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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

“…as no delay Of PREFACE BROOKING…”: Milton’s Satanic allusion to the PREFACE of BROOKE’s Romeus & Juliet

I have a followup to my earlier post about the acrostic SATAN that Brooke hid in Romeus & Juliet, and which Shakespeare hid in Romeo & Juliet, and which Milton hid  in Paradise Lost.

But first a recap of the basic details:

There is a perfect acrostic of the name "SATAN" right in the middle of the speech by Friar Laurence as he successfully cajoles Juliet to drink the Elizabethan Kool-Aid. In the stranger than fiction category, this SATAN acrostic was actually discovered and noted a century ago! But it was in a tiny footnote, by William Stone Booth, a Baconian obsessive (and member of the famous Booth family, of theatrical fame and assassinatory infamy), in a book filled with Byzantinely geometric supposed variations on the name (Francis) “Bacon”, whom Booth believed was Shakespeare in disguise. So, Booth passed right by Friar Laurence’s acrostic SATAN it in order to get to what Booth thought was ‘the good stuff’, and I only found his footnote because I had already independently rediscovered Shakespeare’s SATAN myself—and here it is:

S  hall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death:
A  nd in this borrow'd likeness of shrunk death
T  hou shalt continue two and forty hours,
A  nd then awake as from a pleasant sleep.
N  ow, when the bridegroom in the morning comes

The perfect “SATAN” acrostic in the passage from Paradise Lost was discovered in 1977 by Prof. Paul Klemp, then a young graduate student, whom I have been in touch with since last year, and who has endured 38 years of skepticism from smug Miltonian scholarly colleagues, who have danced on the heads of pins angsting over whether it was intentional on Milton’s part or not, and also as to what it might have meant, in a poem in which Satan is the protagonist. (Really?????)

S    cipio the highth of Rome. With tract oblique     
A    t first, as one who sought access, but feard
T    o interrupt, side-long he works his way.
A    s when a Ship by Skilful Stearsman wrought
N    igh Rivers mouth or Foreland, where the Wind

But the strongest proof of all, that both Shakespeare and Milton wrote their respective SATAN acrostics intentionally, is that there are in Brooke’s poem not one but two SATAN acrostics which are both perfect, one going down, one coming up, like snakes "touching tails" where they meet--  the tails being the letters “AN” which begin consecutive lines---exactly like the line beginning with “AN” in the middle of Shakespeare’s famous TitANia acrostic. Those 2 touching SATAN acrostics in that passage from Brooke’s poem could never in a million million million years occur by coincidence in a scene so strongly parallel thematically to both Shakespeare’s and Milton’s:

S   ooner or later than it should, or else, not work at all?
A   nd then my CRAFT descried as open as the day,
T    he people's tale and laughing-stock shall I remain for aye."
"AN  d what know I," quoth she, "if SERPENTS odious,

AN   d other beasts and worms that are of nature VENOMOUS,
T    hat wonted are to LURK in DARK caves underground,
A    nd commonly, as I have heard, in dead men's tombs are found,
S     hall harm me, yea or nay, where I shall lie as dead?                  END QUOTE

In the aftermath of posting the above summary, I myself couldn’t stop wondering about one loose end.  I was 100% certain from the above textual evidence that (1) Shakespeare’s SATAN acrostic was intended by Shakespeare to allude to Brooke’s SATAN twin acrostics; and (2) Milton’s SATAN acrostic was intended by Milton to allude to Shakespeare’s SATAN acrostic. However, it seemed by no means certain that Milton’s SATAN acrostic was also intended to allude to Brooke’s SATAN twin acrostics.  After all, perhaps Milton had never read or even heard of Brooke’s forgettable 1562 poem? Even though Brooke’s  “masterpiece” had been republished in 1587, shortly before Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, Brooke’s poem doesn’t seem to have been republished or mentioned in print  any time during the latter half of the 17th century, when Milton composed his masterpiece.

But…then again, Milton was indisputably one of the greatest literary scholars of all time, with an encyclopedic knowledge of all literature, both ancient and contemporary to him. Therefore, while he could still read with his own eyes, he must have had one hell (ha ha) of a personal library to draw upon, supplementing his seeming photographic memory, in order to embed the truly Joycean number of literary and historical allusions he scattered everywhere in Paradise Lost.

And finally…it is also well known that Milton’s knowledge of, and interest in, Shakespeare in particular was comprehensive. Milton would have been extremely interested in Shakespeare’s sources, particularly in THE source for Romeo and Juliet, the very play which inspired Milton to write his SATAN acrostic, and which also (as has been noted by Milton scholars) was a key source for his earlier poem Comus.

So, recognizing in Milton an author who embedded a literary puzzle like his SATAN acrostic in Paradise Lost, I had another hunch I hoped would also turn out lucky. I wondered if there might be another passage or two somewhere in Paradise Lost which would have pointed, in code, specifically to Brooke’s poem?  

I first checked my files on acrostics in Paradise Lost (“SATAN” is only one of a number which have been identified, by others and by myself), but, alas, I found no indication of an acrostic on the name “BROOKE” in Paradise Lost.  But I ‘m stubborn, so I kept digging. What if Milton had been more brazen, and had hidden a reference to Brooke horizontally in his epic poem, instead of with a vertical acrostic? I.e. what if he had hidden the reference via some sort of pun on Brooke’s name?  Two common meanings came immediately to mind---a “brook” as a noun meaning “a narrow country stream”, and “to brook” as a verb meaning “to tolerate”.

And sure enough, when I searched PL for the word “brook”, I struck the punny mother lode! There were only four variants of the word “brook” in PL, and the first and fourth referred to a stream, and were not very interesting. But the first two both appear in Book 8, the very same Book 8 where the SATAN acrostic appears, and both use “brook” as a verb.

But, more telling, the first of the two appears a mere 139 lines after the end of Milton’s SATAN acrostic, in a poem in excess of ten thousand lines in length (i.e., EXTREMELY near)! And, Milton’s “brook” is not randomly proximate to his SATAN, they both appears in the same crucial episode in the poem’s narrative as his SATAN acrostic----in the enactment of Satan’s temptation of Eve!

Recall that the SATAN acrostic you read, above, occurs as Milton describes Satan’s highly erotic seduction of Eve’s eye with his graceful, serpentine, phallic shape. Now, here, 139 lines later, is a passage in which SATAN has now progressed to the second stage of his seduction, via his intoxicating oratory. So, without further ado, here is the first of Milton’s two verbal “brooks”:

  …[Eve] scarse had said, though brief, when now more bold
  The Tempter, but with shew of Zeale and Love
  To Man, and indignation at his wrong,
  New part puts on, and as to passion mov'd,
  Fluctuats disturbd, yet comely, and in act
  Rais'd, as of som great matter to begin.
  As when of old som Orator renound
  In Athens or free ROME, where Eloquence  
  Flourishd, since mute, to som great cause addrest,
  Stood in himself collected, while each part,
  Motion, each act won audience ere the tongue,
  Somtimes in HIGHTH began, as no delay   
  Of PREFACE BROOKING through his Zeal of Right.
  So standing, moving, or to HIGHTH upgrown
  The Tempter all impassiond thus began….

I don’t have to tell you how unique a phrase “of preface brooking” is—but what’s noteworthy is that the PREFACE to BROOKE’s poem has long been recognized by Shakespeare scholars interested in the enigmatic character of Friar Laurence as presenting a contradictory picture of the gardening Friar to that depicted in Brooke’s poem. I.e., while Brooke’s Friar Laurence in the poem seems to be a good man whose well intentioned plans go terribly awry, check out how Brooke describes Friar Laurence and Juliet’s Nurse in his Preface---you don’t need to see either one’s name to identify the “drunken gossip” and the “superstitious friar” Brooke is talking about:

“…So, to like effect, by sundry means the good man's example biddeth men to be good, and the evil man's mischief warneth men not to be evil. To this good end serve all ill ends of ill beginnings.  And to this end, good Reader, is this tragical matter written, to describe unto thee a couple of unfortunate lovers, thrilling themselves to unhonest desire; neglecting the authority and advice of parents and friends; conferring  their principal counsels with DRUNKEN GOSSIPS AND SUPERSTITIOUS  FRIARS (THE NATURALLY FIT INSTRUMENTS OF UNCHASTITY); attempting all adventures of peril for th' attaining of THEIR WISHED LUST; USING AURICULAR CONFESSION THE KEY OF WHOREDOM AND TREASON, for furtherance of their purpose; ABUSING the honourable name of LAWFUL marriage to cloak the shame of stolen contracts; finally by all means of UNHONEST life hasting to most unhappy death. This precedent, good Reader, shall be to thee, as the slaves of Lacedemon, oppressed with excess of drink, deformed and altered from likeness of men both in mind and use of body, were to the freeborn children, so shewed to them by their parents, to th' intent to raise in them an HATEFUL LOATHING of so FILTHY BEASTLINESS….”

Ouch! It’s pretty clear that Brooke is saying, in so many words, that Friar Laurence is Satan, an immoral beast who leads Juliet into whoredom and unchastity. And so, for Milton to allude both to Shakespeare’s and Brooke’s SATAN acrostics is to say that Milton totally got what his predecessors were both saying, in code, and he used their Friar Laurences as a major allusive source for his Satan.

And as if that weren’t enough evidence by itself to demonstrate that Milton tagged Brooke’s Preface with the phrase “of preface booking”, Milton added two other major hints in that short passage which tagged his own SATAN acrostic 139 lines earlier---he uses the word “highth” in the lines which immediately precede and follow the line with “of preface booking”; and for good measure Milton also refers to ROME (as in ROME-O) in that latter passage, a word which (surprisingly) Milton only used three times in all of Paradise Lost, and one of the other two was….you guessed it!—smack in the middle of his own SATAN acrostic, in the phrase “Scipio the HIGHTH of ROME”! So, Milton really made sure that anyone who recognized the “Brooke” in “brooking” would instantly find corroboration there that this was not imaginary, it was a real clue left by Milton.

But you’ll also want to see Milton’s other verbal “brook”, in the lines which end Book 8, as Adam answers Eve’s accusation that he failed to guard her strongly enough from temptation. Note that Adam rues that Eve “will not brook” restraint by him, just as Satan’s zeal to instantly reach the “highth” of rhetoric would not brook a warm-up “preface”:

And am I now upbraided, as the cause
  Of thy transgressing? not enough severe,
  It seems, in thy restraint: what could I more?
  I warn'd thee, I admonish'd thee, foretold
  The danger, and the lurking Enemie
  That lay in wait; beyond this had bin force,
  And force upon free Will hath here no place.
  But confidence then bore thee on, secure
  Either to meet no danger, or to finde
  Matter of glorious trial; and perhaps
  I also err'd in overmuch admiring
  What seemd in thee so perfet, that I thought
  No evil durst attempt thee, but I rue
  That errour now, which is become my crime,
  And thou th' accuser. Thus it shall befall
  Him who to worth in Women overtrusting
  Lets her Will rule; restraint she will not BROOK,
  And left to her self, if evil thence ensue,
  Shee first his weak indulgence will accuse.
  Thus they in mutual accusation spent
  The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning
  And of thir vain contest appeer'd no end.

As I noted in my first post, there are so many implications which ripple from my discovery of this triple SATAN connection from 1562 to 1597 to 1667. I conclude, for now, by pointing out that all of the above is news to the worlds of both Shakespearean and Miltonian scholarship, which have heretofore been highly skeptical of claims of such coding in the works of both of those literary titans. So, if you like what you’ve read, above, please help me spread the word. Just send people who might be interested the link to this post, shown below!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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