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Shakespeare, 'A Lover's Complaint', and John Davies of Hereford
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  • Page extent: 342 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.63 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 821.3
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: PR2873.L68 V53 2007
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Shakespeare, William,--1564-1616.--Lover's complaint
    • Shakespeare, William,--1564-1616--Authorship
    • Davies, John,--1565?-1618--Authorship

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521859127)

When Shakespeare's Sonnets were published in 1609 a poem called A Lover's Complaint was included by the publisher, Thomas Thorpe, who was notorious for several irregular publications. Many scholars have doubted its authenticity, but recent editions of the Sonnets have accepted it as Shakespeare's work. Now Vickers, in this text, the first full study of the poem, shows it to be un-Shakespearian both in its language and in its attitude to women. It is awkwardly constructed and uses archaic Spenserian diction, including many unusual words that never occur in Shakespeare. It frequently repeats stock phrases and rhymes, distorts normal word order far more often and more clumsily than Shakespeare did, while its attitude to female frailty is moralizing and misogynistic. By close analysis Vickers attributes the poem to John Davies of Hereford (1565–1618), a famous calligrapher and writing-master who was also a prolific poet. Vickers' book will re-define the Shakespeare canon.

• Presents a strongly argued case on a contentious and controversial issue, attributing A Lover's Complaint to John Davies of Hereford • Includes the full text of A Lover's Complaint and an extensive bibliography of John Davies's poetry • Written in a lively and combative style


1. Thomas Thorpe and the 1609 Sonnets; Part I. Background: 2. John Davies of Hereford: a life of writing; 3. A Lover's Complaint and Spenserian pastoral; 4. 'Poore women's faults': narration and judgement in the Female Complaint; Part II. Foreground: 5. A poem anatomized: the rival claims: 1. Diction, 2. Rhetoric, 3. Metaphor; 4. Compositio; 5. Verse form; 6. A Lover's Complaint in Davies's canon: 1. Diction, 2. Rhetoric, 3. Metaphor, 4. Verse form; Appendix 1: the text of A Lover's Complaint; Appendix 2: John Davies, Uncollected Poems; Bibliography.


Review of the hardback: '… a brilliant piece of detective work by the scholar Brian Vickers has strongly suggested that ['A Lover's Complaint'] was actually by a Herefordshire writing-master and Shakespeare groupie called Sir John Davies.'

Review of the hardback: 'It's hardly possible not to be convinced (swept away even) by the thoroughness and passion of Vickers's argument. I'm happy to acknowledge myself a convert. … An invaluable section of the book demonstrates the degree to which Shakespeare's alleged linguistic innovations can be found all over the place in that 'remarkably fruitful period of linguistic expansion' in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.' Shakespeare Survey

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