Contents © Copyright Maria-Luisa Minio-Paluello, 2005|
view of the personal allusion to Ralegh, it is reasonable to expect that an eclipse of the Queen's favour may be the real cause (as in 1589) - or a convenient excuse - for Ralegh's absence from the court, i.e. his taking away of all water (Water).
This interpretation would also explain away an apparent contradiction regarding a question of dates: the line in which the justification for the Thames drought is given (i.e. the eclipse) seems to point to the past, while the first mention of that event 543-45) places it at the time of writing. McKerrow finds Sol's justification "unsatisfactory" and suggests that the lack of consistency may be the result of a revision imperfectly carried out at a later date. This is not impossible, yet, if we consider that the mention of the drying up of the Thames refers not only to the drought of 1592, but also to Ralegh's departures from Court (and of these, there is one in 1592 and at least another one in 1589), the reference to the past in Sol's explanation is perfectly consistent, especially in view of the episode of 1589 which was really caused by the Queen's sudden preference for Essex. The past "eclipse" represented therefore a good card for Ralegh to play now that he was the one to be accused of lack of love.
The next, and last, allusion comes from Summer, whose speech offers still another clue with reference to a presumably well-known episode of Ralegh's career at court. Sol had said before, in typical Ralegh style:
"That I have done, you gave me leave to doe." (508)Sol insists on the fact that it is Cynthia who allows or forbids; it is Cynthia who rules, and she is the driving force behind his power. Summer replies:
"A bare coniecture, builded on perhaps:Cornelius Agrippa tells this story about Pythagoras, but it can hardly be referred to Sol as the sun: Ralegh instead is involved in an example of writing on glass similar to this. The episode is related by Fuller, who says that Ralegh, coming to court, "found some hopes of the Queen's favour reflected upon him, this made him write in a glass window, obvious to the Queen's eye,
Fain would I climb, yet I fear to fallHer majesty, either espying or being shown it, did underwrite:
If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all1.The queen's reaction and her reply was covertly an encouraging sign: Ralegh was then a young unknown captain, and the fact that the Queen noticed his gesture and took up his challenge was no mean sign of recognition. After this he was certainly entitled to rely on her encouragement and referring to those words in the Queen's own handwriting maintain:
"Faire Cynthia, perswades you this and that." (574),as Summer says. This story, made-to-measure to represent Ralegh's first step towards the Queen, and her first move towards him, whether true or fictitious, was certainly well-known in London circles, and recognisable to the audience of Summers Last Will and Testament as a reference to Sir Walter Ralegh.
I am aware that some of the evidence which I use for my demonstration is not based on positive historical truth. Some of my considerations are based on court gossip, on rumours, on exaggerations, on real causes and ostensible ones. But I have deliberately used all the information I could find, without discriminating between facts and rumours or legend, on the assumption that what has reached us through report, whether true or partly true, is what Nashe and Nashe's audience knew, and thought, at Croydon in 1592; their own knowledge was probably based more often on gossip than the facts.
There is little doubt, I think, that the person "shadowed under this two leg'd Sunne" is Sir Walter Ralegh. References to events in his life and characteristics of his personality that were of common knowledge cram the comparatively short episode (136 lines in all, from l.444 to l.582), and there are very few passages which cannot, as yet, be explained as references to Ralegh.
We have no other evidence as to what degree, or what kind, of personal acquaintance, if any, there was between Nashe and Ralegh.
From the present allusion, however, we gather that Nashe must have had feelings of admiration or possibly affection, or gratitude, towards Sir Walter Ralegh. Nashe gave him a very prominent place in his play, because Sol is the principal and the most accomplished of his Characters of Life. Ralegh, in his disgrace, needed friends, and I think that the allusion to him in Summers Last Will and Testament was intended to win for him the favour of the Archbishop, who was a very good friend of the Queen, with the hope that he might try to appease her resentment towards the former favourite.
1. T. FULLER, History of the Worthies of England, Lndon, 1840, vol. I, p. 419
Contents © Copyright Maria-Luisa Minio-Paluello, 2005. The copyright of this thesis belongs to the author under the terms of the United Kingdom Copyright Acts. Due acknowledgement must always be made of the use of any material contained in, or derived from, this thesis.