Monthly Archives: December 2020

Good Sweet Honey Lord

In a recent article for the De Vere Society newsletter, I explored John Davies of Hereford’s reference to Shake-speare in the notes of Microcosmos[1] which is formatted as:

In the article, I briefly noted that the interpretation of the W.S. as “William Shake-speare” seemed reasonable, but that the R B. may not have been intended to indicate another person (Richard Burbage, for example) since the letters are not punctuated the same way as the W.S.

If the periods punctuating W.S. indicate abbreviated words (here “William” and “Shake-speare”) then the B. would be an abbreviated word as well, while the R (without punctuation) would require a different interpretation.

I had wondered if the strange configuration might have been meant to be read

“William Shakespeare our Bee”

After last weekend’s virtual DVS meeting which included allusions to bees and drones and mention of the Alvearie text, I am wondering about this possibility again.

The interpretation of Davies’ note as “William Shake-speare our Bee” would coincide with other “sweet” allusions to Shakespeare.  In a 2018 article Katherine Chiljan provides a list of honey/sweet/sugary references to Shakespeare including:

“Lucrecia Sweet Shakspeare,” W. Covell, Polimanteia (1595); “Honeytongued Shakespeare,” Francis Meres, Palladis Tamia (1598); “Honeytong’d Shakespeare” and his characters’ “sug’red tongues,” John Weever, Epigrams in the oldest cut (1599); “And Shakespeare thou, whose honeyflowing vein,” Richard Barnfield, The Encomion of Lady Pecunia: or the praise of money (1598); “sweet Mr. Shakspeare” was said twice in The Return to Parnassus, Part 1 (c. 1599-1600); “Sweet Swan of Avon!,” Ben Jonson’s elegy to Shakespeare (First Folio, 1623)[2].

I would add to these a few more references of honey/bee-related titles that have been considered connected to Oxford;

Chettle’s “Melicert” who has a ‘honied muse[3],’

Nashe’s “Apis Lapis” (which is sometimes translated as “stone bull[4]” and could be translated as a “stone bee”) and

Spenser’s “Our Pleasant Willy”… “from whose pen /Large streames of honnie and sweete nectar flowe” and who is sitting in “idle cell.[5]” 

Additionally, Bugonia[6], a ritual based on the ancient belief that bees originated from the carcasses of oxen could play a part in this story since “our bee” (the name “William Shake-speare”) was metaphorically ‘born’ from Oxford’s ‘death’ when his own name was separated from his works.

Are there any other references to Shake-speare or Oxford missing from this mellifluous list?  Comment below.

[1] Jannsch, Heidi “John Davies of Hereford Identifies W.S. as Oxford in MicrocosmosDe Vere Society Newsletter, October 2020, pg 5

[2] Chiljan, Katherine “Why Was Edward de Vere Defamed on Stage—and His Death Unnoticed?” The Oxfordian, Volume 21, 2019, p 59

[3] Detobel, Robert, “Melicertus” Great Oxford, Parapress Ltd, 2004, p 223

[4] Barrell, Charles Wisner, The Dedication to Strange News (1592) Reprinted from the October 1944 issue of the Shakespeare Fellowship Quarterly

[5] Whittemore, Hank, “Our Pleasant Willy”

[6] Wikipedia contributors. “Bugonia.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Nov. 2020. Web. 15 Dec. 2020.

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