Shakespeare, the “Sailor Man”

In her book, “Shakespeare’s Imagery” (Cambridge University Press, 1935) the author Caroline Spurgeon highlights the predominant topics found in Shakespeare’s plays and poetry and she compares the incidents of these topics in the work of other playwrights and poets, in particular Christopher Marlowe, Sir Francis Bacon, Thomas Dekker, Phillip Massinger and Ben Jonson in the 16th century. I suspect Caroline Spurgeon’s ulterior motive in writing this book is to resolve the “Shakespeare Authorship Controversy” by eliminating certain viable alternative candidates and strengthening or reinforcing the Stratfordian case for the wool merchant William Shakspere as a poet and playwright. For some unknown reason she does not include the plays and poetry attributed to Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, who is considered the most likely author of the Shakespeare canon by the De Vere Society and their Oxfordian academics in the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship. Amongst the main topics or categories are Imagination, the Arts, Learning, Daily Life, the Human Body, Domestic Affairs, and Animals and Nature which are further broken down with either personifications or analogies such as those found in the seasons, animals, weather, celestial bodies, sports and games, religion, foreign affairs, military activity, food and drink, illness, sea, ships etc. But her taxonomic and analytical approach is only worthy of interest when we breakdown the work of Shakespeare into the underlying themes and influences that define “William Shakespeare’s Personality”. Now I have already made a comparative study of “Sir Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere” who both had the aristocratic background, the means, the motivation and necessary connections to the court of Queen Elizabeth to be authors of a canon of poetry and drama. A good deal of these themes were listed by the Oxfordian author and academic, Thomas J. Looney (See “Looney’s Revelations”) who identified the major influences that define or constitute the playwright’s “modus operandi”, such as his preoccupation with Greek and Roman History, Astrology and Cosmology, the Supernatural Shakespeare, Alchemical Symbolism, Magic and Witchcraft, Pagan Folklore, Sea-Faring, Horticulture, the Commedia d’elle Arte, Herbs and Medicine, Anatomy, Heraldry, Foreign Places, Military Affairs, Occult Science, Greek and Roman Poetry and Drama. There is also of course the Psychological and Philosophical dimension in the study of the human condition, an interest and knowledge of English Feudal History and numerous Sporting Pursuits such as fencing, tennis, hunting, falconry, bowls, hare-coursing, and horsemanship. What Caroline Spurgeon attempts to do is set Shakespeare’s personality into a purely Anglo-Saxon agrarian, rural landscape, a context that satisfies and reinforces the Stratfordian hypotheses of a middle-class farmer’s lad (See “Dick Whittington & William Shakspere”). In that sense she ignores the possibility that Shakespeare could have been an aristocrat given all the feudal signatures embedded in his text, in particular the History Plays. But Caroline Spurgeon’s analysis similarly contains a significant emphasis and section on Sea-Faring, Sea and Ships as well as the Celestial Bodies (See “Shakespeare’s Cosmology”). On the subject of Sea-Manship and ocean navigation Shakespeare seems to be extremely prolific, knowledgeable and accurate according to L. G. Carr Laughton who writes in “Shakespeare’s England” as follows:

“It has been generally conceded that Shakespeare’s references to the sea and to sea-life are, almost without exception, accurate. Inasmuch he had no known connection with the sea, this feature of the plays has of late occasioned a great deal of comment. Some critics have found in this ready handling of a technical subject another proof of his genius; others have rushed to the conclusion that the poet must necessarily have invoked the assistance of a seaman; others again have been inclined to carp, and to suggest that after all the sea references are not beyond criticism.”

An artist’s engraving showing the port of Venice, Italy

No doubt he would have been aware that according to the accepted biography of William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon that there is no evidence that he actually went on board a ship let alone a seashore having predominantly and regularly travelled by horse from Stratford-upon-Avon by way of Oxford to London for the majority of his adult life. Subsequently, to account for the playwright’s extensive knowledge of Sea-Navigation academics have assumed, quite wrongly that he must have socialized with the maritime fraternity in London to have such a detailed and accurate information about boats, ships and sailing. Laughton goes on to remark on this glaring disparity and anomaly between the man known as “Shakespeare” and the specialized subject matter and technical content of his plays:

“The reasons that may be assigned for this are simple, though generally neglected. It is almost inconceivable to us nowadays that a man should know so much of the sea and ships unless either by occupation or by interest he is brought into constant connection with them.”

To account for all the sea-going references by a man who never went to sea Stratfordian academics have reasoned that while in London he met sailors who would have been able to give him all the necessary information to write such plays as “The Tempest”, “Pericles Prince of Tyre”, “The Merchant of Venice”, “A Winter’s Tale” and “The Taming of a Shrew” all of which contain specialized accounts of sea-manship, the sea generally and maritime navigation. However, Laughton’s essay on Ships and Sailing goes on to affirm that the sailor fraternity lived an isolated existence from “land-lubbers” in London and were hardly likely to impart so much inside knowledge and detailed information to a fledgling playwright. He goes on to explain:

“Nor does the landsman stand much chance of acquiring any quantity of sea-knowledge. We have an excellent instance of this in London itself, still the greatest port in the world. Few Londoners knew anything of the river east of London Bridge; fewer still know anything of the shipping which crowds the Pool and lower reaches. The Londoner might know by special observation in his leisure time something of the various types of sailing ships and steamers which frequent the Thames, but even so he would learn nothing of the men who sail in all these ships, for they are a class apart, and live a life apart in a distant quarter of the town.”

A painting depicting the canal system in Venice, Italy

Other Stratfordian academics subsequently assumed that Shakespeare could have read something on the subject from the books available at the time and would not have depended on an intimate association with seamen in London’s bustling seaport. But this assertion yields even less credibility unless the author could have read Spanish, Italian or Latin. For example, Edward Hellowes translated Antonio de Guevara’s “Invention of the Arte of Navigation” in 1578 which was made available to commanders and captains of ships in the Queen’s Navy and the merchantmen who were commissioned by the East or West Indies’ Companies. Other reports, treatises and naval manuscripts would only be available to the sea-going men of importance, explorers and maritime engineers who knew how to use an astrolabe, a cross-staff, back-staff, or quadrant, able to read a map or knew how to navigate by the stars. Richard Eden wrote a survey of Spain and Portugal, published in 1577 and Samuel Purchas who succeeded him wrote his own version entitled “Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrims” as a homage to Hakluyt which was published in 1625. This type of information and technical skill was extremely rare even in a large metropolitan population in London. On top of which the practical skills necessary on board a ship of some size or construction was again largely in-house and of an extremely esoteric nature. During Shakespeare’s lifetime there existed no English treatise on ships, their types of construction, their equipment, their ordinance, the composition of their crews, or the words and lines of command etc. The first English book of that type to appear was Captain John Smith’s “An Accidence, or Pathway to Experience, Necessary for all Young Seamen” published in 1625, which was supplemented in another edition of “A Seaman’s Grammar” in 1653. It should naturally be pointed out that life for the average seaman on board ship was extremely hard and full of deprivation, hunger, disease, illness and occupational hazard. Sea-going passengers were unlikely to converse with or socially interact with the crew being consigned to their cabins or the quarter deck. Some sailors were actually forced into conscription, some indeed merely slave oarsmen, some ex-prisoners and some previously vagabonds or criminals (Mariners, Younkers, Grommets, Swabbers, and Boys). In effect a large part of their lives was spent travelling to distant shores, in exploration or on voyages for the import and export of domestic goods, transporting spices from the orient and in some cases daring military exploits. Furthermore, the line between a merchantman and a pirate or buccaneer was extremely vague and was regularly transgressed. They lived a life apart from the educated officer or privileged class who were preoccupied as Pursers, Coxswains, Quarter Masters, Captains, Lieutenants, Boatswains, and Gunners.

A 16th century artist’s impression of English Ships encountering the Spanish Armada

Other 16th century poets, playwrights and authors to write as accurately as “Shakespeare” were John Lyly, the private secretary of Edward de Vere, in his “Galathea” (1592) and Thomas Lodge in his “Rosalynde” (1590) and “Margarite of America” (1596). Robert Greene’s “Orlando Furioso” is set in N. Africa, Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine” is set in Asia and Phillip Massinger’s “Renegado” is set in Tunisia, while Beaumont and Fletcher’s “Island Princess” is set in the spice islands of Ternate and Tidore. To travel abroad by boat or ship during Elizabeth’s reign required a special license because England’s enemies and spies were widespread and active in the seaports of the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. The 17th Earl of Oxford for example secretly escaped to France soon after his marriage to Anne Cecil, Lord Burghley’s daughter, but he was quickly intercepted, admonished and brought back to England. On the second occasion of a visit to Europe Queen Elizabeth granted him permission to travel abroad to visit Calais, Paris and Marseilles in France, Antwerp, and Venice, Italy for a period of twelve months. Extensive reports of his travels to Italy substantiate an active participation and interest in the “Italian Commedia d’elle Arte” by the Earl which is clearly found in the plays of William Shakespeare (eg: The Merchant of Venice, A Comedy of Errors, The Taming of a Shrew, etc). On his return, he was intercepted by Dutch pirates, threatened with injury and his possessions stolen. The frequency and accuracy of references to sea-navigation and to ships generally in Shakespeare’s plays is most predominant in the opening of “The Tempest” where L. G. Laughton has a great deal more to say. As may be observed the ship which Sebastian, Antonio and Gonzalo are travelling in is caught in a violent storm and the boatswain orders the crew to ‘shorten the sail’ which meant to lower and furl the topsail and Laughton assumes that Shakespeare imagines a ship with a main mast, topmast and topsail.

“Here, master: what cheer?”
“Good, speak to the mariners: fall to’t, yarely,
or we run ourselves aground: bestir, bestir.”

[Exit, Enter Mariners]
“Heigh, my hearts! cheerly, cheerly, my hearts!
yare, yare! Take in the topsail. Tend to the
master’s whistle. Blow, till thou burst thy wind,
if room enough!”

“Down with the topmast! yare! lower, lower! Bring
her to try with main-course.”

[A cry within,]
“A plague upon this howling! they are louder than
the weather or our office.”

[Re-enter Sebastian, Antonio, and Gonzalo]
“Yet again! what do you here? Shall we give o’er
and drown? Have you a mind to sink?”

The ship is close to a lee-shore and is in danger of grounding on a bank or crashing on rocks, the depth of the ocean being shallow, the boatswain therefore instructs the crew to bring the ship round to strike the topmast and face the wind which would have taken her out to sea. This was known as “trying” or “lying-a-try” and a ship thus held drove bodily to leeward away from the wind. However, if the wind was too severe her main course was not borne easily and the boatswain then cries ‘lay her a-hold’ which means to ‘lay a ship to hull’ in such a position and state that she has no sail, and fronting the wind but the ship continues to claw leeward so that the boatswain is obliged to set the fore and mainsail to draw her away from the rocky shore. Unfortunately, this does not succeed and although Prospero and Miranda somehow observe the ship break to pieces and the crew and its passengers destined to drown.

An artist’s impression of an English Galleon lurching leeward at sea

Moreover, both actual and technical references to sea-manship, to types vessels and their design are readily found in profusion so that it would appear that “Shakespeare” had been born in a seaport of some description rather than the inland Stratford-upon-Avon where only small boats, barges or punts would have ventured. But the use of similes, metaphors and analogies about the sea, sailing and sea-manship are quite remarkable. In act 2, scene 2 of “Troillus & Cressida” we find:
“Your breath of full consent bellied his sails” and a reference to a type of ship was common for example in Richard IIIrd Act 3, scene 7:
“A bark to brook no mighty sea” and “And a poor bark. of sails and tackling reft, rush all to pieces”. In Coriolanus (Act 4, scene 1) Shakespeare makes a distinction between boats and ships: “…when the sea was calm all boats alike showed mastership in floating” and in Troillus & Cressida (Act 1, scene 3) we find:

“The sea being smooth,
How many shallow bauble boats dare sail
Upon her patient breast, making their way
With those of nobler bulk!
But let the ruffian Boreas once enrage
The gentle Thetis and anon behold
The strong ribbed bark through liquid mountains cut;
Where’s then the saucy boat
Whose weak-timbered sides but even now
Co-rivalled greatness?”

The terms employed for ships and boats is frequent, for example “man-o-war” can be found in Titus Andronicus, “tall ships” in Richard IInd and “whole armadoes of carracks” in “A Comedy of Errors”, and “a whole armado of connected sail” in King John. In The Taming of a Shrew can be found:

“T’is known my father hath no less
Than three great argosies, besides two galliases,
And twelve tight galleys”.

A galley, a merchant oared vessel though usually armed is also mentioned in “Othello, the Moor of Venice”, the “Taming of a Shrew” and “Twelfth Night”. The term Pinnace, (a square-rigged vessel with oars) is mentioned in the “Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Henry VIth Part Two”. The latter reference critically acknowledged as an anachronism in Henry’s reign but nevertheless forgivable and probably over-looked by an Elizabethan audience. However, Shakespeare also mentions the “Cock” a small dinghy employed on rivers and estuaries in his play “King Lear”:

“Yond tall anchoring bark
Diminished to her cock,-her cock a bouy
Almost too small for sight.”

William Etty; Cleopatra’s Arrival in Cilicia; Lady Lever Art Gallery.

On top of that the term barge is quite common for example in “Henry VIIIth” and in in particular “Anthony & Cleopatra”, but used to denote a ship’s boat used to gain access to the shore if there was no harbour. Cleopatra’s royal barge was of a different design and size (Act 2, scene 2):

“The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burn’d on the water; the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed, that
The winds were love-sick for them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke.
She did lie in her pavilion,-cloth of gold of tissue,…
A seeming mermaid steers; the silken tackle
With the touches of those flower-soft hands
That yarely frame the office.”

But the term ‘Argosy’, referring to a merchant vessel similar in style to ‘hulks’ and ‘carracks’ employed for rich and weighty cargoes is most frequently used in Shakespeare most notably at the beginning of “The Merchant of Venice” (Act 1, scene 1):

“There where your argosies with portly sail,
Like signors and rich burgers on the flood,
Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea,
Do over-peer the pretty traffickers”.

They are mentioned in Othello (Act 1, scene 2):

“He tonight hath boarded a land carrack:
If it prove lawful prize, he’s made for ever.”

Detailed descriptions of the ship’s deck is also found for example in Henry VIth, part two (Act 3, scene 2) when Clarence is describing a vivid dream of his:

“Methought I had broken from the Tower,
And was embarked to cross to Burgundy;
And in my company my brother Gloucester,
Who from my cabin tempted me to walk
Upon the hatches…”

They are mentioned again in Richard IIIrd (Act 1, scene 4):

“And as we paced along
Upon the giddy footing of the hatches,
Methought that Gloucester stumbled; and in falling,
Struck me, that thought to stay him, overboard.”

Relatively small industrial trading vessels with two or three masts and square sails such as the Caravel, Bilander, Hoy, and Crayer are worth a mention. Shakespeare speaks of the ‘sluggish crare’ in Cymbeline, and of the ‘Hoy’ in a “Comedy of Errors”. We find frequent use of technical nautical terms or words that only someone with naval or maritime experience would use such as ‘tackle’, ‘tackling’, or ‘shrouds and tacklings’ in Henry VIth, Part 2, Act 5, scene 4 and in “King John”. We find the term ‘bowlines’ which assist a ship to sail closer to the wind, and in the “Tempest” we find Ariel engaged in “flitting from Beak to Waist, and to the Deck” when the sailors encounter the strange phenomena known as St. Elmo’s Fire which would have only been known by someone who had been to sea and had experienced it personally. Ocean swells, waves of every description, winds, storms, currents and other sea-going properties are manifold. As Ariel describes to Prospero:

“To every article.
I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement: sometime I’ld divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join. Jove’s lightnings, the precursors
O’ the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary
And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks
Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune
Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble,
Yea, his dread trident shake.”

Other sources for storms and tempest can be found in Henry VIth Part 2, act 3, scene 2 when Queen Margaret advises Henry:

“As far as I could ken thy chalky cliffs,
When from thy shore the tempest beat us back,
I stood upon the hatches in the storm.”

“I have seen tempests, when the scolding winds
Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen
The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,
To be exalted with the threatening clouds”
(Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 3).

“Blow wind, swell billow, and swim bark!
The storm is up, and all is on hazard”
(Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 3).

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!” (King Lear, Act 3, scene 1).

“Thou all-shaking thunder, strike flat the thick rotundity of the world” (King Lear, Act 3, scene 2).

“Since I was a man such sheets of fire,
Such bursts of horrid thunder,
Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
Remember to have heard.”
(King Lear Act 3, scene 2).

“You cataracts and hurricanes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!”
(King Lear, Act 3, scene 2).

Many of the above indicate Shakespeare’s interest and sensitivity to sudden movement, colour and sound whether that is a butterfly or a falcon, of the transition between light and darkness, whether that is meteorological, temporal or celestial, and throughout importing a sense of immersive immediacy, of danger and drama in the passage of observable phenomena. Shakespeare’s obsession with movement is widespread, in the Sonnets (#60) for example:

Miranda – The tempest *oil on canvas *100.4 x 137.8 cm *signed b.r.: J.W. Waterhouse / 1916

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

The rather high number of military ordinance terms of a naval type are also frequently used by Shakespeare either as similes, metaphors and analogies. In this instance the use of the word ‘cannon’ in Henry Vth, and with an invented word ‘portage’ must suggest the ports of cannons below deck. The use of cannons on the London stage was common using ‘blank chambers’ and the use of the word ‘gunstones’ and ‘linstock’ quite rightly in the same play is quite apt. In “Othello” the phrase ‘shot of courtesy’ refers to a naval salute, a practice again quite common in the 16th century but had become something of a social nuisance by the 17th century and was banned. The use of flags is less remarkable but Shakespeare employs ‘the white flag of truce’ in “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” and a black flag for mourning and the use of ‘streamers’ for purely decorative purposes. In the “Merchant of Venice” he refers to them as ‘a scarfed bark’ (Act 2, scene 6). Other naval references abound such as ‘steer the realm’, ‘my heart was to the rudder tied by the strings’, ‘luffed’ meaning to bear towards the wind, ‘to bear away’ means to alter course, and in Henry VIIIth a phrase that a true ‘sea dog’ would understand:

J.M.W Turner’s “Snowstorm at Sea

“Such a noise arose as the shrouds make at sea in a stiff tempest, as loud and to as many tunes”, which refers to the whistling caused through the ropes and sails in a boat or ship encountering a storm. Then there is ‘weighed her anchorage’ in Titus Andronicus, the use of ‘holding anchor’ and ‘sternage’ in Henry VIth and ‘must strike her sail, and learn awhile to serve’ in Henry IVth Part 2, or ‘must strike spirits of vile sort’. We also find references to piracy in particular the tactic of ‘boarding’ using a plank and grappling irons which is used metaphorically in the “Merry Wives of Windsor” (Act 2, scene 2) when Mistress Page and Mistress Ford are analysing Falstaff’s nefarious intentions:

Mrs. Ford:
“ Boarding you call it? I’ll be sure to keep him above deck”
Mrs Page:
“So will I; if he come under my hatches, I’ll never to sea again.”

And later on the phrase “Clap on more sails; pursue; up with your fights”, the last word referring to screens of cloth used to camouflage the gunners and deck crew when being attacked by another vessel. The term ‘pilot’s glass’ is vaguely inaccurate because it may refer to an ‘hour-glass’ or ‘sand-glass’ whatever the case the usual measure at sea was a half-hour glass. The use of the term ‘press-money’ or ‘prest-money’ refers to the practice of forced conscription in King Lear (Act 4, scene 6).

The symbolist artist Walter Crane compares the waves to wild horses

To conclude it might be worthwhile to investigate Caroline Spurgeon’s own remarks to account for all the maritime and sea-going references in Shakespeare. She does not find them unusual because Stratford-upon-Avon had a river and over that river spanned the Clopton bridge and the Avon was known to flood on occasions and that was where Shakespeare as a child remembers the roar of the river, the torrential rain and the destructive power of water, consequently she explains that:

“My own impression, after carefully studying all his sea images, is that he had little if any direct experience of being on the sea and that his knowledge of the sea and ships might well have been gained from books (Hakluyt, Strachey and others), from talk and from living in a great sea-port.”

Which is a bit like saying that the artist, J. M. W. Turner derived his inspiration for painting such realistic and impressionistic seascapes with ships caught in storms (eg: “Shipwreck” and “Snowstorm at Sea”) from when he played in his bath tub with wooden ships in his childhood. So, are we expected to believe in Caroline Spurgeon’s amazing Stratfordian discovery which she even pinpoints to the eighteenth arch of the Clopton bridge where William Shakspere would have stood as a child observing the movement of the flowing eddies of the river? Well, suffice to say in response to her hypothesis and inherently flawed logic is that there were other towns where bridges spanned rivers that were occasionally menaced by floods in Shakespeare’s England. I have already shown that merely living in a great seaport would not automatically educate someone about the life and experience of “sea-dogs and their sea-faring of the world”.

A copy of Richard Hakluyt’s Mercator Map

While in Paris between 1583-9, the marine explorer, Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616) compiled his great work on the subject “The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffics and Discoveries of the English Nation”, which was printed in 1589 and enlarged upon in a 3-folio volume edition between 1568-1600. This publication as I have already pointed out was ‘top secret’ and highly unlikely to have been made public (for example it contained numerous maps obtained from a relative in the Middle Temple) because it would have allowed England’s enemies to have a comprehensive understanding of England’s technical and navigational knowledge of the seas. This ‘new map’ may be alluded to by the playwright in Shakespeare’s play, “Twelfth Night”, Act 3, scene 2 in a passage describing Malvolio’s face:

“He does obey every point of the letter
that I dropped to betray him: he does smile his
face into more lines than is in the new map with the
augmentation of the Indies: you have not seen such
a thing as ’tis.”

The map which Hakluyt with the assistance of the cartographer, Edward Wright (1558-1615) drew up in 1600 with Mercator’s principles of projection (See “Voyages of John Davies”-Hakluyt Society Publications) is and continues to be of great interest to historians. Edward Wright was specially commissioned by the Queen in 1589 to provide accurate navigational maps showing the meridional lines dissecting the whole of the northern and southern hemispheres of the world. He accompanied Lord Cumberland on his voyage to the Azores in order to improve the navigation of English ships. How and when William Shakspere could have obtained such a book, seen such a map or met Hakluyt or Wright is not actually addressed in detail by Caroline Spurgeon. However, Hakluyt, who was educated at Westminster and Christchurch College was briefly a Rector at Wetheringsett, Suffolk from 1590 and although he also secretly worked as a spy for Francis Walsingham and worked abroad for the most part of his life it seems highly unlikely that he would have divulged anything of a maritime nature to the assumed “budding playwright” or for that matter actually met him personally. When she mentions the author and colonialist, William Strachey (1567-1634) she quite cleverly alludes to the Voyage of the Sea Venture to Virginia (a dubious and misleading Stratfordian theory).

The Tempest and “The Voyage of the Sea Venture” is the most often quoted by academic Stratfordians to refute the Oxfordian assertions that the Earl of Oxford, who died in 1604 wrote Shakespeare’s plays. This supposed or blatantly flawed academic theory was confirmed by the “distinguished academic” E. K. Chambers who theorised that the play was inspired and written describing the wreck of the Sea Venture, captained by Sir George Somers on its’ way to Virginia on 25th July 1609 (the year that Shakespeare’s Sonnets were published). It was based on a private manuscript report (printed later in 1625) written by William Strachey to the London Council of Virginia in 1610, but again not publically circulated. The Oxfordian author and academic, Charlton Ogburn suggests that William Shakspere was not even in London at that time and could not have had access to the letter let alone used anything in it as a source for his play. Had “William Shakespeare” required some actual narrative report for the Tempest he might easily have turned to Henry May’s report of a shipwreck in the Bermudas in 1593 in a ship named the “Edward Bonaventure” owned by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. However, the real problem or crux of this narrative dilemma is the play is actually set just off the coast of Tunisia not in the West Indies, indeed the name of the character of Calypso is derived from an island among the Balearics off the coast of Spain. Given this set of circumstances references to the wreck of the Sea Venture must have been deliberate attempts by “anonymous agents” to erase any connection with Shakespeare’s plays to the Earl of Oxford. The academic Karl Elze states that “all external arguments and indications are in favour of the year 1604 for when the Tempest was written” or performed because Ben Jonson paraphrases and satirises the play in Volpone in 1605. Furthermore, there are similarities to another play (“Die Schöne Sidea”) by Jacob Ayrer of Nuremburg who died in 1605. Even so, despite his own foreknowledge of this fact, E. K. Chambers fails to admit any connection to that work as it would undermine the Stratfordian’s false hypothesis to a much earlier date. Instead, and a quite contradictory assertion by Hale states that the play was probably inspired by the landing of Bartholomew Gosnold on the shores of Cuttyhunk, (Elizabeth Islands) south of Falmouth, Virginia (USA) in 1602. His expedition was financed and commissioned by Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton (Oxford’s illegitimate son disguised as “Shakespeare’s Patron”) so it maybe more likely that the Earl of Oxford had met and conversed with these marine adventurers on their return. Furthermore, it seems quite likely that the dedication in the Sonnets was actually addressed to “The Well-wishing Adventurer in setting forth” could be referring to that particular voyage even though the Sonnets were not published until 1609.

The links to my current publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and an anthology of poetry “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:


Published by Leonidas Kazantheos

For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about the arts, social change and the sustainable environment. After more than thirty years of voluntary and professional involvement commuting between Yorkshire and Lancashire while working in those areas I finally relocated to Buxton in 2013. This was after the birth of our son Gaspard and to further the career of my French partner, Francoise Collignon who is currently seeking work in the tourism sector. In 1988 I became the Regional co-ordinator for the National Artists Association in Manchester and helped promote the artistic revival in the region. At the turn of the millennium in 2001, while pursuing my vocational interest in symbolism and the natural world, I became involved in environmental conservation and the protection of green space in W. Yorkshire. I was elected editor for Calderdale Friends of the Earth, a monthly postal and online newsletter. In my spare time I was preoccupied as a writer, natural archivist and amateur poet. Over a period of five years I also worked briefly as an architectural technician, landscape designer and mural artist near Holmfirth where I gained invaluable insights into restoration and the development of Green Field and Brown Field sites. In my mid-forties I relocated from Halifax, W. Yorkshire to Manchester where I worked as an artist and freelance set designer for several photographic, film and video companies. My work recieved reviews in Hotshoe International, Avant Magazine, NME, The Face, the Big Issue and one shot (The Wolf) became a best-selling poster for Athena Posters. In the late 80’s I became an active member of the National Artists Association and a subscriber to the Design & Artists Copyright Society. I assisted in the instigation of the first Multi-cultural Arts Conference and the first Black Arts Forum in Manchester. I became editor of a quarterly Arts Magazine concerned with promoting and supporting artist’s initiatives in the region. Nevertheless, in my spare time I wrote numerous articles on the natural world and researched aspects of Dream Symbolism and the study of semiotics and gestalts in literature and art. I was involved as facilitator for the local allotments and helped set up a local nature reserve at Hough End. Finally, I was encouraged by a close mentor in America to write more seriously about the work of the literary genius William Shakespeare and to pursue a role as a poet. Although somewhat reluctantly over the past four years I have given poetry performances, workshops and readings in Manchester. I have recently published an anthology of my poetry entitled “Parthenogenesis” and a companion to Shakespeare studies entitled “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”. I am currently working on a screenplay entitled “Not Without Mustard” about the life of Edward de Vere.

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