV Part II More than anything else, this brief two-year segment from the complicated printing history of Shakespeare's texts suggests that the playwright's newly typographic status as an author got forged in the smithy of adversity. Materially, this predicament receives vivid representation in the printed quarto text of Henry IV Part II which couples the title page's originary attribution of written authorship with the final page's notorious epilogue and "our humble Author['s]" (L1v, 23) attempt to clear up any misunderstandings that may have resulted from an early version of the first installment of Henry IV Within a year or so of having written Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare had learned firsthand what could be in a name.

Shakespeare's career in print seems to have been more erratic than we might expect of our greatest author, and it is possible, therefore, that Pavier's willingness to attribute Sir John Oldcastle to Shakespeare in 1619—when an authorized version of Shakespeare's plays was still a twinkling £ sign in the eye of John Heminge and Henry Condell—merely symptomized an emergent authorship that was still in utero. On the other hand, given the latent ontological density of authorship that typographically manifests itself in the scene of naming bounded by the publication of the two parts of Henry IV, it is equally conceivable that Pavier was counting on the Oldcastle/Falstaff controversy to lend his Shakespearean attribution some weight. Indeed, he may have even banked on a potential readership's capacity to relate, conflate, or confuse a play's title with a playwright's scandal over a lord's title.

Compelled to straddle the nominative and the titular, the signifier "Oldcastle" apparently had enough resonance to endure the two decades that separated the initial controversy from a subsequent publishing venture that may have sought to capitalize on it. There is, in fact, scattered evidence to suggest that some slippage did occur between the banished name of the Shakespeare character and the title of the Henslowe collaboration. Arguably, the first such mix-up—long noted by scholars—transpired two years after the initial scandal in the context of what seems to have been a performance of Henry IV Part I staged in London for the visiting Flemish ambassador. In a letter written March 6 of 1599/1600 by Rowland Whyte to Sir Robert Sidney, the governor of Flushing, Whyte informs his boss that "[a]ll this weeke the Lords have bene in Londen, and past away the tyme in feasting and plaies . . . on Thursday afternoon the Lord Chamberlain's players acted before Vereken Sir John Old Castell, to his great contentment."15 Since Shakespeare began writing plays for the Chamberlain's Men in 1594, and the Henslowe play was very much the property of the Admiral's Men, most scholars believe that Whyte was referring to Henry IV Part I as Sir John Oldcastle.16 Thus, in the mind of at least one of Pavier's contemporaries the name of the Lollard martyr was returned from Shakespearean textual exile long enough to greet a visiting dignitary. Within a few years of Whyte's error, the 1602 title page of Merry Wives of Windsor would restore the originary opposition of the epilogue of Henry IV Part II by putting the name of the character, Sir John Falstaff, in its title.

Approximately two years after Oldcastle was sent packing, both names appeared for the first time as the titles of plays: the martyr's name was appropriated for the title page of the Henslowe collaboration; the knight of the garter's name constituted the principal part of the title of Shakespeare's play, "A Most pleasant and excellent conceited Comedie, of Syr Iohn Falstaffe, and the merrie Wiues of Winsor" According to an oft-repeated anecdote that surfaced for the first time exactly 100 years later in John Dennis's The Comical Gallant: or The Amours of Sir John Falstaffe,17 the Falstaff play satisfied a command from Elizabeth I for another play about the fat knight.18 Other anecdotal evidence indicates that Falstaff occupied a substantial amount of the queen's attention, for we learn from Nicholas Rowe that Elizabeth herself was behind the revision from Oldcastle to Falstaff as well. According to a tradition that Rowe seems to have founded, "this Part of Falstaff is said to have been written originally under the Name of Oldcastle; some of that Family being then remaining, the Queen was pleas'd to command [Shakespeare] to alter it; upon which he made use of Falstaff."19 By dint of his status as Shakespeare's first scholarly editor, Rowe's account consigned the scandal of the Oldcastle/Falstaff name-change to the playwright's editorial legacy. Less obvious, however, is this account's contribution to the mythic development of Shakespeare's status as an author.

If we recall the significance of the Oldcastle/Falstaff controversy to the typographic coming-into-being of Shakespeare's authorhood on the title page of Henry IV Part II, then it makes an odd kind of sense that Rowe would attempt to stage a meeting between the bard and the queen on this issue. Writing in 1709, the same year that the statute of Anne, the world's first copyright act, had placed authorial rights on the juridical map by strictly limiting the term of copyright protection to fourteen years,20 Rowe would have been hard-pressed to find much legal, political, or institutional support for his project to editorially bolster and enhance the status of Shakespeare's authorship. Yet, he seems to have sidestepped these inadequacies by linking Shakespeare to Elizabeth, by placing the still tremulous figure of the author in a direct encounter with a representative of institutionalized individuality.21 Providing England's greatest queen with an opportunity to collaborate with its greatest author on the printed text of Henry IV Part I, Rowe may have suspected that the institution of monarchy, having suffered a number of setbacks of late, was poised to be eclipsed by strategies of subjectivity that lie dormant within the paradigm of the author. Such suspicions would not have been groundless.

There is some evidence that authorship and kingship were set to cross ascending and descending paths, respectively, at precisely the moment in which Rowe was preparing Shakespeare for his annotated authorial star turn. In 1694, the Licensing Act of 1637 that had augmented the English government's control over censorship was allowed to lapse, largely because it had become a restraint on trade.22 Whatever legal foundation stationers had formerly relied upon to protect their interests lapsed with it. No longer required to register their publications, printers seem to have come into their own as unrestricted venture capitalists in the same year that the Bank of England was founded.23 The roots of the copyright statute of 1709 and Rowe's editorial undertaking of the same year would no doubt have found fertile ground in the two decades that followed the 1688 revolution and the consequent supplanting of a "natural" monarch with a financial-military throne; but what seems less clear is how the tumultuous events of the post-1688 period prepared the way for the meeting that Rowe arranged between Shakespeare and Elizabeth on the textual fate of Sir John Oldcastle. At the level of anecdote, only Falstaff's future as a Shakespeare character hangs in the balance. The stakes get much higher when we recall the material/typographic link between the Oldcastle/Falstaff controversy and Shakespeare's authorial status.

Although Margreta de Grazia contends in her recent analysis of Shakespeare's "dynastic" editorship that the construction of the playwright's individualized status as an author is only fully realized by the textual apparatus of Edmund Malone's Plays and Poems of 1790, she also acknowledges that Malone's edition "is clearly indebted to a long line of eighteenth-century editors, beginning with Rowe in 1709."24 There, at the beginning of one dynasty, meetings are arranged with the end of another dynasty. A few years before Rowe—in the case of John Dennis (1702)—and subsequently with Rowe himself, Falstaff's fate, first as a lover, then as a stand-in for Oldcastle, is anecdotally decided between Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare. No such direct encounter between monarch and author had been previously envisioned by Richard James, the learned correspondent whom Gary Taylor characterizes as "our key witness for the intervention of the Cobhams."25 If we accept Taylor's carefully argued conclusion that "MS James 35 probably dates from late 1634 or early 1635,"26 then some twelve years after the First Folio authorized Shakespeare and two years before the Star Chamber decree of 1637 sought to reauthorize Charles I, James opts for a passive construction: "the poet was putt to make an ignorant shifte of abjusing Sr Jhon."27 Only "the poet" and "Sr Jhon" get singled out in James' account where, in place of William Brooke as the offended party, we find a collective consisting of "personages descended from his [title]" and "manie others aliso whoe ought to haue him in honourable memorie."28 Presumably, the "manie others" are right-minded Protestants who have remained mindful of the earlier Lord Cobham's "constant and resolute martyrdom," as James put it.

Whether James's reluctance to make Elizabeth the agent of Oldcastle's displacement from Henry IV Part I indicates that no such royal directive was ever issued will probably remain a matter of speculation. There is, however, no precedent for James's reticence in the published accounts of Oldcastle's martyrdom that circulated in post-reformation England. On the contrary, treatments of royal agency in the life and death of the Lollard martyr are perhaps best characterized in the Sir John Oldcastle play by a judge who remarks of the knight's adherence to Wycliffe's doctrine, "This case concernes the Kings prerogative / And's dangerous to the state and common wealth" (A4v). Perhaps it was this concern that motivated a newly crowned Henry V to summon Oldcastle to Kensington in the summer of 1413. Upon his arrival, the king read to him aloud the more appalling passages from a few unbound quires of heretical writings that had been confiscated from a limner's shop in Paternoster Row and were said to be the Lord Cobham's property.29 The basic plot elements for the subsequent drama of Shakespeare's authorship are already in place: an unpublished manuscript and a summons to its alleged proprietor from an annoyed monarch.

Among those chroniclers who were contemporaries of Oldcastle,30 the knight was commonly viewed as "[a] strong man in bataile . . . but a grete heretik, and a gret enemye to the Cherch," as Capgrave put it.31 A century later, writers began to raise the specter of Oldcastle's execution to exploit what G. R. Elton characterizes as "at least a superficial resemblance" between the remnants of Lollardy and the initial efforts by England to part ways with the Roman Catholic Church.32 The first to recognize Oldcastle's potential for a history of English Protestantism was William Tyndale, who re-interpreted the Lollard's excommunication for heresy as an act of unjust persecution and published this reading as a brief appendix to the Book of Thorpe, an account of another fifteenth-century Lollard first printed in 1530. Responding quickly in his Dialogue Concerning Tyndale, Sir Thomas More did not hesitate to inform his readers that fire was used judiciously when "the Lorde Cobham [was] taken in Wales and burned in London."33

Yet it was precisely "thys terrible kynde of death with galowes, chaînes, and fyre,"34 in John Bale's phrase, that made the greatest impression on the architects of English Protestantism who were searching for the basement and first few stories of an edifice begun in mid-air.35 Writing in 1544, Bale gathered together and reshaped much of the chronicle material on the Oldcastle controversy into a form later incorporated directly into John Foxe's Acts and Monuments. Nevertheless, Bale's account was a substantive achievement in its own right, numbering some 112 pages and tracing its lineage directly to "a certen brefe examinacyon of the sayd Lorde Cobham" which "the true servaunt of God Willyam Tyndale put into the prent" (4r). The bulk of Bale's account concerns the Church's efforts to persecute proto-reformers, its subsequent effort to minimize sympathy for Oldcastle's death, the betrayal of Lord Powis, the knight's martyrdom, and the oft-chronicled potential confrontation in St. Giles's field between the king and several of Oldcastle's fellow heretics. Nevertheless, on the subject of a meeting between a lord and his king, Bale's Oldcastle begins to stray from the well-beaten path of the chroniclers.

Whereas previous accounts only mention the initial session in Kensington, Bale provides Henry V with two opportunities to set the errant knight straight on matters of church and state. Being "a manne of great byrthe and in faver at that tyme with the kynge" (13r), Lord Cobham is summoned to Kensington after the king has "gentyliye harde those bloud thurstye" (13r) complaints against him by "these hygh Prelates with theyr pharysees and Scrybes" (12v). No mention is made of the "certain erroneous bills" that earned the knight a hearing in the chronicles. When Oldcastle arrives, the King "call[s] him secretlye, admonyshyng him betwixt him and him / to submyt himselfe to his mother the holye churche / and, as an obedyent chyld, to acknowledge himselfe culpable" (14v). Up to this point, Bale has followed the basic outline of his chronicle sources. Then, he suddenly veers off the chronicled path. Gone are the confiscated unbound quires of heretical writings read aloud by Henry, and in their place Bale gives Oldcastle the chance to voice his dangerous religious leanings directly to the king: " 'Unto you next my eternali lyuyinge God,' " he assures Henry, " 'owe I my whole obedience / and submytne thereunto . . . But as touchynng the Pope and his spiritualite / trulye I owe the~ neyther sute nor servyce / for so moche as I knowe him by the scriptures to be the great Anti-christ / the sonne of perdiciyon / the open adversarye of God and the abhominacyon standynge in the holye place'" (14v). Having shifted the material grounds of Oldcastle's Lollardy from his alleged writings to a transcription of his confessed beliefs, from graphie to logos, Bale has rather shrewdly upgraded a fifteenth-century heresy to the core doctrine of post-Reformation religious/nationalist propaganda under Henry VIII and later Elizabeth—a doctrine which Bale himself had helped to shape in plays like King Johan.36

Nevertheless, as often happens with such repressions, the graphie stages a return. By the second meeting with Henry V, Oldcastle has become an author, having intermittently written down an extended version of what he told the king during their first session. Bale gives it a centered title at the top of 16r, "The Christen Beleue of / the lorde Cobham," and even narrates the conditions of its authorship. With the "furye of Antichrist thus kyndled agaynst him" and other "deadlye danngers" facing him "on everye syde," Bale tells us that Oldcastle "toke paper and penne in hande and so wrote a Christen confessyen or reckenyng of his fayth (which foloweth here after) and both signed and sealed it with his owne han-de" (16v)37. Hoping to bring together writing hand and royal hand, Oldcastle "toke the copye with him / and went therwith to the kynge trustinge to fynde mercye and faver at his hande" (16v). Consistent with the early stages of authorhood, initially "the kynge wolde in no case receyue yt" (17r ). Subsequently, however, Henry summons the writer into his privy chamber, and this time he reads: "And hauyng his appele the-re at hande redye written / he shewed yt with all reverence to the kynge. Where-with the kynge was than moche more dyspleased than afore / and sayd angrily unto him / that he shuld not pursue his appele. But rather he shuld tarrye in holde, tyll soche tyme as yt were of the Pope allowed" (20v).

Thus, in both pre- and post-reformation accounts, the monarch is compelled to peruse a set of heretical writings linked to Oldcastle. However, in the gap that separates the historical Lord Cobham of the chronicles from the proto-Protestant figure of Bale's Brefe Chronycle, the authorial status of these writings has evolved from confiscated property attributed to an alleged Lollard to the self-authored, self-presented work of a proto-Protestant martyr. Whereas the former gets the knight an audience with the king, the latter lands him "in holde" at the Tower of London; this departure from the chronicle story line is consistent with Bale's larger concern to link proper name to intellectual property and to make sure that Oldcastle own his heresies in the presence of the monarch. As a narrative trope, the king's direct censure of Oldcastle's writings not only plays an important role in Bale's effort to fashion a posthumous career for the knight as England's great martyr, but also gets passed on to his successors, including John Foxe, Raphael Holinshed, and even Henslowe's team of playwrights.

First published in English two decades after Bale's account, the version of events included in Foxe's Acts and Monuments puts Oldcastle and his religious beliefs at center stage and casts the monarch as a supporting character in the plot trajectory that leads to the knight's denouement in St. Giles's field.38 The role Foxe crafts for the king—hard upon the demise of the Marian government—is that of an ineffectual ruler manipulated by the clergy and dogma of the Catholic Church into going against "the moste noble knyght sir John Oldcastell the Lord Cobham."39 It is not a flattering part for a king to play, but it enables Foxe to address the well-chronicled fact that Oldcastle had a problem with royal authority. Indeed the dilemma for Foxe must have been all too clear: having opted to follow in Bale's footsteps and retain Oldcastle as the type of the Protestant martyr, he also had to face the fact that the knight's involvement in treasonous activities against Henry V made him, in David Scott Kastan's apt phrase, "an uncomfortable hero of the Protestant nation."40

One of Foxe's solutions is to intimate that the king's problems with Oldcastle are really his problems with the papist church, and he gets the knight and the king together for their first meeting early on in the twenty-page section he devotes to Oldcastle's story; his account of both meetings41 is taken verbatim from Bale.42 In fact, the only change Foxe makes in Bale's version is to typographically enhance the status of Oldcastle's authorial debut. Bale's printer, we recall, breaks up the typographic flow of the narrative momentarily at the beginning of Oldcastle's written confession to give it a centered title of its own. At its conclusion, however, the text of the confession flows directly into the account of the second meeting with Henry. The only indication that the narrative has shifted from Oldcastle's written text back to the text that enframes it comes in a one-sentence segue that reminds the reader of the confession's author and indicates its intended audience: "This brefe confessyon of his fayth / the Lorde Cobham wrote (as is mencyned afore) and so toke yt with him to the court / offerynge yt with all mekensse unto the kynge to reade yt over" (19r-19v). Alternatively, Foxe's printer sets off the title and text of Oldcastle's confession at its beginning and at its end, and he sets the body of the text in a smaller italic font.43 As a text within a text within yet another text, the excessive typographic distinction accorded Oldcastle's writing not only accentuates his status as an author, but also inadvertently calls attention to the fact that the authorship of the frame text written by Bale has been silently incorporated by Foxe. Furthermore, the only other segment of Foxe's account that gets set in the same italic font is another text within a text, this time an equally set-off subsection attributed to Archbishop Arundel and entitled "The Diffinitiue sentence of / his condemnation."

The identical typographic distinction accorded Oldcastle's confession and condemnation strongly suggests that Foxe and his printer have relied on the press to enhance Bale's earlier effort to dislodge Oldcastle's martyrdom from the realm of the logos and relocate it under the sign of the graphie. Bale's account revises the story of Oldcastle's death from chronicle versions in which confiscated heretical writings lead to a confession, and that confession leads ultimately to the gallows, to a version in which a confession leads to a self-authored text, and that text leads ultimately to the gallows. Foxe takes the next logical step by marshalling the material of the printed text to establish a direct typographic link between Oldcastle's authorship and his martyrdom.44 Foxe, a kind of proto-grammatologist, relies on the printing press to enable what Foucault térmed "an insurrection of subjugated knowledge."45

By the time Raphael Holinshed turns his attention to Oldcastle, it is nearly half a century after the Act against Appeals to Rome (1533), and the primary concern of his brief and fragmented account—spread out over some twenty-five pages devoted to the reign of Henry V—is to situate the Lord Cobham and "all his deuises"46 within the complex dealings that are needed to maintain a delicate balance between the crown's authority and the church's. Nevertheless, Bale has been so successful at instantiating his version of the wayward knight that when Holinshed addresses the topic of the meeting between lord and king, the grammatological trajectory of Bale's narrative reconstruction remains: "The lord Cobham not onely thanked [Henry V] of his most fa-uorable clemencie, but also declared first to him by mouth, and afterwards by writing, the foumdation of his faith, and the grounde of his beliefe, affirming his grace to be his supreme head, and competent iudge . . . The King understanding and persuaded by his Counsell . . . sent him to the Tower of London, there to abide the determination of the Cleargie."47 But if Holinshed is willing to toe the Bale/Foxe story line that runs from speech to writing to Tower, he is unwilling to completely abandon the frequently chronicled element of confiscated heretical materials. Forced to reconcile two disparate traditions, he merely shifts the confiscation scene from its original place as the impetus for summoning Oldcastle to Kensington to a later point in the narrative after the knight has already escaped the Tower: "In the same place were found bookes written in english; & some of those bokes in times past had bin trimly gilte, & limned, beautified with Images, the heads wherof had bin scraped off, & in ye Litany, they had blotted forthe the name of our Lady, & of other saints, til they came to ye verse payce nois Domine. Diuers writings were founde there also, in derogation of suche honour as then was thought due to our Lady."48 No longer unbound quires, Holinshed relies on a previous chronicler's account to render the evidence with the eye of a bibliophile. And while the heretical books "so disfigured with scrapings & / blotting out" (18-9) are still sent to the king, this time they are passed along directly to the Archbishop Arundel "to shewe the same in his ser- / mons at Paules crosse in Londo~."49 No appalling passages are read nor confessions heard because Oldcastle—already a fugitive from the law—is unable to appear in the king's privy chambers.

Despite a number of important variables, what remains constant in all of these accounts of the meeting between Henry V and Lord Cobham is that, as individuals, each figure is compelled at some point to speak for and represent a larger collective body. For the pre-reformation version of the king, that body is the realm and the Roman Catholic church to which it has pledged its allegiance. For the post-reformation Henry, it is an evil and corrupt papist clergy that turns him into a kind of ventriloquist's dummy whose authority over the realm is limited to mouthing church policy. Alternatively, Oldcastle begins his career in the chronicles as the most notorious member of a shadowy assemblage of heretics who mutilate books and read in English. With the guidance and encouragement of post-reformation writers (Bale and Foxe), however, he comes to find his own individualized authorial voice; and, in doing so, he speaks and writes for the elect Protestant nation heralding the renaissance of the primitive church. The key determinant in these transformations is the particular collective or community with which the writer identifies.

It is likely that a comparable sense of community motivated Richard James to attribute the agency behind the Oldcastle/Falstaff name change to sanguinai descendants of the house of Cobham and spiritual descendants of a prominent Protestant martyr. Yet James's reluctance to single out, for example, Lord Chamberlain William Brooke or Queen Elizabeth as the agent of this emendation is already a nostalgic gesture because, once Shakespeare has written a version of Henry IV with Sir John Oldcastle in the dramatis personae, the legendary figure is essentially compelled to go it alone. As the next substantive treatment of Oldcastle's life and death after Foxe's, the Anthony Munday-Michael Drayton-Richard Hathway-Robert Wilson collaboration takes most of its cues not from an identification with a community, but from an individual playwright named Shakespeare. In the same way that Shakespeare's King Lear is resolutely dialectical with an earlier anonymous version, Henslowe's play constructs its identity and the identity of its eponymous hero throughout as a dialectic of genitives: our Sir John Oldcastle/Oldcastle vs. Shakespeare's. Indeed, this oppositional construction is already underway in the play's prologue when the reader is informed that "It is no pampered glutton we present, / Nor aged Councellor to youthfull sinne. / But one, whose vertue shone above the rest, / A valiant Martyr, and a vertuous peere" (A2r). Here, it seems that prologue has followed hard upon epilogue, because the diction and sequence of these lines mirrors and inverts the disclaimer at the end of Henry IV Part II. Whereas Shakespeare maintains that "Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the [i.e., Tyndale, Bale, and Foxe's] man," Munday et al. respond by insisting that this is not Shakespeare's man because Oldcastle died a martyr. Thus, in a proto-Hegelian sense, this non-Shakespearean "one, whose vertue shone above the rest," is already rehearsing the singularity that will characterize Shakespeare's status as an author. If, as Annabel Patterson observes, "the story of Oldcastle was to assume a privileged position, as one of those cultural icons in which are epitomized a society's conflicting and shifting values,"50 then the staging of his story by Henslowe's team of playwrights inadvertently prepared the way for Shakespeare to displace Oldcastle from that privileged position.

Singling out the Munday-Drayton-Hathway-Wilson collaboration as "a key document in any effort to see how the history play in this period changed and yet stayed the same," G. K. Hunter observes that "of the several (two-part) history plays that Henslowe's team produced in 1598-99 . . . [Sir John Oldcastle] is the one that seems to bear the most direct and specific relationship to its Shakespearean predecessor."51 In Hunter's view, this close relationship is significant because it "show[s] us how far Shakespeare provided a starting point for the new-style history plays of the seventeenth century."52 Accordingly, the two parts of Henry IV represent a "turning point in the history of a genre,"53 and Hunter not only locates a major shift in the generic history of the history play precisely "in the contrast between two transitional plays, Henry IV and Oldcastle,"54 but also attributes the agency behind that shift to Shakespeare. Certainly Hunter gives Shakespeare more credit than an individual dramatist working in the highly collaborative environment of the early modern stage probably deserves, but it is nonetheless significant that he finds the playwright innovating precisely at the point that his authorship is established typographically. Half a century after Bale's Oldcastle first writes down his Christian beliefs, the historical figure finds himself mixed up in the emergence of Shakespeare's authorship in print. The transition glimpsed here from one author's confession to another's apology, from one innovator's controversial beliefs to another's controversy, corresponds closely to the parallel between Foxe's reliance on typography to link Oldcastle's written confession to his martyrdom and the typographic debut of Shakespeare as a writer on the title page of Henry IV Part II and his subsequent confession in that play's epilogue.

Given the ontological density of authorship generated from within the oppositional identity of Henry IV Part I and Sir John Oldcastle, it is perhaps not surprising that the latter is more directly and specifically preoccupied with Shakespeare than any other history play by Henslowe's collaborators. And Hunter inevitably stumbles onto this scene of individuation when he describes the main generic difference that constitutes the relationship between Shakespeare's Henry IV plays and the Henslowe collaboration. While Shakespeare's two plays are representative of historical drama which, according to Hunter, "defines the nation (implicitly) as a politico-military entity centered on the court," the collaboratively authored Sir John Oldcastle exemplifies "a historical drama that presents national consciousness as much more a matter of individuai self awareness."55 Having located the beginnings of the new history play in precisely the same oppositional interstice where Shakespeare's authorship typographically appears, Hunter also retraces the circumstances that prompt that appearance in the first place by selecting Sir John Oldcastle as the more individuated of the two dramas. In other words, Henslowe's Oldcastle can no longer speak for the Protestant nation because he has to defend himself against Shakespeare.

Not long after Oldcastle makes it on to the English stage—and subsequently into the printing house—under his own name, his legacy winds up impossibly entangled with the legacy of one of his chief detractors. Haunted through most of his brief career in drama by Shakespeare, Oldcastle never recovers from his brief stint as a Shakespeare character.56 Two decades after he becomes Falstaff, even the one extant play that sought to rescue his reputation from the abuse it suffered in an early version of Henry IV Part I gets reprinted by its original publisher as a play written by Shakespeare. We recall that the typographic emergence of Shakespeare's authorship on the title page of Henry IV Part II followed hard upon the controversy that resulted from his alleged use of Oldcastle's name in an unpublished performance text of Part I. But what seems even more remarkable is that the decline of Oldcastle's fortunes as the founding father of the godly English nation also seems to coincide precisely with the printed debut of the author who, by the first half of the eighteenth century, will come to be promoted—according to Michael Dobson's apt characterization—as "both symbol and exemplar of British national identity."57 It is tempting, therefore, to see the two Henry IV plays and Sir John Oldcastle as comprising an important transitional space in which Shakespeare's authorship replaces Oldcastle's martyrdom, in which the author function comes to lodge itself where previously the martyr function served to individualize and embody England's national consciousness. The representational trajectory of this displacement—ranging from the first post-Reformation accounts that transform Oldcastle into the Protestant nation's great martyr to those editorial and anecdotal accounts of the eighteenth century that transform Shakespeare into a national poet whose authority "exceed[s] the texts from which it supposedly derived"58—would seem to be linked to fluctuations in that other individualized embodiment of the nation, the monarch.

If the proto-form of Shakespeare's authorship can be glimpsed in Bale's and Foxe's representations of Lord Cobham's meeting with Henry V, and if the initial construction of Shakespeare's authorial identity appears to be grounded in the dialectic that characterizes the relation between his version of Oldcastle and the official proto-Protestant-martyr version represented by Bale, Foxe, and the Henslowe collaboration, then it follows that representations of Shakespeare would ultimately incorporate elements from the construction of Oldcastle's martyrological identity. One such element that becomes discernible just as Shakespeare begins to achieve a level of national importance comparable with Oldcastle's post-reformation career is the playwright's relationship with the monarch. John Dennis, we recall, is the first to suggest that such a relationship existed, and he indicates in the dedicatory epistle of his 1702 revision of The Merry Wives of Windsor that "[Merry Wives] pleas'd one of the greatest Queens that ever was in the world . . . This comedy was written at her Command, and by her direction, and she was so eager to see it Acted, that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen days."59 Thus, Falstaff becomes the subject of a tradition in which Elizabeth's status as "one of the greatest Queens that was ever in the world" not only recalls Oldcastle's standing as "one, whose vertue shone above the rest," but also anticipates Shakespeare's promotion to the position of national poet and "patron of bourgeois morality" from the 1730s onward.60

Inadvertently cast as a place holder at the changing of the guard from a faded martyr to a shining author, the selection of Elizabeth for the executorship of Falstaff's destiny must be seen as a nostalgic response to a moment late in the seventeenth century when the monarchy as an institution was being dismantled by "ideologues of compromise"61 in search of a pragmatic middle ground between royalists and parliamentarians. No doubt Portia's assertion that "A substitute shines brightly as a King / Until a king be by" was always something of a fantasy, but by the end of the seventeenth century the fantasy—dislodged from the remaining elements of its official reality—had become an illusion.62 Nearly ready to emerge as England's master of illusion, Shakespeare is finally in the perfect position to take instructions from a monarch. Mere chronology, of course, dictates that Elizabeth be the monarch who intervenes on behalf of Falstaff; but it is significant nonetheless that Dennis arranges for a meeting between a figure who is on the verge of becoming "one of the greatest [authors] that ever was in the world" and a queen who, a century after her death, must have represented for him a privileged moment in the life cycle of the monarchy when it could still claim to be grounded in the reality of heredity and dynasty. Indeed, such a meeting underscores the extent to which authorship was poised in the final years of the seventeenth century to replace kingship as the paradigm for the individualized embodiment of the national consciousness.63 If, as Hamlet asserts, "the king is a thing," then certainly the king can be something else.

As the "place-holder of the void," according to Slavoj Zizek's analysis of royal authority, the monarch is compelled to represent the "Master's sublime body" as "a pure 'reflective determination' " which "guarantees and personifies the identity of the State qua rational totality."64 A sizable crack had already appeared in the mirror of this reflective determination by 1649, and the sudden escalation of editorial and scholarly scrutiny trained on Shakespeare's work in the first decades of the eighteenth century suggests that as the author was being prepared for the role of national poet, his sublime corpus was being prepared to displace the monarch's sublime body. In this context, Dennis's anecdotal account of Shakespeare and Elizabeth meeting to determine Falstaff's future marks an important spot in the trajectory of this displacement just as Bale's version of meetings between Oldcastle and Henry V captures and preserves an early moment in post-reformation England when a martyr temporarily displaced a monarch as the figure who personified the •Protestant state. Once Oldcastle is displaced from Shakespeare's Henry IV Part I by Falstaff, only the "rational totality" of Zizek's Hegelian formulation remains, literally embodied in the character's obesity.

If the author's corpus is going to fill in for the monarch's body, that corpus must, of course, be authentic and authoritative. As the first person to produce a scholarly edition of Shakespeare's plays, it is significant that Nicholas Rowe worked back from Falstaff to Oldcastle seven years after the publication of Dennis's dedicatory anecdote. Thus Rowe attempted to do for Falstaff's textual past what Dennis had already done for the character's textual future: put the strings pulling Shakespeare's writing hand firmly in Elizabeth's hands. But there is more to it then just proffering—for the first time—the specific identity of the figure who stood behind the "ignorant shifte."

In their accounts of Oldcastle, Bale and Foxe had carefully subordinated royal authority to Oldcastle's authority by placing the martyr in a position—with reference to the Catholic Church—that was morally and spiritually superior to the monarch's. Following the lead of Famous Victories' anonymous author, Shakespeare essentially restored Henry V to his pre-reformation position of superiority by reducing Oldcastle to the status of a reprobate subsequently named Falstaff. A rigorous logic seems to be at work, therefore, when Rowe prepares Shakespeare to replace the monarch as the nation's individualized embodiment of bourgeois morality: now that Shakespeare is being readied to be morally superior to the monarch, the playwright's characterization of Oldcastle gets called upon to link Shakespeare and Elizabeth. Having set out to do for Shakespeare what Bale and Foxe had done for Oldcastle in their accounts of two meetings between the knight and his king, Rowe introduces a second meeting between the author and his queen in which Oldcastle's martyrdom is salvaged and secured.

Whether this transformation of Shakespeare's authorial status is linked—as I have suggested—to fluctuations in the status of the monarch, what seems indisputable is that the Restoration did for Shakespeare what the Reformation had done for Oldcastle. Promising from the scaffold that, like Christ, he would rise again on the third day, Oldcastle was compelled to wait more than a hundred years for Tyndale, Bale, and Fox to resurrect him. Similarly, when Colonel Joseph Hart looks back at what a few key Restoration figures contributed to Shakespeare's career, he also looks to Christ—this time with considerable irony—for a model: "Then comes the 'resurrection'—on speculation. Thomas Betterton the player, and Rowe the writer, make a selection from a promiscuous heap of plays found in a garret, nameless as to authorship . . . 'I want an author for this selection of plays!' said Rowe. 'I have it!' said Betterton; 'call them Shakespeare's!' "65 What is remarkable about the Colonel's reconstruction of the posthumous Shakespeare is how it inadvertently aligns itself with the setting up of the posthumous Oldcastle in the chronicles. For the latter figure, it was a pile of unbound quires of heretical writings subsequently attributed to him that put Lord Cobham on the chronicled path to becoming first a Lollard nuisance, then post-Reformation England's greatest martyr. For Shakespeare, it turns out to be "a promiscuous heap of plays found in a garret, nameless as to authorship" that, subsequently attributed to him by his editors, enables the playwright to become first a nuisance to the Cobham legacy, then post-Restoration England's greatest author.

Given that Oldcastle shadowed the trajectory of Shakespeare's authorship from its typographic inception on the title page of Henry IV Part II to its scholarly reconstruction in Rowe's Complete Works, it should come as no surprise that the 1986 restoration of Oldcastle's name to the text of Henry IV Part I in the Oxford edition of The Complete Works comes hard upon the poststructuralist displacement of the author from its long-secure position as the guarantor and personification of humanist subjectivity.66 Previously the construction of Oldcastle as a martyr (the figure who usurped the king's authority to exemplify the Protestant state) anticipated the construction of Shakespeare as an author (the figure who usurped the king's authority to exemplify the modern bourgeois state). Now Oldcastle's return coincides with the dismantling of Shakespeare's literary authority. Kastan has observed that "[t]he restoration of 'Oldcastle' [to Henry IV Part I] enacts a fantasy of unmediated authorship paradoxically mediated by the Oxford edition itself';67 however, such mediation, along with its concomitant paradoxical fantasy of unmediation, has always been an essential component of Oldcastle's and Shakespeare's parallel posthumous careers. The former had Bale and Fox, the latter, Dennis and Rowe. My last task will be to show how this most recent act of mediation, this time by Stanley Wells and Taylor, further enhances the link between martyr and author.68

Taylor has argued that when Sir John Oldcastle/Falstaff's final speech (V.iv. 162-6) is "put in the mouth of a fictional character called Falstaff, the words lose their historicity and ambiguity";69 but his more radical position is that Shakespeare's portrayal of the Protestant martyr as a lying, cheating, thieving, and promiscuous scoundrel indicates that our greatest author "may have been popishly inclined."70 If Shakespeare's status has faced serious challenges in the wake of what Roland Barthes famously referred to as "The Death of the Author,"71 his Oxford editors seem primarily interested in damage control. Indeed, it is a rather nostalgic project that underwrites Taylor's final defense of restoring Oldcastle to the Oxford Henry IV Part I:72 "I do not know," writes Taylor, "whether Shakespeare was ever a 'papist', though I rather suspect it. But I do know that Oldcastle is what Shakespeare wrote; that Oldcastle is what Shakespeare meant; and that Oldcastle is what his contemporaries understood."73 Being the subject of knowledge about Shakespeare and his audience, Taylor believes that he has achieved what he terms "the recovery and restoration of the original authoritative Logos,"74 a dubious achievement, perhaps, in the current critical climate. Jonathan Goldberg jumped at the chance to interrogate Taylor's logocentricism;75 but what seems far more interesting about Taylor's position than his longing for Logos is the way in which his knowledge of Shakespeare's authorial intentions is linked to his suspicion that Shakespeare was Catholic.

Catholic writers in Shakespeare's day did ridicule Protestants for celebrating Oldcastle's martyrdom, so it makes some sense that Taylor might try to link Shakespeare's capable trashing of the martyr with, as Taylor puts it, "his willingness to exploit a point of view which many of his contemporaries would have regarded as 'papist.' "76 Yet, Taylor never provides any substantive evidence of what Shakespeare's contemporaries would have regarded as papist. Instead, he searches through the plays for the playwright's religion: "In Hamlet Shakespeare exploited the Catholic belief in Purgatory; in Richard HI he exploited Catholic beliefs about All Souls' Eve; in both Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure he mocked the hypocrisy of Puritans."77 Surely, one didn't have to be "popish" in Elizabethan England to exploit Catholic beliefs or to mock Puritans.

In the end, however, all roads lead back to the author. Being a papist and exploiting a papist point of view must ultimately be the same thing for Taylor, because although he claims that knowledge of Falstaff's origins will reintroduce "historical resonances" to Shakespeare's play, what he has done is place the complex historical conditions of religious conflict in Shakespeare's England under erasure in order to proffer a radical view of the author's origins. Thus, Taylor begins his search through Shakespeare's plays for a Catholic world-view with another, more personal kind of history that Rowe and Betterton—the bard's first biographers—would have heartily applauded: "There is documentary evidence," Taylor asserts, "that both Shakespeare's father and one of his daughters may have been popishly inclined."78 In short, all Taylor can really do to rehistoricize Henry IV Part I is either go back to Shakespeare's origins and speculate on his religious beliefs, or go on to other plays for biographical evidence. Stranded between the author's life and his life's work, it's hard to see how Taylor has reinserted history into the text.

What Taylor's defense of the Oxford Henry IV Part I makes abundantly clear is that if Oldcastle is going to be resurrected again, this time on Catholic grounds, then his old nemesis needs to be resurrected first. Shakespeare must be exhumed because Taylor and Wells inadvertently want, as Hart's scathing account puts it, "an author for this selection of plays!"79 From a historical Restoration to a textual one, Oldcastle has remained a constant; but some things have changed. Whereas Rowe and Betterton's Complete Plays proclaimed "the King is dead! Long live Shakespeare!", Taylor and Well's Complete Works defiantly argues "the Author is dead. Long live Shakespeare."

And yet, if to restore Oldcastle is to reconstruct Shakespeare as a suspected recusant—that is, if banishing Falstaff from the authoritative texts of Henry IV Part I rehistoricizes the author as the most famous member of a marginalized and persecuted religious sect—then not only has Falstaff been turned back into Oldcastle, but so has Shakespeare. In short, Taylor can be confident that Oldcastle is what Shakespeare wrote and meant, because Taylor has reconstructed Shakespeare as Oldcastle—or to be more precise, as the notorious pre-martyrological Lord Cobham who lived in the shadowy margins of England's national religion. Thus, the figure who was for a time the godly nation's greatest martyr, has once again played a fundamental role in the construction of that nation's greatest author, from the religio-political controversy that preceded his debut as a writer on the title page of Henry IV Part II, to the controversy over the debut of Oldcastle as a character in the Oxford edition of Henry IV Part I. But didn't we already know all of this? Didn't we already know that banishing Falstaff meant dragging out the author to speak about Oldcastle? Isn't that exactly what happens in the epilogue of Henry IV Part II when the clown who played the fat knight reappears on stage speaking as the author about his Oldcastle problem?80


1 The principal contributions to this debate are Gary Taylor, "The Fortunes of Oldcastle," ShS 38 (1985): 85-100; Taylor, "William Shakespeare, Richard James and the House of Cobham," RES, n.s. 38, 151 (August 1987): 334-54; E.A.J. Honigmann, "Sir John Oldcastle: Shakespeare's Martyr," in "Fanned and Winnowed Opinions ": Shakespearean Essays Presented to Harold Jenkins, ed. John W. Mahon and Thomas A. Pendleton (London: Methuen, 1987), pp. 118-32; Pendleton, " 'This is not the man': On Calling Falstaff Falstaff," AEB, n.s. 4 (1990): 56-71; Jonathan Goldberg, "The Commodity of Names: 'Falstaff and 'Oldcastle' in I Henry IV," BuR 35, 2 (1992): 76-88; Eric Sams, "Oldcastle and the Oxford Shakespeare," N&Q, n.s. 40, 2 (June 1993): 180-5; Kristen Poole, "Saints Alive! Falstaff, Martin Marprelate, and the Staging of Puritanism," SQ 46, 1 (Spring 1995): 47-75; and David Scott Kastan, " 'Killed With Hard Opinions': Oldcastle, Falstaff, and the Reformed Text of I Henry IV," forthcoming in Textual Topography: Formations and Reformations. ed. Thomas L. Berger and Laurie E. Maguire (Delaware: Univ. of Delaware Press). See also Peter Corbin and Douglas Sedge, eds., The Oldcastle Controversy (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 1-34; Robert J. Fehrenbach, "When Lord Cobham and Edmund Tilney 'were att odds': Oldcastle, Falstaff, and the Date of 1 Henry IV, " ShakeS 18 (1986): 87-101; Rudolph Fiehler, "How Oldcastle Became Falstaff," MLQ 16, 1 (March 1955): 16-28; and George Walton Williams, "Second Thoughts on Falstaff's Name," SQ 30, 1 (Winter 1979): 82-4.

2I Sir John Oldcastle, Malone Society Reprint (London: Charles Whittingham and Co., 1908).

3 Philip Henslowe, Diary: Part I. Text, ed. Walter W. Greg (Folcraft: Folcraft Press, 1904), p. 113.

4 William Shakespeare, King Lear, in Shakespeare's Plays in Quarto: A Facsimile Edition of Copies Primarily from the Henry E. Huntington Library, ed. Michael J. B. Allen and Kenneth Muir (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1981), 663-703, 663. Future references to Shakespeare's plays in quarto are from this source and will appear parenthetically in the text.

5 Peter W. M. Blayney, Nicholas Okes and the First Quarto, Volume I: The Texts of "King Lear" and Their Origins (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982), p. 83.

6 In 1604 Anthony Scoloker assures his readers that "He is A man in Print, and tis enough he hath undergone a Pressing" (Wendy Wall, The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance [Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1993], p. 1).

7 Stephen J. Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 1.

8 In fact, the type for the head-title was reimposed from the top of the title page (see Blayney, p. 97, fig. 6).

9 Indeed, the first payment to a playwright recorded in Henslowe's Diary reads, "pd vnto Thomas dickers the 20 of desembr 1597 / for adycyons to fostus twentie shellinges and fyve / shellinges more for a prolog to Marloes tambelan / so in all J saye payde twentye five shellinges" (p. 38).

10 Michel Foucault, "What Is an Author," in Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), p. 108. It is, of course, also true that by the time Henry TV Part I was published, Shakespeare had become popular and/or reputable enough as a playwright that the use of his name on a title page may have made good business sense to a publisher. The most famous evidence of Shakespeare's reputation at this point in his career comes from Francis Meres's Palladis Tamia. Meres writes, "As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines: so Shakespeare among y' English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage; for Comedy, witnes his Ge'tleme' of Verona, his Errors, his Love labors lost, his Love labours wonne, his Midsummer night dreame, & his Merchant of Venice: for Tragedy his Richard the 2. Richard the 3. Henry the 4. King John, Titus Andronicus and his Romeo and Juliet" ([New York: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1938], p. 282).

11 In identifying William Brooke as the seventh Baron Cobham, most scholars follow the Dictionary of National Biography. However, David McKeen includes a genealogy of the Cobham Lordship indicating that Brooke was the tenth holder of the title (A Memory of Honor: The Life of William Brooke, Lord Cobham, 2 vols. [Salzburg, Austria: Universität Salzburg, 1986], 1:2; 2:700-2, appendix 2).

12 D. F. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (London: British Library, 1985), p. 26.

13 This is the chronology proposed by Giorgio Melchiori in Shakespeare's Garter Plays: "Edward III" to "Merry Wives of Windsor" (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1994), pp. 98-101.

14Famous Victories (London: Thomas Creede, 1598).

15 Rowland Whyte, in Alice-Lyle Scoufos, Shakespeare's Typological Satire: A Study of the Falstaff-Oldcastle Problem (Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 1979), p. 36. See Sams, "Oldcastle and the Oxford Shakespeare," pp. 181-2.

16 See Taylor, "Fortunes," p. 90. Whyte's confusion may be explained in part by the fact that, as Andrew Gurr notes, "[t]he two approved companies [Admiral's and Chamberlain's] did get into the habit of matching their plays, Falstaff with Oldcastle, Richard HI with Richard Crookback, The Jew of Malta with The Merchant of Venice, and others" (The Shakespearean Playing Companies [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996], p. 76).

17 John Dennis, The Comical Gallant: or The Amours of Sir John Falstaffe (London: A. Baldwin, 1702), A2.

18 It is worth noting that by the time Falstaff gets revived for The Merry Wives of Windsor, he, like his author, has come to be closely associated with printing. Indeed, as was the case with Shakespeare's indifference to publication, Falstaff "cares not what he puts in press" [The Merry Wives of Windsor,II.i.78 in The Complete Works of Shakespeare, 3d edn., ed. David Bevington [New York: Harper Collins, 1981]. All subsequent references to Shakespeare's plays are to this edition unless otherwise indicated.) See Margreta de Grazia, "Imprints: Shakespeare, Gutenberg, and Descartes," in Alternative Shakespeares, ed. Terence Hawkes (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), 2:63-94, esp. 76-7.

19 Nicholas Rowe, in Scoufos, pp. 23-4.

20 Mark Rose, "The Author as Proprietor: Donaldson v. Becket and the Genealogy of Modern Authorship," Representations 23 (Summer 1988): 51-85, 52.

21 Shakespeare's authorship has been linked with Elizabeth recently by Leah S. Marcus. Taking seriously John Heminge and Henry Condell's claim in the reader's preface to the First Folio that "what [Shakespeare] thought he vttered with that easinesse, that wee haue scarse receiued from a blot in his papers," Marcus suggests that the playwright "may even have composed orally," and asserts that "Queen Elizabeth I apparently had the same skill" (Unediting the Renaissance: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton [London: Routledge, 1996], pp. 162, 163).

22 Rose, p. 52.

23 On these convergences see J. S. Peters, "The Bank, the Press, and the 'return of Nature': On Currency, Credit, and Literary Property in the 1690s," in Early Modern Conceptions of Property, ed. John Brewer and Susan Staves (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 365-88, esp. 367-72.

24 de Grazia, Shakespeare Verbatim: The Reproduction of Authenticity and the 1790 Apparatus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 3.

25 Taylor, "William Shakespeare," p. 335.

26 Taylor, "William Shakespeare," p. 341.

27 William James, in S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1975), p. 143. See also Taylor, "William Shakespeare," pp. 335-6, and Taylor, "Fortunes," p. 86.

28 James, p. 143.

29 This is the account provided by John Capgrave, The Chronicle of England (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1858), pp. 303-4. In a subsequent chronicle, Capgrave returns to the session between Cobham and Henry, but abbreviates it considerably (The Book of Illusstrious Henries, trans. Francis Charles Hingeston [London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1858], pp. 126-7).

30 Substantiative chronicle accounts of Oldcastle are provided by Thomas Walsingham, Thomas Netter, Thomas Otterbourne, Thomas Eltham, and Thomas Hoccleve.

31 Capgrave, p. 303.

32 G. R. Elton, Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1972), p. 34.

33 Sir Thomas More, The English Works of Sir Thomas More, ed. W. E. Campbell and A. W. Reed, 2 vols. (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1927), 2:274.

34 John Bale, A Breif Chronicle concerning the Examination and Death of the Blessed Martyr of Christ, Sir John Oldcastle, the Lord Cobham (1544) (STC 1276), 45r.

35 See Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1967), p. 29.

36 See Kastan, " 'Holy Wurdes' and 'Slypper Wit': John Bale's King Johan and the Poetics of Propaganda," in Rethinking the Henrician Era: Essays on Early Tudor Texts and Contexts, ed. Peter C. Herman (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1994), pp. 267-82, 269.

37 Annabel Patterson quotes these lines as a rebuttal of Archbishop Arundel's position that Oldcastle suffered from a "lack of learning" (Reading Holinshed's Chronicle [Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1994], p. 137).

38 John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, STC 11222.

39 Foxe, p. 261.

40 Kastan, "Killed," p. 9.

41 Foxe, pp. 261-2, 264.

42 Vindicating Oldcastle of treason becomes a major preoccupation of Foxe's in subsequent editions of Acts. For an astute analysis of how Foxe's book changes over successive editions, see Jesse Lander, "Foxe's Book of Martyrs: printing and popularizing the Acts and Monuments," Religion and Culture in Renaissance England, ed. Claire McEachern and Debora Shuger (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997), pp. 69-92.

43 Foxe, pp. 263, 264.

44 In The Mirror of Martyrs or The life and death of that thrice valiant Captain and most godly Martyr Sir John Oldcastle Knight, Lord Cobham (1601), John Weever condenses the link between author and martyr into a single couplet. Referring to the second meeting with Henry, Weever's Oldcastle states, "I come to Court and written with me bring / My swan's last funeral dirge to the King" (appendix D, The Oldcastle Controversy, pp. 223-53). The prominence of the typographic element in Foxe's attempt to aggrandize Oldcastle's status as a proto-Protestant martyr is entirely consistent with the role of the printing press in the reformation, a role that has received critical attention from Kastan, " 'The noyse of the new Bible': McEachern and Shuger, pp. 46-68; John N. Wall, "The Reformation in England and the Typographical Revolution: 'By this printing .. . the doctrine of the Gospel soundeth to all nations,' " in Print and Culture in the Renaissance: Essays on the Advent of Printing in Europe, ed. Gerald P. Tyson and Sylvia S. Wagonheim (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1986), pp. 208-21; Jane O. Newman, "The World Made Print: Luther's 1522 New Testament in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Representations 11 (Summer 1985): 95-133; Greenblatt, "The Word of God in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," in Renaissance Self-fashioning, pp. 75-114; Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983), pp. 37-47; Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979), 1:302-440; Lucien Febvre and Henry-Jean Martin, The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800, trans. David Gerard (London: NLB, 1976), pp. 287-318.

45 Foucault, "Two lectures: Lecture One: 7 January 1976," in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-77, ed. Colin Gordon (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1980), p. 81.

46 Raphael Holinshed, The Firste volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande (STC 13568) (London: John Harrison, 1577), p. 1189.

47 Holinshed, p. 1166. In fact, Holinshed seems to be quoting Edward Hall's 1548 account nearly verbatim. Hall writes, "The Lorde Cobham not onely thanked the kyng of his most favourable clemencye, but also declared firste hym by mouthe and afterwarde by writyng the foundacion of his faith, the ground of his belefe and the bottome of* his stomacke" (The Union of the Two Noble & Illustre Famelies of Lancasatre & Yorke, ed. Henry Ellis [1548; rprt. London, 1809; New York, 1965], quoted in Patterson, p. 143). Nevertheless, as Patterson notes, Foxe argued in the 1570 edition of Acts that Hall's source was Bale's Brief Chronicle (Patterson, p. 144).

48 Holinshed, p. 1189. Holinshed's source for this passage, as Patterson notes, was Thomas Walsingham's Historia Anglicana (Patterson, p. 151). It is worth noting that when Heminge and Condell offer their mythic account of Shakespeare's authorship in the First Folio, the act of blotting figures significantly. They inform "the great Variety of Readers," that "[Shakespeare's] mind and hand went together: And what he thought, he vttered with that eafmeffe, that wee have fcarfe received from him a blot in his papers" (The First Folio of Shakespeare 1623, ed. Doug Moston [New York: Applause, 1995], A3).

49 Holinshed, p. 1189.

50 Patterson, p. 131.

51 G. Κ. Hunter, "Religious Nationalism in Later History Plays," in Literature and Nationalism, ed. Vincent Newey and Ann Thompson (Savage: Barnes and Noble Books, 1991), pp. 88-97, 92.

52 Ibid.

53 Hunter, p. 95.

54 Ibid.

55 Ibid.

56 Subsequent references to the knight in Thomas Fuller's Church History of Britain (1655) and Peter Heylyn's Examen Historicum: Animadversions on the Church History of Britain (1659) suggest that Oldcastle's reputation plummeted tremendously during the half-century that followed Shakespeare's play. See Taylor, "Fortunes," p. 91, and Corbin and Sledge, p. 32.

57 Michael Dobson, The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1769 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 185.

58 Ibid.

59 John Dennis, quoted in Schoenbaum, Shakespeare's Lives: New Edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 51.

60 Dobson, p. 184.

61 Taylor, Reinventing Shakespeare: A Cultural History, from the Restoration to the Present (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989), p. 65.

62 Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, V.i.94-5. As Kastan notes, referring to Portia's remark and Shakespeare's account of the Battle of Shrewsbury (Henry IV Part I, V.iv.3-4), "[e]ven Henry can bear himself only 'like the king'; he has no authentic royal identity prior to and untouched by representation" (" 'The King Hath Many Marchings in His Coats,' or, What did You Do in the War, Daddy?" in Shakespeare Left and Right, ed. Ivo Kamps [New York: Routledge, 1991], pp. 241-58, 253).

63 Sharon Achinstein examines the relation between king and printer as it was reconfigured during the pamphlet wars of the English Revolution in her study, Milton and the Revolutionary Reader (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 78-101. Also of great relevance is Harold Love's analysis of the link between state authority and material practices of linguistic reproduction in Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), pp. 157-76. Love locates this link in the relationship between "the relative status accorded to voice, script and print within the political structure" and the prominent social fiction that "located the origin of all secular power in the king's person" (p. 161). For Love, the Regicide of 1649 precluded royalty in the future from placing "any excessive trust in the power promised by legitimating fictions" (p. 176). Kevin Sharpe also examines the relation between Tudor-Stuart royal authorship and print culture, "The King's Writ: Royal Authors and Royal Authority in Early Modern England," in Culture and Politics in Early Stuart England, ed. Sharpe and Peter Lake (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 117-38. The relation between power and representation is given an excellent general treatment by Michael Taussig, "Maleficium: State Fetishism," The Nervous System (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 111-41.

64 Slavoj Zizek, For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor (London: Verso, 1991), p. 269.

65 Joseph C. Hart, quoted in Dobson, p. 1.

66 Foucault, for example, asserts that "[t]he coming into being of the notion of 'author' constitutes the privileged moment of individualization in the history of ideas, knowledge, literature, philosophy, and the sciences" (p. 101). For a useful overview of the critical assault on authorship see Sean Burke, The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1992), pp. 8-19.

67 Kastan, "Killed," p. 14.

68 It is worth noting that although The Norton Shakespeare advertises itself as being "Based on the Oxford Edition," the Norton edition of Henry IV Part I returns Oldcastle to textual exile. Referring to the Oxford text, Greenblatt, the general editor of the Norton Edition writes, "But this decision [to restore Oldcastle] is a problem for several reasons. It draws perhaps too sharp a distinction between those things that Shakespeare did under social pressure and those he did of his own accord. More seriously, it pulls against the principle of a text that represents the latest performance version of a play during Shakespeare's lifetime: after all, even the earliest quarto title page advertises 'the humorous conceits of Sir John Falstaff " ([New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1997], p. 75).

69 Taylor, "Fortunes," p. 95. Similarly, Stanley Wells writes of Oldcastle/Falstaff, "Awareness of the character's origins adds to the play's historical resonances" (Shakespeare: A Life in Drama [New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1995], p. 140).

70 Taylor, "Fortunes," p. 99.

71 Roland Barthes, in Theories of Authorship: A Reader, ed. John Caughie (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981), pp. 208-13.

72 Paul Werstine has persuasively argued a similar point in the context of the editorial tradition that underwrites Taylor and Michael Warren's work on the texts of King Lear. Noting that after the work of W. W. Greg, "it came to be assumed that editors already knew all they needed to about everything except the details," Werstine asserts that, "except for the printing house(s) that manufactured the particular book(s), the whole of early modern culture got consumed by an increasingly engorged author-function, which ate up the army of scribes, the theatrical industry (with its players, bookkeepers, costume-buyers, theater owners, and thousands of patrons), and the government with its censors" ("Editing after the End of Editing," ShakeS 24 [1996]: 47-54, 50).

73 Taylor, "Fortunes," p. 100.

74 Ibid.

75 Goldberg, pp. 79-82.

76 Taylor, "Fortunes," p. 99.

77 Ibid.

78 Ibid. See also Sams, who maintains that "[t]he young Shakespeare's earliest emotions and experiences were enshrined in the language and teaching of the old Catholic faith" (The Real Shakespeare: Retrieving the Early Years, 1564-94 [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1995], p. 11). Similarly, Honigman, who advises us to "brace ourselves, then, for howls of anguish about a Catholic Shakespeare," asserts that the playwright "started life as a Catholic and served for a while in the Catholic households of Alexander Hoghton and Sir Thomas Hesketh" (Shakespeare: The Lost Years [Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1985], p. 126).

79 Taylor himself compares Wells to Rowe in his discussion of the Oxford Shakespeare's publication. Noting that Wells "is a theatre historian as well as an editor, both a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and a Fellow of Balliol College," Taylor observes that, "Like Rowe, but in contrast to the subsequent editorial tradition initiated by Pope, Wells edits Shakespeare in the light of theatrical practice" (Reinventing Shakespeare, p. 311).

80 I am grateful to David Scott Kastan for reading and significantly improving a draft of this essay. Anne Lake Prescott, Jean Howard, James Shapiro, and Peter Platt also read a draft and made a number of helpful suggestions. An early version of this essay, titled "'so disfigured with scrapings & blotting out': I Henry IV and the Making of an Author," was presented as part of the "Shakespeare and the Material Book" panel at the annual meeting of the Midwest Modern Language Association held in November 1996 in Minneapolis MN. I would like to thank Marcy North for inviting me to participate in the session and for raising important questions about my argument.

Source: "Sir John Oldcastle and the Construction of Shakespeare's Authorship," in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 38, No. 2, Spring, 1998, pp. 333-61.




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