Sunday, June 27, 2010

Smelling Psalts - another de Vere treasure trove

"Shakespeare" By Another Name reader Richard Waugaman of Georgetown University sent a note this week about his new publication in the journal Notes & Queries.

He told the SBAN Blog he's been peeking at Shakespeare's answer key lately and discovering a "jackpot" of new discoveries about the Bard's sources.

N&Q has now published two articles by Waugaman on a newly rediscovered source for the Shakespeare plays and poems: The Whole Booke of Psalme (WBP) from 1565. This popular edition of the biblical book of The Psalms set the sacred text to a steady rhythm, enabling the psalter to be sung more easily during church services. (It's also clunky and dated poetry and so has made an easy target for critics like C.S. Lewis, who said the WBP had practically no value as a literary influence for "cultivated writers.")

But the Folger Shakespeare Library has Edward de Vere's personal copy of the WBP -- one that's hand-annotated and bound with de Vere's copy of the Geneva translation of the Bible. (The latter is the subject of SBAN's Appendix A.)

De Vere's personal copy of the WBP is a treasure trove of material for Shakespeare.

De Vere marked 21 of the 150 psalms in the WBP. Waugaman has examined eight of those marked Psalms (8, 12, 25, 51, 77, 103, 137, 139) to discover dozens of new references to these psalms (sometimes to this edition of the Psalms) throughout Shakespeare's Sonnets as well as Rape of Lucrece; Macbeth; Richard II; Henry VI, Part 1 and the apocryphal Shakespearean history play Edward III.

"Using the psalms de Vere marked has led to what is probably the largest literary source for Shakespeare discovered in many years," Waugaman said in an email.

As with de Vere's biography, his travels in Italy (about which I'll be blogging more soon) and his personal copy of the Bible, de Vere's edition of the WBP once again proves that detailed examination of the particulars of de Vere's life recovers vast new vistas on the "Shakespeare" canon.

And once again it appears that if de Vere wasn't in fact the one who wrote behind the "Shakespeare" mask, then it sure looks like "Shakespeare" spent a lot of time looking through de Vere's eyes.

Richard Waugaman's first (Dec. 2009) article on WBP & Shakespeare
Waugaman's second (June 2010) article

(Creative Commons image by Orin Zebest)

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