From a Shakespeare authorship perspective, the most interesting thing about Emulo is that although he is widely known as a poet, in reality he “can neither write nor read.” Since I believe that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon had enough grammar school education behind him to write the apocryphal plays, if Emulo is a lampoon of William, he is overdrawn for comic effect or plausible deniability.
Here’s the key scene of interest.
After Emulo has a falling out with Sir Owen over a woman, he issues a challenge to a duel, although the duel never occurs. Several other characters, Farneze, Rice, and Urcenze, discuss the situation.
… did not Emulo write a challenge to Sir Owen?
No, he sent a terrible one, he gave a sexton of a church a groat to write it, and he set his mark to it, for the gull can neither write nor read.
Ha, ha! not write and read? Why I have seen him pull out a bundle of sonnets written, and read them to ladies.
He got them by heart, Urcenze, and so deceiv’d the poor souls, as a gallant whom I know cozens others; for my brisk spangled baby will come into a stationers shop, call for a stool and a cushion, and then asking for some Greek poet, to him he falls, and there he grumbles God knows what; but I’ll be sworn he knows not so much as one character of the tongue
Why then, it’s Greek to him.
Ha, ha! Emulo not write and read?
Not a letter and you would hang him.
Then he’ll never be saved by his book.
No, nor by his good works, for he’ll do none. Signiors both, I commend you to the skies, I commit you to God. Adieu.
The following cluster of traits defines Emulo’s character type. The lampoon is so specific and detailed that he seems clearly meant to lampoon one or two men from the period. Not every detail need be exact, since these satirical portraits were deliberately blurred, with two men satirized under one name or deliberately contradictory elements added to provide plausible deniability. Many other portraits of the "foolish social climber who sought to be known as a talented poet, despite having little native ability" can be found in the literature of the period. Emulo reminds me in particular of Anaides from Ben Jonson's 1599 play Cynthia's Revels, composed the same year as Patient Grissel.
Emulo's traits. An imitator, emulator, copier. Proud of being a gentleman. Prone to saying “sweet lady” and “sweet sir.” A fool. A gull. Speaks in malapropisms. Pretends to know Greek but can’t read a word of the language. Obsessed with clothes and fashion. A shameless liar. Pretends to have written sonnets that he didn’t write. Wealthy (his fancy wrought velvet hat cost 9-10 pounds). Wears a fancy wrought hat. Proud of his well-shaped legs. A social snob. A coward in a quarrel. Accused of not being able to read or write. Accused of using a sexton or clerk to write out a challenge on his behalf. Called a “hobbyhorse,” a frivolous or foolish fellow. Tries to use Italianate language, but has no real knowledge or appreciation of Italy. A tobacco smoker. Looks down on scholars. A dandy. Lacks a social conscience; does no good works. Uses outlandish language such as compliment and projects, and fastidious, and capricious, and misprision, and the sintheresis of the soul, and such like raise velvet terms. Blushes at nothing. Rides pretty and well.
More examples of fraudulent Elizabethan poets to come...they're surprisingly easy to find!