Monthly Archives: September 2018

Sogliardo – Part III : A Reflection of Poet Ape?

If Jonson was not just commenting on Shakspere in Every Man Out of His Humour, but also his network of associates in both London and Stratford, the coat of arms Jonson created for Sogliardo might have been intended as a comment on the entire corporation and Shakspere’s position within this group.  A closer look at the coat of arms that Jonson created for Sogliardo also presents some similarities with another of Jonson’s targets, the “Poet Ape.”

SOG.  Nay, I will have him, I am resolute for that.  By this parchment, gentlemen, I have been so toiled among the harrots yonder, you will not believe!  they do speak in the strangest language, and give a man the hardest terms for his money, that ever you knew. 

CAR.  But have you arms, have you arms?

SOG.  I’faith, I thank them; I can write myself gentleman now; here’s my patent, it cost me thirty pound, by this breath.

 PUNT.  A very fair coat, well charged, and full of armory.

SOG.  Nay, it has as much variety of colours in it, as you have seen a coat have; how like you the crest, sir?

PUNT.  I understand it not well, what is’t?

SOG.  Marry, sir, it is your boar without a head, rampant.  A boar without a head, that’s very rare!

CAR.  Ay, and rampant too!  troth, I commend the herald’s wit, he has  decyphered him well:  a swine without a head, without brain, wit, anything indeed, ramping to gentility.  You can blazon the rest, signior, can you not?

SOG.  O, ay, I have it in writing here of purpose; it cost me two shilling the tricking.

CAR.  Let’s hear, let’s hear.

 PUNT.  It is the most vile, foolish, absurd, palpable, and ridiculous

escutcheon that ever this eye survised. — Save you, good monsieur


CAR.  Silence, good knight; on, on.

 SOG.  [READS.]  “Gyrony of eight pieces; azure and gules; between   three plates, a chevron engrailed checquy, or, vert, and ermins; on a chief argent, between two ann’lets sable, a boar’s head, proper.”

 CAR.  How’s that!  on a chief argent?

 SOG.  [READS.] “On a chief argent, a boar’s head proper, between two ann’lets sable.”

 CAR.  ‘Slud, it’s a hog’s cheek and puddings in a pewter field, this.


 SOG.  How like you them, signior?

 PUNT.  Let the word be, ‘Not without mustard’: your crest is very rare, sir.

 CAR.  A frying-pan to the crest, had had no fellow.[1]

When examining the Sogliardo arms scene, the script is typically quoted with the lines shown here in bold dropped out and replaced by ellipses.  Doing this has resulted in much commentary focusing on the image of the ‘boar’s head on the silver platter’ and the social climbing “ramping to gentility” implication of the headless boar standing on its hind legs.  Jonson clearly intended the insulting connection of “boar” and “boor” and for readers to recognize that the shield (escutcheon) resembles motley, since Carlo had previously described it as such in Act III sc i:

PUNT.  …  When saw you signior Sogliardo? 

CAR.  I came from him but now; he is at the herald’s office yonder; he requested me to go afore, and take up a man or two for him in Paul’s, against his cognisance was ready. 

PUNT.  What, has he purchased arms, then? 

CAR.  Ay, and rare ones too; of as many colours as e’er you saw any fool’s coat in your life.

Much more attention has been given to ramping boar (the crest) than the elements in the escutcheon (or shield).  Arthur Nason in Heralds and Heraldry in Ben Jonson’s Plays, Masques and Entertainments provides a detailed explanation of the different parts of the achievement, defines the heraldry terms used by Jonson in this scene and includes an illustration of the arms tricked (drawn and marked with abbreviations indicating colors).[2]


In Ostovich’s edition of the play, the footnotes explain and attempt to interpret Jonson’s design. It is noted that “the gyrony, or lower two thirds of the escutheon’s field, is divided into eight triangles, meeting at the center and alternating in tincture, blue and red.”  Ostovich suggests “the colours provide a satiric commentary on Sogliardo’s social ambition; blue (azure), the heraldic symbol or power, honour, and wisdom, was commonly the colour worn by servants in the sixteenth century; red (gules) was usually associated with gallant courtiers, not bumpkins.” The plates or “roundels argent” are explained to be “circular silver charges, each marking the corner of the lower field; the chevron (one of the nine features of a coat of arms) is shaped like an inverted letter V, and the editor quotes Peacham’s explanation that chevrons represent ‘the rafter of a house.  Howbeit it be a very honorable bearing, yet it is never seen in the coat of a King or Prince because it pertaineth to a mechanicall profession.’[3]  Finally, Ostovich notes that “Sogliardo’s chevron is engrailed checky, or divided by curving lines marking small squares of alternating tinctures, like a chess board, but in three colours; or, the heraldic metal gold, vert, the heraldic colour green; and ermines, heraldic fur, black with white spots.  They signify a travesty of gentlemanly quality in Sogliardo’s nouveau-riche vulgarity; sick or ‘humorous’ appetites and poor judgement (judges and peers wear ermine as a sign of authority).” [4]

Considering the design of Sogliardo’s coat of arms after examining the Stratford Corporation evidence in the previous post, three points from this explanation are of particular interest.  Like the ‘boar without a head, rampant’ that is given as the crest, the checkey with three colors instead of two (as seems to be the traditional display of checkey) does not appear to be a regular usage.  There is already a motley design with the red and blue gyronny, so the addition of the chevron, engrailed (wavy edged) results in a “behind this motley curtain there is even more motley” effect when the escutcheon is colored in.


The motley appearance is appropriate since Sogliardo is presented as being a fool in the play, so the “double motley” design could be piling insult upon insult, but there is an important point about all this motley that has not been considered: it is made from cloth.[5] If readers are meant to interpret this design as motley, then its identification with cloth goes hand in hand.  It is known that the Stratford Corporation members were involved in cloth/clothing related money matters and one researcher even referred to the members of the Quiney family as part of the “mercery mafia.”[6]  Sogliardo is both being identified as foolish and as being associated with cloth at the same time.  As Ostovich points out, part of the design is not associated with full robes of ermine, worn by judges and peers, but small bits of fur, tacked together with a patchwork of other bits and pieces.

Another important detail of the escutcheon that is strangely not commented on by Ostovich (or her source, Nason) are the roundels.  The ‘roundels argent’ are the silver discs, referred to in heraldry as “plates.” The reader’s association of the plates with the hogshead and puddings joke have limited the interpretation of ‘plates’ to the tableware definition.  However, gold roundels (called bezants) and silver roundels (called plates) were commonly used in heraldry to signify money.  In an armory guide written by John Bossewell in 1572 a shield is described:[7]

Here in thys field, Azure is to be sene, five Plates in crosse, These are to be taken for perfecte money & good, although they be not signed or stamped with the image or style of any prince, and although they bee not so marked, yet they are money, and ought to be so called.”

In his 1946 article “The Three Golden Balls of the Pawnbrokers,” Raymond De Roover suggests that the pawnbroker sign originated from heraldry, where roundels were arranged in the same manner seen in Sogliardo’s shield:

“…it is quite certain that the sign of the three balls is not of recent date.  It is found in old prints picturing pawnshops and most probably back to the Middle Ages.  In those times, heraldry was a living art whose symbolism was understood by the common people.  In heraldry, money is often represented by balls or disks, especially of gold or silver.  It is, therefore not surprising that the pawnbrokers adopted a sign with balls, since these were the symbols of money and were associated in the public mind with banking and other forms of money-lending.  Three balls were probably chosen because in heraldry three is the most common number of charges on the escutcheon.[8]

The author included the arms of the Pawnbrokers of Great Britain, which shows a similar layout; sable, a chevron or, between three bezants.   Although silver and not gold, the three plates on Sogliardo’s arms are placed in the same arrangement De Roover describes.


Ostovich’s quote from Peacham’s explanation that chevrons represent ‘the rafter of a house’ and  ‘pertaineth to a mechanicall profession’[9] can be seen in an 1596 engraving by Benjamin Wright[10] now in the Folger Library, which depicts the arms of the ‘Cheife corporatons [sic] of England.’ A segment of the engraving is included here, and of the fifteen livery companies shown in this segment, ten share a layout similar to Sogliardo’s (____on a chevron between three____)


Section of Wright’s ‘The armes of all the cheife corporatons [sic] of England’ – 1596
 Row 1  – Carpenters, Shoemakers, Painters, Curriers, Masons
Row 2 –  Cookes, Coopers, Bricklayers, Bowyers, Fletchers
Row 3  – Scriveners, Bottlemakers and Horners, Stationers, Marblers, Woolpackers

Of the 60 companies shown on Wright’s entire engraving, twenty of them share the layout shown on Sogliardo’s shield; a chevron surrounded by three “tools of the trade.” These “tools” are not necessarily three identical objects, but three tools or products related to the company or ‘corporation.’  For example, the coat of arms for Bowyers are described as “Sable, on a chevron Or between three floats argent as many pierced mullets of the field,” Carpenters’ as “Argent, a chevron engrailed between three pairs of compasses sable” and Fletchers’ as “Sable, a chevron between three broad – arrows Or, headed and flighted argent.”[11]



Of course, the arms of the livery companies are not the only escutcheons that use a chevron design: the shape of the chevron naturally leaves space for three charges arranged with two above and one centered below, but the connections between the Stratford Corporation topics and situations shared by the characters in his play indicate that Jonson may have had this particular corporation in mind while he was writing the play.  The arms Jonson created equated Sogliardo, not with illustrious families, but with tradesmen like those in the London Corporations. Jonson’s opinions of Shakspere as the undeserving, boorish head of the “family” are made clear in the characterization of Sogliardo.

In the configuration of Sogliardo’s arms, Jonson has introduced the motley/fabric design in the gyronny, intensified it with the tri-colored checkey chevron and surrounded it with silver coins.  Interpretations of this design could be a fool with money, a foolish moneylender, and/or someone who makes money from dealing/ pawn brokering with fabric/clothing.  These interpretations fit with the Stratford Corporation communications with Richard Quiney about Shakspere at the time Jonson was writing the play; their interests focus on cloth and clothing and their interactions with Shakspere exemplify that he was understood to be a source of money for these interests.

Placing this design underneath a boar’s head ‘in chief between two annulets sable,’ could be a display of the role in the group Shakspere had, as use of a chief in heraldry was understood to acknowledge the bearer as the ‘head’ of a group.[12]  The arrangement of the boar’s head between two rings also results in a pillory effect visually.  Skewering Shakspere in the portrayal of Sogliardo was one way of doling out punishment; ‘granting’ him a coat of arms that reinforces Shakspere’s position as the ‘top fool’ of his ‘company,’ the Stratford Corporation, would reinforce this intent.

Viewed in this light, Sogliardo’s arms present a visual representation of another jab Jonson took at Shakspere: his poem “On Poet-Ape.”  Comparable imagery and terminology are used by Jonson in this sonnet:

On Poet-Ape

Poor Poet-Ape, that would be thought our chief,

   Whose works are e’en the frippery of wit,

From brokage is become so bold a thief,

   As we, the robb’d, leave rage, and pity it.

At first he made low shifts, would pick and glean,

   Buy the reversion of old plays; now grown

To a little wealth, and credit in the scene,

   He takes up all, makes each man’s wit his own:

And, told of this, he slights it.  Tut, such crimes

   The sluggish gaping auditor devours;

He marks not whose ‘twas first: and after-times

   May judge it to be his, as well as ours.

Fool!  as if half eyes will not know a fleece

   From locks of wool, or shreds from the whole piece?

poetapechart (2)

Sogliardo’s trip to the herald’s office to gain arms is mentioned five times in Every Man Out of His Humour; twice by Carlo, once by Fungoso and twice by Sogliardo. [14]  Jonson made it clear that he was intentionally leading up to the presentation of the arms and created them with a specific message in mind.  Since ‘On Poet Ape’ reflects the same sentiments about a specific person and uses similar imagery and phrasing, it seems likely that Jonson had the same subject in mind when writing both pieces.



[1] Jonson, Ben, Every Man out of His Humour,

[2] Nason, Arthur Huntington, Heralds and Heraldry in Ben Jonson’s Plays, Masques and Entertainments, New York City, 1907

[3] Jonson, Ben, Every Man Out of His Humour, ed Ostovich, Helen, Manchester and New York, 2001 (Peacham, The Gentleman’s Exercise (1634) cited in Nason 96.

[4] Ostovich 232 – citing Nason 24, 94 and Linthicum, p 41.

[5] The term Jonson actually uses in the play is “a fool’s coat” but this phrase is defined as “the motley coat of a fool or buffoon,” and “motley” as “Cloth woven from threads of two or more colours; a piece of this cloth. In early quots. evidently a fine fabric, but often used in the 16th and 17th centuries for a coarse cloth.”

[6] Germaine Greer, “His Daughter Judith and the Quineys”, The Shakespeare Circle, Cambridge University Press 2015

[7] Bossewell, John, VVorkes of armorie deuyded into three bookes, entituled, the concordes of armorie, the armorie of honor, and of coates and creastes, collected and gathered by Iohn Bossewell Gentleman. Third Book, page 7.  See also Legh, Gerard, Accedens of armory.  150

[8] de Roover, Raymond, “The Three Golden Balls of the Pawnbrokers” Business History Review, 1946, vol. 20, issue 04, 117-124

[9] The Gentleman’s Exercise is dated 1634.  This postdates the play but Bossewell’s work, listed above, also  includes the following: The Frenche call thys signe a Cheueron.* In Latyne it is called Signum capitale, & Tignus, or Tignum, in Englishe it is a rafter of an house, which beareth the roofe: and of vs Northerne men, it is called a Sparre, or Sparres, of others the barge coples. The whiche signes by all likelyhode were firste borne of carpenters, and makers of houses:for an house is neuer made perfecte, till these coples be put vpon it, by the maner of an heade: and two suche ioyned together, make a capitall signe: that is to saye in yenortherne tongue a cople of sparres.

[10] Wright, Benjamin, The armes of all the cheife corporatons [sic] of England wt. the companees of London described by letters for ther seuerall collores, EEBO STC (2nd ed.) / 26018

[11] Heraldry of the World:

[12] Guillam, John, A Display of Heraldry, 1610 “And as the head is the chiefe part in a man, so the chiefe in the Escocheon should be a reward of such onely, whose high merits have procured them chiefe place, esteeme, or love amongst men.” 45

[14] Lines in EMOOHH regarding Sogliardo’s acquiring arms:

Act I, sc ii – Carlo to Sogliardo :

I’ll bring you where you shall ha’ your choice for the money.

Act II sc i – Sogliardo to Fungoso:

You shall ha’ me at the herald’s office, sir, for some week or so, at my first coming up.

Act II, sc ii – Fungoso to Fallace:

Sister, if anyone ask for mine uncle Sogliardo, they shall ha’ him at the heralds’ office yonder by Paul’s.

Act III sc i – Carlo to Puntarvolo:

I came from him but now.  He is at the herald’s office yonder.

Act III sc i – Sogliardo:

By this parchment, gentlemen, I have been so toiled among the harrots yonder, you will not believe.

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