Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 August 2022
In Edward III (performed c.1592 and printed anonymously in 1596), King Edward attempts to seduce the married Countess of Salisbury by employing Lodwick, his secretary, to compose a love lyric for her. We see Lodwick writing this poem with ‘pen, ink and paper’ on stage.1 This ghost-writing arrangement replicates a practice that occurred off stage at this time: in 1596, Thomas Nashe admitted that he similarly ‘prostitute[d] [his] pen in hope of gaine’ by writing ‘amorous Villanellas and Quipassas’ for various ‘Galiardos, and Senior Fantasticos’.2 In the play, however, Lodwick is not a very obliging poet (intentionally, we suspect). He composes only two lines, reconstructed here from his interrupted delivery: ‘More fair and chaste than is the queen of shades, / More bold in constancy … than Judith was … ’ (2.333–5). Edward is unimpressed: ‘I thank thee then thou hast done little ill, / But what is done is passing, passing ill’ (2.340–1). His criticism of Lodwick’s lines is twofold. He takes issue with their content, which encourages the Countess’s resistance rather than surrender. But he also objects to their poetic quality and weak comparisons: ‘Compar’st thou her to the pale queen of night, / Who being set in dark seems therefore light?’ (2.309–10).