The Lover's Complaint
A Lover's Complaint is a narrative poem published as an appendix to the original edition of Shakespeare's sonnets. It is given the title 'A Lover's Complaint' in the book, which was published by Thomas Thorpe in 1609. Although published in a book of Shakespeare's work, the poem's authorship is a matter of critical debate.
Form and content 
The poem consists of forty-seven seven-line stanzas written in the rhyme royal (with the rhyme scheme ababbcc), a metre and structure identical to that of Shakespeare's poem The Rape of Lucrece. In the poem, the speaker sees a young woman weeping at the edge of a river, into which she throws torn-up letters, rings, and other tokens of love. An old man asks the reason for her sorrow, and she responds by telling him of a former lover who pursued, seduced, and finally abandoned her. She concludes her story by conceding that she would fall for the young man's false charms again:
- O that infected moisture of his eye,
- O that false fire which in his cheek so glow'd,
- O that forc'd thunder from his heart did fly,
- O that sad breath his spongy lungs bestow'd,
- O all that borrowed motion seemingly ow'd,
- Would yet again betray the fore-betray'd,
- And new pervert a reconciled maid!
Authorship debate 
Despite its appearance in the published collection of the sonnets, critics have often doubted attribution to Shakespeare. A Lover's Complaint contains many words and forms not found elsewhere in Shakespeare, including several archaisms and Latinisms, and is sometimes regarded as rhythmically and structurally awkward. Conversely, other critics have a high regard for the poem's quality – Edmond Malone called it 'beautiful' – and see thematic parallels to situations in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure. The poem can, along the lines of John Kerrigan in Motives of Woe, be regarded as an appropriate coda to the sonnets, with its narrative triangle of young woman, elderly man, and seductive suitor paralleling a similar triangle in the sonnets themselves. John Mackinnon Robertson published a study in 1917 claiming that George Chapman wrote the poem, as well as originating Timon of Athens. However, a scholarly consensus emerged in the 20th century that the poem was Shakespeare's, in particular in notable studies by Kenneth Muir, Eliot Slater and MacDonald P. Jackson.
Dissenting views 
An article by Marina Tarlinskaja "Who Did NOT Write A Lover's Complaint" in Shakespeare Yearbook 15, 2005, argues that the author of A Lover's Complaint was a still anonymous early Elizabethan poet, a follower of Spenser.
In 2007 Brian Vickers, in his monograph, Shakespeare, "A Lover's Complaint", and John Davies of Hereford, attributes the Complaint to John Davies. He details arguments for the non-Shakespearean nature of the poem and lists numerous verbal parallels between the Complaint and the known works of Davies: – such as 'What brest so cold that is not warmed heare' and 'What heart's so cold that is not set on fire'. On this evidence it was omitted from the 2007 RSC Complete Works, a decision which MacDonald P. Jackson calls a 'mistake' in his RES review of Vickers's book, arguing, among other reservations, that 'Evidence that, in poems undoubtedly his, Davies exhibits an intimacy with Shakespeare's works equal to that of the author of A Lover's Complaint is very meagre.' He rejoins also:
Had Vickers keyed in ‘spongy’, ‘outwardly’, and ‘physic’—trying the various possible original spellings and selecting instances of ‘physic’ as a verb—he would have found that in the whole of LION ["literature online" database], covering more than six centuries of English poetry, drama, and prose, four separate works contain all three words: Troilus and Cressida, Macbeth, Cymbeline, and A Lover's Complaint.
Harold Love, in his TLS review, has similar questions:
Vickers was led to Davies by the number of words from the 'Complaint' he found during a computer search of the invaluable LION archive; but any such investigation is bound to favour such a voluminous author against the less prolific or minimally preserved. In similar work on Restoration poets, I continually found parallels with the verse of Ned Ward for works that it was chronologically impossible for him to have written. The reasons were that, like Davies, he wrote a vast amount of verse and that his style had a chameleonlike quality that brought it close to the poetic mean of the time.
Reading between the lines 
||This article may contain original research. (February 2013)|
In 2009, David Ewald, in an unpublished paper entitled "Reading Between the Lines of Shake-speares Sonnets", discovered that there is one stanza that is not written in rhyme royal, as it has an 'aaaaabb' rhyming scheme, and it is the only stanza to end all seven of its lines with the same letter, that letter being the letter 'e'. There is also the final page heading, that occurs between the first and second lines of this stanza, that reads "THE LOVERS", which is a departure from the prior page headings: "A LOVERS". These obvious anomalies invited a more intense scrutiny of this stanza which led to the discovery that directly beneath and at the midpoint of the word 'levell' in the first line of the stanza That not a heart which in his levell came was the page indication letter 'L'. The definition of 'level' is: an imaginary line at right angles to the plumb line. The letter 'L' is an ideal representation of a right angle. Turning the page, to continue reading this stanza, as mentioned before, the altered heading 'THE LOVERS' is aligned directly above line two and the remainder of the stanza:
That not a heart which in his levell came, L2 Could ------------------------------------------------ THE LOVERS Could scape the haile of his all hurting ayme, Shewing faire Nature is both kinde and tame: And vaild in them did winne whom he would maime, Against the thing he sought, he would exclaime, When he most burnt in hart-wisht luxurie, He preacht pure maide,and praisd cold chastitie.
Further scrutiny discovered that the words 'heart which' in line 1 and 'hart-wisht' in line 6 sounded enough alike to warrant a closer inspection. This led to the discovery that the word 'hart' was aligned, through the page, with the word 'leaveld' in the line: Whose sightes till then were leaveld on my face, with the letters h-a-r-t aligned perfectly with the letters e-a-v-e as seen in this view of the 1609 imprint provided by the John Ryland's Library in Manchester, England: http://enriqueta.man.ac.uk:8180/luna/servlet/detail/Manchester~91~1~99134~105804;jsessionid=A9908FD6DCC1D515093A937D24C6374E?trs=4&qvq=q%3Ashakespeare+sonnets%3Bsort%3AReference_Number%2CImage_Sequence_Number%2CPage%2CTitle%3Blc%3AManchester%7E91%7E1&mi=2&cic=Manchester%7E91%7E1 (the shadows of the two 'l's in the word 'leaveld' can be seen in the space between the letter 'n' in the word 'in' and the letter 'h' in the word 'hart' and at the hyphen after the word 'hart'). It is of interest to note that this line also ends with the letter 'e'.
A line drawn along the vertical portion of the aforementioned page designation letter 'L' at the bottom of the page containing the first line of this stanza through the vertical portion of the letter 'L' in the page heading THE LOVERS on the following page passes precisely through the midpoint of the aforementioned words 'levell', 'hart' and 'leavel(d)', as well as through the midpoint of the longest line of this stanza: And vaild in them did winne whom he would maime,. This 'plumb' line is also perpendicular to the line: That not a heart which in his levell came. It is of interest to note that the spelling of 'heart' changed to 'hart' and 'levell' changed to 'leavel(d)' in order to accommodate this precise alignment.
At the bottom of the page of the John Ryland's Library copy, linked to above, is a handwritten inscription by an unknown author, that appears to be in a style comparable to the timeframe for when the Sonnets were printed. The inscription reads: Comendacons to my very kind and approved freind 2/3:M:/. A careful inspection of this inscription reveals that the author appears to have utilized the text on the reverse side of the page to align his writing with, as the two handwritten lines are parallel to the two lines above them. An even more interesting alignment occurs at the aforementioned vertical plumb line between the two letters 'L', where the author has created two bevels, one in each line, that are exactly centered on that 'plumb line'. The bevel in the top line begins at the letter 'd' in the word 'Comendacons', leads down to its angle point at the bottom of the letter 't' in the word 'to' (at the plumb line) and then leads back up to the letter 'v' in the word 'very'; the bevel in the bottom line begins at the letter 'o' in the word 'approved', leads down to the angle point in the page designation letter 'L' on the reverse side of the page (next to the letter 'f' in the word 'freind', at the plumb line) and then leads back up to the letter 'd' in the word 'freind'. These two bevels are too precisely constructed to be a coincidence or an accident. This observation makes the author of this inscription a person of critical significance.
These alignments suggest to the viewer that Shakespeare has utilized this common form of hidden messaging as a means to unlock many of the still unresolved mysteries that he presented in the Sonnets, such as the identity of the 'fair youth', the 'rival poet' and the 'dark lady' (the oft cited Penelope Rich is very distinctly hidden in the early Sonnets with much detail pertaining to her life, trial, death and mysterious burial).
See also "Sonnet 126", for another example of "reading between the lines".
The 1609 imprint of Shakespeare's Sonnets can be seen here at the Folger Shakespeare Library website (use thumbnails to navigate to desired view): http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/detail/FOLGERCM1~6~6~216628~113809?qvq=q:Call_Number=STC+22353;sort:Call_Number,MPSORTORDER1,CD_Title,Imprint;lc:FOLGERCM1~6~6&mi=6&trs=56
- Marina Tarlinskajam "Who Did NOT Write A Lover's Complaint", Shakespeare Yearbook 15, 2005.