THE AUTHOR OF « THE WISDOM OF DR. DODDYPOLL »
by Charles Graves
At Michael le Gassick’s conference at the May 2015 de Vere Society Annual General Meeting in Oxford - on the 1600 published play ‘The Wisdom of Dr. Doddypoll’ - the speaker considered that this anonymous play was from the hand of Edward de Vere. I thank Michael le Gassick for initiating this debate and presenting his proofs on the authorship question.
Outline of the play
The play concerns a Flemish doctor called Dr. Doddypoll who is courting the daughter of a Flemish jeweler (a reflection of the Bruges and Antwerp jewel trade in the 16th century). Also, a so-called ‘painter’ was courting her sister, who was, in reality, an Earl called Lassenbergh. His future father-in-law (Flores, the Flemish jeweler) was unsuspecting about the Earl posing as a suitor of his daughter Lucilla. But this same jeweler was awaiting the visit of some noble people, among which were Kathryn, duchess of Brunswick (who was betrothed to the duke of Saxony, Alphonse). Moreover, among these nobles was Albedure, son of duke Alphonse. Albedure was in love with Hyanth (daughter of Lord Casimir). A complication to all this was that Casimir, a widower, was in search of a second wife and he had his eye upon Flores’ other daughter called Cornelia (sister of Lucilla). Casimir was a friend of Flores the jeweller and admired his business.
The major action of the play was initiated when Flores, who wished his daughter Cornelia could marry one of the visiting nobles, asked Dr. Doddypoll, his Flemish neighbour, if he could bring about with his medicinal knowledge of drugs that one of these nobles (namely Albedure) would fall in love with his daughter Cornelia. Moreover, learning later that Lassenbergh (suitor to his other daughter Lucilla) was not a ‘painter’ but an Earl in love with his daughter Lucilla, Flores angrily insisted that Lassenbergh marry Lucilla. Lassenbergh, found out and shamed by Florian, refused to do this and departed.
Flores and Cordelia arranged for Albedure to drink some of Dr. Doddypoll’s potion so that he would fall in love with Cordelia, and Flores would thereby achieve his aim of being related to the nobility. The problem was that, unknowingly taking this potion in his wine, Albedure went crazy and ran away, looking only for relief from the potent drug. His father, duke Alphonse, preoccupied with his upcoming marriage to Duchess Kathryn of Brunswick, was informed about the drugging of his son. Moreover this duke Alphonse pretended that he was in love with his son’s beloved – Hyanth – and that he wanted her as his mistress. This offended his son Albedure (who ws running around crazily, under the influence of Dr. Doddypoll’s potion
Earl Lassenbergh, who had escaped from a marriage with Flores’ other daughter Lucilla, was chased by her into the woods. But he repulsed her and she became bewildered about this his strange behavior. Various fairies and an ‘Enchanter’ met them in the woods (a reflection of quite similar episodes in A Midsummere Night’s Dream’). Meanwhile, Albedure was being chased by Flores’ servant Hans in order to bring him out of his wild, insane flight, and Hans was given a mysterious cup by fairies, which he determined to sell to his master, Flores the jeweler.
Duke Alphonse, very worried about his son Albedure’s condition, was informed that his son was alive, having been pulled from a river by some passers-by (Ralf etc,) Prior to that, Albedure had mistaken a Pezant (peasant) which he encountered in the forest for his beloved Hyanth and had aggressively handled him. But Albedure threw himself into a river to rid himself of the effects of Dr. Doddypoll’s potion, and was subsequently saved. After he exchanged clothes with Hans - hoping to return to society anonymously - Hans appeared before duke Alphonse as ’Albedure’ (but the duke was not fooled). Later Albedure came to his father and learned that duke Alphonse’s ‘passion’ for Albedure’s beloved Hyanth was fake and that his father was ‘testing’ his son’s love for Hyanth by posing as Hyanth’s lover. Also, at the end of the play, the cup (which Hans found and had sold to Flores) was presented to the duke (Alphonse) and duchess (Kathryn) as symbol of their approaching marriage.
Duchess Kathryn had managed to convince duke Alphonse that a planned marriage between them should take place. She also convinced Earl Lassenbergh (in the woods, avoiding contact with Lucilla as much as possible) that he should settle down and marry her. At the same time Casimir told his jeweler friend Flores that he wished to marry Cordelia (Flores’ daughter). Thus, Cornelia ended not with the proposed Albedure (who, after all, was in love with Hyanth), but with Hyanth’s father - Casimir. So Flores’ dream of his daughter marrying a nobleman was realized. The four marriages: (Lassenbergh-Lucilla; Albedure-Hyanth; Casimir-Cornelia; Duchess Kathryn-Duke Alphonse) were all arranged by the end of the play. Dr. Doddypoll, who had desired Lucilla for wife, was tricked into believing that all had been arranged for that also, but it was a farce organized by his rival (for Lucilla’s hand called The merchant. The play ends with the doctor blustering around about how he had been fooled by the merchant.
The authorship question
Clues that the play was by the same hand as ‘Shakespeare’s’ The Midsummer Night’s Dream’ arose with the evident similarity of the Lassenbergh-Lucilla plot in The Wisdom of Dr.Doddypoll with the episodes of the young couples in the woods in MSND. An Enchanter and fairies had been at work to confuse the complicated situation of the various loving couples. Moreover, as Michael le Gassick pointed out at the de Vere Society conference in Oxford April 2015, Flores’ family and two daughters marrying into the nobility, seemed to parallel William Cecil, Lord Burghleys family.. William Cecil was Edward de Vere’s (Earl of Oxford’s) father-in-law as Flores was father in law (through his daughter Lucilla) to Earl Lassenbergh.. During his trip to Italy in 1572-3, Edward de Vere heard that his wife, Anne Cecil – had had an affair with another man and that their first child Elizabeth was illegitimate. Thereby Edward became estranged from his wife and this was like the situation of Earl Lassenbergh in the Doddypoll play- when this fictional Earl would not marry Lucilla because he ‘had been found out’.
In other words, Edward de Vere is using the story of The Wisdom of Dr. Doddypoll to illustrate his own (as an Earl’s) difficulties with Anne Cecil (Flores representing William Cecil, and Lucilla representing Anne Cecil). The argument is convincing that Flores (wanting a noble son-in-law) and finding one in Earl Lassenbergh, parallels William Cecil wanting a noble son-in-law and finding one- namely Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. It appears also that Anne Cecil had a sister – Elizabeth – who married William, son of Lord Wentworth (thus paralleling the two sisters in Doddypoll).
I have discovered further proofs that The Wisdom of Dr. Doddypoll was from the hand of Edward de Vere, namely that the main characters Alphonse (duke of Saxony), Kathryn (duchess of Brunswick) and Albedure (son of Alphonse) replicate three of Edward de Vere’s most distant known ancestors, namely Alphonse de Vere, a Norman, who married Kathryn of West Flanders and thereby gained the title of Vere (a place on Walcheren island given to Kathryn of West Flanders by her father). Their son was Alberic de Vere - companion of William the Conqueror in the conquest of England in 1066- Albedure is a contraction of this Alberic de Vere. Thus, these three parallels of names and positions in society convince us even more that Doddypoll was from the pen of the descendant of these historical persons. Who else but Edward de Vere or someone in his family would wish to reproduce these historical characters in a 16th century play?
Doddypoll resembles Rosalynd (1590 by T. Lodge) and As You Like It (written probably after 1590 or concurrently with Rosalynd) in that there are four couples married at the end. It differs from them in that there is no ‘exile’ of the ruler or time spent in the forest. Thus it is a unique production without specific predecessor (except for elements of The Midsummer Night’s Dream).
The marriages are not thwarted by politics (as in Thomas Lodge) but by emotional factors. Lassenbergh struggles with his shame (being found out); Albedure struggles with his lunacy (imposed by a trick involving Doddipoll, Florian and Cornelia); Duke Alphonse simply struggles with his hesitation to marry.
Dr. Doddipoll’s potion somehow ties all these marriage-related plots together, so the doctor deserves a place in the title (his ‘wisdom’ occasioned it all)
The movement towards marriage of Lassenbergh is only one of these ‘marriage plots’ and yet, since it opens the play and contains very strong parallels to MSND, it seems to take on a dominant role in the analysis of the meaning of the play
But Albedure’s experiences do not obscure the fact that his father (Alphonse – a leading character in another ‘marriage plot’) is supposedly intent upon having Hyanth - Albedure’s beloved - as his mistress. Of course, this is proven not to be the case when Alphonse claims that he was simply ‘testing’ his son’s maturity.
But Albedure made some powerful negative statements about his father (calling him e.g the Greek classics character - the traitor Nessus.).These may reflect some problem of Edward de Vere if he is represented by Albedure in some fashion.
I have studied the times each of the characters and each of the couples have either appeared on scene or spoken lines.
This does not include lines spoken by all when Lassenurgh and Albedure were both on scene together (95 lines)
The conclusions from above:
Some rather bizarre features accompany the adventures of Albedure in this play. When he is running out towards the woods, the Doctor Doddipoll meets him and he is called by Albedure ‘Clio’ and ‘girle’ (line 891) and Albedure says: ‘Thou must write Acrostignes first my girl apparently referring to the sexual passion caused by the Doctor’s potion. Clio is one of the Greek classical Muses – the “Muse of history, with a roll of paper and a chest of books’’ (Smaller Classical Dictionary, ed. E,H. Blakeney 1910). This fits the context of the play where Albedure plays Alberic I de Vere (an historical person).
About the person of Hyanth - loved by Alberdure in the play: Cf. Robert Graves The Greek Myths, Folio edition, p. 82: ‘The youth Hyacinthus, a Spartan prince, with whom not only the poet Thamyris fell in love – the first man who ever wooed one of his own sex – but Apollo himself, the first gods to do so…but the West Wind had also taken a fancy to Hyancinthus, and became insanely jealous of Apollo…
‘Hyacinthus seems to be name for a Cretan spring-flower hero …elsewhere he is called Antheus’ (op. cit., p. 269)
‘one of the daughters of Hyacinthus was called Antheis’ (op. cit., p. 288)
Here we see the origin of ‘Hyanth’ and her family characteristics. The mad Albedure (representing Edward de Vere?) confuses her with a bearded peasant. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, by choice of the name Hyanth, the author was referring to Hyacinthus, a man wood by Apollo. There was certainly a reason for the author of Doddypoll to call Albedure’s beloved with the name referring to the daughter of a man loved by other men in Greek tradition.
The treatment of Albedure by Dr. Doddipoll (i.e. the potion administered by Cornelia to obtain a noble fiancé) was extreme Cf. Sonnets 118, 119: ‘distll’d from limbecks foul as hell within; ‘bitter sauces’) but Albedure recovered.
The reference to the Greek classical traitor Nessus (whom Albedure identifies with his father Duke Alphonse because the Duke was taking away Albedure’s love called Hyanth) – this Nessus was a centaur and the god’s ferryman who took away Deianera from Heracles and tried to violate her (cf. Robert Graves The Greek Myths, Folio edition, p. 504 on Nessus). Heracles shot Nessus. Here is a reference to the ferry – the origin of the de Vere name on Walcheren island (Vere is taken from the town of Veer in modern Zeeland. Veere means ferry in Flemish.)
If we believe the Sonnets the ‘treatment’ of Albedure must be seen in the context of Edward de Vere’s sexuality. There are hints of this in Albedure’s statement (while mad) in line 1015 ‘no villaine thou art he that in the top of Eruines hill: dauncest with the moon, and eats up all the stars…’ Albedure sees the peasant (with a beard) and identifies Hyanth with him but tries to tear out of him (male) the heavenly signs of Hyanth (female). According to Robert Graves (the Greek Myths, Folio edition pp. 396-7) the Erroinys are ‘personified pangs of conscience’. Albedure in his madness is confusing the peasant’s (male) breast with Hyanth, his female fiancé. This aspect of Edward de Vere’s life is placed in the character of mad Albedure who is saved at the end after throwing himself into a river.
In the play two of the couples have an almost equal number of lines to speak along with their beloved in the play. Moreover the two males – Earl Lassenbergh and Albedure - both have some direct connection with the events in the life of Edward de Vere. Thus it appears that both of these characters are autobiographical. This was also the case, in our opinion, with Jaques and Touchstone in As You Like It – both representing sides of Edward de Vere’s personality in relation to society.
Moreover it appears that the author of Doddypoll included himself in his writings as a ‘double’ character representing the two aspects of his personality. Doddipoll may be a play of Edward de Vere about himself and his own experiences.
The cup of the Enchanter held by Flores and given to Duchess Kathryn resembles the ‘Holy Graal’ of medieval lore, perhaps referring to the fact that Kathryn of Flanders (wife of Alphonse de Vere) was given Walcheren Island by the Holy Roman Emperor. Also, calling the Duke of Brunswick Constantine (cf. Emperor Constantine of the Romans) again reinforces the idea of Middle Ages holy kingship.
One notes that this play was anonymous and not published under Edward’s pseudonym ‘William Shakespeare’ indicating, perhaps, its autobiographical nature.
Because he wishes to present an autobiographical play, Edward de Vere concocts the story about Dr. Doddypoll’s potion and its surprising effect upon one of the characters. It was meant to enhance attraction to women - a good theme for an audience. But it was administered to a nobleman (Albedure) with one of the de Vere family-related names. The potion is extremely strong but instead of impelling Albedure to go after available women it sends its recipient into a wild frenzy where he loses all discrimination in relation to sex and he treats men as women.
What might the author be trying to say in this play? First of all, that the ‘normal’ Earl Edward reconciles himself to the fact that everyone wanted hîm to marry Anne Cecil (‘Lucilla’) and that he consented. He was, after all, the father of three living daughters by Anne Cecil. But there was another, more obscure, side to Earl Edward which was represented by Albedure (a name parallel to Edward’s family names). When he drinks Dr. Doddypoll’s potion he is satisfying society’s preference. i.e. heterosexual love (presumable with Cornelia, Flores’s daughter). But Albedure’s true love was Hyanth. The choice of this name must certainly raise some questions since the reference is to Hyacinthus, an object of homosexual love in Greek classical literature. We have only to remember the multitude of Sonnets addressed to a young man (whom we believe was Henry Wrothesley the 3rd Earl of Southampton). Was Edward perturbed about his feelings for Henry and did Doddypoll’s potion bring out this side of his ambiguous sexuality?
(A) Flemish characters
Michael le Gassick has informed us (at the de Vere Society meeting in Oxford in May 2015) that ‘in early July 1574 Edward de Vere hired a ship, with Lord Edward Seymour, and sailed to Flanders. There is speculation as to his motives (collecting £15,000 Lord Burghley had promised him?) By the end of July, after having been recalled by Thomas Bedingfield, he was back in England’
Concerning the sub-plot about Earl Lassenburgh et. al.: The way the Lassenburg affair was presented in the play, I believe, may have some relation to the fact that Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, the Flemish portraitist. (Cf. Wikipedia about him) painted Edward de Vere’s portrait (date unknown). It is known that Marcus and his father (M.G. the Elder), fleeing persecution in Bruges, lived with a ‘Dutch servant’ at St. Mary Abchurch parish in London. Hauns (Hans) in the play who sleeps in a servant’s bed with the painter ’Cornelius’- Earl Lassenburgh - calls himself a ‘Dutch gentleman’ (line 115). This differs from a Flemish one.
Marcus Gheeaerts the Younger painted Edward de Vere (the portrait on the cover of my book ’27 Essays on Edward de Vere and William Shakespeare’’) and this portrait may be symbolized in the play by Cornelia’s ‘picture of Albedure’ in a little jewel.
Marcus Gheeraerts’ father (M.G. the Elder) married Susannah as second wife. She was sister of John de Critz the sergeant-painter at the court of Queen Elizabeth. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger married his step-mother’s (i.e. Susannah’s) sister namely Magdalena. This may be the origin of the two sisters (Lucilla, Cornelia) in the Doddypoll play.
The main character is called ‘Lassenbergh’. Lessines is a town in East Flanders just south of Geraardsbergh (south of Ghent by 20 miles and of Bruges). The Gheeraerts family name seems to have provided material for the fictional name ‘Lassenberg’.
John de Critz could have entered the play as the person called ‘Ite’ (who came with Dutchess Kathryn in her train and whose profession is not noted.
It appears that there were at least three factors which may have influenced Edward de Vere to pen a play with a Flemish setting:
(B) Dr. Doddypoll
From Oxford English Dictionary:
Dodder is a parasitic climbing plant with leafless stems that are attached to the host plant by means of suckers.
This is certainly the situation of Dr. Doddypoll vis à vis the main characters in the play. In the end it is he who remains unmarried (‘leafless’).
Poll is a person’s head or scalp.
Dotty means slightly mad or eccentric
Photograph: Hedingham Castle, Essex, by Derek Voller