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.

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 I..like 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:

An artist’s impression of a 16th century Galleon

“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).

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:

J.M.W. Turner’s painting entitled “Shipwreck at Sea”

“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:


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


Shakespeare and the “Supernatural”

“A sad tale, is best for Winter. I have one of sprites and goblins”
-Mamillus (A Winter’s Tale)

An overall study of Shakespeare’s plays reveals that the author had more than a casual acquaintance with the supernatural, the paranormal and a preoccupation with ghosts, apparitions, spirits and phantoms (GASP). While this merely reinforces the fact that the average Elizabethan was inclined to believe that these supernatural phenomena or agencies were part and parcel of their ordinary and extraordinary lives. The question they were more likely to ask was were these supernatural agencies “messengers from God” or “harbingers of the Devil”. Their belief in magic and witchcraft for example was merely the tip of the iceberg and naturally extended into the numinous but never fully arrived at the extra-terrestrial, unless we include the surreal character of Caliban in the “Tempest” as an act of “Magical Realism”. I have already touched upon the “Secret Alchemy of Shakespeare”, in the belief of “Astrology in Elizabethan England” and the role of Dr. John Dee as “The Queen’s Sorcerer”. Some plays stand out merely for their theatrical use of “supernatural or magical” events, for example “The Tempest” features a Renaissance Magus who conjures spirits on an island that is suspected of being “dreamily enchanted” and previously the domain of a sea-witch and her diabolic son. The character of the spirit Ariel one must assume is derived partly from occult science and the playwright’s own imagination since the name is not listed in Fred Gettings “Dictionary of Astrology” either among the numerous Archai or Secundian Beings who supposedly guide humanity’s affairs (See Trithemius). It probably derives from the Hebrew Caballa and means literally “Lion of God” (Isiah 29: 1-7) and one of seven angelic princes. The name of Ariel however was used by Thomas Heywood (“Hierarchie of Blessed Angels”, 1635) as well as Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (1667) and later given to one of the satellites of Uranus whose existence was not known in Shakespeare’s day. The “ultra-terrestrial” and atavistic Caliban features alongside the extra terrestrial Ariel, who is relegated to a slave or servant, firstly to a witch named Sycorax and on her death he becomes a prisoner to Caliban, but is assured of freedom after completing all the tasks imposed on him by the Magician, Prospero. In the conventional religious view human beings are considered the slaves or servants of Angels, who in turn assisted and guided mankind closer to God. The Angels were considered “food” for the higher beings, the Archangels, Principalities and Dominions in the hierarchy of “sentient beings” and their “astral intelligences” or invisible powers. This inversion by Shakespeare of the natural order is pertinent and revealing; to overturn, subvert and transgress the natural order reflects what can only be described as a “Messianic Complex”, of which much has already been written about Shakespeare’s personality and psychological condition. For example, it has been asked “was Shakespeare bi-polar, did he suffer from any symptoms of schizoid, pathological or neurotic symptoms?”. Conversely, was Shakespeare’s imagination or obsession with the supernatural influenced or supported by the use of certain psychotropic or psychedelic drugs? Great natural geniuses in art or drama often do. Although this in turn is often dominated with a degree of narcissistic self-indulgence, an ego-centric attitude and “carping” when matters do not evolve to their satisfaction or advantage. The play “Hamlet” features the ghost of the leading character’s father, and “Macbeth” features several “apparitions” during the planned assassination of the Scottish King, Duncan. In “Julius Caesar”, Cassius remarks regarding unusual happenings as portents of the “shape of things to come”:

A horrific scene from Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth

“Why all these fires, why all these gliding ghosts,
Why birds and beasts from quality and kind,
Why old men fool and children calculate,
Why all these things change from their ordinance
Their natures and preformed faculties
To monstrous quality,–why, you shall find
That heaven hath infused them with these spirits,
To make them instruments of fear and warning
Unto some monstrous state.”

And in the same play Calpurnia reports of strange happenings in the streets are omens warning of bad times to come:

“A lioness hath whelped in the streets;
And graves have yawn’d, and yielded up their dead;
Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds,
In ranks and squadrons and right form of war,
Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol;
The noise of battle hurtled in the air,
Horses did neigh, and dying men did groan,
And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets.
O Caesar! these things are beyond all use,
And I do fear them.”

Moses Haughton II, after Henry Fuseli, The Nursery of Shakespeare, 1810 (Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Chalkley Hambleton)

In Act 5, scene 2 of “Richard IIIrd” the ghost of Prince Edward and Henry VIth as well as several other deceased characters appear as dramatic devices to the Duke of Richmond and King Richard reminding them that the souls of the dead wander the earth sometimes seeking vengeance for previous misdeeds. Gloucester is crowned Richard the Third, ostensibly the last Plantagenet King, and soon after instructs Buckingham to authorise the execution of the two princes in the Tower. He then arranges with James Tyrrel to mercilessly murder them and his wife Anne into the bargain. Richard enters the stage after a spooky scene featuring three ghostly ladies, in which clearly Queen Margaret is hungry for revenge, she rebukes him fiercely for the murders, followed by his own mother the Duchess of York.

[Enter the Ghost of Prince Edward, son to King Henry VIth]
Ghost of Prince Edward, (To King Richard III):

“Let me sit heavy on thy soul to-morrow!
Think, how thou stab’dst me in my prime of youth
At Tewksbury: despair, therefore, and die!”

To Richmond:
“Be cheerful, Richmond; for the wronged souls
Of butcher’d princes fight in thy behalf
King Henry’s issue, Richmond, comforts thee.”

[Enter the Ghost of King Henry VIth]
(Ghost of King Henry VIth To King Richard IIIrd):
“When I was mortal, my anointed body
By thee was punched full of deadly holes
Think on the Tower and me: despair, and die!
Harry the Sixth bids thee despair, and die!”

To Richmond:
“Virtuous and holy, be thou conqueror!
Harry, that prophesied thou shouldst be king,
Doth comfort thee in thy sleep: live, and flourish!”

[Enter the Ghost of Clarence,]
Ghost of Clarence: (To King Richard IIIrd)
“Let me sit heavy on thy soul to-morrow!
I, that was wash’d to death with fulsome wine,
Poor Clarence, by thy guile betrayed to death!
To-morrow in the battle think on me,
And fall thy edgeless sword: despair, and die!”

To Richmond:
“Thou offspring of the house of Lancaster
The wronged heirs of York do pray for thee
Good angels guard thy battle! live, and flourish!”

Enter the Ghosts of Rivers, Gray, and Vaughan.
Ghost of Rivers: (To King Richard IIIrd)
“Let me sit heavy on thy soul to-morrow,
Rivers. that died at Pomfret! despair, and die!”

Ghost of Grey: (To King Richard IIIrd)
“Think upon Grey, and let thy soul despair!”

Ghost of Vaughan: (To King Richard IIIrd)
Think upon Vaughan, and, with guilty fear,
Let fall thy lance: despair, and die!”

All, (To Richmond)
“Awake, and think our wrongs in Richard’s bosom
Will conquer him! awake, and win the day!”

[Enter the Ghost of Hastings, Ghost of Hastings:]
(To King Richard III)
“Bloody and guilty, guiltily awake,
And in a bloody battle end thy days!
Think on Lord Hastings: despair, and die!”

To Richmond:
“Quiet untroubled soul, awake, awake!
Arm, fight, and conquer, for fair England’s sake!
Enter the Ghosts of the two young Princes.”

Ghosts of young Princes: (To King Richard IIIrd)
“Dream on thy cousins smother’d in the Tower:
Let us be led within thy bosom, Richard,
And weigh thee down to ruin, shame, and death!
Thy nephews’ souls bid thee despair and die!”

To Richmond:
“Sleep, Richmond, sleep in peace, and wake in joy;
Good angels guard thee from the boar’s annoy!
Live, and beget a happy race of kings!
Edward’s unhappy sons do bid thee flourish.”

[Enter the Ghost of Lady Anne.]
Ghost of Lady Anne (To King Richard IIIrd)
“Richard, thy wife, that wretched Anne thy wife,
That never slept a quiet hour with thee,
Now fills thy sleep with perturbations
To-morrow in the battle think on me,
And fall thy edgeless sword: despair, and die!”

To Richmond:
“Thou quiet soul, sleep thou a quiet sleep
Dream of success and happy victory!
Thy adversary’s wife doth pray for thee.”

[Enter the Ghost of Buckingham]
Ghost of Buckingham, (To King Richard IIIrd):
“The last was I that helped thee to the crown;
The last was I that felt thy tyranny:
O, in the battle think on Buckingham,
And die in terror of thy guiltiness!
Dream on, dream on, of bloody deeds and death:
Fainting, despair; despairing, yield thy breath!”

To Richmond:
“I died for hope ere I could lend thee aid:
But cheer thy heart, and be thou not dismay’d:
God and good angel fight on Richmond’s side;
And Richard falls in height of all his pride.”
(The Ghosts vanish)

An artist’s impression of the Two Princes

The ghosts of the dead are therefore able to predict the future outcome of any dispute or contention and moreover that they are quite capable of intervening and affecting the outcome of a dispute in the “world of the living”. But in the play the scene is made to appear as if Richard was merely having a dream and he awakes from his “nightmare premonition” only to ignore the admonition of the ghosts and prepare for the ensuing battle at Bosworth Field.

“Have mercy, Jesu!–Soft! I did but dream.
O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
What do I fear? myself? there’s none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?”

The Lady Anne when attending as a mourner for her husband Henry VIth cries out:

“Thou bloodless remnant of that royal blood!
Be it lawful that I invocate thy ghost,
To hear the lamentations of Poor Anne,
Wife to thy Edward, to thy slaughter’d son,
Stabb’d by the selfsame hand that made these wounds!”

For an actor to “play a ghost” must be a challenging experience without making an audience laugh hysterically but generally the theatre was itself so poorly lit that the imagination of the audience was able to immerse itself without too much difficulty. It has been claimed by some academics that William Shakespeare played the part of Hamlet’s Ghost, but how true that is may be the subject of another essay. Horatio is the first to perceive the ghost of Hamlet’s father in full armour wandering along the battlements at nightfall while he is at watch:

“What art thou that usurp’st this time of night,
Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak!”

An artist’s engraving featuring the Ghost of Hamlet’s father

He appears again for Hamlet:

“Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou comest in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee: I’ll call thee Hamlet,
King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me!
Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre,
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn’d,
Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws,
To cast thee up again. What may this mean,
That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel
Revisit’st thus the glimpses of the moon,
Making night hideous; and we fools of nature
So horridly to shake our disposition
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do?”

[Ghost beckons Hamlet.]

But Horatio warns Hamlet not to follow the ghost for fear of his safety.

“What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
That beetles o’er his base into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness? think of it:
The very place puts toys of desperation,
Without more motive, into every brain
That looks so many fathoms to the sea
And hears it roar beneath.”

The ghost finally speaks:

“My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.”

And then reveals the reason for his now ghostly appearance and why he died:

“I am thy father’s spirit,
Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love”

“O God!”
“Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.”
“Murder most foul, as in the best it is;
But this most foul, strange and unnatural.”

“Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.”

“I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:
‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.”

“O my prophetic soul! My uncle!”
“Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,–
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!–won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen:
O Hamlet, what a falling-off was there!
From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
I made to her in marriage, and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of mine!
But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
So lust, though to a radiant angel link’d,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed,
And prey on garbage.
But, soft! methinks I scent the morning air;
Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,
My custom always of the afternoon
Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment; whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body,
And with a sudden vigour doth posset
And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood: so did it mine;
And a most instant tetter bark’d about,
Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust,
All my smooth body.
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch’d:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel’d, disappointed, unanel’d,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But, howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once!
The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And ‘gins to pale his uneffectual fire:
Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me.”

An artist’s impression of a witch’s sabbath accompanied by dancing

In Act 2, scene 1 of the play “Macbeth” when the servants are dismissed, Macbeth is prey to an apparition of a dagger, whether this is a figment of his own unconscious mind as he prepares to murder King Duncan or something conjured up by Hecate is unclear. But the lack of clarity only heightens the tension and dramatic action. The actor has just to imagine that they are looking at a dagger and the entire audience must believe it without “special effects”.

“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o’er the one halfworld
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain’d sleep; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate’s offerings, and wither’d murder,
Alarum’d by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.”

A bell rings…

“I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.”

The nightmare by Henry Fuseli

The inclusion of certain sound effects, for example bells, trumpets, flutes, whistles and drums is a dramatic device just as the persistent knocking on the door, which every Catholic recusant feared could be an invitation to the Tower and possibly torture or mutilation. This also features in Macbeth during the porter scene and builds on the tension already established in previous scenes. And Lady Macbeth in the following scene employs the incidental sound of an owl hooting mournfully as a terrifying device:

“That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold;
What hath quench’d them hath given me fire.
Hark! Peace!
It was the owl that shriek’d, the fatal bellman,
Which gives the stern’st good-night. He is about it:
The doors are open; and the surfeited grooms
Do mock their charge with snores: I have drugg’d
their possets,
That death and nature do contend about them,
Whether they live or die.”

The sound or appearance of an owl (the fatal bell-man) was thought to coincide with someone’s death or misfortune as if warning, mocking or condemning them. The Witches even record the physical sensations they feel: “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”. There follows the scene where a knocking is heard which is akin to the practice of “knocking” during a séance to summon a spirit, so the play is somehow “charged” with the anxiety often seen during the visitation of a wandering spirit into a “magic circle” and there bound over to do the bidding of a sorcerer. There were occasions in the London theatre when the audience were literally “spooked” by the mechanical devises employed on stage or behind the scenes to the extent that they fled their seats and sought the safety and security of their own homes. In Act 3 scene 2 of the “Tempest” Caliban counsels Stephano:

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.”

Which implies the possibility of clairaudience whereby the inherent “isolated silence” creates the illusion of some strange supernatural music akin to the “Music of the Spheres”. However, Shakespeare was not the only playwright to indulge or play with the supernatural in his plays, Thomas Middleton’s “The Witch” explored the horror and witchcraft fears so predominant in Elizabeth’s and James’ reign. Christopher Marlowe tackled the fears predominant about practitioners of magic who were tempted to “Make a Deal with the Devil” in his own “Dr. Faustus”, although this is done in a somewhat satirical and comic manner in order to deride the belief in magic and the supernatural. For example, the horse which Dr. Faustus sells to the horse-dealer actually vanishes as soon as it plunges into the river. The imaginary line between what was known about as superstitious folklore, magic and necromancy of the 16th century and what was actually believed is somewhat blurred. Largely because what children believe through storytelling and what was true for the adult population was hardly distinguished in theatrical and literary terms. That line remains blurred even for Shakespeare’s plays that indulge playfully with “fairy folk”, elementals, demons and devils in for example “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which I will enlarge upon in due course. Old wives tales told to children are mentioned in the play “Richard IInd” (Act 5, scene1) when he bids his queen:

A scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream

“In winter’s tedious nights sit by the fire
With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales
Of woeful ages, long ago betid;…
And send the hearers weeping to their beds.”

On the matter of superstitious beliefs, it was thought that if a woman rejected marriage to man or “marriage to God” (a nunnery) that she would thereafter be sworn to leading apes into Hell’s gate (“Much Ado About Nothing”). Similarly, if a woman owned a cat that it was presumed to be her “familiar” and that she was without doubt a witch. It was also believed certain signs and behaviours of animals would predict the outcome, for example that rats will instinctively abandon a ship which is doomed to shipwreck. The appearance of certain types of birds (augury) would also be a testament or warning of something to come in the future. A crowing cock was assumed to signal the departure or arrival of a certain type of ghost. In Ben Jonson’s “Masque of Queenes” he mentions:

“That witches all confess that nothing is so cross, or baleful to their purpose, as that the cock should crow before they are done”.

The belief in “were-wolves” was also quite common as evidenced by Michael Drayton’s comments:
“By night, with a devout intent,
About the fields religiously they went,
With hollowing charmes the Warwolfe thence to fray,
That them and theirs awaited to betray.”

Shakespeare mentions this superstition in “As You Like It”, (Act 5, scene 2) the “howling of Irish wolves against the Moon”, a belief that the Irish were capable of transforming themselves into wolves around the same time every year. The Basilisk and Cockatrice, although mythical or imaginary creatures, were thought to kill a beholder merely with their gaze as mentioned in “A Winter’s Tale” (Act 1, scene 2) and “Romeo & Juliet” (Act 3, scene 2). One quite remarkable Elizabethan belief was that geese evolved from barnacles and that it was permitted to eat a goose during Lent because they were in effect “sea-food”. In the Tempest Caliban reveals this to be afeard of a metamorphose that they will all be turned into barnacles. However one particular unexplained phenomenon is mentioned, namely St. Elmo’s Fire, a luminous fire observed around the masts of ships and so-called after Erasmus although St. Elmo was the patron saint of seamen. Animal metamorphoses are simply a literary device as in “Romeo & Juliet” when Juliet says: “The lark and loathed toad change eyes” (Act 3, scene 5). A children’s nurse would naturally know all these supposed superstitious beliefs and know how to interpret dreams as well as natural and supernatural omens. In the play “Bartholomew Fair”, the character Littlewit says:

“Good Mother how shall we find a pig, if we do not look about for it?
Will it run off o’ the spit, into our mouths,
Think you as in Lubberland, and cry wee, wee?”

Lubberland is none other than the land of the goblins. Of some import was the magical and supernatural properties of certain plants which I have briefly covered in an article entitled “Shakespeare’s Apothecary” in which the magical properties of Mandrake and other plants are discussed. The elderberry or “Judas Tree” as it was known was presumed to have been used to construct the gallows for Judas Eschariot although it is not known for its thickness or strength, it merely carries a “symbolic signature” with its stinky white flowers and dark berries it seems to conjure up or project an aspect of evil. The dreamy fragrance of asphodel in contrast is mentioned in “Troillus & Cressida”:

“Give me swift transportance to those fields
Where I may wallow in the lily-beds
Proposed for the deserver.”

The Title page from Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus” depicting him in a magic circle

Or the magical and invisible properties of fern-spores which are prevalent in the meanderings of Gadshill (Henry IVTh Part One, scne 2), or that of Syrian Rue (from which sack was brewed) mentioned in Hamlet, Act 4, scene 5. Not to mention Rosemary referenced as a herb of remembrance in “Romeo & Juliet”, and the medicinal properties of willow bark mentioned in “Othello” (Act 4, scene 3). Nothing conjures up a greater sense of horror and repulsion of course than creepy insects, slimy frogs and snails and slippery serpents for example in “Richard IIIrd” (Act 1, scene 2):

“Adders, spiders, toads, or any creeping venom’d thing that lives”. Where Richard himself is described as a “poisonous hunch’d back toad” or “bottled spider” or where Edmund in “Cymbeline” is compared to “a most toad-spotted traitor”. However, in Richard IInd we discover the occasional contradistinction (Act 3, scene 2):

“The toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel [the toadstone] in his head”. Or when the spider is described as an expert in weaving or hiding in a drinking vessel and could be “drunk” with impunity if one is not aware of its presence even though “the abhorred ingredient is seen, that violent fits ensue”.

A scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream

Descriptions of the use of charms, talismans or magic sigils are also quite common in Shakespeare’s plays and poetry to the extent that some researchers suggest that “Shakespeare” had more than a “second-hand” experience of the supernatural and the use of magical talismans to protect the wearer or repulse the evil agent of some witch or demonic force. Some elements of the Catholic nobility were frequently associated with “magical practice” and the supernatural, in particular “The Wizard Earl”, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. Thus in the play “King Lear” (Act 2, scene 1) Edmund accuses Edgar of “Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the Moon to stand auspicious mistress”. It was commonly assumed that if a person was infatuated with another that the object of their adoration had laid a “spell”, performed some ritual or devised some “sympathetic magic” to gain power and influence over them. The astrologer Simon Forman accused Emilia Lanier of being an “incuba” or “vampire-witch” and James 1st wrote an entire treatise on “Witchcraft & Demonology” because he was the victim of a witches’ Sabbath when his boat encountered a storm on his return from Denmark. Suffice to say he survived but both the Protestant and Catholic Church were equally responsible for casting out curses for those found guilty of magic or witchcraft with their own “bell, book and candle”. The conspirators of the “Gunpowder Treason” in 1605 for example were ritually dismembered and then thrown onto a bonfire, their heads impaled on a spike and paraded above the city gates. Following on from this gory spectacle the priests and clergy lit bonfires and candles accompanied by sermons condemning them to Hell for all eternity on an annual basis.

Any marks on the body of a man or woman was presumed to indicate some inherent evil disposition and I have already reviewed this superstition in an article entitled “Shakespeare On Deformity”, but worth mentioning that in “Henry VIth, Part 3” (Act 2, scene 2) Queen Margaret emphasises what she describes as “divine judgment” on Richard’s deformity as “But a foul misshapen stigmatic” and that he is “elvish-mark’d, foul-featured like a a changeling” although in the poem Lucrece Shakespeare writes:

“Marks descried in men’s nativity
Are nature’s faults, not their infamy”.
And in Hamlet due to “nature’s livery or fortune’s star”.

The incident whereby a statue suddenly comes to life in “A Winter’s Tale” owes more to “Magical Realism” than it does to any supernatural occurrence but is worth noting particularly for its dramatic effect on stage. Leontes is amazed at the naturalness of the statue carved by Julio Romano that he is tempted to kiss her marbled hand although Paulina warns him:

“Either forbear,
Quit presently the chapel, or resolve you
For more amazement. If you can behold it,
I’ll make the statue move indeed, descend
And take you by the hand; but then you’ll think–
Which I protest against–I am assisted
By wicked powers.”

However, when music is played the statue miraculously comes to life:

“‘Tis time; descend; be stone no more; approach;
Strike all that look upon with marvel. Come,
I’ll fill your grave up: stir, nay, come away,
Bequeath to death your numbness, for from him
Dear life redeems you. You perceive she stirs:”

“Hermione comes down
Start not; her actions shall be holy as
You hear my spell is lawful: do not shun her
Until you see her die again; for then
You kill her double. Nay, present your hand:
When she was young you woo’d her; now in age
Is she become the suitor?”

“O, she’s warm!
If this be magic, let it be an art
Lawful as eating.”

“That she is living,
Were it but told you, should be hooted at
Like an old tale: but it appears she lives,
Though yet she speak not. Mark a little while.
Please you to interpose, fair madam: kneel
And pray your mother’s blessing. Turn, good lady;
Our Perdita is found.”

In the play “King Lear” the Earl of Gloucester refers to the malefic influence of solar and lunar eclipses on the affairs of humankind;

The mythical Black Annis of English folklore

“These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend
no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can
reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself
scourged by the sequent effects: love cools,
friendship falls off, brothers divide: in
cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in
palaces, treason; and the bond cracked ‘twixt son
and father. This villain of mine comes under the
prediction; there’s son against father: the king
falls from bias of nature; there’s father against
child. We have seen the best of our time:
machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all
ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves.”

In “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” more supernatural events take place that owe more to the inherent magical coincidences imbued in our personal fates and destinies than any form of astronomical conjunctions, or human conjuring, the magic occurs because people follow their destiny and act according to their conscience. And Pericles protests against those “invisible forces” set in motion that unravel in some miraculous manner as to convince us that as Hamlet reminds Horatio “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”

Finally, what magical and folkloric motifs can be found in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” a play that is most notably “peppered” with magical transformations, magical elixirs and solemn invocations, and ritual recitations. Much of the magical events take place in a forest environment, a site that is naturally imbued with magic and supernatural occurrences. The play artfully accepts the notion of “fairy folk” and their influence on mortal’s circumstances, in particular Puck or Robin Goodfellow:

“I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal:
And sometime lurk I in a gossip’s bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob
And on her wither’d dewlap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
And ‘tailor’ cries, and falls into a cough;
And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh,
And waxen in their mirth and neeze and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.
But, room, fairy! here comes Oberon.”

Oberon instructs Puck to use the juice of a certain flower to induce Titania to fall in love with the first person she sees after waking from her sleep:

“Having once this juice,
I’ll watch Titania when she is asleep,
And drop the liquor of it in her eyes.
The next thing then she waking looks upon,
Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull,
On meddling monkey, or on busy ape,
She shall pursue it with the soul of love”.

But Puck makes an error of who to enchant and of course the person she meets is none other than Bottom who has been miraculously transformed into an ass, although this incident owes much to Apuleius“Golden Ass” as a literary source. Nevertheless, Shakespeare conjures the scene with a “Fairy Song”:

The fairy scene from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Fairies sing…
“You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blind-worms, do no wrong,
Come not near our fairy queen.
Philomel, with melody
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby, lulla, lulla, lullaby:
Never harm,
Nor spell nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So, good night, with lullaby.
Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you long-legg’d spinners, hence!
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm nor snail, do no offence.
Philomel, with melody.“

The play closes with Puck’s soliloquy which suggests that actors (“shadows”) are themselves “theatrical conjurors” playing with the human imagination for good or ill.

“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.”

The Shakespeare academic, C. Clark appears to focus on the historical rather than interpretive nature of Shakespeare’s supernatural plays:

“Studying Shakespeare’s history from the supernatural plays alone, we surmise that he embarked upon life with all the easy optimism of youth (A Midsummer Night’s Dream); that he soon came face to face with obstacles, temptations, and difficulties which sobered his light heartedness;(Hamlet) that, as he battled with all the disillusionment and disappointment which seemed to be the inevitable concomitants of human life he found himself the prey of cynicism and despair(Macbeth) and finally, that he passed through the valley, and came once more to the peace and calm of a new faith and a new confidence in a benign providence (The Tempest)”

While in sonnet #144 Shakespeare seems to suggest that human beings have both a “good and bad angelic spirit” with whom they converse internally:

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman coloured ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil,
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turned fiend,
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another’s hell:
Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


The Elizabethan Festival Cycle

The performance of plays was under the jurisdiction and mindful monitoring of the Lord Chamberlain and the Master of the Revels. No play could be performed publically in the capital or elsewhere without their explicit knowledge and approval. Their role was to censor or remove any seditious or embarrassing material from the text or the performance itself. Indeed as an aspiring writer or dramatist there was no greater honour or acknowledgement of one’s expertise than to have a royal commission or have a play presented especially at court before the sovereign of the realm. It is generally acknowledged that plays were initially “tried out” either in the provinces or at the Inns, Schools or Universities before going public or in some instances being presented at court for the first time. However, as an erudite and educated woman, the Queen, who was not easily impressed, made her summer progresses visiting the provinces of Merrie England and these too were occasions where unique theatrical processions, masques or “show-plays” would be specially devised for her personal delight and approval. To attract the Queen’s eye and secure privilege was therefore an ideal goal for any actor, dramatist or poet and many were subsequently tempted to try their hand and secure royal patronage. The astrologer and companion/secretary to the Earl of Southampton, John Florio writes in his English/Italian conversation book (“First Fruits”, 1578):

“Where shall we go? To a play at the Bull, or else to some other place. Do comedies like you well? Yea sir, on holy days. They please me also well, but the preachers will not allow them. Wherefore, know you that; they say they are not good. And wherefore are they used? Because everyman delights in them. I believe there is much knavery used at those comedies: so I also do believe.”

Among those who did were the Queen’s paramour Robert Dudley who presented Gorboduc (written by Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton 1561/2), which offered moral counsel to the Queen on the advantages of marriage and the unity of the realm, something which she was not at the time inclined to pursue. Gorboduc was first performed at the Inner Temple in 1562 as a Senecan tragedy imbued with elements of the morality play or masque which coincided with the visit of King Phillip IInd of Spain, who was then a potential suitor. The aristocratic poet, Sir Phillip Sidney criticised it as a comedy and its overall poetic style, its staging and impoverished set design thus:

“But if it be so in Gorboducke, how much more in all the rest, where you shall have Asia of the one side, and Affricke on the other, so many other under kingdoms, that the player when he comes in, must ever begin telling where he is, otherwise the tale will not be conceived. Now you shall have three Ladies walk to gather flowers, and then we must believe the stage to be a garden. By and by we hear news of a shipwreck in the same place, then we are to blame if we accept it not for a Rock. Upon the back of that comes out a hideous monster with fire and smoke, and then the miserable beholders are bound to take it as a cave: while in the meantime two armies fly in, represented with four swords and bucklers, and then what hard heart will not receive it for a pitched field?”

George Peele’s “Arraignment of Paris” (1580), another hybrid of play and masque, featured the handing of a golden apple (a symbol of Venus/Aphrodite) to the Queen seated in an enclosure which coincided with the visit of the Duke of Alençon to the English court. Among the most popular theatrical genres in England were of course Court plays and Masques, the ecclesiastical and liturgical Mystery and Morality plays, with Miracle and Mummer’s plays being largely regional affairs, and finally the numerous Revels, Pageants and Fairs celebrated seasonally on set or prescribed occasions of the Elizabethan Festival Cycle. As the English calendar year was aligned to that of the Roman year, New Year plays began on the first or the 24th March continuing with April/May with the Spring and Easter celebrations, through to the Midsummer Madness of June and July in which tournaments and history plays were favoured. The Harvest Season followed suit in August through to September, followed by celebrations into the month of October culminating in All Hallow’s Eve which was the end of the Celtic New Year and through to Yuletide or Saturnalia ending in Twelfth Night and usually concluding sometime around Valentine’s Day on the 14th February.

Court Plays:

Court plays or masques were frequently presented at court or commissioned for a particular occasion such as for the Queen’s birthday, her hereditary accession or some other royal occasion such as St. George’s Day which signalled the commencement of Springtime (eg: “The Merry Wives of Windsor”). Following on from the medieval tradition Holy Days, Saint’s Days and Feasts were often chosen as occasions for the performance of plays where the reigning monarch was usually the focus of ceremony or praise. Other plays were devised and presented because they were linked to a particular incident or topical situation such as the dissolution of the Spanish Armada, the arrival of a foreign ambassador or the suppression of some treachery. Court plays might also be held at the numerous Inns of Court, for example Blackfriars, the Middle Temple and so forth and occasionally at Universities, but often the performance, sometimes intended as a “one-off” would take place at the home of some aristocrat or dignitary. Also favoured were the Blackfriar’s theatre, Westminster Hall, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Chapel or Windsor Castle.


A Set of Commedia d’elle Arte masks

Masques, whether impromptu or rehearsed usually combined dramatic dialogue, poetry, dumb-show, spectacular acrobatics, musical interludes, song and dance into one spectacular public or exclusive performance. They usually featured lavish costumes, impressive sets and other theatrical contrivances or mechanical devices. Often actor’s parts were undertaken by members of the court or even those literary figures of invention as well as conventional players. It is quite possible that the actors had some symbolic affinity with the characters they portrayed because they were perceived as “caricatures” in their own right. Some were essentially small parties or even grand court or social occasions. There was a sense of immediacy in the genre almost akin to the spontaneous happenings of our modern dramas in the 1970’s. Certain situations were what might be termed a “set-up” with often obvious conclusions intended to raise the profile or status of the monarchy or the region they visited. The traditional barrier between audience and spectator or the actors themselves participating in the world of drama, fantasy and social reality was often transgressed or manipulated in some way to obtain the maximum impact or effect. Formal masques or public processions were especially popular during the Jacobean period although not unknown from much earlier times in the form of street theatre or folklore pageant. Although devised by playwrights many masques might be commissioned by the Lord Mayor of some city, the rich mercantile class or the aristocratic élite. Usually some allegorical content distinguished this complex form from others, and the genre was favoured by Ben Johnson who also invented the “anti-masque”, which was quite satirical, more ribald and realistic than those naive flights of fancy and imagination favoured by the leading nobles, aristocrats and their minions. The Masque of the Nine Worthies at the close of Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labours Lost” is a typical example as well as the masque of Juno & Ceres in the “Tempest”. “Twelfth Night” is also considered to have been influenced by both folkloric traditions and includes elements of the masque. Shakespeare’s comedies contain much of what was derived from the Italian Commedia d’elle Arte especially where the comic or tragic characters or narrative are concerned.

The composers, authors and performers composed plays and wrote songs on the theme of idealised courtly love as well as satirical attacks on the dogmas and traditions of political or religious organisations who interfered in the liberties and rights of commoners and nobles alike. Employing comical and monstrous masks, exotic costumes and other theatrical effects these were often performed in the manner of a pageant, procession, puppet show, dramatic play or opera, a form later plagiarised by the ecclesiastics and Franciscan clergy in the Mystery Plays (14 Stations of the Cross). As the more pious adherents of the Catholic world vied for the heretic souls of Europe, namely the underrepresented artisans, weavers, and peasants various missionary establishments arouse to support them- namely the Franciscan and Dominican orders. Each owed their existence to the classical views on faith, reason and theological beliefs resolutely propagated by St. Thomas Aquinas and the more humanist ideals espoused by the Platonic philosophical schools of Roger Bacon (1294) and St. Bonaventura. The founder of the Franciscan order, St. Francis of Assisi as a monk and of the latter persuasion, having clearly transgressed the law of celibacy, was himself dangerously close to being branded a heretic by the authorities in Rome. Though this period saw the old adherents of pagan belief being forced into either a reconciliatory humanist stance or towards even more rebellious, libertine inclinations. For example France saw the development of heretical underground movements such as the Cathars, England witnessed the arrival of the radical theologian John Wycliffe (circa 1330-84) and the Lollards and in N. Europe the followers of Meister Eckhart (1260-1328).

The greatest radical literary figure towards the end of this period was Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) who produced his own political work (De Monarchia), a theological quest and spiritual revelation through hell, purgatory and paradise (Divine Comedy) as well as various poems, and sonnets. When the printing of books and pamphlets finally arrived in Europe (circa mid 15th century) many other alternative or heretical groups began to flourish and that in itself gave rise to the Great Reformation in Europe.
The songs of the troubadours, like the pageants of Mummer’s and Miracle plays, therefore appealed to a broad spectrum of people who were ostracised by monarchic and religious autocrats who had vested interests in diminishing regional freedoms and consolidating their control over disparate districts and ethnic populations of western Europe. These included many nobles, knights, migrant agricultural workers, peasants, artisans, merchants, innkeepers, and in particular the widows of noblemen who had lost their estates when their husbands had died in the crusades. The outcasts sought to throw off the moral yoke of blind obedience to Church and State that had been so cleverly devised to deprive them of individual freedoms. In opposition to the hypocritical advocates in the Roman Catholic Church, who espoused the denial of nature, poverty and celibacy, the troubadours proclaimed that the road to salvation or liberation lay in personal experience and the ardent pursuit of one’s ladylove (eg: “Taming of a Shrew”, “Midsummer Night’s Dream” or “Romeo & Juliet”). More pertinently they advocated and endorsed pre-marital sexual affairs which was an affront to the celibate doctrines of the Puritan Church Elders as well as some Catholics. Indeed, through their poetry and songs, the medieval troubadours may have themselves influenced the development of modern popular theatre and opera establishing themselves during the Italian Renaissance of the 16th century as the Commedia dell’Arte. In England they were no doubt an influence in Shakespeare’s paradoxical theme plays and comedies (eg: “Love’s Labours Lost”, “Comedy of Errors”, “Merrie Wives of Windsor”, “Much Ado About Nothing” and “All’s Well That Ends Well”.) as well as the forerunners of the annual farce or pantomime staged in the New Year. Although the exact origins of the troubadours is lost in the mists of time they are thought to have begun in the Provence district of France although similar schools and groups may have existed in parts of Britain, Italy, Spain, and the northern districts of Picardy in France.

In the latter regions they were known as the Trouvères, among whom are listed Conon de Bethune (d. 1224), Thibaud (IV) de Champagne, the King of Navarre, Adam de la Halle, and Rutebeuf (13th century). Adam de la Halle travelled with his patron Robert II of Artois and was best known at the court of Charles d’Anjou at Naples. In literature the allegorical themes of “Everlasting Providence”“The Holy Grail”, the “Stations of the Fool”“Perceval and the Doomed Lovers”“Tristan & Iseult” and the “Virtuous Knight”Galahad or Gawain have their origins in the oral traditions of the troubadours. These stories, that contain mythic and folkloric leitmotifs from an earlier time, emphasised gallantry, gentleness, self-sacrifice, sensitivity, and courtesy to women. They especially implored macho or misogynist men to come to terms with their feminine side and refrain from “manly lusts”. They also offered a series of choices to the spiritual adept – to accept the companionship of a lover as a holy sacrament or to renounce it in favour of a death as a hero in mortal combat (eg: “Two Noble Kinsmen” or “Two Gentlemen of Verona”). However, these allegorical themes owe much to earlier Gnostic and Orphic traditions which were amalgamations of pagan matriarchal themes to the esoteric eastern traditions of tantric religion. In direct contrast to strict orthodox western doctrines eastern Tantra asserts that only through physical contact with a woman can a man understand the nature of reality and develop his spiritual powers (Siddhi) to deal with it. Essentially, this secular, pantheistic tradition emphasised individual knowledge, freedom, justice and truth and recognised Jesus Christ as a semi-divine angel or messenger of God. Understandably, this underground stream of occult philosophy was a direct threat to the domination of the Roman Catholic Church and their beliefs and practices were vehemently condemned as heretical witchcraft. The most well-known of these dualist or pagan heretical sects were the Bogomils, the so-called 13th Tribe who finally settled in Bulgaria and the Cathari or Albigenses of S.W. France who were considered advocates of the Devil by many mainstream theologians of the time.

Mystery Plays:

A Medieval manuscript illustration of a Mystery Play

The term mystery play actually refers to the Latin use “misterium” referring to the trade or guild such as tailors, bakers, silversmiths etc who sponsored or took part in them. Although originally sponsored by the clergy or monarchy, eventually, these plays became ever more popular and elaborate so that special buildings were constructed for their presentation to the public (see Globe Theatre). Indeed, as they became more popular numerous groups of travelling players, some more legitimate than others staged productions in all the major towns of England sometimes in courtyards of traveller’s inns, as well as the regular rural fairs and fêtes. By the late 16th century the orthodox religious play, that was an attempt to redeem lost souls or at worst strengthen the doctrinal views of Catholic against Puritan, had died off in England being gradually replaced by the more professional scripted performances which we know today as Elizabethan drama. Access to scripts of various quality and authenticity were therefore paramount to their ongoing success and there were plenty of aspiring scriptwriters, composers and poets to meet the popular demand of the period. The Mystery Play, as its peculiar name suggests, contains some esoteric element either from arcane pagan or more recent Christian sources for illumination by the audience through the work of the playwright and actors themselves. These began as early as the tenth century and continued to be performed in the church precincts by priests and some talented members of the congregation. It might for example explain to those gathered why the meek should inherit the Earth, why Judas betrayed Christ, why Eve was tempted by the serpent or some other bone of religious contention, of which there were many being bandied about in the medieval world. However, to compete with popular gatherings such as fairs and fêtes, these mysteries had an element of folkloric customs, pagan superstition as well as moral edification attached to them perhaps in order to attract the irreligious, secular or ignorant portion of the population to mainstream Christian moral values and ideas.

Morality Plays:

Morality plays were popular during the 15-16th century when the Reformation gave rise to a re-examination of orthodox Christian and alternative moral values. Although clearly the Medieval Mystery play had performed a similar role in the previous era. This form is essentially didactic and similar in application to a formal dramatic interlude to explain some subtle relationship between the plot/actors. Usually, the roles of the actors fell into clearly discernible good and evil characteristics; whether that was as protagonist or antagonist leaving the leading players or characters as victims of their own design. This dramatic or narrative tradition can easily be discerned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s series of narrative poetry (The Canterbury Tales, A Knight’s Tale, A Miller’s Tale etc). These tales illustrate through the use of popular and well-established caricatures the moral implications of “good and evil”.
Therefore the King and Queen, the Fool, the Devil, The Pope and the Knight were often directed and portrayed as they would have been in street theatre or outdoor stage productions. Just as in the case of Mummer’s Plays (see below) there were often allegorical portrayals for example of the seven deadly sins (Pride, Anger, Lust, Greed, Sloth, Ignorance, and Deceit), just a sample amongst those favoured. Dramatic personifications of the 12 months, perhaps even of the festivals themselves (literally Father Christmas), the seven traditional planets and the four seasons all according to the time were quite common. These productions borrowed and improvised upon the “dramatis personæ” from the Italian Commedia d’elle Arte with their own immoral and moral characters.
However, other characters might be featured such as the “eponymous everyman” representing mankind generally or some form of Memento Mori. Political or religious debate was also something of a moral issue often represented in these plays whereby comic characters might represent pomposity, pedantry, arrogance, duplicity, hypocrisy etc. The theatre of the world (Theatrum Mundi) was a Renaissance concept which suggested that theatre was a representation of the “Mind of God” in which human beings played their individual part. This idea was strongly delineated in Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It” where the Seven Ages of Man are represented;

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”

Miracle Plays:

The miracle play, often confused with the Mystery and indirectly with the Morality Play, is largely a French invention with festive gatherings or processions often featuring the lives of Catholic saints or martyrs or major miraculous themes or events that were described in the Bible. More pertinently, Miracle Plays often concluded with a triumphal appearance of the Virgin Mary. These plays were central to the observance of the liturgical calendar as a series of cycles throughout the year so, Christmas (25th Dec), Epiphany (6th Jan), Candlemass (2nd Feb), Easter or Holy Week (Crucifixion & Resurrection) and Whitsun (7th Sunday after Easter), followed by Trinity Sunday, the Feast of Corpus Christi and ending with All Hallow’s Eve (1st November). Winter was synonymous with Darkness, Summer synonymous with Light, while Autumn was symbolic of Death and Spring a reflection of Re-Birth. The Christmas period was a time of revelling and mirth, Spring a time for hope and concupiscence, Summer was climactic, absurdly comic and usually featured contests and tournaments while Autumn was synonymous with horror, tragedy or death.

Mummer’s Plays:

Mummer’s plays were local travelling theatrical productions that featured mythical characters such as George and the Dragon, Jack of the Green, that occurred in the 15th century and were revived sometime in the early 19th century. They appear to be a revival of some older pagan rituals that were designed to take place at specific times of the year and were of three basic types; the swaggering hero and anti-hero, the Sword Dance and the Wooing of Two Lovers. The name for these wandering players varies from any locality, sometimes called “guisers, jonny jacks, soul-cakers, and pace-eggers”, although in Norfolk and Suffolk none exists whatsoever. Nevertheless, strictly speaking the term mummers means to perform in total silence ie: grimace or mime, and perhaps the wearing of masks or taking on of disguises to remain anonymous. Indeed, we do know that productions featured scripts in poetic couplets or quatrains with each performer stepping into a horseshoe shaped circle to do their carefully rehearsed part. The traditional village Morris Dancers, as the name suggests, are just another form of “mummers”, probably of the sword dance tradition. The most popular times for these ritual re-enactments being the Winter Solstice, Easter, Midsummer and late Autumn.

Some anthropological researchers suggest that in form and content they resemble traditions that derive largely from pantheistic Aryan religions in Asia and variations of those customs and beliefs are latent in the narrative and oral legend of King Arthur and the mysterious Holy Grail. Ostensibly, the staging or performance of these ritual customs and traditions derive from Holy Grail folklore but were later appropriated by some members of the illumined clergy, both Protestant and Catholic, in an attempt to lure the tribal, heathen mind of Celts, Gaelic, Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Norse peoples away from their “old ways and superstitions”. Although contemporary performers tend to ham up their own idea of how these plays were presented, it is fairly clear that they were deliberately performed in a cold, possibly surreal and almost wooden manner, in effect like human puppets. The inherent knowledge and imagination of the audience would be obliged to do the rest. Elaborate and colourful costumes were an important element in these amateur players who could earn a handsome sum of money during these critical holiday periods for example Christmas Eve (Saturnalia or Yuletide), Plough Monday, Twelfth Night, Wassail and All Hallow’s Eve.

Usually, a presenter, such as “Auld Nick” (ie: Father Christmas) would introduce the characters and announce their intent, for example the first warrior knight would appear boasting of his formidable strength, courage or accomplishments, then another (The Turk) would appear to take him on. A slashing sword combat would take place, and one would fall dead and soon after a Doctor would be called to revive him, and if this failed a minister with attendants (Beelzebub) would arrive to administer the last rites. Therefore within elements of the Mystery plays, Miracle plays and Morality plays we will find vestiges or correspondences to these earlier ritualistic masques or traditions that had taken place prior to the conversion of the British populace to Christianity. For example among the Celtic peoples the time of Christmas was celebrated in honour of the dead with Odin, who was thought to ride his horse across the heavens leading the hunt. Today that task is performed by Santa Claus, alias Old Nick or Father Christmas with a team of reindeer with a bag of presents for children. However, the clergy were keen to sanitise and censor much of what they considered to be inappropriate pantheism or idolatry in any respect to the old pagan ways. Mummer’s plays were often considered a threat by the Church Fathers partly because of their satirical innuendos and symbolic or allegorical content, where for example they were critical of the lies and hypocrisy of the Orthodox Church.


The term “revel” actually means to indulge oneself or take delight in and this preoccupation or custom is ostensibly a typically English pursuit, to relieve the tedium of abstinence or deprivation. During the reign of Elizabeth there were essentially two kinds of theatre in England, one was devised with an overtly orthodox or religious viewpoint (Mystery & Morality Play), the other was secular, ribald and regarded as being of a rather suspicious or doubtful nature. Some vulgar presentations have been discovered as early as 1550 (Gammer Gurton’s Needle) was an early comedy written in English. The term “Revels”, which dates back to the 15th century, refers in part to the latter form which was often accompanied by some boisterous entertainment especially devised by whichever patron chose to finance and promote them. Like wakes, feasts and fairs, there would be jugglers, comic antics, music, poetry, and some spectacular setting or stage-crafted arena. Like the after premiere party or thespian gathering, the revels designed by aristocrats, merchants and players were intended to entertain and amuse as well as expand the kudos of the patron. It was an opportunity for those who had been isolated in communities or personal relationships to come together, to meet old friends or enemies and make useful contacts. The Master of the Revels, who was first appointed on a permanent basis by the crown in 1547, was under the supervision and approval of the Lord Chamberlain, that thereby excesses were avoided. These so-called “Revels” took place during the “dark side of the year”, traditionally from All Saints Day (1st November) right up to the beginning of Lent, although they were generally restricted to the Christmas period during the reign of Elizabeth. Professional companies and individuals would be commissioned from court and paid to perform at these events which might even include pageants and masques.

Pageants & Fairs:

Finally, Pageants or Fairs were usually performed on the back of carts and wagons as well as on foot in the streets, these pageants or tableaux as they were sometimes called had long been a form of local or regional celebration or seasonal festivity incorporating religious, political or even mercantile aspirations. They were often sponsored by the town’s guilds, the mayor or in some cases the monarchy or the clergy. The Italians knew them as “Triumphs” literally meaning being to celebrate or announce some victory over darkness or evil by some heroic effort. The term “trumps” entered magical symbolism and the design of gaming cards where they were known as trumps (see the 22 Cards of the Major Arcana).

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


A “Stratfordian Homunculus” Forged And Distilled From Italian Comedy?

An artist’s impression of a Commedia d’elle Arte performance, Baron Gerard Museum & Art Gallery, Bayeux, France.

It has often been intimated by Shakespeare scholars, dramatists and reviewers that a great number of Shakespeare’s early plays display or contain elements of the Italian street players known as the “Commedia d’el Arte”, who were extremely popular during the early part of the Italian Renaissance between the 15th and 16th centuries. Among the main male characters were Pantaloon, a Doctor, the Inamorato, the servants Harlequin and Brighella, and Scapino. The main female characters featured were the confidant of Inamorata, the Soubrette, Columbina, Canterina and Ballerina.
Other European countries, including the British Isles of course, had similar travelling performers for example; the “Comedias de Capa y Espada” (lit. trans “Cape & Sword”) from Spain were domestic intrigues acted out by nobles for the amusement and entertainment of other nobility. Similarly the “Comedia de Figuron” were a genre of Spanish drama with stock themes, plots and characters (both male and female) from everyday life but on the whole somewhat bombastic, pompous or pretentious in their presentation. The Spanish “Comedia de Ruido” were another dramatic genre meaning “Noisy Plays”, which required a great deal of props, supporting scenery, sound contraptions and mechanical devices. Many of these plays had as their principle subject the life of monarchs or saints in days gone by with mythological or historical subjects or themes. However, in France the acting troupes had long been inspired by their own home-spun “Comedié”, not necessarily a “comedy” as such but rather a play that was “not serious” and their very own “Comedié de Mœurs” which translates as “Comedy of Manners”. These plays explored the social mores of different classes and types of characters as Shakespeare does in “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Love’s Labours Lost”. For example the character Armado corresponds to the “bragging soldier”, the Miles Glorioso of Plautus, Moth corresponds to the “Zanni”, a companion to the braggart, Holofernes corresponds to the “Pedant” and Nathaniel to the “Parasite”. France’s own state theatres did not arrive until 1622 (Le Theatre Francaise & La Maison Molière), but another genre in France was known as a “Tearful Comedy” or “Comedié Larmoyante” intended naturally to be “tear-wateringly sad or tragic” depending on your perspective. What was accepted as “tragic” or tearful for some was indeed a source of “comedy” and laughter for others. The word Comedy actually derives from the Greek word “Komos” meaning “to revel” or “make merry” and was associated in ancient Greece with the ritual dramas and worship of the Greek god Dionysus who is featured strongly as an emblem in the introductory pages of William Shakespeare’s 1623 Folio of plays. The Italian poet Dante in his “Divine Comedy” defined comedy as “Com”, meaning village and “Coda” meaning song, (ie; “Village Songs”) which usually began sadly or tragically but finished with a happy and unexpected ending. The arcane “Satyr Plays”, as they were named are unfortunately a misnomer because the Elizabethans thought that the satyr plays of ancient Greece were literally a term to describe their own satirical dramas of the time. The term satire actually derived from the Latin “satura”, meaning a mixture or medley in performance, song, poetry, burlesque etc. Not unlike the Elizabethan revels, the genre described a genial, often mocking/laughing and light-hearted comedy whose diametric opposite in form was the “Juvenal Play” which was more scathing and critical lit: “railing or lashing out” at some character, trend or behaviour in society or among the aristocracy.

Eight of the stock characters who perform in the Commedia d’elle Arte, Italy

This was akin to another form, “Comedy of Morals” which traditionally derided the follies and sins of “the common man” such as hypocrisy, deceit, pride, avarice, pretention, simony and nepotism. Shakespeare’s contemporary, the poet and playwright Ben Jonson favoured the satirical form with his “Every Man Out Of His Humour” and other similar plays, while Shakespeare explored the romantic comedy and tragic-comedy in his “Comedy of Errors” and “Much Ado About Nothing”. The ancient Greek medical theory of four temperaments which was known to Italian physicians such as Vesalius as the “Four Humours or Temperaments” suggested that human beings were subject to certain compulsions, passions, traits and dispositions eg: the melancholic (Earth-depressive), the choleric (Fire-bad-tempered), the phlegmatic (Water-hysterical) and the sanguine (Air-cold-hearted). The seven major planets as well as the zodiac signs themselves were similarly defined as fiery, watery, airy, and earthy which allowed the Italian Neo-Classical Commedia d’el Arte to introduce them as a series of eight or sixteen archetypal characters in professional theatre (The Hermetic Tarot of Mantegna-The archetypal social stations of humanity). These were often performed by aristocratic, trained actors as opposed to the “Commedia Erudita” which was crude, popular, improvisational theatre, farce or burlesque performed by enthusiastic amateurs from local provinces. They were often described as “a learned imitation of classical comedies” like those composed by Terence and Plautus; a good example of which can be found in the work of Ariosto, who was followed by Machiavelli (in his own “La Mandragola”, 1520) and Aretino. Another popular form, which developed in Spain was the “Comedy of Intrigue” favoured by Lope de Vega (1562-1635), Tirso de Molina (1571-1648) and Alarçon (1581-1639).

A set of Commedia d’elle Arte masks

The touring groups or troupes of Commedia (Troubadours) travelled as far as Western France but never actually travelled on their tours as far as the British Isles. On a small number of occasions however they did perform at court with the invitation of the reigning monarch or some English aristocrat but never did they perform publically in the streets, in pageants or the theatres as dramas or masques. The narrative plot of the Tempest bears some similarities to several Commedia plays, for example “La Nave” (The Ship), “Il Mago” (The Magician), and “Tres Satiri” (Three Satyrs). The Shakespeare research academic, Allardyce Nicholl draws comparison of the storyline of The Tempest with an Italian play entitled “Arcadia Incantada” (The Enchanted Arcadia). William Thomas’s “History of Italy” (1549) mentions a certain Duke of Genoa, Prospero Adorno who could have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s own character of Prospero in the “Tempest”, and who was deposed in 1460 and returned sixteen years later to rule as deputy for the Duke of Milan. A recorded visit of Italian Commedia d’el Arte actors to perform in Nottingham as early as 1573 was followed a year later from an account in “Court Revels” of a performance for the Queen at Windsor and Reading. Furthermore, on the 27th February 1576 one Italian troupe performed at court while another under Drousiano was given dispensation to perform during Lent in 1578. William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon would have been a young boy of nine to twelve years-old during those occasions. While the Earl of Oxford having failed to escape to the continent in 1574, was finally allowed to tour France, Germany and Italy in April 1576 at the age of twenty-six with his own acting company performed several plays at the English court having spent a year touring in Padua, Verona, Venice and Sienna. The Elizabethan play “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, revived by William Davenant with the title “The Rivals” (later attributed to William Shakespeare) bears some similarity, especially with the clownish characters, Launce and Speed to a Commedia play entitled “Flavio Tradito”. An early version of which has been recorded as performed at Whitehall (19th February 1577) in the “Revels Accounts” as “The Historie of Titus and Gissipus” based on Bocaccio’s novella.

Precise historical and geographical detail in the play suggests a direct personal experience or knowledge in Northern Italy of the canal network in Lombardy and an actual reference to “Saint Gregory’s Well”, which was a customary staging post on any journey from the north to Milan. But the biggest anomaly encountered by academics is Pantino’s outburst in Act Two, scene three when he scolds Lance for tarrying and in danger of missing the boat which Proteus intends to board from Verona to Milan, they being both land-locked cities with no tidal flows?

“Lance away, away! Aboard!
Thy master is shipped, and thou art to post after with oars
What’s the matter? Why weepest thou, man?
Away ass, you’ll lose the tide, if you tarry any longer
…Tut, man, I mean thou’lt lose the flood, and,
In losing the flood, lose thy voyage, and
In losing thy voyage, lose thy master, and, in losing thy master,
Lose thy service, and, in losing thy service-“

In an article written by Catherine Hatinguais in the Oxfordian Newsletter (volume 21) the author, having meticulously researched the canal network between Verona and Milan during the 16th century, describes how the river Adige was regularly maintained and used for transport alongside the canal network as well. However, since the 16th century the landscape had been radically changed by those involved in flood management and farming. So, while academics originally thought that Shakespeare had made a gross geographical error (Sidney Lee 1907 and Andrew Dickson, later in 2016) it seems that the author of the 1623 Folio had actually travelled to Italy and knew first-hand the lay of the land and water transport in that particular region of the Po valley.

In the other “Italianate” play “Taming of a Shrew”, which is mostly located at Padua the author makes reference to all the cities visited by the Earl of Oxford, namely Venice, Pisa, Florence, Verona and Mantua.


“Tranio, since for the great desire I had
To see fair Padua, nursery of arts,
I am arrived for fruitful Lombardy,
The pleasant garden of great Italy;
And by my father’s love and leave am arm’d
With his good will and thy good company,
My trusty servant, well approved in all,
Here let us breathe and haply institute
A course of learning and ingenious studies.
Pisa renown’d for grave citizens
Gave me my being and my father first,
A merchant of great traffic through the world,
Vincetino come of Bentivolii.
Vincetino’s son brought up in Florence
It shall become to serve all hopes conceived,
To deck his fortune with his virtuous deeds:
And therefore, Tranio, for the time I study,
Virtue and that part of philosophy
Will I apply that treats of happiness
By virtue specially to be achieved.
Tell me thy mind; for I have Pisa left
And am to Padua come, as he that leaves
A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep
And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst.”

“Let’s be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray;
Or so devote to Aristotle’s cheques
As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured:
Balk logic with acquaintance that you have
And practise rhetoric in your common talk;
Music and poesy use to quicken you;
The mathematics and the metaphysics,
Fall to them as you find your stomach serves you;”

“Give me thy hand, Kate: I will unto Venice,
To buy apparel ‘gainst the wedding-day.
Provide the feast, father, and bid the guests;
I will be sure my Katharina shall be fine.”

And later:
“Father, and wife, and gentlemen, adieu;
I will to Venice; Sunday comes apace:
We will have rings and things and fine array;
And kiss me, Kate, we will be married o’Sunday.”

“Of Mantua, sir? marry, God forbid!
And come to Padua, careless of your life?”

“My life, sir! how, I pray? for that goes hard.”

“‘Tis death for any one in Mantua
To come to Padua. Know you not the cause?
Your ships are stay’d at Venice, and the duke,
For private quarrel ‘twixt your duke and him,
Hath publish’d and proclaim’d it openly:
‘Tis, marvel, but that you are but newly come,
You might have heard it else proclaim’d about.”

“Alas! sir, it is worse for me than so;
For I have bills for money by exchange
From Florence and must here deliver them.”

“Well, sir, to do you courtesy,
This will I do, and this I will advise you:
First, tell me, have you ever been at Pisa?”

A painting by Artist James Durno, of a scene from ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’; Sir John Soane’s Museum;

Moreover, it seems the character of Falstaff, (particularly in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and in “King Henry IVth Part Two”) itself was derived from the Italian School of developed stage archetypes where he was known as “El Capitano”, the braggart soldier who was in turn derived from Plautus’s own “Miles Glorioso”. One is therefore inclined to inquire; how on earth did the Stratford Shakespeare, who never travelled abroad and is still purported or assumed to be the author by conventional academics, get to know and imitate so precisely an Italian dramatic genre? William Shakspere, reputed to be the author of the 1623 Folio by Stratfordians, travelled exclusively between Stratford-upon-Avon and London, he never visited Italy; in fact he was never recorded as travelling abroad by ship, road or horse. The strong influence of Italianate comedy and drama In Shakespeare’s work is the major source of serious doubt of the supposition that he wrote poetry and plays without travelling to Italy of for that matter France. The Earl of Oxford meanwhile left Sicily embarked for Marseilles and from there up the Rhone before finally arriving in Paris. A reference to which would have been found in “All’s Well That Ends Well”: “Marseilles, to which place we have convenient convoy” or “He comes by post from Marseilles” and in “The Taming of a Shrew”, “an argosy that now is lying in Marseilles road”. Furthermore, in Act Five, scene One Portia mentions taking a letter by “tranect” (a word which has puzzled academics) and can only be placed to a locality in Venice, a type of ferry or gondola for transporting people, goods or messengers.

An artist’s impression of a scene from “The Taming of a Shrew”

“Take this same letter,
And use thou all the endeavour of a man
In speed to Padua: see thou render this
Into my cousin’s hand, Doctor Bellario;
And, look, what notes and garments he doth give thee,
Bring them, I pray thee, with imagined speed
Unto the tranect, to the common ferry
Which trades to Venice. Waste no time in words,
But get thee gone: I shall be there before thee.”

While its opposite dramatic tragedy, at least from an historical perspective, is derived from the Dionysian revels and ritualised plays of ancient Greece. Romance had its roots in the European pagan rituals performed usually at seasonal transitions eg: summer, autumn, winter, springtime. For a romance to work it required some aspect of allegory to define and translate the nature of the quest of the hero or heroine to an audience. In this instance it was important for an audience to identify strongly with the leading character (hero/heroine). The psychological development of a specific character through trial and error within a set series of acts was pivotal to the dramatic theme extemporised. We immediately detect the influence of Italian theatre in some of Shakespeare’s most early plays such as “A Comedy of Errors” and similarities in performance and staging style to L’Ammalata (1555) by Giovanni Cecchi and to Gl’ Inganni (1549) by Nicolo Secchi. According to several sources the stage set was constructed of three doors with perhaps two balconies above, the entire action taking place in the urban setting within one day. This required the installation of scaffolding, panels and folding screens so that it could be staged in any city or regional playhouse. The central door had the sign of the Phoenix (Antipholus of Ephesus), while the doors to left and right had the sign of the porcupine (Courtesan) and the sign of a cross (Abbey). Exits to stage left and stage right represented the roads to the harbour or bay and roads to the rural countryside respectively. This type of stage setting could be dismantled or repainted for future use in other plays.

A famous court scene from “The Merchant of Venice” when Shylock defends his right to justice and “a pound of flesh”.

Shakespeare’s other early play, “The Merchant of Venice” is derived from a translation of an Italian drama , I Suppositi -1509). It seems a similar version was performed at court in January 1579 entitled “A Moral of the Marriage of Mynde and Measure” written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. In his book “The Mysterious William Shakespeare”, the Oxfordian academic and author, Charlton Ogburn mentions the discovery of an Italian review (published in 1699) of a pageant by the researcher, Julia Cooley Atrocchi of “Tirata della Giostra” (Tirade of the Tournament) which lists a number of foreign dignitaries and participants of Europe, most notably the 17th Earl of Oxford. This took place at the Doges palace in Venice:

An illustrated perspective view of Venice in the 16th century.

“The horse of Milord of Oxford is faun-coloured and goes by the name of “Oltramarin” (beyond the sea). Edward carries a sword (spadone). His colour of costume is violet. He carries for device a falcon with a motto taken from Terence: “Tendit in Ardua Virtus” (Valour Proceeds Arduous Deeds).”

Apparently the Earl took part in a mock tourney or tilt against Alvida (ie; “The Masque of Amazons & Knights”), the Countess of Edenburg who, dressed in a costume of lemon yellow, was mounted on a dapple-grey horse and armed with a Frankish lance. The result of which both competitors were thrown off their horses, landing embarrassingly face-down, rolling in the dust to the amusement of the crowd. As a prize for his participation in the Doge’s procession Edward de Vere was awarded the “Horn of Astolf” (a possession that goes back to Charlemagne) and coincidentally a “spear to shake”. From Venice the Earl travelled to Palermo by way of Naples by ship where the “Tempest” and “Othello” takes place and from there to Sicily. A report by Edward Webbe, an English army officer who was present when the Earl made his visit describes how:

The logo for the Oxfordian cause who support the claim that Edward de Vere wrote “Shakespeare”

“The Right Honourable the Earl of Oxford, a famous man of chivalry, at which time he travelled in foreign countries, being then personally present, made there a challenge against all manner of persons whatsoever, and in all manner of weapons…to fight a combat with any whatsoever in the defence of his Prince and Country….and yet no man durst be so hardy to encounter him, so that all Italy over he is acknowledged the only Chevalier and Nobleman of England.”

No one stepped forward to address or accept the Earl’s challenge and the academic E. T. Clark suggests that the Earl’s challenge was actually intended for Don Juan, the champion of another tournament at Piacenza and the illegitimate son of Emperor Charles Vth. Incidentally the Earl of Oxford was present in Sicily where he commanded the fleets that defeated the Turks at Lepanto. Subsequently the Duke of Florence proclaimed the Earl to be General of the Horse:

“The General of our Horse thou art; and we, great in our hope, lay our best love and credence upon thy promising fortune.”

The performance of comedies, at least in England appears to fall into that transitional period between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday which leads onto Lent (Shrovetide). This was a period between the darkness of winter and the advent of Spring when boredom and despair had to be propitiated by amusement or light entertainment. It was known in Italy as Carnival, (literally “carne lavare”-the washing of flesh). A great number of Romance plays have their origins in fertility rites performed in April/May which were known popularly as Fabliaux or Picaresque. Theatrical processions in celebration of an event or sovereign were known as Tableaux or Triomphs. Very rarely were plays performed during the more serious Lenten period, which was a time of abstinence and preparation for Easter. The period following Harvest festival and through to Hallow’s Eve in preparation of Winter and Saturnalia was another period (Revels) when either serious or light-hearted plays would be performed. Other middle plays which indicate an influence from the Commedia d’el Arte are “The Merry Wives of Windsor”, and “Love’s Labours Lost” since no written source for the plot has been found only the influence of the Commedia d’el Arte and the biographical history of Henri, King of Navarre who succeeded his cousin in 1589. Historically a masque performed for the visit of the Duke d’Alençon on the 6th of January 1579 entitled “A Maske of Amazones & Maske of Knights” could have been an earlier version of “Love’s Labours Lost”.

A scene from William Shakespeare’s play, “Love’s Labours Lost”

In England there was probably a greater variety of festivals, fetes, fairs, and an even greater spectrum of dramatic presentations than on the continent where travelling minstrels and troubadours provided the entertainment. The dating of these festivals on which plays were performed relied on a cycle of feast days that had been gradually appropriated by the Roman Catholic Church to become their so-called “Saint’s Days” and many Protestants were anxious to repossess and re-instate them as arcane traditions that pre-dated the institution of Romanised Christianity, a view suitable to non-believers, whilst taking care to acknowledge that these festivals were in accord with English cultural and mythical traditions. Some royal tournaments, feasts, revels and masques were part of the solar calendar, the so-called fixed days while some were part of the lunar calendar, the so-called movable feasts of the liturgical cycle.

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


“Not Without Mustard”

Opening Credit for the Movie “Not Without Mustard”

“Or, the True, Lamentable Tragedy of Edward de Vere”

A Screenplay by Leonidas Kazantheos

In six months time, that is sometime in the year 2023 many theatres and literary and media institutions will probably be celebrating or commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the publication of William Shakespeare’s 1623 Folio of Romances, Tragedies, Comedies and Histories. In celebration of that event I expect to have completed a period drama documentary about the real life of “William Shakespeare”, who in my opinion was in actual fact Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. It will give a controversial but realistic view of his life and character as well as the major events in his life that have shaped his literary and theatrical profession.
The general concept of this film/drama would be to re-create the major events of Edward de Vere’s life using textual passages from Shakespeare’s plays and poetry to be included in the production of the script cleverly coinciding with the storyboard and screenplay. In this way it will prove that the life currents of Edward de Vere’s life coincide or at least resonate artfully with Shakespearean literature, thereby supporting the Oxfordian case in a very creative way. Alongside extracts of Shakespearean text I have inserted extracts from Edward de Vere’s own poetry, various selections from letters, manuscripts, court reports and legal documents from the time for the sake of accuracy and authenticity. The screenplay is in the form of Elizabethan theatre utilising a five-act structure, each act with seven scenes and covers the life of the young Earl from the age of twelve until his death at the age of fifty four. For that purpose there will be at least two actors required to play the leading role, one for his youth and another for middle to old age. To aid the narrative and plot there are also extracts from Ben Jonson’s “Every Man Out of His Humour”, as well as “A Yorkshire Tragedy” which is now considered to be in the hand and style of William Shakespeare and other historical sources for the scenes in Ireland.

A still photograph from the movie “Anonymous” showing Edward de Vere writing at his desk

About the Drama:
“Not Without Mustard”, or “The True Lamentable Tragedy of Edward de Vere” is a low budget, 45-60 minute movie or even a stage-play, or audio book about the life and times of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, who actually wrote the plays and poetry, as well as several songs attributed to William Shakespeare, of Stratford-upon-Avon. A film about Edward de Vere has already been made entitled “Anonymous” which strongly supports the Oxfordian case. “Anonymous” is a 2011 period film drama directed by Roland Emmerich and written by John Orloff. The film is a short fictionalized version of the life of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, an Elizabethan courtier, playwright, poet and patron of the arts, and suggests he was the actual author of William Shakespeare‘s plays. A 2020 subscriber survey conducted by the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship indicated that although entertaining, the film did not persuade or convert the viewers from the traditional Stratfordian view in favour of the controversial Oxfordian case.
However, lacking the funding available in Hollywood this film, drama or audio play will be made in a totally different way and will make the case for Edward de Vere as the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare”. The screenplay is made up largely from the text of William Shakespeare’s plays and other historical sources. I am sure that many enthusiasts and academic scholars of Shakespeare’s work will be intrigued and would attempt to guess which extracts, phrases and sometimes entire speeches have been derived from which plays or poems. A small percentage of the text is from my own collection of poems written while I was researching the “Shakespeare Authorship Controversy“.
Because of Edward de Vere’s strong aristocratic connections, his ancestry and personal circumstances he was aware that for his family, and with regard to other feudal or religious reasons presumed that his contributions in the theatre would demean his status as tutelary Lord Great Chamberlain, he became involved in the theatre secretly. For this means he decided to employ a pseudonym or “nomme de plume” under which he could write and never be acknowledged either by critics or his enemies. In effect he enlisted the help of the Stratford actor (William Shakspere), whose name coincidentally was the same as his secret identity. He had a turbulent and exciting life and was a favourite at court for a short period of time and then fell out of favour. He recieved an annuity of £1,000 from Queen Elizabeth to work as the royal propagandist and “spin-doctor” of the English Renaissance. However, a number of scandals surrounded his life and clandestine activities. Most notably, he had travelled to France, Italy, and Flanders and was extremely well-educated, financially well-endowed and had an intense interest in literature, music and poetry. At the age of 12 his father died in mysterious circumstances and he became a ward of Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Chancellor and advisor to Queen Elizabeth 1st , under his instruction and support the Earl grew up and later went to Gray’s Inn to complete his education. Even from an early age he displayed an interest in drama and poetry, his uncle Arthur Golding published the first English translation of “Ovid’s Metamorphoses”, which was one of the major literary sources for many of Shakespeare’s plays. Golding actually dedicated the book to Edward de Vere, who was tutored by Roger Ascham, Dr. John Dee, Thomas Smith, Bartholomew Clerke and admired by some of the most illustrious minds in literature, astronomy, medicine, history, drama, and botany. However, the Earl was also a provocative, hedonistic, narcissistic, messianic, bombastic, vindictive and bellicose individual. Presented in this light the drama throws a different light on the works attributed to the Stratford actor William Shakspere and their conventional interpretation by traditional academics.

Another still from the movie “Anonymous directed by Roland Emmerich and written by John Orloff

About the Movie:
The film currently has the working title of “Not Without Mustard” or “The True Lamentable Tragedie of Edward de Vere”. For example, major events such as his confinement in the Tower of London parallel scenes in which historical figures recited their own soliloquies in the dramatic works of Shakespeare as for example, in the scenes from Richard II. In a literary and historical context it is significantly controversial. Some critics would argue that this screenplay is essentially cut and paste “Shakespeare” to create a different narrative biography of “The Bard of Avon” but it has been meticulously researched and compiled to reveal the truth about the real life of “William Shakespeare”.
Basically the movie could be shot in atmospheric black and white, Tudor film noir style, with sepia, green/blue and copper tones. This is not a period drama it is a docu-drama with educational overtones or episodes. No Elizabethan costumes will be worn by actors just modern minimal clothing (black, grey, white polo-necks, leggings and hose) with occasional references to lace collars, wigs, beards, capes, hats, boots and caps to denote status of character. Shadow sheets will be erected for silhouette scenes, back projection for some scene locations, soft lighting, smoke machines, soft focus techniques in comic strip chiaroscuro, and unusual narrative angles for camera. Rostrum and rolling camera for some scenes will be employed. We expect to shoot some scenes on 16m or 32m Film and edit them in with the digital scenes. Camera resolution will be HD4 that is above 1080 dpi which is adequate for full-screen projection in most of today’s small cinemas. We are looking at the film being ready in 12 months time for the Stratford Theatre and Film Season. We will also be employing silent mime action and with the assistance of folk groups who have some talent in clog-dancing, Morris dancing, Mummer’s Plays and so forth. Some attempt will be made to re-create the dramatic format and the theatrical milieu operating during Shakespeare’s life. In this sense it is also an educational or documentary style film with loads of exciting and dramatic action thrown in. It might be defined in itself as a romance, tragedy, irony or historical drama rolled into one. It may even evolve in performance or production as a stage drama, audio play or Utube video.

The Screenplay, Act One

The opening scene is a theatre in foggy London around late Summer where the cast of Lord Leicester’s Men are performing a play from an earlier period such as say “Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

Act One Scene 1,: [An outdoor theatre with rustic actors and an audience].
[Prologue; read by a presenter in a small puppet show]

Gentles all, perchance you’ll wonder at this show;
But wonder on, till truth makes all things plain.
This man here is Edward, if you would know;
This beauteous Lady Anne is as yet uncertain.
This man, with lime and rough-cast, doth present
A wall, that vile wall which did these lovers sunder;
And through wall’s chink, poor souls, they are content
To whisper. At which let no man wonder.
This man, with lanthorn, dog, and bush of thorn,
Representeth Moonshine; for, if you will know,
By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn
To meet at Ninus’ tomb, there, there to woo.
This grisly beast, which Lion hight by name,
The trusty Anne, coming first by night,
Did scare away, or rather did affright;
And, as she fled, her mantle she did fall,
Which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain.
Anon comes Edward, sweet youth and tall,
And finds his trusty Anne’s mantle stained:
Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast;
And Anne, tarrying in a mulberry shade,
His dagger drew thrust in her heart, and died.
For all the rest, let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers
Twain discourse, while here they do remain.

(Gradual fade out of sound/angle from stage), camera cuts to one of the spectators in a private annex, Sir Robert Dudley, who turns towards his accomplice, seated aside and asks:

“Pray tell, is not the Earl of Oxenforde (John de Vere) the most well-endowed in estates of all our Earls in the whole of the Kingdom?”
The accomplice adds menacingly;
“And privately an avid Papist to boot?”.

Robert Dudley:
But if by chance or peradventure the earl were to die prematurely?
–Then none save his young son, Edward would inherit his estates.
And he has not yet come of age, so he will accept a wardship to some lord.

Be well assured leave the matter to me,
I sense his noble days are numbered.

Robert Dudley:
Indeed, attend to the business with haste.

Very well my lord.

[Accomplice exits]

Act One, Scene 2: [A Churchyard and cemetery beyond with assembled crowd of mourners. Autumn is fast approaching, winds and coppery/yellow leaves]. Next scene is the young Edward de Vere attending his father’s funeral with suggestions that the cause of his father’s death is far from natural.

Sir Thomas Smith:[Approaching Edward]

“Youth, thou bearest thy father’s face; frank nature, rather curious than in haste, hath well composed thee. Thy father’s moral parts mayst thou inherit too!”
“Then let my father’s honours live in me, nor wrong my age with this indignity.”
Sir Thomas Smith:
-“I would I had that corporal soundness now, as when thy father and myself in friendship first tried our soldier-ship! He did look far into the service of the time and was disciplined with the bravest. He lasted long but on us both did haggish age steal on and wore us out of action. It much repairs me to talk of your good father. In his youth he had the wit which I can well observe to-day in our young lords; but they may jest till their own scorn return to them un-noted ‘ere they can hide their levity in honours.”
“This good remembrance, sir, lies richer in your thoughts than on his tomb this solemn day; So in approof lives not his epitaph but in your loyal speech.”
[Turns to Lady:]
“And I in going, madam, weep over my father’s death anew: but I must attend her majesty’s command, to whom I am now in ward, and evermore in subjection.”
[Edward Exits]
[Enter Church Chorus-singing in procession]

Urns and odours bring away;
Vapours, sighs, darken the day;
Our dole more deadly looks than dying;
Balms and gums and heavy cheers,
Sacred vials filled with tears,
And clamours through the wild air flying.
Come, all sad and solemn shows
That are quick-eyed Pleasure’s foes;
We convent naught else but woes.
We convent naught else but woes.

The interior of Castle Hedingham as it stands today

Act One, Scene 3: [A podium in a castle].
The next set of scenes merging with the young Earl being presented as a ward to the Queen at Castle Hedingham where another play (Henry VIIIth) is due to be performed. He is later presented as a ward to William Cecil, scenes of early education and experience.
[In the background mingling crowds, spectators and processions. It is the cold of a dark winter’s evening. Edward, still mourning for his father, while still wearing black, is presented to the Queen by Lord Burghley].

Prologue: [Read by an actor/presenter]
I come no more to make you laugh: things now,
That bear a weighty and a serious brow,
Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe,
Such noble scenes as draw the eye to flow,
We now present. Those that can pity, here
May, if they think it well, let fall a tear;
The subject will deserve it. Such as give
Their money out of hope they may believe,
May here find truth too. Those that come to see
Only a show or two, and so agree
The play may pass, if they be still and willing,
I’ll undertake to see away their shilling
Richly in two short hours. Only they
That come to hear a merry, bawdy play,
A noise of targets, or to see a fellow
In a long motley coat guarded with yellow,
Will be deceived; for, gentle hearers, know,
To rank our chosen truth with such a show
As fool and fight is, besides forfeiting
Our own brains, and the opinions that we bring,
To make that All Is True we now intend,
Will never leave us an understanding friend.
Therefore, for goodness’ sake, and as you are known
The first and happiest hearers of the town,
Be sad, as we would make ye: think you see
The very persons of our noble story
As they were living; think you see them great,
And followed with the general throng and sweat
Of a thousand friends; then in a moment, see
How soon this mightiness meets a misery:
And, if you can be merry then, I’ll say
A man may weep upon his wedding-day.

[A young lady with troubadours passes by singing and dancing:]

“Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music, plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing, die.”

Enter Lord Burghley: [In attendance is the young Earl with train]
“Your most gracious Majesty, permit me on this most excellent and propitious hour to present his lordship, Edward, Earl of Oxenforde who, since his noble father passed away, is now enjoined in your ward-ship ‘til he becomes of lawful age”.
Edward: [Bowing graciously] “Your Majesty….”
Queen Elizabeth:
“Good Edward, cast thy nightly colours off, and let thine eye look like a friend on England’s royal court. Do not for ever with thy veiled lids seek for thy noble father in the dust. Thou know’st it common—All that lives must die, passing through nature into eternity?”
“T’is not alone this inky cloak, Good Mother, together with all shows of grief that can denote me truly. But I have that within which passeth show-these but the trappings and the suits of woe.”
Sir Robert Dudley:
“T’is sweet and commendable in your nature, Edward, to give these mourning duties to your father; but you must know your father lost a father; that father lost, lost his and the survivor bound in filial obligation for some term to do obsequious sorrow. We pray you throw to earth this un-prevailing woe and think of us as of a father; for let the world take note you are the most immediate to our throne.”
Queen Elizabeth:
“Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Edward study to remain here in the cheer and comfort of our eye, our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.”
Lord Burghley:
My good lord, moderate lamentation is the right of the dead,
excessive grief an enemy to the living.

[All exit with the Queen, leaving Edward alone]
“O, that this all too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon against self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on it! ah fie! ’tis an un-weeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a father; that he was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not be-teem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month–
Let me not think on it–Frailty, thy name is woman!–
A little month, or ‘ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father’s body,
Like Niobe, all tears:–why she, even she–
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourned longer–married with my uncle,
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of those unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to their incestuous sheets!
It is not nor can it come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.


Act One, Scene 4: [A Forest glade]
Scenes where the maturing Earl is depicted riding horse, learning the rudiments of falconry, practising his archery, jousting, fencing etc. A series of scenes in which he takes an interest in English history and the part played by his forebears. Scenes in which he is tutored by Sir Thomas Smith (Sheriff of London), Leonard Digges and Roger Ascham-his secret studies in alchemy, astrology, Hermeticism, and magic etc. No great exchange of dialogue; just Elizabethan music throughout. Towards the end cuts to cinematic split-screen scene panning parallel across a series of library shelves (Shakespeare’s literary sources), on the left words invented by him rolling up or down, superimposed is a hand with quill scribbling furiously across a manuscript the opening words of a play or poem. The action takes place through springtime, summer, autumn and winter.

Act One, Scene 5: [A hermit’s cave in early springtime]

That gradually merges with a scene in which the story of the Hermit’s prophecy is told to the Earl by Dr. John Dee. The Earl of Oxford realises he must lift the curse imposed on his family’s lineage through writing plays and poetry.

Dr. John Dee:
“I have a prophecy, my gracious Lord,
Wherein ‘tis written what success is like
To happen us in this outrageous war;
It was delivered me at Fox’s Hole
By one that is an aged Hermit there.
[Reads.] “When feathered foul shall make thine army tremble,
And flint stones rise and break the battle ray,
Then think on him that doth not now dissemble;
For that shall be the hapless dreadful day:
Yet, in the end, thy foot thou shalt not advance
As far in England as thy foe’s in France.”

There is a history in all men’s lives,
Figuring the nature of the times deceased;
That which observed, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, which in their seeds
And weak beginnings ly in-treasured.
Such things become the hatch and brood of time;
And by the necessary form of this
A King might then create a perfect guess
That great men, then being false to him,
Would of that seed grow to a greater falseness;
Which should not find a ground to root upon,
Unless it rests on you?

Dr. John Dee:
Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;
And yet methinks I have Astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself, to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

Come on, then; I will swear to study so,
To know the thing I am forbid to know:
As thus,–to study where I well may dine,
When I to feast expressly am forbid;
Or study where to meet some mistress fine,
When mistresses from common sense are hid;
Or, having sworn too hard an unbroken oath,
Study to break it and not to break my troth.
If study’s gain be thus and this be so,
Study knows that which yet it doth not know:
Swear me to this, and I will ne’er say no.

Dr. John Dee:
Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain,
Which with pain purchased doth inherit pain:
As, painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look:
Light seeking light doth light of light beguile:
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed
By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed
And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven’s glorious sun
That will not be deep-searched with saucy looks:
Small means have continual plodders ever won
Save base authority from others’ books
These earthly godfathers of heaven’s lights
That give a name to every fixed star
Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk and wot not what they are.
Too much to know is to know nought but fame;
And every godfather can give a name.

No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay with you:
And though I have for barbarism spoke more
Than for that angel knowledge you can say,
Yet confident I’ll keep what I have swore
And bide the penance of each three years’ day.
Give me the paper; let me read the same;
And to the strictest decrees I’ll write my name.

[Writes the name “William Shakespeare” on a manuscript then holds it aloft]

Dr. John Dee: [reaches for a book from his gown]
Peace, cousin, say no more:
And now I will unclasp a secret book,
And to your quick-conceiving discontents
I’ll read you matter deep and dangerous,
As full of peril and adventurous spirit
As to o’er-walk a current roaring loud
On the un-steadfast footing of a spear.

[Both exit slowly, while Dr. John Dee continues reading aloud…]

Act One, Scene 6:
A few years on, a scene at Gray’s Inn, where the young Earl receives his knighthood, matriculates and then plays a part in college revels, masques and plays.
[A College Hall, enter Edward de Vere, George Gascoigne and a Master of Mirth all walking through a throng of excited students and surly masters].
Gentlemen, I am a fellow of the strangest mind in the world as I delight in masques and revels sometimes altogether. The elegancy, facility, and golden cadence of poesy will we enact, the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the crowd.
George Gascoigne:
A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,
Which is as brief as I have known a play;
But by ten words, my lord, it is too long.

As imagination bodies forth the form of things unknown,
The poet’s pen turns them to shapes, and gives
To airy nothing a local habitation and a name.
–Oh for a Muse of Fire, that would ascend
the brightest heaven of invention!

George Gascoigne:
-What a coil’s here!
The serving of becks and jutting-out of bums!
I doubt whether their legs be worth the sums
That are given for them. Friendship’s full of dregs:
Methinks, false hearts should never have sound legs,
Thus honest fools lay out their wealth on courtesies.

Come now; what masques, what dances shall we have,
To wear away this long age of three years
Between our after-supper and our bed-times?
Where is our usual manager of mirth?
What revels are now in hand? Is there no play,
To ease the anguish of a torturing spell?
Call forth our maker of mirth.

Master of Mirth (reads):
The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.’
We’ll none of that: that have I told my love,
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.

‘The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.’
That is an old device; and it was play’d
When I from The Globe came last a conqueror.

‘The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceased in beggary.’
That is some satire, keen and critical,
Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.

A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus
And his love Thisbe; very tragical mirth.’
Merry and tragical! tedious and brief!
That is, hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?

O’erstep not the modesty of nature, the purpose of playing was and is, to hold, as t’were, a mirror up to nature.
George Gascoigne:
Will you see the players well bestowed? Let them be well-used for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of time.
The actors are at hand; and by their show, you shall know all that you are like to know.
George Gascoigne:
Look, he is winding up the watch of his wit; by and by
It will strike who knows who, when and where.

Nay, George I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent,
But only vaulting ambition, which overleaps itself.
secretly writing plays and poetry. No dialogue.

Act One, Scene 7: [A Study or Library]
While reflecting on his ancestry in his study the Earl sees an apparition in the mirror on the wall. It is the ghost of his dead father warning him of Robert Dudley’s involvement in the plot to kill him so that he may benefit financially from his premature death.

Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murdered,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion! Fie upon it! Foh! About, my brain! I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaimed their malefactions.

[Turns towards a mirror in which an apparition gradually appears.]

-Oh, is that a man o’ the cloth?
Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch
Of mine own eyes. Nay, ‘tis a man apparelled
As an apparition that might disappear,
As if an aether of my poor father.

[Ghost beckoning].
-Where wilt thou lead me? speak; I’ll go no further.

Mark me, Edward! My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself again at dawn.

Alas, poor ghost! Not yet…
Ghost: [Moving closer].
Pity me not, dear boy but lend thy serious ear
To what I shall unfold.

Speak, speak; I am bound to hear it.
So art thou now bound to your revenge,
When thou shalt hear: I am thy father’s spirit,
Doomed for a certain term to haunt the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porcupine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. Now list, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love–
-A murder most foul, as in the best it is;
But this most foul, strange and unnatural.

Haste me to know it, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May swoop to my revenge.

Now, dear Edward, hear:
‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchards,
A wicked serpent stung me; so the whole ear of England
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now straddles the Queen’s horse.

Oh, my prophetic soul! Sir Sidney’s uncle, Robert Dudley?
Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate dog,
With witchcraft of his wit, in traitorous hour,–
Of wicked deceit, and with that had the power
So to seduce, even our Queen!–won to his shameful lust
The will of thy most seeming-Virgin Queen:

[Raising his arms]
Oh Edward, what a falling-off there wast!
From me, whose love was of that noble dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
I made to your mother in marriage, and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of mine! Thus was I poisoned,
Sleeping, by a foul brother’s hand, deprived of life,
Of crown, of Queen, unjustly dispatched:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sins,
Unhousel’d, disappointed, un-panell’d,
O, horrible! O, horrible! Most horrible!
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of England be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
Now, fare thee well at once!
-The glow-worm shows the morning to be near,
And ‘gins to pale his un-effectual fire:
Adieu, adieu! Dear Edward, remember me.

[Gradually disappears, fading into mist]
Edward: [Alone and at his desk].
Oh, all you hosts of heaven! O earth! what else?
And shall I couple hell? Oh, fie upon this deed!
Hold, hold, my heart; so, Dudley, there you are.
Now to my word; it is ‘Adieu, adieu! remember me.’
I have sworn it!



The Anonymous & Pseudonymous “Shake-speare”

An artist’s impression of a scene from the Commedia d’el Arte (Baron Gerard Museum & Art Gallery, Bayeux, France)

Key Dates, Characters & Events

The following is a historical timeline of dates, characters and significant events taking place in London and elsewhere that had an impact on the theatrical milieu and its relationship to other important events, religious, political and social. The timeline is an attempt to compare the life circumstances of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford and William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon to determine who was best placed to, in personal experience and educational qualifications to be recognised as the author of “Shake-speare’s” Folio of 1623.

The inspiration of Italian poets and the subject of myth and legend, the enchantress “Melusine”, a mermaid with two tails is remarkably similar to the Starbucks logo but originally an emblem for the Lusignan dynasty.

James Halliwell Phillips writes in his two-volume analysis “Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare” published in 1887 in order to determine the “Correct Dating of Shakespeare’s Plays”:

“The would be biographer of Shakespeare is baffled in every quarter by the want of graphical documents, and little more can be accomplished beyond a very imperfect sketch or outline of the material features of the poet’s career.”

Despite the apparent dearth of information I was nevertheless tempted to write a feasible and realistic “Biography of William Shakspere”. Early biographers of Shakespeare relied on textual allusions made by the playwright and any recorded evidence of possible date of composition, date of registration, first performance and finally date of publishing. None of which were especially easy to deduce since only 15 of Shakespeare’s plays were actually registered at the Stationers Office (1603-1607), the majority being published anonymously and very few bearing his name or signature. Four more plays were registered from 1607 including “Romeo & Juliet”, “Love’s Labours Lost” and “Anthony & Cleopatra” the latter was not registered until the 1623 Folio was published. Shakespeare’s “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” (omitted from the first folio was published in 1609) and Othello, listed in October 1621 was published in 1622. Finally as late as the 8th of November the remaining unregistered eighteen plays were finally published in 1622. Since then other academics and scholars such as E. K. Chambers were persuaded to analyse Shakespeare’s evolving literary and poetic style in order to solve the problem of chronology. Using modern stylometric and computer analysis has led other researchers into numerous other conclusions as well as “blind alleys” and extensive theories on Shakespeare’s Chronology.

A scribe’s practice sheet showing Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare’s signatures and numerous references to plays such as Sir Thomas More, Richard the Second and Richard the Third.

One of the main problems is the absence of any dated, or hand-written manuscripts, researchers have found the manuscripts of other playwrights such as Ben Jonson’s “Masque Of Queens”, or Thomas Middleton’s “A Game at Chess” and the only original manuscript pertaining to the career of Shakespeare is that of “Sir Thomas More” (in which he collaborated with other playwrights), along with a scribe’s manuscript with several “practiced signatures” which are presumed to belong to Shakespeare but could so easily belong to the scribe or penman such as John Davies or John Day who were employed by Sir Francis Bacon. (See Shakespeare’s Signatures) Furthermore, there are no records indicating payment for Shakespeare plays performed at the Globe or elsewhere, the usual fee being somewhere in the region of £6-£7 pounds. There is however a record of John Day’s “Bristow Tragedy” in May 1602 and later in the same year the theatre manager Phillip Henslowe paid six pounds to John Day, Hathaway and Smith for a play entitled “Merry As May Be”. The earliest mention of William Shakespeare as a playwright is by Francis Meres on the 7th September 1598 in his inaugural guide to writers, poets and playwrights of the Elizabethan era; “Palladis Tamia” mentioning at least twelve of Shakespeare’s plays:

“As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras: so the sweete wittie soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous & honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugared sonnets among his private friends…As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for comedy and tragedy among the Latins, so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage. For comedy witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love’s Labour’s Lost, his Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his Merchant of Venice; for tragedy, his Richard the Second, Richard the Third, Henry the Fourth, King John, Titus Andronicus and his Romeo and Juliet.”

This was in the same year that the first play was published with his name (without the hyphen) by Cuthbert Burby, entitled “Love’s Labours Lost”. So were Marston and Hall responding to the emergence of the author “Shakes-peare” from his “crack of virtual obscurity” into “an abyss of total anonymity”?

The Title page of Baldessar Castiglione’s “The Courtier”, a translation of which was dedicated to the 22 year old Earl of Oxford by his tutor, Bartholomew Clerke

On the other hand poetry attributed to William Shakespeare appears around the same time. Along with Joseph Hall the dramatist John Marston criticised Shakespeare’s first attempts as a poet (Venus & Adonis) in his own “The Metamorphosis of Pygmalion’s Image” (1598). He used the same euphemism “Labeo” as Joseph Hall and quoted from Shakespeare’s Venus & Adonis (lines 199 and 200). In some sense this hidden reference could be seen as all part of the cut and thrust during the War of the Theatres.

So Labeo did complaine his love was stone
Obdurate, flinty, so relentless none;
Yet Lynceus knows that in the end of this
He wrought as a strange a metamorphosis.
Ends not my poem thus surprising ill?
Come, come, Augustus crowne my laureate quill.

But it does suggest that Hall and Marston knew something more about Shakespeare’s character and personal circumstances and they were not afraid to say so. The poem suggests the author, like the cuttlefish hides behind a cloud of ink and that, should faith or fame be wronged, unlike other writers and poets, he could shift ownership or attribution of his work to another’s name. Meaning of course that the name of Shakespeare was a pseudonym employed by an anonymous author to avoid public attention or criticism.

Labeo is whip’t and laughs me in the face.
Why? For I smite and hide the galled place,
Gird but the Cynick’s helmet on his head,
Care he for Talus or the flayle of lead?
Long as the craftie Cuttle lieth sure
In the black cloud of his thick vomiture;
Who list complaine of wronged faith or fame,
When he may shift it onto another’s name?

“The Parallel Lives of William Shakspere & Edward de Vere, 1550-1623”

The Earl of Oxford’s coat of arms

1550 Birth of Edward de Vere, the Earls of Arundel and Southampton banned from court. In May, Joan Butcher was burned for heresy at Smithfield. Princess Mary barred from escaping to the continent.

1551 Earthquake in London, first standing English army established. King Edward marries Elizabeth, daughter of Henri IInd of France. Treaty of Angiers signed.

1552 King Edward suffers from smallpox and measles. Execution of the Duke of Somerset.

1553 Edward promotes a bill to counter Henry VIIIth’s Act of Succession naming the heirs of Lady Jane Grey to succeed him. 6th July King Edward dies. Lady Jane Grey proclaimed Queen but Mary Tudor, mobilising support for her accession meets an opposition from Duke of Northumberland. Edward buried at Westminster Abbey, Mary Tudor accedes to English throne. Princess Elizabeth and Robert Dudley sent to the Tower.

1554 The Wyatt Rebellion suppressed, 20th July Prince Phillip of Spain arrives at Southampton to marry Queen Mary at Winchester Cathedral. First unsuccessful attempt to find a northwest passage to India by Sir Hugh Willoughby. Muscovy Company established. Execution of Lady Jane Grey. Princess Elizabeth and Robert Dudley released from the Tower.

1555 Pope Julius IIIrd dies unexpectedly, his successor Marcellus dies after 3 weeks. The Protestant theologians John Hooper and John Rogers are publically executed. Ridley and Latimer follow them. Queen Mary fakes a pregnancy and Prince Phillip departs for Spanish Low Countries. Trial of Archbishop Cranmer, death of Lord Chancellor Gardiner.

1556 A comet is observed and Archbishop Cranmer is burned at stake.

1557 Thomas Stafford captures Scarborough Castle and declares himself Duke of Buckingham.

1558 Death of Mary Tudor, the accession of Queen Elizabeth 1st. Translation of Euripides“Iphigenia in Aulis” by Jane Lumley published. Marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to the Dauphin of France. Calais falls to the French.

1559 Queen Elizabeth rejects offer of marriage to Phillip II of Spain.

Coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1st

1560 Publication of Geneva Bible printed by Rowland Hall. Translation of Seneca’s “Thyestes” by Jasper Heywood.

1561 Queen Elizabeth translates Seneca’s “Hercules Octaeus”. Sir Francis Bacon born.

1562 Earl of Oxford’s father John de Vere dies unexpectedly and Edward de Vere is made a ward of Queen Elizabeth. The wardship is then passed on to Lord Burghley when the young Earl is twelve years old. Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville produce “The Tragedy of Gorboduc” based on Seneca’s play. England intervenes in France to occupy Le Havre.

1563 Protestant England draws up and adopts the 39 Articles of Faith.

1564 Peace proclaimed between England and France. Birth of William Shakspere in Stratford-upon-Avon, baptised April 26th.

An early edition of the Geneva Bible

1564-66 Earl of Oxford given honorary degree at Oxford thereafter he attends St. John’s College, Cambridge and receives his degree. In May 1564, his uncle, Arthur Golding dedicated “Th’ Abridgement of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius” to his 14-year-old nephew, Edward de Vere.

1565 John Stow, who died in 1605, a member of the Merchant Tailor’s Guild publishes first chronicle of England (“Abridgement of the English Chronicle” published 1618). 3rd of February Henry Stuart Darnley marries Mary, Queen of Scots.

1566 Thomas Hoby dies. George Gascoigne translates Ariosto’s “Suppositi” as first British comedy in prose. Charles, James Stuart, the son of Lord Darnley and Queen Mary is born at Edinburgh Castle. Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex born.

1567 10th February Lord Darnley is treacherously murdered and within 10 months his son James is proclaimed King of Scotland. Mary is imprisoned at Loughleven. Red Lion Theatre opens. The Earl of Oxford kills a servant of Lord Burghley which is hushed up. Edward de Vere’s uncle and personal tutor, Arthur Golding publishes a translation of “Ovid’s Metamorphoses” in 1567, dedicated to him.

1568 John Shakspere made Mayor of Stratford. Mary, Queen of Scots escapes from Loughleven and is conveyed to Workington, then Carlisle and imprisoned at Bolton Castle. Bishops Bible published for the Jesuit foundation students at Douai. John Shakspere appointed Bailiff of Stratford. The Bishop’s Bible published.

1569 11th October Thomas Duke of Norfolk conveyed to the Tower and imprisoned.
The Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland proclaimed traitors. The Earl of Oxford’s mother dies and Thomas Underdowne dedicates his translation of the “Æthiopian History of Heliodorus of Emesa” to the Earl of Oxford which would have been a good literary source for the play Othello. On 22nd April 1569 the Earl of Oxford recieved his first nomination as member of the Knight’s Garter.

1570 The Northern Rebellion commences. Queen Elizabeth 1st excommunicated by Pope Pius Vth. Edmund Elviden, a gentleman, dedicated to the Earl of Oxford “The most excellent and plesant metaphoricall historie of Pesistratus and Catanea”.

Early wedding portrait of Anne Cecil, Lord Burghley’s daughter

1571 Earl of Oxford marries Anne Cecil, daughter of William Burghley on his return from the Northern Rebellion. England victorious against the Turks at Lepanto. The Ridolfi plot is uncovered. On the 20th October 1571, his uncle, Arthur Golding dedicated a third book to the Earl of Oxford entitled, “The Psalms of David” and others, with M. John Calvin’s Commentaries. Richard Burbage born.

1572 Earl of Leicester’s Men perform at Stratford. St. Batholomew’s Massacre in France, Admiral Gaspard de Coligny is assassinated. Sir Francis Walsingham appointed Ambassador to France. On 1st of January 1572, the Gentleman Pensioner Thomas Bedingfield dedicated his “Cardanus’ Comfort” to the Earl of Oxford, this being a translation from the Latin of “De Consolatione Libri Tres” by the Italian mathematician and physician Girolamo Cardano. On the 3rd January 1572 Oxford wrote a Latin epistle to Bartholomew Clerke’s “De Curiali”, a translation into Latin of Baldassare Castiglione’s “Il Cortegiano”, (The Courtier) and in the same year Thomas Twyne dedicated his “Breviary of Britain” to the Earl of Oxford, noting that ‘your Honour taketh singular delight’ in ‘books of geography, histories and other good learning’.

1573 Sir Francis Walsingham appointed Principal Secretary of State.

1574 Merchant Taylors Boys established. Elizabeth Hoby marries Sir John Russell. Earl of Warwick’s and Worcester’s Men perform in Stratford then given patent to perform in London. The Earl of Oxford goes on his European tour visiting France, Italy and Frankfurt. In that year the Earl of Oxford‘s surgeon, a certain George Baker, dedicated to him two translations namely, “The Composition or Making of . . . Oleum Magistrale”, and “The Third Book of Galen”.

1575 St. Paul’s Boys established and patronised by Earl of Oxford. Birth of Arabella Stuart.

Drawing of the interior of the Blackfriar’s Theatre

1576 The Blackfriar’s Theatre opens. James Burbage builds the Theatre at Holywell Street, Shoreditch. The Earl of Oxford returns from his European tour and invests extravagantly in and patronises drama, poetry and literature.

1577 November, Sir Francis Drake sets off on his circumnavigation of the Globe aboard “The Pelican”. John Shakspere’s first application for a coat of arms refused. John Brooke dedicated to the Earl of Oxford a translation entitled “The Staff of Christian Faith”, the only work by the popular writer Guy de Brès to be printed in English. Towards the end of this year several of Edward de Vere‘s poems are published anonymously in “The Paradise of Daintye Devices” (assumed to be the work of his friend and fellow, Sir George Gascoigne)

1578 Privy Council edict on Boys & Adult players. In July Gabriel Harvey makes reference to the Earl of Oxford’s popularity at court:

“In the prime of his gallantest youth he bestowed Angels upon me in Christ’s College in Cambridge, and otherwise vouchsafed me many gracious favours at the affectionate commendation of my cousin, Master Thomas Smith, the son of Sir Thomas.”

On the 23rd December 1578 Geoffrey Gates dedicated his book “Defense of Military Profession” to the Earl of Oxford. In 1579 Anthony Munday dedicated his “Mirror of Mutability” to the Earl of Oxford. Furthermore, in April 1580, Edward de Vere had taken over the Earl of Warwick‘s playing company. 1579 Richard Field enters apprenticeship with Vautrollier. Earl of Oxford has a bitter altercation with Sir Phillip Sidney at the tennis court. The Earl of Oxford and his newly appointed secretary John Lyly move into the literary hub, Fisher’s Folly. The Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley marries Lettice Knollys.

A street view of Fisher’s Folly, the literary hub for the Euphuist Movement supported by Edward de Vere

1579 Fisher’s Folly was the Euphuist’s Literary Hub with Anthony Munday, John Lyly, Robert Greene, and Thomas Nashe, among many others. Their first probable collaboration being a performance written and produced by the Earl of Oxford of “Agamemnon & Ulysses” “enacted before her majesty by the Earl of Oxenforde, his boys on St. John’s Day (27th December) at night in Greenwich”. This later formed the basis of Shakespeare’s “Troillus & Cressida”.

Oil painting on panel, Ann Vavasour (1560-1650), attributed to Robert Peake the elder (c.1551 ? 1619). Traditionally thought to be the ‘dark lady’ of Shakespeare.

1580 Earl of Oxford has an extramarital affair with Anne Vavasour making her pregnant. The Earl was subsequently satirised by his literary adversary Gabriel Harvey in his “Speculum Tuscanismi”.

1581 The Recusancy Act. The Earl of Oxford and Anne Vavasour sent to the Tower for his misdemeanours, his illegitimate son, Edward is born.

Portrait of Anne Hathawaye

1582 Will Shakspere marries Anne Hathaway. Sir Thomas Knyvett fights a duel with the Earl of Oxford on his release from the Tower demanding justice for his cousin, Anne Vavasour, both men injured as a result but skirmishes continue throughout the next year.

1583 Richard Mulcaster‘s Boy players formed. Earl of Oxford begins writing plays for “Oxford’s Boys” and supports and integrates the Earl of Warwick’s Men with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The Francis Throckmorton Affair, a Catholic counter-conspiracy. In 1583 Thomas Watson dedicates his work “Hekatompathia” and then the Earl’s brother-in-law, Peregrine Bertie returns from Elsinore, Denmark, the actual historical site of the Shakespearean play Hamlet. In 1584 Robert Greene published his “Greene’s Card of Fancy” while the Earl takes over Lord Worcester’s Men and acquires the sub-lease of the Blackfriar’s Theatre and then transfers it to his personal secretary, John Lyly. Susanna Shakspere born in May.

1584 Sir John Russell dies. The Babington plot discovered.

1585 Anne Hathawaye delivered of twins, Judith and Hamnet Sadler.

1586 The Babington plot revealed. June 23rd Edward de Vere issued an annuity of £1,000 by Queen Elizabeth. Angel Day dedicates his “English Secretary” to Earl of Oxford. October, Mary Queen of Scots tried and sentenced to death, the Earl of Oxford attends her trial and later commissioned to Flanders. September 22nd Sir Phillip Sidney dies on the battlefield at Zutphen.

1587 The Rose Theatre opens. William Shakspere arrives in London soon after his father is replaced as alderman following his failure to pay his brother’s loan. State funeral of Sir Phillip Sidney.

An artist’s depiction of the arrival of the Spanish Armada

1588 Oxford’s wife, Anne Cecil dies, the Spanish Armada sighted off Lizard’s Point. Earl of Oxford renames his ship “Elizabeth Bonaventure” and instructs George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland to attack the Spanish Armada. Anthony Munday dedicates “Palmerin d’Olivia” and “Four Romances of Chivalry” to Oxford. Earl of Oxford sells Fisher’s Folly and Devere House probably because Oxford is sued by Lord Burghley for the balance of marriage fee to his daughter Anne Burghley. The Queen’s paramour Sir Robert Dudley dies just before his intended journey to Buxton Spa.

1589 “The Art of English Poesy” is published anonymously but attributed to George Puttenham. The first Martin Marprelate tracts are circulated with John Lyly, Thomas Nashe and Robert Greene contesting against the anonymous author. Christopher Marlowe arrested for street-fighting and bound over to keep the peace in Canterbury. William Shakspere named in legal proceedings when his father loses property in Wilmcote.

1590 Edmund Spenser’s “Fairie Queen” published in which the Earl of Oxford contributes laudatory poem. The proposed marriage between the Earl of Southampton and Elizabeth de Vere fails at Southampton’s expense paying Lord Burghley £4,000. Thomas Lodge, the tutor of the young Earl of Oxford publishes “Rosalynde”.

1591 “The Troublesome Raigne of John King of England” published anonymously. Earl of Oxford marries Elizabeth Trentham.

1592 First performance of Shakespeare’s “Henry VIth Part One”. Robert Greene dies of a surfeit of red herring and wine. Theatre riots at Blackfriar’s. September 20th Robert Greene’s “Groatsworth of Wit” published by Henry Chettle, the real author. December 8th “Kind Hart’s Dreame” registered at Stationer’s Office by Henry Chettle.

1593 Richard Baines reports Kit Marlowe’s atheism to the Privy Council, Marlowe later murdered by Ingram Frazier. Richard Field prints and publishes “Venus & Adonis”, the first time the pseudonymous name “William Shakespeare” is used. Shakespeare admonished by Robert Greene as an “Upstart Crow”. Theatres closed by Privy Council (E. Russell’s petition succeeds). Henry May’s report of a shipwreck in the Bermudas in 1593 in the Edward Bonaventure owned by Edward de Vere, and could so easily be the event that inspired the Tempest.

1594 “Doctor Faustus” performed and “The Taming of a Shrew”, published anonymously. Anonymous registration of “A Wynter’s Night’s Pastime” at Stationer’s Office. The Roderigo Lopez Conspiracy. Shakespeare”s “The Rape of Lucrece” published and dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, “Titus Andronicus” and “Henry Sixth Part Two” published anonymously. “Edward the Second” published and attributed to the deceased Christopher Marlowe. City of Stratford was ravaged by two fires. By June 1594 Lord Strange’s Men, most notably Burbage and Kempe were incorporated into the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (under Lord Hunsdon but essentially Edward de Vere’s acting company). “Willobie his Avisa” is published anonymously with euphemisms suggesting Shakespeare (W.S.) is the author of the poem “Lucrece” dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley (H. W.) and to Bessie Vavasour, the Earl of Oxford’s mistress. Sir Francis Bacon rejected by Lady Elizabeth Hatton for Sir Edward Coke.

1595 January Elizabeth de Vere and Earl of Derby are married. Swan Theatre opens on Bankside. “Will Shakespere” and Kempe is mentioned as receiving payment for performance which was a forgery by the Dowager Countess of Southampton to account for discrepancies in her husband’s accounts. Henry VIth published anonymously. W. Shakspere listed as a member in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

1596 Richard Field signs petition against James Burbage to convert Blackfriar’s theatre. August William Shakspere’s son Hamnet dies, but he is finally granted his coat of arms. Shakspere ordered to keep the peace (W. Gardiner/Wayte). Ban on performances at the Blackfriar’s theatre issued by Privy Council. Edward de Vere settles into King’s Place, Hackney with his wife Elizabeth Trentham. Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon dies. John Harrington banned from court for his satire “Metamorphoses of Ajax”.

1597 Earl of Essex and Earl of Southampton go on Azores expedition. Lease of the Theatre expires. Richard the Third, Romeo & Juliet, and Richard the Second published anonymously. William Shakspere lays deposit of £60 on mortgage for New Place.

1598 William Shakspere is listed as a tax defaulter who failed to pay an assessed 13s..4d. 4th February – List of Hoarders. Shakspere is named as having illegally held 10 quarters (80 bushels) of malt or corn during a shortage. *1598 – List of Actors. In the initial presentation of Ben Jonson’s “Every Man In His Humour”, “Will Shakespeare “was a “principall Comoedian”. Francis Meres registers “Palladis Tamia” mentioning “William Shakespeare” as best for comedy. William Cecil, Lord Burghley dies and is replaced by his son Robert Cecil. 2nd Earl of Essex has his ears boxed at court by Queen Elizabeth and draws his sword in retaliation.

1599 The Theatre dismantled to build the Globe Theatre across the river Thames. Censorship of London plays, Privy Council with the powers given to Lord Chamberlain and Master of Revels to prevent performance of controversial material. 2nd Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux made Lieutenant of Ireland.

1600 Fortune Theatre opens. Soon after the Globe is built William Shakspere moved to the Liberty of the Clink, Southwark. Richard Burbage leases the Blackfriars Theatre to Henry Evans. “As You Like It” published. William Shakespeare credited with authorship of “The Passionate Pilgrim”. John Farmer publishes and dedicates his “Set of English Madrigals” to the Earl of Oxford. Theatre managers Heminges and Condell contrive to credit William Shakspere with a 10% share in the newly constructed Globe Theatre.

1601 Essex Rebellion (the play Richard III staged at Blackfriar’s). William Shakspere’s father John Shakspere finally dies leaving his son and other members of the family with a reasonable inheritance. Robert Chester published an anthology of poetry entitled “Love’s Martyr; or Rosalind’s Complaint”, in which a poem by Chester appears to bear the same title as Shakespeare’s own poem which is described on the title page:

1602 1st May – Property document. For £320, Shakspere bought 107 acres of land and 20 acres of pasture in Old Stratford from William and John Combe. 28th September Will Shakspere acquired a quarter-acre of land with “Chapel Lane Cottage” and a garden.

1603 Queen Elizabeth dies. King James 1st of England crowned. “Troillus & Cressida” and Hamlet published as by William Shake-speare. Earl of Southampton released from Tower of London and the Earl of Oxford’s annuity is renewed. Lord Chamberlain’s Men renamed as King’s Men.

1604 Earl of Oxford dies presumably of plague. Red Bull Theatre opens. William Shakspere now lodging with the Mountjoy family.

1605 The Gunpowder Plot. Thomas Hariot imprisoned for casting the horoscope of James 1st . Phillip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery marries Oxford’s daughter Susan. Author and translator of “Ovid’s Metamorphoses”, Arthur Golding dies.

1606 “King Lear” performed at court. William Davenant born. The novelist and dramatist John Lyly dies.

1607 Oxford’s illegitimate son with Anne Vavasour is knighted as Sir Edward de Vere. William Shakspere’s daughter Susanna marries Dr. John Hall.

1608 Richard Burbage takes back the lease for the Blackfriars theatre. Elizabeth Trentham sells King’s Place. “King Lear”, “Anthony & Cleopatra” and “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” registered at Stationer’s Office with author’s name Mr. William Shake-speare. Dr. John Dee dies in absolute poverty.

1609 “Shakespeare’s Sonnets” published by Thomas Thorpe with dedication to Henry Wriothesley. The Earl of Southampton sets off in the Edward Bonaventure, owned by the Earl of Oxford to the Bermudas. “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” finally published.

1610 22nd of June, Arabella Stuart secretly marries William Seymour but they were arrested with Seymour imprisoned in the Tower and Arbella detained in house arrest at Lambeth. Her planned escape to the Netherlands was uncovered and she was sent to the Tower. William Shakspere involved in dispute to enclose common land at Welcombe.

1611 “A Winter’s Tale” performed publically and at court. Richard Lane and Thomas Greene join William Shakspere in the tithes dispute at Wilmcote.

1612 Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury dies

1612 A deposition as witness is made by William Shakspere in the Mountjoy/Bellot case. His daughter Susanna is accused of immorality with two local men but later sues them for defamation. Henry, Prince of Wales dies.

1613 “Henry VIIIth” first performed. William Shakspere listed as owning a share in the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse but mortgages it back to the original owner. Susanna Hall successfully sues John Lane and Ralph Smith for defamation.

1614 Hope Theatre established. Will Shakspere is then commissioned to write the motto for the arms of the Earl of Rutland which Richard Burbage painted. Thomas Combe, a lawyer and close associate of Will Shakspere with his brother attempt to enclose common lands at Welcombe.

1615 Richard Field moves out of Blackfriar’s workshop and relocates to the “Splayed Eagle” on Wood Street. William Herbert appointed as Lord Chamberlain, George Buck appointed Master of the Revels. Arabella Stuart dies.

1616 Early January W. Shakspere instructs his lawyer Francis Collins to draft his last will and testament. William Shakspere dies after a visit from Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton. His daughter Judith marries without licence Thomas Quiney and are excommunicated as Quiney had extra-marital affair with Margaret Wheeler, pregnant with child both die and are buried at Holy Trinity Church. Ben Jonson publishes his anthology of plays and poetry.

1621 George Buck suffers mental breakdown and his office awarded to Ben Jonson.
1622 Mastership of the Revels is awarded to Sir Henry Herbert.
1623 Shakespeare’s Folio of 36 plays are finally published by Heminges and Condell. Anne Hathawaye dies.

Shakespeare’s First Folio, containing the playwright’s 36 plays and dating from 1623, is seen in an undated photo before going up for an auction where it is expected to fetch between 4 and 6 million dollars, in New York City, U.S. Courtesy of Christie’s/Handout.
The links to my current publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and an anthology of poetry “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


The “Four Worlds” in Qaballah

The Greek Tectractys is a symbolic arrangement of 10 points, on 4 levels incorporated into astrological symbolism from Pythagorean and Gnostic schools which includes alphabetical and numerical attributes from Hebrew, Greek and Latin sources. Each level denotes an elemental attribute, from fire, air, water, and earth. However, the total of the numbers assigned to the 16 Court Cards refer to the Qaballistic letters IHVH or YHVH, an abbreviation of the Holy Name of God (Jove, Yahweh or Jehovah). Using the Hebraic values therefore 10+15+21+26 = 72, which is the magical number that defines the Sun’s retrograde path due to equinoctial precession through the zodiac at the rate of 1 degree every 72 years. Coincidentally the 360 degrees of the circle when divided by 5 =72°, the internal angle of the pentagon. There were 72 human languages from the time of Babel and 72 scribes appointed to record them. The average human pulse rate is also 72 beats per minute and the Periodic Table consists of 72 elements. There are also 72 Angels and Archangels recorded in the Key of Solomon (Goetia). An alphabetic calendar, as described by Robert Graves and thought to have been of Egyptian or Druidic origin, consists of 5 seasons with 72 days in each composed of 3 x 24 day months. In the beginning of the Christian era it took 72 Alexandrian Jewish scribes 72 days to complete the writing of the 5 books of Moses (Septuagint). In effect this mystical number (7+2 =9) unites the macrocosm with the microcosm and permeates the philosophical ideals of Hermeticism, Alchemy & Ceremonial Magic. This formula or equation is unique in the definition of the “Four Worlds” although they are also attributed to the four traditional elements.

The words (ALPHA, LIBRA & OMEGA) have 5 letters and each ending in A, the first letter of the alphabet, when alpha and omega are added together they come to 108 (a number of some significance ie: 9×12), or the 36 decans of astrological lore. From a Pythagorean point of view letters and numbers were in effect interchangeable for magical or mystical interpretation. When tabulated in a particular way they could then become ciphers or keys in a secret code – this being very useful if you wished to communicate an idea, message or word while keeping your enemies in the dark. *Note: I will discuss these cipher systems in a future post on the Art of Cryptography.

Herein is also contained the idea of the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, in purely numerical terms but which has some echoes in the Greek and Latin alphabets as well as in Tarot symbolism. The first and the last letter of the word ALPHA (5 letters), which is the first letter of many alphabets was the same as the last, that is as said in the Bible: “The first will be last, and the last shall be first”, however, the last letter of the Greek alphabet was at one time sampi, now an obsolete symbol and much later replaced by *OMEGA (Ω), a more recent character that replaced the old Phoenician “lazy eight”, the symbol of infinity or natural return in the calendrical cycle. This may be a coded reference to the last sign to be included in the zodiac ie Libra, whose sigil bears some similarity to the Greek letter for Omega. There were in fact only ten zodiac signs in ancient astrological systems. In Tarot symbolism the card numbered 8, called Justice is attributed to the sign of Libra. It was exchanged for the Tarot card #Strength for several esoteric reasons. Aleister Crowley named it #Adjustment with no doubt some veiled allusion to an adjustment in the old Pagan calendar every eight years.

In the Pythagorean Tectractys as I discovered when a friend pointed out a discrepancy in my post defining the 4 Worlds (Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah & Assiah) where the numbers were the real abstract framework upon which the human visceral world was literally underpinned almost as if numbers acted as allusions, metaphors and secret ciphers.

The Hindus similarly were mindful of the number of orifices in the human body, the number of upper and lower limbs, why spiders and octopuses had 8 legs and butterflies only six. All these matters from the phenomenal and numinous world were of great importance and significance in the comprehension of natural and supernatural number. Pythagoras further defined human personality types and other correspondences empirically through the basic number values for example;

  1. Number One (Monad) the intuitive type (fire)
  2. Number Two (Dyad), the rational/logical type (air)
  3. Number Three (Triad), the imaginative/emotional type (water)
  4. Number Four (Tetrad), the pragmatic/materialistic type. (earth)

The Pythagorean Tectractys connotes the following attributes for the Tarot:

Yod (I) – No 1 Energy (Fire) Nos 1-9 (Ennead) Value 10 Knight (Spiritual Dimension)
He (H) – No 2 Vapour (Air) Letters A – I Value 5 Queen (Intellectual Dimension)
Vau (V) – No 3 Liquid (Water) Letters J – R Value 6 King (Emotional Dimension)
Heh (H) – No 4 Matter (Earth) Letters S – Zero Value 5 Knave or Page (Physical Dimension)

Note the element of Air becomes attributed to the Queens and not to the Kings. Essentially, the elements in the Tectractys are more directly linked in the phenomenal world to the 4 humours, Choleric (Fire), Phlegmatic (Water), Sanguine (Air), Melancholic (Earth). In Tarot they are linked to the numinous world. They resurface again in the 20th century finding their equivalence to the Jungian Hypothesis of 4 Archetypal personalities or existential powers which manifest within us as:

Intuition (Fire), Intellect (Air), Feeling (Water), and Sensation (Earth).

Therefore numbers could be expressed as hieroglyphs or symbols denoting their values, qualities and symbolic attributes. In Pythagoras‘ view numbers were primarily categorised as masculine and feminine, ie; possessing odd and even values, however, the number one was later considered an androgyny (ref: Aristotle) possessing both odd and even properties, since when added to an even number they always produced an odd number and when added to an odd number always produced an even number. Furthermore, every number of the series 1-9 is always half of the 2 numbers adjacent to it in the natural series. That is, 5 is half of 4 + 6, and is even half of those numbers adjacent to the previous numbers eg: 5 is half of 3 + 7 and 2 + 8.

The Tectractys was perceived by the ancient Greeks as the missing capstone on the Great Pyramid of Egypt, and their corresponding letters were ordered to reflect the name of God (THEOS) just as the Hebraic was ordered to define the Holy Name of God (IHVH). The reason being that the tenth letter in their scheme was I (Yod & Iota respectively). However, In the English alphanumeric code the tenth letter is J not I which presented a problem. This was overcome by attributing the same value to I and J as well as U and V in the English alphabet right up until the 17th century. This revision left the occultists devising a suitable alternative name of GOD for the Christian Qaballah ie; Jehovah (Yahweh in some texts) instead of IHVH leaving the identical number value as 26 for both the Jewish and English Qaballah.

Therefore, the order and sequence of the elements may vary from one system or tradition to another according to whether they are defined hierarchically, chronologically, directionally, in elevation (high to low) within the subtle body or purely in an archetypal sense. The sequence employed in Qaballistic circles for the purposes of ceremonial magic for example is fire, water air, and earth although other variations or combinations are also possible. This sequence mirrors that of the Tree of Life, not the physical body or the directions of space.

Therefore the “Four Worlds” of Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah defined in Tarot Symbolism are not linked directly to the 4-fold nature of the Greek numbered Tetractys. Each world is not a static element or fixed idea, although intuitively and logically linked to many other things, they are rather like platforms and stages, or evolving functions and processes. Some scholars such as William Eisen (Cabala of Astrology) describe them as planes of consciousness. In many traditional decks the background colours of the cards are often symbolic keys to the association of any card to one of these “symbolic worlds”. In other decks they simply allude to the four mundane elements, although often veiled or confused with their esoteric shades. Several alternative renditions are given for the 4-letter formula IHVH, sometimes YHVH, or JHWH. In the Book of Thoth Aleister Crowley describes a sequence in his ceremonial magic as follows:

“With the wand he createth,
With the cup he preserveth,
With the dagger he destroyeth
And with the coin he redeemeth”

In her book “The Secrets of the Tarot” Barbara Walker points out that in magical ritual the male and female elements/letters are more auspicious and benign when they alternate rather than being grouped into contrasting male and female divisions where they are likely to come into conflict. As we shall see in each of these “worlds” there is a Tree of Life connected mystically with each other like Russian Dolls. Moreover they are akin to interdependent states or planes of consciousness that the adept encounters via the transitional spheres of The Moon (Yesod) & Pluto (Daath) and symbolise the 4 Powers or Tetramorphs of the Magus or enlightened being, namely:- “To Will (Lion), To Dare (Eagle), To Know (Man) and to be Silent (Bull).” It should be noted that in Egyptian and Arthurian mythology it is the magical union of the Cornish Queen (Igerna) with the Welsh Knight (Uthur Pendragon) which results in the birth of a child (*Arcturus) just as the Egyptian goddess Isis is conjoined with Osiris which results in the birth of Horus. Assisted of course with the help of Merlin the Magician. The magical formula of these unions continues with Morgana (Princess/Assiah), having obtained the magic words or spell from Merlin so she can transform herself into the image of Igerna in order to seduce Arcturus and thereby give birth to his future protagonist Mordred (Seth). He therefore represents a 5th element or world, the union of Atziluth & Assiah. *The anomalies seem to result out of some poorly chosen nomenclature for the term Knight (Atziluth) and Guinevere (Briah) that result in the new-born son or Prince Arthur (Yetzirah). Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Arthurian episode actually has a Greek origin and is synonymous with the history of Alexander the Great supposedly the son of Phillip of Macedon and his wife Olympiades but in reality he was the magical child of a mysterious or adulterous union of Olympiades (Phillip’s wife) and a Magus from Egypt, Nectanebus who transformed himself into a serpent (Ammon) then sexually deceived Phillip’s wife and so, magically impregnated gave birth to a miraculous and powerful ruler of the ancient world.

The following is an exploration of each dimension or plane of consciousness from a variety of symbolic perspectives:

YOD = The assertive/active principle, egoic spirit, essence, ruach, prana, pneuma, Purusha (undifferentiated consciousness), the hieroglyphic letter signifying a hand, that which holds and forms matter. The Father, the Old King, the rod of Moses (Lingam), The Old Testament, the spermatozoa, the Sun, the I am and AUM, beginning and end. The Divine World (“I am”). Element – Fire, Numbers 1.

HEH = The receptive/passive principle, the womb of the Great Mother (Yoni), the Queen, the Moon, Vesica Piscis, the hieroglyphic letter signifying a window, an aperture, the senses through which the active principle permeates into the lower worlds. The New Testament, Prakriti (undifferentiated matter), the unfertilised embryo, the Non-ego, without beginning or end. The Ideal World (“I am not”). Element – Water, Numbers 2, 3.

VAU = The creative/mediating principle, The Earth, the Son, the Prince Regent, the hieroglyphic letter signifying a nail, or hook from which things may be held together or suspended. The Book of Psalms, Matter and Spirit in the process of differentiation, a pendulum or fulcrum. Neutrality, reconciliation, the Child, the fertilised embryo, the ripened seed in germination or incubation. The Chemical World (“I am Body”). Element – Air, Numbers 4, 5, 6.

HEH (final) = The material/pragmatic principle, the Divine Child, the Princess in waiting, the Book of Proverbs. Through the action and reaction of the previous forces the materialising/realistic principle, Organic Life, manifestation, synthesis, fusion, completion, realisation of the previous 3 principles as another embodiment, three-in-one. The foetus developing in the womb, the ripening seed. The Organic World (“I am Body, Spirit & Soul”) Element – Earth, Numbers 7, 8, 9 & 10.

Therefore, numerically, through theosophical extension and contraction, whereby the original returns to “that” made wholly manifest and vice versa (principle of involution & evolution), this idea is demonstrated through the numbers 1, 2, 3, & 4 =10 (addition of 1st 4 numbers); therefore in the archetypal world YOD corresponds to 1 (*0-spirit/fire), HEH to the creative world (5 -water, ie: division, a third of that which could not be divided equally *15), and then by addition to that already derived 10 + 5 = 15 (1+5=6). Then the next letter VAU corresponds to the formative world 6 (1+2+3=6), therefore 15 + 6 = 21 (air). Finally, the HEH final (one of six in the Jewish alphabet) corresponds to the material world (7), so 3 (2+1)+7+15, plus the original ONE (yod), equates to a return to Unity, 26. The number 26=2+6=8 is equivalent to the 8th sphere (Splendour) attributed to yod and the 9th trump #The Hermit or hermaphrodite and incidentally to #The Star (1+7=8), the androgyne woman with 2 urns behind whom is depicted a stellated octagon (the Pleaides*Ursa Major) a veiled reference to the pole star (currently Polaris). This constellation was of great significance to the Atlantean civilisation. We now know that Ursa Major has in fact 8 stars, one derives from a binary originally thought to be a lone star, hence 1+7 or 17 equates with The Star in Tarot. The 20th path of the Hermit, emanating from the sphere of #4. Chesed (Mercy) towards #6. Tiphereth (Beauty) sits conveniently between 8 & 11 as a mediating or guiding principle, indicating perhaps the wisdom of old age as well as wholeness and perfection.

A Simple Analogy:

To elucidate the sequence pertaining to the Manifestation of the Four Worlds, a simple analogy may throw some light or understanding onto the process. We might take for example the natural world or plant kingdom with those species that develop seeds or spores (Atziluth), the seed when placed in the earth becomes convergent or divergent depending on whether it can extract the nutrients from the soil with the help of enough water and sunshine. If successful at this point the seed splits into two processes developing roots and then leaves (Briah). From this stage it begins to develop stems and leaves that assist in photosynthesis (Yetzirah). After a period of time flowers emerge which when fertilised develop fruit (Assiah) that give rise to the development of more seeds or kernels. This process then continues to repeat itself until a difference in its’ genetic blueprint creates another hybrid that signals a change in its appearance or growth process through natural evolution. If we look at the most primitive of plants for example Ferns, they will produce spores that float in the wind and then settle onto the ground thereby enabling it to reproduce itself. However, if we move into another dimension of the plant kingdom, say the fungal world, we see that the spores of mushrooms can form symbiotic, epiphytic or parasitic relationships with other organisms in the natural world. The world of lichens is formed by the interaction of algae with a variety of fungal spores and they find their nutrients from rocks or trees to grow into a variety of differing species of lichen. Lichens are nutrient rich that can be used in natural medicine but they are often eaten by reindeer in the winter months when grass is scarce. The reindeer in turn are hunted by humans for the benefits of food and the manufacture of their skins into clothing or footwear. Therefore in this study of the plant kingdom we have been transported from there to the fungal kingdom and from that to the mammalian kingdom through to the human kingdom.


The Shakespeare Authorship Controversy

“He who desires to understand Shakespeare truly must understand the relations in which Shakespeare stood to the Renaissance and the Reformation, to the age of Elizabeth and the age of James; he must be familiar with the history of the struggle for supremacy between the old classical forms and the new spirit of romance, between the school of Sidney, and Daniel, and Jonson, and the school of Marlowe and Marlowe’s greater son; he must know the materials that were at Shakespeare’s disposal, and the method in which he used them, and the conditions of theatric presentation in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, their limitations and their opportunities for freedom, and the literary criticism of Shakespeare’s day, its aims and modes and canons; he must study the English language in its progress, and blank or rhymed verse in its various developments; he must study the Greek drama, and the connection between the art of the creator of the Agamemnon and the art of the creator of Macbeth; in a word, he must be able to bind Elizabethan London to the Athens of Pericles, and to learn Shakespeare’s true position in the history of European drama and the drama of the world.” Oscar Wilde, (“The Critic as Artist”, 1891).

Which must be the longest sentence ever in English literary history in order to sum up the vast length and breadth of Shakespeare scholarship. For those who are totally unaware of the number of contentions to Shakespeare authorship there are currently more than a dozen proposed candidates for authorship of the Shakespeare Canon including Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, the statesman and intelligencer, Sir Francis Bacon, the poet and playwright, Sir Christopher Marlowe, Sir Henry Chettle, the Earl of Rutland, Roger Manners, the French philosopher, Michel de Montaigne, the Spanish writer, Miguel Cervantes, a contender for the throne, Lady Jane Grey, and the romanticised monarch Queen Elizabeth Ist, etc. These other candidates came into being shortly after Thomas J. Looney published his book entitled “Shakespeare Identified”. Thomas J. Looney identified several aspects of Shakespeare’s dramatic and poetic style that set him apart from other possible candidates for authorship of the 1623 Folio namely:

a) Of recognised genius and secretive
b) Apparent eccentricity
c) Unconventional status
d) Apparent sense of inadequacy
e) Of pronounced literary tastes
f) Enthusiasm for drama
g) A talent for lyricism in poetry
h) Of extraordinary education

Furthermore, Thomas Looney ascertained that the author of the 1623 Folio would have been:

i. A man with strong feudal connections
ii. A member of the higher aristocracy
iii. A supporter of the Lancastrian cause
iv. A man who had visited Italy and France
v. A man of sporting ability
vi. A man who loved music
vii. Improvident in financial matters
viii. Ambivalent towards women
ix. Of Catholic belief, but touched with scepticism

The number of alternative candidates for authorship continues to grow annually and by the decade. Furthermore, I am not the only ardent fan of Shakespeare to have serious doubts on orthodox Shakespeare Authorship, ever since the 1900’s a growing number of actors, playwrights, poets, authors, politicians, and celebrities have quite rightly cast doubt on the Stratfordian view that a relatively obscure individual named William Shakspere could have written the superlative poetry and plays attributed to the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare”. Among them are:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Otto Von Bismarck
Henry James
Benjamin Disraeli
Mark Twain
Thomas Hardy
Charlie Chaplin
John Buchan
Charles de Gaulle
Orson Welles
Muriel Spark
Sir John Gielgud
Sir Kenneth Branagh
Charles Dickens
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Lord Palmerston
Walt Whitman
John Galsworthy
Sigmund Freud
James Joyce
Helen Keller
Vladimir Nabakov
Daphne Du Maurier
Enoch Powell
Sir Derek Jacobi
Ezra Pound

To truly appreciate the work of William Shakespeare one is obliged to consult the available evidence of which there is very little to support the widespread false assumption by academics and scholars:

a) that he received an education and was capable of reading and writing.
b) that we have any proof of his original hand-written or signed manuscripts.
c) that he owned or had access to over 3,000 books, the literary sources required to write the plays.
d) that he spoke, wrote or understood Latin, French, or Italian.
e) that he had ever travelled abroad so would not have been familiar with the French or Italian court and finally:
f) that there are no actual remains of his physical body, supposedly interred at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon.

William Shakspere should have owned a copy of the Geneva Bible

In the absence of these seven basic factual omissions serious doubts are inevitable over his authorship particularly if you have an objective and discerning mind. Those admirers gullible enough to accept everything without question that was deduced by Shakespearean academics in the 18th and 19th centuries about William Shakespeare will automatically go into a sense of denial when challenged or informed otherwise. The popular biographical portrait that those academics have “gleaned” of the author is more akin to the legend of “Dick Whittington” and leads the reader down numerous blind alleys, false assumptions and inevitably a number of omissions. Into this vacuous cauldron has been emptied a great deal of speculation, conjecture, supposition and numerous alternate theories. Examining the evidence more closely as a forensic or investigative journalist, rather than as an academic I have come to the conclusion that there has been a serious literary fraud imposed and perpetrated by certain members of the aristocracy and the state for a variety of reasons which my book attempts to investigate and explain. If the Director of London’s Globe Theatre, Peter Dawkins in his book “The Shakespeare Enigma” expresses serious doubts over the Stratfordian view, to name just one of millions of other scholars, actors and celebrities who have also similar views and doubts, then I am happy to join them in expressing my own concerns over what true evidence is currently available.

A still from the movie Anonymous depicting the Earl of Oxford at his desk

In 2012 a film entitled “Anonymous”, which Roland Emmerich and John Orloff directed and produced their successful, but nevertheless controversial film which suggests that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford was the anonymous Shakespearean author. I agree entirely with that conclusion but with some reservations. The film suggests Oxford had an affair with Queen Elizabeth 1st as Charlton Ogburn does in his book “The Mysterious William Shakespeare” (Cardinal Press 1984). Their secret love-child it is presumed was Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton and dedicatee of the Sonnets published in 1609. I have already examined that possibility in a previous article entitled “The Fair Youth of Shakespeare’s Sonnets”. However, I am not in effect attempting to proselytise for the De Vere case, rather I am just providing the clues and hidden facts that have for so long been overlooked or ignored. This deeper examination will undoubtedly paint an entirely different picture of “William Shakespeare” for scholars and students of Elizabethan drama. But it is very much dependent on the “Correct Dating of Shakespeare’s Plays” as it seems that the Stratfordian academics were at great pains to build a chronology of authorship around the life of William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon and not around the life of Edward de Vere who was ten years his senior.

The Earl of Oxford as Queen Elizabeth’s “Spin-Doctor” who was given an annuity of £1,000 to propagandise for the state

To my personal amazement, the actor and author on wordpress, Frank Whittemore has been able to produce “One Hundred Reasons Why De Vere Wrote Shakespeare” in a series of posts in support of the Earl of Oxford. In a similar vein, the film “Anonymous” is a shortened fictionalized version of the life of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, an Elizabethan courtier, playwright, poet and patron of the arts, and suggests he was the actual author of William Shakespeare‘s plays. The narrative also suggests that Ben Jonson was recruited by the Earl to support the pseudonymous Shakspere as a “mask” for the Earl of Oxford. A 2020 subscriber survey conducted by the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship indicated that although entertaining, the film did not persuade or convert the viewers from the traditional Stratfordian view in favour of the controversial Oxfordian case. Not to mention the large number of videos available on Utube in defence and support of the Earl of Oxford as the anonymous author of Shakespeare’s plays. Particularly when you appreciate that he had the means, the education, the motivation and the time involved in performing such a Herculean task. The Devil is, as they say, in the detail.

A short trailer for the movie “Anonymous”

Shakespearean academics and scholars were naturally and automatically lulled and drawn by the research compiled into what can only be described as the “Shakespeare Myth” whereby it was generally perceived that a man of humble origins, who, with little or no formal education, few means or resources or any guidance or mentoring became the most leading poet and playwright the world has ever known. Indeed, this notion is not so dissimilar to the popular myth borne across the Atlantic ocean to the United States as “The American Dream”. Those adherents of the myth include those unconsciously paranoid about “class privilege” in the United Kingdom and unable to accept that it was a rich and privileged aristocrat who wrote Shakespeare’s canon, not a poor working-class commoner. Adding of course that anyone who denies the working-class hero his ascent to fame and fortune are simply snobbish and bigoted towards the working class themselves. Thereafter, what evolved in the minds of researchers and academics constructing a viable biography of the Stratford Shakespeare is the idea that a young farmer’s lad, barely able to recite a nursery rhyme, who, alongside his father initially worked as a glover or butcher and possibly a schoolteacher and whatever else, was even perhaps a “poacher of deer”. Just as Robin Hood had done in Sherwood Forest, even though that myth had also been erroneously enlarged upon by numerous chroniclers. In actual fact the legend of Robin Hood appears to have its origins in Shropshire or N. Staffordshire rather than Nottinghamshire. Some would argue that the name itself originates from the Middle East (Huda). In a text of William Langland’s Piers Plowman, the character named Sloth says:

Robin Hood draws his last arrow and where it falls, there shall he be laid to rest

“I do not know my paternoster perfectly as the priest sings it.
But I know rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolph of Chester.”

This was written about 1377, which proves there were ‘rhymes’ of Robin Hood in the fourteenth century and possibly even earlier. Ranulph de Blundeville III, Earl of Chester, his father, Hugh II Cyvelloc, to whom the lands were entrusted by William the Conqueror died at his hunting lodge at Swythamley. As well as having lands in Shropshire, Ranulph also had dominion over the region of Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire. For the most part the area of Chester, N. Staffordshire (Leek) and N. Derbyshire became a remote hinterland of pagan Celts detached from the rest of “civilised Britain” due largely to the difficult terrain and extensive forests and woodlands there. Ranulph’s authority in the region was challenged by a certain renegade malcontent known as Fulke le Fitzwarren, who became a warrior bandit in the area. According to the poet/writer William Langland, Fulke Fitzwarren may have been a real life proto-Robin Hood figure who fought against the tyranny of King John when he assumed power in 1362. His first wife was Matilda Vavasour of Yorkshire. “The Histoire de Fulke Fitz-Warin”, a French romance is a rather fanciful, perhaps picaresque exposition of the family history of Fulke Fitz-Warin III, the real story however has all the landmarks of the legend of Robin Hood. A nobleman who, while his regent is away on the crusades is dispossessed of his lands and inheritance. He becomes an outlaw, robs the rich and gives to the poor. In actual fact William Shakspere was more likely a member of the middle-class of Stratford-upon-Avon, the family owned lands, farming and possessed more than one property.

Yet another version of the Robin Hood Myth on the internet

However, in the absence of the facts it was customary or necessary to fill the vacuum of factual evidence of authorship with some idle supposition, theory or conjecture. Subsequently, we find there have been thousands of books written on the subject matter of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry, their literary sources, the geographical and historical references made in them and yet the personal biography of William Shakspere amounts to a few A4 sheets of paper (See “All Is True” and “The Pseudonymous William Shakspere”). And the events of his life appear somewhat mundane and inappropriate to a playwright and poet (See “The Glaring Disparities”). This disparity between the literary works and the personal life is alarmingly dissonant since we know so very little about the man himself or the events of his life but have construed a great deal more about what the plays and poetry mean. So, the question we should ask ourselves is how was it that a relatively mediocre, unassuming person could have been associated with the complex, elevated and superlative work attributed to “William Shakespeare”? So, the theorists continue to add fuel to the pyre, suggesting for example that attributing the 1623 Shakespeare Canon to a Warwickshire farmer was a “Masonic Prank”. (See “The Secret Alchemy of Shakespeare”) or

An Alchemical Reading of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra

If William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon had never travelled abroad in his own life-time how could he have written about and set the majority of his plays in Italy? If William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon had never known military service how could he have described the historical battleground so accurately? If the Commedia d’el Arte had never visited England, how did the author become so personally acquainted with their dramatic tropes and used them in his plays? Of the 200 or more English placenames mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, not once is Stratford-upon-Avon mentioned or alluded to, which again diminishes the claims of Stratfordian academics. The questions and the lack of plausible answers persist ad nauseum if we simply accept the scholarly myth without question or serious doubt. It is clear from reading Shakespeare that he was a prolific polymath who had read, probably from an early age, a great number of books, some rare and probably too obscure for the average reading list. The list amounts to someone having access to a library of some 3,000 books and since there were no public libraries in Shakespeare’s time then where did the bucolic Will Shakspere obtain such a great number of books? Furthermore, with such small evidence of his education how could he have coined so many new English words (a total of 1,700) and phrases some of which are still in use today? It is also quite clear that the author of the history plays had some support or bias towards the Lancastrian cause, had personal experience of the royal courts of France, Italy and Denmark, who was fond of hunting, had some sporting ability, had a personal interest in sea-faring, mythology, heraldry, aristocratic genealogy, astronomy, cosmology, Neo-Platonic philosophy, and many other subjects too numerous to mention here. Above all his style and technique of poetry requires someone who has been acquainted and classically educated to a very high degree, both linguistically and poetically, the kind of education that could only be made available to someone who attended a university or one of the legal Inns of Court where both drama, the law and history were taught and practised. And yet we are expected to accept without question that William Shakspere, without a university or college education, no apprenticeship or financial patronage was able to write and compose such eloquent poetry and verse. The languages that appear occasionally in Shakespeare’s plays are Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch so where and how did the mono-lingual Shakspere become acquainted with those languages? No other playwright or poet from the Elizabethan era, where so much emphasis was placed on a valued education, whether that was at school, college, the Inns of Court or university had such a dire level of education.

Generally speaking, the role of actors, managers and stage-hands need not have had any further education, their talents and skills were presumed to be naturally acquired or developed further through apprenticeship but the role of playwright or poet would require some extensive further education, patronage, or apprenticeship although there are a few notable exceptions.

For example, Francis Beaumont, the third son of Justice Beaumont of Grace Dieu Priory, was born in Leicestershire. He entered Broadgates Hall, Oxford in 1587 but failed to take his degree and was much later admitted to the Inner Temple in 1600 to study law although there is no evidence that he ever practised as a barrister. The poet Michael Drayton was born at Hartshill, Warwickshire in 1563 and as a youth became a page to Henry Goodeere of Polesworth and was kindly educated by him. In actual fact he married Goodeere’s daughter, Anne. He was credited with serving in the army before he settled down in London sometime around 1590. He was a student apparently of Edmund Spenser and his first published work was Harmonie of the Church (1591) which was followed by Idea, The Shepherd’s Garland (1593) in which Spenser’s influence is quite clear. According to current biographers the poet George Chapman was a self-educated man who served as a soldier in the Netherlands he was born of a yeoman’s family at Hitchin, Hertfordshire and wrote his first poem The Shadow of Night as late as 1594, which might have inspired the institution of The School of Night. In the main he was a poet, translator and dramatist. Other evidence especially from the quality and depth of his writings suggests that he may also have attended Oxford, since he was an accomplished translator of both Greek and Latin. Very little is known of Thomas Dekker’s early life and education except that he was born in London and that between 1598 and 1602 he wrote plays for the Admiral’s and Worcester’s Men. Unfortunately, of the fifty or so plays commissioned and mentioned by Phillip Henslowe only twenty of them have survived to us today. The playwright and poet Robert Greene was the son of a Norwich saddler who was educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge (1575-78), but according to his diary led a dissolute life in Italy and Spain for five years before returning to Clare Hall, Cambridge as a reformed character. The poet Gabriel Harvey was a Puritan of lowly beginnings as the son of a rope-maker from Saffron Walden but nevertheless attended Christ’s College, Cambridge and then obtained a fellowship at Pembroke Hall in 1570. He appears to have quarrelled with his fellows there which hampered his career but befriended the poet Edmund Spenser. And finally, Ben Jonson was born in Westminster, the son of a clergyman, probably of Scottish origin and educated at Westminster School run by William Camden. In his early years he was apprenticed to his stepfather as a bricklayer, then afterwards served some inconsequential military service in the Netherlands until he finally chose the acting profession in London. We can clearly see from these few examples that it was uncommon or rare for a commoner to ascend to any degree of literary accomplishment without a) a patron or mentor, b) without an education at a college, Inn of Court or university, and c) without some degree of natural talent. There is no factual evidence to support the idea that William Shakspere had any of those faculties, resources or opportunities within his own life that would have propelled him with such speed and immediacy into the literary milieu or limelight of Elizabethan drama around 1587. The fact that only six shaky signatures survive of the Stratford man should immediately cause “bells to ring” alarmingly in any serious investigation of whether William Shakespeare was the author of the plays and poetry. Because the majority of people do actually want to believe the whimsical narrative that William Shakespeare, a middle-class farmer’s lad, having made his fiancé pregnant was obliged to marry her and then seek fortune and fame in the capital is understandable although it is basically untrue.

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


The Month of November

The deadly mushroom Amanita Muscaria

November the 5th is traditionally the most popular celebration of the thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, supposedly planned and partly executed by the Catholic insurgent Guido Fawkes. Other tenuous influences involve the presentation of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, a dramatic horror story derived from George Buchanan’s “Rerum Scoticarum Historia” (1582) and Matthew Gwynne’s Latin pageant “Tres Sybyllae” performed before James Ist in 1605. It was supposedly written shortly after the shock of the Gunpowder Plot or Powder Treason of Guy Fawkes backfired, who was then configured as an iconic scapegoat into the hands of the Puritan Cause. An anonymous letter by Francis Tresham sent to his Catholic brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle warned of the imminent threat to the King and Parliament. The leading conspirator was in fact Robert Catesby of Warwickshire, the son of Sir William Catesby who was known to William Shakspere’s father, John Shakspere. The Catholic insurgent, Robert Catesby was shot dead while resisting arrest in Staffordshire and his uprising in Warwickshire was halted and immediately dismantled. It has been suggested by several chroniclers that Ben Jonson had a hand as a spy in uncovering the threat to Parliament and the King. Under torture Guido Fawkes revealed that among the conspirators was Father Henry Garnet, the head of the Jesuit mission in England and the author of “A Treatise of Equivocation”. This book explained how to give misleading or ambiguous replies when being tortured or questioned under oath. Nevertheless, Fawkes and Garnet along with other conspirators were brought to trial and found guilty by Sir Edward Coke then publicly hung, drawn and quartered with their dismembered bodies placed on public display.

Bonfire Night

Bonfire blaze
Misty Moon
Wilting rose
Pink balloon
Children’s laughter
Parent’s glee
Cold hereafter
“What’s for tea?”

I’ve got pizza
And some wine
In the freezer…
Sounds sublime.
Or there’s fish
At suppertime?
Now just one wish
Before you climb

The wooden hill
To paradise
Where you might fill
Your hearts’ delight
And languish still
In timeless awe
Both day and night.
The night before

November’s plot
Seems awfully quiet
And were it not
We’d never try it
Nor disrupt the sky
With storm and fire
To please our eye?
This funeral pyre.

All Soul’s Day as seen in the villages in France

All Saints Day is a festival which takes place on the 1st and 2nd of November, coincidentally quite close to the pagan Hallows Eve or Celtic Samhain, and was used to celebrate the lives of the Great Saints of Christianity. The ancient custom of “Souling” whereby minstrels visited houses to sing for a small sum of money or alms as well as a cake usually occurred between the 30th October through to the 2nd of November.

“Soul! Soul for some soul cake,
We sing good Missus, for a soul cake!
For an apple or pear, a plum or a cherry
Yea, any good cake to make us all merry!”

The month of November derives its name from the Roman Calendar the word Novem meaning the ninth month since the Roman New Year began in March. It marks the final transition into the cold depths of winter with characteristic sharp winds and even keener frosts through the ever-darkening nights. Now the last of the autumn leaves have fallen and the silhouettes of bare trees and branches can gradually be seen in their stark and eerie beauty.

An old woodland rhyme describes, somewhat lyrically, which woods to use for fires.

Beech-wood fires are bright and clear,
If the logs are kept a year;
Chestnut only good they say,
If for long it’s laid away;
Make afire of elder tree,
Death within your house shall be;
But Ash new or Ash old
Is fit for Queen with crown of Gold.

Birch and Fir logs burn too fast,
Blaze up bright and do not last;
It is often by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread;
Elmwood burns like churchyard mould –
Even their very flames are cold;
But Ash when green or Ash when brown
Is fit for Queen with golden Crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke;
Apple wood will scent your room
With an incense like perfume;
Oaken logs, if dry and cold,
Keep away the winter’s cold;
But Ash wet or Ash dry
A King shall warm his slippers by.
– (Anon)

An artist’s engraving depicting the execution of the Gunpowder conspirators

The ancient Celts knew it as the beginning of the New Year although various alternatives to the 12-month Gregorian dominance in parts of the British Isles gives rise to interest and confusion. At first glance, it seemed there were two varieties of the Celtic calendar. The 12 Gregorian-style months starting with Samhain, November 1. Another one with 13 months and a day; each month having 28 days, and beginning on December 23. This second calendar was popularised by Robert Graves in his book the “White Goddess” and contains several errors, such as the letter order of the Ogham, the Irish tree alphabet, upon which he based his tree or plant correspondences for those thirteen months. Traditionally, at this time of year old fires were allowed to extinguish themselves and new fires were lit from the embers of new bonfires. That is probably why there is a predominance of bonfire celebrations in this month preferably on hilltops where they would be easily seen signalling the last month of Autumn. It was known to the Anglo-Saxons as Blodmonath meaning “Blood-Month” or as “Windmonath” meaning “windy month”. Usually, a cold November meant there would be a mild December and vice versa. The poet Thomas Hood wrote of this time:

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease
No comfortable feel in any member-
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds.

Witches depicted dancing on a full moon

But if you were to venture out on a clear, unpolluted night then you will be able to observe two sets of amazing astronomical events namely the appearance of several meteoric showers. The first to be observed is the Leonids (14th -20th Nov) and the second the Taurids (25th Oct-25th Nov). The former appear to stream out from the constellation Leo (the Lion), the latter from the constellation Taurus (the Bull). Notable celebrations for this dire month include Bonfire Night, traditionally known as Martinmass (St. Martin’s Day), which more recently is observed as Remembrance Sunday later on the 11th November.

(John McCrae; “In Flanders Fields”)

St. Martin of Tours is celebrated as the patron saint of inn-keepers and reformed drunkards. He was born of Hungarian parents around 316 A.D. in Panonia, was converted in Rome and served as Bishop of Tours (371 A.D.) for the remainder of his life. It seems that the 11th of November is also the date of the Feast of Bacchus, the Greek God of wine. St. Martin’s Summer is a period of warm or sunny weather also known as an “Indian Summer” before the onset of winter. Traditionally a goose is a suitable sacrifice for this day as the old nursery rhyme recalls:

Goosey, goosey gander
Where shall I wander
Upstairs and downstairs
In my Ladies chamber.

Martin Marprelate was a pseudonym employed by several anonymous authors of scurrilous pamphlets attacking the Church Bishops of the established Protestant Church (between 1587-1601). This was around the early part of William Shakespeare’s initial career or first appearance in London. The Church in question then commissioned Edward de Vere’s private secretary, John Lyly, the playwright Thomas Nashe, and Robert Greene (the subject of the “Upstart Crow” scandal) to launch a counter-attack against the excoriating “Mar-Prelate” tracts being circulated. The actual author, John Penry was finally arrested and hanged in 1593 for distributing seditious tracts. Traditionally in Elizabethan England November was an appropriate time for revels. The term “revel” actually means to indulge oneself or take delight in and this preoccupation or custom is ostensibly a typically English pursuit, to relieve the tedium of abstinence and in preparation for the austerities of Winter.

A photograph taken just before John Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald

It seems that November was notorious for assassinations as well as executions or memorable deaths as the American President, John F. Kennedy and Governor John Conally of Texas were assassinated on the 22nd of November 1963. The 19th of November is the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the 18th of November saw the first published book by William Caxton (1477) and the 17th saw the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh and his inevitable execution in 1618. Raleigh was not reconciled to any peace with Spain and was therefore eliminated. The Scottish King Duncan 2nd was himself killed on the 13th November 1094, and the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky was sentenced to death for his participation in the socialist “Petrashevsky Circle”. Notable dates for November include St. Clements Day on the 23rd, he was the patron saint of blacksmiths and hatters and St. Catherine’s Day on the 25th . In this month sees the 100th Anniversary of the release in 1922 of the first horror movie based on Bram Stoker‘s own book, “Dracula”, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror.

It seems likely that his father was Pharaoh Akhenaten, while his mother is unknown, but could have been Queen Nefertiti.

Coincidentally, another 100th anniversary will be the 4th of November commemorating the first opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun‘s tomb by tomb-raider Howard Carter. Sometimes referred to as King Tut, he was an Egyptian pharaoh who was the last of his royal family to rule during the end of the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egyptian history. Finally, the 30th of November is the occasion of St. Andrew’s Day, the patron saint of Scotland whose remains are entombed on the east coast of Fife.

A still from the horror movie “Nosferatu” as Count Orlok disembarks on his voyage to Whitby

Winter’s Song

The boughs and twigs though bare enough
As earth has yet to feel the chilling snow,
Nor frost-lined ivies climbed so rough.

At even time the rambling brambles show,
Their coarse leaf crawling on the ground
Where soft the cruel north wind doth blow.

But how the rain blasts swirl around!
Now pitted here and there in tiny drops.
A distant gurgling brook, the only sound,

Moulds the mounds of mire and stops
Its course across green overcoats
Whose foliage hides inside the distant copse.

Now soft, a simple song of trembling notes
Is all the winter birds dare try.
The bugle Moon at even-time now floats

So pearly white against the sombre sky;
So like a gem of purest hyaline
And pencilled blue so daintily.

In threads of silk that softly shine
Amidst dark silhouettes of boughs undressed
-I rarely saw her so divine!

Far on the watery, fire-streaked west
Yonder where the crimson orb doth set;
Limps sad in glowing coals and longs to rest.

I saw long streams and wisps of violet
And beryl-coloured ferns so dim;
I heard the moorhens quietly fret

Their brindled breast and yellow trim
With waxen coats now quickly run
Surrendering to the watery brim.

Out in the misty skies, the Sun
Sets fast, and my long day at last is done.

An adaptation of Gerard Manley Hopkins “Terza Rima”.

An artist’s impression of the exterior and interior of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st there were essentially two kinds of theatre in England, one was devised with an overtly orthodox or religious viewpoint (Mystery & Morality Play), the other was secular, ribald and regarded as being of a rather suspicious or doubtful nature imbued with satire, revelry and disorder (Revels & Masques). The 17th November was in actual fact a celebration of the Accession of Queen Elizabeth 1st and was celebrated nationally with ceremonial processions and exorbitant displays. Some vulgar presentations have been discovered as early as 1550 (eg: “Gammer Gurton’s Needle”) that was an early comedy written in English. The term “Revels”, which dates back to the 15th century, refers in part to the latter form which was often accompanied by some boisterous entertainment especially devised by whichever patron chose to finance and promote them. Like wakes, feasts and fairs, there would be jugglers, comic antics, music, poetry, and some spectacular setting or stage-crafted arena. Like the after premiere film party or thespian gathering, the revels designed by aristocrats, merchants and players were intended to entertain and amuse as well as expand the kudos of the patron themselves. There might even be occasion to succour favour from the Queen herself by portraying her in some heavenly or elevated status and on occasions she might be invited to play a part in a play. If she consented, that indeed would be a great honour.

On a purely social level it was an opportunity for those who had been isolated in communities or personal relationships to come together, to meet old friends or enemies and make useful contacts for the future. The Master of the Revels, who was first appointed on a permanent basis by the crown in 1547, was under the supervision and approval of the Lord Chamberlain, that thereby excesses or abuses were avoided in the theatres of London at least. Now it must be noted that the Lord Chamberlain (Henry Carey) was the supreme authority in the world of theatre, as Master of the Revels (an office shared at the time by George Buck & Edmund Tilney) its active censor and administrator while the Stationer’s Office held the copyrights and the sole means of publishing plays and poetry. Between 1594 and 1603 only fifteen of William Shakespeare’s plays had been printed as well as his two volumes of poetry, Lucrece and Venus & Adonis. It would be a further nineteen years before the remainder, bar three of them, would be finally published in 1623. At least eighteen plays were not published until the publication of the 1623 Shakespeare Folio. It seems all this was actually done without the author’s personal financial gain, his participation or even signed authority. That is “William Shakespeare’s Signatures” have never been found among any documents at the Stationer’s Office and rarely in any other letters or manuscripts. This is very unusual even for the time that such a well-known and prolific playwright or poet should display so little evidence of original writing of his plays or poetry. In fact none of the original manuscripts of Shakespeare’s plays have been discovered at all. It was quite common at the time for signatures to be written by legal clerks where the signatory was either absent, infirm or illiterate. Clearly, in the case of William Shakespeare we must presume he was either absent from proceedings, extremely ill or simply unable to sign his own name.

The long-standing Lord Chamberlain, Henry Carey died in 1596 and was later replaced by the Earl of Pembroke, William Herbert in 1603. William was a friend and admirer of the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, George Buck was the son of the Yorkist Robert Buck, whose great grandfather was actually at Bosworth Field when Richard III was finally defeated. His family were rescued by the Duke of Norfolk, and George meantime was tutored by Henry Blaxton going on to Chicester School then onto Thavies Inn and later to the Middle Temple in London. He became the Master of the Revels in 1597, superseding the other proposed candidate John Lyly, the Earl of Oxford’s secretary. George Buck’s signature appears on all of the Shakespeare plays registered at the Stationer’s Office after 1608. Unfortunately, Edmund Tilney died in 1610 and Buck took on the office alone until he suffered mental health problems and died shortly afterwards in October 1622, a year before the Folio was finally published. These so-called “Revels” took place during the “dark side of the year”, traditionally from All Saints Day (1st November) right up to the beginning of Lent, although they were generally restricted to the Christmas period up until Twelfth Night (January 6th ) during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st. Professional companies and individuals would be commissioned from court and paid to perform at these events which might even include pageants and masques.

In the “Arthurian Book of Days” November is noted as the time of the re-birth of Merlin to a princess of Demetia who apparently laid with a sucuba (an astral daimon) and subsequently gave birth to a supernatural being. Meanwhile King Arthur has been transferred to the Castle of the Fisher King and lies in state while Lancelot mourns his disdain for the maid Elaine of Astolat who died of her forlorn love for him. Now, the remainder of the knights all go in search of the Holy Grail and encounter a variety of strange adventures in their fruitless quest except for Parcival who is pure of heart. Well-known versions of her story appear in Sir Thomas Malory‘s 1485 book Le Morte d’Arthur, Alfred, Lord Tennyson‘s mid-19th-century “Idylls of the King”, and Alfred Lord Tennyson‘s poem “The Lady of Shalott”.

Literary Sources:

Brewer’s Phrase & Fable; revised by Adrian Broom (Cassell Publishing Group)
Chamber’s Book of Days; R. Chambers (Chambers Harrap Publishers)
The English Year; Steve Roud (Penguin Press)
The Arthurian Book of Days (Brockhampton Press, Caitlin & John Matthews)


“Pseudonymous”, A Biography of William Shakspere, Part Two

The search for more facts about “Shakespeare”

So since actors, playwrights and artists were notoriously fond of sexual escapades and indiscretions, what do we know about William Shakspere’s own extramarital love life? According to the Stratfordians while travelling with the King’s Men in Oxford a man named William had an affair with a married woman, namely Jane or Jeanette Davenant (?-1622) who worked at the Tavern (later The Crown Inn, Cornmarket Street, Oxford) and she became pregnant and gave birth to one William Davenant (1606-68). Davenant grew up in admiration of Shakespeare and even wrote poetry and plays himself. The Oxfordshire poet and theatre manager, William Davenant is considered by several Stratfordians to be the illegitimate son of the actor William Shakespeare, and note that the Bard’s name is not hyphenated in this instance. In actual fact he was Shakspere’s godson according to The Cambridge guide to English Literature. He studied classics in Oxford University then became a page to the Duchess of Richmond. He subsequently worked in the service of Fulke Greville who encouraged his interest in theatre. Amongst many other works he adapted several of Shakespeare’s plays (eg: “Two Noble Kinsmen”, re-entitled “The Rivals”) during Oliver Cromwell’s reign he re-introduced Shakespearean drama to the stage which infuriated Puritan audiences when theatrical performances were banned. He was captured while at sea and imprisoned in the Tower of London but John Milton’s intervention later ensured his release and a knighthood.

An artist’s engraving of William Davenant, son of William Shakspere?

In 1601 records indicate a rather reckless approach to Shakspere’s financial affairs while resident in London:
1600, 6th October – Tax record. Shakspere is listed in the Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer Residuum Sussex accounts “tax bill of 13s..4d. is still outstanding. The notation Episcopo Wintonensi in the left-hand margin indicates that the Court of Exchequer had referred the dramatist’s arrears to the Bishop of Winchester, whose liberty of the Clink in Surrey lay outside the sheriff’s jurisdiction. The Clink was a notorious debtors prison of the age.

In 1601 his father John Shakspere finally dies leaving his son and other members of the family with a reasonable inheritance. In the same year William Shakspere brings a lawsuit against John Clayton for a £7 pound debt. Together with his inheritance this enables William, now with a coat of arms to acquire a larger estate of arable land (107 acres) in Stratford for the sum of £320 even though there is no evidence that he had profited legitimately from either his work as an actor, playwright or poet. In my view more as a property investor and developer. Around that time a playwright would be in receipt of between 6-8 shillings for a play, an actor would be in receipt of far less and only the printers and publishers stood to gain effectively from plays by publishing them or compositing and drafting out prompt books. So if we do the maths then 36 plays would yield a meagre £14; 40 shillings so where did Shakspere get all that money to buy acres of property in Stratford? In 1603 a Royal Patent lists his name as licensed to perform plays at the Globe Theatre. The following year he purchased tithes worth £440 in Stratford and then he becomes a lay rector. Whereas he apparently showed little interest in profiting financially from publishing his plays or poetry in 1608 he again pursued a local apothecary, John Addenbroke for a loan of £6 and obtained a small share in the Blackfriars Theatre. Meanwhile, in 1610 he acquired more land (20 acres) from William and John Combe and then instructs his cousin Thomas Greene to vacate New Place. Although William had placed a small deposit of £60 on New Place in 1597 the mortgage was not finally conveyed to him until 1602 this meant he had more control over his property portfolio than he had in the past. In the same year he acquires a small cottage with a quarter acre of land with the intention presumably of renting it to a relative.

What remained in the early 1940’s at Stratford of Shakspere’s family home New Place

1602 Michaelmas – Property document, Public Records Office, Court of Common Pleas. New Place was reconveyed to Shakspere, who paid a fee equal to one fourth of the property’s yearly value.

1602, 1st May – Property document. For £320, Shakspere bought 107 acres of land and 20 acres of pasture in Old Stratford from William and John Combe.

1602, 28th September – Property document. Will Shakspere acquired a quarter-acre of land with “Chapel Lane Cottage” and a garden.

In order to understand the sequence of events taking place between London and Stratford-upon-Avon we may have to back-track in order to make sense of what actually transpired in William Shakspere’s life and the seeds sown by his father’s infidelity. The back-story seems to involve those in low positions and those of a much higher status.

We begin with William Bott, an alderman of Stratford-upon-Avon who was temporarily a resident of New Place until 1610, having acquired the property from William Clopton whose heir sold it to William Bott in 1563. Sir Hugh Clopton was the head of the illustrious Warwickshire family, he built the bridge over the river at Stratford-upon-Avon and was the Mayor of London in 1491. However, a year later the Cloptons successfully sued William Bott at the Star Chamber for serious fraud and he left Stratford under a cloud of suspicion for poisoning his daughter Isabella in order to secure her inheritance from the Harper family. In 1565 he had been expelled from the office of alderman, a post held previously by John Shakspere, for denouncing his fellow dignitaries as being thoroughly dishonest! Two years later in 1567 William Bott sold the property of New Place, Chapel Street, Stratford to William Underhill, whose father was a Middle Temple lawyer (1530-70) with considerable land-ownings in the county who then happened to sell it to William Shakspere. This being the same year that William Shake-speare’s name first appeared in print within the play “Love’s Labours Lost” and in Francis Mere’s poetry anthology “Palladis Tamia”. The Warwickshire poet Michael Drayton married the sister of the renowned courtier/poet Fulke Greville II, who later became his son’s guardian. In the same year on the 7th July William Underhill was poisoned by his own son Fulke, who was subsequently executed for the murder two years later. The estates were consequently forfeited and his second son Hercule retrieved the properties when he came of age in 1601, thereby able to finally confirm the sale of New Place to William Shakspere. But the drama of New Place is shrouded in numerous intrigues connected to the Stratford lawyer Thomas Greene and the Alderman and Bailiff of Stratford Richard Quiney and his son, the vintner Thomas Quiney.

A 16th century Map of Stratford-upon-Avon

However, it seems that Greville and Quiney came head to head over the controversy to enclose common lands in Stratford and Greville sued Quiney over the matter of tolls for grain sold at the local market. Finally, Quiney travelled again to London to consult with the Attorney-General Edward Coke but was delayed due largely to the onset of the Essex Rebellion that had suddenly broken out in the city. When he returned to Stratford he was again elected Bailiff in September 1601 but was assailed by Greville’s men in the spring of 1602 and wounded in a street fight. He subsequently died from his wounds, leaving his poor wife Elizabeth with nine children. Much later his son Thomas Quiney married Shakspere’s daughter Judith on the 10th of February, 1616. The lawyer Thomas Greene was a close friend of Shakspere and had entered the Middle Temple to study law in 1595 from where he assisted Richard Quiney in his fight against Edward Greville’s and Thomas Combe’s attempts to secure common land in 1601. From 1603-1617 he was Town Clerk of Stratford and from 1609 his family lived with Shakspere’s family at New Place while waiting to occupy their own home at St. Mary’s House. It seems Thomas Greene also supported Shakspere with the Chancery suit over tithes in 1611. During the onset of plague in London Shakspere changed his lodgings to Silver Street, Cripplegate with a Hugenot family named Mountjoy who specialised in wigs. The Mountjoy’s daughter, Mary was then being wooed by Stephen Bellot, an apprentice in the firm. But after the match was agreed Bellot held out insisting on a larger dowry and Shakspere was called in to negotiate the match to a satisfactory conclusion. According to the defendant the agreed financial settlement was £60 in celebration of the nuptials and a further £200 on the death of Christopher Mountjoy. However, after the agreement Stephen Belott left the firm with Mary and set up business on his own account and ostensibly became a business rival to the Mountjoys. Consequently, Mr. Mountjoy withheld the original sum agreed and made an offer of £10 as the final settlement. Mary died a few years later presumed due to ill-treatment and her father became increasingly ill and distraught. Therefore William Shakspere, now having moved back to Stratford was called upon by the court (Bellot vs Mountjoy) as a character witness and to confirm the sum originally agreed upon. When appearing in court to settle the matter it seems that Shakspere’s memory fell short and he testified that the sum agreed was £50 and failed to recollect the additional sum of £200 on the death of the father. The court adjourned for a month on the case requesting Shakspere to re-appear for further cross-examination but he failed to re-appear for some unknown reason. Subsequently the court awarded Belott a mere £6: 13s 4d.

1612, 11th May to 19th June – Court records. Public Record Office, Court of Requests Shakspere was called into court and asked to resolve a dispute regarding the amount offered by him as dowry when he helped negotiate a marriage in 1604 (Belott v. Mountjoy). “Only Shakespeare himself could resolve the question … but what the portion was, or when it was to be paid, Shakespeare could not say….The witness likewise professed ignorance of ‘what implementes and necessaries of stuff’ Mountjoy gave with Mary”.

An early 20th century photograph of Anne Hathaway’s cottage

Then on the 10th March, 1613 it was recorded that William Shakspere acquired a leased share in the prestigious Blackfriars Gatehouse. Records show that Mathias Bacon (1590-1615) had owned the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse from 1590 before Henry Walker, a citizen and minstrel of London who apparently sold a share in it to William Shakespeare in 1613 for £140 on the 10th March some 3 years before his death. Why William Shakspere would buy a gatehouse when he had every intention of retiring permanently in Stratford remains a mystery unless the purchase was intended to imbue the Stratford man as a property owner in London as well as in Stratford-upon-Avon. Incidentally, Mathias was not a close or distant relative of Sir Francis Bacon, who some researchers claim might be the author of Shakespeare’s works. Although, according to some records the property was actually part of the Earl of Northumberland’s London estates, Mathias Bacon had simply inherited the leasehold of the property from his mother, Anne in 1590 and she had inherited the same from her mother Margaret Campion, a relative of the Roman Catholic priest and martyr, Edmund Campion. Other records suggest that the property was actually part of the property portfolio of the 17th Earl of Oxenforde (Edward de Vere). The Gatehouse, built partly over the arch contained a myriad of tunnels, some that led to the Thames and many secret doors or alcoves and consequently it was frequently used as a “safe-house” for recusants and Catholic priests who were planning sedition. The Jesuit priest John Gerard sought to use it for the Gunpowder Plot in 1604 but it had been sold to Henry Walker by that time for £100. Records reveal that in March 1613 William Shakspere, gent bought a share in the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse for £140 along with a number of co-purchasers; namely, William Johnson (landlord of the Mermaid Tavern), John Jackson, a shipping magnate from Hull who was married to the sister-in-law of Elias James, and John Heminges, the theatre manager. However, it seems that Shakspere never actually occupied it and simply re-mortgaged the property to the previous owner for the sum of £60 to be paid on the 27th September following. Now, for some peculiar reason the sum of £60 keeps reoccurring in several Shakspere records and one cannot help thinking it is more than just a coincidence. This legal procedure was supposed to prevent Shakspere’s wife Anne Hathaway from acquiring a third of the value of the property after his death, as was the custom at the time.

The first Royal Shakespeare Theatre to be built in Stratford-upon-Avon

Shakespeare’s signature is on the title deed and another on the mortgage arrangement. The property was then let to a John Robinson who one must presume was not the same as that recorded in Shakespeare’s will which states that it was re-conveyed to John Greene of Clement’s Inn and Matthew Morris of Stratford, but the mystery continues to baffle academics for several reasons. For example, was Shakspere an ardent or secret Catholic and if so how had he managed to disguise the fact for so long? The Stratfordians claim that it was merely an investment purchase and Shakespeare had no real interest or connection with its previous use. I doubt very much whether Shakespeare or anyone in London was oblivious to its previous history and use. Strangely enough, that is according to surviving documents, Mathias Bacon had retained the title deeds to the property until 1615, that is after a bill of complaint was laid against him by “William Shakespeare” and several others anxious to conclude his legacy. So why was Mathias Bacon so reluctant to pass over the deeds to the rightful owner and why did he mysteriously die aged twenty-five later that year after the deeds had been acquired?

The main entrance to Blackfriar’s Abbey and the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse

Blackfriar’s Gatehouse was adjacent to the Blackfriar’s Theatre which previously was the site of an old Dominican monastery and was re-possessed by Henry VIIIth as part of the dissolution. The Blackfriar’s Theatre was also used for the trial of Catherine of Aragon and therefore had sentimental or historical significance for many Catholics in England. A portion of it was also used as the Office of the Revels whose job it was to monitor plays for their subversive content and in the time of Henry VIIIth it was used to stage Catholic “Mystery and Miracle Plays” prior to the Reformation. The mystery of the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse and Mathias Bacon’s premature death hangs mysteriously over the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy because of certain irregularities and anomalies associated with it. On Sunday 26th October 1623, the same year the First Folio was published, a secret congregation of 300 Catholics assembled in the upper garret to celebrate Mass but unfortunately their weight snapped the oak beams and the building collapsed with some ninety worshippers dead. Once discovered by the authorities most of the bodies were thrown into a mass-grave which was dug nearby, others were buried at St. Ethelreda’s Church, Ely. Firstly, the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse was an asset clearly mentioned in Shakespeare’s will to be inherited by his daughter Susanna but which he bought just as he was spending less time in the capital. Was this an investment or a means of establishing a credible identity and prestigious residence for the Stratford man in London by agents unknown? All evidence indicates that when in London he lived in relatively poor lodgings in Bishopsgate and Southwark, that he was in poor health and was, given his apparent age, planning to retire at his home town Stratford-upon-Avon and live in his newly acquired property New Place. This property was originally built by Sir Hugh Clopton (d. 1496), who later became Lord Mayor of London in 1491 and whose daughter married Sir George Carew, the cousin of Sir Walter Raleigh and the illustrious Richard Carew who served in Ireland as Lieutenant of Ordnance in 1592 and was connected to Warwickshire by his marriage to Joyce Clopton, the daughter of William Clopton (1538-92). His agent was none other than the scurrilous William Bott who moved to New Place and later purchased the property (1563). Furthermore, around the time of the Gunpowder Plot (1605) Clopton House was intended as a safe-house or base for the conspirators. The property was returned to the Clopton estate in the 18th century.

An artist’s depiction of the arrest of the Gunpowder Plotters at the Mermaid Tavern, London

In 1614 Will Shakspere is then commissioned to write the motto for the arms of the Earl of Rutland which Richard Burbage painted. On the 5th September 1614 Quiney recorded a meeting with Shakspere in London to discuss the threatened closure of the Welcombe lands. It seems that Thomas Quiney’s marriage to Judith was compromised because he married during the Lenten season, when marriage was strictly forbidden. Soon after it was discovered that Quiney had also been having an affair with one Margaret Wheeler who was pregnant with his child. Thomas Quiney was charged at the Church Court on the 26th March 1616 and ordered to undergo penance, some of which was remitted by a small fine of 5 shillings with the aid of his lawyer Francis Collins in January 1616. But this scandal must have come as a great shock to the aging Will Shakspere and Quiney was subsequently excluded from Shakspere’s last will when Shakspere made his last and final visit to London. The physician Dr. John Hall then accompanied Shakspere to London in 1614 to act as witness to the revisions in his last will and testament. A year after Shakspere’s death the lawyer and town clerk, Thomas Greene left Stratford and settled in Bristol for the remainder of his life. The executors of Shakspere’s will, Dr. John Hall and Susanna Shakspere inherited the property of New Place on the death of the Stratford actor in 1616.

A copy of Shakespeare’s Last Will & Testament

William Shakspere’s will has been a bone of contention among academics and researchers alike and therefore requires even greater scrutiny in order to determine what events and circumstances affected its final execution. Firstly, the supposed shares in the Globe Theatre and Blackfriars Theatre while mentioned in his will as is the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse possibly for reasons given previously, to prevent his daughter Susanna or his wife Anne Hathaway from benefitting from them. So, the question now is did ownership actually exist tangibly at all other than on paper? All that was left to Anne, apart from a third share in his Stratford property, was his second best bed which was customary practice and not considered unusual at the time. Now why would William Shakspere deprive his own wife from a share in the invaluable assets he had acquired in London? I suspect, after the death of Shakespeare’s “Shadow” or mask the authorities felt obliged to put an end to the masquerade and withdraw their investments.

The Last Will & Testament states that he left a broad, silver gilt bowl to his daughter Judith along with £150, with another £50 when she had wed but with a clause to forgo any claim to the cottage on Chapel Lane. Furthermore, if Judith died childless then £100 of the £150 would go to his granddaughter Elizabeth Hall and the other £50 to his sister Joan Hart and her children. Judith was eligible for any interest accrued from this imbursement so long as she remained married. There follows a sum of £20 and some clothing for his sister Joan together with a life tenancy of the western end of the Henley Street home with a peppercorn rent of 12d a year. A sum of £12 was assured to any nephews (blank space) remaining (William and Michael). Some valuable plate to Elizabeth Hall and to his 7-year old godson, William Walker the sum of 20 shillings. To Thomas Combe, his sword, and to his lawyer Francis Collins £13 6s 8d and a further £5 to Thomas Russell, £5 to Hamnet Sadler, William Reynolds and the Nash brothers left 26s 8d to purchase a memorial ring. The same sum of £5 was left to his bosom buddies from the King’s Men, Richard Burbage, John Heminges and Henry Condell. Susanna was the main recipient of household chattels at New Place and of course the one third of his estate went to Anne, his wife. While all lands, gardens and tenements, which included the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse were also bequeathed to Susanna in his will but in reality the recipient was denied ownership whatsoever to the last of these.

An artist’s impression of the interior of Blackfriar’s Theatre

Thomas Quiney (son of John Shaxpere’s friend Adrain Quiney), was the son of Richard Quiney who was an ally of Fulke Greville I, a Warwickshire landowner and father of Fulke Greville II, the renowned poet/courtier, whose cousin Edward Greville attempted to enclose common land in Stratford. Unfortunately, Richard Quiney died in a brawl in 1602 in an altercation with some of Edward Greville’s men. We know that Shakspere left his sword to Thomas Combe, a lawyer and close associate who supported his brother and Shakspere in the attempt to enclose common lands at Welcombe (1614). He also assisted in the procurement of land some 127 acres in 1602 at Old Stratford. In 1616 the indomitable Justice Coke ruled against Combe’s nefarious activities although, as serving Sheriff of Stratford (1615-16) Combe continued to persecute tenants dependent on those lands for their living. Eventually, the Privy Council determined he should remove his enclosures in 1619 and forfeit any ownership to them. This matter and several others has cast doubt over the authenticity of Shakspere’s identity and his commercial integrity and generosity seems strangely distorted by these incidents if not wholly perverse and out of character.

The renowned physician Dr. John Hall, who married Shakspere’s daughter Susanna, was a close friend of Thomas Greene, his patients included the playwright Michael Drayton, his patron Lady Rainsford and the Earl of Northampton. He was a devoted Puritan and refused the offer of a knighthood in 1626. He was also Church Warden of Holy Trinity Church from 1628-29 where Shakspere’s memorial was installed. He lived at Hall’s Croft, Stratford until he and his wife acquired New Place. Both he and his wife were buried alongside Shakspere under the chancel of Holy Trinity Church. It seems odd that within a month of having concluded his new will, William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon died it was rumoured after a drinking bout with his close literary friends Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton on the eve of St. George’s Day, 1616. Although there is no evidence to support such an assumption, the cause of death remains unknown even to this day. Rumour has it that he was poisoned while drunk or suffocated but we shall never know. However, a plot seems likely given that Heminges and Condell had early plans to publish the Shakespeare Folio much sooner than 1623 and as William Shakspere was still alive it could lead to several complications. Whether a body actually exists under the chancel has neither been confirmed nor denied by the Church authorities and at one time the family grave in the cemetery was actually desecrated by grave robbers who apparently found little of value worth removing.

Holy Trinity Church as it stands today in Stratford-upon-Avon where “Shakespeare is presumed to be buried

The nearby Charlecote Estate belonging to Sir Thomas Lucy was named by some academics as the place where William Shakspere supposedly “poached” deer for his wedding feast although there is no hard or real evidence for this assumption. However the salubrious mansion and extensive estate was visited by Queen Elizabeth in 1572, the year that Leicester’s Men performed there. Having finally acquired the coat of arms that Lucy had previously denied him in 1596; despite the down-turn of his fortunes, John Shakspere died technically a gentleman and was himself buried at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon a year after the death of Sir Thomas Lucy. I suspect that the remains of the actor William Shakspere are probably nearby, if not actually in the family plot, and when it is exhumed and examined by forensic experts we as a nation will finally find out the truth behind the greatest literary fraud in English history.

Following the discovery of the remains of Richard the Third beneath a Leicestershire car park and the use of DNA analysis to identify him, it was decided that a similar investigation could be conducted on the grave of William Shakspere at Holy Trinity Church by ex-CIA military analyst Peter W. Dickson thereby proving that William Shakespeare’s body actually lay there. Unfortunately, as previously discovered by the American author Washington Irving when he visited the church in 1815, the scan did not reveal any trace of a body or coffin but a pile of dust and rubble. Naturally, the Stratfordians were quick to suggest that Shakspere’s skull had been stolen by looters in the early 19th century and that Shakespeare’s remains must have been discreetly relocated to a safe and secret location elsewhere along with the manuscripts of his plays and poetry. We know however that the body of Edward de Vere was supposedly buried in Hackney, London so a DNA analysis could be conducted from bone samples in order to confirm or deny any hypothesis regarding his own lineage and offspring eg: Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton. However, more recently the De Vere family have disclosed that Edward de Vere’s body was exhumed and buried at Westminster Abbey where presumably it remains to this day. See The Sonnets Code Deciphered. It may also explain why Ben Jonson wrote in the 2nd Folio edition of 1632 in a dedication to Shakespeare that he was “a monument without a tomb”. The Greek writer Thucydides, who no doubt Shakespeare and Ben Jonson would have read, had declared that the sum total of a man’s life or his achievements should not be judged by the size or nature of the monuments erected in his name but on the influence he has had in his lifetime on other people’s lives. If that is the case perhaps the Earl of Oxford fancied that his literary work was just such a monument or at least his actions were?

William Shakespeare’s Memorial statue 1757 by Louis-François Roubiliac at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

But serendipity or fate decided that solid monuments would be built and erected to celebrate the life and work of the illustrious “Bard of Avon”. Two almost identical monuments indeed were designed and erected, one at Westminster Abbey alongside Poet’s Corner, another at Wilton House, stately home of the Pembroke family. As the sole inspiration of the Pembroke clan they were commissioned by Alexander Pope and Dr. Sewell who had published a new edition of Shake-speare’s Sonnets in 1723. These monuments were designed by William Kent and then sculpted by Peter Sheermakers under the suggestion of John Rich to celebrate the centenary of the 1623 Folio edition of Shakespeare’s work. So these monuments were installed to promote the sale of the 1623 Folio not necessarily to celebrate or memorialise the life of William Shakespeare. They feature a bearded Shakespeare leaning on a column with three heads on its base, his right elbow leaning on a pile of three books underneath which is a scroll inscribed with, in the case of the Westminster Abbey statue a quotation from The Tempest, while the Wilton memorial displays a quotation from the play Macbeth. It has been recognised that the three heads at the base of the column are Elizabeth Ist, Henry Vth and Richard IIIrd. In the former Shakespeare’s finger points at the word “Temples” and in the latter it points at the word “Shadow”. It has been suggested that the designers and commissioners of these two, almost identical memorial statues were Freemasons who were honour-bound to leave the world with yet another cryptic mystery surrounding the life and death of William Shakespeare, poet and playwright.

The original artist’s design for John Shaxpere’s Memorial at Holy Trinity Church

The first person to chronicle William Shakspere’s Memorial at Holy Trinity Church was one William Dugdale, antiquarian when he visited the Church on the 4th of July 1634 and sketched out on paper what he saw and what was written as a monument to Shakespeare. His sketch was subsequently engraved by the artist Wenceslaus Hollar for Dugdale’s book on Warwickshire Worthies (Warwickshire Antiquities, 1656). However, Dugdale’s drawing and Hollar’s engraving differ considerably with what we see today at Holy Trinity Church or what has generally been accepted belonged to the past. The engraving shows a man, with moustache and beard, in an arched alcove with down-turned collar holding a wool-sack between two columns. The history of the monument revealed several repairs, renovations and changes had occurred throughout its’ history. In his book describing the church Dugdale makes no mention of Shakespeare as a playwright and says simply:

“In the North wall of the Chancell is this Monument fixt. One thing more in reference to this ancient town is observable, that it gave birth and sepulture to our late famous poet Will. Shakespere, whose monument I have inserted in my discourse of the church.”

By spelling his name Shakespere William Dugdale omits any direct reference to the author Shakespeare, meaning that the Stratford actor never “shook-a-spear” or actually jousted in his entire career.

The later version of the Stratford Memorial at Holy Trinity Church

In 1737, on the instructions of Alexander Pope’s agents, the monument depicting John Shakspere was “magically” altered by artist and sculptor George Vertue on the advice of Edward Harley, a descendant of Edward de Vere to the extent that the wool-sack has become a cushion which supports the quill and paper on which the now portly Shakespeare has changed his appearance and profession from notorious “wool-brogger” to illustrious or should I say “pseudonymous poet and playwright”.

“All Is True”, a Biography of William Shakspere, Part One
Ever wondered what exactly we know about the biography of the pseudonymous “William Shakspere”? Qudos Academy attempts a realistic profile of the Man and his Life!

“Pseudonymous”, a Biography of William Shakspere, Part Two
The second of my series examining what evidence there is to construct a viable and factual biography of the farmer’s boy from Stratford-upon-Avon who became the leading playwright and poet of Elizabethan England almost overnight!

Clues to Identifying Shake-speare, the Man?
In an attempt to uncover the identity of the author of “Shakespeare’s Plays” it seems more than likely that he loved music, played an instrument and wrote songs.

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


“The Way of the Warrior”

The title for the Samurai Warrior Game & Cartoon

Personal Enlightenment:

“Enlightenment is real, and each one of us, whoever we are, can in the right circumstances and with the right training realise the nature of mind and so know in us what is deathless and eternally real. This is the promise of all mystical traditions in the world, and it is being fulfilled and is being fulfilled in countless thousands of human lives. There are enlightened masters still on the Earth. When you actually meet one, you will be shaken and moved in the depths of your heart and you will realise that all the words such as illumination and wisdom which you thought were only ideas, are in fact true.” Sogyal Rinpoche – Tibetan Lama

The problem of human existence is the development of egocentricity and the subsequent struggles endured by many to overcome it. Religion as an ideal aims to resolve or limit this egocentricity, but unfortunately, religion as understood and practised by many reinforces and confirms it. So why should this occur? It seems more likely due to intolerance of other religious views, lack of understanding and an almost literal interpretation of the relevant scriptures. Through social acculturation the individual loses their sense of the presence of God and his autonomous self-worth and sense of dignity. Instead, people acquire a self-image or idol whose worth is judged by external references, like wealth, achievement, and prestige. In their ignorance they inevitably become an object to themselves. This idol is insatiable. Because it is judged by comparison, it is always inferior, and because it is a creature of linear time, it fears its own mortality. The realisation of the ultimate futility of the egocentric position and a sense that greater satisfaction is possible motivates the individual to seek to transcend this egocentricity. The path to personal transcendence is neither intuitive, mystical, nor supernatural. One needs only to become observant during the affairs of daily life, and one will become acutely aware of the continual presence of egocentricity in oneself and in others. One will eventually realise the suffering it causes, and will naturally seek ways to become less egocentric. There are, of course, numerous evasions and deviations of this attempt at human spiritual transcendence, such as literary indulgence (Omar Khayyam), aesthetic works (Faust, creators, self-justification), and devotion to some ideal (Mahatma Ghandi – doing good – political, religious, and social). However, these evasions delay pursuit of real transcendence of the material plane. But human beings will never find any external justification for the human self. It really is connection with God or nothingness. This is the same as what the Zen Buddhists called “The Void” although mystics have identified it by various names and titles, its actuality evades all labels of titles. When one reduces egocentricity so that it ceases to be a controlling force in life, one realises that one’s fundamental loyalty is to the wholeness of things, which is experienced as a sense of uprightness within, and not subservience or worship to any temporal agency such as family, nation, race, humanity as a whole, or anything else. And religious matters that were once mere concepts, doctrines or cultural artefacts become matters of direct physical experience.

Zulu Warriors in their characteristic attire

To be brief but obviously controversial, God does not “exist”. It is totally absurd to think of God as existing as does say a table or a shoe, as just another part of a finite or reductive Universe. GOD has being, but not “material existence” as we would automatically assume and in no such sense in that we “exist” as human beings. There is no change or transience in God since GOD is within us. God is best defined as “the essence of the universe.” And salvation is participation by the individual in the being (infinite life) of God. When a person does this, they give existence to God, that is, God exists in godliness, in Truth, Beauty & Goodness. So, if we must insist on thinking of God as existing, we should think of him as an adverb, a property or a quality of human action. But this type of manifestation is not God itself, but a consequence and expression of let us say, God’s voice or light working through us as for example in a stained-glass window or musical instrument. There is no evil independent of misdirected human will or endeavour. Earthquakes, for example, are bad but not evil, since there is no human will or action involved in their occurrence. In short, evil exists because man’s conscience ignores the voice of God and conceals the light of God in this world.
The true religion, and for that matter its cousin, the methods and means of real spiritual development, were lost to human beings sometime around 2,500 BC. It was replaced by a form of manipulative theocracy propagating sentimentality, blind belief, an assortment of bespoke superstitions, a variety of false doctrines, together with some reassuring philosophical platitudes, that were accepted wholesale by the contemporary civilisations and superficially imitated by its adherents. The leading propagandists of these advanced civilisations, the priests, kings and clergy hijacked and distorted true religion in order to control other human beings for purely selfish reasons and the message and meaning conveyed by spiritual masters soon became a tool in acquiring wealth and for self-aggrandisement. Consequently, true religion went underground, the secrets of the scriptures and the real methods of spiritual attainment were lost to all but a few earnest devotees.

The Sacred Lotus which denotes human perfection

This system employs or accepts there are 5 fundamental processes, the foundation of all our work namely:


Meditation is a natural biofeedback technique that recognises that there is a subtle energy or Primordial life force within the body that influences our state of mind, feelings, body and soul. If practised it can produce a feeling of Peace, Clarity of Mind, and can bring the physiological functions of the body back to normal health and well being.

Many meditation techniques taught are entirely practical, and once acquired as a formal discipline can be practised anywhere and at anytime by anyone regardless of sex, race or creed. It is the underlying or universal principle which was revealed by Spiritual Masters from whose teachings evolved various so-called religious faiths. In many of these scriptures references are made to this experience, which, despite various alterations, misinterpretations and omissions through history, are in essence descriptions of a common experiential link residing within all humanity. The basis of which remains unadulterated here as a teaching or spiritual path and in fact forms part of a dynamic spiritual process that integrates the personality and gives access to supra-personal power, wisdom and peace. It helps to connect the lower mind with the higher self, and rather than destroying the ego it develops it as a tool for the inner master of the self. The meditational techniques (Pranayama) are aligned with physical bodywork, (Asanas) and individual or particular advice is given on achieving some intellectual and emotional comprehension of this path and what in real terms it entails. As anyone who has ever practised meditation knows, they will invariably encounter obstacles and resistance against this type of “work” both from their environment and most certainly from within themselves. Therefore being forewarned is being suitably prepared for a path that though it promises a modicum of success in a relatively short space of time, nevertheless requires a certain amount of self-discipline, dedication and above all Personal Spirit. It is known in some circles as the “WAY OF THE WARRIOR!”

The Factory (Heart, Body, Mind):

A Teutonic Warrior

However, alongside the idea that energy is in a state of change, the Russian mystic George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff also compared the human body to that of a factory which took in raw materials and then processed them into products. The essential raw materials of the factory were Air, Food/Water and Impressions received by the 5 senses and good or compatible combinations of these energies were considered crucial to good health, right action and overall spiritual development. Some people criticise Gurdjieff for reducing human beings to their mechanical functioning, however this form of objective observation of oneself and the striving to overcome the vagaries of human nature is a necessary prerequisite to understanding the mechanical or unconscious nature of oneself. Gurdjieff used the analogy of a “Factory” to describe how the 3 centres functioned within human beings. This factory had three floors, each floor had one manager and numerous workers at each level. These 3 managers could not communicate with each other directly and relied entirely on their secretary to pass on memos. Each of these floors housed the activities of the Body, Heart and Mind. There was also a receptionist – which symbolised the persona, and the secretary who dealt with communications and everyday duties – she represented a formative apparatus or ability not a centre as such. The role of the receptionist was to greet visitors and generally give them the false impression that everything that occurred within the factory was organised to their liking and proceeded as if on perfectly “greased wheels”. As each manager communicated in their own unique “language” the job of the secretary was to decode messages, decide who to send it to and translate that into a language that the next recipient would understand. This is a bit like sending encrypted emails really, so that each message was decoded, then re-encrypted and finally passed to the relevant managerial department. The channels of communication between these centres were like pipes and the diameter of these pipes tended to vary according to certain conditions like for example the weather, or temperature consequently the level of understanding between these centres or brains also varied. The secretary represented a specific apparatus in our mind, not a centre as such. She acted mechanically, and had numerous automated or standard procedures to fulfil, such as receiving messages or visitors, attaching labels to things, mailing reports, sorting through the manager’s diaries, and arranging meetings. At times however, the secretary became distracted, confused or simply negligent in her duties. Perhaps a situation arose in which she was uncertain or she was ignorant of the correct response, in these cases information might go astray or not quite be intelligible for one or other of the managers or centres. As simple as this analogy sounds, one should bear in mind that the interaction of these three centres, the involuntary responses, subconscious feelings and memory of an individual are extremely complex operations. Moreover, the languages required of each of these centres may not encompass every situation, the secretary may not have the right education or knowledge, she might spend too much time looking at herself in the mirror or have an extra half hour for lunch and so forth. In this set of circumstances it is easy to see why things may go drastically wrong both within human beings and in their relationship to each other.

The Ego or “Shadow Self”:

A Knights Templar Crusader Knight

Whereas most conventional faiths will perpetuate some attempt to destroy the “Ego”, as it is so called, Buddhist and Hindu Tantra attempts to bring it under the control of the Higher Force or Divine Will. While orthodox religion surrounds everything with sentimentality, guilt and moral obligations, Tantrikas attempt to observe a universal, yet practical standpoint. They maintain that any attempt to destroy what is essentially a survival mechanism gone wrong will only end in personal self-defeat. However, in Tantrism and in other psycho-dynamic systems certain techniques have been employed to reduce the influence which the “Mind” or “Ego” can have over our experience of life. These methods are called “Klesha Smashing” by people in the know. Much of what we term today as gestalt and cognitive therapy owes a lot to this Tantric notion of confronting ones’ carefully hidden inadequacies.
The ego constantly seeks approval, gratification and consent and, will in many instances try to find that either within the group or from the teacher or guru themselves. Many people will therefore enter into a group situation without a thorough understanding of its implications. Some people consider that belonging to such and such a school or organisation entitles them to some kind of high status or that simply being there as a member that they have crossed the great abyss of ignorance. Paradoxically others may actually reject the group dynamic thinking or believing that they can learn all they need without any assistance or that the answer may be found in books or observance of mere doctrines. Some may even think that they have attained a modicum of understanding and can therefore instruct and lead others to the ineffable light of understanding. Others still will undergo pilgrimages, hardships and devote themselves fanatically to some cause and become prey to their own obsessions and delusions. Others may join groups in the hope that the consensus of thought and feeling will like a wave carry them unheeded and without dint of any personal effort or willpower to the goal. A number of people will seek refuge from the distress of karmic conditions that have imposed trials and tribulations on them. In effect true seekers are rare and the majority seek confirmation of their own desire nature and negative condition from those who are always eager to encourage it. Some may even attempt a form of bribery, corruption or emotional blackmail in the hope that their support and affirmation of some group or guru on condition that it may in turn give them all the material happiness they seek to be personally satisfied.

The Mortal Follies and Obstructions on the Highway to Self-Realisation

The Enemies of Self-Awareness are often expressed as Illusion, Delusion & Confusion:

    Accusing others of faults which you secretly harbour yourself and hypocritically blaming them for your inadequacies.
    Failing “to be..to hear..to see..to touch..or to taste life fully and experience life as it is in the here and now.
    Putting off till tomorrow what you can do today.
    Misplaced faith in external circumstances, people or things.
    Missing the point or target, relying only on a theoretical or philosophical understanding of the truth.
    Inflating ones’ ego, lying unconsciously to oneself and others.
    Causing delays and interference or disrespect to others and immersing oneself for long periods in the world of self-pity or hedonistic self-indulgence.

Personal Blocks & How to deal with them.
Sometimes we think we are on the path when in actual fact we are really stuck in a rut or lying in a ditch. This is the time when we have to cut through the “Tanglewood Thicket”.
Often expressed as obsession, possession, aggression.

An Aztec Warrior in Traditional Headdress

The 5 Ob-blocks.
The root causes of suffering are created by the Ego and tend to manifest as what are called “Ob-blocks” which are basic human tendencies which prohibit or interfere with human spiritual development. There are five in total, each associated with a certain physical and psychological condition.

  1. Ignorance – Lack of knowledge of any given thing.
    (Solution: Acquiring Knowledge and Expertise in a particular field – Study)
  2. Egotism – Overt Narcissism or obsession with the illusory self as an entity. You have become a self-created idol and this is not your true self. Externalise your energy and break free!
    (Solution: Don’t sit there thinking, move into action).
  3. Revulsion – Dislike of any given thing. I hate them, this or that.
    (Solution: Deal positively with your own inadequacies, dislikes and prejudices)
  4. Attraction – Enjoyment of any given thing, what do you really own in this world?
    (Solution: Re-orientation of your desires)
  5. Clinging to Life – Tired of living, inability to let go, afraid to move on or afraid of change.
    (Solution: Surrender, Let Go! or you will fail to adapt to your Fate or Destiny?)
    And Finally, Leave no Room for Doubt in Your Mind.
    Expressed as a failure to Communicate, Validate & Eradicate.

The Horse and Cart analogy or “Who am I?”

A Bronze Statue of a medieval Horse & cart

A human being as a whole, together with all of his or her separate identities or personalities is identical to the individual aspects of a horse, a carriage and a coachman. The real or imagined self likewise is the passenger sat back in the coach. In the case of an enlightened or conscious “I” the passenger actually owns the carriage, in the case of an unenlightened person they are like a passer-by who temporarily hires the privilege or comfort of transportation. The body of a human being with all its motor reflexes corresponds to the coach, their feelings correspond to the horse, and their intellectual centre corresponds to the cabby or coachman who receives instructions from the passenger and then directs the horse to where they wish to go. In the case of the majority of human beings due largely to a poor or incomplete education the carriage is in a state of poor repair, the horse is ill-fed, poorly trained, decrepit and old, and the cabby is lazy, half-asleep, slightly deaf or possibly drunk. The general attitude or consciousness of the self or one’s individual will which corresponds to the passenger may vary considerably owing to its own personal spiritual training or evolution. Although the “cabby” has already undergone a period of education so that he is reasonably literate much of what he has learnt or acquired beyond his preparatory age is further supported by bits of information acquired from his close associates and his various passengers.

An Assyrian War Chariot

With these second-hand pieces of information therefore the average person considers themselves fairly competent in various matters of religion, philosophy, politics, and sociology. They like to argue with their equals, with their inferiors they attempt to instruct, and with their superiors they always adopt a somewhat servile, cap-in-hand attitude. However, one of his chief weaknesses is his indulgence in food, wine and the occasional sexual affair with the neighbouring cooks or house servants. In order to gratify themselves in these they may on occasion steal a portion of the money given him by their employer to feed their horse. They work hard only when under extreme duress, and appear accommodating in the hope that they might receive the occasional tip. Their desire for additional remuneration has taught them how best to exploit the people with whom they have dealings. Human beings become the means towards their own ends, they are not living entities in themselves. They are there to be used mercenarily. Therefore they have learnt how to employ cunning to solicit their sympathy, to flatter them, to superficially charm and generally give their customers positive strokes. But on any free moment they will slip away to a saloon bar and, over a glass of beer or wine, they may occupy their restless mind by reading the paper, nonchalantly daydream or attempt to chat aimlessly with anyone conveniently placed nearby on some senseless or trivial topic.
The horse on the other hand has received little or no education, it is completely “locked-in” within itself and its general attitude is one of complete comatose inertia. Usually, this poor creature is kept tied up or housed within a stable compound and feeds on the most basic of foods ie: straw. As a result it is more than ready to adhere itself to anyone who offers it the slightest caress, perhaps some tasty item of food or drink. It never initiates anything independent of its owner’s reckless wishes or whims, and it may on occasions be flogged for failing to obey. The horse moreover is subject to its most basic physical and sexual urges. At times it may even react suddenly and violently to some imagined fear.
The cart, which was designed to carry a variety of burdens is of necessity made of a variety of materials but of a very complex construction. The designers of this cart moreover had originally intended it for rough, winding country roads whereas now it is drawn over smooth, asphalt, straight city streets. For the cart to operate efficiently and without disruption it requires a regular supply of grease to all its moving parts. In the absence of any severe shocks the greasing fails to reach some of the components of the cart’s mechanism. Furthermore the cabby has little or no knowledge of its general maintenance but when a fault is detected he may consult with an “expert” who may suggest an overall, replacement or total removal of some of its parts. In some instances the replacement part may indeed cost more than a completely new carriage. In normal circumstances the cabby gossiping with his associates, while waiting for a fare, flirts with a passing maid and to all intents and purposes acquires an outer form confirmed by others of an amiable and happy existence.

Meanwhile the horse grows up largely ignored and ill-treated by its owners and the cabby. In many instances no attempt is made by the cabby at securing any rapport with the horse on whom so much depends for the safety and well-being of its passengers. Over the course of time the horse has acquired only a limited understanding of what is required of it and understands perhaps just three or four basic instructions, namely stop, go, turn left or right. It should be noted that the carriage is connected to the horse by means of the shafts, while the cabby only has some tenuous connection with the horse via the reins. The coach moreover has some connection with the thoroughfare by means of its wheels which transfer any shocks received from the endless journeys via strong springs attached to the undercarriage. The passenger likewise has only a fleeting means of communicating its desires from the interior of the carriage to the cabby sat on his pillion atop the coach. Inevitably much may transpire between the moment that the passenger enters the carriage shouting his instructions to the cabby, and the eventual arrival at any specified destination. However, if we were to extend this analogy further, and strictly speaking at times the cabby cannot make many of these instructions clear to the horse because the reins are made of materials which react to a variety of atmospheric phenomena. In effect sometimes the reins become wet, perhaps soft or ineffectual, at others they are dry and brittle and therefore in danger of breaking.

The Manifold Expression of
(The Law of Three)

The Flower of Life Motif

Love (Stars-Future) absence of which engenders – Conflict/Anger> fuelled by Envy, Fear & Hatred
Hope (Earth-Past) absence of which engenders – Entropy/Inertia> fuelled by Idleness, Hypocrisy, & Greed
Faith (Sun-Present) absence of which engenders – Delusion/Chaos> fuelled by Egotism, Ignorance, & Lust

Their interactions and manifestations are as follows:

Faith in Consciousness is FREEDOM.
Utopia (Sun-Sulphur, Triangle) Emotional Expression – Creative Harmony (Aerobic)
Idealism – Generation, Faith, Freedom, Celestial Consciousness, (Feeling – Peaceful & Harmonious) Nature.

Faith in Feeling is Weakness.
Faith in Body is Stupidity.

Love of Consciousness evokes a COMMON UNITY.
Cosma (Stars-Quicksilver, Circle) Conscience (Universal Evolutionary Law) – Change (Anabolic)
Progress – Destruction, Love, Innovation, Super-Celestial Consciousness, (Intellect – Meaningful Order) Language.

Love of Feeling evokes the opposite.
Love of Body depends on Polarity & Type.

Hope of consciousness is STRENGTH.
Pragmata (Earth-Salt, Square) Physical Function – Structural Form (Metabolic)
Realism – Maintenance, Hope, Orthodoxy, Terrestrial Consciousness (Physicality – Productive & Useful) Technology.

Hope of Feeling is Slavery.
Hope of Body is Disease.

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


“All Is True” a Biography of William Shakspere, Part One

An early portrait of William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon

In his book “Shakespeare And His World”, (published in 1970 by Thames & Hudson) the renowned Shakespearean scholar, F.E. Halliday attempts to denounce the statement or view of other academics of the time that very little was then known about the playwright William Shakespeare. On the fly-leaf he writes:

“The object of this book,” as Mr. Halliday writes in the preface, “is quite simply to describe what we know about Shakespeare’s life after three centuries of discovery, and to illuminate and animate the story by illustration. And what we know will probably surprise a great many people” – reassuring them, incidentally if they have any doubts, that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon really was the author of the plays and poetry attributed to him.

In the preface written while resident in Cornwall in the summer of 1956 in the book he goes on to affirm:

“It is, unfortunately, a common delusion that little or nothing is known about the life of Shakespeare. In fact quite a lot is known, thanks to the devoted labours of a succession of English and American authors, from Malone and Halliwell/Phillips in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to C.W. Wallace and Leslie Hotson in our own day, much has been discovered, and still being discovered; far more indeed, than we had any right to expect concerning a dramatist who lived the greater part of his life, and died, in an obscure provincial town.”

The newly built Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon

William Shakspere’s ancestor some 300 years before him previous, was named William Saksper who lived in Clopton and was found guilty of highway robbery then summarily arrested and publicly hanged. In the 15th – 16th century Stratford-upon-Avon was, like many other English Shires subject to a number of transitions, socially and economically due to Henry VIIIth’s attitude to Church property and the economic and religious requirements of the Reformation. Enforced land enclosures, particularly in the Midlands, were extremely common because land previously owned by the church was abandoned and then re-designated as belonging to the Crown, the local council, or perhaps adopted by some presiding Lord or Earl or some converted for use as common land. In other words lots of land suddenly became up for grabs by anyone who was audacious enough to enclose it or find an alternate use for it. William Shakspere was born in the sleepy, rural town of Stratford-upon-Avon (population around 2,500) on the 23rd April 1564 (St. George’s Day), the son of John Shakspere of Wilmcote and Anne Hathaway of Shottery.

An artist’s impression assumed to be of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathawaye?

He was baptised on the April 26th according to the parish register in Stratford-upon-Avon. Incidentally, both his parents were illiterate according to the records scholars have found, John simply signed any documents with an “X”. His grandfather, also illiterate was Richard Shakyspere, a glover and tenant farmer in Snitterfield who moved from Budbrooke. Richard farmed land owned by Robert Arden of Wilmcote, a gentleman Warwickshire landowner. After Robert Arden’s death (1556) John Shakspere married his daughter, Mary in the church of Aston Catlow and acquired a substantial piece of farmland some 150 acres in size. By this time John Shakspere already owned two other properties on Henley Street, Stratford along with his close friend Adrian Quiney. John Shakspere’s brother Henry died in 1596 but after his marriage to Mary, she gave birth to eight children, namely Joan Shakspere (b. 1558), Margaret (b.1562), then William (b. 1564), Gilbert (b.1566), Anne (b.1571), Richard (b.1574) and Edward (b.1580). After her marriage to William, Anne Hathaway in turn gave birth to Susanna (1583) and later to twins, Hamnet, and Judith in (1585). We know that Judith went on to marry Thomas Quiney, presumably a descendant of Adrian Quiney. And Susanna went on to marry John Hall and they had a child Elizabeth and that William’s sister Joan married William Hart and they had four children, namely, William (1620-39), Mary (1603-07), Thomas (1605-1670), and Michael (1608-1618). The only descendant of William Shakspere to have issue was Thomas Hart whose descendants were Thomas and George. George Hart in turn had three children named Joan, Susanna and Shakespeare whose descendants are still living. Similarly, in an attempt to cash in on the Shakespeare name, Judith and Thomas Quiney named their children “Shakespeare”, rather than Shakspere (1616-17), Richard (1618-39), and Thomas (1620-39). Unfortunately, none of them survived long enough to reproduce any heirs. That left Susanna’s child with John Hall named Elizabeth (1608-1670) who married Thomas Nash (d. 1647) but again they had no children. Elizabeth then married Sir John Bernard who died in 1674. So, anyone claiming to be a descendant of William Shakespeare today is simply making a false claim.

The Shakspere Family Tree

There is no corroborating evidence to substantiate the claims and suppositions that William Shakspere, as a 7-year old child had any education although many academics writing on the subject (eg: A.L. Rowse) have simply imagined he attended the local school from 6am-6pm, and for five days a week he was studiously examining his “horn-book” (an alphanumerical abedacery). Despite the absence of any written records, the Shakespeare scholar and academic, F. E. Halliday (“Shakespeare & His World”) imagines him attending the local grammar school, which was free up to the age of sixteen. Similarly, the Shakespearean scholar and academic, Nicholas Rowe presumed, without a shred of evidence that he attended King’s School, the Free-School in Church Street, located behind the Guild Chapel a few hundred yards from his family home in Henley Street. Having swallowed whole that presumption we are expected to imagine Will Shakspere graduating to an advanced education by the year 1571, when the still illiterate John Shakspere became Chief Alderman in the Parish Council of Stratford. However, again no records exist to support any of these well-tuned theories that Will Shakspere acquired the rudiments of Latin, French or Greek at any school as would have been the case for any budding poet or playwright. To add further to this gaping chasm of an illiterate childhood there appears to be no record even of a religious education such as would have matured with reading the various versions of the Bible (eg: The Vulgate Bible, Geneva Bible or Book of Psalms etc). No possession of books or writing materials is made in Shakspere’s will. We are implored nevertheless that such an education would have been made available to the young boy through sheer in-born talent or literary genius and this would have been the basis of his subsequent accomplishments that gave him the means to become a leading poet and playwright by the age of say 28-30 years old and able to assiduously write several history plays, early comedies and occasional tragedies.

The rare quarto edition of 1599 of the Geneva Bible which Shakspere should have owned.

Now, just for a moment let’s examine in real detail just one of the many myths or rather fallacies about our William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon, namely that he was born and died on St. George’s Day, the 23rd April. Seriously folks, I’m no mathematician but the chances of anyone being born on England’s national festival in any one year and then at some future date, presumably the end of an average life span for the time, (another statistical variable, he lived for 52 years?) has got to be at least 365 million to one! In any case England still employed the Julian Calendar during Shakespeare’s time so that any date would be at least eleven days short in any year proposed. In advertising the general rule is if you’re going to tell a lie which is likely more believable then it is better to tell a lie that is so outrageous, such a big fib that it could never be disproved or for that matter rejected as false! Now tell me whether you think this piece of biographical propaganda is true or false? I think very doubtful, but it is still a large part of the myth or legend of William Shakespeare.

An early 20th century photograph of what remained of William Shakspere’s home on Henley Street

However, William Shakspere’s fortunes were somewhat enmeshed in the life of his father John who was born 1530 in Snittefield, Warwickshire. By 1552 he was living in Henley Street, and trading as a glover having made enough money to buy the eastern house on Henley Street and another on Greenhill Street by 1556. The following year he had married Mary Arden and was also managing the Snitterfield Farm with the help of his brother Henry when his father died in February 1561. Shakspere’s uncle, Henry was equally a reprobate failing to pay his debts with Nicholas Lane although he had many financial assets, for causing affrays, fighting with a constable and disputing tithes then finally being imprisoned. From 1558 John, as a lapsed Catholic, was Constable of Stratford monitoring and assessing property and finance while the Guild Chapel were making way for the transition to Protestantism. For a period of time he was an ale-taster in the town and became well-known. Consequently, he became a committee member of the Parish Council replacing William Bott as an alderman in 1565. In the same year he was appointed Bailiff (Justice of the Peace) and in 1568 became Chief Alderman through to 1571. It would appear that in 1569, a touring group of players came to Stratford to stage plays-most likely the Queen’s players and Worcester’s Men which may have been an inspiration for William to consider working in drama through his Stratford connections. Meanwhile, John Shakspere, who in character was the archetypal wheeler-dealer, was ascending to positions of influence and power primarily to further his own personal financial status and property portfolio. I suspect that his son William, a chip off the old block, was of a similar inclination and persuasion. By 1572 it seems that John Shakspere was no longer in office and was visiting London with Adrian Quiney where they sought to bring a case of Common Pleas at Westminster on his own account for the relief of taxes because of the fires and plague. No doubt this also had something to do with his status and his wife’s spurious genealogical relationship with the Ardens of Park Hall. In 1575 he bought two more properties in Stratford and by 1577 had applied for a coat of arms on the basis that his wife, Mary Arden was related to the distinguished Ardens of Park Hall (Arden Estate), whose descendants go back to the Norman Conquest and not in any sense related to the Ardens of Wilmcote, although the former vehemently denied any direct connection to Mary Arden. As evidence the College of Arms manuscript clearly indicates a rejection with the words “Non Sanz Droict”. (See “Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms”)

One particular version of Shakspere’s spurious “Coat of Arms”

When William was 18 years old (1582) John arranged for his son’s marriage to a certain Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior in 1582 who was pregnant with child, but most likely belonging to the father not in actual fact to his son, William. For some unknown reason they were given the family names of Sadler in the parish register perhaps to distance them from the Shakspere name which would no doubt have caused a scandal. A similar attempt to confound records appears in the Stratford Parish records which listed a certain Anne Whateley (aka: Hathawaye) of Temple Grafton, while the church records list a certain Anne Hathawaye of Shottery (Hewlands Farm).

A portrait of Anne Whateley, often confused with Anne Hathawaye and explained as a “Clerical Error”

Just to confuse matters even more in her father’s will she is named as Agnes and was left a mere £6 13s 14d as dowry when he died and when she were eventually to wed. Apparently, since William was a minor at 18 years old a special licence was required to marry from the Diocesan Court at Worcester Cathedral, but the licence was never officially granted because the posting of three consecutive banns could not be called until the Sunday following 6th January (Epiphany), 1583 when it would be obvious as she walked down the aisle that she was heavy with child. As a result, a surety was given of £40 that Anne was still a ‘maiden’ by Shakspere’s executors, Fulke Sandells and John Richardson but the actual marriage itself was never entered into the local church records of Stratford. The parish records held an entry for late November 1582 for the marriage of a certain William Shagspere (note the spelling) to Anne of Shottery, Temple Grafton. No other record such as a certificate of marriage has been found and no one is absolutely certain whether Anne of Shottery was the same person as Anne Hathawaye. Today we would describe it euphemistically as a “shotgun wedding” hurriedly performed and agreed to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment to the clergy or to John Shaxpere, the father of the child. The document exists and is dated 28th November, 1582 authorising the union after only one reading of the banns between William Shagspere and Anne Hathwey.
One is therefore tempted to recall Prospero’s advice to Ferdinand in Shakespeare’s late play, the Tempest:

If thou dost break her virgin-knot before
All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite be ministered
No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall
To make this contract grow; but barren hate,
Sour-eyed disdain, and discord shall bestrew
The union of your bed with weeds so loathly
That you shall hate it both.

The child, Susanna was baptised on the 26th of May 1583. The Stratfordians insist this was a scribal error which it could easily be but error upon error has evolved surrounding the Shaxpere fortunes over marriage contracts and properties. According to the author Anthony Burgess Anne Whateley was another of William’s teenage loves who was rejected by him in order to meet his father’s wishes. Needless to say William naturally agreed to his father’s devious plan because it would increase his property portfolio, with a promise of future inheritance and soon after the twins, Judith and Hamnet were born and baptised in February 2nd 1585 William Shakspere aged 23 years old, mysteriously and suspiciously left Stratford aided by an unspecified acting group and was looking for work in London in order to escape any dire ramifications of his own and his father’s indiscretions. A clue is available from The Winter’s Tale in the words of the wise shepherd;

I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty,
Or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing
In between but getting wenches with child, wronging the
Ancientry, stealing, and fighting.

I suspect either the Earl of Warwick’s Men who were transferred to the Earl of Oxford’s Men in 1580 or Lord Strange’s Men who played at Stratford on the 11th of February, 1579 were the means of his circuitous escape from parental responsibility or first taste of the theatrical world. When the troupe finally arrived back in London Will Shakspere would have easily obtained some work as a stage-hand and later as an extra on the stage with his lodgings at Bishopsgate. However, it seems William’s father’s financial fortunes continued to decline following his breach of the peace and he was obliged to mortgage Mary’s inheritance at Wilmcote and sell the land dowry to Robert Webbe, her nephew. Other land-ownings and assets followed suit. One should bear in mind of course that for the past 20 years Warwickshire was being ravaged by plague which would have been a contributory factor in these unrecorded events. Several more “lost years” appear to pass with little documentary evidence of Will’s whereabouts or activities which again academics have struggled in the vacuum of his life until in 1589 he is named in legal proceedings when attempting to recover the Wilmcote property that his father had lost. This is followed by a stark absence of any records to connect him as an active playwright or actor suggesting that his acting career was of little import or significance in the teeming capital Will was no more than a very small frog in an extremely large pond. No reviews, no acknowledgements or praises were forthcoming, so what was the Stratford man doing with himself from 1587-89? (See “The Lost Years Debate”).

Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon where Shakespeare is presumed to be buried

Nevertheless, John was still being pursued and sued for numerous unpaid debts he had accrued and by 1592 he was left with just one property at Henley Street and was also listed as a recusant because he was afraid of being served a warrant of arrest for debts when appearing at church. In actual fact a Jesuit treatise entitled “A Spiritual Testament” was discovered in the eaves of his house in 1757 by workmen which confirmed his religious affiliations to Catholicism. William Shakspere’s numerous travels between London and Stratford were intended to alleviate his father’s misfortunes not necessarily in order to see his wife and family.
In 1594, the date connected to the Shakespeare play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and also in 1595 the city of Stratford was ravaged by two fires, the townsfolk were devastated and Richard Quiney travelled to London every year from 1597 through to 1601 to raise relief funds and obtain an exemption of tax while reparations were underway. He probably consulted with Thomas Greene and apparently wrote to Shakspere when he required a loan of £30 to offset his personal expenses in London, although strangely enough this correspondence was never delivered and, as far as we know the loan was never made. Then in 1595 it is alleged he had joined the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and in March *1595 he is mentioned in the lists as receiving payment for his performance in the play “A Comedy of Errors”, played at Gray’s Inn.
However, as usual trouble was stalking our now middle-aged Shakspere as in 1596 the London court records mention the following:

1596 – Michaelmas – Court record. William Wayte “swore before the Judge of Queen’s Bench that he stood in danger of death, or bodily hurt,” from “William Shakspere” and three others. “The magistrate then commanded the sheriff of the appropriate county to produce the accused … who had to post bond to keep the peace, on pain of forfeiting the security”.

In the following year his son Hamnet died but a year later in 1597 he bought New Place, a substantial property in Stratford laying down an initial deposit on the lease of £60. According to records in the same year we note:
In 1597, 15th November – Tax record. Shakspere is named in the King’s Remembrancer Subsidy Roll as a tax defaulter in Bishopgate ward who had failed to pay an assessed 5 shillings.
By 1598 we find the following records, the first of which we should take with a pinch of *salt or should we say mustard? Again in 1598 he is listed as a tax dodger and in the same year he is approached for a loan by Richard Quinney while he was staying in London which he declined for some unknown reason. Quiney’s request for a loan was thought to have been altruistic since he required funds for the relief of those whose lives and homes had been devastated by fire which swept through Stratford. William is thought to have lodged in a house at St. Helen’s Parish, Bishopsgate when in London.

*1598 – List of Actors. In the initial presentation of Ben Jonson’s “Every Man In His Humour”, “Will Shakespeare “was a “principall Comoedian”.

Meanwhile, the comedic, tax-dodging William Shakspere is back in Stratford:

1598, 24th January – Letter – Abraham Sturley wrote to his brother-in-law that “our countriman Mr Shaksper is willing to disburse some stone upon some od yardeland or other Shottrei or neare about us…”

1598, 1st December – Bill of sale. Chamberlain’s Accounts Wyllyn Wyatt Chamberlin “Pd to Mr. Shakspere for one load of stone xd”.

In other words William Shakspere has diversified from his career as an up and coming poet, actor/playwright in London’s “fair city” and in Stratford become a local builder’s merchant?

1598, 4th February – List of Hoarders. Shakspere is named as having illegally held 10 quarters (80 bushels) of malt or corn during a shortage.

1598, September – Tax record. In the Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer
Accounts of Subsidies, Shakspere is listed among those in Bishopgate ward who had moved out of the district.

1598, 1st October – Tax record. In the King’s Remembrancer Subsidy Roll, Shakspere is listed as a tax defaulter who failed to pay an assessed 13s..4d.

When the Globe was built he moved to the Liberty of the Clink, Southwark around 1599. Then, quite unexpectedly in the same year he is mentioned by Heminges and Condell as a 10% share holder in the Globe Theatre in Sir Thomas Brend’s inventory but was still being pursued for unpaid tax and rates by council bailiffs in Stratford and London. In the same year William Shakspere is also listed as the owner of a new residence on adjoining land, listed as the property of Thomas Brend, the father of Nicholas Brend who was the lease-holder of the land the Globe Theatre was built on.

An artist’s engraving of London’s Theatres in the 16th century

Remission of taxes was also finally granted in 1599 and Quiney’s expenses, the sum of £44 were paid by the Exchequer. Sir Edward Greville of Stratford, Lord of the Manor and son of Lodowick Greville was the cousin of Fulke Greville II, the courtier poet, who was obliging in this regard although somewhat belatedly. This must have been around the same time that his name and reputation became known to the Earl of Oxford, who being fond of the common man agreed to assist the Shaxpere family during their time of financial duress. But the deal was that William Shakspere should be a “mask” for the Earl’s literary and theatrical endeavours which no doubt other dignitaries were well aware of. Acting and drama as well as drama groups, patronised by the aristocracy, was a means of propaganda, for spying and for disseminating information throughout the provinces thereby reinforcing the Protestant doctrines and the state’s policies. But it could also be used to encourage dissent, false information and rebellion as in the Martin Marprelate pamphlets. The confusion over literary endeavours and the actual identity of the so-called William Shakespeare inevitably reached a crisis when the playwright Robert Greene made a death bed complaint about a certain Shakspere strutting about in London saying he was the author of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. Rumour has it that Shakspere was investing in poetry and plays to supplement his income as an actor. (See another in-depth article on this incident and what actually transpired “The Upstart Crow”).

The second part in the life of William Shakspere can be found by clicking on the following link:

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


The “Shadowy Figure” of Shakespeare

Title page of Shakespeare’s First Folio, containing the playwright’s 36 plays and dating from 1623, is seen in an undated photo before going up for an auction where it is expected to fetch between 4 and 6 million dollars, in New York City.

Alongside the engraving of a portrait by the Dutch artist Martin Droueshut supposed by orthodox scholars and academics to be a true likeness of William Shakespeare is Ben Jonson’s poetic remarks which metaphorically cast some doubt on its authenticity:

To the Reader,
This figure, that thou here see’st put
It was for Gentle Shakespeare cut
Wherein the graver had a strife
With Nature to out-doo the life:
O, could he but have drawn his wit
As well in brasse, as he hath it
His face, the Print would then surpasse
All that was ever writ in brasse.
But, since he cannot, Reader looke
Not on his picture, but his Booke.

BI (Ben Jonson)

I have previously explored the numerous portraits presumed to be of William Shakespeare in “The Many faces of Shakespeare”. However, Ben Jonson is clearly saying that we should not look at this artist’s facsimile of Shakespeare but instead to read his book for a “truer likeness” of the playwright and poet. And yet when we read his Folio of plays we are forced to see a natural literary genius and superlative polymath who could only have been an aristocrat or someone close to the Elizabethan court. Following on from the Essex Rebellion in February 7th 1601 whereby the Earl of Essex was later arrested, tried and found guilty of treason and sedition, and Shakespeare’s patron, Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, being implicated in the Catholic plot, was imprisoned in the Tower awaiting a similar fate, no more of Shakespeare’s plays were published in England. For some unknown reason the Earl of Southampton was not executed like Essex but later pardoned and then released.

An artist’s portrayal of the Execution of the Earl of Essex

The entire volume of Shakespeare’s Sonnets were eventually published in 1609 and dedicated again to Henry Wriothesley, together with the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery. To appreciate or understand what events and circumstances led to this sudden and abrupt end to his career and why he was not celebrated or eulogised later after his death in 1616 we need to examine what was happening earlier in dramatic and political circles. That is “The War of the Theatres” and the denunciation of the “Euphuist Movement” by Gabriel Harvey and Thomas Dekker in London. In a previous article entitled “Shakespeare’s Nemesis” I explained why the Blackfriar’s Theatre was shut down and in the Oxfordian Review, volume 21, Dr. Luke Prodromou, a Shakespeare scholar (University of Thessaloniki & Birmingham Institute) points out that there is little evidence of the whereabouts of William Shakespeare whenever something really important is happening in the literary and political arena in London. If we take the years 1588 (the year of the Spanish Armada) through to 1595, that year being the first time he is mentioned in the accounts compiled by Elizabeth Russell, the Dowager Countess of Southampton as receiving payment with Will Kempe for performances before the Queen.

An illustration from the time of the defeat of the Spanish Armada

No other biographical mention of Shakespeare appears until the death of his son, Hamnet in 1596 although presumably he had to have been working on his two volumes of poetry, The Rape of Lucrece (published in May 1594) signed simply W.S. and dedicated to Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton and in April 1593 he published Venus & Adonis again dedicated to the 3rd Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley. So what was “Shakespeare” doing when the poet and playwright, Sir Christopher Marlowe was assassinated in a tavern brawl by Ingram Frazier in March 1593? (See “Who Killed Christopher Marlowe?”). This has to be a grand “game-changer” for budding dramatists, poets and playwrights in the Elizabethan era. Shakespeare did not comment directly on Marlowe’s death but presumably wrote “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Tempest” in response to Marlowe’s criticism of usury, magic and alchemy (The Jew of Malta & Dr. Faustus). Those changing the “rules” (redacting or censoring plays) were of course the Privy Council, the Master of the Revels, the Lord Chamberlain and the son of Lord Burghley, Robert Cecil who was involved in preparing a smooth path for the succession of the Crown, since Queen Elizabeth, now in her sixties was likely to pass away without actually naming a successor. This was often the subject of dramatic speculation within numerous plays in the London theatres and usually led to riots and disturbances. Why she failed to name a successor after 44 years as the Queen of England is a curious mystery and the subject of perhaps another, future article?

The controversial figures during the War of the Theatres and the Euphuist Movement

It seems prior to 1593 Shakespeare had been admonished by Robert Greene as the “Upstart Crow” since Greene’s “Groatsworth of Wit” had been published in September 1592 by Henry Chettle and by the 8th of December in that year Henry Chettle registered his own “Kind Harts Dreame” as a form of apology to Shakespeare and presumably two other poet/playwrights assumed to be Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson since they were not actually named. However, according to biographers and academics throughout that ten year period he would also have been a busy man writing his tetralogy of history plays (excluding Richard IIIrd and King John), “A Comedy of Errors”, “Love’s Labours Lost”, “Romeo & Juliet”, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” after which time he is finally granted his coat of arms in 1601 (see “Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms”). Soon after this we discover that he is bound over to keep the peace having been sued by William Wayte for threatening his life along with two other accomplices in late 1596. As in the case of the unlawful killing of Christopher Marlowe no reason or cause has been given to explain this presumably violent exchange or altercation in London’s streets. Although numerous allusions are made in his plays to the complex social, political and diplomatic events that occur in England and abroad in his own personal life he appears distant, silent and indifferent to them. However, the following year he is definitely buoyed up financially since he places a mortgage bond of £60 with the intention of buying New Place, a substantial property asset in Stratford-upon-Avon, but neglects to pay his council taxes (5 shillings) in London having also in that year moved from Bishopsgate to Southwark. The last play to have been registered for publication was in fact “As You Like It” (1600), but it was not actually published until 1623 when the First Folio was collated and printed by Heminges and Condell. Also in the same year as the Essex Rebellion was the registration of “Henry Vth” in August 1600 (unsigned and presumed to compare Essex’s current status with Henry Vth), and “Much Ado About Nothing” (signed William Shakespeare). A year later in 1601 Robert Chester published an anthology of poetry entitled “Love’s Martyr; or Rosalind’s Complaint”, in which a poem by Chester appears to bear the same title as Shakespeare’s own poem which is described on the title page:

The title page of Love’s Martyr by Robert Chester

“To these are added some newe compositions, of several modern Writers whose names are subscribed to their several works, upon the first subject: viz; the Phoenix and Turtle.”

The Oxfordian academic and author Katherine Kiljan suggests that the poem is an allegory of Queen Elizabeth and her secret love child, Lord Hastings who would have succeeded her after her death as the new “King of England”. It was printed by Richard Field who also composited Venus & Adonis and Lucrece and it was dedicated to Sir John Salusbury, a Welsh knight. Love’s Martyr was an attempt by the obscure poet Robert Chester at Ovidian verse coupled with chorographic, narrative and encyclopaedic material, such as the numerous plants, trees and birds which were listed that inhabited the isle of Paphos where the Phoenix eventually retires. Kiljan picks out the lines:

From the sweet fire of perfumed wood,
Another princely Phoenix upright stood:
Whose feathers purified did yield more light,
Than her late burned mother out of sight,
Sprung from the bosom of the Turtle Dove.
Long may the new uprising bird increase.

Katherine Kiljan suggests that the Phoenix symbolised “Beauty”, the Turtle Dove “Truth” and a third person symbolised as “Rarity” (Lord Hastings?) as evidenced in the concluding Threnos:

The Title page of “Kind Harts Dreame” published by Henry Chettle

Beauty, truth, and rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos’d in cinders lie.

Death is now the phœnix’ nest;
And the turtle’s loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:
‘Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be;
Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

Some critics have suggested that the Phoenix, a bird of resurrection, represents Queen Elizabeth Ist, and the Turtle-dove her principal secret lover and much later a traitorous agent of insurrection in the London riot of 1601, the 2nd Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux. It’s sad, somewhat resigned tone, almost to the point of bitter irony and melancholic despair may reflect Elizabeth’s feelings at having to sign the warrant for Essex’s execution or perhaps denying Lord Hastings the right of legitimate accession to the throne of England. It may be more than just mere coincidence that the date of publishing is the same soon after the insurrection in London. But Shakespeare’s title did not come into use until 1807, before which it was simply known as: “Let the Bird of Loudest Lay”. Again, this is an instance in which in Shakespeare’s poetry he appears to be at the social/cultural hub of London but in his personal life far away from the action.

An engraving depicting the execution of Mary Queen of Scots

For example, by May 1602 Will Shakespeare, gent is preoccupied with his property portfolio because he purchases a large plot of agricultural land for the sum of £320 but the deeds admit “it is sealed and delivered to Gilbert Shakespeare, his brother”. That is Shakespeare was not planning late in his dramatic career to return in his retirement to farming the land. Another property acquisition follows with the purchase of a small cottage across from New Place, presumably intended to rent to a relative. The next mention of his whereabouts is in London again in July, 1604 when he is now lodging on the corner of Monkswell and Silver Street near St. Olave’s Church with Christopher Mountjoy, a French Huguenot who was a milliner, but the following year Shakespeare has also invested in tithes in Stratford-upon-Avon the enormous sum of £440. No one to my personal satisfaction has been able to explain how Shakespeare managed to acquire or earn such a large sum of money in such a short space of time. It was not from writing plays, the theatres paid in shillings; or for that matter from acting, since actors were paid in pence for their performance work. Nevertheless, despite these large investments Shakespeare is still keen to collect any outstanding debts, however small and insignificant from an apothecary in Stratford. Katherine Kiljan goes on to say that Thomas Dekker was criticising the author when he wrote “Satiro-Mastix, The Untrussing of the Humourous Poet” in the same year and lampooning Ben Jonson’s own play “Poetaster, or the Arraignment” directed at contemporary writers where in a setting at the court of the Emperor Augustus, he parodied Marston as Crispinus, Thomas Dekker as Demetrius and Ben Jonson as Horace. William Shakespeare had assimilated and espoused the techniques of euphuism in his own play “Love’s Labour’s Lost”. However, the practice of Euphuism required the multi-layered use of alliteration, labyrinthine similes and metaphors, complex allusions, extraordinary syntax, and a dynamic form of rhetoric. In 1601, soon after Will Shakespeare is granted his coat of arms Ben Jonson satirises him in “Every Man Out of His Humour”. Ben Jonson lampooned his newly acquired status with a tract entitled Poet Ape and in a reference “Not Without Mustard”.

A mysterious portrait presumed to be of “William Shakespeare” in all his fashionable regalia as “A Gentleman”

Poor Poet Ape, that would be thought our chief,
Whose works are e’en the froppery of wit,
From Brokage has become so bold a thief
As we the robbed, leave rage and pity it.
At first he made low shifts, would pick and glean,
Buy the reversion of old plays, now grown
To a little wealth, and credit on the scene,
He takes up all, makes each man’s wit his own,
And told of this, he slights it. Tut, such crimes
The sluggish, gaping auditor devours;
He marks not whose t’was first, and aftertimes
May judge it to be his, as well as ours.
Fool! As if half-eyes will not know a fleece
From locks of wool, or shreds from the whole piece.

An artist’s lithograph of Shakespeare’s Family Home

Like Greene, Ben Jonson is aggrieved that Shakespeare, by now an actor/writer and probably director/manager in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men was buying the copyright of old plays and revising them, thereby accruing great wealth, status and distinction – which is certainly true of the actor from Stratford. Most likely this was the secret source of his mysterious wealth. One should bear in mind that the theatres in London were more akin to the popular tabloid press of our time, so quarrels and disagreements between playwrights or poets were literally played out with the use of innuendo, allusion and parody on the stage. Another quarrelsome critic of Shakespeare’s plays and the Euphuist fraternity was Gabriel Harvey, a close friend of Edmund Spenser, who styled himself as “the father of the English hexameter”. After obtaining a fellowship at Trinity Hall his private correspondence with Spenser (Four Letters, 1592) was published revealing his condemnation of the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, Robert Greene and Thomas Nashe. The controversial Harvey and Nashe were subsequently banned for life from their polemical trajectories by the Privy Council in 1601, and their existing literary works confiscated. Meanwhile, Ben Jonson was questioned by the Lord Chief Justice about his play “Poetaster” and the subsequent battles fought between Dekker, Chapman, and Webster in the “Westward Ho”, “Eastward Ho” and “Northward Ho” plays. As a direct result of the performance of Eastward Ho in September 1605 or their contribution in “Love’s Martyr”, Ben Jonson and George Chapman were arrested and jailed on a jumped-up charge of sedition because of disparaging remarks made against the Scots. They were eventually released but were threatened with mutilation if they ever dared put pen to paper again.

Title page of Robert Greene’s “Groatsworth of Wit”

Shakespeare remarkably is not suspected or implicated in either the Essex Rebellion or the Gunpowder Plot even though his family had sheltered Robert Catesby, a near neighbour at Lapworth of Shakespeare’s while they were plotting the destruction of Parliament in 1605. Although his play Richard IInd had been commissioned for performance on the eve of the Essex Rebellion by Devereux’s supporters because it featured the deposition of a lawful monarch, the author Shakespeare was miraculously not questioned, suspected, arrested or implicated by the authorities. Then in 1608 Shakespeare acquires a percentage of the lease of the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse although he is no longer domiciled in London and no longer managing, performing or writing plays. Again, during a time of great social and political change he slips away into his “shadowy existence” either at Stratford or in London unscathed by events and undetectable. The last plays that remained unregistered or unprinted were “King Lear” (registered 1607, printed 1608), followed by the registry of “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” and “Anthony & Cleopatra” in 1608, and “Troillus & Cressida”. In 1609, the Sonnets were finally published and several plays continue to be performed such as “A Winter’s Tale” in 1610 and “Henry VIIIth” in 1612, then “Othello” is finally registered in 1621 and published the following year despite the fact that the Bard had died by 1616. His shares and royalties from plays in the Globe Theatre and his percentage lease of the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse as transferable assets were not mentioned in his last will and testament so that none of his family actually inherited or benefitted financially from them. A year before his death in 1616 Shakespeare pays his last visit to London with his solicitor in order to remove Dr. John Hall, who married his daughter Susanna from his will because he was having an extra-marital affair with another woman. The day, month and year of his death coincides with a visit by Ben Jonson (who had just published his own Folio of Plays & Poetry) and a local worthy, the poet Michael Drayton who call upon Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon to celebrate his 52nd birthday on the eve of St. George’s Day. The next morning he is found dead in his bed presumably on account of excess food and drink from the previous evening. His physical remains were buried at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon-Avon but a recent ground-penetrating radar investigation by an ex-CIA agent revealed nothing but dust and rubble in his tomb. It seems that even in death Will Shakespeare was still capable of doing his famous act of “magical disappearance” and escape without further scrutiny.

An artist’s engraving featuring the execution of those involved in the Gunpowder Plot, 1605
The links to my current publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and an anthology of poetry “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


The Month of September

The traditional Harvest Queen

We all no doubt recall the well-known rhyme that helps us to remember the number of days in each month:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
February has twenty eight alone
All the rest have thirty-one
Except in Leap Year, that’s the time
When February’s Days are twenty-nine.

Artist’s impression of the journey to Widecombe Fair

Like many other months in our year September derives its name from the Roman Calendar, it being the seventh month (Septum) of their year which actually began in March. In a purely civic and economic sense this was a time when quarter rents were paid, legal matters dealt with, labourer’s contracts renewed and new labourers hired. The Anglo-Saxons knew it as Hoerfestmonath (Harvest month, see previous post August, the Harvest Month) and with the advent of Christianity as Haligmonath (Holy Month). The most important festivals for this month are the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (8th), Holy Cross or Holy Rood Day (14th), and Michaelmas (29th) all take place in September. Of which the Holy Cross Day was set aside for the Jews to attend Mass in Rome and listen to a Christian sermon. It was discontinued in 1840 by Pope Gregory XVI.

Another old rhyme says:
“Married in September’s glow
Smooth and serene your life will go.”

This was a special time for fairs and feasts of all descriptions. Regular annual festive gatherings throughout the British Isles were named variously as Fairs, Wakes, Carnivals, Feasts, Revels, Mops, Fetes, and Ales. They originally took place in or alongside Churchyards but were banned by church and state in the 14th century. They brought a great deal of revenue to the clergy who continued to host them at different sites in order to take advantage of their financial benefits. Strictly speaking Feasts or rather Feast Days originally took place inside Church grounds and were promoted by the Church elders to celebrate some venerated saint but were perceived by the layman as a propaganda tool of the Old Catholic Church. When these gatherings became ever more boisterous or licentious the Church fathers were more than happy to see them being held outside their own precincts. Usually they remained linked by name to the saint in question, so for example we have St. Barnaby Fair, while others were named after the place (eg: Appleby Fair) or the type of produce likely to be found there ie Strawberry Fair.

One can easily recall the famous English folk lyric re-discovered by the American folk duo Simon & Garfunkel:

“Are you going to Strawberry Fair?
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there,
She once was a true love of mine”.

Sometimes these would be begun with a procession of local worthies, and there might be contests such as cheese rolling, wrestling, horse or dog racing, bear-baiting etc. Naturally, these events were often accompanied by a lot of drinking, quarrelling and other illegal activities regardless of the rules or regulations that governed them. Strictly speaking Wakes were occasional religious observances, staying awake, torchlight processions through towns, fasting and abstaining from sex to awaken the Spirit. However, these became ever more secular events or became tainted with irreverent, mercantile or hedonistic motivations. Church Ales were instituted by the Protestant Church in order to raise funds in the Spring and Summer months and usually incorporated bring and buy stalls, drinking, dancing and games. Doles, as the name implies, were charitable festival days when the poor were favoured by the rich, and many doles were instituted by charitable worthies in the British Isles where food, drink and clothing was donated to alleviate poverty and squalor in the community.

The hammered gold pectoral found in Wales near Mold

Most notable fairs or feasts in the British Isles are the Abbots Bromley Horndance in Staffordshire held usually on the first Monday after the 4th of September. It features ten dancers, six of whom are suitably attired with antlers while the other four are dressed as the Fool, Hobbyhorse, an Archer (Robin Hood) and Maid Marian. Accompanied by two musicians they progress around the parish. This spectacle has been dated to the early 13th century and may have Phoenician origins. The Phoenicians, Greeks and Egyptians regularly visited the British Isles to trade, to find sources of precious metals such as tin, lead, copper and gold and some anthropologists suggest a large number of our supposedly home-grown pagan festivals have an Eastern origin. Similarly, the Mummer’s and Miracle plays are based on foreign religious festivities imported into the British Isles. According to Frank Parker the migration occurred sometime around 2,000 BC, soon after the Trojan Wars when the descendants of Gomer of both Greek and Phoenician sailors and traders went in search of metals in the land of the Hyperboreans since they were being invaded by barbarous tribes from the east. In his book, “The White Goddess”, Robert Graves suggests the Welsh were descended from a slave tribe employed by King Cambyses to mine for iron ore and other metals. He decided their status as slaves was to be terminated and they were released and later migrated to Wales to escape persecution, where even today they are involved in mining and metal smelting. Frank Parker mentions that in 1937 two brothers discovered the wrecks of two Egyptian ships buried in the mudflats of the Humber estuary, and that the survivors were probably the eldest sister of Nefertiti, princess Meritaten who had fled Egypt soon after the social rebellion (1,350 BC) resulting from the reformist reign of her father, the reformist Pharoah Akenaten. The source of the river Trent can be found on Biddulph moor where the famous Lindow Man was found buried in an ancient peat bog. To substantiate this theory he suggests that a solid gold artefact known as “The Mold Pectorial” which was discovered and dug out of a burial mound, Fairies Hill, near Mold in Wales must have been discarded by the princess or buried with her corpse when she died. The cape was within a Bronze Age burial mound named Bryn yr Ellyllon, which translates as “Goblins’ Hill”. The gold cape had been placed on the body of a person who was interred in a rough cist (stone-lined grave) within a burial mound. The preserved remains of the skeleton were fragmentary, and the cape was badly crushed. An estimated 200–300 amber beads, in rows, were on the cape originally, but only a single bead survives at the British Museum. Also associated with the cape were remains of coarse cloth and 16 fragments of sheet bronze which are likely to have been the backing for the gold: in places the gold was riveted onto the bronze sheeting with bronze rivets. There were also two gold ‘straps’ among the artefacts found. An urn with large quantities of burnt bone and ash was 60–90 cm (24–35 in) from the grave. Place names in the Derbyshire and Staffordshire regions as well as in Wales reveals a great deal of similarity and synchronicity with the ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians and Canaanites. The river Tanat in central Wales for example is named after the Phoenician goddess Tanit. The Book of Leinster as well as the Welsh “Historia Brittonium” (Bangor Abbey) also mention visits by Eastern Mediterranean and African peoples as mentioned by Walter Bower, the Abbot of Inchom Abbey.

In Scotland they celebrate the 18th century “Braemar Gathering” on the first Saturday at the village of Braemar in N.E. Scotland where the Highland Games take place.

Dancing at the traditional Braemar Gathering of Scottish Clans

The Celtic Book of Invasions lists a string of foreign migrations into Britain and Ireland and supports the view that the original Britons can trace their origins to the ancient province of Troy, the true-blooded Irish Celts to Scythia and Egypt, and the Gauls to the Iberian peninsula. It records that firstly, there was the tribe of Cessair, followed by the Children of Noah, the people of Named (Partholans), the Fir Bolgs, the people of Danu (Tuatha de Danaan) and finally the Milesians. The Milesians are thought to have originated from Greece around 2,000 BC after having wandered around the Mediterranean for several centuries. They claim descent from Miletus, a son of Apollo who emigrated from Crete with a band of followers who first went to Syria, by way of Carenia in Asia Minor to Gaetulia in North Africa, from there to Cadiz and into Brigantium (now Compostella – NW Spain) and might refer to a migration in the 13th century BC of Dorians who displaced the Mycenaean Sea Peoples from the Aegean or Asia Minor. These groups would no doubt have had some contact with Etruscan, Cretan and Hellenic cultural influences and to some extent Egyptian, Persian and Scandinavian or Icelandic cultures.

One easily recalls The Song of Wandering Aengus – W. B. Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;

Widecombe Fair takes place at the Dartmoor village of Widecombe on the second Tuesday of the month and was originally a livestock fair or market. There is also a gymkana, may-pole dancing and folk-singing. In Cumbria the Egremont Crab Fair takes place and plays host to various games and competitions from as early as 1267. More importantly it was initiated to celebrate the apple harvest from which a great deal of cider was made and wrestling, horse and dog racing, and the famous “Gurning Competition” contests were held. The first day of September was the “Feast of St. Giles” (the patron saint of nursing) in honour of the 7th century Greek hermit who lived in France.

Model of Stephenson’s Rocket

Among the most memorable events to take place in September were the first steam locomotive, Stephenson’s Rocket which took to the rails in the opening ceremony of the Liverpool and Manchester railway on the 15th September, 1830. The Pilgrim Fathers migration in the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth on the 16th September 1620. After nine weeks on the Atlantic it arrived at Cape Cod and its citizens were granted the territory of Virginia. While the 17th of September is understandably American Constitution Day. The 21st of September is the Feast of Christ’s Apostle, Matthew, the patron saint of tax collectors. The last of the liturgical festivals is Michaelmas on the 29th September celebrated to honour the building of Rome’s Basilica to St. Michael. This was usually accompanied with a Goose Feast where geese were fattened with the last of the fallen grain in the fields and then slaughtered for the benefit of the community.

The traditional Abbots Bromley Horndance Parade

This custom was said to have also commemorated the deliverance from the Spanish Invasion in which Queen Elizabeth had proclaimed a national goose feast for the nation but it may even go back to the 12th century. For farmers this was the “Gleaning Time” where they allowed the community to enter the arable fields and collect whatever scraps of food or grain remained in the fields after the harvest. A tradition mentions that the “last straw” was made into a straw doll or scarecrow and then ritually torched to symbolise renewal for the following year. Another tradition was the last harvest cart with its heavy load was beautifully decorated with boughs and flowers, the Harvest King & Queen sitting on top accompanied by minstrels and dancers. A variant of this custom was that farmers allowed any person to remove as much straw or grain as they could carry in one load from their fields. If the load dropped to the floor for any reason then the carrier would be held to a forfeit or fine. Another was to leave a large “knot” of grain in the middle of the field uncut and woven into a large sheaf as a symbol of hope for next year’s harvest.

A poem entitled “Domination of the Black” by Wallace Stevens seems to sum up the atmosphere during this time:

At night, by the fire,
The colours of the bushes
And of the fallen leaves,
Repeating themselves,
Turned in the room,
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
Yes: but the colour of the heavy hemlocks
Came striding.
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.
The colours of their tails
Were like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
In the twilight wind.
They swept over the room,
Just as they flew from the boughs of the hemlocks
Down to the ground. I heard them cry–the peacocks.
Was it a cry against the twilight or against the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
Turning as the flames
Turned in the fire.

The Autumnal Equinox at Stonehenge, Wiltshire

The autumnal equinox which takes place on the 23rd can be an indication of the types of weather to come and a time to renew the use of candlesticks. In Dartmoor there is Widecombe Fair held on the second Tuesday in September although dating back to the 1850’s. There are songs, dances, maypoles and the sale of livestock. An old rhyme describes the attendant’s joy and enthusiasm:

A re-enactment of Uncle Tom Cobley an’ all

Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce,
Lend me your grey mare
All along, down along, out along lee
For I want to go to Widecombe Fair
With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davey, Daniel Widdon, Harry Hawke,
An Uncle Tom Cobbly and all,
Yea Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.

In Scotland September heralds the commencement of the Highland Games at Braemar. Contestants are invited to take part in sports such as tossing the caber, throwing the hammer, hill races and other contests accompanied by displays of highland dancing to the sound of bagpipes.

The traditional Hop Queens

In 1864 Chambers Book of Days wrote:

“Beautiful are the fern and heath-covered wastes in September-with their bushes bearing wild fruits, sloe, bullace (wild plum), and crab; and where one may lie hidden for hours, watching how beats, bird and insect pass their time away, and what they do in these solitudes.”

Although this was also the month for harvesting hops, this month and the next is ideal for mushroom spotting or wild foraging and if you’re reasonably good at identifying the edible ones then you’re in for a feast in the woodlands and meadows. But if you are in doubt about what to eat and what not to eat then purchase a reliable guide such as “Wild Food” by Roger Phillips, The Mushroom Feast by Jane Grigson or Food for Free by Richard Mabey. The Beef-steak Boletus, and the yellow trumpet-shaped Chanterelle are simply delicious when freshly picked and fried in butter with a little garlic and white wine. But beware of the deadly although colourful Amanita Muscaria with its bright red cap and white spots. Dragonflies, butterflies and moths are still on the wing but in particular the Red Admirals among gardens, woodland clearings and fields. Swallows and House Martens gather together for their long distance migrations to S. Africa. The polished brown, waxy conkers are falling off the Horse Chestnut trees, many varieties of apples and pears are ready for picking from orchards, blackberries are ripening and Hawthorn berries, Whitebeam berries and Rowanberries display their rich autumnal shades of red and crimson against their autumn foliage.

Customs relating to the fruiting and nut season are not to pick blackberries after Michaelmas because they belonged to the Devil and “Crack Nut Sunday” (a week before Michaelmas) whereby couples were allowed to roam woodlands collecting hazel nuts and making merry, the so-called “Lawless Hours & Days”. I will leave to your imagination what actually went on between couples in the woods but in the rural villages and towns prominent individuals such as a bishop, vicar or lord mayor could be pelted with ripe fruits with impunity.

Under the Linden by Walther von der Vogelweide (~1170 – ~1230)

Under the linden
in the heather
that’s where our double bed was.
There you’d find
lovingly broken
both the flowers and the grass.
Down in the valley, down by the wood,
heigh de ho!
you should have heard the nightingale!

I came down,
down to the meadow:
my love was already there.
And he received me,
lady, lady,
now I’m happy all the time.
Did we kiss? A thousand-fold,
heigh de ho!
look how red my mouth is!

The Hop-Picking Season in the 1950’s in Kent

In certain areas of England, most notably Kent, hops were ready for picking so migrant workers from the towns and cities would venture into rural areas where they could be employed on a casual basis. Hops were so important to the community and the nation then that a special Hop Festival was often held to celebrate the crop and refresh the thirsts of those who worked tirelessly in the fields. Known as Hop Hoodenin’ it usually featured the Queen of the Hops in a cart pulled by two horses who were accompanied by Morris Dancers and musicians. The second most important crop for harvesting at this time was barley which, when roasted provided the malt ingredient in beers and ales. In agricultural regions the landowner was obliged to invite his workers to a feast and fair at his expense (Michaelmas-29th September), so-called after the Catholic saint. St. Michael is regarded as the most singular and important saint for the Catholic Church. The tradition of eating goose at this time is an ancient custom based probably that the bird is plentiful and good-eating now.

A Harvest Queen Straw Dolly as made in Saxony

Literary Sources:

Brewer’s Phrase & Fable; revised by Adrian Broom (Cassell Publishing Group)
Chamber’s Book of Days; R. Chambers (Chambers Harrap Publishers)
The English Year; Steve Roud (Penguin Press)

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



An “Upstart Crow?”

An artist’s impression of “Shakespeare” as the “Upstart Crow”

In act IV of Timon of Athens, Timon leaves his home in Athens while his faithful steward, and other servants lament his departure. He goes to live in a cave in the woods, collecting berries, and digging up roots in an attempt to assuage his hunger. When Timon rejects the beastliness of men nevertheless his friend Apemanthus (who must represent his better reason) visits him to see how he is coping. Timon asks him what he would do if he was in possession of power and he says he would confer power to beasts so that they would devour men. There are some wonderful passages and exchanges from Timon, the now fully affirmed misanthropist and recluse:

If thou wert the lion, the fox would
beguile thee; if thou wert the lamb, the fox would
eat thee: if thou wert the fox, the lion would
suspect thee, when peradventure thou wert accused by
the ass: if thou wert the ass, thy dulness would
torment thee, and still thou livedst but as a
breakfast to the wolf: if thou wert the wolf, thy
greediness would afflict thee, and oft thou shouldst
hazard thy life for thy dinner: wert thou the
unicorn, pride and wrath would confound thee and
make thine own self the conquest of thy fury: wert
thou a bear, thou wouldst be killed by the horse:
wert thou a horse, thou wouldst be seized by the
leopard: wert thou a leopard, thou wert german to
the lion and the spots of thy kindred were jurors on
thy life: all thy safety were remotion and thy
defence absence. What beast couldst thou be, that
were not subject to a beast? and what a beast art
thou already, that seest not thy loss in

The Title page of Doni’s Book of Animal fables

This early rendering of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” might have been inspired by Sir Thomas North’s own translation of an Italian work of Animal Fables originally derived from Eastern sources entitled “The Moral Philosophy of Doni” published in 1570. Indeed, the term “upstart crow” is also quite likely taken from Doni’s Philosophy. The second subtitle of the volume proclaims aptly: “A Collection of Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic Fables”. One notices three further improvements upon the last edition of Thomas North‘s translation, within Jacobs’ later edition of 1888. Firstly, there is a good degree of introductory material to the tales themselves. Secondly, there is also a wealth of visual material to accompany the text. Thirdly, the spelling of Thomas North‘s English has been greatly updated, so that it is far easier to read these days. From the beginning of the 90-page introduction, the editors assist the reader to see this book in its oriental, Italian, and English context, since Thomas North was translating Doni’s Italian version from the original eastern sources. There is actually one other cultural shift before then, from the ancient Hindu to the later Muslim versions. Appendices to the introduction are helpful in showing collateral versions and a history of Western fable, in particular versions of Aesop’s Fables. A fourth appendix offers some seventy-six representative illustrations from Eastern and Western sources. That is the first part of the invaluable visual material. The second consists of the forty-nine illustrations that have been inserted alongside the text itself. In fact, Thomas North‘s work came out in two editions, one in 1570 and another in 1601. Thomas North was a major literary source for Shakespeare’s plays having also written “Dial of Princes” (1557), and “The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans” (dedicated to Queen Elizabeth Ist in 1579) from a French version by Amyot, which greatly influenced “Midsummer Night’s Dream” as well as “Anthony & Cleopatra”. The last section of the introduction discusses the merits of the two editions. My sense of what we have here is the text of the 1570 edition updated in its spelling and those rarely corrected as obvious errors within the 1601 edition. The illustrations include copies of the 1601 edition’s illustrations.

The poets/playwrights that were addressed by Robert Greene

The poet and playwright Robert Greene (1558-1592) wrote a play entitled “Pandosto”, the Triumph of Time in 1588 which provided an interesting source for William Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale”. On top of which he also wrote Friar Bungay and Friar Bacon and James IVth which were also sourced by the Bard for his own dramas. In a letter or rather dying testimony to fellow playwrights of whom Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe and another poet are thought to be the main recipients, Robert Greene appears sorely aggrieved and is said to have written on his death-bed in protest and warning those fellow dramatists, of his dire condition, of the dangers posed by imposters or “actors”; those who use their material to further their own ends and garner admiration and praise from the public:

Title page of Robert Greene’s “Groatsworth of Wit”

To those Gentlemen his Quondom acquaintance that spend their wits in making plays, R.G. wisheth a better exercise, and wisdom to prevent his extremities:

Base-minded men all three of you, if by my miserie you be not warned: for unto none of you (like mee) sought those burres to cleave: those Puppets (I meane) that spake from our mouthes, those Antics skeptic in our colours. Is it not strange, that I to whom they all have been beholding, shall (were yee in that case as I am now) bee both at once of them forsaken? Yes, trust them not: for there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tyger’s hart wrapped in a Player’s hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes Fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a country. O that I might entreat your rare wits to be employed in more profitable courses: & let these Apes imitate your past excellence, and never acquaint them with your admired inventions.

Robert Greene, A Groatsworth of Wit (1592)

An illustration from a Hindu book on Animal Fables

Robert Greene, a talented writer who was imprisoned for debt on more than one occasion, died in squalor and poverty in the home of a poor shoemaker’s house near Dowgate, London in September 3rd, 1592. The pamphlet was entered into the Stationer’s Office on the 20th September 1592 by the publisher Henry Chettle. Numerous attempts have been made to make some sense of Greene’s comments, if indeed he made them, as it was suggested that Henry Chettle wrote the entire piece, attempting to pass it off as Greene’s last testimony. Symbolically, the crow was known for its ability to imitate any call, the ape for its mimicry so what the writer is suggesting is that the actor in question, which many presume to be Shakespeare, is a mimic and a plagiarist. The condemning phrase in Greene’s excoriating letter: “Tyger’s hart wrapped in a Player’s hyde”, is actually taken directly from Shakespeare’s own Henry VIth part 3, spoken by Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York to Queen Margaret who having captured the city is about to have him executed. The symbolism of the tiger is thought to represent ruthlessness, expediency, cruelty and stealth. Richard pleads with the Queen showing his son’s handkerchief soaked in his own blood:

Oh Tiger’s heart wrapp’d in a womans hide!
How could’st thou drain the life-blood of the child,
To bid the father wipe his eyes withal,
And yet be seen to bear a woman’s face?

As we all know Richard’s appeal to a conquering woman, who was known as the “she-wolf” of France failed. However, the term or phrase “the onely Shake-scene in a country” is thought to refer to Shakespeare and as it is hyphenated it re-affirms the actor or Jack of all trades (Johannes fac totum) thinks he is the only jobbing actor turned playwright or poet in the country equal to Shakespeare. Being able to shake-a-scene means being able to hack it on stage in public. Of course this just does not make sense when we break it down semantically. Firstly, how could Shakespeare be equal to, and attempt to imitate himself? The sentence claims the actor thinks he is “Shakespeare” and the purpose of this essay is to determine who “Shakespeare” really was. Now Greene could have been saying that he thought Shakespeare had ripped him off or that a man called Shakespeare had benefitted from the work of other playwrights or more succinctly thought he was able to produce blank verse!

Portrait of Robert Greene

Anyway, as it turns out the writer and publisher Henry Chettle went on to write an apology to clarify what Greene and in part what he himself actually intended by those abstruse and cryptic remarks:

About three months since died M. Robert Greene, leaving many papers in sundry booksellers hands, among other his Groatsworth of Wit, in which a letter written to divers playmakers, is offensively by one or two of them taken: and because on the dead they cannot be avenged, they wilfully forge in their conceits a living author: and after tossing it to and fro, no remedy, but it must light on me…With neither of them that take offense am I acquainted, and with one of them I care not if I never be: The other, whom at that time I did not so much spare, as since I wish I had…I am sorry as if the original fault had been mine own, because myself have seen his demeanour no less civil than he excellent in the quality he professes: Besides, divers of worship (worthship?) have reported his uprightnesse of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious (urbane and polished) grace in writing, that approves his art.

Again this letter has been misconstrued because of its lingering ambiguity by the Stratfordians and used by Shakespearean researchers as proof that Henry Chettle, the humble and unassuming publisher was apologising to William Shakespeare and one other playwright, but the apology did not extend to a third, again un-named. Another group of contenders suggest that Henry Chettle was secretly the writer of Shakespeare’s plays. So, firstly Chettle says that two playwrights have taken offense and about the playwrights to whom the letter was addressed “With neither of them that take offense am I acquainted”-meaning he does not know them personally and that of those two (possibly Marlowe) he states he is not sorry never to have met him. Christopher Marlowe, because of his open adherence to atheism, his homosexuality and the anarchic nature of his dramas, was an anathema to some circles of the mainstream literary circle in London. But the object of Greene’s scathing derision we must assume is the person who is of “divers worship” (ie: worthy in diverse fields or admired broadly), is upright in his dealings, honest, urbane, graceful and polished in his writings, at least according to Chettle. Now was Chettle apologising to the actor, the Johannes fac totum? Hardly, this would appear to be a virtually blind apology to a person who of high rank had been injured by some of Greene’s remarks. At the commencement of the letter he addresses “all three of you” playwrights without naming them but it is widely accepted that those playwrights were Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. So, how could Greene in the first place warn Shakespeare and his contemporaries about an upstart crow, when the upstart crow is presumed to be William Shakespeare. Furthermore, why did Chettle feel the need to apologise to the two people who took offense, namely Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare and neglect to offset any libellous remarks made against Marlowe?

An artist’s impression of an upstart crow with peacock’s feathers

I suggest that the reference to the “upstart crow” was in actual fact a condemnation of the Stratford Man, the actor from Stratford-upon-Avon, who while passing himself off as William Shakespeare, the playwright and poet, was getting above himself and causing quite a controversy among some dramatists, writers and poets in London.
Malone in the 18th century misconstrued this letter citing it as irrefutable proof of Shakespeare as an actor and playwright first rubbing shoulders with other worthies such as Kit Marlowe and Ben Jonson. Since then, without erudite scrutiny nearly everyone in academic and literary circles has taken this to prove the existence of Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon who caused such a controversy among other writers in London.

The playwright Robert Greene collaborated with “Shakespeare” on several plays so it is highly unlikely that he would have condemned the author Shakespeare and re-iterates his contempt of the parvenu Stratford man in his “Farewell to Folly” and the practice of using a pseudonym and “mask” for literary endeavours:

“Others…if they come to write or publish anything in print, it is either distilled out of ballets (ballads) or borrowed of theological poets which, for their calling and gravity, being lothe to have any profane pamphlets pass under their hand, get some other Batillus to set his name to their verses. Thus is the ass made proud by this underhand broker. And he that cannot write true English without the aid of clerks of parish churches will need make himself the father of interludes”.

During the War of the Theatres when the University Wits were accused of being unable to write plays based on life experience, Will Kempe who was with Richard Burbage and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men condemned the academics as being removed from everyday reality. In the play “Return to Parnassus” he spoke as follows:

Few of the university men pen plays well. They smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphosis, and talk too much of Proserpina and Jupiter. Why! Here’s our fellow Shakspeare puts them all down; aye, and Ben Jonson too. O that Ben Jonson’s a pestilent fellow; he brought up Horace giving the poets a pill, but our fellow Shakspeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his credit.

The Arthur Golding Classic “Ovid’s Metamorphoses”

Unfortunately, as any academic should know, William Shakespeare was greatly influenced by and had frequently sourced the Greek writer Ovid, and in particular his “Metamorphoses”. Indeed, he makes many references to English, Roman and Greek Gods both in his plays and poetry. The Stratfordians have proposed that despite not having had a university education that the Stratford Shakespeare was able to procure all the books he required from the Stratford publisher Richard Field who was also instrumental in printing his first attempts at poetry. However, Arthur Golding’s translation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” was dedicated to his nephew, Edward de Vere the 17th Earl of Oxford who is considered the most likely candidate for having written Shakespeare’s plays. Therefore we must accept that Kempe was ill-informed even about his own fellow writers, who no doubt he presumed to be a common man with an elevated wit and universal perspective. Nevertheless, Shakespeare had a natural writing style and was able to translate archaic themes and infuse them with contemporary experience. Moreover, the Stratford actor had a relatively good relationship with Ben Jonson even though Jonson had satirised him in his Every Man Out of his Humour as the clown Sogliardo. It was probably Thomas Dekker (“Satiromastix”) who the Bard purged in 1601 when Jonson’s play “Poetaster” was first staged by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men wherein Jonson compared himself to Horace who was instructed by the Emperor Julius Caesar to administer an emetic to Crispinus (Marston) and Demetrius (Dekker). The first time the name of W. Shakespeare appears in print is with the play “Love’s Labours Lost” (1598) and this must have had an effect on the jobbing actor from Stratford. A year later Shakespeare had managed to purchase a substantial property named New Place and by 1601 had even procured his coat of arms with the motto “Not Without Right” which entitled him to be known as a landowner and gentleman. The term or title in Elizabethan England implies an elevated status of Esquire, that is one of the landed gentry, and therefore someone entitled to bear arms. In his Epigrams,-no: 56 (published in 1617) Ben Jonson lampooned his newly acquired status with a tract entitled Poet Ape and in a reference “Not Without Mustard”.

A Carrion Crow Calling out!

Poor Poet Ape, that would be thought our chief,
Whose works are e’en the froppery of wit,
From Brokage has become so bold a thief
As we the robbed, leave rage and pity it.
At first he made low shifts, would pick and glean,
Buy the reversion of old plays, now grown
To a little wealth, and credit on the scene,
He takes up all, makes each man’s wit his own,
And told of this, he slights it. Tut, such crimes
The sluggish, gaping auditor devours;
He marks not whose t’was first, and aftertimes
May judge it to be his, as well as ours.
Fool! As if half-eyes will not know a fleece
From locks of wool, or shreds from the whole piece.

Like Greene, Ben Jonson is aggrieved that Shakespeare, by now an actor/writer and probably director/manager in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men was buying the copyright of old plays and revising them, thereby accruing great wealth, status and distinction – which is certainly true of the actor from Stratford. Yet therein lies a dilemma if not an unacknowledged subtle distinction. William Shakespeare is often portrayed by a number of academics as innovative and original yet many of his plays are in actual fact plagiarised if not derived from other fellow playwrights of the time. A typical example is the anthology The Passionate Pilgrim (1599), printed by William Jaggard in which five poems are erroneously attributed to William Shakespeare, although some are from his play Love’s Labour’s Lost. Christopher Marlowe’s contribution entitled “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” was countered by Sir Walter Raleigh with his own “The Nymph’s Reply”. It was quite common practice for a poet or playwright to make a comment or response to another poet or playwright within the confines of a literary device, in some cases the more topical the better. Therefore, we might misconstrue their ironical reasons or mocking motivations today and mistakenly perceive them as plagiarism, eclecticism or imitation. In 1612 the playwright Thomas Heywood (“Apology For Actors”) states that the author Shakespeare “is much offended with W. Jaggard that [altogether unknown to him] presumed to make so bold with his name”. Although no copyright law existed at the time it was still considered an audacious trick to use an author’s name as a ploy to sell an anthology of poetry. Nevertheless, despite the apparent offence that this presumption might have caused, Jaggard’s son Isaac was still entrusted with the task of printing Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623?

The existence of this theatrical and “Literary Janus” (a two-faced god) was again satirised in the anonymous play “Return From Parnassus”, and in a much later satire “The Great Assizes Holden in Parnassus by Apollo and His Assessors” (1645) by the satirical poet George Wither (1588-1667) who was himself a Puritan and patronised by the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Pembroke and Earl of Montgomery. Mount Parnassus, in ancient Greece was the sacred home of the muses and the god of poetic inspiration Apollo and George Wither’s work parodies twelve poets as jurors/malefactors including himself as Britain’s Mercury;

  1. George Wither – Mercurius Britannicus
  2. Thomas Carey Mercurius Aulicus
  3. Thomas May – Mercurius Civicus
  4. William *Davenant – The Scout
  5. Josuah Sylvester – The writer of Diurnalls
  6. George Sands – The Intelligencer
  7. Michael Drayton – The writer of Occurrences
  8. Francis Beaumont – The writer of passages
  9. John Fletcher – The Post
  10. Thomas Heywood – The Spy
  11. William *Shakespeare The writer of weekly accounts
  12. Phillip Massinger – The Scottish Dove etc.

*The Oxfordshire poet, William Davenant is considered by several Stratfordians to be the illegitimate son of the actor William Shakespeare, and note that the Bard’s name is not hyphenated in this instance.
Among the “mock assessors” elected by the author in this excoriating satire are Lord Verulam (Sir Francis Bacon), Sir Phillip Sidney (Constable), William Budeus (High Treasurer), John Picus (High Chamberlain), and Julius Caesar Scalinger. Clearly, at this moment in time and from Wither’s literary, and one would assume well informed perspective, the idea that Sir Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare were one and the same did not exist otherwise they would not exist as separate characters. Alongside these illustrious names are transposed those renowned for their humanist ideals; Erasmus, Lipsius, John Barclay, John Bodine, Adrian Tenerus, etc. Finally, the list concludes with Joseph Scalinger (The Censor of Manners at Parnassus), Ben Jonson (The Keeper of the Trophonian Den), John Taylor (Chief Crier) and Edmund Spenser (Clerk of the Assizes).

In this biting send-up George Wither describes twenty Elizabethan celebrities who are described as “Assessors” convened at Apollo’s court to judge the worthy and unworthy contributors to the birth of the English Renaissance. However, he only re-iterates the notion that William Shakespeare was merely a “mimic”. The Parnassus Plays were produced at St. John’s College, Cambridge around 1600 and consist of “The Pilgrimage to Parnassus” and “The Return to Parnassus”, the latter composed of two parts, the second entitled “The Scourge of Simony”, they are thought to have been penned by John Day (1574-1640) who wrote plays for performance by the Children of the Revels, a company sponsored by Edward de Vere. Among the poets satirically portrayed are Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare with supporting characters Richard Burbage and Will Kempe.

Edward de Vere, the real author of the Sonnets

It was not uncommon at the time for a poet or writer to disguise their contribution or authorship. The reasons are varied and depend largely on the nature of the text. “The Art of English Poesy” (1589), an apparently anonymous work attributed to George Puttenham gives numerous reasons why poets and their craft were derided in their day by other nobles as being effeminate, sentimental and fantastical. Clearly, in the majority of cases, the pen was mightier than the sword. It was also a time when most people had to conceal from public attention their views and opinions especially if they differed considerably from Protestant or Catholic ideals. Sir Thomas More wrote plays under a pseudonym, William Ross (Guielielmus Rosseus) and arranged to engage a “mask” to conceal his polemics from his majesty Henry VIIIth. Thomas Nashe wrote under the pseudonyms Cuthbert Curryknave and Pierce Penniless, Edmund Spenser used Colin Clout and Immerito and the anonymous author of the Martin Marprelate pamphlets is still unknown to us today. In 1610, the poet John Davies of Hereford published a volume entitled “The Scourge of Folly”, (a parody of Marston’s “Scourge of Villainy”-1598) which consisted of poems to several famous people and to some of Davies’s acquaintances. One of these poems was euphemistically addressed to William Shakespeare as follows: To our English Terence, Mr. Will. Shake-speare.

Some say (good Will) which I, in sport, do sing,
Had’st thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst bin a companion for a King;
And, beene a King among the meaner sort.
Some others raile; but, raile as they thinke fit,
Thou hast no railing, but a raigning Wit:
And honesty thou sow’st, which they do reape;
So, to increase their Stocke which they do keepe.

Anyone who has studied the classical writers of Rome knows that Terence was an ancient Roman playwright who, like Shakespeare had arisen to great acclaim although born from humble origins. Through these memorials and dedications a whole body of myth evolved around the figure of “Shake-speare”, some compared him to Apollo, some to Ovid, Virgil and so forth. Nevertheless, the real Shakespeare appears to elude our imagination and mental comprehension. But not all poets were full of admiration.

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms

One of many versions of Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms

As early as 1576 soon after John Shakspere’s “wool-brogging” business failed he applied for a coat of arms but was subsequently rejected as the manuscript illustrates with the words, “Non, sans droict”. Ten years later in August 1596 the young son of the actor William Shakspere was buried in Stratford-upon-Avon and within 2 months the Stratford actor William Shakspere was finally granted a coat of arms by William Dethwick, Principal Garter, College of Arms with the odd motto; “Non Sanz Droict”, meaning “Not Without Right”. What the motto is intended to mean is somewhat ambiguous and some have thought it simply a tongue in cheek and inappropriate for a man of great literary talent and fame. Indeed, Dethwick’s grant of Shakspere’s arms was condemned as inappropriate by the York Herald, Ralph Brooke in 1602 and his nefarious activities of granting arms without good reason or for money and according to procedure led eventually to his final dismissal. On closer investigation it appears that the coat of arms had originally been refused on the grounds that the application could not be linked to that of the Ardens of Park Hall because Shakspere’s mother, Mary Arden (1540-1608) was thought to have been connected to the Arden family by John Shakspere. Although her father was actually called Robert Arden, a successful farmer from Wilmcote, a small village several miles north of Stratford. The Ardens of Park Hall derived their genealogy from an ancient Norman family and still denied any genealogical connection to the Shakspere family through Robert Arden. Mary had a similar surname but she was in no way a descendant of the Park Hall family. Just after Robert died in 1558 Mary Arden, with a sizeable dowry of lands and money, agreed to marry John Shakspere, she being pregnant with his child. Much of her dowry was later sold or mortgaged to pay off John’s debts or ease the life of his close relatives. This led to several legal disputes and Mary last appeared at the Stratford magistrates as late as 1596 in an attempt to secure justice for her own well-being. She may have ended her days either at Henley Street or at New Place with her daughter Joan Hart when John Shakspere finally died in 1601 but there is no actual proof of this.

Apparently, in late 1597 William Shakspere and three others were bound over to keep the peace following an altercation in London.

1596 – Michaelmas – Court record. William Wayte “swore before the Judge of Queen’s Bench that he stood in danger of death, or bodily hurt,” from “William Shakspere” and three others. “The magistrate then commanded the sheriff of the appropriate county to produce the accused … who had to post bond to keep the peace, on pain of forfeiting the security”.

Another later version of Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms

The following year he purchased New Place from William Underhill for the price of £60. In 1599 Shakspere is listed as a shareholder in the Globe Theatre and later the owner of a new residence on adjoining land, listed as the property of Thomas Brend, the father of Nicholas Brend who was the lease-holder of the land the Globe Theatre was built on. In 1599 William Shakspere again sought exemplification of his arms in London, which meant he was now officially a gentleman, a member of the landed gentry and had a right to bear arms. The application was at first refused with the statement “No, Without Right” meaning that the College of Arms bureau had considered the connection to the Arden genealogy and pronounced he had no right to that claim. Examining in detail one can clearly see that firstly the phrase “Non, Sans Droict” is crossed out, then it is re-written above and finally in capital letters it is written as if it is the title for his family motto and the College of Arms manuscript.

Detail illustrating the words “Non, Sans Droict” being crossed out and then being re-written

Clearly this was subsequently altered (leaving out the comma after Non) by an unknown clerk to suggest that it had been accepted as his family motto “Non Sanz Droict” (Not Without Right). Nothing as far as any sane person is concerned could be so absurd and ridiculous as the meaning of the motto for such an illustrious writer and dramatist or the manner of its actual acquisition. The coat of arms attributed to Shakespeare features an ochre or gold shield with black bend containing the lance or, as far as the wording of the application describes, a spear associated with Pallas Athena. This is topped with a helmet with closed visor, signifying a gentleman or squire. Above the helmet is presumed to be a falcon (the poet’s raptor), which is described as rampant, à gauche (signifying magnanimity) again holding a jousting lance, not in actual fact a “spear”, like those employed in tournament tilting. However, the bird in question looks more like a cormorant or “shag” in some versions acting as a rebus for his name “Shagspere”.

The original manuscript for the Shakespeare coat of arms application

The motto, Non Sanz Droict runs along a ribbon underneath. The application from the College of Arms reads as follows:

Gould. On a Bend Sables. A Speare of the first steeled argent. And for his Creast or cognisance a falcon. His wings displayed Argent. Standing on a wrethe of his coullors. Supporting a Speare Gould. Steeled as aforesaid sett upon a helmet with mantelles & tasselles as hath been accustomed and doth more playnely appear depicted on this margent.

The same year Ben Jonson, in his inimitable style-being unable to resist a satirical poke at the Stratford Shakspere, devised a foolish character named Sogliardo who is ridiculed in the play “Every Man Out of His Humour” as follows:

“So enamoured of the name of gentleman, that he will have it though he buys it” and his coat of arms bears the inscription: “Let the word be-Not Without Mustard”.

Sir Francis Bacon’s coat of arms showing the white boar’s head as a crest

It would appear that Jonson, a connoisseur of fine foods and so fond of taking irony a step too far, had left a cryptic clue in this phrase that the majority of people would have been unable to unravel. Mustard was renowned for bestowing courage, quickening the sinews and is often used on pork, gammon steaks as a relish. Furthermore, the colour mustard (or ochre as it was technically known) is synonymous with cunning and deceit and sure enough the colours on Shakespeare’s arms is ochre and black. Some Baconians have seized upon this phrase to suggest that Sir Francis Bacon was the author of the plays (ie: pork and bacon?), conversely the Oxfordians have seen this remark to identify Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford whose totem animal was the boar, hunted by his Viking and Norman ancestors. Therefore Jonson was saying; not without the wit and generosity of the Earl of Oxford was his coat of arms granted.

The Earl of Oxford’s coat of arms with the crest of a Blue Boar

From my screenplay “Not Without Mustard” with extracts from Ben Jonson’s own play satirising William Shakspere’s acquisition of a coat of arms; “Every Man in His Humour”:

Will Shakspere:
By my wits! no sir, I scorn to live by my wits, myself. I have better
means, I tell thee, than to take such base courses, as to live by my wits.
What, dost thou think I live by my wits? [Addressing Ben]
Is he one of your acquaintance?
I love him the better for that.

Ben Jonson:
God’s precious, come away, man, what do you mean? And if you knew him as
I do, you’d shun him as you would do the plague.
O, he’s a black fellow indeed, take heed of him.

Will Shakspere:
Is he a scholar, or a soldier?

Ben Jonson: [Aside to Will].
Both, both; a lean mongrel, he looks as if he were chop-fallen, with
barking at other men’s good fortunes: Beware how you offend him; he carries
oil and fire in his pen, it will scald where it drops: his spirit is like
powder, quick, violent; he’ll blow a man up with a jest: I fear him worse
than a rotten wall does the cannon; shake an hour after at the report.
Away, come not near him.

[Ben Jonson ushers Will Shakspere out of the door to an annex].

Edward de Vere:
Ay, when I cannot shun you, we will meet.
‘Tis strange! of all the creatures I have seen,
I envy not this Buffone, for indeed
Neither his fortunes nor his parts deserve it:
But I do hate him, as I hate the devil,
Or that brass-visaged monster Barbarism.
Oh, ’tis an open-throated, black-mouth’d cur,
That bites at all, but eats on those that feed him.
A slave, that to your face will, serpent-like,
Creep on the ground, as he would eat the dust,
And to your back will turn the tail, and sting
More deadly than the scorpion: stay, who’s this?
Now, for my soul, another minion
Of the old lady Chance’s! I’ll observe him.

[Lookin through a keyhole]

Will Shakspere:
Nay, I will have him hear me, I am resolute for that. By this parchment,
gentlemen, I have been so toiled among the harrots yonder, you will not
believe! they do speak in the strangest language, and give a man the
hardest terms for his money, that ever you knew.
In faith, I thank them; I can write myself gentleman now; here’s my
patent, it cost me thirty pound, by this breath.
Nay, it has as much variety of colours in it, as you have seen a coat
have; how like you the crest, sir?

Ben Jonson:
The motto sir what is that? Let’s see, “Non Sanz Droict”, say that means
“Not Without Right”. T’were better known “Not Without Mustard”.

Will Shakspere:
Marry, sir, why the crest is your boar without a head, rampant. A boar without
a head, that’s very rare!

Ben Jonson:
Ay, and rampant too! troth, I commend the herald’s wit, he has
deciphered him well: a swine without a head, without brain, wit, anything
indeed, ramping to gentility. “Venneris, Veritas Detruncare”.
A pig’s bottom makes the best bacon. What is that fat, black bird on the helmet?
Why it looks more like a fat shag, a greedy and garrulous sea bird if ever I saw one.
You can blazon the rest, signior, can you not?

Will Shakspere:
Oh, ay, I have it in writing here of purpose; it cost me two shilling
For the tricking.

Ben Jonson:
Let the motto be, ‘Not Without Mustard’: your crest is very rare, sir.
Nay, look you, sir, now you are a gentleman, you must carry a more
exalted presence, change your mood and habit to a more austere form; be
exceeding proud, stand upon your gentility, and scorn every man; speak
nothing humbly, never discourse under a nobleman, though you never saw him
but riding to the star-chamber, it’s all one. Love no man: trust no man:
speak ill of no man to his face; nor well of any man behind his back.
Salute fairly on the front, and wish them hanged upon the turn. Spread
yourself upon his bosom publicly, whose heart you would eat in private.
These be principles, think on them; I’ll come to you again presently.

[Ben Jonson exits]

[Fade and Close]

Original manuscript from the College of Arms depicting Shakespeare’s coat of arms

In 1592 after a literary banquet at the Mermaid Tavern where Robert Greene’s “Groatsworth of Wit” was being reviewed by Henry Chettle and Thomas Nash, the pseudonymous, London playwright from Stratford-on-Avon, William Shakespeare is accused of being “an upstart crow”. In 1597 Shakspere is paid money for his complicity and acquires New Place, his new family home in Stratford. In 1599 The Globe Theatre opens and Shakspere acquires approval of coat of arms (“Not Without Mustard!”) then listed as a shareholder.

An artist’s impression of the infamous Mermaid Tavern

Ben Jonson: [Addressing the gathered assembly].
Gentles all, we are as always gathered together like a flock in the fold, wherein we shall relate our divers pilgrimages on the stage, -our difficulties and successes.

Henry Chettle:
Why, baa-baa, Ben! Hast thou any wool?
[Assembled crowd laugh out loud].

Ben Jonson:
Aye, Henry hast thou a part as a goat or a sheep?

Henry Chettle:
The shepherd seeks the sheep, and not the sheep the
shepherd; but I seek my master, and my master seeks
not me: therefore I am no sheep.

Ben Jonson:
The sheep for fodder follows the shepherd; the
shepherd for food follows not the sheep: thou for
wages followest thy master; thy master for wages
follows not thee: therefore thou art a sheep.

Henry Chettle:
This proves me still a sheep.

Ben Jonson:
True; and thy master a shepherd.
A silly answer and fitting well a sheep.

Henry Chettle:
Such another proof will make me cry ‘baa!.’
Nay Ben, I shall seek a part as Little Bo Peep!
[More uproarious laughter].

Little Bo-Peepe

[A chorus erupts led by Henry Chettle]
—Baa, baa black sheep have you any wool?
Yes sir yes sir, three bags full.
One for the master and one for the dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.

Ben Jonson:
Well, Henry I am well pleased to hear that and wish you every success.
Aside from our pleasant comedies let those who play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them. And yet, if this scene were played upon a stage now,
I should condemn it as an improbable fiction.
Is there among ye any sensible report?

Robert Greene: [Standing up and addressing Ben].
I am as poor as Job, my lord, but not as patient. T’is not so well that I am poor, though many of the rich are damned, there’s but a shirt and a half in all my company; and the half-shirt is two napkins tacked together and thrown over the shoulders like a herald’s coat without sleeves!

[Picking up two napkins from the table and throwing them over his shoulder].

Ben Jonson: [Facing Greene].
If thou art rich, thou’rt poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bearest thy heavy riches but a journey,
And then death unloads thee…

Robert Greene:
My lord, fortune shows herself more kind than is her custom:
It is still her use to let the wretched man outlive his wealth,
To view with hollow eye and wrinkled brow an age of poverty.

Ben Jonson:
Oh my, how apt the poor are to be proud!
[Laughter from some members of the assembly]

Robert Greene:
Pride, pride, –pride?
-Why my pride fell with my fortunes!
He that is proud eats up himself:
Pride is his own glass,
His own trumpet, his own chronicle.

Ben Jonson:
Thy head is as full of quarrels as an egg is full of meat.
There was never yet philosopher
Who could endure the toothache patiently.

Robert Greene: [Pointing towards three playwrights].
Base-minded men all three of you, if by my misery you be not warned:
For unto none of you, like me sought those burrs to cleave:
Those “Puppets”, I mean that spoke out of our own mouths,
Those Antics, now sceptic in our own colours..

Ben Jonson:
I will praise any man that will praise me!
Mincing poetry, t’is like the forced gait of
A shuffling nag…

Robert Greene:
-Is it not strange, that I to whom they all have been beholden,
Shall in that case, as I am now, being all at once of them forsaken?
Nay, trust them not: for there is an “Upstart Crow”,
–Beautified with our feathers, that with his
Tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide, supposes
He is as well able to bombast a blank verse as the best of you:
And being an absolute Johannes Fac totum,
Is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in the country.

Ben Jonson:
Poor Poet Ape, that would be thought our chief,
Whose works are even the frippery of wit,
From his brokerage has become so bold a thief
As we the robbed, leave our rage and pity on it.
Even now will he nail his colours to the mast-
But not without mustard…

Robert Greene:
Others…if they come to write or publish anything in print,
It is either distilled out of ballads or borrowed of church poets
Which, for their calling and gravity,
Being loathe to have any profane pamphlets pass under their hand,
Get some other Batillus to set his name to their verses.
Thus is the ass made proud by this underhand broker.
And he that cannot write true English
Without the aid of clerks of parish churches—
Will need make himself the broker of interludes.

Will Kempe: [Standing up].
Why, few of the university men pen plays well.
They smell too much of that writer Ovid,
And that writer Metamorphosis, and
Talk too much of Proserpina and Jupiter.
—Why! [Pointing to Will Shakspere aside]
Here’s our fellow Shakspere puts them all down;
Aye, and Ben Jonson too.
Oh, that Ben Jonson’s a pestilent fellow;
He brought up Horace giving the poets a pill,
But our fellow Shakspere hath given him a purge
That made him be-wray his credit.

Ben Jonson:
Fool! As if half-eyes would not know a fleece
From locks of wool, or shreds from the whole piece.
He that is robbed, not wanting what is stolen,
Let him not know it and he’s not robbed at all.

John Marston:
Care he for Talus or the flail of lead?
As long as the crafty Cuttle lies for sure
In the black cloud of his thick vomiture;
Would he complain of wronged faith or some false fame,
When he may shift it onto another’s name?

Will Shakspere:
Gentlemen, I am a snapper up of unconsidered trifles,
The truest poetry, they say is the most feigning.
I feign would write, so if this be true and upon me
Proved, I never writ and no man ever loved.

John Fletcher:
Never durst poet touch pen and write
Until his ink were tempered with love’s sighs.

Kit Marlowe: [Pointing to Will Shakspere]
This man, proud man, dressed in a little brief authority…
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
As make the angels weep…

Richard Burbage:
Fear not gentlemen, we will not stand to prate;
Talkers are not good doers; be assured
We come to use our hands and not our tongues.
Thanks, I must you advise, that you are thieves
Professed, when you work not in holier ways;
For there is boundless theft in limited professions.

Ben Jonson:
Aye, give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any un-proportioned thought his act.
Is not the truth, the truth?

Henry Chettle:
There is nothing either good or bad,
But thinking makes it so;
The seeming truth which cunning times
Verily put on to entrap the wisest fellow.
But that truth should be silent, I had almost forgot.

Will Kempe:
We are happy in that we are not over-happy;
On fortune’s cap we are not the very button.

Ben Jonson:
Give me some wine. Fill full.[passing his glass]
Let us drink to the general joy of all the table.

Will Kempe:
A cup of wine that’s brisk and fine,
And drink unto the leman mine!

Ben Jonson:
Now I do remember a saying thus, “the fool doth think he is wise,
Yet the wise man knows himself to be a fool!

[Servants fill glasses, and the assembly raise glasses and drink, occasionally breaking into song, cursing and resorting to comic antics.]

The links to my publications, “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and my anthology of poetry, “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


“Shakespeare On Deformity”

Classical portrait of King Richard the Third

In 1623 when publishing the Shakespeare Folio, the publishers John Heminges and Henry Condell, wrote: “To the Great Variety of Readers”
“Whereas before you were abus’d with diuerse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of iniurious impostors, that expos’d them: euen those, that are now offer’d to your view cured, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceiued them.”

In the opening Sonnet Shakespeare makes it fairly clear what his thoughts are about natural procreation:

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel:
Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament,
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding:
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

There is indeed a great number of references in Shakespeare on physical deformity that is either shocking or ambiguous that are in need of clarification. The most well-known of which are references to “Richard Crouchback”, the Duke of Gloucester. The hunch-backed Richard first appears towards the end of Henry VIth, part two when Clifford first stigmatises him:
Heap of wrath, foul indigested lump,
As crooked in thy manners as thy shape!

Although Richard, is killed early on in Shakespeare’s historical play King Henry the Sixth, part three as Queen Margaret of Anjou’s forces rally against him, his sons, Edward and Richard continue their resistance with the aid of Edmund, Earl of Rutland and George, Duke of Clarence. When finally captured Edward, Henry’s son is killed in front of Queen Margaret presumably to ceremonially avenge the death of their father, Richard Duke of York who was killed in the first act. Although the entire action covers the events of some sixteen years (1455-1471), the narrative of the play compresses and in some cases distorts the historical timeline in favour of the dramatic narrative from the Battle of St Albans (1445) through to the Duke of York’s death (1450) when the future King Richard III was a mere three years old, living in exile abroad and clearly unable to take an active part in military and political strategy! Similarly, when Richard Duke of York is killed at the Battle of Wakefield, his younger son Richard was a mere seven years old even though Shakespeare depicts him as a full-grown man even taking part in the battle and vowing vengeance for his father’s death. Holinshed’s version of events is that Clifford taunted Richard before beheading him, in the play it is Queen Margaret and Clifford who torture and then both stab Richard to death on stage thereby consigning him to a commoner’s death. Furthermore, Margaret orders his severed head to be displayed on the gates of the City of York, again an act of humiliation as well as civic horror. However, many of these chronological and historical distortions are done purely for dramatic effect. Severing the bonds of loyalty between father and son is a theme that Shakespeare plays with in this play as well as natural and unnatural entitlement. At the beginning of the play the Yorkist faction appears united as a family and stake their claim without compromise, while Henry’s family appears weak, ambivalent and divided. However, when Rutland is killed at the Battle of Wakefield, his remaining three sons diverge from their initial family loyalties, the young Richard beholds a vision of three suns in the sky (a rare astronomical optical illusion), and then vows to use the emblem as a motif on his heraldic shield. Edward disgusts his follower Warwick by his wish to marry a commoner, Elizabeth Gray and George temporarily abandons his brother to join the Lancastrian cause and marry Warwick’s daughter. By the middle portion of the play Richard relentlessly stands by his wish to ascend to the English throne:

Coat of arms of Richard III, from a window with his motto “Loyaulte me lie”. Loyalty binds me; two boars argent around arms of Henry IV; quartered arms with three fleur de lys; gules three lions passant guardant in pale).

My ashes, as the phoenix, may bring forth
A bird that will revenge upon you all.

Towards the end of the play Richard is portrayed as “un-loved” and unlikely to find a wife or lover, partly because of his deformity or because he is incapable himself of wooing any woman. Just after he has murdered King Henry he soliloquises on his deformity:
Then, since the heavens have shaped my body so,
Let hell make crook’d my mind to answer it.
I have no brother, I am like no brother;
And this word ‘love,’ which graybeards call divine,
Be resident in men like one another
And not in me: I am myself alone.

The play ends leaving the audience with a hint of what will transpire in effect hanging over the precipitous events that are to unravel with the advent of the Duke of Gloucester becoming King Richard the Third. This portrayal of Richard surely matches Christopher Marlowe’s own Machiavellian portrayal of Tamburlaine but in the majestic and dramatic style only Shakespeare could achieve with impunity. To draw upon any analogous parallels with our contemporary views on disabilities would in the final analysis be somewhat misleading. In fact this is the first use in English literature of what is known as “dramatic stigma” which reaches its hiatus in the “Tempest” with the introduction of the oft maligned and misunderstood character of Caliban. Monstrous beasts and chimeras were certainly a feature of Miracle and Mummers Plays at an earlier date than the 16th century. The Elizabethan mindset towards physical deformity was without doubt superstitious as anyone with an abnormality would be regarded as inferior and tainted with inherent evil. But in dramatic or narrative terms it is akin to “Beauty & the Beast”, the “Elephant Man”, the “Princess & the Frog”, the “Phantom of the Opera”, the “Gangster Scar-face”, “Godzilla”, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and perhaps even “Shrek”. These characters embody or reflect our own personal prejudices towards those physically deformed or those who do not represent the conventional or classical view of beauty in human form, the most monstrous! Indeed, it seems that Great Nature can give birth to the grotesque and the beautiful as witnessed with the birth of pigs with six limbs, two heads, conjoined twins and six fingers. Plays that featured the mystical and magical thesis that blessings may become curses or that weaknesses can become strengths, or that vices can become virtues and virtues can become vices were part of the dramatic characterisation and moral narrative accessible to an Elizabethan audience. This is analogous in many ways to our contemporary views about the moral suitability of America’s President Donald Trump, who despite his immoral proclivities and right-wing views was still able to garner a great deal of populist support from the marginalised white Republican electorate.
Similarly, the new English King, “Richard Crookback” courted popularity with some considerable success. He actively promoted English interests abroad and involved himself fully in domestic reform. Following the death of the young princes, however, public favour turned away from Richard and toward Henry, Earl of Richmond, who was the head of the rival House of Lancaster. On his second attempt to invade England on August 7, 1485, Henry landed at Milford Haven, Wales, collecting allies as he advanced toward England. Richard hastened to meet him, and the hostile armies faced each other on Bosworth Field. Richard fought valiantly but in vain and was defeated and slain, and the Earl of Richmond became Henry the Sixth, the first Tudor King of England. Although Richard, the last King of the House of York, did usurp the throne, little doubt exists that his unscrupulousness has been over-emphasised by his enemies and by Tudor historians seeking to strengthen the Lancastrian position. In actual fact recent evidence suggests that, in order to gain favour with the Tudor dynasty, Shakespeare depicted him in a rather poor light. For example, he was characterised as a severe hunchback by birth and his intercession with Henry’s claim to the throne was based on some family insight unbeknown to many people at the time. In Act One, scene 4, Queen Margaret inquires of the Duke of Northumberland:

Where are your mess of sons to back you now?
The wanton Edward, and the lusty George?
And where’s that valiant crook-back prodigy,
Dicky your boy, that with his grumbling voice
Was wont to cheer his dad in mutinies?

Other signs or omens of his “otherness” are noted that he was born with his feet forward and, like Napoleon was born with teeth:

Duke of Gloucester:
For this, amongst the rest, was I ordain’d….
Indeed, ’tis true that Henry told me of;
For I have often heard my mother say
I came into the world with my legs forward:
Had I not reason, think ye, to make haste,
And seek their ruin that usurp’d our right?
The midwife wonder’d and the women cried
‘O, Jesus bless us, he is born with teeth!’
And so I was; which plainly signified
That I should snarl and bite and play the dog.
Then, since the heavens have shaped my body so,
Let hell make crook’d my mind to answer it.

Elsewhere in the play the Lancastrians cast disparaging remarks towards Richard’s deformity for example: “Ay, crook-back, here I stand to answer thee, /Or any he the proudest of thy sort.” And further on:
Prince Edward:
Nay, take away this scolding crookback rather.

King Edward IV:
Peace, wilful boy, or I will charm your tongue.
Untutor’d lad, thou art too malapert.

Prince Edward:
I know my duty; you are all undutiful:
Lascivious Edward, and thou perjured George,
And thou mis-shapen Dick, I tell ye all
I am your better, traitors as ye are:
And thou usurp’st my father’s right and mine.

King Edward IV:
Take that, thou likeness of this railer here.
(Stabs him)

It seems that Henry the Seventh was not of royal blood at all but a base-born son of Queen Margaret conceived in France while King Henry the Sixth was campaigning in England. This was why he then had to legitimise his claim to the throne by marrying Richard’s niece Elizabeth of York. Little did he realise that this was to no avail given his wife’s father’s true lineage. The incidence of scoliosis has a genetic component to Richard’s dynastic line as Mildred Russell (through the de la Pole line), who came to wed William Cecil, Lord Burghley (she was the sister of Elizabeth Russell, the Countess of Southampton whose involvement in the theatrical closures at the Blackfriar’s is brought to light in “Shakespeare’s Nemesis”). Lord Burghley’s son, Robert Cecil it seems also suffered from the same genetic deformity of which the play appears to demean and denigrate in this Shakespeare play when Margaret of Anjou rebukes Elizabeth of York for her false loyalties:

Queen Margaret:
Poor painted queen, vain flourish of my fortune!
Why strew’st thou sugar on that bottled spider,
Whose deadly web ensnareth thee about?
Fool, fool! Thou whet’st a knife to kill thyself.
The time will come when thou shalt wish for me
To help thee curse that poisonous bunchback’d toad.

Even today this startling revelation is a contentious factor among historians and genealogists of the royal line. It seems that the Plantagenet line, which continues to this day, now has more claim to the English throne than the current House of Windsor because Edward the Fourth, Elizabeth’s father, himself was not of royal blood.

But both the House of York and that of Lancaster can trace their dynastic origins back to the Plantagenet line of Edward the Third so this constitutes a very complex and alternative genealogical strand that is still contested by many academics and genealogists today. The recent discovery of Richard’s body underneath a car park in Leicester has brought the expertise of modern DNA and RNA specialists into investigating just how pertinent Richard’s claim to kingship really was through that particular line and how dubious Henry’s claim was (see The Richard III Project). Despite all these interconnected and complicated aristocratic relationships Richard decided to fight for his brother, later King Edward the Fourth, under the Yorkist banner during the Wars of the Roses perhaps on the basis that this would draw his legitimacy even closer to the throne of England. There were however several more obstacles in his path. On the death of Edward in 1483, Richard took over the care of Edward’s young heir, King Edward Vth, and the administration of the Kingdom. Richard soon overthrew the unpopular party of the Woodvilles, relatives of the Queen mother, who aimed to control the government to their advantage. Parliament then declared that Richard was the rightful King, on the grounds that the marriage of Edward IVth with Elizabeth Woodville had been illegal because he had contracted earlier to marry another woman. Subsequently, the cunning Richard, to ensure his position as King, confined Edward and his brother Richard to the Tower of London. Or so the popular story goes. In their imprisonment, and for some time afterward, both nephews were apparently and secretly put to death. Except for a later supposition (James Tyrell), no substantial evidence exists that Richard himself actually had them assassinated. There are theories and conjectures that someone else was secretly charged with this gruesome task.

Duke of Gloucester:
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

In the light of this knowledge perhaps it is understandable that Richard wanted to prevent Henry from gaining the throne and moreover why he would have felt no remorse when he supposedly disposed of the two princes in the Tower. Primarily, because as sons of Edward the Fourth the young princes, Edward and Richard themselves were not really legitimate heirs to the English throne. However, Richard himself was a genuine member of the Plantagenet line, which included John of Gaunt and the monarch Edward the Third that originally stems from the French Angevin dynasty that was descended from Queen Matilda and Geoffrey Martel, the Count of Anjou.

The “Round Table” as it was later conceived showing the Tudor Rose

The first Plantagenet King of England was Henry the Second, the son of the third Norman King Henry Ist (Youngest son of William the Conqueror), who married Eleanor of Aquitaine and was the father of Richard the Lionheart, a supporter of the Third Crusade. The family is descended from the Angevins (founded by Fulke I, who died 938) by way of Geoffrey Martel, Count D’Anjou who married Henry Ist’s daughter Matilda. Their combined territories then extended from the Tweed in N. England to the Pyrenees in N. Spain. However, this vast acquisition was subsequently broken up by King Phillip the Second of France. The other Angevin line was founded by King Louis the Eighth’s brother, Charles (later Charles Ist) in 1246 whose own empire then extended to Naples, Italy and the island of Sicily. The name Plantagenet was adopted in the 15th century because he wore a sprig of yellow broom (Spartium junceum), as an heraldic mascot in his cap (See “A Rose By Any Other Name”). King Richard the Third, from the newly named Royal House of York, was therefore the last of the French Plantagenets to lay claim to the English throne.

The last of the Plantagenet monarchs, King Richard the Third is the concluding chronological sequence of the History of Henry the Sixth (itself produced dramatically in 3 parts). It was first published under the title of “The Tragedie of King Richard the Third”, although elsewhere it is also known as “The Life and Death of King Richard the Third”. It was probably written almost immediately after Henry Sixth part 3 that is sometime around 1591-92. It has become accepted that the play is historically incorrect and that it was for whatever reason a blatant piece of Tudor propaganda intended to diminish or demean Richard and his claim to kingship. The literary source for the play derives from the humanist Thomas More’s account (King Richard the Third-1513) and later renditions by the 16th century historians notably Edward Hall (The Union of the Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre And York-1548) and Raphael Hollinshed’s“The Chronicle of England, Scotland and Ireland” (1577, revised 1587). The latter observed many of the historical events that Thomas More related and described in the character of Richard. However, an important element of these chronicles was to convey moral or religious allegory and not specifically the facts and Shakespeare likewise employed a great deal of artistic licence purely for dramatic effect. However, there are a great number of glaring anomalies. For example Lady Anne had been betrothed to King Henry’s son Edward not actually married to him and Richard’s unsuccessful attempt to invade England in 1483 is conflated with his second successful invasion in 1485. He also introduces the old Queen Margaret, who was absent through most of the events depicted in the play. Moreover the depiction of Richard as a hunchback and devilish Machiavellian antagonist is a pure fiction. In Shakespeare’s “Venus & Adonis” reference is made to “ugliness” as a reason to reject the advances of a suitor:

Were I hard-favor’d, foul, or wrinkled old,
Ill-nurtur’d, crooked, churlish, harsh in voice,
O’erworn, despised, rheumatic, and cold,
Thick-sighted, barren, lean, and lacking juice,
Then mightst thou pause, for then I were not for thee,
But having no defects, why dost abhor me?
(lines 133-38)

The character Caliban represents the black magic of his mother and initially appears to be bad, especially when judged by conventional civilized standards of the “noble savage”. Because Prospero has conquered or enslaved him, Caliban plots to murder Prospero in revenge. But in the end abandons him on the island. However, he is the bastard child of an evil witch and a devil. The Harvard professor Jeffrey R. Wilson writes about Shakespeare’s use of stigmatic drama, particularly in “The Tempest” with the character of Caliban:

Caliban performs a jig to the amusement of the mariners

“The dramatis personae of The Tempest casts Caliban as “a savage and deformed slave.” Interestingly, Shakespeare’s three deformed characters – Richard, Thersites, and Caliban – all serve a similar dramatic function: each is an irreverent clown and audience favorite who ends up trashed at the end of the play by some hero: the Earl of Richmond slaughters Richard III, Hector runs Thersites off the stage, and Prospero leaves Caliban alone on his island. But it is even more remarkable that Shakespeare extended his system for handling physical deformity to other kinds of stigma: he used the same dramatic strategy to represent characters with physical deformities, racial differences, bastard births, and mental deficiencies. In other words, Richard, Thersites, and Caliban perform the same dramatic function as Shylock, Edmund, and Bottom. If so, then Shakespeare was not representing deformity nor minority nor bastardy nor idiocy but stigma, discredited difference from cultural norms. And Caliban is Shakespeare’s final, and in some ways his fullest, stigmatized character: he is certainly physically deformed, potentially racially different, arguably mentally challenged, and allegedly a bastard child of the devil.”

What might have inspired the villainous caricature of Richard the Third, which is if we seriously consider that Edward de Vere was the real author of Shakespeare’s plays would have been the real-life figure of Robert Cecil, the son of Lord Burghley who we know suffered from a spinal deformity from birth. Alluding to Richard’s deformity De Vere would have had some resentment or malice towards Robert Cecil for several reasons. Whether, as others have argued he was prejudiced to those commoners with deformities or disability is actually unclear since popular beliefs support both views however bigoted and impartial. Robert Cecil was instrumental in conniving with Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton and paving the way for King James’s succession to the English throne. Henry Howard arranged for the hasty inquest and burial of Thomas Overbury who was secretly poisoned in the Tower. Reputed like James to be of a homosexual persuasion in 1608 he was greatly rewarded from the King’s favour and made Lord Privy Seal and High Steward of Oxford in 1609, and eventually the chancellor of Cambridge University in 1612. Despite its historical inaccuracies the play, largely because of its fantastical and stereotypical depiction of events, was very popular and went through five quarto versions before the final publication of the 1623 Folio. As in many other plays the integrity and authenticity of the various texts available in the absence of the original manuscript is questionable from the presence of several foul papers and bad quartos. It was listed at the Stationer’s Office in 1597 without the playwright’s name with a full title page, printed by Valentine Sims for Andrew Wise from Paul’s Church Yard at the Sign of the Angel. Its evolutionary history lists numerous omissions, corrections, and revisions up to its final completion by numerous academic editions. References to a noble line being deformed by nature’s hand can be found in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and in the poem “The Rape of Lucrece”:

Bottom is transformed into a monstrous Ass

Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue, there create,
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be;
And the blots of Nature’s hand
Shall not in their issue stand;
Never mole, hare lip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised in nativity,
Shall upon their children be.

Then, for thy husband and thy children’s sake,
Tender my suit: bequeath not to their lot
The shame that from them no device can take,
The blemish that will never be forgot;
Worse than a slavish wipe or birth-hour’s blot:
For marks descried in men’s nativity
Are nature’s faults, not their own infamy.
(Rape of Lucrece: 533-39)

In effect it is the final part of a tetralogy culminating in the death of Richard Duke of York, and the three parts of King Henry the Sixth that describe the consequences of the Wars of the Roses. When Francis Bacon was imprisoned in the Tower for fraud and corruption he wrote the historical drama of Henry the Seventh thus filling in the historical vacuum left by the pseudonymous “Shakespeare”. This led some literary researchers to suggest that Sir Francis Bacon, known to be a prolific writer was secretly the real author of Shakespeare’s plays (see “The Shakespeare Enigma” by Peter Dawkins). The suggestion that Bacon was the author is covered and explored in the first Part of my book “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” in the chapter headed The Shakespeare Controversy. What may be of interest in a contemporary social sense is the period’s understanding on disability or more pertinently deformity in the royal line. There was a common view that any impediment or visual mark on a monarch was a sign of their inability to rule wisely. Reference to physical abnormality is made in King John:

If thou, that bid’st me be content, wert grim,
Ugly and slanderous to thy mother’s womb,
Full of unpleasing blots and sightless stains,
Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious,
Patch’d with foul moles and eye-offending marks,
I would not care, I then would be content,
For then I should not love thee, no, nor thou
Become thy great birth nor deserve a crown.
But thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy,
Nature and Fortune join’d to make thee great.

King John:
Hadst not thou been by,
A fellow by the hand of nature mark’d,
Quoted and sign’d to do a deed of shame,
This murder had not come into my mind:
But taking note of thy abhorr’d aspect,
Finding thee fit for bloody villany,
Apt, liable to be employ’d in danger,
I faintly broke with thee of Arthur’s death.

Sir Francis Bacon’s views on deformity, although not particularly widespread or popular among academics and scholars, are of some interest when examining the prevailing attitudes of the time:

Of Deformity:

From Manuscripts 1612, 1625 by Francis Bacon:

Deformed persons are commonly even with nature: for as nature hath done ill by them, so do they by nature, being for the most part (as the Scripture saith) void of natural affection; and so they have their revenge of nature. Certainly there is a consent between the body and the mind, and where nature erreth in the one, she ventureth in the other: Ubipeccat in uno, periclitatur in altero.(1)

But because there is in man an election touching the frame of his mind, and a necessity in the frame of his body, the stars of natural inclination are sometimes obscured by the sun of discipline and virtue. Therefore it is good to consider of deformity, not as a sign, which is more deceivable, but as a cause, which seldom faileth of the effect. Whosoever hath anything fixed in his person that doth induce contempt, hath also a perpetual spur in himself to rescue and deliver himself from scorn. Therefore all deformed persons are extreme bold — first, as in their own defence, as being exposed to scorn, but in process of time, by a general habit. Also, it stirreth in them industry, and especially of this kind, to watch and observe the weakness of others, that they may have somewhat to repay. Again, in their superiors, it quencheth jealousy towards them, as persons that they think they may at pleasure despise; and it layeth their competitors and emulators asleep, as never believing they should be in possibility of advancement, till they see them in possession. So that upon the matter, in a great wit deformity is an advantage to rising. Kings in ancient times (and at this present in some countries) were wont to put great trust in eunuchs, because they that are envious towards all are more obnoxious and officious towards one. But yet their trust towards them hath rather been as to good spies and good whisperers than good magistrates and officers. And much like is the reason of deformed persons. Still the ground is, they will, if they be of spirit, seek to free themselves from scorn, which must be either by virtue or malice. And therefore let it not be marvelled if sometimes they prove excellent persons; as was Agesilaus, Zanger the son of Solyman, Aesop, Gasca, President of Peru; and Socrates may go likewise amongst them, with others.

What might have inspired the caricature and devilish motivations eloquently portrayed in Richard the Third was perhaps the ideas of the character found in Nicolo Machiavelli’s Book, “The Prince”. This was translated by Sir Thomas Hoby with a foreword by Thomas Sackville and dedicated to Sir Henry Hastings in 1561 under the new title “The Courtier”. This book reflected the harsh reality of politics and the tough decisions that many reformers needed to make to avoid sinking back into mob rule when monarchic institutions had been displaced by violent revolution and then stabilised by some element of democratic rule.

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


“A Rose By Any Other Name…”

Stained glass emblem of the Tudor Rose

During Shakespeare’s time even a theatre was constructed on Bankside entitled “The Rose” and in previous years Henry VIIIth had a warship built called the Mary Rose which sank in the English Channel during a conflagration with the Spanish. “Oh! But what’s in a name?” Thus wrote the Bard in Romeo & Juliet adding: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Was this a cryptic phrase meant to suggest that the name of the playwright or poet mattered much less than what he offered to the public in dramatic and literary terms? In my previous essay “Creative Anonymity” I have laid out the advantage of writing anonymously in the Elizabethan era particularly if the author of the Shakespeare Canon of 1623 was himself a well-known and respected aristocrat.

The term Plantagenet was employed to describe descendants of Queen Matilda and Geoffrey Martel, Count D’Anjou – the Angevins. He derived this nickname because he wore a sprig of broom (Spartium junceum) in his cap. The name was formally adopted in the 15th century to further Richard’s claim to the throne. Henry VIth’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, however, wanted her son, Edward, Prince of Wales, to succeed his father, and in 1455 she raised an army to defend his claim, thus beginning the Wars of the Roses.

Stained glass window depicting Henry VIIth and his bride Elizabeth of York

In the 1590’s the London audience had good reason to feel exultantly patriotic and celebrate the bravery of England’s armies against its enemies in France and elsewhere having successfully repulsed the Spanish Armada in 1588 although the only original text of the play was first published in the 1623 Folio. Shakespeare is thought to be responsible for Act II, scene 4 where the supporters of the Lancastrian and Yorkist camps pick the red and white roses as a symbol of unity. He is also attributed to the battle scenes at Bordeaux where Talbot and his son die because the egregious nobles refused them any further support. It is worth noting that the plays Henry VIth Part 2 and Part 3 were first made available in octavo and quarto texts entitled “The Contention of the Two Famous Houses of Yorke & Lancaster”, “The Second Part of Henry Sixth”, and “The Third Part of Henry Sixth”. A quarto text also exists entitled “The True Tragedie of Richard of Yorke and Good King Henry the Sixth”. None of them have as yet been dated accurately, and some contention exists over whether in fact these were an earlier revision of the play Henry Vth. Also Henry was a mere nine months when his father died although the play portrays him as a youth in the beginning and about to marry towards the end of the play. This device of historical compression for the sake of dramatic effect is quite common in Shakespeare’s history plays. The capture of Rouen by Lord Talbot is also historically untrue, the portrayal of Sir John Folstaff as a coward is another falsehood which leads us to conclude that in this play and several others Shakespeare or his collaborators, either for propagandist or creative reasons, had a propensity for re-shaping history and not recording it accurately. It would seem the purpose of this drama was to instil a feeling of national pride and exultation. Shakespeare neglects to mention that the turmoil of events when Henry IVth deposed the rightful monarch Richard II was the wrath of God as was more the popular view at the time. The play also characterises Joan of Arc, though dressed as a man in armour,  as a witch and a whore, whether she was perceived in that manner by England’s populace based on prejudice or bigotry is uncertain. Her encounter with Talbot on the battlefield has overtones of misogyny and fear of the feminine with several comparisons being made to the Amazonian women found in Greek myth. Some analogies could be drawn with Queen Elizabeth donning armour to join her troops in 1588 at Tilbury to face the Spanish invasion. In the fifth act where her execution by fire occurs Joan of Arc is diminished into a nervous, vulnerable practitioner of witchcraft, invoking demons and claiming to be pregnant in order to avoid the stake. However, Joan is not the only threat to English manhood in France, the Countess of Auverne, and Margaret of Anjou whom Henry chooses to marry although the Duke of Suffolk has declared his admiration of her. The message being communicated towards the end of the play is that while men have the means and opportunity to go into battle, women or “witches” have the power to ensure legitimate inheritance of power.

Shakespeare seems to emphasize that division and disagreement in England’s realm can only lead to ultimate defeat and loss in France;

“Believe me lords, my tender years can tell
Civil dissension is a viperous worm
That gnaws the bowels of the commonwealth.”

This play is punctuated with sporadic battle scenes and skirmishes which creates an exciting atmosphere as a penultimate conclusion to the “Wars of the Roses” . Finally, Henry Tudor, a descendant of John of Gaunt defeats Richard III and marries Elizabeth of York, the marriage acting as a balm to soothe the bitter enmity between those two illustrious Houses, York and Lancaster. The colours of red rose and white, favourite emblems in Edward de Vere’s poetry and plays find a noble place in his history plays. By the time the Tudor dynasty had expired in 1603, a year later the illustrious Earl died, probably of plague or fever in London, Hackney.

Richard the Second, Richard the Third & Henry the Sixth

The Duke of York asserted his claim to the throne in 1460, after having defeated the Lancastrian armies at St. Albans in 1455 and at Northampton in 1460.
In the latter year Richard of York was defeated and killed at Wakefield. In 1461, however, his son was proclaimed King as Edward IVth and shortly thereafter he decisively defeated Henry VIth and Margaret, who both fled from England. However, in 1465 Henry VIth was captured at Clitheroe and imprisoned in the Tower of London. The war was subsequently revived because of divisions within the Yorkist faction. Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, aided by George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, the younger brother of Edward IVth, made an alliance with Margaret and led an invasion from France in 1470. Consequently Edward IVth was driven into exile and Henry VIth restored to the throne. A cunning magnate, statesman and adventurer, Warwick, who was known as the “Kingmaker”, assisted Edward IVth, Duke of York in securing the English throne in 1461, but much later switched sides backing Henry VIth’s brief return. In 1471, however, Edward IVth returned and, aided by Clarence, defeated and killed the duplicitous Earl of Warwick at the Battle of Barnet. Shortly thereafter, the Lancastrians were totally defeated at the Battle of Tewkesbury, and Henry VIth was eventually murdered in the Tower.

In actual fact the theatrical milieu in Shakespeare’s time was in effect a cover for extensive networks of spies, informers, intelligencers and double agents. As thoroughly illustrated by the forensic research of Thomas J. Looney in the 1920’s the only likely candidate for Shakespeare’s plays and poetry was someone who was firstly a well-educated aristocrat (having attended a university such as Oxford or Cambridge as well as one of the Inns of Court) with a huge library at his disposal, a prolific polymath/scholar, of Catholic leanings but above all a supporter of the Lancastrian cause. In a previous post entitled “Shakespeare’s Codename” I have also placed the name SHAKESPEARE under the microscopic scrutiny of numerology, known and employed at the time by spies and cryptographers employed in secret service. I also mentioned that the reference to the herb rosemary in Romeo & Juliet (and the “Dog’s Name” could in fact be an oblique reference to the Dog Rose, rosa canina? ) was a veiled reference to the arrival and demise of Mary Queen of Scots, largely because the word “ROSE” is an Elizabethan euphemism for a street prostitute. The French court was considered by English Puritans and Protestants as a promiscuous and debauched environment where perverse and incestuous engagements were rife. Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford was actually sitting in on the trial of Mary Stuart at the time and, although of the Catholic faith, was not a great supporter of Mary’s covert claims to the English throne. In an exchange between Romeo and Juliet a veiled reference is made to Mary’s envy of Queen Elizabeth’s status:

The famous balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet

But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and JULIET is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious MOON,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
From her balcony she replies as follows:
O ROMEO, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy NAME;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a CAPULET.

The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots at Fotheringay Castle

Incidentally, a translation of the first line is “Oh Romeo, why is your name Romeo?”, Juliet is not asking “where” he is but why was he called by that name. It appears that Romeo is an anagram of O, Rome or possibly Moore (Thomas?). The playwright may have made an oblique allusion to Ben Jonson’s own book on English Grammar where the letter ‘R’ was compared to the sound of a dog (grrr):

“The dog’s letter hirreth in the sound, the tongue striking the inner palate, with a trembling about the teeth. It is sounded firme in the beginning of the words, and more liquid in the middle, and ends as in “rarer”, “riper”.

The intriguing and tragic story of Mary Queen of Scots can be read by clicking on the following links (Mary Queen of Scots, Part One, and Mary Queen of Scots Part Two).

However, historically it might also be an allusion to Henry IVth’s motto, along with the white rose: “Soueignex Vous de Moy”, (Remember Me) since in the art of Florigraphy the herb rosemary connotes the phrase “In Remembrance” since it was used at funerals. The earliest use of the phrase “Wars of the Roses” was coined by Lady Maria Callcott in her children’s book, “Little Arthur’s History of England” in 1835 although it did play a role in emblems and heraldry dating back to the 15th century. In fact roses were popular symbols deployed in politics, literature, poetry and art throughout Europe during the middle ages for a variety of reasons. The 14th century Italian writer and literary source for several of Shakespeare’s plays, Giovanni Boccacio employed the rose as a symbol of love and death. However, the first known royal rose in England was a white rose representing the House of York, although other aristocratic families were using both red and white roses as emblems on their coats of arms and in their architecture. In actual fact King Edward IVth, an ancestor of Richard Duke of York, used the white rose as a symbol of his kingship when he became king in 1461. It was known as the “Rose of Rouen” where he celebrated most of his victories over the French. While the red rose became a popular royal symbol from the time of Henry IVth whose pavilions were liberally decorated with red roses when he met in combat Sir Thomas Mowbray in 1398 and right through to the reign of Henry VIIth in the 1480’s. It was especially significant after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 that the red rose became prominent as a “royal badge” or emblem. By then it signified the House of Lancaster (“To avenge the White, the red rose bloomed”) denoting or perhaps strengthening the Tudor claim to royal legitimacy. This paved the way for the “Tudor Rose” in Henry VIIIth’s reign when both the white and red rose were combined to symbolise the union of both houses when Henry VIIth had married Elizabeth of York (Edward IVth’s daughter) in 1486, thereby killing two birds with one stone. Henry’s court poet John Skelton wrote:

“The rose both white and red
In one rose now doth grow”.

Thereby confirming the current state of royal affairs in England justifying and strengthening the Tudor’s dubious claim to the English throne even against numerous contestations from other illegitimate claims, for example Richard Duke of York. In this sense Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo & Juliet is an allegory of the two warring families, the House of Lancaster and the House of York are analogous to the House of Montague and the House of Capulet. Not many students of Shakespeare appreciate that under the reckless influence of Lorenzo de Medici, the Medici family even financed the Yorkist claim in the Wars of the Roses in England that ultimately led to his demise and the triumph of the fanatical Dominican monk Savonarola (1452-98) around 1494 when the Medici were expelled. Savonarola himself was eventually excommunicated by a member of the Borgia family, Pope Alexander VIth (1492-1503), then imprisoned, hanged and finally burned for heresy by his political enemies. But what is often ignored by historians eulogising on the myth of the Tudors was that as a royal Welsh dynasty they were secretly born of a widowed French Princess (Catherine de Valois) and her Welsh man-servant in the late 1420’s. It was rumoured that Catherine de Valois had firstly a clandestine relationship with Edmund Beaufort, a five years her junior before becoming acquainted with her manservant Owen Tudor. It was further rumoured that her first child, Edmund was the result of this covert union although in the end she went on to marry Owen. After her death, both boys born to Catherine, Edmund and Jasper were brought up by the Countess of Salisbury, Katherine de la Pole on the advice of the Duke of Suffolk at a Dominican Abbey at Barking. When Henry the Fifth died of dysentery in France at the age of thirty six his widow, Catherine de Valois married Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudor giving rise to the usurping House of Lancaster in the guise of their son Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Edmund went on to marry Margaret Beaufort who then gave birth to Henry Tudor who acceded the throne as Henry VIIth. When Catherine died her husband feared for his safety and life in the absence of her protection although the members of the English Council had little interest or complaint against him. But when he finally returned to Wales however he was arrested on a minor charge of neglect of duty. There is scarce evidence or record on how a Welsh man-servant became intimately acquainted with Catherine de Valois in the first place, except that the dowager Queen had inherited lands and estates in North Wales and Anglesey where Owain had grown up as a child. Strangely enough it was Sir Francis Bacon who went on to write an historical play based on Henry VIIth’s reign while he was himself imprisoned in the Tower thereby concluding the Shakespeare historical plays based on the Tudor bloodline and the House of Lancaster. However, when Edward IVth died in 1483 his brother, later to become Richard IIIrd usurped the dynastic line by killing Edward’s only two surviving sons and claiming the throne for himself. Usually, the dynastic line was passed on from father to son, never from wife to son or for that matter brother to brother. When Edward the third died it was the end of the Plantagenet line of kings in England. Indeed, the Salic Law in France forbids any royal accession from the female bloodline. In Henry IVth, Part One Hotspur declares in Act 1, scene 3:

Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field

To put down Richard, that sweet lovely rose,
An plant this thorn, this canker, Bolingbroke?
And shall it in more shame be further spoken,
That you are fool’d, discarded and shook off
By him for whom these shames ye underwent?

While Richard, Duke of York declares in Henry VIth Part Three:

I cannot rest until the white rose that I wear be dyed
Even in the lukewarm blood of Henry’s heart.

In Shakespeare’s opening sonnet the word rose is used ambiguously, the rose being that of the Tudor dynasty, a red and white rose symbolising two royal bloodlines and the central white rose inverted as a symbol of beauty and desire unrequited. The other more likely Oxfordian perspective is that the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere was imploring his illegitimate son, the Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley to procreate thereby continuing the Oxford family bloodline:

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:

And later:

I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

One of the most mysterious and enigmatic “roses” to have bloomed in Europe and from there migrating into England was that of the “Sacred Order of the Rosy-Cross” as referenced in Shakespeare’s most famous play, Hamlet, considered by many academics as largely biographical. From a purely etymological perspective it appears that indeed there is a lot to be derived simply from a name and that Shakespeare’s is no exception. The hyphenation of a name in Elizabethan times was reserved for place names as for example in Stratford-upon-Avon or the integration of surnames derived from two noble families, eg: Fitz-Allan. The only other use is where the name is directly connected to their status, their place of birth or their occupation, for example Sir John Old-Castle (a place), Sir John Fal-staff (an occupation-yeoman). Moreover, the etymology of the word Shax-pere or Shags-peare is undoubtedly derived from an Anglo-Saxon place, namely Saxby, found only in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire and does not describe an occupation or family connection. Where the hyphen should be placed is as follows Sax-by (Shaks-pye), the placing of the hyphen as in the word “Shake-speare” is quite significant because it divides the two words “shake” and “spear”. A bizarre coincidence and which some believe to corroborate certain authorship issues connected to the English Bible is that the words “spear” and “shake” appear in the 46th Psalm. More so since the word “spear” occurs as the 46th word from the beginning and the word “shake” appears as the 46th word from the end. Therefore the question has emerged was “Shakespeare” also involved in the English translation of the Bible? The word Shake-speare, according to researchers and academics is an ingenious play of words and a word-riddle taken from the Latin epithet for the goddess Pallas-Athene ie; Hasti-Vibrans which means literally “shaking spear”. This is the same Greco-Roman goddess that appears as Britannia, except she carries a trident instead of a spear, as an icon found on English flags, monuments, coins and other national memorabilia. She is depicted facing sideways, wearing a helmet, a goatskin (aegis) on her shoulders, carrying a shield and is accompanied by a male lion (A solar symbol denoting Apollo, patron of poets). The lion is also a symbol of strength three of which appear on the English Royal coat of arms. Pallas Athena gained prominence in the Greek pantheon for her wisdom in settling disputes justly, issuing fair and equitable laws and decrees, bestowing support or victory in battle, regulating markets, defending the underdog and prosecuting tyranny and injustices. Her totem animal was the owl and she was the embodiment of harmony and justice formulating the ethos of human civilisation.
The founder of Rome, Romulus the twin of Remus launched a spear of laurel when selecting the site of the capital. The laurel tree (L. nobilis) was sacred to Mars and Mercurius, it symbolises victory and nobility. The portrait of Shakespeare in an edition of his plays and poems published in 1640 shows him holding a sprig of laurel in his left hand re-affirming the symbolism of laurel, Mars, the good of Rome and Mercurius, patron of poets. The sword or dagger is usually associated with Mars, but the spear, resembling a pen is sacred to Hermes, the patron of writers and scribes.

The statue of England’s Britannia

The fact that Shakespeare’s history play, Henry VIth Part One was never registered at the Stationer’s Office is partially overlooked by academics. Significantly a good deal of Act 1 was actually written by the playwright Thomas Nashe and Shakespeare’s contribution occurs at Act 2, scene 4 (the Temple Garden) and in other parts of the play. The Temple Garden scene has been proved to be pure fabrication and an expression of English, romantic idealism on the final outcome of the protracted “Wars of the Roses”, in which red and white roses were never picked or for that matter employed as emblems to identify the rival houses of York and Lancaster. We also note that Shakespeare was the only playwright who expressed such an avid enthusiasm for writing plays about earlier English history featuring in particular aspects of “The Wars of the Roses” (Richard II to Henry VII). The play was probably composed during 1587-90 just after the failed Spanish invasion so must have been the consequence of celebrating England’s past, its heroes and their conquests over other rival nations such as the French. However, it is evident from the text that historical accuracy was sacrificed in favour of a sense of superior nationalism and dramatic effect in uniting the nation under threat from a foreign agency. I have already written about the impact made by Joan of Arc against the indefatigable hero Talbot in my blogpost “Shakespeare’s She-Wolves, Part Two”. In this sense these dramatic histories are really the work of a propagandist or “spin-doctor” working for the Crown and other noble families. The Maid of Orleans, La Pucelle (Fr. “The Shepherdess”) certainly received a bad press in Shakespeare’s play and was ostensibly branded as a deluded witch. Furthermore, historically the Earl of Oxford’s ancestors were actually militarily supportive of Henry Bollingbroke’s claim to the English throne during the Wars of the Roses and instrumental in defeating his enemies in France and in England.

Shakespeare’s poem “Venus & Adonis” (published 1593) is based on Ovid’s account in his own “Metamorphoses” of Aphrodite’s passion and admiration of the youth born of an incestuous liaison between Kinyras and his daughter, Myrrha. Aphrodite’s lust for the youth was so great that she hid him in a chest which she entrusted to Persephone in the Underworld but as things turned out Queen Persephone also became enamoured of the handsome youth so that both Aphrodite and Persephone brought their disputation to Olympian Zeus. The outcome of this protestation was decided by Zeus whereby Adonis was obliged to spend a third of the year with Aphrodite (Springtime), a third of the year with Persephone (Winter) and the remaining third with Zeus (Summertime). During a hunt Adonis is gored by a boar and eventually dies but was transformed into a flower, in some accounts this became the anemone (“Windflower”, anemone nemorosa) but in another account Adonis is transformed into a red rose and as Aphrodite rushed to his aid she herself stepped upon a white rose, but stained with her own blood it became a symbol of unrequited love.

The poem begins:

‘Thrice fairer than myself,’ thus she began,
‘The field’s chief flower, sweet above compare,
Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man,
More white and red than doves or roses are;
Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life.

And then ends in the penultimate stanza she clutches the flower to her breast saying:

“Here was thy father’s bed, here in my breast;
Thou art the next of blood, and t’is thy right.
Lo, in this hollow cradle take thy rest;
My throbbing heart shall rock thee day and night;
There shall not be one minute in an hour
Wherein I will not kiss my sweet love’s flower”.

Thus weary of the world, away she hies,
And yokes her silver doves; by whose swift aid
Their mistress, mounted, through the empty skies
In her light chariot quickly is convey’d;
Holding their course to Paphos, where their queen
Means to immure herself and not be seen.

Since then scholars and botanists have been in contention to identify exactly which species of flower is referred to in Ovid. Traditionally, the flower is named as anemone nemorosa which is commonly known in the British Isles as the “Windflower”, but the passage describes it as having blood-red flowers not unlike the ripening seed clusters of the pomegranate. Apparently, A. nemerosa can also produce red-flowering corms among the white flowering species so that the woodland carpet features both red and white flowers in springtime. However, it seems that a related Mediterranean species named “Adonis aestivalis” (commonly named “Pheasant’s Eyes”, which in itself resembles a poppy) could so easily be a good candidate for the flower. Other suggestions are in actual fact Papaver somniforum, for its sleep-inducing properties since poetic references in Greek and Roman myth usually refer indirectly to the “medicinal or magical” properties of these plants despite their appearance. Another Mediterranean species named A. Purpureoviolacea is also a candidate with its purple-violet flowers. The renowned poet Ted Hughes writes in his own “Tales From Ovid” (Faber & Faber) and translates the final passage as follows:

“The circling year shall be your mourner.
Your blood shall bloom immortal in a flower.
Persephone preserved a girl’s life

And fragrance in pale mint. I shall not do less.
Into the broken Adonis she now dripped nectar.
His blood began to seethe – as bubbles thickly

Bulge out of hot mud. Within the hour
Where he had lain a flower stood – bright-blooded
As those beads packed in the hard rind

Of a pomegranate. This flower’s life is brief.
For petals cling so weakly, so ready to fall
Under the first light wind that kisses it,
We call it “Windflower”.

The Elizabethan botanist and herbalist John Gerard identifies the flower in question as a variety of fritillary from its description as “chequered” purple white (fritillaria meleagris) as the so-called “snake’s-head” fritillary which grows in damp Mediterranean meadows, flowering late spring which has pendant tulip-shaped flowers embellished with chequered purple-white petals reminiscent of the design on a snake’s scaly skin. The white checks are in fact tinged in greeny-pale yellow shades, another variety is similar but purely white (F.meleagris var. unicolor alba). The preceding stanzas describe it as having also a strange fragrance or odour:

By this, the boy that by her side lay kill’d
Was melted like a vapour from her sight,
And in his blood that on the ground lay spill’d,
A purple flower sprung up, chequer’d with white;
Resembling well his pale cheeks, and the blood
Which in round drops upon their whiteness stood.

She bows her head, the new-sprung flower to smell,
Comparing it to her Adonis’ breath;
And says within her bosom it shall dwell,
Since he himself is reft from her by death:
She crops the stalk, and in the breach appears
Green dropping sap, which she compares to tears.

The allegory of the two “warring families” resolved in a “marriage” in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet was probably taken from the classical story of the houses of the rival houses of Atreus and Thyestes where an oracle had proclaimed that the kingship of Mycenae would pass onto a son of Pelops. It is a long and convoluted story featuring revenge, incest and betrayal whereby Atreus inadvertently marries his niece, Pelopeia thinking she was a daughter of King Thesprotos. The progeny of their union was Aigisthos who was passed on to a shepherd whose goat, Amalthea suckled him as a youth. Having grown up he then told Pelopeia of her incestuous child and she then took his sword and killed herself. This left the way open for Aigisthos to overthrow Atreus and assume the kingship of Mycenae. The classical source is found in Sophocles’ plays “Atreus” and “Thyestes in Sikyon” or Seneca’s “Thyestes” as well as Euripides“Electra”. However, the sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus go on to challenge Aigisthos when they marry Klytaimnestra and Kassandra making them kings of Mycenae and Sparta respectively. See also AeschylusOresteia trilogy the first of which is entitled “Agamemnon” and much later the “Revenge of Orestes” which features strongly in Shakespeare’s famous play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

On the other hand Richard II was presumably written before Henry IVth Part One, in which the character Falstaff first appears, he was previously listed in the dramatis personae as Sir John Oldcastle, but the Lord Chamberlain, Henry Carey (1583 Lord Chamberlain’s Men) objected to the lewd depiction of him by Shakespeare, who he knew was a good and honest man who died a Protestant martyr. By this time the Privy Council became suspicious of theatrical plays that had allusions which would give rise to street riots and spontaneous rebellions in the streets of London. This happened on numerous occasions especially whenever historical accounts were performed. The following is an account of how the Dowager Countess, Elizabeth Russell became “Shakespeare’s Nemesis” forcing the closure of the Blackfriar’s Theatre, which ostensibly gave rise to the construction of the Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames. Henry Brooke, the tenth Baron Cobham whose distant ancestor was Sir John Oldcastle complained, his son, also called Henry succeeded him in 1597 and probably forced Shakespeare to change the name to Falstaff. The eleventh Baron Cobham was related as brother-in-law to Robert Cecil and to the Dowager Countess, Elizabeth Russell who petitioned the Privy Council to close the theatres in 1597 because of the onset of plague. But the real reason they closed the theatres was the danger that certain plays would arouse the populace to riot in the streets of London, as intended by the Earl of Essex in 1600 (Essex Rebellion) who paid to have Shakespeare’s play Richard III to be performed which featured the deposition of a monarch. The monarch that the Earl of Essex had planned to depose was of course Queen Elizabeth. The post of Master of the Revels was then officially occupied by Edmund Tilney (?-1610) distantly related to the Howard family he was appointed to the office of Master of the Revels in 1579, enrolling actors for the Queen’s Men in 1583 and by 1589 was advising the Lord Mayor of London on the censorship of plays. His father actually fought alongside Richard III, and in 1597 he was awarded the Master of the Revels by Queen Elizabeth although the office had been promised to John Lyly, the Earl of Oxford’s private secretary. He worked along the incumbent Master of the Revels and did not succeed Edmund Tilney (died 1610) until 1608. George Buck (1562-1622) relocated the Master’s Office to St. Peter’s Hill in 1610. His personal signature appears on all the Shakespeare plays registered after 1606.

Furthermore, Henry Carey (1st Baron Hunsdon)-1583 cousin and step-brother to Queen Elizabeth 1st was the son of Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s sister and Sir William Carey although it was rumoured he was the son of Henry VIIIth. He took command in the Northern Rebellion (1569-71), made a Knight of the Garter in 1561 and governor of Berwick in 1568. He reconstituted his own players troupe in 1594 as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men with manager Richard Burbage and the playwright William Shakespeare. He was also a commissioner at various treason trials eg: Mary, Queen of Scots and the Duke of Norfolk. His son George Carey (2nd Baron Hunsdon)-1596 succeeded his father Henry Carey serving under the Earl of Essex and undertaking missions to Scotland (1569-71). He acceded to his father’s tile in 1595 and as Lord Chamberlain in 1596. The post gave him patronage of the company of Shakespeare and the Burbages (Cuthbert) firstly at the Theatre then moving to the Globe in December 1598. On the death of Queen Elizabeth he helped his son, Robert Carey (1560-1639) to escape to Scotland with the news. He eventually became Earl of Monmouth in 1626. The other character from the Office of the Revels was Sir William Brooke (10th Baron Cobham) whose daughter Elizabeth Brooke married Robert Cecil in 1589, so Henry Brooke (11th Baron Cobham) became Robert’s brother-in-law. His son Henry Brooke (11th Lord Cobham) lived in Kent but had a residence at Blackfriar’s (as did Elizabeth Russell) he was succeeded by his son Henry (12th Lord Cobham) 1597. He opposed the return of James 1st and was accused of conspiracy in placing Arabella Stuart on the English throne. Arrested, imprisoned and questioned but was later released in 1603. His noble family also descended from the Lollard martyr, Sir John Oldcastle. The younger son of William Brooke, George Brooke (1568-1603), became 10th Baron Hunsdson, and he expected to be made Mastership of St. Cross at Winchester but the post was awarded to one of King James’ favourites instead. This rejection was probably the reason that he plotted with Lord Grey of Wilton to kidnap the King and force him to change his counsel expecting the role of Lord Treasurer. However, he was arrested in July 1603, imprisoned and executed for his involvement in the “Bye Plot”.

The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


Gurdjieff’s Psychodynamics

St. George slaying the Dragon in order to rescue the Maiden

G.I. Gurdjieff was alive when the new psychology and the psychoanalytic schools of Sigmund Freud and Carl, Gustav Jung were born among intellectuals in Europe; although Gurdjieff was not especially fond of the psychoanalytic method dependent on the delicate relationship between psychiatrist and client. Comparing Gurdjieff’s writing with that of Carl Jung, the writer Vrasidas Karalis makes a tentative supposition as follows:

“The third part of Gurdjieff’s trilogy “All and Everything” has not been studied sufficiently or earned any considerable attention by scholars. Its structure seems rather incoherent and circumstantial and its overall message diffused and centre-less. However, in the last book Gurdjieff illustrates metonymically the transition from self-consciousness to what he called objective knowledge, a cogitation on the self and the world around it without any psychological projections or emotional transferences. An analogous approach to the question of the personal and collective identities can be found in C.G. Jung’s principle of individuation according to which the individual has to not only appropriate the collective myths of its society but also to see them “objectively” which means as “social objects.” The present paper discusses the process of psychological projection as advocated by Jung in order to individuate collective representations and experience the objectivity of the real while delineating Gurdjieff’s response to one of the central principles of depth psychology.”

His entire paper, written with the usual pseudo-academic emphasis on this subject is available free of charge on the internet. However he does admit:

The Psychoanalytic trio of teachers, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff

“As in everything written by Gurdjieff, it is the voice of the master that matters and the signifying practices of his actual presence that make the sentences, so long-winded and serpentine, ultimately converge not on the written page but on the embodied reality of their speaker. The master is the message and not simply the messenger.”

He mentions that at Fontainebleu Gurdjieff was undertaking work simultaneously with exoteric groups, mesoteric groups and esoteric groups. Now, I have already illustrated in my previous article: “The Mnemonics of Gurdjieff’s Trilogy” that there is indeed a definitive structure to Gurdjieff’s writings, rather than there being a random or vague delineation of his ideas or theories in his written expositions. However, the work was an evolving, dynamic process even though much later some pupils attempted to preserve his ideas in aspic and maintained a somewhat retrospective and conservative view towards those ideas as tools for self-improvement. Some aspects of Transactional Analysis seem to support some of Gurdjieff’s ideas about the underlying or unconscious mechanics to the teacher and pupil as well as the way that human beings tend to interact with each other.

The Drama Triangle in Action

Whether we know it, or not, most of us react to life unconsciously as victims of fate or life’s circumstances realizing it and rarely do we get the time to reflect earnestly. Whenever we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves, we are unconsciously choosing to react as a victim of someone else’s attitudes or actions. This posture inevitably creates feelings of suppressed anger, fear, guilt or a sense of inadequacy and often leaves us feeling betrayed, or being taken advantage of by others.

Victim-hood can be defined by the three positions beautifully outlined in a diagram developed by a well respected psychiatrist, and teacher of Transactional Analysis, a guy named Stephen Karpman. He named it the “Drama Triangle,” although it is also referred to it as the victim triangle, he writes:
“Having discovered this resource some thirty years ago, it has become one of the more important tools in my personal and professional life. The more I teach and apply the victim triangle to relationship the deeper my appreciation grows for this simple, powerfully accurate instrument.” He goes on to say:
“I’ve sometimes referred to the victim triangle as a “shame generator” because through it we unconsciously re-enact painful life themes that create shame and a sense of inadequacy. This has the effect of reinforcing old, painful beliefs that keep us stuck in a limited version of reality.