You’re in over your head: An argument against de Vere’s Geneva Bible as proposed by Tom Reedy based on the Tomson New Testament
Posted By farnsworth on February 15, 2013
Part I: Tom Reedy’s Argument Based on Prior Scholars and What Those Prior Scholars Actually Said
Per Tom Reedy: “He [Edgar I. Fripp] also discusses Shakespeare’s use of the Geneva Bible. Unfortunately for Oxfordians who are convinced that Oxford used his 1568-70 second edition of the Geneva Bible, Fripp determined by way of Shakespeare’s use of the marginalia that he instead used the 1587 edition with Theodore Beza’s comments.”(fn. 1) For full disclosure, Reedy does provide a link to the book wherein Fripp’s statement appears.
Per Reedy’s link, in the “Introduction” Fripp states “Nine times out of ten, where the versions differ, Shakespeare follows the Geneva; but on the tenth occasion he definitely prefers the Bishops’ Bible, which he heard at Church. To judge from his use of the marginalia, he possessed in afterlife a copy of the 1587 Geneva with Theodore Beza’s comments. In this, or a subsequent edition, the Bible was the Poet’s chief literary companion.”(fn. 2)
Immediately following this paragraph, Fripp continues his “Introduction” with a new section entitled “Whitgift in Warwickshire.”
No where within his “Introduction” does Fripp ever identify what those Shakespearean parallels to Beza’s notes would be.
Per my further research on Edgar I. Fripp, per his chapter on “Shakespeare’s Bible” in his 1938 book, there is no mention of Beza, Tomson, or any N.T. margin notes.(fn. 3) He also fails to identify the terms “Beza,” “Tomson,” or “Geneva” in his “Index.”
For interest’s sake, Fripp states “Never does he [Shakespeare] dramatize Scripture, as Peele does [his fn. 5: In David and Bethsabe]. He has not taken a character from it. Yet his familiarity with the Bible is at least five times that of Peele or Marlowe, or any contemporary dramatist.”(fn. 4)
Also, per Tom Reedy: “Unfortunately for the good doctor [Roger Stritmatter], Oxford’s Geneva Bible is the 1568-70 second edition, not the 1587 Tomson edition with Theodore Beza’s translated marginalia (not added until 1576) that Shakespeare drew on (annotations that were never read out in church, quoted in sermons or formed into proverbial phrases, according to Beatrice Groves).”(fn. 5) It should be noted, no citation is given by Reedy for “Beatrice Groves.”
Per my research on Beatrice Groves, her April 2007 essay provides the following information: “The marginalia of the original 1560 edition [of the Geneva Bible] was supplemented throughout the [Elizabethan] period, first by the extensive notation of the 1576 Tomson New Testament, with notes translated from Theodore Beza, and then by” Franciscus Junius’ notes on Revelation added to some editions in 1602.(fn. 6)
Groves continues by paraphrasing R. A. L. Burnet: “The Geneva Bible as a whole was intended for private use, but the annotations remained peculiarly so: they were never read out in church, quoted in sermons, or formed into proverbial phrases.”(fn. 7) She does state “It is in keeping with the readerly nature of Shakespeare’s sonnets that it is in them that some of his clearest allusions to the Genevan annotations are found…”(fn. 8 )
Groves’ only reference to the Tomson N.T. margin notes is per Sonnet 151: “Love is too young to know what conscience is, Yet who knowes not conscience is borne of love,”… She states: “The playful disavowal of the Pauline dichotomy between flesh and spirit is encapsulated in the the key word of the poem ‘conscience’ (which is also present in the Tomson Geneva annotations of Romans 7)…”(fn. 9) It should be noted, Groves fails to specify to which verse(s) such margin note(s) applies.
Per my research, only the notes to the Tomson N.T. Romans 7.9: “[t]For I once was alive, without the [u]law: but when the commandment [v]came, sin revived,” contain the word “conscience”:
[t]“He setteth himself before us for an example, in whom all men may behold, first what they are of nature before they earnestly think upon the law of God: to wit, blockish, and ready to sin and wickedness, without all true sense and feeling of sin, then what manner of persons they become, when their conscience is reproved by the testimony of the law, to wit, stubborn, and more inflamed with the desire of sin, than ever they were before.”
[u]“When I knew not the law, then me thought I lived in deed: for my conscience never troubled me, because it knew not my disease.”
[v]“When I began to understand the commandment.” [my emphasis]
It should be further noted, per Sonnet 151: “My soule doth tell my body that he may, Triumph in loue, flesh staies no farther reason,”… per Roger Stritmatter, Shakespeare used the Genevan note on Romans 7.19: “The flesh stayeth even the moste perfect to runne forwarde as the spirit wisheth.”(fn. 10)
We can therefore see that both Tomson’s note at Romans 7.9 and the Genevan note at Romans 7.19 influenced Sonnet 151.
Groves 2007 book indexes the terms “Beza” (pp. 15, 22), “Geneva New Testament” (p. 22), and “Tomson New Testament” (p. 22). She does not mention anywhere in her book any specific references to Shakespeare’s usage of the Tomson N.T. margin notes. She merely gives a short history of the Tomson N.T., and paraphrases R. A. L. Burnet that “Shakespeare also alludes to the Genevan annotations, a part of the Bible that would never have been read out in church or passed into proverbial language.”(fn. 11)
Part II: The Authorities and The Tomson N.T. Marginal Notes
Thomas Carter (1905)
Carter argues that the following three Genevan notes influenced Shakespeare’s plays:(fn. 12)
(1) Genevan note on I Thessalonians 5.19: “The sparkes of the Spirit of God that are kindled in us, are nourished by the dayly hearing of the word.” Compare Henry IV Part I 2.4.299: “Well, an the fire of grace be not quite out of thee, now thou shalt be moved.”
(2) Genevan note on I Corinthians 6.9: “Now he prepareth himselfe to passe over to the fourth treatise of this Epistle: debating this matter first, which question hath three branches.” Compare Hamlet, argument of 1st Gravedigger: “It argues an act, and an act hath three branches; it is, to act, to do, to perform.”
(3) Genevan note on II Corinthians 12.4: “Which name they that translated the Olde Testament out of Hebrew into Greeke called the garden Eden, whereinto Adam was put straight after his creation, as a most delicate and pleasant place. And hereunto grewe it, that the blessed seate of the glory of God is called by that name.” Compare Richard II:
“This royal Throne of Kings, this Sceptred Isle,
This earth of Majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-Paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself.” [emphasis Carter’s]
It should be noted that these three Genevan notes as provided by Carter are from the Tomson N.T. It should also be noted that Naseeb Shaheen does not consider any of these three Bible verses/notes to be valid parallels with Shakespeare.
Naseeb Shaheen (1999)
“[Laurence] Tomson’s New Testament appeared in 1576 (STC 2878)…. Starting in 1587, the Tomson New Testament also began to be bound with various editions of the Geneva Old Testament to form a Geneva-Tomson Bible (STC 2146).”(fn 13) “The importance of Tomson’s New Testament lay not in the text, but in the notes that accompanied the text.”(fn. 14)
Further, most of the notes in Tomson’s text were taken from Theodore Beza’s 1565 publication of “a critical Greek text of the New Testament, with his Latin translation of that text [first published in 1556] and extensive annotations. Although Tomson’s New Testament was basically a revision of the Geneva New Testament, Tomson included Beza’s notes in his New Testament rather than the Geneva notes.”(fn. 15)
Shaheen finds that the line “(Like the base Judean) threw a Pearle away Richer then all his Tribe” (Othello 5.2.347-8, folio) parallels Tomson’s note on Matthew 10.4 (i.e. Judas Iscariot is a man of Kerioth in the tribe of Judah) “indicates Shakespeare’s use of a Tomson New Testament, it is the only passage that does so. It is, in fact, the clearest indication in the entire Shakespeare canon that Shakespeare may have borrowed information from the notes in the Tomson New Testament. But this example is by no means conclusive.” Although “no other version contains the Tomson gloss on Matthew 10.4,” it may have commonly been known in Shakespeare’s day that Judas was a Judean. “Moreover, there are other passages in Shakespeare’s plays where Shakespeare’s references do not follow the Tomson New Testament in passages where Tomson differs from the Geneva New Testament.”(fn. 16)
Part III: Edward de Vere and Beza’s Greek N.T.
About September 1575, while on foreign travel, Oxford sent his wife, Anne, a Greek Bible.(fn. 17)
Per the testimony of Orazio Cuoco before the Venice Inquisition on August 27th, 1577 regarding his recent stay in England with Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford:
Ei dictum, “Chi praticava col conte in questa cità?” Respondit, “Nissun qua della terra….Andava a messa alla giesia di Greci. Et era persona che parlava ben la lingua latina et Italiana”.(fn. 18)
i.e. It was asked him, “Who associated with the earl [Oxford] in this town [i.e. Venice]?” He answered, “No one here from this town. He used to go to Mass at the Church of the Greeks and he was a person (man) who spoke the Latin and Italian language well.”(fn. 19)
It should be noted Orazio Cuoco testified that he left Venice for England with Oxford on March 5, 1576.(fn. 20)
Per A Tragedie of Abrahams Sacrifice, Written in french by Theodore Beza, and translated into Inglish, by A[rthur] G[olding], published 1577 in London, it should be noted that Golding was Oxford’s uncle.
Part IV: Tom Reedy’s Argument Quashed
Per both Henry Howard’s accusation via his libel suit that de Vere knew the Koran and Sir George Buc’s characterization of de Vere as “a magnificent and very learned and religious man,” in all probability, de Vere owned various versions of the Bible.
If Oxford attended Mass conducted in Greek, and sent his wife a Greek New Testament, wouldn’t he understand Greek? Also, Tomson’s N.T. notes are based on Beza’s Latin translation and notes of his Greek N.T. In all probability, Oxford owned a copy of Beza’s Greek text of the New Testament, with his Latin translation of that text and extensive annotations. If so, Oxford would not be reliant on Tomson’s use of Beza’s notes.
Furthermore, per my recent essay “Assessment of Edward de Vere’s Genevan Bible,” I argued that de Vere’s Geneva Bible was not used as a workbook to write the plays based upon Shakespearean parallels of the Geneva Bible as provided by Shaheen(fn. 21) or other authorities. Therefore, it would stand to reason that de Vere’s own copy of either Beza’s Greek N.T. with Latin translation and notes and/or Tomson’s N.T. or any other version of the Bible would similarly not have been used as workbooks for gathering ideas for plays. They were, instead, part of the author’s devotional reading, traces of which found their way by literary osmosis into the plays.
In conclusion, based on the prior supporting evidence, Reedy may wish to further review the evidence before promoting his further attempts to discredit Oxford as a candidate for the authorship of the works of Shakespeare.
My sincerest thanks to Tom Reedy… Best wishes and keep up the great work!
My response to Tom’s post, January 31, 2013: “Tom, favor please, would you please post this info about the 1587 edition of the Geneva Bible on http://shake-speares-bible.com/bible-faq/ . I think this is an important fact which needs to be addressed. And I think it’s significance will eventually be “lost” on Amazon. Thanks very much for drawing my attention to this argument.”
(2) Minutes and Accounts of the Corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon and Other Records, 1553-1620, trans. Richard Savage, with Introduction and Notes by Edgar I. Fripp, Vol. III, 1926, p. xxxii (Introduction). My thanks to Tom Reedy for supplying a link to this book.
My response to Tom’s post, January 31, 2013: “Tom, favor please, would you please post this info on http://shake-speares-bible.com/bible-faq/ . I think this is an important fact which needs to be addressed. Thanks very much for drawing my attention to this argument.”
(7) Groves p. 115. Groves acknowledges R. A. L. Burnet, “Shakespeare and the Marginalia of the Geneva Bible,” Notes and Queries 26(2), April 1979, p. 113 for her statement. Per Burnet: “[A]s Professor E. P. Dickie has pointed out to me, words found in the margin [of the Geneva Bible] will not have circulated very readily nor become proverbial sayings. Shakespeare would not have heard these words either in church or in conversation; he could only have read them.” See essay text per fn. 5 for Tom Reedy’s duplication of Grove’s statement.
(11) Beatrice Groves, Texts and Traditions: Religion in Shakespeare 1592-1604, 2007, pp. 22-23. Groves acknowledges R. A. L. Burnet, “Shakespeare and the Marginalia of the Geneva Bible,” Notes and Queries 26(2), April 1979, p. 113 for her statement. Per Burnet: “[A]s Professor E. P. Dickie has pointed out to me, words found in the margin [of the Geneva Bible] will not have circulated very readily nor become proverbial sayings. Shakespeare would not have heard these words either in church or in conversation; he could only have read them.”
(17) Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn, This Star of England: “William Shake-speare” Man of the Renaissance, 1952, Chapter 8
(18) Noemi Magri, “Orazio v. Nelson,” The De Vere Society Newsletter, April 2006, p. 9
(19) Noemi Magri, English translation of the “Testimony of Orazio Cogno before the Venice Inquisition on August 27th, 1577” published in The De Vere Society Newsletter of Jan-Feb. 2002 per Shakespeare-Oxford Society website
(21) Assessment of Edward de Vere’s Genevan Bible, December 7, 2012