Friday, September 21, 2012

Stylistic Markers in Guy of Warwick

In Three Seventeenth-Century Revisions: Thomas of Woodstock, The Jew of Malta, and Faustus B (Notes and Queries, April 1983) David J Lake noted that there are some simple stylistic markers that allow us, while exercising due caution, to confidently determine the broad period in which a late Elizabethan or Jacobean play was written:

“If one surveys the texts of many late Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, one soon
realizes that, as regards linguistic style, there are two fairly distinct periods:

(1) The period of the 1580s and 1590s;
(2) The period beginning about 1599-1600.

The earlier period is typified by the Marlowe of Tamburlaine, the works of Kyd, Greene, Peele, and early Shakespeare; the later period is typified by Middleton, and all but the earliest works of Jonson, Marston, and Dekker. One can often classify a section of dramatic text at a glance as 'typically early' or 'typically late': the criterion is the presence or absence of certain colloquialisms and contractions, most importantly 'em (for 'them'), I’m, i'th', o'th', a'th', the use of has and does rather than hath and doth, and the oath 'Sfoot (a shortening of 'God's foot'). In the period up to 1598 these features seldom or never appear, whereas after 1600 all are commonly found in the works of some authors, though others remained linguistically conservative. Thus the lack of these colloquialisms is not a decisive criterion for dating: a play without them may be early, or its author may be merely old-fashioned. But when such colloquialisms appear in any considerable number in a play which is usually dated before 1599, we have a strong reason to think that the work has been misdated, or at least that the extant text has been revised. This criterion, it should be noted, is very little affected by genre: before 1599, these colloquialisms are lacking in all plays, tragedies and comedies alike; and after 1599, they appear in both tragedies and comedies.”

These colloquial stylistic markers identified by Lake may be important for our understanding of the date and authorship of Guy of Warwick. As Lake notes, “when such colloquialisms appear in any considerable number in a play which is usually dated before 1599, we have a strong reason to think that the work has been misdated, or at least that the extant text has been revised.” Guy, of course, is usually dated before 1599, so it is worth looking at how it fits within Lake’s scheme. To do so, I will concentrate on the simple ‘has/hath’ marker.

By my count, the frequencies of 'has/hath' in Guy of Warwick are as follows:

Has    8
Hath    41

Clearly, ‘hath’ is predominant here, with only 8 occurrences of the more colloquial ‘has’. This would seem to put Guy more in Lake’s first period (the broad range from the 1580s to the 1590s) than in the later period (1599+). However, things become more interesting if we look at where exactly in the text the 8 uses of ‘has’ occur. As it turns out, all the occurrences of ‘has’ in Guy are spoken by Sparrow or his father (Sparrow 6, Father 2). For Sparrow himself, the frequencies are:

Hath    1
Has    6

In Ben Jonson's 'Villanous Guy', I argued that Guy of Warwick was probably a collaborative work, and that significant stylistic differences in Time’s choruses indicated different authors for the comic and dramatic sections of the play. I suggest now that the fact that ‘has’ only occurs in the comic sections of the play provides additional evidence of this. Further, I suggest that the predominance of ‘has’ over ‘hath’ in Sparrow’s lines tells us something about their date: it is unlikely that they were written in the early 1590s, and highly unlikely that they were written in the 1580s. Instead, Lake’s test points to them having been written in the seventeenth century or, at the earliest, the very late sixteenth century.

A possible objection to this conclusion is that we are more likely to find a colloquialism like ‘has’ in what Lake calls ‘vulgar dialogue’, and Sparrow's lines certainly fit into this category. However, Lake states that his dating test “is very little affected by genre”. To check this, I did one small test. I looked at the ‘has/hath’ usage by the clown to which Sparrow has been most often compared: Mouse in Mucedorus. By Lake's test, Mouse's 'vulgar dialogue' should show a low frequency of 'has' usage, since Mucedorus is generally acknowledged to have been written significantly earlier than its first print date of 1598. Mouse passes the test. In fact, he never uses ‘has’ i.e. his usage is totally consistent with Lake’s dating test, and in stark contrast to Sparrow’s clear preference for ‘has’.

I also postulated in Ben Jonson's 'Villanous Guy' that Guy of Warwick was probably written in 1598. I’m actually now starting to think it may have been a bit later than that - probably 1599 - for reasons I’ll spell out in a later post. Irrespective, the point here is that if Sparrow’s lines were written around the turn of the century, then their author must have been an ‘early adopter’ of the stylistic change that Lake sees as beginning about 1599-1600. So the obvious next question is: who were the early adopters of this change?

Lake again:

“It appears from this survey that about 1599-1600 there was a fairly sudden revolution in the linguistic practices of Jonson and Dekker, quickly followed by Middleton and several other authors. It is very likely that this revolution - essentially, the copious use of 'em, has and does in ordinary non-vulgar dialogue - was effected by the publication in 1600 of Jonson's Every Man Out of his Humour (acted 1599). In this play (Q 1600) for the first time we find copious use of 'em (66 instances, spelt 'hem, beside only 44 them), and a preponderance of has and does (has 75, hath 31; does 36, doth 20). Then in 1601 Jonson in Poetaster and Dekker in Satiromastix began to make occasional use of I'm. Jonson seems to have been the most style-conscious of the Elizabethans; certainly he took great care, in his revision of Every Man In his Humour, to bring that play into line with the new linguistic fashion which he himself had helped to create. Every Man In was first acted in 1598, and this, the 'Italian' version, was published 1601; then probably about 1606-12 Jonson produced the 'English' version, which was published in his 1616 Folio. In the 1601 text there is no 'em or 'hem: has 16, hath 35; does 2, doth 20. In the 1616 text the figures are: 'hem 60, them 48; has 35, hath, 15; does 10, doth 9. Into the revised version Jonson also introduced other marks of his new style, notably 33 instances of i'the and 25 of o'the - contractions which occur only sporadically in very small numbers in the whole period 1585-98. Since Jonson seems to be the key figure in this rapid shift, about 1599-1600, to a more colloquial style, we might refer to it, for convenience, as the 'Jonsonian revolution'. “

The earliest adopter of this ‘Jonsonian revolution’ was thus, by definition, Jonson himself. The next was Dekker. Coincidentally, these are the only two playwrights who have been proposed as serious candidates for the authorship of Guy.

We can actually use another stylistic marker to determine whether Jonson or Dekker could have been the creator of Sparrow: the 'while/whilst' marker. This is a particularly strong marker for determining authorship, because it is a personal preference that is not overly affected by date. Even today, some writers use 'whilst' in preference to 'while'.

Sparrow's preference for 'while' is clear; he uses it four times and never uses ‘whilst’. According to Lake (The Canon of Thomas Middleton's Plays - Appendix Table 1.1), Jonson's preference is consistent with Sparrow's, using 'while' 79 times compared with only 27 times for ‘whilst’. Dekker, however, has a “very strong preference for whilst over while”. In fact, Lake's tables show that Dekker only uses ‘while’ once as compared with 63 times for ‘whilst’. Based on the 'while/whilst' marker, Dekker is very unlikely to have written Sparrow's lines.

Stylistic analysis cannot, of course, definitively establish the date or authorship of a work by itself. But in the case of Guy of Warwick, the ‘has/hath’ and 'while/whilst' markers, in conjunction with other evidence, certainly seem to point in a particular direction: Sparrow's lines were probably written around the turn of the seventeenth century, and Ben Jonson is the prime candidate to be the author of those lines.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Belimoth and a Heavy Funeral

In my post That Old Devil Belimoth I discussed the A and B Texts of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, noting that an important difference between the two texts is that the B-text contains lines involving a devil called Belimoth that do not appear in the A-text. Significantly, Guy of Warwick also contains a devil called Belimoth, and is the only other extant play of the period to do so. Further, there are very strong parallels between the lines in which Belimoth appears in Guy and the B-text, making it almost certain that the unique appearance of this devil in these two plays is not coincidental.

This link between Guy and the B-text is potentially of great significance for the dating of Guy. Current scholarship favours the theory that the extra lines in the B-text of Doctor Faustus are the 1602 additions to the play by William Birde and Samuel Rowley recorded in Henslowe's diary. If this is correct, and Guy borrowed the Belimoth lines from this Birde/Rowley version of Faustus, then clearly Guy could not have been written any earlier than 1602.  It is even possible that Guy borrowed the lines directly from the 1616 Quarto of Doctor Faustus, in which case it must have been written in or after 1616, a dating intriguingly consistent with the fact that a play on Guy of Warwick, ascribed to Day and Dekker, was entered in the Stationers’ Register in 1620.

Despite the possibility that the Belimoth link may point to Guy having been written in the 17th century, I suggested in my original post that, given the weight of scholarly opinion placing Guy in the 1590s, there might be an alternative explanation i.e. that both Guy and the B-text "were referencing a common source: a version of Doctor Faustus earlier than that of the A-text, but preserved in the B-text". Under this scenario, Guy could still have been written in the 1590s, and, additionally, the authority of the B-text would be strengthened. In this post, I will discuss another link between Guy and the B-text which supports this interpretation.

In both the A and B texts of Faustus, Faustus's death is followed by the play's Epilogue (“Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight…”). In the B-text, however, there is an intervening ‘scholar scene’, missing from the A-text,  where students discover Faustus's body and pledge to give him a “heavy funeral”:

Well Gentlemen, tho Faustus end be such
As euery Christian heart laments to thinke on:
Yet for he was a Scholler, once admired
For wondrous knowledge in our Germane schooles,
We'll giue his mangled limbs due buryall:
And all the Students clothed in mourning blacke,
Shall waite vpon his heauy funerall.

In Guy of Warwick there is also an intervening scene between Guy’s death and the Epilogue, when Guy’s body is discovered and he, too, is promised a “heavy funeral”:

Athelst. Rainborne 'tis true, sweet Phillis weep no more,
... on his Cave where he hath left his life,
a stately Hermitage I will erect,
in honour of Sir Guy of VVarwicks Name,
passe mournfully along, wee'l follow all
his bloodlesse Corps, and heavy funeral.

What makes the similarity of these scenes especially interesting is the use of the phrase ‘heavy funeral’. It’s actually quite rare. The phrase appears in a few other works of the time (e.g. Homers Iliads, George Chapman, 1616 and The seuen Champions of Christendome, Part 1, Richard Johnson, 1596), but, as is the case for the Belimoth lines, Guy of Warwick and the B-text of Faustus are the only plays of the period in which ‘heavy funeral’ appears. And it appears, of course, in the same conspicuous place in both plays - the last line before the Epilogue.

Given the already strong Belimoth link between Guy and the B-text, it is reasonable to see this ‘heavy funeral’ connection as another, non-coincidental, link between the two plays, and, importantly, one which tends to support the conclusion that both Guy and the B-text are referencing a version of Faustus from the 1590s. The main evidence for this comes from a paper by Robert A. H. Smith, the key part of which I will quote in its entirety.

“P. H. Kocher pointed out some years ago some similarities between lines in Faustus and lines in Thomas Lodge’s play, The Wounds of Civil War. There seem to be several passages in the latter work which are reminiscent of parts of Faustus, and in one instance not noted by Kocher two lines occurring near the end of The Wounds of Civil War (V. v. 400-1) resemble very closely Faustus, V. iii. 2111-12.

And Fulvia clad in black and mournful pale,
Will wait upon her father’s funeral.
(Wounds of Civil War)

And all the students clothed in mourning black
Shall wait upon his heavy funeral.

Lodge’s play probably dates from the 1580s and thus was already an old work when it was published in quarto in 1594. It is impossible to state positively who was the borrower here, but there now appears to be further evidence for assigning this scholar scene in Faustus  to the early 1590s, if not earlier, and to Marlowe or his original collaborator.

Three other possibilities can be rejected. The owners of both plays, The Admiral’s Men, were revising and reviving many of their old works at the turn of the century, and Rowley or Birde may have borrowed the lines at this time. 1602, shortly after the Essex Rebellion, would have been a very suitable date to revive and revise a work with a theme and title such as Lodge’s play. Secondly, Lodge’s work could have been reprinted after 1594. Finally, the revisers could have unconsciously recalled Lodge’s old lines, or even copied out and adapted them. There is in fact no evidence from Henslowe’s diary or elsewhere that any revision or republishing took place; a simple revival would have been unlikely for such an old-fashioned and undistinguished work; the Lord Chamberlain’s Men objected strongly in 1601 when they were asked to revive a much more recent and superior work, Richard II,  because it was ‘so old and so long out of use’. The play had most likely been forgotten about long before 1602.”

In other words, it doesn’t really matter who borrowed from whom here. The likelihood either way is that the ‘heavy funeral’ lines ending the scholar scene in the B-text date from the early 1590s or earlier (if Lodge was the borrower, then it becomes a certainty). If so, it is reasonable to assume that the Belimoth lines in the B-text also date from the early 1590s or earlier, particularly as the probable source for the name Belimoth, Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft, was published in 1584.

This conclusion, if correct, is not just important for our understanding of the B-text, but also for our understanding of Guy. While we cannot rule out the possibility that Guy referenced the Belimoth and ‘heavy funeral’ lines long after the time they first appeared in Doctor Faustus, the more likely  scenario is that it referenced them around that time i.e. in the early 1590s. The seeming inconsistency between this and my proposed dating of Guy to 1598 is something I will discuss in a later post.