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Leashing in the dogs of war: The influence of Lyly's Campaspe on Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well

    It is a commonplace of Shakespeare studies that the dramatist shows a recurrent interest in what soldiers do when they are not soldiering. In particular, the love interests of off-duty soldiers recur in the drama, and the contrast between fighting and lovemaking frequently denigrates the latter. In Campaspe John Lyly visited this topic before Shakespeare [SLIDE]:

HEPHESTION Is the warlike sound of drum and trump turned to the soft noise of lyre and lute, the neighing of barbed steeds, whose loudness filled the air with terror and whose breaths dimmed the sun with smoke, converted to delicate tunes and amorous glances? (2.2.40-5)1

Campaspe is set in Athens in 335 BCE between Alexander's destruction of Thebes and his invasion of Persia. Alexander falls in love and a major theme of Lyly's play is the tension between sexual desire and masculinity, expressed by Hephestion (Alexander's confidant) above and by Parmenio, one of Alexander's officers, who speaks of [SLIDE]

steeds furnished with footcloths of gold instead of saddles of steel . . . youths that were wont to carry devices of victory in their shields engrave now posies of love in their rings . . . . instead of sword and target to hazard their lives, use pen and paper to paint their loves. . . . the blowing of a horn to hunt [rather] than the sound of a trumpet to fight (4.3.6-27)

This exercise in antithesis is perhaps familiar because of its similarity to the opening soliloquy by [SLIDE] Shakespeare's Richard 3, which has the same peacetime alterations: "bruised arms hung up for monuments . . . stern alarums changed to merry meetings . . . dreadful marches to delightful measures" 1.1.6-82. What Lyly offers which Shakespeare withholds is the counter-argument. In a remarkable scene in Campaspe two ordinary soldiers, Milectus and Phrygius, come to agree with the prostitute Laïs that "you cannot conceive the pleasure of peace unless you despise the rudeness of war" (5.3.33-24.)

    In Shakespeare, opposition to military prowess usually comes from men too cowardly to fight, such as John Oldcastle/Falstaff in the Henry 4 plays and Parolles in All's Well that Ends Well. Since pacifism is unpopular, these characters also hypocritically extol their military prowess in over-compensation for their cowardice. But in All's Wells that Ends Well there is a new development running alongside this familiar trope: the perversion of values inherent in soldiering as an end in itself. [SLIDE] The major source for All's Well that Ends Well is Novel 38 "Gilletta of Narbona" in William Painter's The Palace of Pleasure (Painter 1566, Aa3r-Bb4v). If by accident [SLIDE] Shakespeare turned to Novel 28 (a Roman numeral "x" is easily dropped) Shakespeare would have read "Of the strau<n>ge & beastlie nature of Timon of Athenes, enemie to mankinde, with his death, buriall, and Epitaphe." (Painter 1566, P1v-P2v) The major source for Shakespeare's Timon of Athens was North's translation of Plutarch, but Painter's book must be a minor, supplementary, source since its unusual phrasing of Timon's epitaph appears in Shakespeare's play. The idea for Timon of Athens may have come to Shakespeare while preparing All's Well that Ends Well., and as background for Timon, Campaspe would have been entirely appropriate reading: both plays are set in ancient Athens where a court entourage (including a pet painter) develops around a patron of the arts and a snarling Cynic condemns it. In Campaspe Shakespeare would have found Lyly's failure to condemn Macedonian soldiers who find the soft life of peace rationally superior to war. The Florentine/Sienese war in All's Well is remarkably inconsequential and [SLIDE] from the king's words as he bids them farewell, it seems that some of the young French lord have joined one side ("Farewell, young lords. These warlike principles / Do not throw from you" 2.1.1-2) and some [SLIDE] have joined the other ("And you, my lords, farewell. / Share the advice betwixt you" 2.1.2-3). Naturally, then, these young men may well end up fighting one another, and this seems to have happened before [SLIDE]:

PAROLES You shall find in the regiment of the Spinii one Captain Spurio, with his cicatrice, an emblem of war, here on his sinister cheek. It was this very sword entrenched it. Say to him I live, and observe his reports for me. (2.1.40-4).

We have reason to doubt this claim--Shakespeare's choice of the name Spurio is an unsubtle hint--but Paroles's claim to once have fought a man who is now on the same side as these young Frenchmen must be plausible to those with whom he speaks. Shakespeare is careful to remind the audience that for the aristocratic men in this fictional world the choosing of sides has been and remains not a matter of political principle but rather a matter of whim. 

    Unlike any war in his other plays, Shakespeare's Florentine/Sienese war is unmotivated (as far as the audience can see) and is carried on by men without strong feelings about who wins. Janette Dillon observed that from 1599 Shakespeare's depiction of battles avoided attacks upon the "city walls" as represented by the tiring house facade and instead offered moments when the audience would expect such an attack, only to see a variation on the theme: Henry 5 talks, rather than fights, his way into Harfleur, and Caius Martius fights his way into Corioles only to be trapped alone as the city gates close behind him (Dillon 1999). Having moved away from a certain populist technique of staging war in 1599, All's Well that Ends Well shows Shakespeare removing depiction of a war altogether while focussing on its psychological implications. While Bertram is engaged in unmotivated killing in which one body is as good as another for the purpose of proving his prowess, Helen teaches him that in sexual relations one body may also be exchanged for another. In essence, his blindness to individuation rebounds on Bertram. The audience never again see the young Frenchmen who fight for the Sienese; they disappear from the play together with the ugly details of war. The only reported casualty of the war is the Duke of Siena's brother whom Bertram is reputed to have killed "with his own hand" (3.5.6). In a war so generally free of overt violence this duke is even more unlucky than the 4 English nobles who died alongside 25 English commoners killing 10,000 Frenchmen in Shakespeare's telling of the battle of Agincourt (Henry 5 4.8.80-106). The Florentine/Sienese war is the occasion for Bertram's military triumph, but no action is shown to the audience. The Sienese, their French supporters, and the war's casualties are not the only missing persons in All's Well that Ends Well. [SLIDE] The opening stage direction of 3.5 in the Folio text is "Enter old Widdow of Florence, her daughter Violenta and Mariana, with other Citizens" (Shakespeare 1968, AWW TLN 1602-5) which is odd since the Widow's daughter is named Diana in the subsequent dialogue. It is possible that Shakespeare meant "her daughter" and "Violenta" to be two separate characters, in which case the latter is technically a ghost character, having no dialogue and no part in the action. It might strain credulity to suggest that the absent violence of the play and the absent Violenta are related, but the parallel must be added to the striking list of correspondences between dramaturgical practicality and thematic concerns in the play.

    Two characters that modern editors normally reduce to First Lord Dumaine and Second Lord Dumaine have a confusing variety of speech prefixes in the Folio: "Cap[tain] E", "Lo[rd] E", "1 Lord E", "Fren[ch] E", "Fre[nch] G", "1 G", and "Cap[tain] G". These might be simply errors in the manuscript or in the printing of it, but if we suppose that the variations found in the Folio text might have stood in a manuscript used to run the play in performance, then both Lords Dumaine, [SLIDE] on separate occasions (Shakespeare 1968, AWW TLN 1993, 2227), play the enemy general holding Paroles prisoner. Paroles's inability to detect when one takes the place of the other resonates powerfully with Bertram's inability to differentiate between the bodies of Diana and Helen. Both instructive deceptions also resonate with the peculiarly arbitrary Florentine/Sienese war in which the young French lords are allowed to choose sides. Having found in Campaspe 5.3 a rational and dignified objection to war, Shakespeare, I suggest, decided to explore in All's Well that Ends Well the limits of soldiering undertaken for no good reason and to have the worst offender, Bertram, taught the importance of bodily individuation. In Campaspe 5.3 the two soldiers exit apparently to share one prostitute, and the two-bodies-for-one principle might easily have given Shakespeare the idea to teach Bertram his lesson via a body-swapping bed trick.

    In Lyly's play, the leaders Alexander and Hephestion, and their generals Clitus and Parmenio, fight to relieve a certain tension within themselves and such fighting is an end in itself. Lyly implicitly condemns this outlook by offering the pacific hedonism of Milectus and Phrygius, and by making Alexander merely an obstacle to the love of Apelles and Campaspe. From this Shakespeare, I think, got his inconsequential Sienese/Florentine war fought by young Frenchmen indifferent to the outcome (save for their own glorification) and thus indifferent to the identity of those against whom they fight. In All's Well that Ends Well the young men's indifference to sides is a manifestation of their indifference to particular bodies, and Bertram typifies this fault. The bed-trick in All's Well that Ends Well, as in Measure for Measure, is more than a plot device since the young man's inability to distinguish between the woman he wants and the woman he does not speaks also of his character. This fault is not solely personal however: it is shared by a group of young men and has an analogue in the practices of the playhouse since another kind of body-swapping inheres in theatrical performance. The doubling of roles necessitates a measured indifference to individual bodies on the part of the audience, and it is tempting to see in the disparate speech prefixes and contradictory stage directions of the Folio text of All's Well that Ends Well an attempt by Shakespeare to weave this idea into a playhouse document. In making an edition of All's Well that Ends Well an editor is obliged to rid the text of mere errors introduced by the dramatist or by those with whom he worked. One cannot help noticing, however, that the "errors" in the unimproved text advance the major theme of the drama and appropriately interweave an idea, a theatrical practice (doubling), and a document (the papers used as copy for the Folio) whose status somewhere between the textualization of an idea and a working theatrical tool remains one of the unsolved problems of textual bibliography.


1Lyly's Campaspe will be quoted from Lyly 1991.

2Except where indicated, quotations of Shakespeare will be from Shakespeare 1989.

Works Cited

Dillon, Janette. 1999. "Tiring-house Wall Scenes at the Globe: A Change in Style and Emphasis." Theatre Notebook. 53. 163-73.

Lyly, John. 1991. Campaspe and Sappho and Phao. Ed. G. K. Hunter and David Bevington. The Revels Plays. Manchester. Manchester University Press.

Painter, William. 1566. The Palace of Pleasure. London. [J. Kingston and] H. Denham for R. Tottell and W. Jones.

Shakespeare, William. 1968. The Norton Facsimile of the First Folio of Shakespeare. Ed. Charlton Hinman. New York. Norton.

Shakespeare, William. 1989. The Complete Works. Ed. Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett, and William Montgomery. Electronic edition prepared by William Montgomery and Lou Burnard. Oxford. Oxford University Press.