Willobie His Avisa




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The titlepage of Willobie His Avisa is an accomplished engraving and is the work of the English engraver William Rogers The illustration has multiple references to cuckoldry .Note the two cherubs that are pointing to the Stag Antlers. Stag Antlers were an Elizabethan symbol of cuckoldry. . In addition a crescent moon is seen behind the stags head. This is a double allusion to cuckoldry both stag antlers and the crescent moon are traditional symbols of cuckoldry .This title page also has inappropriate references to classical mythology on the left flank is The goddess Athena ( The Virgin godess of war wisdom and poetry) identified by the owl at her feet and on the right flank Diana identified by the crescent moon on her head.( The virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon) . The "Virgin" Diana appears to be distinctly matronly and heavily pregnant this is an indication that cuckoldry / female immorality are central themes of Willobie his Avisa. Philip Sidney linked a non virginal depiction of Diana to Penelope Rich. The Poet Henry Constable knew of this linkage and named his book Diana. Constables work of Diana contains a short sonnet sequence written for Penelope Rich. The fact that supposedly chaste goddesses are being depicted as being immoral means we need to be very suspicious of anyone else in this book who claims to be chaste notably Avisa herself. William Rogers was the leading English engraver of the Elizabethan era, and made personal portraits of the queen. The fact that a top publisher and illustrator have been employed is clear evidence that Willobie His Avisa is not a harmless university student prank or a low quality phamphlet .The lower oval portion shows a woman bathing and a man with stag antlers this is a scene from Artemis and Actaeon. The opposition of a chaste Pallas Athena with an immoral Venus is a direct reference to the text of the book. Avisa was made up of a group of chaste and unchaste Goddesses. The most revealing feature of the title page is the Biblical quote that appears on it it states " A virtous woman is the crown of her husband but she who makes him ashamed is as corruption in his bones " - the rest of this quotation reads "He that is plagued with a bad wife is as miserable as if he were on a dunghill ". This is a remarkable quotation considering that Willobie His Avisa claims to be a celebration of a chaste wife. It is of vital importance that nowhere on the title page does the name Henry Willobie appear as being the formal author of this work. This immediately casts severe doubts on Henry Willobie being the real author of this work.
Posted on October 3, 2010 Full Size| Slideshow