WHAT'S in a name? petulantly asks Juliet. The answer is, as every student of the subject knows: In some names, little or nothing, in others, possibly a great deal. The latter alternative seems to be the case with the name of our most distinguished English poet. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as to-day, the word "Shakespeare" unquestionably suggested to the mind of every one what its two syllabic elements so clearly indicate -- military prowess. But the suggestion was then far more obvious than now, for the age was nearer to chivalry, and the phrase "the shaking of the spear" was almost a commonplace as expressing the doughtiness of warriors. Layamon, in his Brut, represents the valiant British earls as leaping upon their horses and thus defying the Roman hosts:
Heo scaeken on heore honden speren swithe stronge.
The English rendering of Job, xli, 29, takes the form: "He laugheth at the shaking of the spear."John Marston, in Histriomastix ( 1598), writes humorously:
When he shakes his furious spear,
The foe in shivering, fearful sort
May lay him down in death to snort;
and John Davies of Hereford, in Humour's Heau'n on Earth ( 1609), exclaims: