Predictive Value of the Theory


Part of what made the theory compelling to me was its predictive ability, as demonstrated by certain “predictions” that it made after I first proposed it to myself.  By the time you read this, of course, the “predictions” will merely be part of the theory, and thus you won’t exactly share the sense of “confirmation” that I did when they “came true.”  Nevertheless, reading through this will help you understand one of the reasons why I believe the theory is probably correct.


A.        Five Predictions That Came True in Measure for Measure


1.  The Great Soldier Frederick 


Early on, when I realized (along with other scholars) that Angelo could have been named for a coin, and Isabella for a monarch, I wondered whether Mariana might be named for Juan de Mariana, the anti-debasement writer.  At the time, I believed Mariana’s work first appeared in 1609 – five years after the play – and that the name was likely just a coincidence. 


But given the interaction between the coin and Mariana – Mariana’s saving the coin from  debasement and marrying him at the end of the play – I thought it might be worth taking another look.  My first thought was to see if I could connect the two identifying features of Mariana – the great soldier and the moated grange – to Juan de Mariana, about whom I knew only two things – that he was Spanish and a Jesuit.


The theory thus predicted that Frederick was a Spaniard or Jesuit who died at sea.  I checked Spaniards first, by plugging the name “Federigo” and something to indicate death at sea into Google.  This led me to Federigo Spinola (or de Spinola, or Federico di Spinola), who died at sea in 1603, and whose life and death would have been well-known and of great interest to Shakespeare and his audience, as Spinola operated a fleet of galleys for many years that harried shipping in the English Channel, and which, it was feared, would play a role in yet another Spanish Armada. A Wikipedia entry (for his brother Ambrosio) even goes so far as to describe Federigo as having "distinguished himself greatly as a soldier in Flanders."


I later found sources, esp. Stradling, which seemed to draw a straight line from Spinola to Mariana, in that Mariana was an outspoken advocate of privateering in the 1590s, and Spinola was Spain’s most successful (de facto) privateer during that period.  Some quotes from Stradling are provided in the Federigo Spinola document.


I have not found any other Frederick – soldier, Jesuit or otherwise – who died at sea at any time in history (although Frederick Barbarossa did drown while bathing in or crossing a river in 1190, and has been proposed as the “great soldier”).  Given that Federigo died in May 1603, it seems almost certain that “the Great Soldier Frederick” refers to him.  If Shakespeare did not intend an association, he would have picked a name that wasn’t associated with someone known to the audience who had recently died at sea.


So:  the theory predicted a Spanish Frederick, and voila, a perfect match arises, and no other Frederick is even possible.


How does one assess the significance of this “prediction”?  It’s like having a theory that explains A B C and D, and also predicts E.  If E turns out to be true, that supports the theory.  It doesn’t prove it – E could have arisen by sheer coincidence –  but it testifies to its predictive power.


Now of course this “find” started with the hypothesis that Mariana was Juan de Mariana.  But suppose we hadn’t made that hypothesis, and had nevertheless discovered the recent death at sea of Spinola.  As above, even without the Mariana hypothesis it seems clear that “Frederick” refers to Spinola.  But doesn’t this now force us to consider “who” Mariana is supposed to be?  Someone or something connected to Spinola.  Is there a better candidate than Juan de Mariana?


2.         The Moat on the Grange 


Let’s start by noting that a “moated grange at Saint Luke’s” is a strange concept.  The word “grange” has its roots in "grain" and can be a “granary,” but it seems very odd to put a moat around a granary, much less have Mariana living there. In the Arden edition of Measure for Measure, J.D. Lever says "usually, country house; but in conjunction with 'Saint Luke's' probably 'an outlying farmhouse belonging to a religious establishment'" (quoting OED 2.b). This quotation is incomplete, as OED 2.b reads in full: "An outlying farm-house with barns etc. belonging to a religious establishment or feudal lord where crops and tithes in kind were stored." While moated farmhouses were not uncommon in Elizabethan England, the OED's "farmhouse" definition of "grange" seems to include not just the farmhouse but the associated barns (granaries), and thus might not readily be surrounded by a moat.

Regardless where exactly the character Mariana lived, the theory predicted that the designation "moated grange" could be associated with Juan de Mariana. I hoped that the connection could be made through one of the two things that I knew about him – the facts that he was Spanish and a Jesuit.


The ease with which Jesuits can be connected with a "grange" was quite satisfying: the most notorious Jesuit of Shakespeare’s time – Edmund Campion – was captured at a place called "Lyford Grange."


It seemed to me at this point that any Catholics in the audience would have known of Lyford Grange (it might have even been a holy place to them).  Protestants would have known of it too, although they might have had opposite associations.  So if the “grange” in Measure for Measure referred to a real place (as we just saw that Frederick referred to a real person), then perhaps it was Lyford Grange.


            At this point, the theory “predicted” that Lyford Grange had a moat.


            It wasn’t until some time later that I was able to get my hands on a copy of Evelyn Waugh’s book on Campion, and discovered – as predicted and as expected – that it did indeed have a moat.

            Thus, the connection between Mariana and Juan de Mariana converges with the contention of a significant number of Shakespeare scholars -- including Stephen Greenblatt, in Will in the World -- that Shakespeare himself might have known Campion (while under the name William Shakeshafte) and been in his company just months before Campion’s capture at Lyford Grange. While neither the Juan de Mariana theory nor the Shakeshafte theory depend on this convergence for viability, the theories are clearly mutually reinforcing.


3.         The Closing in of the Dates


            My initial research led me to believe that Mariana’s work on debasement was first published in 1609, 5 years after the first performance of Measure for Measure.  The theory predicted that somehow Mariana’s views were known 5 years before the 1609 date, and sure enough, I soon found a source saying that the work was published as a chapter of Mariana’s De Rege book in 1599, and that Mariana had published De Ponderibus et Mensuris (an as-yet-untranslated treatise on weights, measures and coinage) in the same year.  Although subsequent research has caused me to question whether the 1599 De Rege truly contained the chapter on debasement, it is clear that the 1605 De Rege did. The date has thus “closed in” to within a year of the required date of 1604 and in fact the publication of De Ponderibus in 1599 shows at a minimum that Mariana must have had an interest in the issue, which is sure to have intensified as a result of the debasements initiated by Philip III in that very year. This “closing in” of the dates was predicted by the theory, but, of course, we still have not validated the ultimate prediction – that Mariana’s views were known a year before this first clearly established publication.


4.         The Spanish Connection to Shakespeare


Putting aside the date problem for the moment, the theory also predicted that there was a way for Shakespeare to hear of Mariana’s views, possibly even before their publication.


            Long after I had written the article, and after it was debated on, I learned that Shakespeare had spent 18 days waiting on and presumably getting to know a variety of the prominent Spaniards who made up the Spanish Peace Delegation at Somerset House in August 1604.  This access to Spanish thought was predicted by the theory.  “Armado” (whose views are thoroughly addressed elsewhere on this website) – apparently unaware of the Shakespeare-Spain connection –  thought that such access was highly unlikely, given that Spain was “on the other side of the Renaissance World” and ridiculed the idea as requiring Mariana’s views to fly to England “on the wings of a dove.”  And yet the theory predicted the access before I learned of it, and the facts subsequently fell into place.


5.         The Shakespeare Connection to Mariana


As above, the theory does predict that Shakespeare had access to Mariana’s views on debasement.  That prediction has not yet “come true”, but an intriguing fact has come to light.  A year prior to the Somerset Peace Conference, Pedro Mantuan (or Mantuano), secretary to the Constable of Castile, who would be the Spanish Ambassador at the 1604 delegation, wrote a book at the Constable’s direction critical of Mariana’s History of Spain.  While I have not been able to confirm that Mantuan attended the delegation, much less that he spoke with Shakespeare and conveyed Mariana’s views on debasement to him at Somerset House, the fact that this man had written a book about Mariana shows that Mariana was a controversial figure among prominent Spaniards, and might have been an interesting topic of conversation among the underlings at the delegation.


B.        Three Predictions That Came True in Hamlet


1.         Shakespeare’s “Coinage”


In developing the Hamlet theory, my initial insight was merely that the “picture in little” line was a better line if it was understood to refer to coins, not actual pictures.  Get it?  Claudius’s picture in little – like the picture of the monarch on a coin.  Given that there was no real evidence elsewhere in the play that Claudius was popular (which would otherwise seem to be the point of Hamlet’s bemoaning the fact that people are paying large amounts for his miniature portrait), it seems better to read this line as a sarcastic commentary on one of the indignities that are heaped upon the people when an undeserving monarch takes the reigns of power – they are forced to use his “picture in little” on a daily basis, in commerce.   Moreover, it seemed to me that the image of people going out and paying 20, 40, 100 ducats for a miniature portrait was a bit odd if trying to convey something about Claudius’s popularity – why not just say that everyone is wearing his “picture in little”?  On the other hand, if 20, 40, 100 could be seen as denominations, the line made more sense.


            But the concept of a 100 ducat coin raises the question of just how large such a coin would be.  I did considerable research on ducats and Shakespeare’s use of the word “ducat” and found that many of the continental countries used “ducats” as currency, but that the value of a “ducat” varied from country to country (although the Venetian ducat was something of a "gold standard" for many centuries).  Shakespeare tended to use ducat in a notional sense, but several scholars put the value of a Shakespeare “ducat” at at least a shilling.  This would make a 100-ducat coin quite large, and in fact the first actual 100-ducat coins that I’ve been able to identify were issued in 1621 in Poland and in 1629 by the Holy Roman Empire (and these are both very large coins), more than two decades after Hamlet.


            The coin size issue led to the hypothesis that Claudius had debased the coinage, which would neatly explain the high denominations, with a glance over toward Scotland, where debasements over the years had resulted in a coinage that included 20 pound coins.  While a 20 pound denomination would have been unthinkable in terms of English currency, it was probably encountered from time to time by English merchants (foreign coins circulated in England, with their value set by their precious metal content). 


            I had engaged in the above conjecturing prior to looking closely through the play for more references to pictures or coins.  When I turned my attention to the rest of the play, I found that scholars were in disagreement about how to stage the  “two pictures” presentation in the queen’s closet scene.  Hypothesizing that these pictures were coins, and that Claudius’s coin was debased, the “picture” fell nicely into place, with the “counterfeit presentment” line, and the notion that a “mildewed ear” more likely described a debased coin than some physical feature of the seemingly charming Claudius.  One could say at this point that the theory “predicted” a confirming reference to coins.  And sure enough, later in that same scene, the Queen tells Hamlet that the vision of the ghost is “the very coinage of your brain.”


2.         Claudius the Debaser


The debasement theory also predicted that Emperor Claudius of Rome had debased the Roman coinage.  My initial attempts to confirm this yielded nothing; modern books about Roman coinage generally state that the Roman coinage only slipped into debasement under Claudius’s successor Nero.  While Nero was certainly a Claudian emperor ("Claudius Nero"), this was a less than wholly satisfactory connection.  Some time later, again from a modern text, I learned that Claudius’s coinage in Britain had been widely counterfeited.  But this was still not completely satisfactory, since it doesn’t really associate Emperor Claudius with the evil of debasement.  It was only when looking at an older book on coinage that I learned that the “counterfeit” Claudius coins were only deemed to be counterfeits in the last 100 years; prior to that, it had been assumed that Claudius had severely debased his British coinage. This would have been the governing assumption in Shakespeare’s day.  Thus, the “prediction” that Emperor Claudius was a debaser came true.


3.         Renaissance Numismatists


This focus on coinage led to the “prediction” that Shakespeare and his audience were familiar with ancient coins.  This prediction was confirmed by the reference to an ancient coin in Love’s Labour’s Lost, as well as by numerous books attesting to the popularity of coin collecting in the Renaissance.