When Shakespeare's Sonnets were published in 1609 a poem called A Lover's Complaint was included by the publisher, Thomas Thorpe, who was torious 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 rmal 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 can.
Brian Vickers is Distinguished Senior Fellow at the School of Advanced Study, London University.