Plagiarism and Ghostwriting Behind “Shakespeare’s” Passionate Pilgrim (1599)

All modern poets are likely to have been inspired to write poetry by reading “Shakespeare’s” verse. If such poets have been following news about “Shakespearean” attribution, they should have a few questions that cloud this inspiration. Were these “greatest” poems of all time (given the 4 billion “Shakespeare” books in circulation) actually written by an actor without a formal education? Are the hushed arguments regarding plagiarism in Passionate Pilgrim indicating that the most beloved poet stole his work from others? The linguistic, structural, biographical and other types of analysis in my British Renaissance Re-Attribution and Modernization series (BRRAM: answers these questions correctly with a purely fact-based approach for the first time. BRRAM re-attributes all of the tested 303 texts with 123 different bylines to only six linguistic signatures, each of which represents a single author or ghostwriter (or somebody professionally writing under multiple pseudonyms). Passionate’s poems were assigned to a single byline in the first edition because they were all indeed created by a single author. But this author was not “Shakespeare”, but rather William Byrd, the holder of Elizabeth I’s music and poetry publishing monopoly. Byrd happened to also publish most of these same poems under other bylines, including using his own byline for “O, God, But God How Dare I Name That Name”. 

“Shakespeare” attribution scholarship has managed to either too readily trust or distrust previously assigned bylines. Scholars unquestioningly trust “Shakespeare” bylines for plays that were published for the first time or were anonymous before appearing in the 1623 Folio (seven years after Shakespeare’s death). They also trust bylines in the earliest “Shakespeare”-assigned texts, Venus and Adonis (1593: Sylvester) and Rape of Lucrece (1594: Harvey), where the “Shakespeare”-byline appeared only in their two dedications to Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, while these books title-pages were anonymous: indicating that only the dedications had been assigned to “Shakespeare.” But there is scholarly distrust of the 1663-4 Third Folio; it added some additional plays to the “Shakespeare” byline (for a total of 43 plays) that had not been in the 1623 Folio, but had been published under the “Shakespeare” or “W. S.” byline during “Shakespeare’s” lifetime. Alexander Pope’s 1723-5 edition (on grounds of literary preference) subtracted the plays that the Third Folio had added (leaving only 36), and the subtracted plays have been considered as apocrypha since. Given these attribution absurdities, it is less surprising that The Passionate Pilgrim “By W. Shakespeare” (as stated on its title-page) is generally considered to include only five poems that were actually by “Shakespeare”, while the remaining fifteen poems are dismissed as non-“Shakespearean” apocrypha. 

The trusted as “Shakespearean” five poems (1, 2, 3, 5 and 16) are: two sonnets that were later self-plagiarized in the 1609 Sonnets collection (Sonnet 138: “When My Love Swears That She Is Made of Truth” in Sonnets was Sonnet 1 in Passionate; and Sonnet 144: “Two Loves I Have of Comfort and Despair” was Sonnet 2 in Passionate), and three poems a year earlier had appeared in the self-plagiarizing “W. Shakespere”-bylined and William Percy-ghostwritten edition of Love’s Labors Lost (1598: Percy). The three sonnets in Love’s were all read out of a book in that play by characters: Sonnet 3 was read by Longaville in Act IV, Scene 3; 5 was read by Sir Nathaniel in Act IV, Scene 2; and 16 was read by Dumain in Act IV, Scene 3. There is perhaps only one read sonnet in Love’s that was not reprinted in Passionate: “So Sweet a Kiss the Golden Sun Gives Not”, which Ferdinand reads in Act IV, Scene 3. By having these characters read these sonnets, the author (Percy) is blatantly citing that they are the work of a different author (Byrd) in a manuscript being read-from.

4-5 of the excluded from Passionate for being non-“Shakespearean” poems are those that were plagiarized under other bylines during “Shakespeare’s” lifetime. 2 of the excluded poems were merely published in multi-bylined collections anonymously. 8 poems are simply excluded because some critics have previously judged them to be stylistically non-“Shakespearean”. And 4 of the poems in this latter category of un-plagiarized poems include those that describe the love story between Venus and Adonis (4: “young Adonis”; 6: “Adon”; 9: “Adon”; 11: “Venus with Adonis”), echoing but not plagiarizing the seemingly “Shakespeare”-assigned Venus and Adonis poetry collection. 

Printing abnormalities were introduced in the 1612 third edition of Passionate, which was printed by William Jaggard. This edition added two epistles between Helen and Paris, and seven poems about the Greek wars. Like the second edition, the third edition survives in or initially only had two printed copies. Oddly, the third edition is really two different editions, as one of the copies is anonymous, while the second one includes the “Shakespeare”-byline on the title-page. This second version of the third edition was obviously printed in response to “Thomas Heywood’s” accusation that same year in An Apology for Actors (1612), which objected that the 1612 edition of Passionate “offended” by adding “two Epistles of Paris to Helen, and Helen to Paris” from “Heywood’s” Troia Britannica (1608/9: Percy) without permission or the inclusion of “Heywood’s” byline on these two fragments. In other words, the new poems that were added to this third edition were also plagiarized under other bylines; only in this case the “authors” who was affected by these re-attributions filed a published complaint regarding such piratical misconduct. Percy ghostwrote all of the tested texts under the “Heywood”-byline, so it was obviously Percy or his ghostwriting-contractor (Heywood) who was outraged that one of his pseudonyms was being implicated in a plagiarism. There were few such complaints for any bylines during the Renaissance because the Workshop was involved in too many fraudulent activities to debate any one case of plagiarism between them in court. Proof that Percy was not seriously objecting to this single plagiarism among so many others is in the fact that the 1640 edition of Shakespeare’s Poems reprints the “Heywood” poems in Passionate without any credit to “Heywood”; after Verstegan died in 1640, Percy was the only living ghostwriter from the Workshop, so if he objected to this assignment, he would have obviously had the power to alter the bylines. Percy also appears to have betrayed the satirical nature of his objections to “Shakespearean” plagiarism when he ghostwrote under the “Heywood”-byline Rape of Lucrece: A True Roman Tragedy (1608), as if sarcastically plagiarizing the plotline of Harvey’s “Shakespeare”-prefaced and poetic version of Lucrece.

The poems in Passionate that were also blatantly plagiarized under other bylines include 8 and 20 that were reprinted in “Richard Barnfield’s” The Encomion of Lady Pecunia: Or, The Praise of Money in Poems: In Diverse Humors (1598); the 1605 edition of this work deleted the two poems that had been plagiarized in Passionate. And 11 was reprinted in “Bartholomew Griffin’s” Fidessa (1596); this is also one of the sonnet with the Adonis theme; and lines 7-12 are different in the “Griffin” and “Shakespeare” versions. 

And Sonnets 16, 17, 19 and 20 were reprinted in England’s Helicon (1600) under different bylines. Two of these included “Passionate” in their added new titles, thus semi-citing Passionate as their original source. And three of them are grouped together in a consecutive cluster in England’s. This cluster begins in England’s with the “W. Shakespeare”-bylined “16: On a Day, Sadly, the Day”, which is titled as, “The Passionate Shepherd’s Song”. It is answered by the “Ignoto”-bylined “17: My Flocks Feed Not”, which is renamed as “The Unknown Shepherd’s Complaint”. And 17 was also previously published in the “Thomas Weelkes”-bylined Madrigals to 3-6 Voices (1597). Next in this trio is another “Ignoto”-bylined “20: As It Fell Upon a Day”, which is named as “Another from the Same Shepherds”. 20 was first-printed in “Barnfield’s” Poems, in Diverse Humors (1598). In a different part of England’s, the “Chr. Marlow”-bylined “19: Come Live with Me” is named as, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”, and it is expanded by a few stanzas. The “Ignoto” byline has been used by scholars to add several poems to “Raleigh’s” credit; but awkwardly, instead, out of this cluster with two “Ignoto”-bylined poems, it is instead the “Marlowe”-bylined 19 that has been re-assigned by some scholars to “Raleigh”, though not this entire poem, but rather only the extended version of Passionate’s “Lover’s Answer”, which is called in England’s “The Nymph’s Reply”. This “Reply” was first assigned to “Raleigh” in Izaak Walton’s The Complete Angler (1653). This lovers’ exchange formula originates in part from an exchange or a “risposte” in Italian between Guarini’s “Ardo Si, Ma Non T’amo” (“I Burn, Yes, But I Do Not Love You”), which was answered by Tasso’s “Ardi e Gela a Tua Voglia” (“I Burn and Freeze at Will”) in an anthology called Sdegnosi Ardori, or, Disdainful Ardors (1585); Guarini’s stanza was afterwards set to music by 28 different composers. The “Marlowe”/“Raleigh”-assigned “Come Live” and “Nymph’s Reply” is an example of a riposte in English; other examples include Byrd’s self-attributed question “And Think Ye Nymphs to Scorn at Love?” and response “Love Is a Fit of Pleasure” (1589). And “Farmer” wrote “Lady, My Flame Still Burning” and the response “Sweet Lord, Your Flame” (1599), while “Michael East” is credited with “Be Nimble, Quick, Away!” and the response, “No Haste But Good, Yet Stay!” (1619). Meanwhile, the one poem that is missing from this otherwise consecutive 16-20 cluster of re-prints in England’s is 18, which had instead been previously published in the “Willobie”-bylined Avisa (1594).

Other plagiarisms that have been less commented-on are the reprints of these sonnets with musical settings under other bylines: the “John Dowland”-bylined settings for “Praise Blindness’ Eyes” in the Second Book (1600) and “My Heart and Tongue Were Twins” in A Pilgrim’s Solace (1612), the “John Daniel”-bylined “Like the Lute Delights” in Songs for the Lute, Viol and Voice (1606), the “Daniel Batchelar”-bylined “To Plead My Faith” in the “Dowland”-edited Musical Banquet (1610), William Byrd’s “O, God, But God How Dare I Name That Name” that was included in Philip Brett’s edition of The Collected Works of William Byrd, Volume 15 (1970), and in an anonymous ayre in British Library Add. MS 15117.

Scholars have been blaming this widespread pirating in Passionate as the “worthless wares” of Jaggard, as its profiteering publisher who had stolen a few sonnets out of Love’s without “Shakespeare’s” permission. But the fact that the characters in Love’s read these sonnets indicates that it was “Shakespeare” (the dramatist) who was stealing verse out of a poetry collection, such as Passionate, from their poet. There is around as much hacked ghostwriting and plagiarism in Passionate as in the other poetry books in the Byrd-group discussed across the Comparative Study of Byrd Songsanthology in BRRAM. The distinction is that Passionate has been scrutinize by numerous scholars because of the continuing popularity of “Shakespeare” as the world’s top best-selling “author”. 

The most commonly used explanation scholars, such as Donatella Pallotti, have used for shifting blame on Jaggard is that he profited from exploited “Shakespeare’s” popularity that had been achieved by the preceding poetry collections, Venus and Adonis and Lucrece. This perspective shows the bias of modern scholars, who are perceiving “Shakespeare” through the lens of his modern fame, instead of by acknowledging the absolute obscurity of this byline during these early years. One approach to proving the error of this perspective is by considering Folger’s data on how many copies are known to exist for the first seven editions of Venus: a single copy for the first 1593 edition, six copies for its second 1594 edition, one copy of the third 1595 edition, two copies of the fourth 1596 edition, and one copy of the fifth and one copy of the sixth 1599 editions, and one copy of the seventh 1602 edition. The creation of each of these editions would have involved the added cost of re-typesetting at least the title-page, if not also other parts of the text. And if only a single copy of these editions sold, it would have been an absolute loss for its printers, unless its reprints were sponsored by the author. Far from being popular, the “Shakespeare” byline would have been deliberately used for its obscurity to avoid the public’s notice in a heavily plagiarizing collection such as Passionate. A likely scenario is that around ten copies were printed of Venus in its initial printing, and then booksellers kept taking off its outdated title-pages and replacing them with those that offered later publication dates to make it appear to be a new publication (and thus more appealing to buyers). 

Passionate’s title-page describes this book as “printed for W. Jaggard”, with “W. Leake” named as the bookseller. Most Renaissance books list a printer or a bookseller or both of these. And relatively few list “for” whom the book was printed. And most books that do include a “for” credit might also include a printer, but not also a bookseller; for example: “printed by John Kingston for Richard Adams”. This is because the “for” credit typically appears to be referring to the bookseller. Some specify this as a fact, as in: “Printed for Humphrey Moseley, and are to be sold at his Shop, at the Prince’s Arms in St. Paul’s Churchyard, 1657.” If, in Passionate’s case, the “for” credit is referring to a publisher, this really indicates that Juggard was the sponsor who invested or paid money up-front to the ghostwriter (i.e., Byrd under the “Shakespeare” pseudonym) and for the printing and other publishing costs of the book. If this case had gone to court, Juggard would have had a similar complaint to the one issued by “George Eastland” against “East” over the pirated sales of “John Dowland’s” (1563-1626?) Second Book of Songs or Airs (1600); since the reprint of otherwise bylined pieces in and out of Passionate was a form of piracy as well. It did not end up going to court because with only two copies of the full second 1599 edition surviving, Juggard would have made a relatively small investment to bring this book into print. And if “Juggard” was used as Byrd’s publishing pseudonym, he could have self-sponsored this publication as a subversive claim to the authorship of poems he had or planned to sell to various contractors, without any anticipation of sales for this particular two-copy print-run of Passionate

Overall, Passionate magnifies the problems of self-plagiarism across the Byrd-group to an extreme degree. Arthur Humphreys describes Passionate as a precursor for later poetry anthologies, such as England’s and The Golden Treasury. The precedent Passionate really set was that Byrd, or his publisher could remix his poems and music and reissue it not only in single-byline collections, but also in multi-bylined collections that could confuse potential researchers in a crowd of editorial re-assignments. 

Modern poets who have felt as if achieving the literary heights of “Shakespearean” writing is beyond their grasp can be reassured by these findings. Byrd was just another ghostwriter, who was selling and re-selling his poems to as many contractors, patrons and publishers as he or his contacts could access. He was writing under the time constraints of his day-job of performing as a Court musician. Yet despite the pull of fiscal interests, he managed to create some brilliant verse that sounded sweet under whichever byline it echoed. With all the tools at our modern disposal (i.e., rhyming dictionaries, thesauruses), we can all exceed the linguistic and structural precedents Byrd set. The lucky ones among us can write truly original verse: free from plagiarism, and unencumbered by having to sell it to contracted byline-holders. And those of us who must resort to ghostwriting for a living can be reassured that this is the oldest English capitalist profession.  


Anna Faktorovich

Anna Faktorovich, Ph.D.: is the Founder, Director, Designer and Editor-in-Chief of the Anaphora Literary Press, which has published over 300 titles in non-fiction, fiction and poetry.

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