It has already been shown, and now largely taken for granted, that the 22 cards and their gestalt images correspond to the 22 letters of the Etruscan and Jewish alphabets. In retrospect one might even find this idea itself remarkable as well as puzzling, if we did not in many respects take it for granted. From what we now know of the megalithic culture and the origin of their numerical scales, weights and measures, they were invariably linked to some natural or supernatural correspondence. If we take for example the art of Palmistry, we might easily postulate that the 5 fingers of the human hand bear the hallmark of a grand signature. The art or science of semiotics relies heavily on there being an innate human response to images that evoke a greater truth or reality. Existential truths are often sealed or rather entombed in metaphors or analogies which protect them from perversion and misuse. The fact that human beings have two hands extends this natural analogy even further giving rise to the myriad speculations about the esoteric significance of the numbers 0-9, or in some systems 1-10. The ancient Druids would not have failed to see an important correlation between the number of digits on each hand and the order of the Universe. The idea that Man was a microcosm which was identical in every respect with a macrocosm existed even well before the advent of Christianity. It is the very foundation stone of Occult Science.
A set of mysterious Neolithic “stone balls” carved into the form of the 5 Platonic solids were found in Scotland which were dated 1,000 years earlier than the time of Plato. The study of spherical co-ordinates equates well with the construction of ancient stone circle astronomical observatories such as Stonehenge or Maes Howe and suggests an interest in cosmic phenomena well before the Egyptians took it upon themselves to construct the Pyramids. The esoteric significance of the 22 Trumps and perhaps the allocation of the Fool to the 22nd path in the French system may have some bearing on the number of bones which make up the crown of the human skull. As already laid out in the above introduction the sequence and order of the 22 Tarot Trumps is directly related to calendrical symbolism but they are also numeric gestalts that evince ever more ripples or currents of understanding below the surface of mere reason or mathematical symbolism. The question we need to ask therefore is whether the ancient necromancers were aware themselves of this correlation and if within this apparent coincidence there might not inhabit a greater mystery.
Whenever we examine in detail the work of the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare”, his plays and poetry and take note of the inclusion of so much of 15th and 16th century occult science hidden within it then it would not be unusual to assume that the playwright had more than a passing acquaintance with the divination system in Europe known as the Tarot. When I realised that the author of Shakespeare’s Folio (Edward de Vere) had travelled to Italy and France where the Tarot was already flourishing it would be safe to assume that he had acquired his own deck of Tarot cards and indeed probably used them in a creative manner. By 1450 the first 78-card deck was commissioned by the Visconti-Sforza family and in France by 1392 Charles VIth commissioned Jacquemin Gringonneur to create three hand-painted packs. However, the first list of the Major Arcana in Europe was found in a Latin manuscript entitled “Sermones de Ludo Cumalis” (1500) and by 1540 in Italy it is defined and described as a divination system by Marcolino (“Le Sorti”). Furthermore, as I have subsequently discovered Edward de Vere was a member of the Rosicrucian Order as well as a Freemason and he would without doubt have come across a divination system originally known as ROTA. With this thought or prognosis in mind I have drawn numerous correspondences between the plays of “William Shakespeare” and the 22 Tarot Trumps. This year in a series of posts I hope to highlight and compare each Tarot key with a Shakespearean play to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s Folio. The 1623 First Folio edition features 36 plays, 14 are listed as “Comedies”, 10 as “Histories” and 11 as “Tragedies”.
One particular play, “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” was excluded from the Folio for copyright reasons but no doubt the publishers intended 12 tragedies bringing the entire catalogue to a total of 37 plays. The number 37 is a numerical key to the Old and New Testaments, as already mentioned in other posts on the subject and the division of the triple numbers 111 (AAA), 222 (BBB), 333 (CCC), 444 (DDD), 555 (EEE), 666 (FFF), 777 (GGG), 888 (HHH), and 999 (III) by the “key number”37 gives us the so-called Fibonacci series of numbers eg: 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 etc. Triple letters are also employed in the Enochian system of invocation which Dr. John Dee utilised and espoused as “a divine language” that only angels could readily understand and were compelled to obey as does the angel Ariel for Prospero’s benefit in the “Tempest”. According to the antique science of the Chaldeans, the number 37 symbolizes the Force, the Capacity and the Power. In the “Word of God”, in Greek, the word “Word” (ie: Logos) is written rhma, numbering 37 by using the gematria in “n”: 17+7+12+1=37. It is the same for the word silence, sigh, 18+9+3+7=37. Numerical value of “I Am” in Hebrew, Ehieh. By seven times in the Gospel of Saint John the Christ mentions it. The four Gospels use on the whole 37 different numbers, which are numbers 1 to 12, 14, 15, 18, 25, 30, 38, 40, 46, 50, 60, 72, 77, 80, 84, 99, 100, 153, 200, 300, 500, 2000, 4000, 5000, 10000 and 20000. The book of Exodus of the Old Testament uses also on the whole 37 different numbers, of which the higher is 603550 (Ex 38,26). In the New Testament four chapters have a total of 37 verses: Mark chapter 7 and 13, Luke chapter 17 and Acts of the Apostles chapter 4.
Bible Gateway Psalm 37:
“For like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
The Empress (VENUS) FERTILE CREATION: (East)
Esoteric Titles: The Holy Union The Sacred Marriage The Hierosgamos The Queen of Heaven & Earth
Arcanum III represents Enlightenment after the cosmic union of sky and earth, their consummation giving rise to a “new soul” or creative consciousness. Through the harmonious interaction of the three principle forces, a balance or harmony is achieved within the psyche as well as in nature. This Utopia or Paradise which was lost to mankind many thousands of years ago and all that remains is a memory of its original material existence – as in the myth of Adam and Eve or Arcanum VI (The Lovers). The Fool finally understands the relationship between the Triune forces as represented by the father (Sun), mother (Venus) and child (Moon). In Christianity for example they are often referred to as Faith, Hope and Love. This sacred Law of Three is found in all the worlds scriptures, religions and philosophical or mystical doctrines. In Hindu Mythology they are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, (generation, maintenance and destruction). In Celtic and Pagan myth they symbolise the 3-fold aspect of the Goddess as whore/maiden, mother and hag. In Pythagorean Lore expressed mathematically in the triangle whose sides form horizontal, vertical and diagonal planes. It signifies the physical world being influenced by the etheric, astral and spiritual forces inherent in many creative individuals. It represents not only an aesthetic perception, virtuous awakening but draws our attention to the moral values which were instilled in all of us as children. Traditionally this card was ruled by the planet Venus and crosses the path of forming a cross signifying the material sphere. The message of Arcanum III is simple: Love is everything and everything is Love, and without which nothing can be attained or achieved in life. In order to experience love we make social networks, build bridges, or project ourselves into the hearts and minds of others. In Greek mythology it represents not only the Goddess Aphrodite (Feeling) but Artemis (Will) and Athene (Wisdom) or again the triune aspects of the 3-fold Goddess. In Humanism they are defined as the three principles of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. These three are often the psychic forces or motivations represented by the artist, the entrepreneur and the altruist.
Cleopatra was in effect the Empress of Egypt and is therefore suitably attributed to the trump of the Empress although Egypt was well-known for its continued dynasties of Pharaohs. Again, perhaps the author of Shakespeare’s play, Edward de Vere might have been alluding to the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth 1st, to Mary, Queen of Scots or to the life and circumstances of Catherine de Medici all of whom had a scandalous, controversial and challenging reign. Whereas the High Priestess is rather remote and cold, the Empress is warm-hearted, gracious and in effect highly sexed. Shakespeare portrays Cleopatra in this light within the play although the unusual affair and military alliance between Anthony and Cleopatra ends in tragedy and ultimately the suicide of both parties. However, historically she had previously been the consort of Augustus Caesar. The exotic and erotic nature of the play tends to bring the mystery of oriental culture to the London stage, as does the play “Othello” or Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine”. Certain aspects of the play suggest the author also had access to a translation of Plutarch’s “Of Isis & Osiris”. Veiled allusions to these two Egyptian gods and their mythological relationships also appear in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Queen Cleopatra would have been synonymous with the Moon Goddess, Isis and presumably Anthony or Augustus Caesar would have been the god Osiris. The result of their sacred union was the hawk-headed god-child Horus. The play was intended to follow the performance at the newly-built Globe Theatre of Shakespeare’s Roman play, “Julius Caesar” who of course was the Emperor of Rome but for political, social or security reasons (eg: Essex Rebellion 1600 or Gunpowder Plot 1605) the publishing and performance of this play was delayed.
Divinatory Meaning of this Card:
The 14th path on the Tree of Life links the sphere of Binah (Wisdom-Saturn) with Chokmah (Uranus-Intelligence) and denotes opposing human forces or conditions. This path lies below the veils that conceal the higher secrets contained in the supernal triad but is still close to the invisible sphere of Daath. It is known euphemistically in Tarot as the “Illuminating Intelligence” and astrologically is attributed to Saturn and the Fixed Stars or the zodiac working through the planet Venus upon the rings of Saturn. It represents on one level the Great Mother and the Great Father figures in human society or culture and in another sense the forces of the primordial Earth conjoined with those of the primordial Sky. It is the masculine and the feminine principle, the yin and the yang, matter and spirit, the left and the right, it is birth and death, as well as the principles of darkness and the light. As the hieroglyph for the Empress suggests a “door” or aperture, the path itself is therefore a beam of light or ray emanating from the east to the west. The symbolism connected to this path is very subtle for the door itself has the capacity to obscure, to defend and to block out as well as to defend against external intrusion. The door is a partition between inner and outer, so it is also a way into another world or dimension of the self. It is a form of consciousness that can be expressed in many different ways and although individualistic in meaning is paradoxically universally widespread in its manifestation of forms. Like a diamond it is hard to penetrate, is multifaceted and both absorbs and reflects whatever enters its translucent surface.
Positive: Fertility, abundance and material wealth, in creative activity, affairs with women, and the female mystic. Marriage/pregnancy.
Esoteric Titles: The Lord of Misrule The Green Man The Fool on the Hill
“He who persists in his folly becomes Wise” – William Blake
Ignorance, as we all know, can be bliss and sometimes a folly to be too openly wise. But how long can any human being sustain a state of idiotic or innocent disregard or ignore the real purpose of their life? The Fool begins his journey gazing optimistically into the bright clear sky from which the Sun always shines on his back. Far away in the distance is a band of Himalayan peaks. Clearly, he has much further to go in life’s journey. In his left hand he holds a white rose – a symbol of innocence and purity, whilst perched delicately on his right shoulder is a staff from the end of which hangs a leathern bag. The bag contains the secrets and alphabetical letter forms of the Tarot – the archetypes contained within his subconscious self. The bag is attached to a staff, a reference perhaps to his role as both the young Hercules or Perseus both legendary heroes of Greek mythology. So, the “bag” could also be the receptacle perhaps for the head of Medusa? Please note also that the only card in the pack that faces him is Trump 13 “Death” – the final frontier that he must confront or transcend. It must also be noted however that in some packs, notably those of French origin, The Fool is located between trump 20 and 21, and assigned the letter Shin, not Aleph. This is in accord with the idea that the Fool is ruled by the planet Pluto, not Neptune and that as a youth he encounters the last card 20. Judgement and thereafter every card in the series backwards. However, above him flutters a butterfly which momentarily attracts his attention and may cause him to plunge headlong into the abyss below. What might one ask does this bag contain and why is he so oblivious of the danger which faces him but just one more step away? A small mongrel dog barks incessantly at his heel, driving him unwittingly to a precipitous cliff’s edge, it resembles a gestalt for the Hebrew letter Aleph. He appears to be taking a deep in-breath of AIR but will he notice in time that he could at any moment plunge headlong into the Abyss? As already mentioned the descent on the Tree of Life is represented by Trump numbers 1-11, the ascent by numbers 12-21. The zigzag lightning path is reversed moving through spheres 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, while on the upward paths in the sequence 10, 9, 7, 8, 6, 4, 5, 2, 3 and finally back to Kether at 1. The abyss is represented by spheres 1, 6, 9 and 10. The Fool, representing the innocent naïve adept, travels through the pack adding to his experience and value of the other cards in the Major Arcana. Numerically, the application of zero to any number will automatically increase its’ value without taking anything away by virtue of the multiplication of 10, 100, 1000 respectively. However, only two other cards actually contain a zero – 10. The Wheel (descent) and 20. Judgement (ascent). By his left facing posture one must deduce that if placed at the beginning of the Tarot pack he inadvertently walks away from the next card. In placing him at the end of the Tarot sequence of cards we see that he effectively walks into the card No: 21, – “The World” – there are good reasons to suggest that symbolically he is born into the world because the world stage is where he must receive his education not unlike most of us. In another sense, the Fools’ journey only really begins when he turns his back on the world of appearances and undergoes a resurrection or rude awakening symbolised by the Trump 20 -Judgement.
Numerical Significance 0-22:
It has already been shown, and now largely taken for granted, that the 22 cards and their gestalt images correspond to the 22 letters of the Etruscan and Jewish alphabets. In retrospect one might even find this idea itself remarkable as well as puzzling, if we did not in many respects take it for granted. From what we now know of the megalithic culture and the origin of their numerical scales, weights and measures, they were invariably linked to some natural or supernatural correspondence. If we take for example the art of Palmistry, we might easily postulate that the 5 fingers of the human hand bear the hallmark of a grand signature. The art or science of semiotics relies heavily on there being an innate human response to images that evoke a greater truth or reality. Existential truths are often sealed or rather entombed in metaphors or analogies which protect them from perversion and misuse. The fact that human beings have two hands extends this natural analogy even further giving rise to the myriad speculations about the esoteric significance of the numbers 0-9, or in some systems 1-10. The ancient Druids would not have failed to see an important correlation between the number of digits on each hand and the order of the Universe. The idea that Man was a microcosm which was identical in every respect with a macrocosm existed even well before the advent of Christianity. It is the very foundation stone of Occult Science. A set of mysterious Neolithic “stone balls” carved into the form of the 5 Platonic solids were found in Scotland which were dated 1,000 years earlier than the time of Plato. The study of spherical co-ordinates equates well with the construction of ancient stone circle astronomical observatories such as Stonehenge or Maes Howe and suggests an interest in cosmic phenomena well before the Egyptians took it upon themselves to construct the Pyramids. The esoteric significance of the 22 Trumps and perhaps the allocation of the Fool to the 22nd path in the French system may have some bearing on the number of bones which make up the crown of the human skull. As already laid out in the above introduction the sequence and order of the 22 Tarot Trumps is directly related to calendrical symbolism but they are also numeric gestalts that evince ever more ripples or currents of understanding below the surface of mere reason or mathematical symbolism. The question we need to ask therefore is whether the ancient necromancers were aware themselves of this correlation and if within this apparent coincidence there might not inhabit a greater mystery.
Whenever we examine in detail the work of the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare”, his plays and poetry and take note of the inclusion of so much of 15th and 16th century occult science hidden within it then it would not be unusual to assume that the playwright had more than a passing acquaintance with the divination system in Europe known as the Tarot. When I realised that the author of Shakespeare’s Folio (Edward de Vere) had travelled to Italy and France where the Tarot was already flourishing it would be safe to assume that he had acquired his own deck of Tarot cards and indeed probably used them in a creative manner. By 1450 the first 78-card deck was commissioned by the Visconti-Sforza family and in France by 1392 Charles VIth commissioned Jacquemin Gringonneur to create three hand-painted packs. However, the first list of the Major Arcana in Europe was found in a Latin manuscript entitled “Sermones de Ludo Cumalis” (1500) and by 1540 in Italy it is defined and described as a divination system by Marcolino (“Le Sorti”). Furthermore, as I have subsequently discovered Edward de Vere was a member of the Rosicrucian Order as well as a Freemason and he would without doubt have come across a divination system originally known as ROTA. With this thought or prognosis in mind I have drawn numerous correspondences between the plays of “William Shakespeare” and the 22 Tarot Trumps. This year in a series of posts I hope to highlight and compare each Tarot key with a Shakespearean play to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s Folio. The 1623 First Folio edition features 36 plays, 14 are listed as “Comedies”, 10 as “Histories” and 11 as “Tragedies”. Shakespeare’s plays regularly feature fools of every type and description. Let us examine just one of them, in the play “Timon of Athens”.
Timon is depicted as a noble soul who suffers at the mercy of fair weather friends and sycophants who then desert him in his hour of need and adversity. However the fault is entirely his own as he becomes a victim to his own follies and the need to be flattered and appraised by others. Being a playwright this theme would have appealed to Shakespeare as Timon is in no sense a prophetic or “Holy Fool” but a motley one, (bespattered and cursed) who, due to his disappointments and delusions in life eventually becomes extremely misanthropic and plots his revenge on his scurrilous associates. We are reminded of the prodigal in Medieval plays and the moral theme of the play recalls the final passage from Sonnets to Sundry Notes of Music (VI):
“Every man will be thy friend, Whilst thou hast wherewith to spend; But if store of crowns be scant, No man will supply thy want. If that one be prodigal, Bountiful they will him call: And with such like flattering ‘Pity but he were a king.”
At first Timon’s forbearance and benevolence is applauded and he even agrees to financially support the marriage of his servant Lucillius to a merchant’s daughter. But by act 4, scene 3 the philosopher Apemanthus says to Timon: “thou hast cast away thyself, being like thyself-A madman so long, now a fool”, and later “thou art the cap of all the fools alive!”. The Fool has been a subject of controversy in Tarot, in terms of its value, position and planetary attribution but in Shakespearean drama he appears under many guises and in the most unexpected places. Essentially Shakespeare warns that a man is a fool who does not choose his friends wisely, is improvident or is swept along by idle flattery. The most famous of all being the sycophantic character of Falstaff in “Henry IVth Part 1” and the apparent wastrel role that Prince Hal plays alongside him. In melodrama traditionally there is the young fool denoting arrogance and rebellion, and the old fool symbolising ignorance and impracticality. While the Holy Fool, although appearing jocular is wise enough to dispense good counsel and yet disguise himself in his folly or even on some occasions feigning madness (such as occurs in “Hamlet” and “King Lear”). It would appear that the character of Timon is actually based on a cynical impression of the Earl of Oxford’s own bohemian and aristocratic lifestyle, he too was financially generous to poets, translators, dramatists, actors and playwrights. Edward de Vere also sold much of his estates both to pay outstanding debts to the Crown and to finance the building of the Globe, as well as to patronise several drama groups such as his own St. Paul’s Chapel Boys as well as rescuing and amalgamating numerous failing drama groups (eg: Worcester’s Men and the Earl of Warwick’s Men). In purely theatrical terms the concept of the fool has several manifestations according to his attire. The type of hat and costume worn by the fool is a clue to his status or quality, we have for example the 4-fold, 3-fold and 2-fold styles of headgear and striped, chequered or spotted pants. Various characteristics attributed to the stage or court fool, include a lack of seriousness and dissolute frivolity (inanis). However, according to the crude classifications listed at the time the Fool might be dull-witted or lack sensibility (stultus, a dolt, clod) or he might be retarded in intellectual development or mentally deficient (imbécile, dotard). He may be slow and lack comprehension (insipiens), or that he is different from normal men (idio, eccentric). Then there is someone deprived of the use of speech or words (tor), and someone who babbles incoherently (fatuus). There is of course the noisy, clumsy clown lacking in restraint or discipline when merrymaking (buffone), or devoid of appropriate behaviour and etiquette (ineptus), and the emotionally naive (naturale), and one who is innocence of heart, the so-called simpleton (fauve). All these character facets attributed to fools were explored in circus routines, mime and street theatre between the 20’s and 40’s by comedians/stuntmen such as Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, Buster Keaton and Max Ball.
“What three things does drink especially provoke?”
Porter: Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and un-provokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance: therefore, much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery: it makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to, and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.
But in Elizabethan theatre there was the knockabout clown and tumbler as in Will Kempe, the songster/comedian or as in Robert Armin and the witty fool as in Tarleton. Folly, being the companion of worldly vice, the fool was always a motif of springtime and the portrayal of the Seven Noble Virtues and 7 Deadly Sins became popular as theatrical archetypes from early medieval times. The court jester Richard Tarleton published his own synopsis of these in 1585. As polar opposites they were described as:
April Fool’s Day which, as many people know takes place on the Ist. April and in the Pagan and orthodox beliefs, still represents the forces of chaos or ignorance to which we are all at some time in our lives regularly subjected to. April the first was an ancient French festival marking the beginning of the year and more akin to “First-Footing” in Scotland. So, we have the Spring, Summer and Winter Fool who might be gay, happy or sad. From this we can say that the fool is careless, sanguine or wise. Although in folklore there was another type of fool or jester, the so-called “Colin” or country rogue who was artful, cunning and full of mischief.
But “Timon of Athens” is no heretic or clown and neither does he possess a sublime wisdom-quite the contrary he is a patron of heartless libertines, as the pragmatic Apemanthus points out:
“What a coil’s here! Serving of becks and jutting-out of bums! I doubt whether their legs be worth the sums That are given for ’em. Friendship’s full of dregs: Methinks, false hearts should never have sound legs, Thus honest fools lay out their wealth on court’sies.”
The question is did Shakespeare have some particular person in mind when he developed the character of Timon, a fool surrounded by debauched parasites and scroungers? Perhaps he had in mind the newly crowned Scottish King James Ist who might match our description well or one of the many aristocrats in his circle. James was well-known to have described himself as “the Greatest Fool in Christendom” and to have drawn a coterie of sycophants and dependents from literary circles such as Ben Jonson. He was fond of bestowing expensive gifts to his court favourites in the hope of admiration and support. Foreign merchants and money-lenders were rife during his reign as he had inherited a deficit from Elizabeth and his reckless extravagance brought the kingdom into ever deeper debt.
Divinatory Meaning of this Card:
The 11th path on the Tree of Life links Kether (Brilliance-Neptune) with Chokmah (Intelligence-Uranus), a positively directed journey from the central pillar to the right hand side suggesting the pure, unsullied consciousness or innocence of the child. This path is known in Tarot as the “Admirable or Hidden Intelligence” because it is beyond any known rules, primitive logic, rational ideas or regulations. It is therefore the way of the mystical fool, clown or court jester. It exists on the supernal triad as undefined perpetuity or eternal self-effulgence, whilst charged with the 3 elements of air (life breath or Ruach), fire (spirit) and earth (matter) extending into manifestation. Paradoxically, it is also a void or vacuum, the function of zero, the mathematical principle of phi (Φ), as yet neither negative nor positive in value, by gender as androgynous, yet potentially it may be seen as the Father and the Son or supraconsciousness (Aether). It is both laughter and tears, it is sublime joy or mirth or it is sadness and despair as well as the object of ridicule, admiration or praise. In some respects it may be seen as the cosmic, scintillating intelligence, but in another context the wicked genius of the practical joker, the madness of the idiot or the undisciplined motley fool. It is the path or point from which all and everything evolves and into which everything eventually returns. It links the Crown Chakra with the mental faculties of the mind through the intake of prana.
Positive: Around you there are a maze of possibilities or choices, or some unforeseen potential. You are about to begin a new journey, out with the old and in with the new. The time favours innocence, optimism, the power of humour to remove karma, perhaps reckless behaviour or simply an encounter with the bizarre, ludicrous nature of life.
Negative: Inconsiderate action, reckless or impulsive behaviour, and the wasteful dissipation of creative energy. Blindness, lack of knowledge, folly and ignorance. New beginnings and fresh starts.
SPHERE 1 Kether (Crown) Brilliance (First Swirlings) Aleph – An Ox (Admirable or Hidden Intelligence) The Primum Mobile Pure Energy Astrological: .Pluto or Earth. Constellation: The Milky Way Sacred Gemstone: Agate or Malachite
1 The Magus: (Mercury) MAGICAL SCIENCE: (Above) Esoteric Titles: The Royal Path of Life The Crown of Understanding The Powers of the Magus The Way of Wisdom & Folly
The first card of the Tarot depicts a man standing at an altar or table, wearing a cloak decorated with a green ouroboros or serpent eating its own tail. In his right hand he holds aloft a magical sceptre or wand. He symbolises the image of the Perfected Man, Christ or Adam, the Primal Man (ie: homo sapiens), albeit only relatively speaking, perhaps denoting someone at the height of their evolution, career ambitions, or perhaps more correctly spiritual aspirations. Sometimes in life the journey, with all its diversions, is far more rewarding than our intended goal, Our true and ultimate goal on the “Royal Path” if we are to rule over our destiny is God-Realisation as we are reminded in the Bible, from Genesis which says:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last”.
His left hand points downwards signifying the transcendence of the material plane, while the other holding the wand denotes inspiration, the fertilising spirit which fuels his intellect to explore the higher planes of existence -the astral, etheric and causal planes. This card is traditionally ruled by the planet Uranus – the symbol of the Aquarian Age and the planet of innovation, science and change. However, it also denotes Hermes, or the planet Mercury as guiding spirit or Messenger of the Gods. In Alchemical Symbolism the Philosopher’s Stone is Quicksilver, the elusive and phenomenal metal. The Magus is an initiate of the Egyptian God, Thoth, as denoted by the symbolic image of the Crane on his neophyte apron. He therefore represents proficiency in learning, study, of literary and educational pursuits often of an occult or esoteric nature. He may reflect the doctrines of science, art, astrology, wisdom and power. On the altar are the four elements denoting his cardinal virtues (Cups), basic materials (Discs), intellectual skills (Swords) and psychic intuitions (Wands). Above his head lies the figure of 8 symbol symbolising the beginning and end as a continuum from one world to another, from one idea to the next and the brilliance of his positive healing, psychotherapeutic and regenerative powers. In the star-lit sky a comet flares symbolising both transitory and permanent effects or success as his intelligence is lifted beyond the illusory veil to that of the eternal truths. The star that guides him represents his inner guide or conscience – the “inner master” or guru which takes him from darkness or ignorance into the light of spiritual illumination. Through numerous trials, personal experiences, experiments and training he has developed and perfected his will which he may be used for good or evil depending largely on the additional surrounding cards in any particular tarot reading. The First Path on the Tree of Life connects the sphere Kether (Folly) with Chokmah (Wisdom) and represents our ability to think along lines of dualism and mutual polarity utilising both rational and intuitive means. It rules the sahasrara or crown chakra in Chakra symbolism.
Whenever we examine in detail the work of the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare”, his plays and poetry and take note of the inclusion of so much of 15th and 16th century occult science hidden within it then it would not be unusual to assume that the playwright had more than a passing acquaintance with the divination system in Europe known as the Tarot. When I realised that the author of Shakespeare’s Folio (Edward de Vere) had travelled to Italy and France where the Tarot was already flourishing it would be safe to assume that he had acquired his own deck of Tarot cards and indeed probably used them in a creative manner. By 1450 the first 78-card deck was commissioned by the Visconti-Sforza family and in France by 1392 Charles VIth commissioned Jacquemin Gringonneur to create three hand-painted packs. However, the first list of the Major Arcana in Europe was found in a Latin manuscript entitled “Sermones de Ludo Cumalis” (1500) and by 1540 in Italy it is defined and described as a divination system by Marcolino (“Le Sorti”). Furthermore, as I have subsequently discovered Edward de Vere was a member of the Rosicrucian Order as well as a Freemason and he would without doubt have come across a divination system originally known as ROTA. With this thought or prognosis in mind I have drawn numerous correspondences between the plays of “William Shakespeare” and the 22 Tarot Trumps.
This year in a series of posts I hope to highlight and compare each Tarot key with a Shakespearean play to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s Folio. The 1623 First Folio edition features 36 plays, 14 are listed as “Comedies”, 10 as “Histories” and 11 as “Tragedies”. One particular play, “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” was excluded from the Folio for copyright reasons but no doubt the publishers intended 12 tragedies bringing the entire catalogue to a total of 37 plays.
The number 37 is a numerical key to the Old and New Testaments, as already mentioned in other posts on the subject and the division of the triple numbers 111 (AAA), 222 (BBB), 333 (CCC), 444 (DDD), 555 (EEE), 666 (FFF), 777 (GGG), 888 (HHH), and 999 (III) by the “key number”37 gives us the so-called Fibonacci series of numbers eg: 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 etc. Triple letters are also employed in the Enochian system of invocation which Dr. John Dee utilised and espoused as “a divine language” that only angels could readily understand and were compelled to obey as does the angel Ariel for Prospero’s benefit in the “Tempest”. According to the antique science of the Chaldeans, the number 37 symbolizes the Force, the Capacity and the Power. In the “Word of God”, in Greek, the word “Word” is written rhma, numbering 37 by using the gematria in “n”: 17+7+12+1=37. It is the same for the word silence, sigh, 18+9+3+7=37. Numerical value of “I Am” in Hebrew, Ehieh. By seven times in the Gospel of Saint John the Christ mentions it. The four Gospels use on the whole 37 different numbers, which are numbers 1 to 12, 14, 15, 18, 25, 30, 38, 40, 46, 50, 60, 72, 77, 80, 84, 99, 100, 153, 200, 300, 500, 2000, 4000, 5000, 10000 and 20000. The book of Exodus of the Old Testament uses also on the whole 37 different numbers, of which the higher is 603550 (Ex 38,26). In the New Testament four chapters have a total of 37 verses: Mark chapter 7 and 13, Luke chapter 17 and Acts of the Apostles chapter 4.
Bible Gateway Psalm 37:
“For like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
The only play to be excluded from the 1623 First Folio edition of William Shakespeare’s 36 plays probably because of copyright issues. It has a complex plot which is illuminated by the use of a presenter in the part of John Gower, who in between acts, and in conversation with the audience summarises and clarifies the events throughout. The riddle which Pericles has to solve in order to win the hand of Antiochus‘ daughter reads as follows:
I am no viper, yet I feed On mother’s flesh which did me breed. I sought a husband, in which labour I found that kindness in a father. He’s father, son and husband mild; I mother, wife, and yet his child. How they may be, and yet in two, As you will live, resolve it you.
The Prince realising that the answer to the riddle will reveal that Antiochus is having an incestuous relationship with his daughter rejects the King’s offer and instead secretly decides to make his escape at the next available opportunity. However, escaping to Athens he is pursued by the King’s assassin Thailard. The act and scene sequence throughout the play parallels the 12 Alchemical processes and within the narrative plot a series of magical or miraculous events take place.
The Marriage contest for Antiochus’ Daughter-Escape to Tyre Thaliart’s pursuit of Pericles-Relief of Tarsus Shipwreck on Simonides-Marriage to Thasia Storm at sea-Thasia dies giving birth to Marina Return to Tarsus-Thasia’s coffin washed ashore Thasia revived by Cerimon-Thasia enters convent at Ephesus Pericles returns to Tyre-Dionyza threatens Marina’s life Marina captured by pirates-Marina is sold to a brothel Pericles returns to Tarsus-Is shown Marina’s tomb Marina escapes brothel-Pericles arrives at Mytilene Pericles & Marina re-united- Pericles sails to Ephesus Pericles re-united with Thasia
Pericles’ adventures are akin to those of the heroic Odysseus, the labours of Hercules or the trials of Theseus. The magical arts are rendered by the physic Cerimon on the lifeless corpse of Thasia and by Marina on her psychologically traumatised father, Pericles.
Divinatory Meaning of this Card:
The 12th path on the Tree of Life links Kether (Brilliance-Neptune) with Binah (Saturn-Wisdom), a journey defined in Tarot as the “Transparent Intelligence” situated on the left-hand, feminine side of the supernal triad. In an evolved sense it denotes dream visions, meditative visualisations, clairvoyance, sudden apparitions or even drug-induced hallucinations. In this context and astrologically, the “Primum Mobile”, or correspondingly Neptune is acting through Mercury on the planet Saturn producing purposeful, constrained, literary or artistic compositions in aesthetic vision or musical sound. In this sense it is also a creative space within which many experimental acts may take place. It is a world of ideas defined within certain parameters with many different tools of expression in a variety of different ways to produce new and exciting creative elements. Here the conscious thoughts of perhaps one individual or group are directed towards developing unconscious reactions in others, perhaps less conscious or aware. While in some sense it is the path of creative or ceremonial magic by association with the card, The Magician this also has a mesmeric, healing or therapeutic effect on the creators, participants or their audience. Elements of autosuggestion or self-hypnosis are also apparent within this principle and in afflicted cases they may become victims of others’ deceitful thoughts, or their own self-deception or utopian delusions. Here, as denoted by the figure of eight symbol above the head and the wand however, the third eye is being focussed or filtered through any chosen lens or device for self-affirmation or perfect concentration. It links the Crown Chakra with the intuitive faculties of the mind.
Positive: Creative, subtle and constructive use of will and knowledge. Planning, organisation and commerce. Self-reliance, mystic perception.
Negative: Devious, manipulative, deceptive or lacking in skill of expression or execution. Gambling or juggling with life’s circumstances.
SPHERE 2 Chokmah (Wisdom) Illuminating Intelligence Beth – A House Astrological: Aries or the 1st House Constellation: Orion – The Hunter Sacred Gemstone: Diamond or Quartz
Our Universe, very much like own solar system is like a “cosmic galactic wheel” and its’ cycles have caused mankind to measure these periods of Time and Space and reflect on their significance to human evolution and to significant events on Earth. The Great Ages of the World have been defined by numerous cultures and classified in various scriptural or mythological works into chronological categories and according to phenomenal or cataclysmic circumstances.
Every 2,160 years a new Astrological Aeon or epoch emerges as a result of the eccentric shift of the Earth’s’ axis in relation to the Constellations in the sky – commonly referred to as precession of the equinoctial point. We are at this particular moment in time moving from the Virgo/Pisces Age into the Leo/Aquarius Age – Each age has its’ own theme which dominates or stamps its’ mark on the activities and ideologies of human beings on this planet. Astrological or more strictly speaking Precessional Ages are determined by the subtle retrograde movement of the Earth’s’ vernal point through the 12 constellations of the Zodiac at the rate of one degree every 72 years. This causes the celestial pole to deviate in relation to the star used to denote the centre of the celestial sphere.
The Aries/Libra Axis: (2,000 BC – 0.0 AD) A period which was particularly epitomised in the activities of the Hellenic civilisation – where physical prowess and wars between tribal states dominated their life and also the noble institution of Democratic Government and intellectual stimulation (Libra). This primary Axis of FIRE with AIR, War and Peace, Individuality or Self with and its’ interaction with Society, Partnerships or Political Structures.
The Taurus/Scorpio Axis: (4,000 – 2,000 BC) The emphasis on building & accumulating both power and possessions is exemplified by the Egyptian civilisations with their fine, luxurious temples and their other obsession with death, magic and the afterlife states (Scorpio) which manifests in tomb construction and elaborate ceremonies, processions burial rites. This secondary Axis is of EARTH with WATER, Building & Transformation, ones’ Possessions, resources and ones’ desires or passions.
The Gemini/Sagittarius Axis: (6,000 – 4,000 BC) This period was characterised by the development of early scripts or writing, trade, trade and ingenious inventions (Gemini) which facilitated and promoted adventurous land and sea voyages – (Sagittarius). The third Axis is ruled by AIR & FIRE, – the conscious mind and the Super-conscious Mind, concerns the development of logic, intellect and ones’ dreams/visions and search for higher spiritual development.
The Cancer/Capricorn Axis: (8,000 – 6,000 BC) In this era man was concerned with the development of small dwellings for the protection of homes and family (Cancer) against both outside enemies and elements. Whilst their focus on agriculture and fishing, mountains and caves as sacred temples (Capricorn) was also of special significance. The fourth Axis is ruled by WATER & EARTH, ones’ family, home and feelings in relation to Prestige, Career or personal ambition.
The Leo/Aquarius Axis: (10,000 – 8,000 BC & 2,000 – 4,000 AD) As this constitutes our own epoch, we can only speculate as to its’ current significance. In the past cycle it probably influenced man’s preoccupation with Sun worship (Leo) at the end of the Ice Age and the technological development of primitive stone tools. Today the technological influence is more advanced (Aquarius) or sophisticated. There is also the possibility that early cave paintings and frescoes as well as the introduction of wild animals as pets were to some extent a manifestation of its’ creative influence. The fifth Axis is the FIRE & AIR combination where will-power and ones’ individuality are complementary to the development of higher personality.
The Virgo/Pisces Axis: (AD 0.0 – 2,000 AD) A period that was epitomised in the establishment of retreats (Virgo) -religious communities of monks & nuns whose renunciations of sexuality was intended to help them develop their spiritual faith & devotion (Pisces) coincidentally the Christians’ early symbol was a fish. The sixth Axis is of EARTH & WATER, where the element of work & health, interact and combine with those of faith & compassion.
In simple terms the Earth’s retrograde wobble, while spinning in space and orbiting the Sun tends to offset minutely the determination of the equinoctial period. Therefore, over a long period of time the pole stars have exchanged dominion in the heavens. In 2,800 BC for example the star Thuban in the constellation Draco – the Dragon was our pole star, whereas currently Polaris is our pole star being located just 0.8 degrees from the celestial pole or centre. Mythologies relating to King Arthur (Urther Pendragon) and the Grail Legends may indeed refer to a time when Arcturus appeared to exert an influence due to its precise location in the heavens. It has been calculated therefore that an astrological or precessional age consists of 2,160 years and that we are now living in the Age of Pisces as the vernal point is passing through that constellation. The constellation Pisces, due to precession is placed nicely on the celestial equator, what is uncertain, however is the commencement or how long each age should last which can only be ascertained by consensus amongst various “experts”. The beginning of the Piscean Age is thought to have begun a few centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. The oscillating movement of the poles, or precession as we term it is also responsible for the advent of the Glacial periods and the periodic interglacial periods experienced over huge spans of time. It is now thought that precession may have precipitated a cataclysm that devastated the lost continent of Atlantis (De Sechend & Santillana-Hamlet’s Mill).
The measurement of time is dependent on a number of factors, two of the most important are the planetary cycles of the Sun and Moon in relation to our own planet Earth. The Earth rotates once on it’s axis every 23.9345 hours (23 hrs. 56 min. and 4 sec.) as seen in relation to the fixed star constellations which paradoxically are not really fixed at all! Therefore while the Earth is rotating around the Sun we measure a “day” as a conceptual period of time between 12 noon, when the Sun is overhead and its’ return to the same point. However, because of the Earth‘s revolution around the Sun it takes a further four minutes before it reappears at the same point.
Consequently we have for some time arrived at the mean figure of 24 as the number of hours in a day. In relation to the fixed stars the Moon revolves around the Earth once every 27.32166 “solar days”, but these lunar phases are governed largely by our observations from Earth which again do not take into account the Sun‘s slippage. Consequently it would be more accurate to say that a true lunar cycle (Synodic Lunar Month) takes 29.53059 days to be precise. The year is defined as the time it takes our planet to go once around the Sun, again relative to the fixed stars, this is known as the “Sidereal Year” consisting of 365.256363 days. However for the purposes of maintaining a yearly calendar the important annual period is that between two successive Spring Equinoxes (technically known as the Tropical Year). The numerical factors of these planetary cycles are both pertinent and frustrating because they both contain an irrational number of days and cannot be resolved simply by noting the diurnal cycles of the Sun and Moon and reconciling them!
In contrast the Mayans used the planets Venus and Jupiter to record the passage of time while many other cultures still relied on lunar and solar cycles for calendrical notation. In some European cultures the year calendar was divided into five seasonal divisions of 72 days each, whereas their festival dates were viewed directly from observed phenomena such as eclipses, lunar phases the rising of fixed stars and of course the natural events of the Zoomorphic world (eg: Circadian Rhythms & Avian and Mammalian Migrations).
Consequently, any calendar created by human beings for the purposes of recording Earth time has to make some sort of compromise or adjustment every so often in order to maintain our current concept of time in relation to the regular seasonal cycles on Earth and the orbital cycles of the Sun and Moon. Our current calendar is Roman and goes back to the time around 46 BC when Julius Caesar, with the help of the astrologer Sosigenes decided to reform the ancient lunar calendar. It was decided that a year should consist of 365 1/4 days with a total cycle of 1,461 days which consisted of 3 common years of 365 days and one “leap year” of 366 days. The extra day added to the leap year ostensibly making up for any inconsistency between Sidereal and tropical time (one retrograde degree of the synodic vernal point = 72 years). Several miscalculations and omissions were later made to this system and to prevent further slippage Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar again by omitting 3 days every 400 years thereby reducing the annual figure to 365.2425 days.
The mathematical problem of recording time in any year required the resolution of twelve lunar months (354 days) to twelve solar months (364 days) – an approximate discrepancy of 11 days. This could only be done by the intercalation of a 30-day month at the end of every 3 years and an additional day every 4 years – what we now accept as the traditional “leap year”. On investigation much of the Bronze Age mythological iconography is therefore little more than a way of cryptically encoding this mathematical riddle for the benefit of future generations. This was expanded upon to include the greater cycles of Sun/Moon conjunctions (which occurred every 18/19 years) – known as the Saros and Metonic cycles. These were no doubt observed and known to ancient Megalithic and Bronze Age cultural traditions.
Around 500 BC the Greek astronomer Euctemon devised a solar calendar with months of 30 days duration, which was independent of the divisions previously delineated by fixed stars, but linked to the division of the ecliptic. This system is still in use today and constitutes the basis of what is termed “Tropical”, or Sun-sign Astrology. The traditional Babylonian symbolism for the twelve signs was nevertheless retained for these new divisions.
Hindu Cosmology: Hindu chronology is based on vast spans of time and a Yuga is itself but a 1,000 part of a KALPA. Each Yuga is preceded by a twilight period (Sandyha) and terminated by a Sandhyansa, while the entire 4 Yugas, incorporating the twilights are known as MahaYugas. Their length can be expressed in “Divine” or “Mortal” years thus:
Golden Age (Krita Yuga) 62,800-36,880 BCE: Its duration was 25,920 years ( a full precessional cycle beginning with the Age of Leo, an earthly paradise before incarnation.
Silver Age (Treta Yuga) 36,800 – 17,400 BCE: Its duration was 19,440 years which is nine astrological cycles from Leo to Sagittarius. Incarnations occur in Mu and Lemuria.
Bronze Age (Dvapara Yuga) 17,440-4,480 BCE: Its duration was 12,960 years which was half a precessional cycle from the sign of Scorpio to Gemini and signalled the end of Atlantis (10,800 BCE) and the emergence of the Atlantean colonies in other continents of the world eg: Tibet, Egypt, Crete, S. America, India, China and some Nordic countries.
Iron Age (Kali Yuga) 4,480 BCE-2,000 CE: Its duration being 6,480 years the so-called Ages of Taurus, Aries and Pisces signalling the birth of Jesus Christ and continuing through into the Leo/Aquarius axis which is our present period.
Theosophical Ages & Root Races: In her book “The Secret Doctrine” the founder of Theosophy, Madame Blavatsky formulated her own categories regarding the origins and evolution of humanity in terms of seven ages/root races each with 7 branches and periods. However, students of her philosophy assert her sources were the Hindu Puranas where the land of Hyperborea is named as “Svita-Dupa” or “White Island” with its centre the mythical Mt. Meru. There are seven root races of humanity, with seven sub-races under each one. Blavatsky formulates a septenary numerical framework (as did the Rosicrucian occultist and magus, Dr. John Dee, 7×7) to support her theories and so it is no coincidence that further analogous theories and allegories fit so neatly into her scheme. They begin with the ethereal and end with the spiritual on the double line of physical and moral evolution. According to Blavatsky at present, humanity has reached the fifth root race, simultaneously with populations that actually belonged to the third and fourth root races. The fifth root race has therefore reached its 5th sub-race. In the first root race or stage of human development (Etheric), physical bodies were not in evidence, while it is supposed that human beings existed in a purely “etheric” or transcendental body. The second root race/age was Hyperborean, this stage of human evolution was supposed to have inhabited a northerly continent, which has now ceased to exist, known as Plaksha. The Third Root Race/Age was named as Lemurian and this race of people were inhabitants of a now lost continent in the Pacific Ocean known as Lemuria (or Shalmali), which disappeared before the beginning of the Eocene Era. They were the first to become consciously divided into two sexes, the last of the sub-races of this era who were responsible for the Easter Island statues (equivalent to the Biblical “Fall of Man”). This race were presumed to be the inhabitants of the lost continent of Atlantis which was situated somewhere between N. Africa and S. America and was destroyed due to an extra-terrestrial cataclysm sometime in the Miocene period circa 9,654 BC. Plato‘s’ Timaeus & Critias makes a passing reference to its’ customs, location, influence and ultimate demise. There were in fact 4 catastrophic events, the first took place in the Miocene Age 800,000 years ago, the second 200,000 years ago, the third 80,000 years ago, and the fourth and final catastrophe took place in 9,654 BC (the destruction of Atlantis).
They were further sub-divided into seven categories of sub-races:
For a more detailed description of these seven branches of root races just click on the following link to Wikipaedia where the subject is dealt with in-depth (“Theosophical Root Races”). René Guenon enlarged and elaborated on Blavatsky’s hypothesis (“Atlanta & Hyperborea”, 1929) with an Adamic cycle lasting 64,000 years which was presumably coming to the end of its cycle and the region he held was an Aryan homeland known as Tula (Thule) which was itself pre-Atlantean. However, it was another occultist, Jean Phaure who proposed a schema that would integrate the Hindu Yugas with that of the archaeological and scientific knowledge of the time. Numerous details of Blavatsky’s controversial and hotly contested theory can very easily be challenged and contradicted by modern scientific and archaeological evidence for example the Easter Island statues were erected in the 13th century AD and the island’s population was significantly small right up until modern times.
The Fifth Root Race (Aryan): This age represents all of the present stage of development of races on Earth at this time. Blavatsky described the fifth root race with the following words:
“The Aryan races, for instance, now varying from dark brown, almost black, red-brown-yellow, down to the whitest creamy colour, are yet all of one and the same stock – the Fifth Root-Race – and spring from one single progenitor, … who is said to have lived over 18,000,000 years ago, and also 850,000 years ago – at the time of the sinking of the last remnants of the great continent of Atlantis.”
I am highly suspicious of Madame Blavatsky’s theory of “Root Races” largely because they are inherently racist and because they probably gave rise to the false theory of the supremacy of the White Aryan Race appropriated by the Fascist movements in Italy, Germany and Japan. She also prophesies of the destruction of the racial “failures of nature” as another future “higher race” ascends:
Thus will mankind, race after race, perform its appointed cyclic pilgrimage. Climates will, and have already begun, to change, each tropical year after the other dropping one sub-race, but only to beget another higher race on the ascending cycle; while a series of other less favoured groups (the failures of nature) will, like some individual men, vanish from the human family without even leaving a trace behind. The sub-races (which Steiner renamed “Cultural Epochs” as a more adequate expression for our times) of the Aryan Fifth Root Race include the first sub-race, the Hindu, which migrated from the “City of the Bridge” on the white island in the middle of the Gobi inland sea to India in 60,000 BC; the second sub-race, the Arabian, which migrated from the “City of the Bridge” to Arabia in 40,000 BC; the third sub-race, the Persian, which migrated from the “City of the Bridge” to Persia in 30,000 BC; the fourth sub-race, the Celts, which migrated from the “City of the Bridge” to Western Europe beginning in 20,000 BC (the Mycenaean Greeks are regarded as an offshoot of the Celtic sub-race that colonized Southeast Europe); and the fifth sub-race, the Teutonic, which also migrated from the “City of the Bridge” to what is now Germany beginning in 20,000 BC (the Slavs are regarded as an offshoot of the Teutonic sub-race that colonized Russia and its surrounding areas).
The Sixth Root Race: (Aryan) This group or category represents future races and ages to come. As the sixth root race is on the ascending arc, it will “be rapidly growing out of its bonds of matter, and even of flesh” (SD II:446). This seems to suggest that the bodies or vehicles of the future races will return to becoming more ethereal and androgynous. “The Secret Doctrine” further states that “there will be no more Americans when the Sixth Race commences; no more, in fact, than Europeans; for they will have now become a new race, and many more new nations. Yet the Fifth race will not die, but survive for a while: overlapping the new Race for many hundred thousands of years to come, it will become transformed with it” (Idem.). The next sense to be developed will be the faculty of normal clairvoyance.
Seventh Root Race: (Aryan) Not much information is provided on the seventh root race. It is expected that it will be more ethereal than the sixth. Great adepts and initiated ascetics “will ‘once more produce Mind-born immaculate Sons. (SD II:275). ” According to C. W. Leadbeater, a colony will be established in Baja California by the Theosophical Society under the guidance of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom in the 28th century for the intensive selective eugenic breeding of the sixth root race. The Master Morya will physically incarnate in order to be the Manu (“progenitor”) of this new root race. By that time, the world will be powered by nuclear power and there will be a single world government led by a person who will be the reincarnation of Julius Caesar. Tens of thousands of years in the future, a new continent will arise in the Pacific Ocean that will be the future home of the sixth root race. California west of the San Andreas Fault will break off from the mainland of North America and become the Island of California off the eastern coast of the new continent.
In his book “Arktos, the Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism & Nazi Survival” (Thames & Hudson, 1993) the occult academic, Jocelyn Godwin details and describes how the Nazis endorsed Blavatsky’s theories of a “White Aryan Root Race”, to which the Germans belonged that migrated from the Arctic regions and their subsequent conflicts and struggles with so-called “inferior races” supposedly emanating from the Lemurian root race. It seems that in primordial times the Earth was not tilted at all but revolved perfectly on its axis and so the calendar year was composed of 360 days and not of 365 and a quarter days as it is today. He writes: “At the equator, the sun would appear at 6 o’clock each morning precisely in the east, rise vertically to reach the zenith at noon, and continue its journey to set due west at 6 pm. Its rising and setting places would never vary, and the lengths of night and day would invariably be equal”. In other words there was a perpetual spring, the sun would neither rise or set but half of its disk would be visible all of the time circling the horizon once a day. The higher altitudes of the Arctic and Antarctic circles were therefore capable of sustaining animals, plants and human beings, aided of course with the warm ocean currents.
The astronomer, mystic and revolutionary Jean-Sylvain Bailly was keen to elaborate further on the Ages of Man by examining when human beings first developed a “Zodiac” that originally had only ten signs although the Scythians had developed a 36-sign zodiac much earlier. He was intrigued by the deductions of Eudoxus (4th century BCE) who noted that the solstices and equinoxes were situated at the 15th degrees of Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn in approximately 1353 BCE and not as would have been presumed at the beginning of a particular sign. The Greeks added an extra labour (12 Labours of Herakles) to their zodiacal scheme to accommodate the transition, while the Persians featured their god, Mithras slaying each sign in a never-ending cycle. It should be noted that the sidereal zodiac takes note of the changes to the constellational map on the Earth’s horizon whereas the Tropical Zodiac remains constant from 0 degrees Aries and remains unchanged to this day. That is why the German astrologers like the Hindu and Tibetan employed the sidereal zodiac. Bailly used analogies to some very important legends, myths and stories about creation to extemporise on his theories, for example that of the “Phoenix Bird” (Herodotus, II, 73):
“The head of the Phoenix and its breast are the colour of fire; its tail and wings sky-blue. It lives for 300 days after which it flies off to Ethiopia and nests there; it burns itself together with its egg, from whose ashes there emerges a red worm, which, after having recovered its wings and the form of a bird, takes flight again with the same birds towards the North.”
The Phoenix being a solar symbol Bailly presumed its mythical birth, death and re-birth to correspond to the alternation of day and night at the North Pole or the regions within the Arctic circle (latitude 71 degrees) when there would have been just 65 days of darkness. He also compared the Roman myth of Janus, the God of the chronological gateways who holds the number 300 in his right hand and the number 65 in his left. Similarly the Nordic God, Odin spends 65 days in his nuptial bed with Freia on condition that he is present for the remainder of 300 lighter days. Again in the Greek myth of Persephone she is obliged by contract to spend half of the year with Hades in the Underworld and the other half with Zeus in Mt. Olympus suggesting a latitude which was half-day and half-night. The idea that the “old gods” from Greek and Teutonic mythology being usurped or replaced by the “new gods” was similarly referring to a migration from the polar heartland into Europe. The same could be said of the Vedic hymns to the dawn, the polar twilight or the Aurora Borealis, where the darkness shelters the enemies of Indra and the “Thirty Dawn Sisters” circle like a wheel and the long dawn preceding the rising sun. But as in many other instances the academics each came up with their own theories regarding an Arctic homeland where the “sun always shines” and numerous regions have been identified as an Aryan homeland, including the Gobi Desert, the Norwegian arctic regions, Ukraine, Iceland, Greenland etc. The main reason being that when telephone cables were laid along the Atlantic ocean floor there did not appear to be any remains of an Atlantean continent to be seen so that it was clear, at least to the scientifically minded that Atlantis must have existed somewhere else. So, researchers turned towards the Mediterranean where the island of Santorini was partially destroyed by an earthquake but this too proved to be fruitless and false.
The discovery of pre-historic carvings depicting left-hand and right-hand “swastikas” on mammoth bones in Russia were presumed to reflect a nomadic civilisation, probably of Scythian origin whose migrations came from some Aryan Arctic homeland. Indeed, since the swastika was a decorative motif found on Gypsy caravans and Tibetan Buddhist tankas (Bon Po sect) researchers were eager to note that the symbol was indicative of a Solar/Polar civilisation at some time in pre-history. That is one of the main reasons the German, as well as Italian Fascists used the symbol extensively in their ceremonial propaganda. There was a tendency among the Nazi esotericists to locate an avatar or prophet among the Asian regions (the Persian Zoroastrian, Zarathustra or Manes) as opposed to the Semitic prophets such as Moses or the Egyptian Akhenaton. The French writer, Voltaire commented on this as follows:
“Nothing has ever come to us from either European or Asiatic Scythia but tigers who have devoured our lambs. True, some of these tigers were amateur astronomers when they had the leisure, after sacking all of northern India; but are we to believe that they set out from their lairs with quadrants and astrolabes?”
The first book to actually delineate the Nazi fascination with the occult was Jacques Bergier’s and Louis Pauwel’s “The Morning of the Magicians” (1960) where the “Vril Society” (aka: The Luminous Lodge) is mentioned as a Rosicrucian sect established in Berlin. But the German Romantic Movement continued to advance India and Tibet as a region where the superior knowledge of the Aryans had been subsequently advanced as Goethe suggests in his “West-Ostilicher Divan” or in Neitzsche’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” but the subject was widely covered in Leon Poliakov’s “The Aryan Myth” where he lists the numerous theories and contentions by western and eastern authors such as Max Müller in his “Sacred Books of the East”. But around the same time Charles Darwin was formulating his own “theory of human evolution” (“Origin of Species”) and other authors were forming their own views on a “Master Race” by the widespread employment of human eugenics. For example Ernest Renan writes in his book simply entitled “Rêves” (1876):
“A factory of Ases (Scandinavian Heroes), an Asgard, might be reconstituted in the centre of Asia. If one dislikes such myths, one should consider how bees and ants breed individuals for certain functions, or how botanists make hybrids. One could concentrate all energy in the brain. It seems that if such a solution should be at all realisable on the planet Earth, it is through Germany that it will come.”
Meanwhile, Madame Blavatsky having noted the popularity of her hypothesis in German and Italy prepared her next book “Isis Unveiled” (1882) revealing her masters or sources as Koot Hoomi and Morya in correspondence with her secretaries A.P Sinnett and A. O. Hume. This naturally spawned a number of Neo-Pagan, Anti-Christian and Anti-Semitic movements in Europe who endorsed vegetarianism, keep fit, bio-dynamics, phrenology and idealised facial characteristics such as “blonde-haired, blue-eyed and physically vigorous individuals”. (H. Rendall describing them as “the blonde dolichocephalic race that was cradled on the Baltic shores”). All of which eventually gave rise to the “Boy Scout Movement” by Baden Powell and Oswald Mosley’s “Brown Shirts” in England and Rudolph Hesse’s own support for Aryan supremacy in Europe, the so-called “Thule Society”. It was named after a lost continent first charted by Pytheas of Massilia around 340 -285 BC when he sailed northwards near Scotland when he observed that the longest day in northern England was nineteen hours (probably the Shetland Isles). The Roman historian Tacitus writes:
“I concur in opinion with those who deem the Germans never to have inter-married with other nations; but to be a race pure, unmixed, and stamped with a distinct character. Hence a family likeness pervades the whole, though their numbers are so great: eyes stern and blue, ruddy hair and large bodied.”
The three “godfathers” of Nazi Thule were Guido von List, Jörg Lanz von Leibenfels and Rudolph von Sebotendorff who promulgated the idea that Germans were ostensibly a “master race” chosen by Nature and God. Jörg Lanz for example was in 1907 the founder of “Order of the New Templars” with their lodges located at the site of ancient ruined castles and became the prototype of Heinrich Himmler’s “Schutzstaffel” or the notorious SS as they were later to be known. They came to the conclusion that the Semites were involved in a conspiracy against Aryan culture through their involvement in Freemasonry and that the Thulean Ideal was still active in its own way with the “Germanenorden”, a secret band whose mission it was to revive the true Nordic traditions, the study of Runes, etc (Herman Wirth), which would restore the Aryan ideal (its leader and chief propagandist was Herman Pohl). He was also a Rosicrucian, a mystic and student of Islamic ideals and an Odinist (neo-Pagan). But in April 1919 seven members of the Thule Society were brutally executed by Communist rebels and became martyrs to the cause. The Thuleans meanwhile had infiltrated the National Socialist Party which was subsequently transformed into the German Workers Party and the National Socialist German Workers Party of which Adolf Hitler became their President. The rest as they say was history but what is also of some concern is that Hitler, realising the enormous potential of an hydrogen bomb actually theorised that if an extremely large bomb was exploded at the south pole then perhaps the Earth’s delinquent axis would be restored to its original and the Aryan homeland would be restored. He was converted to Aryanism when he was imprisoned in Landsberg prison until 1924 along with Rudolph Hesse who was himself a supporter of Rudolph Steiner’s “Anthroposophy” with its emphasis on magic, biodynamic food, the doctrine of signatures and herbalism.
Greek & Roman Ages: In Ovids’ “Metamorphosis” he mentions 4 previous World Ages that have influenced the development and life of mankind – these were named and classified after certain metals following a tradition linked with Hesiod (“Works & Days”, 700 BCE).
The Golden Age: (The so-called Pre-Minoan Period, The Youth of Man) Men lived like Gods ruled by Kronos, free from worry and fatigue, lived to old age and died peacefully in their sleep.
The Silver Age: (Minoan Period/Adolescence of Man) Mankind was influenced by matriarchal rulers and Moon worship, survived by agriculture, did not indulge in war or eating meat. Zeus destroyed them because they did not offer sacrifices to him.
The Bronze Age: (The Mycenaean Period/Maturity of Man) Mankind delighted in heroic exploits, ate meat and were unscrupulous in thought and deed. They were apparently destroyed by plagues.
A further Age was added by Hesiod to include elements or events in Greek history and was known as “The Heroic Age” when mankind lived under the rulership of Kronos (Saturn) which was free from travail, pain and old age. The Roman poet and chronicler, Ovid elaborated on the legend in his book “Metamorphoses”.
The Iron Age: (Dorian Period/Old Age of Man) Mankind became, on one account a race of divine heroes, instigating wars against Troy & Thebes, there were also periods of misery, crime, cruelty and treachery.
The Orphic Ages of Man recorded by Servius likewise attribute certain qualities to the 4 ages of the world. The first is attributed to the planet SATURN and the element of FIRE, the second to JUPITER and the element AIR, the third to NEPTUNE and the element WATER, and finally the fourth to PLUTO and the element EARTH.
These attributes are in accord with the Orphic descent of the soul of Man and the creation of the world as a secret, esoteric doctrine which utilises ancient astrological lore. The descent is visualised as follows:
Aztec World Ages: The Aztec Lord of Creation was known as Ometecuhtli, the personification of duality whose male and female aspects were Ometeotl and Omecihuatl. This cosmic pair gave rise to the 4 Tezcatlipocas. First came Xipe Totec (Dog), the so-called “Flayed God”, second came Huitzilopochtli (Hummingbird), the so-called “War God or Wizard”. Third came Quetzacoatl (Feathered Serpent), the so-called winged or feathered serpent and finally came Tezcatlipoca (Horned Owl), the so-called “Lord of the Night Sky or Smoking Mirror”. A confrontation between these deities led to a cosmic struggle for supremacy of 5 successive eras or “Suns”(Accounts do vary according to time & place). The First Sun was sacred to Ocelotl (Tezcatlipoca) when Giants presided over the Earth while Jaguars ate mankind. The Second Sun was sacred to the Wind, Ehecatl (Quetzacoatl), when hurricanes ravaged the world and men were transformed into monkeys. The Third Sun was Rain in the sign of Quiahuitl (Tlaloc) when the World was destroyed by fiery rain out of the skies. The Fourth Sun was Water in the sign of Atl (Chalchiuhtlicue), when the world was destroyed by floods and men were transformed into fish. Finally, the Fifth Age was “Motion” in the sign of Ollin (Tonatiuh), when the World was destroyed by earthquakes. This last period is the one we are currently living in although according to the Mayan calendar this is due to end in the year 2,012. This era will end as a result of earthquakes according to their sacred annals and the famous calendar stone depicts the Sun God Tonatiuh enclosed by the sign for “movement/motion” (Tlazolteol).
Mayan Ages of the Sun: It is assumed that the Mayans inherited their calendar system from the Aztecs although where the Aztecs received theirs is still uncertain. Recent discoveries by archaeologists suggest the existence of an earlier culture known as the Zoque who established numerous temple complexes on the western regions of the Mexican Valley. The Toltecs history of creation also began with the creation of the 4 or in some versions 5 suns. The first was a “Water Sun” when the world was destroyed by floods (1,716 years). The second Sun was Earth which was destroyed by earthquakes/populated by “Giants”. The Third Sun was Wind when the world was destroyed by cyclones and Winds and men were transformed into monkeys. (The period of Huemac or Quetzacoatl). The Fourth Sun was attributed to fire Our current period which is due to end in a burning conflict.
Other Similar Theories: According to certain traditions each nation or country experienced what may be termed a “Golden Age” in terms of its literary, artistic, political or military achievements. For example for Assyria it was during the reign of Esarhaddon, 3rd son of Sennacherib, to the fall of Nineveh (700-600 BC). In Media during the reign of Cyaxerxes (634-594 BC) and in Persia from the reign of Khosru I to that of Khosru II (531-628 BC). For the Greeks, during the supremacy of Pericles (443-429 BC), for the Chaldeo-Babylonians from the reign of Nabopolassar to Belshazzar (625-538 BC). In Egypt during the reign of Seti I and Rameses II (1312-1235 BC). In China it occurred during the T’ang dynasty (618-906). In England during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and in France during the reign of Louis XIV (1640-1740). In Germany during the reign of Charles V and Portugal during the reign of John I to that of Sebastian. In Prussia during the reign of Frederick the Great (1740-86). For the Roman Empire from the death of Domitian (AD 96) to the accession of Commodus (180 AD). In Russia during the reign of Peter the Great (1672-1725). In Spain during the reign of Ferdinand & Isabella (1672-1725). In Sweden from Gustavus Vasa (1523-60) and in Finland Gustavus Adolphus (1611-32). Another cycle of human endeavour and spiritual evolution was formulated by the Roman Catholic Abbot Trithemius (15th century) linked to the so-called “Secundaean Beings”. In effect they were 7 astral intelligencies given over the rulership of an never-ending sequence of historical periods in human history consisting of 354 years duration each (2,478 years or Trithemian Periods). Trithemius assigned the Sun to the period beginning in 1881, our own epoch, which is due to end of course in the year 2,235. This has nothing to do with the orbital periods of the planets or their synodic cycles but I have compiled them in a table for comparison. Each is thought to be of the rank of archangel although with respect to the range of their influence, they are merely archai (angels) and are linked to the planetary spheres. When compared to the table by Trithemius below there is an obvious discrepancy in their names and planetary attributions. Derived largely from an amalgam of Hebraic/Gnostic sources, Trithemius describes a cycle of historical events or circumstances attributed to them, these were briefly summarised by Stein as follows.
Saturn (30 – an approximate synodic period) Orphiel – Light & Darkness, Christ’s time on Earth.
Jupiter (12 – an approximate synodic period) Zachariel – Order & Chaos, the Religious or monastic Life.
Mars (15 – an approximate synodic period) Samael – Military Crusades & Conflicts.
Venus (8 – synodic period of 99 lunar months) Anael – Persecution of Believers, faith of martyrs.
Mercury (20 – Egyptian years = 63 synodic periods) Raphael – Age of Holy Grail, Orders of Knights.
Sun (19 solar years) Michael – Trans-global World Commerce, navigation & discoveries.
Moon (25 – Egyptian years = 63 synodic periods) Gabriel – Feuds connected to hereditary rights and dominions.
*Atmos (Ariel – 7 layers of Earth’s atmosphere). Our current Age characterised by Plagues, Floods & Climatic Disasters.
Earth (*Metatron – Regulation & Maintenance of Earth’s geophysical existence) from the time of Copernicus.
*Note: These differ from one system to another. More recently Metatron is also connected to the sphere of Kether (Head Chakra), however since there is an obvious connection with Malkuth (Base Chakra) it seems expedient to point out this anomaly also. Some researchers insist that the sphere is ruled over by the Shekinah or the demoness Lilith other sources suggest the archangel Sandalphon. We must also take into consideration that Trithemius was writing a spoof manual of Magic artfully disguised as a manual for the code-breakers and code-makers of his time.
I decided to compile this essay to commemorate two occasions in English literary history, firstly the 400th anniversary of the publication of the “Shakespeare Folio” of 1623 and the annual celebration of England’s patron saint, St. George, the 23rd of April. But in essence this essay is in effect a resume of most of the articles I have written with regard to Shakespeare Authorship. In my previous essay “Shakespeare’s Mysterious Metamorphosis” I highlighted the obvious connections with regard to the Roman poet Ovid and Shakespeare’s folio of plays and poetry and further how Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford could very easily be the author or collaborator with other poets/playwrights from the time. I also highlighted how conventional literary academics from the time such as Alexander Pope, John Milton and David Garrick some 100-200 years later did not conceive there to be any such connection and failed to link a translation of “Ovid’s Metamorphoses” by Sir Arthur Golding to his esteemed nephew Edward de Vere was remarkably incompetent by any standard. The reason being that they had vested interests in concealing the true identity of the author, Alexander Pope for example was anxious to publish the second Folio Edition of Shakespeare plays, benefitting from it both financially and professionally. Or, was this oversight deliberately engineered and intended to throw a veil of secrecy over the authorship of Shakespeare? I mentioned that Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” was a keystone literary source for Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, for example the erotic and evocative poem “Venus & Adonis” (published 1593) and the “Rape of Lucrece” (published 1594) reputedly by William Shakespeare is dealt with by Ovid in Book Ten (See “Shakespeare’s Poetry”). Had they done so then they would have found and put together the other missing pieces of the jigsaw in the “Shakespeare Authorship Debate” and arrived at the same conclusion as the academic J.T. Looney (“Shakespeare Identified”) who in the 1920’s collated enough evidence to say that William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon could not have had the means, motivation, education or facility to write the superlative poems and plays ascribed to the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare”. When Queen Elizabeth 1st died after a reign of forty-four years and James 1st acceded to the English throne Edward de Vere was nearing the end of his career and moreover the end of his illustrious and controversial life. For reasons that should become clear in the course of this essay the Earl was obliged to remain anonymous in return for the life of his illegitimate son, Henry Wriostheley, the Earl of Southampton who was imprisoned in the Tower for his involvement in the Essex Rebellion of 1600. The Earl of Essex was found guilty of treason and was himself facing a verdict of execution and the Earl of Southampton was facing a similar fate. But his father the 17th Earl of Oxford pleaded for his life to the Privy Council and Queen Elizabeth which was granted only on the condition that the Earl of Oxford should renounce all connection or affiliation to the works falsely attributed to the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare” henceforth and for all time to come. Edward de Vere died in 1604 shortly after attending the coronation of King James 1st as Lord Great Chamberlain and very little was heard or reported about him subsequently and neither was his death eulogised or commemorated for some very obvious reasons which I will attempt to discuss further in this essay. Since conventional biographers of William Shakespeare’s life record his death as being the 23rd April 1616 scholars remained convinced that he was therefore still able to write plays when Edward de Vere was long since dead (1604), so were all the authorship doubts resolved?
Unfortunately not, the Pembroke circle headed by Mary Sidney (whose brother Sir Phillip Sidney had been a sworn enemy of Edward de Vere) would ensure that the Earl’s promise to renounce his literary legacy would stand and they made sure that generations to come would be under the false impression that a rural farmer’s boy would be acclaimed an illustrious poet and playwright and the generations to come would be totally oblivious to the identity of the real author, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. However, the Earl was an expert linguist and cryptographer and in his manuscripts he left many clues that would associate the works of “William Shakespeare” to himself personally. One clue in particular was unearthed by Alexander Waugh and is found in the Sonnets Dedication of 1609 (See “Shakespeare’s Codename” or “The Sonnets Dedication”). For some time after his death a small coterie of writers, poets and playwrights like Ben Jonson, Leonard Digges, and George Withers knew there was something ‘fishy’ going on with the authorities and other aristocratic persons anxious to eliminate any connection between the Earl of Oxford before the 1623 Folio was printed. While alive the Earl was extremely vociferous through his “Shakespearean” plays and poetry against the status quo and by all accounts something of a trouble-maker. Whatever evidence remained to link the Earl to Shakespeare authorship they meticulously destroyed and the only piece that was subsequently found, purely by chance really was the “Northumberland Manuscript” which was used by a scribe employed by Sir Francis Bacon who was made responsible for collating the Earl’s foul papers, manuscripts, notes and diaries. When a faithful reproduction of a play or poem had been made the originals were subsequently destroyed for all time. One wonders how much the Folger Shakespeare Library would have paid to own just one original “Shakespeare” manuscript.
As previously mentioned in another essay, “Shakespeare’s Literary Sources” I list the huge number of literary sources that the author “Shakespeare” would have read or studied to enable him to write the entire canon as well as the poems ascribed to Shakespeare. The alarming absence of any original literary material, notebooks, diaries, letters or other manuscripts ascribed as possessions to William Shakspere of Stratford has been a bone of contention for many Stratfordian academics. It would be fair to say that when the Stratford actor died he possessed no extensive library of books, indeed not even a bible was mentioned in his last will and testament. Since the authorship debate took hold by the 1950’s many more actors, literary celebrities, statesmen and commentators have cast doubt over the Stratford actor’s status as a “literary figure”. Moreover, other candidates for authorship have been suggested (eg: Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Derby, and Sir Francis Bacon) although Edward de Vere’s case is by far the strongest if we take note of the “Correct Dating of Shakespeare’s Plays”. In an article entitled “Sir Francis Bacon Versus Edward de Vere” I have attempted a forensic comparative analysis of these two men who both had a career which involved a proximity to the Elizabethan court, to literature, poetry and the writing of plays. However, I subsequently discovered there was a “Secret Masonic Connection” between them that would have been hidden at the time and for many years to come by classical scholars and academics. This in part explained the wall of secrecy, the concocted denial of authorship to an aristocrat, and other inconsistencies such as how does a playwright write so accurately about Italian Culture when he never visited or travelled abroad?
I have dealt with this glaring anomaly in “A Stratfordian Homunculus Forged & Distilled From Italian Comedy” because Edward de Vere actually spent a year in Italy and even took part in a staged and recorded Commedia d’elle Arte event there. Then we have to account for the fact that the Stratford man, Will Shakspere made only ‘six shaky signatures’ in his entire life and with these convinced conventional academics that he was a signature poet and playwright? To date no evidence of original manuscripts has confirmed the Stratford actor’s status or education as a prolific literary figure, indeed it is doubted whether he could in fact read and write, his entire family and previous generations were recorded as totally illiterate. In contrast it would appear that Edward de Vere was from birth a prodigious polymath, and an erudite and accomplished scholar having been brought up as a ward to William Cecil, then Lord Burghley who was in effect second-in-command to Queen Elizabeth 1st. Oxford at a young age greatly impressed his tutors, too numerous to mention all of them at this juncture but among them were Roger Ascham (Minister for Education), Dr. John Dee (Queen’s Astrologer), Sir Thomas Smith and of course Sir Arthur Golding, translator and statesman. In July 1578 Gabriel Harvey recognised Oxford as a prolific poet and one “whose countenance shakes spears”. Over thirty Elizabethan authors dedicated their books to the Earl of Oxford for example 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 acting company. Nicknamed “The Turk” by Queen Elizabeth he was for a brief period a favourite at court and noted for his love of sartorial fashions, sporting activity, writing plays and poetry, dancing, fencing and musical composition. He was once complemented on his musical ability and knowledge as being superior to his tutors and contemporaries. Then Anthony Munday went on to publish “Zelato” with a dedication to the Earl of Oxford. (See “Books Dedicated to Edward de Vere”). Towards the middle part of his career in the theatre Queen Elizabeth 1st awarded the Earl of Oxford an annuity of £1,000 pounds to anonymously generate plays and poetry about England’s glorious historical past which led to the early histories, then comedies and tragedies ascribed to Shakespeare. The Queen readily understood the Earl’s reluctance, given his high status and family reputation, to have his real name on Shakespeare authorship and approved the use of his “theatrical mask” William Shakspere of Stratford. What I also noted having studied and thoroughly researched the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy for some thirty years is Shakespeare’s extraordinary height, depth and breadth of knowledge.
As already mentioned the list of subjects referred to in the plays and poetry amounts to someone having access to a library of some 3,000 rare and specialised 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 the absence of any evidence of his primary or secondary 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? There are also over 170 new words coined in the French language alone, a language solely employed by aristocrats and the legal profession in England. For some unknown reason “William Shakespeare” omits to give any reference or mention his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon or even Warwickshire which is remarkable. 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 drama, the law and history were taught and practised. And yet despite all these discrepancies 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 or educated 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 formative education than the “Stratford Shakespeare”. I decided to catalogue an historical timeline of events that occurred to “Edward de Vere and William Shakspere” and it clearly illustrates that Edward de Vere’s life resonates more closely to the plays and poetry than does the life and times of William Shakspere of Stratford.
In comparison with Edward de Vere, William Shakspere’s social life appears rather mundane and to all intents does not in any sense reflect the life of a bohemian poet or playwright. He appears more interested in acquiring property by fair means or foul, lending small amounts of money and then harassing his borrowers who had defaulted on their loans, selling building materials, and finally as a landlord farmer with agricultural land tenanted by his relatives and friends. His father, John Shakspere was for some time an ale-taster, presumably a tenant farmer, then a bailiff and an alderman although quite illiterate and usually signed his name with an ‘X’. His close friends appear to be equally capable of deceiving the authorities and assisting his financial schemes to enclose portions of common land at Welcombe. The result of which several disputes arose in which the opponents to the scheme were killed and injured. Other vocations or professions ascribed to Shakespeare were that he worked as a butcher’s apprentice, a glover and ‘wool-brogger’, a term used to describe a wool merchant, but he was also fined for hoarding grain during a dearth in Stratford for purely financial gain. Soon after acquiring his “Coat of Arms” he was involved in a street brawl in London and was bound over to keep the peace on forfeit of a surety. One of his ancestors was actually hanged three generations before for highway robbery. As a result Shakespeare academics were anxious to construct a “Viable Biography of William Shakspeare” to fill the enormous vacuum of what was actually known about the bucolic William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon. But all that they could come up with is a number of theories, suppositions and conjectures that for example he worked as a school teacher in Lancashire (a false supposition), that as a boy he poached deer from the nearby Charlecote estate or that his first job at the London theatres was looking after the horses for visitors while working as an apprentice poet and playwright.
A study of Shakespeare’s Sonnets suggests someone who had an extra-marital affair so again academics had to survey the details of Shakspere’s life in order to link him to an Oxford landlady, Jeanne Davenant and an illegitimate son, William Davenant who later became a poet and playwright. Later on some academics coined the term “Dark Lady & the Rival Poet” to define the identity of the woman concerned and the poet who eventually betrayed him in a ménage a trois. To substantiate any connection with a patron they turned to the “Dedication in the Sonnets” to explain the many references to “A Fair Youth” who Shakespeare implored to marry and procreate. No one in William Shakspere’s own family appears to correspond to a “Fair Youth” who was implored to marry.
Stratfordian academics then had to redress the vacuum of evidence about Shakspere as a playwright which led to the “Lost Years Debate”, that they hoped would address or explain a mundane life. Finally, even a ground penetrating radar test conducted on Shakespeare’s tomb soon after the discovery of Richard IIIrd’s body in a car park in Leicester revealed nothing but dust and rubble! So, where were the actual remains of Shakespeare’s body and how did it mysteriously disappear? So, we have no manuscripts, no library, no evidence of an education, no musical instruments, no overseas travel, no proof of linguistic accomplishment and no physical body and yet the legend or myth of William Shakespeare (Dick Whittington & William Shakspere) persists merely in the “Anglo-Saxon imagination” regardless of how little evidence there is to perpetuate or substantiate it. To me personally this is a tragedy of enormous proportions to British History or Literature and like the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship and the esteemed De Vere Society I have attempted to redress the poverty of truth about the “Soul of the Age”, “Star of Poets” and “Swan of Avon”, the pseudonymous and anonymous William Shakespeare.
I have consequently explored the numerous portraits presumed to be of “William Shakespeare” in an essay entitled “The Many Faces of Shakespeare”. It seems the same pattern of misinformation, idle supposition and misconception can be found today among numerous articles which assert that a man with an earring, a lace collar, dressed in doublet and hose and a sword was “William Shakespeare”. However, Ben Jonson’s poem alongside an engraved portrait of “Shakespeare” in the 1623 Folio 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 obliged to observe a natural literary genius and superlative polymath who could only have been a nobleman or someone extremely 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 printed or published in England. For some unknown reason the Earl of Southampton was not executed like Essex but later pardoned and then released. His aristocratic title and estates were subsequently restored to him when James 1st had acceded to the throne. 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. It was time to draw a definitive line between the forty four year reign of the “Virgin Queen” with all its astounding indiscretions and the forthcoming reign of James 1st, which in itself was in any sense a panacea for the ignominious past (See “The Gunpowder Plot of 1605”.
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. 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 had published “Venus & Adonis” again dedicated to the 3rd Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley. There is no record of any association or meeting with William Shakspere and Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton and no evidence of the Earl actually financing Shakspere. 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 (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 other major white-wash of English history is the now much disputed Elizabethan propaganda of the “Virgin Queen”, Elizabeth 1st and her numerous sub-rosa love affairs, (Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford and possibly Sir Christopher Hatton) her concealed pregnancies as a result and the inevitable consequences which naturally had to be air-brushed out of English history. Not many people readily accept that the Shakespeare play “The Taming of a Shrew” was secretly alluding to Queen Elizabeth’s unmarried status as well as her virago tendencies. The idea of a woman who was by her irascible and stubborn nature unable to find a suitable husband is not entirely new and a very popular and entertaining subject in Elizabethan times. In other words, in Elizabethan England women were expected to marry and produce offspring, purely for the delight and status of their men folk. However, this Italian story of a virago woman has its origins in Aristo‘s I “Suppositi” (1474-1533) which the poet and courtier, George Gascoigne had translated. For this reason and many others many people think that Gascoigne was the real author of Shakespeare’s plays. There is a quarto text entitled The Taming of a Shrew which might have been a source for revision by Shakespeare himself.
The theme of a shrewish woman unable to marry persisted in Elizabethan times, partly because Queen Elizabeth 1st herself cleverly adopted that enigmatic and cool persona. Plays of this sort became a focus of political debate because they clearly contained allusions to the time. During her most eligible period Elizabeth was wooed by many prospective suitors including: Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Sir Walter Raleigh, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the French Duke of Alençon, Sir Christopher Hatton, The Earl of Essex, King Henri Navarre of France, and many more perhaps. But in the end none of them succeeded. Her early sexual abuses at the age of sixteen in the hands of Sir Thomas Seymour had educated her to respond coolly to the advances of men and to understand their underlying motivations and expectations. She saw parallels in Shakespeare’s poem “The Rape of Lucrece” to her own treatment by Thomas Seymour. In his book “The Mystery of William Shakespeare”Charlton Ogburn suggests that a clandestine affair took place between her and the Earl of Oxford and that this encounter was the inspiration for the poem “Venus & Adonis”. This would have portrayed Elizabeth herself as lustful and predatory especially towards younger courtiers. However, Elizabeth understood and presumed that marriage would severely undermine her supreme authority and role as Queen, and that any clandestine sexual scandal might equally do the same. Fortunately, her ministers both Sir Francis Walsingham and William Cecil (Lord Burghley) saw to it that sexual scandal did not arise or attach itself in any way to the Queen. Despite their efforts British diplomats abroad had difficulty convincing other nations that the Queen’s Court was anything but a hotbed of incest, controversy and vice. It was highly unlikely therefore that she would seriously consider any marriage proposal during her early reign when she had styled and promoted herself as the “Mother of the Nation”. What kind of mother she was in real life is not documented because conventional historians assume she was a ‘celibate’ for the entirety of her life and reign.
Towards the end of her tragic and mysterious life Queen Elizabeth became increasingly ill and depressed partly because of old age and possibly because she used a lead compound (known as “spirits of Saturn”, or Venetian Ceruse) as a make-up to hide her bad complexion caused by smallpox which would have gradually poisoned her. Despite the fact that she refused to give permission for a post mortem her servants noted that all her teeth had fallen out, her hair was fragile and her face extremely emaciated. Confined to Richmond Palace, she was unable to stand and spent hours in bed as the poison and old age finally wreaked havoc on her health. Still she remained indecisive, stubborn and vain to the end and failed to name her successor, except perhaps with a gesture of her hand when asked if she had any objection to James VIth of Scotland acceding to the throne of England. After her death she was laid in a lead coffin for 14 days, her lady in waiting, Mary Southwell recorded that prior to royal burial her body actually exploded in the coffin giving off noxious vapours. The truth again however is that there were many more contenders to the throne of England, among them the changeling offspring from numerous affairs such as Sir Francis Bacon or Henry Wriothesley as well as those close to the genealogical line of royal accession like the Earl of Derby, William Stanley to name just a few.
The links to my current publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and an anthology of poetry “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:
I’m fairly sure even if you are relatively new to the study of Tarot Symbolism you will have seen the “Magic Nine” layout and can appreciate how useful it is particularly in Alchemical symbolism much of which is employed in the traditional Rider Waite deck. Unfortunately this deck has been changed slightly by the publishers over time with many lost symbolic and colour correspondences. The alphanumerical mnemonics employed are as follows:
A) 1+9=10 (Wheel of Fortune) plus 9 = 19 (The Sun) B) 2+9=11 (Justice) plus 9 = 20 (Judgement) C) 3+9=12 (Hanged Man) plus 9 = 21 (Universe/World) D) 4+9=13 (Death) plus 9 = 22 (The Fool) E) 5+9=14 (Temperance) plus 9 = 23 which reduces to 5 (Hierophant) F) 6+9=15 (The Devil) plus 9 = 24 which reduces to 6 (The Lovers) G) 7+9=16 (The Tower) plus 9 = 25 which reduces to 7 (The Chariot) H) 8+9=17 (The Star) plus 9 = 26 which reduces to 8 (Strength) I) 9+9=18 (The Moon) plus 9 =27 which reduces to 9 (The Hermit)
What should be borne in mind is that Judaic numerology employed only the numbers 1-8 in their calculations because they believed that the numbers 9-10, as sacred emanations were beyond human comprehension. Here are the original designs with a report of their Alchemical significance:
The colour codes are as follows: Black or Grey, denote Saturn (ie; #15 Devil, #16 Tower or #13 Death) the alchemical term is ‘nigredo’ associated with the metal lead. Red or Yellow Ochre often denote the Sun (Gold) associated with #1 The Magus, #19 The Sun and #10 Wheel of Fortune, or #8 Strength with the alchemical term rubedo. White or paler colours (albedo) denote Mercury (Quicksilver) as in #2 High Priestess, #17 The Star, or #18 Moon. Yellow is generally the colour code for alchemical Sulphur in its inert state as seen in #1 The Magus, #3 The Empress, #7 The Chariot, #8 Strength, and #0 The Fool. The theory of the sublime unity of matter as a universal hypothesis was central to the understanding of the alchemical process. According to Aristotle all materials/metals evolve towards an example of perfection. Their expression depended on their qualities or properties so that the four elements were expressed as Hot, Cold, Dry, Moist and as there were perfect and imperfect compounds their comingling or interaction facilitated the generation of differing properties. For example water can under the right conditions turn to steam (a vapour) or ice (a solid). These properties were therefore linked to the four elements, Fire, Water, Air and Earth .
The Planets were attributed to metals which were subject to generation or corruption through their volatility/combustibility (Sulphur), mass or weight/concentration (Mercury), and their fluidity/mutability (Salt).
Moon – Silver Sun – Gold Mercury – Quicksilver Venus – Copper Earth – Bronze Mars – Iron Jupiter – Tin Saturn – Lead
After a sustained period of study and training, the apprentice is requested to search in the “bowels” of the earth and discover the “untreated stone” or prima materia. This stone is then pulverised and mixed with the first agent a so-called “fire without flame”. He is then required to add a distillation of magical dew and place this mixture within a hermetically sealed vessel (or egg). This is then gradually heated and left to incubate – a process described symbolically as sulphur (masculine) seeking predominance over quicksilver (feminine) in order to create the so-called “inner-child” (androgyne). This represents the principles of ignition and volatility and the continual chemical coagulation of these alchemical energies eventually produces the blackest Black of energies (nigredo). As the heat continues to increase in the alchemical egg, the next phase of alchemical transformation is described as an iridescence of rainbow colours, not unlike that found on the inside of an abalone shell or reflected in the fine feathers of the peacock’s tail. This confirms the fundamental idea in colour theory that black and white represents waves of energy or light permeating matter and aether (spirit). When the 7 colours of the rainbow are mixed on an artists palette they produce black, but when they are placed on a disc and then rotated at speed they turn white. This consequently gives rise to the creation and unification of the Red King (rubedo -sulphur, hot, gaseous) conjoining sexually with the White Queen (albedo -mercury, cold, liquid). In effect they are either literally united in a sexual act or, as in the case of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, are visualised in sexual congress during meditation. Again this is not unlike the Chinese concept of yin and yang energy, both in the body and through the workings of the universal cosmos. In ancient Chinese pharmacopoeias yin and yang are depicted merged within a region in the solar plexus and entitled “The Cauldron”. This is synonymous with the alchemical process itself and the mythic elements of the “Holy Grail” legend. The myth of King Arthur came about at a time when medieval alchemy attained some of its finest exponents within the secular and orthodox sphere of spiritual consciousness. Artists, writers, scientists, and composers perceived the Grail legend as a useful leitmotif or spiritual manual which could lead them into a meditative realisation of personal transformation. In effect it provided a symbolic dialectic between the individual’s conscious and unconscious “mind” that gained ground and became disseminated by the collective subconscious of the masses.
The Gates of Transubstantiation encountered by the Alchemist were numbered as follows:
In a 16th century woodcut from “The Rosarium Philosophorum”, the “divine couple” are shown in coitus wearing their gold and silver crowns floating in the archetypal sea of the spirit. At their feet are the symbols for the Sun and Moon which denotes that elements of the unconscious naturally seek conscious fulfilment in the world of matter or the real world. This means that every woman or man unconsciously seeks fulfilment in their complementary partners, the so-called sacred marriage (“hierosgamos”). However, this is merely a temporary illusion, for what they really seek is to discover their masculine and feminine counterparts within themselves. The alchemical wedding is a symbolic reference to the fusion of masculine and feminine as a totally internal, self-effulgent experience, although, as in some tenets of Tantra, the catalyst may indeed be an actual ritualised sexual encounter. From many diagrammatic and illustrated examples of these alchemical experiments as well as some very well-known artistic works it seems evident that the inspiration for western artists with respect to both the composition and the subject matter is of Eastern Tantric or Buddhist iconography. The Hindu and Tibetan monastic and temple arts often displayed the “divine couple”, without shame or anguish in the act of procreation. When we contrast this image with that of Adam and Eve being banished we can also begin to understand the importance of Alchemy on arts censorship. The supposed “Fall” from the Garden of Eden being exposed by more puritanical religious sects seems to have met opposition from many heretical sects. In their view these artefacts were not pornography or for that matter an aspect of their “black arts” – but art without repression or sexual taboos.
The links to my publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and my anthology of poetry; “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:
Whenever scholars or students are inclined to examine or list William Shakespeare’s literary or dramatic sources (said to be some 3,000 or more rare or unobtainable books) we notice that in just about every play and poem, in varying degrees and scale of course, we will discover numerous allusions or direct extracts derived from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” and naturally to the events of Greek and Roman History and Mythology. The same conclusion could be said of the Geneva, Bishop’s or King James’ Bible and the “Book of Psalms” of course and for his history plays he no doubt would have had copies of Raphael Hollinshed’s “The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland” (2nd ed., 1587) or Edward Hall’s “The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York” (3rd. ed., 1550). The renowned Roman poet Ovid aka: Publius Ovidius Naso was born on the 20th March 43 BC at Sulmona, Abrizzi the region which was infamous for the conflict between the rival consuls, Anthony of Mutina leaving Octavian to become Augustus Caesar (Tristia, iv, 10). By the time he was a young man Anthony and Cleopatra had been routed at Actium (31 BC) and the Roman Republic had become a despotic autocracy. This historical narrative was the underlying subject of Shakespeare’s own plays “Anthony & Cleopatra” and “Julius Caesar”. Coincidentally, Ovid was a young man growing up in Rome when the messiah Jesus was still a small boy in Palestine. As his family were wealthy and prosperous he was sent to study at Rome under the leading teachers of his day, eg; Seneca and Quintillian. On graduation Ovid went on a grand sightseeing tour of the Greek islands as well as to Athens. His earliest works were “Amores”, in five books followed by the “Heroides”, the so-called “Letters of Heroines”, then the “Ars Amatoria” (Art of Love) and the “Remedia” (Remedies of Love) and a now lost tragedy “Medea”. Academics have concluded that Ovid was working on “Metamorphoses” from 1 AD onwards along with the “Fasti” (Calendar) an elegiac poem of twelve books. By 8 AD when the “Metamorphoses” was ready for publishing and he had been acclaimed as Rome’s leading poet he was unexpectedly exiled by Augustus to remote Tomis (Constanta, Rumania) for no apparent cause or known reason. Leading academics suggest it was his selections from his “Ars Amatoria” which caused Augustus to exile him faraway from Rome.
Ovid’s work featured a great deal of sexual violence and incest from the two major Roman Gods Jupiter and Apollo and was therefore somewhat salacious, controversial and extremely erotic. However, he was married three times and had one daughter, having written the five books of the Tristia at Tomis as well as his “Pontus Letters” (Epistulae Pontus) he finally died in exile in 17 AD. Fortunately, Ovid had at his disposal a vast array of books from previous authors and poets such as Horace’s Odes, Virgil’s Aeneid, Homer’s Illiad as well as the works of Catallus, Callimacus, Heraclitus, Hesiod, Lucretius and Epicurus to name but a few. Therefore, the poet Ovid, like Shakespeare had his own vast array of literary sources from which he drew continuously for his own poetic works which were originally written in Latin. The translation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” that would have been available to Shakespeare was Arthur Golding’s first English translation, the first four books published by 1565, the remainder and entire corpus of fifteen books by 1567. In 1480 William Caxton had printed a prose version from a French translation which Shakespeare might have had access to. Although on consulting the “Cambridge Guide to English Literature” I discovered that the compilers state that Golding’s translation was dedicated to Sir Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester the dedication alongside the title page dates from April 1567 and states as follows:
THE XV BOOKES of P. Ouidius Naso, Entitled Metamorphosis, translated out of Latin into English meter, by Arthur Golding, Gentleman. A worke very pleasaunt and delectable.
One is curious to know why would Sir Arthur Golding dedicate his English translation of the works of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” to Sir Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester? At the time of translating Ovid’s epic work it seems that Arthur Golding was appointed as tutor by William Cecil to his young nephew, Edward de Vere who was, on reaching the age of his majority to become the 17th Earl of Oxford, Baron Bulbeck. Among the most direct inferences from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” can be found undeniably within Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus”, the sonnet verses of “Venus & Adonis”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “The Merry Wives of Windsor”, and “A Winter’s Tale”. An acknowledged Puritan and confirmed Protestant could Arthur Golding have gone to the extremes of translating the 12,000 line Ovidian tome, which is actually longer than Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, into English iambic pentameter couplets, stretching to some 400 pages? Ovid’s original however was in hexameters throughout and some researchers criticise Golding’s translation for its poetic and dialectic distortions into Anglo-Saxon English. Furthermore, by May 1564, Edward de Vere’s uncle, Arthur Golding had dedicated “Th’ Abridgement of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius” to his 14-year-old nephew, Edward de Vere noting Oxford’s unusually in-depth interest in both ancient history and current political tides declaring openly:
“It is not unknown to others, and I have experience thereof myself, how earnest a desire your honour hath naturally graffed in you to read, peruse, and communicate with others as well the histories of ancient times, and things done long ago, as also the present estate of things in our days, and that not without a certain pregnancy of wit and ripeness of understanding”.
Golding’s publication was presumed to be an important literary source for “Shakespeare’s” early play “Romeo & Juliet”. This was around the same time that Edward de Vere received his honorary degrees from Cambridge and Oxford (1564-1566) and later married Lord Burghley’s daughter, Anne Cecil. Arthur Golding published the final translation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” in 1567, which was printed by Thomas Vautrollier who, when he died the Warwickshire printer, Richard Field then, working as Vautrollier’s apprentice, inherited the copyright. In actual fact Richard Field had married Vautrollier’s daughter and thereby inherited his prestigious profession and premises in Blackfriar’s. He then transferred or sold the copyright of the “Ravishement of Lucrece” to John Harrison, a bookseller at St. Paul’s having previously printed “Venus & Adonis” (1593). Whether or not Arthur Golding was really the legitimate author of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is contested by several Oxfordian academics (Charlton Ogburn, “The Mysterious William Shakespeare”) who insist that the translation of a saucy, erotic and extremely sexually violent book would not have been undertaken by such a staunch, conservative or Puritan Lord. He suspects that the real author was again Edward de Vere, who was apparently something of a child prodigy. But again on the 20th October 1571, Arthur Golding dedicated another book to the prodigious child entitled: “The Psalms of David and others, with M. John Calvin’s Commentaries”. In 1965 the author and academic John Frederick Nims from the University of Illinois, Chicago wrote in the latest re-printed edition of Golding’s “Metamorphoses” as follows:
“L. P. Wilkinson, in the best book we have on Ovid, reminds us that Shakespeare echoes him as often as four times as often as he echoes Virgil, that he draws on every book of the Metamorphoses, and that there is scarcely any play untouched by his influence. Golding’s translation, through the many editions published during Shakespeare’s lifetime, was the standard Ovid in English. If Shakespeare had read Ovid so, he read Golding.”
However, J.F. Nims also believed that Shakespeare must have also read the original Latin edition as well as Golding’s excellent English translation including earlier Roman versions by Marsus Paulus (printed by Richard Field). The suspicion is that “Shakespeare” might also have read Livy’s own account or that of Dionysus of Hallicarnassus. The controversial American poet, Ezra Pound who later dismissed the academic notion that a rural farmer’s lad had become an illustrious poet and playwright says of Golding’s Opus:
“Golding’s Metamorphoses is the most beautiful in the language which in my opinion I suspect was “Shakespeare’s”.
To truly understand why Ovid was such a popular source for most budding Elizabethan playwrights and poets we should acknowledge and appreciate how the poetic milieu operated in the 15th to 16th century. It was considered a poetic conceit to take a line out of some classical or well-known author such as Ovid, Virgil, Cicero etc, and then expand on it further in one’s own work in progress. It might then be euphuistically embroidered in another poet’s style or metre as a form of disguise or camouflage. Furthermore, a line could be taken out of a well-known classical work and used either at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of a poetic or dramatic work to endorse a personal proposition, whether that was social, political or aesthetic, thereby supporting or invigorating the poet’s intent or message. Or it might be that a poet or playwright might take an entire classical story or myth and then compress or reduce it down to its bare essentials. This is aptly illustrated with the cameo insert of “Pyramus & Thisbe” in the play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and in “Hamlet” with the staged play “Murder of Gonzago”. This illustrated the poet’s depth of reading and study, their proficiency in emulating a known classical poet, or their ability to write in a playful manner and draw out contradistinctions, inversions and parallel the works of other poets and dramatists. Ben Jonson gave some advice on the issue of emulation and homage in poetry saying:
“The poet must convert the substance or riches of another poet to his own use. To make choice of one excellent man above the rest, and so to follow him till he grow very he, or so like him as the copy may be mistaken for the principal…Not to imitate servilely, as Horace saith, and catch at vices for virtue, but to draw forth out of the best and choicest flowers, with the bee, and turn all into honey, work it into one relish, and savour; make your imitation sweet; observe how the best writers have imitated, and follow them.”
This is why some academics have drawn the conclusion, to account for his elevated genius, that “Shakespeare” echoed, stole or imitated other contemporary dramatists and poets of the time. In actual fact the author was simply following the fashion or “literary mode” of the time to mirror or parallel the work of other poets. For example, it is no mere coincidence that “Shakespeare’s” “Lucrece” and “Venus & Adonis” came out shortly after Christopher Marlowe’s “Hero & Leander” (originally a poem by Musaeus 6th century AD). This could have been intended as a “nod and a wink” to Marlowe that he was what is known today as “woke”, purely in a literal sense of course. This poetic and literary technique or device is rarely practised today or found within contemporary theatre or poetry, at least not as far as I am aware. But I have personally done this with my own poetry, but contemporary poets on seeing the result just do not “get it”, they simply see it as blatant plagiarism and insist I should “develop my own style”. Whereas I would personally describe my “own style” as the concerted long term summation of every other poet I had read and admired and during one public performance it took an older literary scholar to identify my source as John Donne, and he was right, but the rest of the audience were left oblivious of my “poetic conceit”.
Although the poet Ezra Pound was not the only 20th century author, actor or artistic celebrity to have serious doubts over the “Shakespeare Authorship Debate”, since the esteemed academic J. Thomas Looney in the 1920’s published his own erudite doubts and revelations pertaining to the prolific polymath and prodigious playwright “William Shakespeare” (“Shakespeare Identified”). Among the poetic and dramatic works that also drew from the well of Ovid were an anonymous poem “Fable of Narcissus” (1560), Peend’s “Fable of Salamacis & Hermaphroditus” (1565), Thomas Lodge’s “Scylla’s Metamorphosis” (1589), Francis Beaumont’s “Salamacis & Hermaphroditus” and Clapham’s “Narcissus”. So again nothing unusual or original about an Elizabethan poet or playwright using Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” as a literary or poetic anchor. However, as many academics assume that the person responsible for the authorship of “Lucrece” and “Venus & Adonis” was a Stratford wool merchant/glover turned actor then one is tempted to ask where did William Shakspere acquire all these rare and unobtainable books and where did he learn to write poetry as well as some of his contemporaries who had learned their craft while attending a College, University or one of the Inns of Court? The conventional academic’s answer would have been his fellow countryman and printer Richard Field but we have no record or evidence that they were friends or associates and in any case the Stratford man would not have been able to invest such a large sum of money to have his poetry published on an actor’s wages. So, Where or how did he acquire the cash required to finance the publication of two poetry editions within the space of two years at the start of his career as a poet? Indeed he was still an aspiring actor and little known, and what possible motive could he have had to write so superlatively about subjects such as incest, and rape allegorically and personally which must have been close to the poet’s heart and in another sense mirror his mind but simultaneously seems to be concealing his true face? (See “The Many Faces of Shakespeare”) Who or what was the “bucolic Shakespeare” of Stratford-upon-Avon thinking about when writing the “Ravishement of Lucrece” and then dedicating it to a nobleman such as the Earl of Southampton? The answer is I think an event, or rather situation that occurred between the notorious Thomas Seymour and the young Elizabeth Tudor which the “Stratford Shakespeare” would not have been aware of or known anything about. Queen Elizabeth’s early sexual encounters at the age of sixteen with Sir Thomas Seymour had educated her to respond coolly to the advances of men and to understand their underlying motivations and expectations. She must have seen parallels in Shakespeare’s poem “The Rape of Lucrece” to her own treatment by Thomas Seymour who was climbing the aristocratic ladder first by seducing Catherine Parr and when that failed turning his attentions to the vulnerable young Elizabeth.
In his book, “The Mystery of William Shakespeare”Charlton Ogburn suggests that a clandestine affair took place between her and the Earl of Oxford and that this encounter was the inspiration for the poem “Venus & Adonis”. This would have portrayed Elizabeth herself as lustful and predatory especially towards younger courtiers. However, Elizabeth understood and presumed that marriage would severely undermine her supreme authority and role as Queen of the realm, and that a sexual scandal might equally do the same. Fortunately, her ministers both Francis Walsingham and William Cecil saw to it that sexual scandal did not arise or attach itself in any way to the Queen. Despite their efforts British diplomats abroad had difficulty convincing other nations that the Queen’s Court was anything but a hotbed of incest, controversy and vice. Thomas Seymour, Baron Sudeley and the Lord Admiral, who were all involved in the conspiracy were subsequently arrested, sent to the Tower and later executed on the 20th March 1549, the warrant being signed by Cranmer and Somerset (See “House of Treason” by Robert Hutchinson, Orion Publishing, 2009). It was a year later when it was secretly rumoured that Queen Elizabeth entertained a secret liaison with Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. They had both been imprisoned at the same time in the Tower by Mary Tudor, but when released the Privy Council, under the influence of William Cecil and the guidance of Dr. John Dee, decided that Elizabeth was ready and competent enough to ascend the throne of England. I suspect the Earl of Oxford wrote “Lucrece” for Queen Elizabeth 1st at the time she was being wooed by numerous suitors, while her paramour Sir Robert Dudley was awarded the post of Captain of the Horse, and the Queen had turned her affections towards Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. No doubt Dudley would have been furious with envy and jealousy (the subject of “A Winter’s Tale”?), and perhaps Arthur Golding sought to alleviate his wrath by dedicating his translation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” to him. The Earl of Oxford was ultimately “betrayed” by Elizabeth (when wooed by Sir Walter Raleigh) and Raleigh betrayed when she was being “wooed” by Sir Christopher Hatton and Oxford in turn had an affair with one of Elizabeth’s Ladies-in-Waiting, Anne Vavasour and on discovering the maid was pregnant sent both of them to the Tower to cool off! Whenever a child was born from an illicit or adulterous union in aristocratic families to avert a scandal it was common practice to covertly transfer them to another family who would pass them off as being theirs. Usually an annual payment would be granted to compensate them for this expression of support but this was a widespread and regular occurrence in the 15th to 16th centuries. The child in question would often be referred to as a “changeling child” and it may be that “Shakespeare” had this practice in mind when casting the “Indian boy” for Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
But was Queen Elizabeth 1st being hypocritical because the subject of Elizabeth’s fidelity as a “Virgin Queen” as a piece of state propaganda is rarely touched upon by conventional historians because in fact it was so scandalous and inappropriate, at least in some circles of Catholic and Puritan society, as to bar or remove her from the throne legitimately. At least one perfectly good reason why the Vatican had decided to excommunicate her although her clandestine errors were carefully “air-brushed” out of English history. I suspect as many other reputable commentators have suggested that the capricious Queen Elizabeth secretly had as many as five children from differing romantic liaisons including, Sir Francis Bacon and William Hastings (Dudley’s sons), the Earl of Southampton (Oxford’s son), and the Earl of Arundel (Raleigh’s son). So Ovid’s literary obsession with sexual violence, incest and unbridled sexual lust was a veritable and viable source if you were an aristocratic poet who, freely under a pseudonym of course, made allusions about the monarch’s “sub-rosa love affairs” and their inevitable repercussions on the body politic in Europe. Therefore one can easily read “Lucrece” and “Venus & Adonis” in a totally different light and meaning given this type of historical back story.
I shall now turn to the subject of sexual orientation, or should I say sexual transformations found within Ovid’s verses and which had been enlarged upon in Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. Many commentators and writers on the subject of the Sonnets have erroneously jumped on the, what I call the “Homosexual Shakespeare Bandwagon”, and assumed that “Shakespeare” was enamoured of a youth, had homosexual relations or was himself the subject of a bi-sexual relationship simultaneously with an unidentified couple. In my article “The Fair Youth of Shakespeare’s Sonnets” I have examined Oscar Wilde’s theory (“The Portrait of Mr. W.H.”) where he is convinced that William Shakespeare had an homoerotic relationship with a young man who worked in the theatre. An archive search for the youth proved to be fruitless. This is the subject dealt with in Ovid’s tale about “Orpheus & Eurydice” (Book 10) by the way. One should bear in mind that the incidence of incest or sexual scandal among the aristocracy or by courtesy of the monarchs themselves was not entirely a new or rare occurrence. Medieval English history is rife with numerous sleazy tales of indiscretions and dire chronicles of Kings and Queens who married or had sexual affairs with near or distant relatives. In particular many Queens who were predisposed to indulge themselves in incest, while scheming against their husbands and usually coupled with ruthless political ambitions were known as “she-wolves” (See for example “Shakespeare’s She-Wolves”). The lives of the Empress Matilda, Judith of France, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of Angouleme, Isabella of France, Catherine de Medici, Catherine de Valois and Margaret of Anjou read like today’s saucy novels (Fifty Shades of Grey) laced with blatant nepotism, casual adultery, overt greed, murder, witchcraft, incest, and diabolic treachery. Ovid’s view can be detected in the tale of Atalanta and Hippomenes whereby an obviously strong and independent woman would challenge any suitor to a race to win her hand and if they lost then they would ultimately face execution. Hippomenes manages to delay Atalanta by occasionally dropping a golden apple for her to pick up and in that way he gained an advantage and won by guile.
In Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” there was no limit to the flora and fauna as well as heavenly bodies that these mortals were transformed into for a variety of reasons. For example, they might be transformed into a bear, a wolf, various species of birds, a snake, a spider, various species of flowers or trees, and even into stone. However, if you were extremely lucky and gained the favour or mercy of the gods then you would be transformed into a star or better still a whole constellation. It seems that in order to avoid detection or undermine any resistance the gods were inclined to “disguise” themselves for example, into a close family relative or some other less threatening form in order to avert any resistance from their victims. In other cases they are simply given a potion to drink which makes them passive or oblivious to what is happening to them. We find this also occurs in many fairy tales such as say “Little Red Riding Hood” where the ravenous wolf disguised himself as Riding Hood’s grandmother in order to gain intimate access to her. The heroes and heroines of Ovid’s tales could also face deprivations and punishments from the gods such as Echo who was deprived of natural speech and could only repeat the last few words spoken to her. Therefore, a failure to heed their advice, or acknowledge their power and superiority would incur their vengeance and retribution as happened to Phaeton who insisted on driving his father’s chariot too high and recklessly until he came crashing back down to earth. Shakespeare follows suit in some sense whenever he employs the ignominious “bed-trick” in several plays to unwittingly consummate a relationship that has become stale, ambivalent or indifferent. Moreover, disguise is used by either male or female actors so that they can endorse or procure the initiative by changing their natural or assumed role. It would be safe to say that in the Elizabethan era that men’s roles had some advantage over women and conversely that women had some natural advantage over men. The practice of reversed role-play between men as women and women as men is still employed in pantomime today. It has been recorded however that some aristocratic women were allowed to act in private performances either at court or the home of some important aristocrat.
The Christian clergy, eager to reinforce the edicts of the Church in matters of marriage, if nothing else, were often morally compromised by the actions and sexual proclivities of their ruling monarchs (eg: Henry VIIIth). According to the orthodox conventions of the 10th to 14th centuries women were expected to take on a passive, supportive role in matters of state and were often perceived as “dangerous” when they practised what their male counterparts often indulged in themselves as a matter of course. As always, the power of the feminine to subvert the natural order was as dangerous a phenomena then as it is considered today where contemporary orthodox society prefers to advocate or promote a form of sexual hypocrisy. Moreover, just as it is perceived today, women were often more severely castigated for their errant sexual behaviour than were the men, the latter often expected or obliged to follow a licentious or promiscuous trend. Moreover monarchs who rarely indulged themselves sexually were often suspected of being homosexual or worse still lesbian. We must re-examine the play “Twelfth Night” where its title denotes the last of the twelve carnival days of misrule (Saturnalia) led by the Fool or Clown which was traditionally a time when anything was permissible and long-held taboos and hierarchies were usually questioned, reversed or abandoned and general chaos ruled. This festival date was also similarly practised in ancient Greece and Rome. Furthermore, although considered by archivists as a tragicomedy and not a romance, the general theme seems to contradict Shakespeare’s oft quoted assertion from his Sonnets (#116):
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments, Love is not love which alters when it, alteration finds…”.
Again, like the plot in “Measure for Measure”, this play could be called three weddings and a revelation, but for rather different reasons. The nature of the love-match alters considerably as the plot unfolds. A lot of theatrical smoke and mirrors, ambiguity as well as cross-dressing occurs in the play between the principal actors and “actresses”. It should be borne in mind that women were not employed in the public theatres during Shakespeare’s time and that all women’s parts were usually played by adolescent young boys. One might anticipate the complexities of having a woman playing a man who steals the heart of a man playing a woman? However, it was not officially published until 1623 in the first Shakespearean folio of 36 Plays. The play may have been derived from the same source as Matteo Bandello’s “La Prima Parte de le Novelle”. His work was translated into French by Francois de Belleforest (Histoires Tragiques – 1559-82). He was inspired by an earlier Italian play Gli’ Ingannati (“The Deceived”). The actual story of Apollionus & Silla was recounted by Barnaby Rich in his “Farewelle to Militarie Profession” (1581) and this probably contains the basis of the final plot in Shakespeare’s own version of “Twelfth Night”. Other more relevant sources are probably the Roman comedy by Plautus (Menaechmi – “The Twins”) which as already mentioned also influenced the plot of “A Comedy of Errors” and “Two Gentlemen of Verona” in its complex and finely crafted parallel structures. Unfortunately, towards the end of the play nearly everyone is in love with the wrong partner and various playful allusions are made with regard to homosexuality, lesbianism and transvestite inclinations. “Midsummer Night’s Dream” opens with a reference to the appearance of a new moon as the occasion for a marriage between Theseus and Hyppolyta (an Amazonian Queen), and contrary to the Valentine’s Day setting of Helen, Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius it is set in the “Merry Month of May”. May was not considered an auspicious time for marriage in Shakespeare’s time.
“Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour Draws on apace; four happy days bring in Another moon: but, O, methinks, how slow This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires, Like to a step-dame or a dowager Long withering out a young man revenue.”
No discourse on sexual scandal in Tudor and Stuart times would be complete without some passing reference to the practice of homosexuality. On the face of it all it was condemned by many in the Protestant and Catholic churches as wholly sinful, although tolerated by moderate factions and enjoyed privately by a minority who were known to be self-confessed hedonists and libertines. However, it is probably quite certain that amongst its secret adherents were Anthony and Francis Bacon, Sir Robert Cecil, Henry Howard, and even his majesty James Ist. Moreover the popular or commercial theatre with its financiers, originators and supporters was considered a rich breeding ground for its practice and dissemination, especially by Puritans. Clearly however the practice had been inadvertently fostered in previous centuries by educational and religious institutions such as schools, universities, monasteries and presbyteries. The re-emergence of the Boy Players at the indoor theatres (eg: Chapel Royal, Blackfriar’s and St. Paul’s) or “little eyeases” to quote Hamlet was potentially a contributing factor. Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II (1593-4) incidentally portrays the death of a homosexual English King, his lover Gaveston and the paramour of his wife, Isabella. In actual fact Marlowe“sparred” in a literary sense with “Shakespeare” and together they polarised the philosophical and aesthetic debate in the English theatre over sexuality and orientation amongst other 16th century taboos.
The severity of Marlowe’s plays, their inherent anti-Semitism, their condemnation of their magical Neoplatonic sentiments suggests a man with extremely radical views, at least for the period. Today he would have been perceived as a ubiquitous innovator such as the 1970’s film-maker, Ken Russell (“The Devils”). I think that Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” was a dramatic riposte to Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus” (See “Who Killed Christopher Marlowe?”). Perhaps either by the company he frequented or his bohemian lifestyle Marlowe gained a reputation as an atheist, was accused of blasphemy and perverse beliefs by venerating villains and parodying authorities as hypocrites, bullies and bigots. Nevertheless, at College he also gained a reputation as a free-thinker, poet and translator of works by Ovid (Elegies-1585) and Lucan (Parsiphalia-1600). However, he also gained a reputation as a brawler and some critics and commentators say he was either bisexual or homosexual but I have not come across any factual evidence to support or confirm this assertion.
Ovid’s fifteen books in the “Metamorphoses” describes some 250 different tales from Greek sources, which time and space in this essay does not allow an in-depth description of every one. But I will endeavour to briefly gloss over those tales specifically transferred by Shakespeare either into his poetry or plays, some of which deal with unabashed or violent rape, others with deliberate or unwitting incest, and some that deal specifically with sexual exchange and transformation. If Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton was the illegitimate child of Edward de Vere then his proposed marriage arranged by William Cecil to Elizabeth de Vere would have been alarmingly close to incest. It may be the reason why the Earl was prepared to pay a fine of £5,000 (an enormous sum in those days) to renege on the betrothal to Lord Burghley. Similarly, if Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley were distantly related then the subject of incestuous relationships would implicate the sovereign, King James 1st of England too. That in turn would reflect on Queen Elizabeth 1st herself since technically she was the illegitimate child of “Henry VIIIth” which incidentally contradicts Henry’s Act of Succession.
The play “A Winter’s Tale” in which a child’s lineage is inadvertently lost (Perdita) and then rediscovered could very easily be a topical narrative allusion to any one of the above incidents, quite plausibly an allusion to Elizabeth Tudor herself. Furthermore, if it was proved conclusively that Edward de Vere was the author of the Shakespeare canon then the plays and poetry would be a cause for concern by our current monarch, as well no doubt to the numerous Shakespearean Institutions in the capital such as the Globe Theatre or The Rose and at Stratford, that is the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to name but a few. That is why the BBC has strictly refrained from commenting on or making any reference to the “Shakespeare Authorship Controversy”, at least since the 1960’s for fear of offending the monarch and for compromising other Shakespeare institutions that understand the practical implications of any possible future realignment. Instead, the BBC and other theatres, companies, and screenwriters prefer to exploit “Shakespeare” with contemporary racial or sexual conventions with an actress playing a male part eg: Hamlet, or an all-female or all-black castings literally “riding rough-shod” as a dramatic gimmick instead of revealing the truth about William Shakespeare. The BBC have simply made “Shakespeare” a clothes’ horse for commenting on minority or inequality issues. But I ask myself; “would the BBC dare to broadcast or stage a play where Othello is cast as a “white woman” and Desdemona being cast as a “black man”? The question of whether any mortal man or woman can unexpectedly change their sexual orientation can be detected in Ovid’s tales about Iphis, Hermaphroditus and Tieresias. There also exist several tales dealing with sexual promiscuity/fidelity, frigidity or sexual reluctance such as Narcissus who simply fell in love with himself, and in the Oedipal mythZeus asked the sage, Tieresias; “Who was it derived more pleasure from the sexual act – a man or a woman?”, Tieresias answered thus;
“If the parts of love’s pleasure are counted as ten, then thrice go to women, one only to men.” Although I would personally argue in defence of women “that if the burden of childcare were counted to ten, thrice ten go to women, thrice naught go to men!”
It seems that for his sublime and candid honesty, the enraged Hera had blinded him, oh dear I hope I do not engender the same fate for my candour. However, on another occasion he saw two serpents coupling, at first he struck the female serpent as a result of which both of the serpents attacked him, and for his error he was bizarrely turned into a transvestite. However, on another occasion seeing the same act taking place, he decided to strike the male serpent and as a result his manhood was miraculously restored. However, the Ovidian tale most notable for its incestuous content is that of Myrrha (Book 10), but not the only one (eg: Byblis & Kaunos), it follows the tale of Pygmalion & Galatea where an artist falls in love with his own realistic creation and his intense and devoted love gradually brings it to life. Therefore Myrrha is the progeny of an ivory statue and its creator, Pygmalion and this perhaps explains why Myrrha should prefer the love of her father to any potential and legitimate suitor, whereby she complains:
“If a heifer’s mounted by her father, that’s no shame; a horse becomes his daughter’s husband; goats will mate with kids they’ve sired themselves; why even birds conceive from seed that fathered them. How blest are they that have such licence.”
She believed that “Human nicety makes spiteful laws”, and is unashamed of her love and passion for her father, and eventually what of their offspring, the beautiful infant Adonis who is destined to be pursued by Venus and tragically gored by a boar? The wild boar is the heraldic animal on the coats of arms to both Sir Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere, except that de Vere’s totem animal is coloured blue. I strongly suspect that the Earl of Oxford and Sir Francis Bacon were ‘hand in glove’ members of a Masonic circle and that they probably worked closely together but in secret and Oxford, while on his diplomatic missions in Europe freely operated as a spy and by all accounts to good effect. They were ostensibly, as tradition allows in Masonic circles, regarded as synonymous with the concept of the mortal (earthly) and immortal (heavenly) twins (Castor & Pollux, the Heaven/Earth polarity). See the related articles: “Sir Francis Bacon versus Edward de Vere”, “Masonic Ciphers and Symbolism in Shakespeare” or “The Secret Alchemy of Shakespeare”. By some strange quirk of destiny or fate, who can tell, it would appear that the “angelic or altruistic aristocrat”Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (a patron of numerous playwrights and poets, a supporter of Oxford’s Men and Oxford’s Boys as well as a poet and playwright) somehow transformed his true identity to one William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon and was forced into a monstrous state of creative anonymity for over 400 years. All this was done with the connivance of the Mary Pembroke circle and with the help and assistance much later of Alexander Pope, William Davenant, John Milton and David Garrick. The devious and scurrilous Will Shakspere was himself transformed from a “bucolic wheeler-dealer” into a world famous and truly illustrious poet and playwright having only produced ‘six shaky signatures’ in his entire life!
The links to my current publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and an anthology of poetry “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:
Tarquinius Sextus was the Etruscan Prince who with the help of his father, Tarquinius Superbus inadvertently helped to abolish the monarchy in Italy by his excessive pride and sexual appetite. His sexual violation of Lucretia, which later in the 16th century appears to be the inspiration for one of Shakespeare’s rhyme royale (“Rape of Lucrece”), provoked a local rebellion when she stabbed herself rather than continually live with the shame of being a victim of his rape. In actual fact the Tarquins were the remnants of a notorious Etruscan royal family, their last king, Tarquin Superbus (The Proud) came to the throne by murdering his predecessor Servius Tullius. He refused the man burial and surrounded himself with cronies from the Latins and a personal bodyguard. In a series of megalomaniac acts he killed Herdonius for criticising his lateness at a meeting of the Latin League at the Grove of Ferentina. He then went on to initiate hostilities against the Volscians, a mountain people which lasted some 200 years. He then challenged the people of Gabii, and sent his son as a spy to secretly ingratiate himself with the principal chiefs. Well-established as a friend to the people of Gabii Sextus sent a messenger to his father in Rome asking his advice. His father somewhat reluctant to say anything, lest the matter be a conspiracy against him, simply chopped off the heads of the flowers in the garden and sent the messenger away. The messenger related the events he had witnessed from which Tarquinus Sextus construed that he should execute the leaders of Gabii. While Tarquin the Proud was building a temple in Rome he saw a snake slide out from a crack in a pillar which he took to be a sinister omen, so he sent his nephews Titus and Arruns to inquire of the Oracle of Delphi. They were accompanied by the King’s nephew Lucius, Junius Brutus who had feigned idiocy in order to escape the murderous inclinations of the King. When they asked who would be the next King of Rome, the oracle replied that it would be the first man to kiss his mother on their return. Hearing this the two brothers then secretly contrived on their return to Rome to be the first to kiss their mother. However, their companion Brutus realising the import of the oracle’s declaration pretended to trip and falling flat on his face kissed the earth – viz; the “Mother of All Things”. The rape of Lucretia occurred around this time when the Romans were besieging the Rutilians and in between assaults indulging themselves in bets, forfeits and other lavish entertainments. While discussing the fidelity of their wives in Sextus’s quarters, Lucretia’s husband, Collatinus boasted that his wife Lucretia was by far the most loyal. They then decided to call upon her and the other wives unexpectedly in order to confirm each man’s boast or expectation. They found the majority of the wives enjoying themselves at a neighbour’s party, but when they arrived at Lucretia‘s residence they found that she was busily spinning at her loom surrounded by her chaste maids. Somewhat delighted with the result of the wager Collatinus invited Sextus and his friends to dinner and that evening they secretly decided to seduce Lucretia. However, she refused his immediate and drunken advances and she only allowed him into her chamber under threat of death. Realising her folly and cowardice in the affair Lucretia then told her husband and her father in the presence of some loyal friends among whom quite coincidentally was the nephew Brutus. When they were assembled Lucretia demanded retribution and forthwith killed herself. Then Brutus, somewhat moved by the whole event then swore to the dying Lucretia that he would seek out and kill Tarquinus Sextus and the remainder of his family. To this effect he was joined by many others in Collatia especially after the public funeral was held which stirred the spirits of the fighting men. When the crimes of Sextus and Superbus were reported in the senate they closed the gates to them and they were forced to flee. As karmic fate would have it Sextus was murdered as a spy in Gabii, while Superbus with Arruns and Titus returned to Caere in Etruria. Pleading a civic betrayal he found refuge with the Lars Porsena family and together with the King of Clusium attempted to overthrow the newly elected Republican Roman government led by Brutus and Collatinus. The Roman peasants were called upon to abandon their fields and defend the city walls against the organised military attacks of the Tarquins. This event gave credence to Horatio at the Bridge – who despite being alone, single-handedly held an important position against the Etruscan army. He sent his fighting companions back safely to ensure the destruction of the bridge while he personally went down with it as it was destroyed. However, he managed to survive this catastrophe, falling into the waters below and then swimming to safety.
Just before she decides to commit suicide Lucrece pleads to the gods for mercy:
‘O! teach me how to make mine own excuse, Or, at the least, this refuge let me find; Though my gross blood be stain’d with this abuse, Immaculate and spotless is my mind; That was not forc’d; that never was inclin’d To accessary yieldings, but still pure Doth in her poison’d closet yet endure.
This illuminating and imaginative poem was actually written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford under the pseudonym “William Shakespeare” some 13 months after he had written “Venus & Adonis” which had successfully been printed and sold although originally listed at the Stationer’s Office as “The Ravyshment of Lucrece” the first quarto displays only the word “Lucrece” on its title page. Around this time the plague was raging about the streets of London and so the story goes “Shakespeare” was able to avoid this miasma because he was safely ensconced in the comfortable cordon sanitaire of the Earl of Southampton‘s House in Holborn. Other evidence suggests he might also have produced some elements of Lucrece in Lord Titchfield‘s country seat in Hampshire although this was largely idle speculation since a nobleman such as the Earl of Southampton would not have consorted with a commoner such as William Shakspere, let alone invited him to his mansion. However, the poem was entered into the stationer’s register on 9th May 1594, printed by Richard Field and published by John Harrison and sold at the sign of the White Greyhound in St. Paul’s Churchyard. In contrast to earlier poetic attempts, it seems that the Earl had taken the time on this occasion to examine and correct the proofs, a task that he rarely undertook for many of his plays, however, it seems his motive may have been that this was intended as a labour of love to his patron, the Earl of Southampton. In actual fact the patron was really the Earl’s illegitimate son from a secret love affair years earlier with Queen Elizabeth 1st . The theory continues that there may have been some rivalry at the time with another renowned poet, and academics have suggested Samuel Daniel, or possibly Sir Walter Raleigh who unlike “Shakespeare” had undergone a university education. The misconceptions continued with suggestions that “Shakespeare” may have feared or suspected the imminent loss of his patronage to his good friend and rival. But apparently these poems were an advance on previous efforts of Shakespeare’s to establish himself in the contemporary literary genre as a poet par excellence. It exceeded “Venus and Adonis” in length containing some 1,855 lines as opposed to the former which had just 1,194 lines. It was executed in the so-called 7-line rhyme-royal or troilus stanza employed by Samuel Daniel in his own poem “The Complaint of Rosamund” (15920) but was drawn largely from Ovid‘s Fasti and Pliny‘s “History of Rome”.
Interestingly enough the last 28 stanzas of Shakespeare’s Sonnets published in 1609 are addressed to an iconic “Dark Lady”, apparently a dark-skinned woman whose identity has intrigued many a Shakespearean scholar for centuries. It seems the “Dark Lady”, whoever she was, was skilled in the arts of seduction, love and although she won Shakespeare’s affections was prone to adulterous activities elsewhere. She is described by “Shakespeare” as having dark, wiry hair, black eyes, and black brows and some scholars have speculated that she may have been a woman of lowly station, namely Lucy Negro, a Clerkenwell ‘madam’. However, other candidates have been proposed, for example A.L. Rowse suggests a woman of superior social standing, namely Penelope Rich (nee Deveraux), the sister of the Earl of Essex, the original muse of Sir Phillip Sydney‘s “Astrophel & Stella”. Another possible candidate for this temptress was Mary (Mall) Fitton, a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth who was impregnated by the Earl of Pembroke and lusted after by her father’s lecherous cohort, Sir William Knollys. The latter was probably an inspiration for Shakespeare’s Malvolio. Anthony Burgess suggests that the Dark Lady is purely iconic, a composite of several of Shakespeare’s tragic loves and the contemporary poet Ted Hughes thinks she is possibly a manifestation of the Queen of Hell, ie; every man’s nightmare. There is no doubt that “Shakespeare” was agonised and given over to intense bouts of jealousy by numerous shrewish women he encountered while on his promiscuous revelries in London’s bohemian scene. The result of which he contracted a bout or two of the clap (gonorrhoea) while his arch enemy Richard Greene himself died of the pox (syphilis). Jonathan Bate suggests the true inspiration for the Dark Lady was Mrs John Florio (aka Jeanette Davenant), supposedly the illegitimate daughter and sister of the poet Samuel Daniel or John Florio. Other possible suggestions are Emilia Lanier, an Italian lady born Bassano who was the Lord Chamberlain’s mistress and related to one of the Queen’s musicians. She was described by the astrologer Simon Forman as an incuba – ie; a vampire witch or virago, but she herself was given over to literary endeavours, especially aimed at condemning men for their defilement of women (“Salve Deux Rex Judaeorum”) published in 1610, just 12 months after that of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. George Bernard Shaw naively suggests the true inspiration for the Dark Lady was Jeanette Davenant, a model for Desdemona in the play “Othello”, and mother of his presumed illegitimate son William Davenant, who later turned out to be a playwright and poet, although the much respected Shakespeare failed to acknowledge his true lineage in his last will and testament. Jeanette Davenant was the wife of an Oxford inn-keeper, The Bull, where Will Shakspere was a frequent visitor while touring the country as an actor. It has been said that the Earl of Southampton also got a dose of the clap pursuing the Queen’s maid of honour, Elizabeth Vernon, while continuing to reject the advances of Lady Elizabeth de Vere. In effect therefore this is the subject of the previous sonnets, “Venus & Adonis”, while the “Rape of Lucrece” certainly suggests that having reached an hiatus, Shakespeare‘s patron saw fit to disengage himself from associating with lesser mortals in whose company he had developed an irritating contagion.
The dedication goes:
To the Right Honourable Henry Wriothesly, EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON AND BARON OF TICHFIELD.
THE love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with happiness.
Your lordship’s in all duty,
With an introductory description of the political circumstances at the time:
LUCIUS TARQUINIUS, for his excessive pride surnamed Superbus, after he had caused his own father-in-law, Servius Tullius, to be cruelly murdered, and contrary to the Roman laws and customs, not requiring or staying for the people’s suffrages, had possessed himself of the kingdom, went, accompanied with his sons and other noblemen of Rome, to besiege Ardea. During which siege the principal men of the army meeting one evening at the tent of Sextus Tarquinius, the king’s son, in their discourses after supper, every one commended the virtues of his own wife: among whom Collatinus extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucretia. In that pleasant humour they all posted to Rome; and intending, by their secret and sudden arrival, to make trial of that which everyone had before avouched, only Collatinus finds his wife though it were late in the night spinning amongst her maids: the other ladies were all found dancing and revelling, or in several disports. Whereupon the noblemen yielded Collatinus the victory, and his wife the fame. At that time Sextus Tarquinius, being inflamed with Lucrece’s beauty, yet smothering his passions for the present, departed with the rest back to the camp; from whence he shortly after privily withdrew himself, and was, according to his estate, royally entertained and lodged by Lucrece at Collatium. The same night he treacherously stealeth into her chamber, violently ravished her, and early in the morning speedeth away. Lucrece, in this lamentable plight, hastily dispatcheth messengers, one to Rome for her father, and another to the camp for Collatine. They came, the one accompanied with Junius Brutus, the other with Publius Valerius; and finding Lucrece attired in mourning habit, demanded the cause of her sorrow. She, first taking an oath of them for her revenge, revealed the actor, and the whole manner of his dealing, and withal suddenly stabbed herself. Which done, with one consent they all vowed to root out the whole hated family of the Tarquins; and, bearing the dead body to Rome, Brutus acquainted the people with the doer and manner of the vile deed, with a bitter invective against the tyranny of the king: wherewith the people were so moved, that with one consent and a general acclamation the Tarquins were all exiled, and the state government changed from kings to consuls.
Looking at the legal implications of rape in the 16th century might shed some light on why a poet might write so eloquently on a rather violent and horrifying subject. The common law offence of rape in the late 16th century delineated not one but two types of crime. The first was defined as intercourse with any woman over the age of ten years old against her will and without consent which was considered a felony against the woman and punishable by death without benefit of clergy (statute 18, Eliz. Cap 7). The second form was the abduction of a woman along with her husband’s property by someone or an attempt to acquire inheritable possessions or estates by an enforced marriage which was seen as a violation of her husband’s rights or the woman’s father. However, if the woman had given consent to marriage before or after the rape took place then it might mitigate the punishment of the offender and prevent the victim from actually pleading a felony in court. Legal documents from the time also declare that if the victim became pregnant as a result then the charge of rape would imply the victim’s consent whether the woman actually consented or not; “Rape is the carnal abusing of a woman against her will. But if the woman conceive upon any carnal abusing of her, that is no rape, for she cannot conceive unless she consent”. That is the reason why the poet employs the language of Lucrece’s body and maidenhood being analogous to jewels or precious treasure and Tarquin portrayed as a thief, a gambler or merchant pirate. But Tarquin does not actually abduct Lucrece, the rape having taken place in a private chamber of her house, and the dishonour she fears is that if she subsequently becomes pregnant and conceives a child then that child would assume to claim the royal lineage of King Tarquin Superbus. Might Lucrece be seen as complicit if she was tempted to benefit in some way from the rape itself? Thus her dilemma is clearly expressed: “Oh hear me then, injurious shifting Time, be guilty of my death, since of my crime” and although her body has been defiled, she claims her mind remains pure and unadulterated, “Her body’s stain her mind untainted clears”. In some sense the poem is relevant even for today in the light of the recent abduction, violent rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving policeman, Wayne Cousins or when we examine the coercive “Bluebeard behaviour” of Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein towards their employees and casual associates. In essence though this is a standard “Shakespearean Punch & Judy” puppet show expertly and eloquently transformed by the poet into tragic verse with immense moral, political and philosophical undertones. In many Punch & Judy narratives Punch murders his only child, then violently murders his nagging or complaining wife and when a policeman appears to arrest him he murders him too! Finally, the Devil turns up and his appearance is met with alarm and fright by Punch who flees or faints down dead. From dawn to dusk, from sinister beginnings to the irreconcilable and tragic end with grinding, in-depth, detailed description of action and emotion throughout. It was certainly relevant from Shakespeare’s time if we recognise allusions to the sexual coercion of Mary Queen of Scots two decades earlier by Lord Bothwell soon after he had brutally organised the murder of her jealous husband Lord Darnley. Her trial for sedition and treason was attended by Edward de Vere who no doubt based his play “Merchant of Venice” and “Othello” on the real life circumstances of Mary’s tragedy.
As a poem though ‘Lucrece’ stands somewhere between the dim half-light of Roman history and the “enlightened darkness” of Roman and Greek mythology. Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, a major source for Shakespeare’s plays and poetry recounts the numerous rapes, abductions and transformations on innocent human beings by the Olympian Gods, especially Zeus, Hades, Hermes and Apollo. However, it is the King’s son, Sextus who commits the rape after threatening Lucrece and her servant with a shameful death if she will not consent to his sexual cravings, and it is Lucrece who chooses consent to avoid any potential embarrassment and shame. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, she was obliged to choose the lesser of two evils which is ostensibly no choice at all. But was her subsequent suicide in any case an admission of her guilt? Did she feel so violated by Sextus’s demands and subsequent actions that she had no other course to pursue? Furthermore, why would a poet choose such a subject for his second attempt at poetry, and what possible analogy or allegory could be extracted or what topical allusion made to a secret coterie of fans and followers of “Shakespeare”? It was published at around the same time as the second edition of “Venus & Adonis” and William Fulbeck’s “City of Gold” (St. Augustine’s moral and religious essay). The King’s son it is said, by his excessive pride and lustful passions brings the monarchy in Rome to an end. But Rome from its inception had already been built on state-endorsed rape (of the Sabine women) and its founder, Romulus had slain his own brother, Remus and they had both been suckled on the milk of a she-wolf before being taken into the care of a shepherd. That is why Rome was not built in a day because in reality it was built on several generations of consensual, state-sponsored rapes as well as lots of ‘toga-clad bunga bunga parties’ of course! The numerous scholarly analyses made by academics of the subject matter is that Lucrece conceals or alludes to a political dilemma or conflict between a tyrannical monarchy or an elected republican consul, since the King’s banishment leads to the establishment of a Republican élite, which does not necessarily give license for common justice or liberty in Rome historically. In fact quite the opposite when one studies what is implied rather than applauding its surreal ambivalence and romantic portrayal in verse of sexual violence. That is I cannot imagine the poet laureate, Simon Armitage attempting anything similar in verse today because he would be challenged or cancelled. Something bad of course could very easily bring about something good, since blessings can so readily become curses and curses turn out to be blessings on hindsight. What is not fully described however is the actual rape itself (if it had it would never have been printed), and while “Venus & Adonis” takes place over two days in a fast-pace, action-packed narrative the “Rape of Lucrece” is actually one night of human horror in punishing, slow-motion rhyme royale. This is quite extraordinary as it clearly was meant to confound and delay the reader and “Shakespeare” had promised a ‘graver labour’ to his patron the Earl of Southampton when he wrote his dedication in “Venus & Adonis”. But a modicum of cool ambivalence is subtly transformed into fiery ambiguity when read from a different perspective, for example did Lucrece in any sense enjoy the act of sexual violence herself, and therefore love her life less as a result. Moreover did Sextus feel secretly ashamed of what he had done?
I have debated, even in my soul, What wrong, what shame, what sorrow I shall breed; But nothing can affection’s course control, Or stop the headlong fury of his speed. I know repentant tears ensue the deed, Reproach, disdain, and deadly enmity; Yet strive I to embrace mine infamy.
Obviously not and is it purely coincidence or irony that his name is SEX-tus? Did the entire episode come about through the boasts made by Collatinus about his wife’s virtues and was the idle wager a catalyst to bring about a violent rape? Also Lucrece’s public suicide could be seen as a political statement such as that by the Tibetan monk who publically committed suicide by setting fire to himself in the 1970’s in protest to the annexation of Tibet by China. Or was it that a chaste and virtuous woman would have been a natural magnet to a villainous individual such as Sextus which sets up a psychotic bi-polar reaction in human experience. Like Pentheus, the ‘peeping Tom’ in the story of Dionysus the sight of Lucrece’s beauty transforms Sextus into a ravenous ‘wolf-man’ or ‘werewolf’. For Lucrece to awake from her reverie only to find that she is being observed voyeuristically by a stranger must have been a living nightmare.
Her lily hand her rosy cheek lies under, Cozening the pillow of a lawful kiss; Who, therefore angry, seems to part in sunder, Swelling on either side to want his bliss; Between whose hills her head entombed is: Where, like a virtuous monument she lies, To be admir’d of lewd unhallow’d eyes.
Without the bed her other fair hand was, On the green coverlet; whose perfect white Show’d like an April daisy on the grass, With pearly sweat, resembling dew of night. Her eyes, like marigolds, had sheath’d their light, And canopied in darkness sweetly lay, Till they might open to adorn the day.
Her hair, like golden threads, play’d with her breath; O modest wantons! wanton modesty! Showing life’s triumph in the map of death, And death’s dim look in life’s mortality: Each in her sleep themselves so beautify, As if between them twain there were no strife, But that life liv’d in death, and death in life.
Her breasts, like ivory globes circled with blue, A pair of maiden worlds unconquered, Save of their lord no bearing yoke they knew, And him by oath they truly honoured. These worlds in Tarquin new ambition bred; Who, like a foul usurper, went about From this fair throne to heave the owner out.
What could he see but mightily he noted? What did he note but strongly he desir’d? What he beheld, on that be firmly doted, And in his will his wilful eye he tir’d. With more than admiration he admir’d Her azure veins, her alabaster skin, Her coral lips, her snow-white dimpled chin.
As the grim lion fawneth o’er his prey, Sharp hunger by the conquest satisfied, So o’er this sleeping soul doth Tarquin stay, His rage of lust by gazing qualified; Slack’d, not suppress’d; for standing by her side, His eye, which late this mutiny restrains, Unto a greater uproar tempts his veins:
But one is tempted to ask who or what was the “bucolic Shakespeare” of Stratford-upon-Avon thinking about when writing the “Ravishement of Lucrece” and then dedicating it to a nobleman such as the Earl of Southampton? The answer is I think an event, or rather situation that occurred between the notorious Thomas Seymour and the young Elizabeth Tudor which the “Stratford Shakespeare” would not have been aware of or known anything about. Queen Elizabeth’s early sexual encounters at the age of sixteen with Sir Thomas Seymour had educated her to respond coolly to the advances of men and to understand their underlying motivations and expectations. She must have seen parallels in Shakespeare’s poem “The Rape of Lucrece” to her own treatment by Thomas Seymour who was climbing the aristocratic ladder first by seducing Catherine Parr and when that failed turning his attentions to the vulnerable young Elizabeth. In his book, “The Mystery of William Shakespeare”Charlton Ogburn suggests that a clandestine affair took place between her and the Earl of Oxford and that this encounter was the inspiration for the poem “Venus & Adonis”. This would have portrayed Elizabeth herself as lustful and predatory especially towards younger courtiers. However, Elizabeth understood and presumed that marriage would severely undermine her supreme authority and role as Queen of the realm, and that a sexual scandal might equally do the same. Fortunately, her ministers both Walsingham and William Cecil saw to it that sexual scandal did not arise or attach itself in any way to the Queen. Despite their efforts British diplomats abroad had difficulty convincing other nations that the Queen’s Court was anything but a hotbed of incest, controversy and vice. Thomas Seymour, Baron Sudeley and the Lord Admiral, who were all involved in the conspiracy were subsequently arrested, sent to the Tower and later executed on the 20th March 1549, the warrant being signed by Cranmer and Somerset (See “House of Treason” by Robert Hutchinson, Orion Publishing, 2009). It was a year later when it was secretly rumoured that Queen Elizabeth entertained a secret liaison with Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. They had both been imprisoned at the same time in the Tower by Mary Tudor, but when released the Privy Council, under the influence of William Cecil and the guidance of Dr. John Dee, decided that Elizabeth was ready and competent enough to ascend the throne of England. I suspect the Earl of Oxford wrote “Lucrece” for Queen Elizabeth 1st at the time she was being wooed by numerous suitors, while her paramour Sir Robert Dudley was awarded the post of Captain of the Horse, and the Queen had turned her affections towards Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. No doubt Dudley would have been furious with envy and jealousy (the subject of a “Winter’s Tale”?), and perhaps Arthur Golding sought to alleviate his wrath by dedicating his translation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” to him. The Earl of Oxford was ultimately “betrayed” by Elizabeth (when wooed by Sir Walter Raleigh) and Raleigh betrayed when she was being “wooed” by Sir Christopher Hatton and Oxford in turn had an affair with one of Elizabeth’s Ladies-in-Waiting, Anne Vavasour and on discovering the maid was pregnant sent both of them to the Tower to cool off! Whenever a child was born from an illicit or adulterous union in aristocratic families to avert a scandal it was common practice to covertly transfer them to another family who would pass them off as being theirs. Usually an annual payment would be granted to compensate them for this expression of support but this was a widespread and regular occurrence in the 15th to 16th centuries. The child in question would often be referred to as a “changeling child” and it may be that “Shakespeare” had this practice in mind when casting the “Indian boy” for Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
But was Queen Elizabeth 1st being hypocritical because the subject of Elizabeth’s fidelity as a “Virgin Queen” as a piece of state propaganda is rarely touched upon by conventional historians because in fact it was so scandalous and inappropriate, at least in some circles of Catholic and Puritan society, as to bar or remove her from the throne legitimately. At least one perfectly good reason why the Vatican had decided to excommunicate her although her clandestine errors were carefully “air-brushed” out of English history. I suspect as many other reputable commentators have suggested that the capricious Queen Elizabeth secretly had as many as five children from differing romantic liaisons including, Sir Francis Bacon and William Hastings (Dudley’s sons), the Earl of Southampton (Oxford’s son), and the Earl of Arundel (Raleigh’s son). So Ovid’s literary obsession with sexual violence, incest and unbridled sexual lust was a veritable and viable source if you were an aristocratic poet who, freely under a pseudonym of course, made allusions about the monarch’s sub-rosa love affairs and their inevitable repercussions on the body politic in Europe. Therefore one can easily read “Lucrece” and “Venus & Adonis” in a totally different light and meaning given this type of historical back story. The same of course is true about the majority of “Shakespeare” plays when we take into consideration the biography of Edward de Vere (the anonymous author), which makes compelling reading and then compare it to that of the “poetic wool-brogger of Stratford” they are definitely worlds apart, de Vere’s life is far more thrilling, adventurous and controversial than that of William Shakspere.
The links to my current publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and an anthology of poetry “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:
One of the major influence in the development and design of Tarot cards was the Egyptian Book of the Dead which reaches back into the mists of Time (at least 4,000 years old) and extracts of which were available at the British Museum where McGregor Mathers and Arthur Edward Waite spent most of their years seeking clues and artefacts which would reveal a secret wisdom. They might indeed have come across a manuscript entitled “The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo”, (Horapollo Niliacus-400 CE) which was circulated among several Christian monasteries then later translated into Greek from its original hieroglyphic Egyptian. Its true origins may go as far back as Plato and Pythagoras when academic exchanges were being made between Greece and Egypt. In actual fact this manuscript in its translated form found its way as an addendum to another book entitled “Aesops Fables” by the 13th and 14th centuries in Europe when Tarot cards first began to be produced and apparently being used for the purpose of divination. It is presumed by many academics that these works were a precursor to the development of Hermetic, Rosicrucian, Alchemical and Magical schools and the later foundations of Freemasonry in Europe. Originally cards were hand-painted, stencilled on vellum or card until the invention of wood-block printing and much later when the early European printing presses arrived as engravings. The Arabs may have used or introduced playing cards or Moroccan geomancy into Europe while travelling along N. Africa and conquering parts of France, Spain, Sicily and Italy around 710-842. Although it must be borne in mind that the areas of Italy where Tarot cards are thought to have developed were originally part of the Carthaginian and Etruscan civilisations who, from very early times, were both well equipped with their own systems of augury. By 1379 the Arabs and Moors became mercenary soldiers to the Popes Urban VI and Clement VII against other rival Italian Princes. They remained in S. Spain until 1492 where card games were known as “naipes” (from the Arabic word Naib), a word that may have derived from a Flemish word meaning paper (knaep), as commercial trading between Flanders and Spain was common at that time. Travelling bands of Gypsies could not have been responsible for their invention or original dissemination because the Romany people did not appear in Europe until the middle of the 15th century. Other experts have attributed the invention of Tarot cards to the ascetic military order of the Knight Templars founded in 1118 by Hugh Payens to protect pilgrims venturing to the Crusades. This idea is somewhat fanciful but may have some basis in the Templars connection with two other heretical sects; the Cathars of France, associated with Pagan Gnosticism and the Bogomils of Hungary, associated with Manichaeian Dualism. Both of these sects were despised and persecuted by the Catholic Church and the Knight Templars were also later branded similarly and some followers and leaders hunted down and executed as pagan heretics.
Some of the earliest of the court cards (pre 1500) are the Marmaluk playing cards featuring Arabic designs and motifs. However, the idea of trumps (triumphs or trionfi) appears to be a purely European invention which first appeared in the 1420’s, along with the invention of the German card game of Karnöffel. Tarot cards were probably created 10-15 years later, around 1440, somewhere in northern Italy. The earliest surviving Milanese Tarot decks and Ferrarese references to Tarot which consisted of a regular 56-card deck all come from that period. What we do know is that the 22 major trumps of tarot were in existence at the latest in 1415, from a beautiful hand-painted pack commissioned by the young Duke of Milan, Fillipo Maria Visconti. This is the earliest preserved almost complete deck of tarot cards, with four cards missing, it is known as the Italian Visconti-Sforza deck. This may give us a clue into their origin and arrival in Europe and the various transformations and versions known to the European culture thereafter. It may be that the 22 trump cards evolved separately from the 40 or 52 card packs that included the court and numbered cards and were later merged with the trumps to produce a full pack of 78. Although many variants developed there were at one time only three characters in the court cards the King, the Queen and the Marshal, the Pages as archetypes were added much later. Of course, many of these ideas correspond to the figures found in the game of chess, a game popular among the military and commercial classes. For the first 350 years of its history, the tarot was not mentioned in any of the many books on occult or magical philosophy. The first occult writers to discuss the tarot were Court de Gébelin and the Comte de Mellet in 1781. Following 1781, occult interest in tarot blossomed and the tarot then became an integral part of occult philosophy. In conclusion, the Cary Sheet (an uncut series of prints) is one of the oldest links available to researchers speculating on the origins of the Tarot itself. Some of the iconography looks remarkably similar to what we would call the Tarot of Marseilles style, yet there are certain features that resonate more with the style of the Visconti-Sforza, d’Este, and other early Italian decks. It also has titles and thematic attributes that are uniquely its own.
The Italian traders, namely the Lombards, Venetians as well as the Florentines (Nicolo & Marco Polo) established good trading links with the Islamic and Mongol Empire and were trading with Kublai Khan at Peking in 1266. Indeed, Marco Polo remained in service to the Mongol Empire for some 15 years and finally returned to Italy in 1291, no doubt steeped in the mythology, culture and lore of the ancient Eastern traditions. The Mongol Empire, despite the ignominious reputation of its founder Genghis Khan, was extremely tolerant of different belief systems; in particular the Zoroastrian, Nestorian, Taoist, Confucian, Shamanic and Eastern Gnostic traditions. Similarly, around the same time during the 12th and 13th centuries, Europe was undergoing a transformation in terms of religious affiliations and beliefs (See Mithraism). The Jewish, Christian and Classical Pagan civilisations became conscious of the underlying unity between their individual beliefs and strove for a greater knowledge and understanding of each other and the world in which they lived. After the fall of Constantinople monotheism came under serious review and criticism which after much struggle later led to the Reformation in Europe. The classical works of ancient Greece and those of the Jewish tradition were being translated into Latin and Arabic and this may have contributed to a multi-cultural, almost universal doctrines being made available to occultists.
One arcane work in particular by Bernard Sylvester (“De Mundi Universitate” c. 1145) stimulated a revival of interest into the old religions of European Paganism such as the pantheistic Etruscan, Teutonic, Hellenic, Celtic and Druidic traditions. The earliest French cards in actual fact date back to around 1392, and 17 cards still remain of this famous deck known as “The Gringonneur” or Charles VIth deck. It is recorded that in 1392, Jacquemin Gringonneur was paid to hand paint three decks of cards for Charles VIth. These were probably playing cards, not tarot cards. The deck in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France is a late-15th century hand-painted deck of the Northern Italian type (probably from Venice or Ferrara). The word Tarot which was used in France remains something of a mystery although several proposals have been offered, some people believe it is derived from an Egyptian term “Ta-rosh” meaning the Royal Way, another is that it is derived from the Latin “rota” – a wheel, another still that it is derived from the Hebrew Torah, meaning literally “The Law”. The French occultist Gébelin went even further and declared that the word is derived from Thoth, a deity of Egypt. A more simple explanation may be that since the cards were probably invented in different provinces of N. Italy (Piedmont or Venice, Bologna & Florence) that they were named after the river Taro in that region.
The earliest surviving Milanese Tarot decks and any Ferrarese references from that period to Tarot suggest that they consisted of a regular 56-card deck, augmented with a known hierarchy of 22 allegorical trump cards. This gave rise to the standard 78-card Tarot deck still in use today, originally referred to as “carte da trionfi”, cards with trumps. The idea being that each trump triumphed or won over (hence “trumped”) the lower-ranking cards in the manner of the popular trionfi motif, that is elements in order of importance that also featured in art, literature, religious processions, festival pageants, and so forth. As a result the game of Tarot quickly became popular and spread throughout northern Italy, with Milan, Bologna, and Ferrara being established as early centres of the game. From these regions we find richly painted decks ornamented with gold and silver leaf backgrounds that were commissioned by the wealthy, while the less elaborate printed decks were used by commoners and notaries alike. A record from 1436 indicates that the d’Este court at Ferrara had their own printing press for making cards. The earliest extant rules for the game of Tarot were published in 1637 (or 1585?). The earliest text to define accurately the Tarot Keys and their meanings is “Book T” (1300 CE) which was, and probably still is in the possession of the Golden Dawn. This manuscript is thought to be the original text held by Christian Rosencreutz who founded Rosicrucianism in Germany and was buried with him in his tomb. These secret heretical or magical texts were probably written or in the possession of Johann Valentin Andreae, a follower of Rosicrucianism. This appears to represent an attempt to reinstate alchemy that occurred during the French Revolution along with the inspiration of the humanitarian muse Marie Antoinette. Therefore we can say that the Tarot was literally “dug up” for future generations to muse and speculate over. The only 20th century books or texts to contain accurate extracts from “Book T” are “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot” (1910 Arthur Edward Waite), “The Book of Thoth” (1944 Aleister Crowley), and “The Tarot: A Key To The Wisdom of the Ages” (1947 Paul Foster Case). Now the question remains how did McGregor Mathers come across this early manuscript which became the foundation stone for the Golden Dawn system of Tarot images? His decoded cipher alphabet was probably influenced by the remarkable work of the master magician Trithemius who produced his own “Polygraphiae”, a cipher system to conceal hidden meanings for students and practitioners of Alchemy. The angelic attributes for example are taken from various grimoires and treatises on magical invocation of spirit powers that have been derived from arcane classical works on the subject including for example the Lemegeton, the Goetia, the Sepher Yetzirah, and the Zohar.
Therefore, it would be advisable to consider the categories and classifications as well as the different orders and hierarchies that they are collectively archived under. The most common are the 7 traditional planets/days of the week, the 12 zodiacal signs or the 360 degrees of the circle, the 24 planetary hours, the 36 decanates, and the 8 cardinal and 24 inter-cardinal directions. These were taken largely from the original documents which date back to Solomon and King David that were copied and listed in numerous occult manuals written around the 12-14th century and then revised by various experts and practitioners in the field of occult research much later in the 17th-20th century for example Eliphas Levi (1856-“Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie”), and the French occultist Etteilla (1785). Among the most notable being the Abbot Trithemius, his pupil Cornelius Agrippa, Ramon Llull, Francisco Giorgio, Athanathius Kircher, and in more recent times McGregor Mathers, A.E. Rider-Waite and Aleister Crowley, members of the Order of the Golden Dawn.
The Goetia, or Greater Key & The Lemegeton, the Lesser Keys of Solomon is a complete manual for magical arts transcribed from the Hebrew into Greek and much later into English. The source documents (copies of the originals made in 1203) are in the British Museum and were examined by Crowley and Mathers amongst others. These documents also contain aspects of the “Black Arts” that are considered genuine conjurations of evil demons which some authorities have felt obliged to omit in their revised lists. The Clavicula Salamonis contains names, orders and powers of all good and malevolent spirits, the Lemegeton or Clavicula contains names, orders and powers of all malevolent spirits contacted by Solomon the King, the Key of Solomon itself contains names, orders and powers of all malevolent and benevolent spirits and their talismanic seals (Total: 72). The Ars Paulina contains the spirits of the planetary hours, 360 degrees of the zodiac (Sabian Symbols) and the 7 spirits of the planets. The 4th part of which the Almadel of Solomon the 22 Chief Spirits who govern the 4 altitudes/quarters. The 5th part contains the orations, ceremonies and prayers, perfumes, magical weapons, metals and gemstones etc. The Greater Key of Solomon has a description of the 7 major planetary pentacles inscribed with the appropriate sigils, 7 pentacles consecrated to Saturn, 7 to Jupiter, 7 to Mars, 7 to the Sun, 5 to Venus, 5 to Mercury and 6 to the Moon. What is often neglected to point out or rarely discussed in these matters is their various orders, their spheres of influence and dominion. Furthermore, there have been several spurious and veiled correspondences and lists of these hierarchies and even “spoof” renditions masquerading as occult manuals that were in fact cryptographic manuals and codes. These were employed for the purposes of writing encoded messages, spying, and other forms of espionage and general secrecy in light of the Catholic Inquisition and other heretical purges in Europe. The first periodic list is taken from E. J. Gold‘s book “The Hidden Work”, where he lists all the Archangels and Angels in the form of a periodic table, very much in the manner of the scientific elements. A great deal of misleading books have since been written which have distorted the core elements of Tarot study for example the value of Kings being attributed to that of Knights which retain a higher value in fact than Kings.
Some occult researchers have suggested that McGregor Mathers may have been given a manuscript by the occultist Wynn Westcott who struggled to decipher it and that it was previously owned by a recently deceased friend, Frederick Hockley. In any case the document when deciphered also contained the German address of Anna Sprengel, the secret contact for the European Rosicrucian lodge. This theory was debunked in 1972 when Ellic Howe challenged it in his book “The Magicians of the Golden Dawn”, saying that these documents were misleading forgeries produced by Waite and Mathers themselves who were attempting to obscure their real sources either in the British Museum or elsewhere. They originally pretended that they had found some lost manuscripts in a local flea market in Paris but this also proved insubstantial and misleading. Similarly W. B. Yeats also challenged their theoretical origins so a schism broke out among a number of its members. Mathers then suggested that he had discovered the secret order of the Tarot Keys from an earlier Qaballistic text “The Book of Formation” which A. Crowley plagiarised in his own book “Liber 777” (1909) without mentioning his original source which caused even more conflicts within the Golden Dawn Fellowship.
Paul Foster Case presumed that the origin of the use of Tarot Cards came from Fez, Morroco (1200 CE) even though there appears to be no real evidence for this assertion. It may be that Case was merely referring to the 16 court cards rather than the 22 trumps. The Court cards represent a western alternative to the Eastern 5-fold Tattva counter-changes with the exception of only 4 elements in operation, although some Tarot decks have made various alterations and substitutions to allow for a 5-fold counter-change with the addition of such terms as: Princess, Prince and Knave. The Kings were then converted into Princes, the Queens mating with the Knights to form a new Father/Mother polarity – the Prince finds its complementary opposite in the Princess and lastly the Knave/Page may correspond to the Maiden leaving them to represent essentially the four basic elements. The Court Cards can also be used in readings as “significators” which represent either the personal characteristics of the querent’s friends or their enemies and perhaps even associates.
Numerous methods are employed to delineate the court cards to the qualities or keys of the Zodiac which is a mnemonic key to their use in interpretation. One method is to define the cards in terms of the elemental triplicities to the 10 degree decanates so that the Knight is akin to the first degree, the Queen to the second degree and King to the third degree. Finally, the Page often represents the transition from one element to the next. This system may vary with respect to another factor – the hierarchy associated with each set – the Kings, Knights, Queens, and Pages. Some systems say the order is King, Queen, Knight, and Page. Other occultists maintain that the order of importance runs Knight, King, Queen, and Page. Another system dispenses with Knights altogether and replaces them with Princesses. However, the 16 court cards can also be aligned as 16 Invisible paths of the Tree of Life. In fact so much contradiction occurs as a result of these circumstances that it can be very confusing for the novice and the reason for this difference or variance in correspondences is rarely fully explained by authors writing on the subject. Another frequently used method is to apportion each court card to the zodiacal triplicities of the 12 Sign Zodiac in a purely consecutive manner. In this manner we begin with the first series as the King of Wands which represents Aries & Fire, the Queen of Wands to Taurus & Earth, the Knight of Wands to Gemini & Air and the Page to Cancer & Water. In actual fact the earliest evidence of the use of Tarot cards derives from Jacquemin Gringonneur who created three packs of cards in 1392 of which only fragments survive. The theory that asserts the ancient Egyptians built a long underground corridor composed of 22 alcoves wherein sculptured vignettes were revealed to initiates as they walked through remains unproven largely because the corridor is believed to exist deep underground beneath the Great Pyramid of Giza. This essay is a mere “snapshot” of the origin of Tarot cards although a thoroughly researched and compiled “History of the Tarot” has now been completed and is available in book form or on Wikipaedia.
The links to my publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and my anthology of poetry; “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:
It has often been said that the child is father to the man, meaning that within the mind of the child, that is; in its most formative experiences such as its relationships with its parents, siblings, friends and relatives actually formulate and determine much of its’ happiness and satisfaction in later life. However, to understand what can go wrong or right for the developing child we must examine two important Greek myths; that of Oedipus/Electra and that of Adonis & Psyche. The thrice-born hero Hermes Trismegistus (“The Emerald Tablets”), of whom much has been discussed among the metaphysical elite, was said to have been resurrected or born out of his own foetal, oral, anal, and genital fixations and preoccupations. His struggle to attain wisdom features in many other mythic, fairy tale and epic scenarios. His death and resurrection, not unlike that of Christ, was not physical but metaphorical alluding to the transformations within the psyche required for self-knowledge and self-mastery. The power of real knowledge is that it has the ability to destroy mercilessly all of our preconceptions about life and many of our own acquired of contrived personal delusions. Knowledge of the world and oneself was perceived as a means to pierce through the veil of illusion and lift us beyond the transitory to a sublime view of eternity. The power of personal experience however has the ability to destroy any remnant of hidden fears and repulsions that inhibit our soul growth through repeated wrong thinking, wrong feeling and wrong action. However, often painful experiences allow us to integrate that knowledge and attain towards a higher wisdom, and that wisdom is the path to the meaning of true love, hope and faith. The hatred, ignorance and fears relating to motherhood, fatherhood and childhood, and our instinctive reactions when we encounter the brutal and violent, the unknown or terrifying and the numerous injustices in life are usually reconciled through reason. The fears of motherhood for example may concern inherent selfishness, poverty, starvation and excess oral gratification, those of fatherhood of being dishonoured, unworthy, discredited or lacking control or discipline, those of childhood hatred, anger, abandonment, confusion or disappointment. The path of any personal vice leads to pain or death (Chaos) while the path of virtue leads to justice or pleasure (Immortality). Fairy tales are also magical mirrors that reflect paradoxically onto the psyche of the child some deeper aspect of their inner workings and their intrinsic relationship to the family, the community and the world at large.
The Oedipal Myth & the Karmic Family:
In the myth of Oedipus we may detect a basic template of interconnected family relationships and how they work themselves out in a negative or positive manner. Essentially, problems arise where either parent has failed to integrate their own childish wish to possess or become inextricably dependent on their children, or where paradoxically the child harbours a wish to own solely or be dependent on their mother or their father, and in some instances with the added complications of the sibling’s rivalry for their parent’s affections. In many instances the parent or the child will be fearful or anxious at some future stage over the amount of time that they spend in each other’s company to the exclusion of everyone or everything else. The tale of Snow White aptly illustrates for the child and allows it to understand that not only are they jealous of their coveted parent but that the parent may also have parallel feelings towards their child. In a reassuring way the theme of the tale enables the child to understand that, should this occur, they need not be afraid of the consequences of parental jealousy whenever it occurs because, given the right attitude and circumstances, they can overcome its negative consequences. Nevertheless, various complications are created within the family network whenever the green-eyed monster raises its’ ugly head. Although Sigmund Freud employed the Oedipal myth as an essential tool for understanding the obsessive love of a child for the mother or father (the Oedipus/Electra complex), the whole story throws additional light on how complex family relationships can become and how they affect various subsequent generations. At some stage in their lives a person suffering from any one of these psychological complexes will need to address certain issues that have spanned several generations, like the links in the chain of psychological projections, their sense of dependence on the opinions or values of their parents towards them have to be literally severed in order for them to move on. This may be more difficult than one might suppose, since the conditioned responses that govern self-worth lie deeply hidden and only surface, albeit subconsciously, whenever a person later attempts to establish new relationships.
These new and often challenging relationships, from the teenage years and into maturity are in effect quantum leaps into unknown territory, necessitating change and new perspectives in what relating in a social context actually entails. Although the ideal in many people’s lives is to have fulfilling relationships, both intimate and impersonal with their parents, their lovers, friends and associates, in reality many either do not have such an ideal or they may need to transcend any conditioning in order to progress and get on with their own lives. In actual fact many people do not realise that the biological family, although a necessary foundation stone, is but one aspect of human relationships. There is also the sibling family, the social family, the political family, the humanitarian family, the philosophical family and finally the spiritual family. As a person ages their opinions, needs and values usually alter allowing them greater access to a much broader definition of what it is to be human and how they fit into a much greater whole. If their relationships are denied change or are starved of evolution then they are effectively “stuck in a rut”.
Synopsis of the Oedipal Myth:
The tragic stories of several generations of Royal families in ancient Greece that involve Oedipus and Orestes just after the Trojan Wars, is chronicled in Homer‘s Illiad & Odyssey and then later became the central theme of the Greek dramatist Aeschylus‘s plays (525-456 BC) which includes the Oresteia trilogy, “Agamemnon”, the resolution appearing in “Eumenides” and a continuation of the karmic saga in “Seven Against Thebes” (Epigoni) written in Sicily. A superior version was also written by Sophocles (496-406 BC “King Oedipus” & “Oedipus at Colonus”) at the age of 28 for which he actually won an award. It is worth bearing in mind that Aeschylus, an Athenian dramatist says; “we are all eating crumbs from the table of Homer”. These tragic dramas focus on the dilemmas of human passions, personal responsibility and the expression of divine will. It is worth noting that Oedipus unknowingly kills his father, while Orestes, spurred on by his sister Electra kills his mother in full knowledge of the act and in vengeance for the death of his father.
The play begins with King Laius of Thebes, who was married to Queen Jocasta, who laments their childless marriage and decides to consult the oracle at Delphi. The oracle informs him that their marriage is cursed and that if a child was begot between them that it would probably murder him in cold blood. Horrified and pondering on his miserable fate, the King therefore gradually ostracises Jocasta, but one night while he is drunk she seduces him and nine months later, much against his wishes, he has a beautiful son. As soon as it is born however, the King snatches him from Jocasta‘s care, drives a nail into his feet, binds them and casts him out on Mt. Cithaeron where he is discovered by a shepherd. Subsequently, and as a prelude to this strange and convoluted tale, the bisexual King Laius had ravished Pelop‘s illegitimate young son, Chryssipus while he was in his custody and being sheltered under his roof, even though he was in turn given kindness and hospitality. The Mycenaean King Pelops won his bride Hippodaemia with the help of Myrtilus in a chariot race and when his servant asked for his reward Pelops refused to pay and then drowned him. As he was dying Myrtilus uttered a curse upon Pelops that was passed on to his true son Atreus and his descendants. Atreus and his descendants were not exorcised of this curse until the madness and purification of Orestes, the son of the legendary King Agamemnon. Subsequently, Orestes was pursued by the Erinyes (Furies) and was not free of the consequences of his deed until he faced trial in Athens and was acquitted by the single vote of the goddess Athena.
Agamemnon, was the commander of the Greek army, who notoriously argued with Achilles and returned from the siege of Troy with a consort as a trophy called Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam. This only served to anger his jealous wife Clytemnestra who plotted to kill Agamemnon. In a state of distraught madness and encouraged by his sister, Electra, Orestes avenged the murder of his father by killing his own mother, Clytemnaestra and her secret lover Aegisthus. Pelops had inherited the Paphlagonian throne living near the shores of the Black Sea from his father Tantalus, but also ruled over the Lydians and Phrygians. He was married to Hippodameia, the daughter of King Oenomaus from Arcadia. Unfortunately, he was subsequently exiled by invading barbarians as well as Ilus the King of Troy and, having nowhere else to go sought refuge with King Laius. Angered by this horrendous sexual act, the Goddess Hera sends the diabolical Sphinx from Ethiopia, a creature with a woman’s head, lion’s body, a serpent’s tail and the wings of an eagle to harass all pilgrims and travellers to Thebes. As punishment for acting out his own childish jealousies and perversions, the oracle at Delphi predicted that karmically he would be killed by his own son just as Tantalus, the husband of Clytaemnestra had jealously tried to destroy his own son Pelops. Fortunately, the latter had miraculously survived the ordeal and went on to avenge the murder of his father-in-law, King Oenomaus. In full knowledge of the karmic consequences and in order to prevent Oedipus taking his place, King Laius, arranged to have the infant’s ankles pierced and his feet tied together then orders a local shepherd to cast him out into the wilderness to die.
However, the shepherd, like the huntsman in Snow White, takes pity on the abandoned Oedipus and places him in the care of another shepherd who brings him up as his own child. Oedipus is then later introduced to Polybus, the King of Corinth as a young boy and he raises him as his own natural son. It is at this stage that Oedipus consults the oracle at Delphi, just as Laius had done previously, and is told that he would inevitably slay his own father and have sexual relations with his mother. Not realising that his current custodians are not his real parents, and in order to prevent such perverse repercussions occurring to his kind guardian King Polybus, Oedipus does not return home but travels far away to live in exile. Nevertheless, or by a quirk of fate he still encounters Laius, his real father, at a crossroads one day, he ends up arguing with him over some issue and then murders him. He then proceeds on to Thebes, solves the riddle of the Sphinx and acclaimed by the citizens of Thebes as an hero his reward being to marry the Queen, Jocasta, who happens to be the unhappy widow of the man he has recently slain. Much later when the truth of this bizarre story was revealed by the sage Teiresias, the Queen in horror committed suicide and Oedipus blinded himself in punishment for not having seen what he had done. Nevertheless, the tale does not end at this tragic juncture but goes on further to illustrate that the failures to integrate or resolve the Oedipal complex means that the karma will fall onto the next of kin. In Greece it is traditionally said that the sins of the father fall on the daughter and the sins of the mother fall onto the son and this idea is nicely illustrated with the following sequel. Oedipus‘s own twin sons Eteokles and Polynices did not support him in his misery but his daughter stayed by him. As time passed during the war on Thebes his sons eventually killed each other in combat. Going against King Creon‘s orders, Antigone buried Polynices and was herself killed for it. Both Tantalus and Laius are then destroyed by their selfish attachment, while Oenomaus dies because he wants his daughter all for himself, and Jocasta dies because she is still stubbornly attached to her own son. Similarly, Oedipus suffers by trying to save his parents as he unwittingly kills his father and as his sons suffer from unchecked sibling rivalry they too destroy each other through envy. The myth also explains that Tantalus, the son of Pelops, attempts to trick or fool the gods out of his own selfish possessiveness or vain protection of his son. As a result he suffers eternally in Hades. However, Pelops is restored by the gods in the same manner that Snow White regains consciousness after a long period of lying quiescent in a catatonic “sleep” (latency stage).
Eros & Psyche:
Of further interest to the mind and sexuality of the developing child, at least as it progresses through puberty and begins to take an interest in the opposite sex is the myth of “Eros & Psyche”. The word psyche, from which the word psychology was coined, actually derives from the Greek word meaning “soul”, but which the English Oxford dictionary defines as “the spiritual or immaterial aspect of human beings, the moral manifestation and emotional portion of the conscious mind, the vital principle of life and mental emanations, or the embodiment of all intellectual and emotional striving towards some ideal goal”. The story of Cupid & Psyche was taken up and revised by many other Medieval writers namely Edmund Spenser –“The Fairy Queen”. The Greek and Roman myth, as well as the moral or sexual implications that are paralleled in the well known fairy story of Beauty & the Beast. The Greek myth was retold in Roman times by Apuleius‘ “The Golden Ass” and “Cupid & Psyche”, although it was derived largely from an account in Ovid‘s “Metamorphoses”, a work that inspired Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the Sonnets (“Venus & Adonis”). In Greek mythology and cosmology, Eros (Pleasure Principle) is contrasted with Thanatos (Death Principle) between which extends Chaos (Irrational Principle) which itself is in opposition to Nous (Mind or Reason). The “blind” and invisible Eros, a god of love and blind infatuation, randomly wounds mortals on Earth with his arrows of desire that have either gold (joy) or leaden points (sorrow). We are reminded here of the symbolic elements or metals referred to in Alchemy (“The Sacred Marriage of Sol & Luna”) a theme to which the psychoanalyst Carl Jung was especially attracted.
In Medieval Alchemy the base metal lead is transformed into gold by the initiate’s experiments and research into formulating the philosopher’s stone. In Apuleius‘ tale Psyche is led astray by her two evil older sisters when she is told that sexual pleasure with her lover, in the form of Typhon, a snake with many coils, is disgusting and abhorrent. Psyche, a most beautiful girl and one of three daughters to a King arouses the jealousy of the goddess Aphrodite, Eros‘s mother. In a cunning plan she actually seduces her own son Eros, the mischievous god of desire, and thereby forces him to punish Psyche by making her persistently fall in love with ugly men, ie: “kissing frogs”. Psyche‘s parents, being worried that she has not as yet found a suitable husband, consult the oracle at Delphi and they are told that Psyche must be set up on a high cliff to become the prey of a huge snake-like monster. She agrees to this and is led to the cliff’s edge in solemn procession since this is tantamount to accepting a symbolic “death” (end of maidenhood). Taking pity on Psyche, Eros contrives to save her from death and humiliation. As the spectators gaze mournfully away, a gentle breeze carries her unharmed down the side of the cliff and into a cave where Eros, going against his mother’s orders, rescues her and falls hopelessly in love with her. In the cave which he has prepared he secretly fulfils all her wishes by making her his beloved. During the night Eros, although an immortal, assumes a most pleasant human male form and joins her in the nuptial bedchamber, but during the day disappears leaving her all alone. Her boredom and loneliness during his absence in the daytime makes her exceedingly sad. Therefore to allay her loneliness during the day, Eros agrees to have her evil sisters to visit her. However, largely out of envy, her sisters tell her that at night she is consorting with the most vile and abominable serpent and is probably pregnant by him so that she must plan to cut off his head the next time he calls upon her. So the next time Eros calls in disguise to consort with Psyche, she waits until he has fallen into a deep slumber, then taking an oil lamp and a knife, she surreptitiously looks around for the serpent’s head but to no avail. As the dawn lightened the darkness of the cave she discovers to her delight that her mysterious consort is a most beautiful youth. Accidentally, while in a state of trembling excitement, a drop of hot oil drops onto Eros‘s naked body, he departs and Psyche is left heartbroken. She then attempts suicide but is saved although Aphrodite is still livid about her son’s treachery, she pursues Psyche who escapes into the underworld to undergo various trials and tribulations. Meanwhile the evil sisters attempt to replace Psyche by sleeping alternate nights in the cave in the vain hope that Eros will return and mistakenly make love to them. However, they fall off the cliff with no wind to carry them safely and are destroyed. Meanwhile, touched by Psyche‘s repentance, Eros‘s wound heals and he persuades Zeus to confer immortality upon her.
The second in my series on the meaning of myths and legends, here are the tragic tales of Oedipus, Eros and Psyche and how they reflect the narrative plots and characters found in Fairy Tales.
The links to my current publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and an anthology of poetry “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:
Although it has already been shown by various mythographers that in simple popular folklore and fairy tales are often found the complex psychological synopsis of many cultural mythologies often simplified and reset to accommodate the requirements of an oral tradition. Needless to say some basic distinctions exist between allegorical myths and popular folktales. Historians assert that folk tales are relevant records of an ever-changing “zeitgeist” which has re-shaped the universal mythic themes to accommodate the social and moral mores of various cultures and ethnic societies. In the case of the fairy tale this has occurred gradually and almost imperceptibly from one generation to the next in accord with both social, political as well as religious belief. While the mythological tales reflect changes and upheavals that extend over much longer periods and reflect the ideologies of successive dynasties and aeons of human development and not just a social or family generation. The need to adapt and evolve stories from the major themes whilst still maintaining the seed essence or “raw material” of the original seems to have been the purpose behind the storytellers’ motives. Perhaps the “grand themes” contained in the recorded histories of great civilisations did not appeal to the common people in their original form and it was decided that simple renditions would reach a wider, commonplace and popular audience. The ability for fairy tales and folklore to be appreciated by both adults and children alike suggests that the key to understanding their role lies in the faculty known to us as the human imagination. The term fable is of French origin which incidentally gave rise to the generic term Fabian meaning “to delay” in order to “confound” (after the Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus-503 AD) and the French term for a metrical poem viz: “fabliau” of a comical or coarse nature. These were intended to while away the idle hours, to entertain, to educate and formulate by means of a moral apologue cultivate some aspect of popular wisdom and good behaviour in the listener. The term “fabulous” literally means good enough to be celebrated in fable or song, similarly the terms “Romance” or “Saga” have also been used to signify certain aspects of storytelling. Other literary works for example “The Canterbury Tales” written by Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) were intended as a historical and popular documentary record of the period. In fact many fables may have been derived from an actual incident that was later extemporised upon just as popular jokes are today. In the same manner, perhaps as mythologies, folktales employ allegory, analogy, metaphor, epigram and simile. The category of folk sayings includes of course proverbs and nursery rhymes, as well as verbal rhyming, charms, prophetic omens and numerous riddles.
Origins, Purpose & Meaning:
There is considerable evidence to suggest that folklore and fairy tales are derived largely from rural communities, although it should be noted that city folk also thrive on their own tabloid tales, plays, and soap-operas of a banal, bizarre or superstitious nature. However, although popular and comforting as “ersatz”, these do not satisfy or prepare the mind of the developing child for adult life. Psychologists today understand that a human beings’ character traits and habits are conditioned by their essential beliefs or understanding of the way both external elements and other people operate in the world. Positive beliefs can be reinforced and negative ideas eliminated both on the conscious and subconscious levels of our mind. The process of harnessing the power of the human imagination to correlate a fantasy with reality is the role of the allegorical tale, which also provides the moral and spiritual foundation for both the innocent child, and the dispirited or confused adult. This is both a clue to its’ efficacy as a disguised moral induction process and its’ widespread popularity. Essentially, we are to a certain extent all programmed to respond and live our lives according to our own so-called personal perceptions and to those individuals who influenced us in our early life as well as the perception of our immediate environment. Religious, genetic and cultural factors are also significant influences in this ongoing educational process. Philosophical outlook, knowledge and practical education is largely a matter for our teachers, coaches and mentors but our family as well as the friends we make over time, inform and teach us in the rudimentaries contained within the experiential field known as ” The School of Life”. We look to them largely for direction, to open doors and provide us with clues that enable us to solve our personal and ideological as well as emotional dilemmas. Unfortunately, the continuous march of time and progress inevitably produces inexorable paradoxes for us all, because the beliefs of yesteryear no longer stand up to the scrutiny of our contemporary drives and motivations. These paradoxes must be resolved, otherwise we become stuck in a static humdrum routine or digressive mental and regressive emotional states. The role of the fairy tale is to some extent to re-educate, elucidate and provide new or essential material to enable us to tap into universal truths and allow us to effect this transition. In this sense the developing child who becomes disenchanted with the tyranny or hypocrisy of its’ peers will search out its’ own role models and derive a new set of values, morals and definitions of its’ new role in society.
Animated comic strips or story books today act or provide the same role as the storyteller did in ancient Babylon or Greece whose mythological themes probably owe their existence to a secret knowledge or wisdom that precedes civilisation. Synonymously, the fairy tale, like the child, derives its’ theme from some previous source and, while retaining the “essential message” in time, goes through various transformations and revisions and is in itself a mirror of personal transitions, maturity and human evolution. Like the many layers of the onion, these can be peeled away to reveal the customs, rites of passage or initiatory ordeals practised by earlier generations – which for the sake of convenience were enshrined in the theatrical plays, ceremonies and historical re-enactments of a particular tribe. It is nevertheless conceivable that several stories may contain recurring or identical themes and in their imagery borrow from either the vast storehouse of the human subconscious or the myriad of mythologies from neighbouring cultures. In that case it would be quite natural to presume that in the process of cultural interaction they would naturally form numerous connecting “links” or “strings” of association. Alternatively these could be “old yarns” that have been re-spun or interwoven with more contemporary material or events producing a new narrative or “tapestry”.
The Holy Grail or Arthurian Legend is just such an example having been re-worked by numerous authors who have in their own way some personal experience to add to the already existing fabric. Like the ripples caused by pebbles thrown into water, they merge and reflect a new set of kaleidoscopic patterns both on the surface and on the nearby surroundings, illuminating our vision and understanding of reality as well as each other. They form both a bridge to a universal empathy with those individuals who, by sheer providence, belong to a totally different race or culture and a secular network of tunnels that permeates every strata common to the human psyche. What is particularly puzzling however is that a number of tales from cultures who are divided by vast periods of time and space still bear some remarkable similarities. This could in fact be pure coincidence, as the stories contain elements which in themselves are bound to be limited to the parameters of human experience. These are our fundamental need to survive, acquire the resources of comfort and mutual well being and make sense of our perceived environment. In other words to gain a greater understanding of the laws of cause and effect and how individual actions based on our moral or ethical views affects the mechanics of our personal existence. However, what we need to ask is does fate or destiny act upon us imperceptibly regardless of personal choice, does our existence become part of this equation or are we inextricably led blindfold through its’ labyrinthine passages? Various theories have been suggested for these coincidences and anomalies based on years of in-depth research and study. The psychoanalytical view is that the developing child needs to master some basic principles in order to deal harmoniously with its parents, its siblings and the wider world. Through a strong link or influence from its mother it learns basic trust (object relation), then it learns autonomy in order to fend for itself. Much later it learns to apply initiative often expressed as play, curiosity, or amusing itself through play. Through the father it learns the value of applied industry or work, and through its own perseverance and determination finally reaps rewards. Eventually, it develops an identity (Ego) that is acceptable to the world through developing outside friendships. At this point fantasy may fly out the window and reason prevails.
Analysis of Fairytales, Myths & Fables:
The accepted views of western anthropologists to legends, myths and fairy tales changed as a result of Levi Strauss’ work “The Structural Study of Myth” published in 1955, where he presents a series of arguments that suggest folktales and myths to be a type of cryptic code or language not unlike the binary code found in computer languages. To identify this code he used an archaic story found in two distinct North American Indian tribes, – (The Story of Asdiwal) he reduced it to its’ basic components and applied the same theory of structure to other mythologies from around the world. The significance of his discovery is that myths, fairy tales and legends contain a symbolic grammar and linguistic structure just as most types of spoken language contain certain rules and procedures. Understanding these basic structures enables us to fully appreciate the purpose and meaning intended for these stories and tales. However, Levi Strauss may not have arrived at his conclusions had it not been for the invaluable work of Vladimir Propp’s study of folktales and Georges Dumezils’ study of Indo-European myths published in 1928. Further enlightening studies in the same vein include “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” and “The Masks of God” by Joseph Campbell. Although much opposition was given to Levi Strauss’s theories particularly among British anthropologists when he published “le Cru et le Cuit” in the autumn of 1964, only minor details were left to quibble over, his conclusive evidence received the acclaim of many other scholars in Europe and America.
The psychoanalyst and mystical philosopher, C. G. Jung incorporated some of these alchemical ideas within his own psychoanalytical system to represent a form of synchronicity linked to cause and effect. However, there was nothing new in the eyes and ears of occultists who had been nurtured for previous centuries on eastern mysticism. They received Jung and his ideas by placing their tongues firmly into their cheeks and expressing a sense of muted surprise. True enough Jung’s system was more academic, allegorical or psychological incorporating many new semantic terms. This made his perspective especially appealing to the upwardly mobile middle classes who did not wish to appear to their moral forebears as new age heretics. What Jung failed to account for was the rich diversity and often contradictory interpretations in archetypal symbols from one culture to another. For example, there is no adoration or worship of the male genitalia in western religion as there is in the Eastern Tantric Religion. The Chinese imperial dragon is totally different from that monstrous beast slain by the pious and chivalric Christian St. George. The Arabs consider sand to be a symbol of truth and purity, whereas in more temperate climates it is an image of decimation and drought. Despite all his “Jungian” philosophical meanderings, he failed to account for many discrepancies which blew holes in his collective hypothesis. However, the alchemical idea remains universal – a diversion or total separation from traditional religious iconography and the notion of blind faith. This indicates that the fundamental truth of our existence will always resurface and assume other recognisable forms even though it has been obscured for a millennia. It also indicates that the arcane forms of archetypal symbolism can lose their significance and meaning only to wither away. Alternatively, they may be cynically hijacked and perverted by movie moguls and advertising agencies in the name of profit and greed. In Jungian philosophy the anima and animus represent the unconscious masculine and feminine energies locked within the psyche, depicted as Sol and Luna in traditional alchemy, and which in folklore are expressed as the young knight and the chaste maiden. The anima has three manifestations – the naïve virgin goddess, the whore or seductress, and the horrendous hag or witch. Similarly, the animus is symbolised by the athletic hero or young man, the coarse, untutored brute, and the tyrannical, possessive and manipulative villain. Alongside these six basic archetypes are the “Great Mother” – the caring and nurturing aspect of humanity, who can be seen in folklore as the “Fairy Godmother”.
Her diametric opposite or “shadow” was the all-devouring mother or “Evil Witch”. To complete this picture is the all-knowing “Father God” – whose role is to uphold the law, defend, nourish and protect the community in his care. His diametric counterpart was the evil ogre, monster or “Giant” whose role was to disrupt and encourage rebellion. There is also a representation of goodness or virtue in the form of the “Saviour” or handsome, charming, beautiful Prince or Princess. These characters represent what the child should emulate as a role model or what they could become. Psychological “blind-spots” also have their respective images, the “Trickster” for example represents our susceptibility to temptation or deception, and the “Shadow” our darker aspect which is drawn to selfishness and misanthropy and attempts to corrupt the process of distillation by drawing their evolving consciousness into the miasmic depths of Hell. In effect both the trickster and the shadow principle act as blocks or obstacles to really understanding the enigma of our own existence. The trickster assumes different forms and often misdirects and misleads us as in the case of Hansel and Gretel. The monstrous Ogre on the other hand, through his terrifying confrontation, intimidation and fear makes us aware of our lack of courage and faith in ourselves. The “Wolf” represents our deepest lust, secret fears, as he strips back the superficiality of our being to reveal the terrified, powerless, vulnerable, or naked child. Finally, the “Ugly Dwarf” meanwhile represents our personal dislikes, repulsions and prejudices.
When we examine the tale of Jack & the Beanstalk we may detect the emergence of sexual potency in the child and their appreciation or control of it. However, the story has some deeper implications, since it is not only a subtle reference to the practice of masturbation but how the parents may regard the child’s newly discovered sexual preoccupation. However, on another level it also deals with the mother’s unwillingness to allow her son to be totally independent of her and gain maturity. The tale of Snow White deals particularly with parental jealousy that has its origins in the Oedipal Complex that Freud drew entirely from Greek mythology. The myth itself has many components and levels of meaning that can be transposed and elaborated on for the purpose of understanding, not only the role that families have in determining the behaviour and attitudes of their children, but the severe ramifications or repercussions those actions create in a karmic chain reaction on their future generations. It also confirms that fate or destiny cannot be avoided or for that matter denied once the ball, metaphorically speaking, has begun to roll. Through trial and error, or by rote of hard won personal experience, the heroes and heroines in folktales have to overcome all these archetypal energies if they are to achieve true liberation or freedom from the illusory world. As in the case of many folkloric tales, all of these Jungian archetypes are actually borrowed from Celtic, Greek and Hindu Mythology, only their names have been changed to give the impression of Jung having devised or discovered “something new”.
The folktale of Rapunzel, who is trapped within a tall tower, or that of Sleeping Beauty surrounded by a deep forest of briars, are useful examples in understanding the nature of the anima and animus and their relative interactions in human development. In many cases the inference is both moral and sexual, and tutors the naïve child in appropriate behaviour and how success can eventually be achieved. For the male of the species it is a matter of overcoming the so-called “sleep of reason”, and for the female a matter of overcoming a form of familial dependency and emotional isolation. The masculine counterpart of these types of story can be found in the male conquering their base instincts, and attaining sexual maturity. This is usually portrayed as the “slaying of a monster” (eg: St. George & the Dragon), as is also the case of the Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, rescuing the Athenian youths or of say the Anglo-Saxon hero Beowulf wrestling with the dragon that threatens to engulf the world. These actions are often instigated while on their way to completing some other task, as none of the participants in these tales is fully conscious of their true destiny. The “shadow principle” is best described in the epic tale of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, his initial enemy and later, his close ally or accomplice in finding the Flower of Immortality.
The Freudian Psychoanalytic Perspective:
Bruno Bettelheim, a pupil of Sigmund Freud’s, was responsible for decoding the significance and meaning of many fairy tales for the child, the parent and the student of human psychology. He was able to identify stories of this nature and style as a particular scheme devised by sages with great psychotherapeutic value for human beings even today. Fairy tales are inherently therapeutic, instructive and educational in that they introduce a child to the most pleasant and unpleasant realities of the outer world as well as the misgivings of their own personal dilemmas, aspirations, hopes and fears. As a tool for self-realisation and empowerment they represent an effective means of coping with a child’s irrational manifestations (psychoses-desires) and identifying rational complexions (neuroses-fears) for both adults and children alike. In other words they continually reflect and reconcile elements of the known and the unknown in human personal experience. A fairy tale moreover is a work of art since it can represent or reflect different things or meanings to different people, it has an objective, collective and subjective existence almost simultaneously. When absorbed and understood as a psychological gestalt or leitmotif it enables a person to resolve deeply-rooted inner conflicts and embrace a positive or optimistic attitude to life’s predicaments. The majority of fairy tales tend to resolve problems and have a happy ending. While fables may be cautionary tales that warn, demand or threaten the listener, the various myths or legends are essentially pessimistic, since they often feature tragic karmic consequences (hubris, nemesis & catharsis) when humans act against their own conscience.
When confronted by certain difficult situations human beings tend to neglect their personal development, or literally act out their negative feelings or thoughts. Sigmund Freud noted that many myths, with their gods, heroes and mortals are somewhat grandiose and often tragic because they feature the interaction of the id, the ego and the superego in a dramatic format unconsciously playing out their basic instinctual urges, their need for self-preservation with various fateful encounters (Odysseus) or mortals being subjected to initiatory trials (Hercules) that end in some expiatory acts of atonement, submission or self sacrifice (Orpheus). Fables simply feature inanimate objects, creatures or things that emulate, behave or speak like human beings and they always end with an incontrovertible, implicit moral truth. Although comical or tragic, nothing in fables is ambiguous, hidden, multidimensional, or optional and they tend to lack nuance in their personal significance. The Fable is therefore dualistic and non-progressive or sequential often delineating an either/or situation, since once a person has identified with one of the characters in a fable the outcome is inevitably successful or doom-laden.
In contrast the themes found in fairy tales are dream-like exaggerations from the repository of the unconscious mind, but they deal largely with making positive choices that can empower a child or adult that suffers from a variety of negative emotions or behaviours. As positive affirmations and options to the child’s mind they tend to fall into a classic or traditional mould, in that they illustrate how to deal effectively with pride, vanity, selfishness, greed, sloth, envy, jealousy, lust, greed, etc, but they may also touch upon other hidden fears or behavioural conditions for example lack of self-worth, timidity, dependency, self-loathing, hopelessness, lack of courage, revenge, hypocrisy and so forth. The fairy story usually begins quite simply with an unpleasant situation or problem, ie the King and Queen without a child, a man without a wife, a poverty struck family, or an orphaned child and the main characters have pseudonyms or nicknames describing their outward appearance or behavioural characteristics (eg: Goldilocks, Snow White, Little Red Cap etc) while the lesser characters are known simply as the dwarf, the wood-cutter, or witch and so forth. By this simple literary technique or style the child is naturally facilitated with a little help from their fertile imagination into forming projections, identifications or idealisations with one or more of the characters in the tale. The tale of Hansel & Gretel deals with the dangers of succumbing to oral gratification when they are not under parental control or guidance but under the negative influence of a malevolent witch.
The tale of Little Red Riding Hood is extremely complex and multi-dimensional but essentially deals with the sexual fascination a teenager may encounter when they reach puberty. The all-devouring, death-dealing wolf being a metaphor for excessive sexual indulgence but at the same time representing the seductive, predatory male and the girl’s subconscious sexual attraction to destructive instinctual urges or temptations. Therefore it can be read on many different levels and has been altered over time to accord with various stages of childhood development (oral, anal, and genital) or to suit different religious or cultural approaches in dealing with sexual self-knowledge, integration and control. Since fairy tales deal with sensitive issues and the harsher realities of life as well as the problems encountered by the developing child that will condition, for good or ill, their own attitudes, behaviour and subsequent harmonious human relationships in later life. Unfortunately some problems are naturally caused by how our own parents and other family members conditioned us consciously or unconsciously to respond or deal effectively with hunger, thirst, sleeping, playing or enjoying and entertaining ourselves. The problems therefore tend to surface at critical periods in the child’s life, for example at the onset of puberty, the vagaries of adolescence and then the further subsequent attempts that many adults have to gain self-mastery and control of their sexual desires. Many people do not realise that maturity often requires a regression into the childhood state in order to gain insight into a current crisis or problem. It is therefore a continuing process of reorganisation, education, re-evaluation, and repair. Because of their complexity, some fairy tales are also open to different levels of interpretation, or a variety of permutations in meaning in order to fully satisfy a child’s need for physical, emotional and intellectual integration in a constantly changing world, a world in which not only their attitudes, habits and behaviours may change but those of the society or culture into which they are thrust into may change also. In other words the thrice-born hero or heroine is actually born many times over out of their foetal, oral, anal and genital fixations or preoccupations. The various encounters in fairy stories usually relate subliminally to those sexual encounters that occur in later life that are “clouded” or veiled by the process of transference or projection. Whenever unconscious or for that matter conscious anxieties, fears and fantasies are projected onto a significant other that partner will then unconsciously play them out and in a manner to which they have become conditioned or in a way that satisfies their own deep psychological needs at any one time of personal development and integration. So the incidents in our lives, however pleasant or unpleasant are dramas or scenes that are learned, rehearsed and then re-enacted to satisfy some primordial need. Our secret fears and anxieties are then projected into the world so that we may transcend or overcome them.
Symbolic Categories & Definitions: As already mentioned numerous main characters, plots and sub-plots appear within the fairy tale format, all with their own symbolic attributes. There is a common numerical pattern, usually of three’s and sevens but also many dualities, polarities and sometimes fourfold elemental features denoting some aspect of the child’s imagination and their status in relation to the real world.
Major Characters: King & Queen (maturity/adult phase) Virtue Prince & Princess (adolescent to teenage phase) Pleasure/Success Brother & Sister (puberty phase) Innocence Old Woman/Man (old age phase) Wisdom Fairy Godmother & Wizard (or Good Witch-positive characteristics of a mature adult) Evil Witch & Ogre (negative characteristics of the mother and father) Giants (Powerful People-the Adult World) Ugly Dwarf (anxieties/fears-resulting from arrested psychological development) Monsters & Beasts (eg: Dragons – manifestations of the “irrepressible id”) Fabulous Beasts (Chimera -of unknown origin or dark forces, internal or external) Huntsman (benevolent custodian of the natural order) Woodcutter (industry & work) Fairies & Elves (benevolent or malevolent) Unseen Psychic/Magical Forces Animals, Birds, Plants (Natural Phenomena).
Underlying Symbolic Themes and Connections:
Little Red Riding Hood: This fairy tale parallels the stage when a female child begins her menstrual cycle and develops her libido in response to other teenager’s demands. Jack & the Beanstalk: Deals with teenage masturbation, self-love attaining authority in the family and society. Work and its’ rewards. Cinderella: Highlights the inequality of social status between two lovers from divergent family backgrounds (eg: Tristan & Isolde). Snow White & the Seven Dwarves: Makes distinctions between illicit or casual sex in comparison with conventional engagements and marriage. Trial and error before meeting Mr. Right. Rapunzel: A call for personal freedom and expression to engage in illicit or casual sex or dangerous and challenging enterprises. Sleeping Beauty: The quiescent or latency stage in childhood development, a period of self-withdrawal for inner reflection and protection. Digression or regression and inevitable disenchantment. Hanzel & Gretel: Coping with oral gratification or excessive desires, losing one’s way, failure to listen to parental advice. Rumpelstiltskin: Problem solving, attaining independence from family influence and dependence. Goldilocks & the Three Bears: Encourages relationships and experimentation in order to attain distinction and discrimination.
These represent personal powers, knowledge, skills or those things acquired that are necessary for the aspirations of self development especially when the hero or heroine face what appear to be insurmountable difficulties, obstacles or odds. They also represent the child’s ability to develop a differing perspective, attitude or behaviour which is necessary if they are to move unobstructed into mature adults or parents themselves. However, in other cases they may represent their primordial needs being satisfied eg food, clothing, shelter. In the story of Jack & the Beanstalk for example the bag of gold, the goose that lays the golden eggs, and the harp that sings, that are stolen from the absent or sleeping ogre represent on one level the child’s need to satisfy their own independent needs by making their own way into the world.
Power Animals: Birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish insects and even inanimate rocks all contain some potential symbolic significance for the animistic mind of the child.
Basic Polarities: The basic polarities, contradictions or “contradistinctions” in fairy tales focus on illusion and reality, the negative and positive aspects of the id, the ego and the superego which may be reduced to simple formulas. These are often expressed as strange creatures or events entering the scenario. These may include fairies, elves, dwarves, and nymphs often hailing from differing habitats eg: woodland, flowers, rivers, oceans, (mermaids and sirens).
Major Mythic & Fairy Tale Themes:
In the Epic of Gilgamesh a wise ruler together with his consort need to deal with their underlings or subjects thereby avoiding social chaos and general upheaval. Although this is a legend and deals primarily with problems related to government and an evolved civilisation it still retains an interesting psychological dimension. Their subjects (ie: children) have to cope with situations in their social environment, for example hunger, poverty, industry, education, technology, etc and observe the man-made laws that regulate their activity and ensure mutual co-operation is achieved. But they also need to deal or interact symbiotically with certain powers or elements considered below them, that is the natural world, or the “wildman of the woods”, represented by the beast-man Enkidu. Then they also have to deal with the power of the unknown, usually represented by various monsters (chimera) and that we might associate today with diseases, foreign invasions, cataclysmic disruptions and so forth.
Finally, they have to deal with the powers above them, the universal or cosmic laws usually governed and maintained by omnipotent powers (gods/goddesses). In the case of monotheism it would be the good GOD and his protagonist the evil SATAN. Meanwhile Gilgamesh needs to attain to a state of immortality and this may infer metaphorically employing a means of self-development that delivers him from mortal suffering or worldly attachment. The formula for wise and judicial handling of one’s affairs in accord with the natural world and thereby establishing order applies equally to the family as it would do to the state. The family is the microcosmic embryo that reflects harmony in the state as the state itself is a mirror of cosmic unity. In fact the phantasmagorical arena of fairy tale themes is so vast that to categorise them is a feat worthy of any heroic quest, nevertheless an attempt will be made here to assert that some general themes and structures do exist and can therefore be classified. This is not an attempt to reduce myths, legends, fables and fairy stories to their singular components but to allow an in-depth analysis and suggest a common thread or message does and has always existed in the telling and retelling of these tales. When we examine these more closely it reinforces the idea that myths and fairy stories are magical formulas drawn from the language of dreams, the collective subconscious and the individual unconscious that can lead a growing child to self-knowledge and self-mastery – that is the development of the will.
The thrice-born hero Hermes Trismegistus (The Emerald Tablets), of whom much has been discussed among the metaphysical elite, was said to have been resurrected or born out of his own foetal, oral, anal, and genital fixations and preoccupations. In my forthcoming post I will be examining two well-known Greek tales in order to understand what can go wrong or right for the developing child. I will analyse two important Greek myths; that of Oedipus/Electra and that of Adonis & Psyche.
A lot has already been ascertained quite recently with regard to the Masonic ciphers and symbolism found within Shakespeare’s plays and poetry (eg: “The Shakespeare Enigma”, by Director of the Globe Theatre, Peter Dawkins). Some academic authors have found anagrams and coded ciphers which support the theory that the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare” was a member of some secret Masonic Order, namely that of the Rosicrucian College, the “Sacred Order of the Rosy-Cross”. The presence of the actors Guiderstern and Rosencrantz in Shakespeare’s melancholic but autobiographical play, “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” is an obvious yet simple clue to the existence of the Rosicrucian Order in England since Christian Rosencreutz was the name of their founder in Germany. Clearly, the author of Hamlet was writing for an elite, educated and esoteric audience not as most academics have assumed for the average man who frequented the London theatres. I have already written an analysis of the “Alchemical Symbolism” to be found in Shakespeare’s dramas and poetry and the deeper significance of this in determining that the secret author, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford was a 28th degree Mason and the real author of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. Indeed, some authors writing on the subject are convinced that Shakespeare worked alongside other colleagues of a similar persuasion and interest, namely Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh or Christopher Marlowe who were all considered by other writers to be alternative candidates as authors of Shakespeare’s 1623 Folio (See “Sir Francis Bacon versus Edward de Vere”). An initial clue of Masonic or Alchemical terminology can be found in Shakespeare’s late play Macbeth when Lady Macbeth secretly arranges to drug the guards’ drinks so that her husband can safely kill King Duncan while he is asleep:
“That memory, the warder of the brain, Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason A limbeck only: when in swinish sleep Their drenched natures lie as in a death, What cannot you and I perform upon The unguarded Duncan? what not put upon His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt Of our great quell?” (Act One, scene 7)
Some academic researchers insist that the assassination of King Duncan is an allegorical representation of the murder of the early founder of Freemasonry, Hiram Abiff (Helen H. Gordon). The use of the rather rare and esoteric word ‘limbeck’ actually means a glass retort employed in alchemy for the purpose of distillation (derived from the Arabic, ie: “Alembic”). By analogy the author compares the human brain to an ‘alchemical alembic’ where the rare distillation of perception and reason takes place in the human mind through conscious reflection. Space and time does not allow in this essay for a full history or explanation of the origins of Freemasonry in Europe, but suffice to say that its origins go as far back as the late Egyptian era and to one Dionysus the Areopagite, the first Bishop of Athens (1st century AD) as well as the Greek Philosopher (Plato) and the Egyptian Mystery Schools (Hermes Trismegistus, “The Emerald Tablets” which are even older). It evolved in Europe under the clandestine cloak of numerous Salons, Academies or Lodges each allocated with their own set of rituals, allegories, emblems and symbols and was in no sense universally homogenous, each lodge being somewhat divergent in its doctrine. Although the Knight Templars were to a certain extent the early initiators of a Masonic system after their travels during the crusades to Jerusalem (1095-99) and their contact with the Syrian Church and Muslim leaders. Now, I have already described in a previous article the predominance of the “Neo-Platonic Symbolism in Shakespeare” as well as the influence of the Elizabethan Magus Dr. John Dee in establishing a British Commonwealth in the New World of the Americas (See: “The Queen’s Sorcerer”). Dr. Dee was patronised and consulted by Mary Sidney, a member of the Pembroke circle who helped to publish the 1623 Folio and instituted the elite literary circle known as Areopagus. The First Folio of 1623, as we shall see, was liberally peppered with Masonic Symbolism. Mary Sidney, whose brother Phillip Sidney was an established poet and author, was a great adherent of Christian mysticism, magic and astrology. She was also a close friend and admirer of Dr. John Dee who was consulted many times by Queen Elizabeth 1st, in particular to arrange an auspicious date for her coronation. The 20th century poet Ted Hughes, in reference to Shakespeare’s art quite correctly states: “Everything was ordered to numerical and alphabetical ciphers, secret keys, symbols and sigils that constitute a mnemonic or psychic map of consciousness” (“Shakespeare & The Goddess of Sublime Being”, Faber & Faber 1992).
This was sometimes referred to as the Heavenly Ladder of Ascent or conversely the Hellish Fall from Grace. (ie: In the prevailing Christian Qaballah of the time The Tree of Life constituted Three Pillars, 10 Sephirotic Spheres, & the 22 Paths of Wisdom). These ideas can also be found in the study and use of Tarot cards (Triomphs or Tarrochi) which evolved into the practice of divination during the early part of the Italian and French Renaissance. All of which, depending on the initiates’ faith in themselves or some invoked or imagined higher power, will eventually lead to the transitional paths of Holy Purgatory or Holy Redemption (ascent to the Father or liberation of the soul). The traditional Three Orders of English Freemasonry (symbolising the Arts, Humanities & Sciences) were each composed of eleven degrees denoting a scale of preferment or deferment in ascending or descending order from 1-33, the number of bones or vertebrae in the human spine. The human skull having some 22 separate sutures or bones in its entirety of its construction as Hamlet discovers in the comic grave-digging scene;
“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!”, (Hamlet, Act 5, scene 1 ).
Although Hamlet, while holding Yorick’s skull is cleverly alluding both to Freemasonry (the human skull was as an emblem a reminder to the acolyte of their own inherent mortality) and to the actor/clown Richard Tarleton, we know that similar literary and scientific works written and published by Edmund Spenser, Dante Alighieri, Giordano Bruno, Francis Bacon, Robert Fludd and the Elizabethan Magus, Dr. John Dee, based their philosophy and were greatly inspired by these Cabalistic initiations and experiments into the workings of Occult Freemasonry. In his book “Shakespeare & Platonic Beauty” (Chatto & Windus 1961) John Vyvyan suggests that a literary and dramatic working model was actually borrowed from the Italian author/philosopher Balthazar Castiglione (The Courtier) and Marsilio Ficino who in turn had studied and translated the works of Plato and Plotinus. These Platonic and Qaballistic ideas were first taken up by Edmund Spenser in England and soon after fell into the literary dominion of Shakespeare and several others in his intimate circle. The poet Ted Hughes also identifies what may have been conceived as the polarities on the Tree of Life in Shakespeare’s plays – albeit in another context eg: Catholic & Protestant or romantic-pragmatic which are often reconciled in a Pythagorean context with a third principle ie: Renaissance Humanism.
The Sidney-Herbert circle influenced by Neo-Platonic, Hermetic and Rosicrucian ideas was not the only one operating in Elizabethan England therefore some additional reference needs inserting at this point to complete the picture of socio-political life in Elizabeth’s long reign of forty-four years. In particular one secret Elizabethan society was known as “The School of Night”. Although the name of this apparently “atheist cabal” was coined sometime after its actual existence, there is good reason to presume that it was really a loose affiliation of “Free Thinkers” that were in contradistinction to the romantically inclined Sidney-Herbert circle with its emphasis on promoting elements of Reformation faith. At its core was a firm belief in the New Enlightenment in Europe posed by the pursuit of scientific enquiry. The name of the group is presumed to echo sentiments expressed in Thomas Wyatt’s poem “The Shadow of Night”, a theme also taken up by the poet George Chapman who joined this esoteric school. A similar reference is made in Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labours Lost” to a “School of Night” in contradistinction to the romantic path of the feminine advocated by the members of the Herbert/Sidney/Essex Circle. With the discovery or advent of Rosicrucianism, a form of esoteric Christianity, inclusive of Hermeticism, secretly infused with Egyptian and Judaic magic, gradually emerged in Europe. Its socio-political culmination, the institution and practice of Freemasonry also took hold in certain aristocratic circles, and interest as well as experimental research into the art of Alchemy began in Europe. The playwright Ben Jonson satirised and lampooned these adherents and practitioners in his own play “The Alchemist”.
Similarly, Christopher Marlowe’s controversial play, “Dr. Faustus” was thought to parody and lampoon the so-called ‘magical workings’ of Freemasons. This was often coupled with the abstract ideas of Giordano Bruno as well as the application of the deductive scientific process, through which came a strong presumption of doubt if not an epistemological crisis within orthodox faiths. The need to communicate secretly and anonymously through codes and ciphers was therefore extremely important when we consider the serious socio-political crisis that was predominant during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James 1st (eg: The Jesuit Counter-Reformation Conspiracy and the 1605 Gunpowder Plot). Numerous treatises on the subject of encipherment and coded messages (Cryptography) were available from the time. The Italian Giovanni Battista della Porta (b. 1535) published his famous book on cryptographic codes; “De Furtivis Literarum Notis” in 1563. Della Porta’s book was reprinted in England by John Wolfe in 1591 and Dr. John Dee, tutor to Arundel Talbot (alias William Hastings), Sir Phillip Sidney and Robert Dudley was familiar with the writings and encryption methods of the occult sage, Trithemius. Sir Francis Bacon was himself an expert practitioner on the subject, his brother Anthony Bacon was himself an intelligence agent and would also have been well aware of the use of ciphers and codes in espionage. In his book “The Shakespeare Enigma”Peter Dawkins suggests and illustrates that Bacon (Baron Verulam) was the 33rd Degree grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of St. Albans, an institution which goes back to early Medieval times. The English aristocrat and Freemason, Sir John Davies (1569-1626) wrote twenty-six elegant Hymns to his muse “Astraea” each an acrostic upon the words “Elizabeth Regina” while Mary Fage in “Fames Roule” (1637) venerated in similarly encoded verses 420 luminaries of her own age.
In the Masonic treatise “The Lost Key, an explanation and application of Masonic Symbols” by Prentiss Tucker, B.A, the author states:
“My course thus far is symbolic of that well known passage in Scripture: ‘Seek and ye shall find, ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you’.
“Because a rap upon a door is, symbolically, equivalent to a request for the knowledge which is held by those behind the door. A knock on the door of a school is a symbolic request for the instruction of that school. We are accustomed to this use of the term. It is quite understandable to say of such and such a man that he “knocked upon the doors of Plato’s School and was taught in the wisdom of that sage philosopher.” Or, we might say, “He left the forests of the North and journeyed south to knock upon the gates of Harvard University in search of knowledge.” In either case we would be using the very same symbology nor would even the most unenlightened reader need to ask for an explanation. But why the THREE raps? Why not one or two or four? Simply because he is asking, symbolically, for instruction in the three great departments of his lower nature, the physical, emotional and mental. Hence the three raps which correspond to the three steps of the Master’s platform.”
In Act Two, scene 2, of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth a knocking is heard and Macbeth, the Thane of Cawdor asks:
“Whence is that knocking? How is’t with me, when every noise appals me?”
And in the following scene, the knocking noise intensifies: [Knocking within. Enter a Porter]
Porter: “Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should have old turning the key.”
[Knocking within] Knock, knock, knock! “Who’s there, i’ the name of Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer, that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty: Come in time; have napkins enow about you; here you’ll sweat for’t.” [Knocking within] Knock, knock! “Who’s there, in the other devil’s name? Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come in, equivocator.” [Knocking within] Knock, knock, knock! “Who’s there? Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither, for stealing out of a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may roast your goose.” [Knocking within] Knock, knock; “Never at quiet! What are you? But this place is too cold for hell. I’ll devil-porter it no further: I had thought to have let in some of all professions that go the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire.” [Knocking within] “Anon, anon! I pray you, remember the porter.” [Opens the gate]
Thomas Quincy wrote about how disturbing this dramatic device can be in his essay “Knocking at the Gate”, saying that it made him feel extremely apprehensive, anxious and full of dread. However, the text of this scene has other interesting allusions too complex to reveal within the confines of this current essay but will be the subject of a future post (The Robert Catesby Gunpowder Treason). However, returning to the subject of hidden ciphers in Shakespeare, a researcher and mathematician, by the name of Peter Bull thinks he has conclusively cracked the Shakespeare Code in the Sonnets Dedication. He is of course not the only author to have declared this. He suggests a clever acrostic system based on a Judeo-Greek cipher system where the initial letter of each line of Shakespeare’s Sonnets creates the phrase in reverse ascending order: “KIT MARLOWE WROTE THIS” in a zigzag pattern on a table of stanzas and lines. He also demonstrates that the word KIT occurs in several instances. Other code-breakers have demonstrated that the name DE VERE (Earl of Oxford) is also encrypted into the letters of the Sonnets Dedication. And let us not forget that Robert Nield (“Breaking the Shakespeare Codes”, 2007 CC Publishing), using numerous anagrams has given poor evidence to say that William Hastings is named as the original author. While it would be extremely common and not unusual to see any pattern of letters in such a huge grid (14 x 154) and to select certain of those letters to spell out whatever name one desires. When devising anagrams one can so easily fall into errors of judgement despite the discipline of the mathematical and analytical methods employed. Even so, the fact that they do exist may be the result of conscious deception on the part of the real author to mislead or someone tampering with the original work to achieve such a patterned arrangement. Let us not forget that the text of poetry and plays was much abused, amended or abridged during the compilation of fonts prior to printing in the 16th century.
In 1997 a retired physicist John Rollet examining the mystery of the Shakespearean Sonnets discovered that when the dedication is arranged in a 16X9-row grid the name HENRY appeared in a diagonal section.
And when arranged in a 18×8 grid, the name WRIOTHESLEY appeared vertically although broken up into three sections. Sir Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton was as everyone should know the patron of “William Shakespeare”. However, the cipher secretly hidden in the Sonnets Dedication was finally cracked by Alexander Waugh using an 18×9 grid where the arrangement of letters spell out “DE VERE LIES HERE” (See “The Sonnets Code De-Ciphered”).
Although hypothetical theories of the existence of acrostics and anagrams within Shakespeare’s plays and poetry has over time become an “infinite numbers game” by which if we play around with a great number of possibilities we will eventually find some obscure confirmation of a secret code or name. This example does occur in the dedication and we can therefore suspect some cryptic Masonic clue lies within it. It might not have been the intention of the real author to reveal his identity but the intention of the publisher or compiler to mislead in a very cunning manner. Secret codes and messages in written works were more prevalent in Shakespeare’s time than they are now although the author Dan Brown (“The Lost Symbol”) has made an attempt to redress or correct that omission. Just to suggest a sense of mysterious meaning in a literary or dramatic work was enough to create a greater demand for its sale from the curious and gullible public eager for any hidden gossip or scandal.
So it seems that an apparent random series of letters could easily conceal a secret message or meaning by appearing to be a piece of poetry or blank verse. Furthermore, because poetry is structured according to certain rhythms and metrical patterns then each line or number of verses could be a clue to the type of cipher system employed. This might happen by chance or synchronicity, this is the nature of the craftsmanship, the medium and to some extent the poet’s mood. In his book “The Shakespeare Codes”, Robert Nield suggests that there are various anagrams in several inscriptions, introductions and prefaces to the material, whether that is a poem, play or dedication. The inscription on Shakespeare’s grave has also been deciphered by him to suggest that the real author was Lord Arundel Talbot or William Hastings. He asserts that William Hastings was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley. For me personally, the anagrams identified are far too simple a solution, given the technological tools available today, for most cryptographers of the intellectual calibre and time of Shakespeare would have contrived a far more cunning or random method. Still we have to ask why would the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth conceal his true identity so easily within his work, (knowing how calamitous this would have been for the Tudor dynasty and his own mother). The revelation of his identity meant the so-called “Virgin Queen” would be branded a whore? Then finally before his own death, he conspires to reveal his true identity on a bogus gravestone inscription! None of this could have been done without some external assistance or without anyone else knowing and certainly Lord Arundel Talbot or William Hastings could not have done it entirely on their own.
There are further examples of deliberate numerical orders and stages in Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, temporal forms are clearly expressed in Marcellus Pallingenius’ “Zodiacos Vitae”, in George Chapman’s “Amorous Zodiac”, in the form of astrological decanates and Edmund Spenser’s “Shepherd’s Calendar” in the form of 12 zodiacal signs. Like many other authors and researchers Alastair Fowler regards Spenser’s “Epithalamion” as a temporal form that reflects the new knowledge of a heliocentric universe, the 23rd verse of which refers to the inclination or angle of the zodiacal ecliptic around the earth. However, the art of arranging poetry to reflect some eternal or mathematical truth or even geometric proportion became ever more complex and diverse in the Elizabethan era. Poems could even appear to take on mathematical proportions or complex geometric shapes. Alastair Fowler says his own study is premature and tentative and he hopes that it will arouse greater interest and promote further enquiry and study into other works since spatial or symbolic structures in poetry and other forms of literature has in practice has now become obsolete. The Sonnets Dedication certainly displays a triangular format or structure.
Poems could even take on mathematical or geometric proportions by virtue of the number of lines per verse and the number of verses or sections. They could be arranged evenly or square, denoting stability, alternatively as a triangular form denoting dynamism and ingenuity, or circular denoting perfection and completion. In the first instance the effect could be achieved with 4 lines per verse, in the second example by 3 lines per verse and in the final example with six lines per verse. Milton re-arranged his 10 chapters of “Paradise Lost” to make 12 chapters and many would argue that this gives the work a greater emphasis and value. In this sense the artist, architect or poet was imitating God’s laws and creation, and was elevating himself to the role of demigod through this practice and tradition. However, the value of numerical or alphabetical structures in poetry had practical applications for it was also a mnemonic device, in that it made poetry easier to remember and could be orated without recourse to written notes.
Contrary to Alastair Fowler’s (re: “Triumphal Forms”, Cambridge University Press, 1970) irrational conclusions about whether or not Shakespeare and others in his circle were consciously constructing or encoding their verses, Frances Yates (Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age) asserts that Spenser’s “Fairie Queene” has a structure that alludes to Hermetic and Alchemical ideas and a symbolic format reflecting the order of the planets found only in Francisco Giorgio’s tableau of the “Three Worlds”. Similarly, I have already analysed the alphanumerical significance of “Shakespeare’s Codename” and discovered some interesting correspondences. However, of great interest to cryptographers is the Sonnets Dedication of 1609 which clearly suggests the implication of a cipher or code. The main reason being that it is all written in capital letters (a rare occurrence for Elizabethan literature) and each word ends in a full-stop. A curious tendency in Rosicruscian ciphers is the use of dots, geometrically placed within a field or “Magic Square” to signify a cipher code (A-Z). The Oxfordian author and researcher Helen H. Gordon has discovered the use of an interesting and unusual cipher in the poetic work of Edward de Vere as well as in the well known Sonnets Dedication, which numerous academics that contend with each other for a “viable solution”, although these remain bewildering and implausible to the average person.
Various techniques or methods of Cryptography and encipherment were employed for this purpose throughout history going back to the ancient Persians and Greeks. In military campaigns for example it would be to no avail if a messenger was ambushed carrying a message simply written in a foreign language. It would simply be translated and the enemy’s movements, tactics or intentions would be revealed giving them an obvious advantage. Joannes Trithemius, an abbot, occultist and theologian was the first person to write on this obscure subject (See “Polygraphiae”). Since then the study and use of coded encryption has entered every sphere of modern life and science from the internet, covert intelligence, commerce, artificial intelligence, and computing generally. In the simple 24 alphanumeric cipher the letters I, J and Y were given the same value (9) and then even rotated to produce a different attribution of number to letter. If for example the values are rotated 5 times then A=E, B=F, C=G etc. From this technique another twenty codes could be employed to make decipherment of a coded message even more difficult to crack. The Elizabethan cipher alphabet consisted of 24 letters in accord with the Latin with J, and I being the same and V and W maintaining the same numerical value. Therefore we have ABCDEFGHI(JY)KLMNOPQRSTU(VW)XZ which can be arranged in a table with their corresponding numerical values as follows:
Shakespeare regularly uses emblems, colours or icons that have a Masonic, Biblical or Alchemical significance. As a typical example his poetry is metaphorically infused with the colours “Pale” (silvery grey), “Red”, “White” and “Black” or “Dark” and all of these colours can be found on the equine mounts of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse described in the King James Bible. I have already examined in great detail the use of the word “Rose” in two articles entitled “A Rose By Any Other Name” and “Oh, But What’s In A Name” to illustrate the Bard’s tendency in using innocent but analogous emblems. In his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Agrippa went to great lengths to describe a system by which the very words one writes can convey a message, saying that this message could be read even if the manuscripts were translated into any one of the three primary languages, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. Portions of the system are scattered across the three books for concealment, and it is only when you diagram all the things written in the books that the system eventually reveals itself to the student. Cornelius Agrippa uses an alphabet that is reprinted by Vigenere, Porta and Selenus, and also used by his mentor Johannes Trithemius. This relates the alphabet mnemonically to the 12 zodiac signs, the 7 planets, the 4 elements and the spirit (soul). The Zodiac is represented by the consonants, the 5 major planets are represented by the vowels (excluding the Sun and Moon), and the remaining letters are the four elements and the spirit (soul). Their order appears just as they were taught in the seven occult sciences of the time, and the entire system is based on the mnemonic teaching that was so prevalent in Renaissance academies:
The various parts of the body are also mnemonically presented from their order of teaching in medicine, and the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 7 traditional planets, and the four elements, including a star symbolising ‘spirit’. The names of numerous orders of birds, plants, animals, etc. are also assigned these celestial virtues and remembered in their order against this scale. (see Pliny) In fact, if you go back to the teachings of the “ancients”, you will find an order prevalent in these books, probably because there were few textbooks and it was important to remember things in an order that allowed for easy retention.
Agrippa takes this mnemonic teaching one step further. As an example, Saturn has the lapwing as its bird, the cuttlefish as its fish, the mole as its mammal, lead as its metal, onyx as its stone, the right foot as a body part, the right ear as its head part, and the colour of blue, with many more distinctions to be found in the texts relating to the planet Saturn which also equates to the letter A. Agrippa’s system is based on his observation that when you write the word “lapwing” you are also representing the letter A. When you write the word “lead” you are also saying the letter A, etc. So if I were to write:
“He has the grace of a lapwing, the swiftness of a cuttlefish, and the cunning of a mole, but his right ear has all the tone of a leaden vessel, and his right foot knows not how to command the dance.” Then I would have just written the letter A five times in a row. This is the simple version of concealed ciphers alluded to in Book One. Now the Baconian cipher code was composed using only the letters A and B written in a variety of combinations as follows: A=aaaaa, B=aaaab, C=aaaba, D= aabaa etc. Another simple and ingenious cipher was known as the bi-vowel cipher whereby the five vowels (a, e, i, o, u) in combinations of two represent the 24 letters of the Elizabethan alphabet. Thus in any written passage of text by noting the sequence of ‘double vowels” that occur consecutively in any sentence such as say: “I AM THAT I AM”; I (ei) am (aaie), that (ooeeaaoo) I (ei) am (aaie)” where ei = I, aa =A, ie = M, oo=T, ee =H, etc.
The Elizabethans also used a system similar to that designed by the Greek mathematician Polybius to conceal messages using a simple 25-letter alphabet enclosed within a 5×5 grid which would be easy to memorise and employ. From the above table therefore; 11 represents the letter A, 12 =B, 13 =C, 14 =D, 15 =E, 21 =F and 22 =G and so forth, so that a whole message could be written merely with a simple pair of numbers. Conversely, if we exclude the double numbers (ie; 11, 22, 33, 44, & 55) allocated to each of the letters then B could be written as 21, C as 31 and D as 41.
Cryptology was further complicated or rather advanced by the use of various alpha-numerical tables each pertaining to a language or alphabetical script. In the case of the Jewish system a 22 letter alphabet, the Greeks a 24-letter alphabet, the Romans a 23-letter alphabet and much later the modern English 26-letter alphabet. During Shakespeare’s time there was no letter J and it was often written using an I or Y. The letter U was sometimes substituted for V and a double V was written as VV (double-u, W). Sometimes a decoy letter or word would be employed to throw the decryption process into confusion, usually the first or last letter/word beginning or ending a coded sentence. One method described by Trithemius employs the second letter and one before the last of each word and there are as many variations in this method as there are inscrutable or cunning minds to devise them. Another method devised to encode messages was letter substitution; whereby say the letter A was substituted by the second, third, fourth or fifth in the alphabetic series. In this case the same converse rule applies that is “revolving” both backwards and forwards. Employing a pentagonal rule (every 5th letter) then A would be represented by the letter E, the letter B by F, and C by G and so on.
This is known as “alphanumerical rotation”, a system employed by the Hebrew agents for many years in antiquity (See Rotariquon). In his book of ciphers, “Polygraphiae”, Trithemius gives many methods that rotate or combine the letters of the alphabet forwards or backwards. As the Biblical admonition states “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” which suggests the use of a reverse cipher whereby the first letter A (=26) has the value of the last letter Z, which is numerically 1 (The “Alpha & Omega” being a Masonic key phrase or clue suggesting a cipher). The first play in Shakespeare’s 1623 Folio is coincidentally “The Tempest” although it was probably the very last play “Shakespeare” wrote, so by placing it as the first only verifies a Masonic connection for the compilation of the Folio. In Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night” the rather zany character of Malvolio (who some researchers have established is a parody of Sir Christopher Hatton), receives what he considers is a coded message from a secret admirer. It should be noted that Shakespeare chose the names MALVOLIO (13+1+12+22+15+12+9+15 = 99), from which is derived anagrammatically the names OLIVIA and VIOLA. While Malvolio gives us a Masonic double number (99), both Olivia and Viola reduce numerically to 5, they are numerological or anagrammatic twins hence the number 55 is connoted. Edward de Vere’s heraldic shield has a “Five-Pointed White Star” or pentacle emblazoned on it and both Sir Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere employed the Boar as an heraldic animal totem. In the Shakespeare play, “Twelfth Night” which presumably takes place on the 6th of January there is a clever cryptic reference to the science of encryption in Malvolio’s speech in Act 2 scene 5, when he tries to analyse the “false letters” from his Lady planted by her maid Maria to deceive him into thinking that Olivia is enamoured of her fawning servant Malvolio: First of all he recognises her handwriting:
MALVOLIO By my life, this is my lady’s hand these be her very C’s, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her great P’s. It is, in contempt of question, her hand. MALVOLIO ‘I may command where I adore.’ Why, she may command me: I serve her; she is my lady. Why, this is evident to any formal capacity; there is no obstruction in this: and the end,–what should that alphabetical position portend? If I could make that resemble something in me,–Softly! M, O, A, I,– And then realising that all of these letters coincidentally appear in his own name later speculates on the meaning and sequence of the letters themselves: M, O, A, I; this simulation is not as the former: and yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for every one of these letters are in my name. Soft! here follows prose. Reads: ‘If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.
Clearly, although intended as an amusing interlude this reference also reveals Shakespeare’s knowledge and experience of devising codes and code-breaking while working as an playwright and spy in the theatre. The phrase “and yet to crush this a little” refers to the technique of folding a paper document in such a way as to reveal the hidden sequence of letters from an apparent random or jumbled arrangement of letters on the page. While the term “revolve” originally meant to ponder or reflect, probably refers to the technique employed in determining all the different arrangements derived from those letters (A Revolving Cipher such as the Vignere).
One of the simplest methods of encoding is of course abbreviation using the first and last letters of a word or removing the vowels altogether. Rotating or reversing the letters can also be employed just to confuse decipherment. This method does involve some guesswork but can still work in an emergency when given a lack of resources. In some instances a word or a name could be abbreviated eg: William Shakespeare can be written as WS. Or VQ represent the Virgin Queen. This is often referred to as a personal monogram as in the case of the Elizabethan printer Thomas Thorpe (TT), the publisher of Shakespeare’s Sonnets which was printed on the frontispiece and dedication to a mysterious Mr. W.H. Interestingly enough Thorpe’s monogram resembles the Greek symbol ∏ (Pi or 22/7), just as VV (20 in Roman numerals) makes a W as printed text and an “oo” sound phonetically. Roman numerals therefore had an additional bonus for the purpose of secret encryption.
Acronym ciphers can appear in poetry where the first or even last letter of each line can become the coded acronym as devised by myself:
Let the bird of loudest lay Eggs of various tone and hue On their nests built out of sight Not so easily seen by you. If you ever spend your day Driving on till dead of night All you really have to do Stop a while, enjoy the view.
It should be noted that several symbolic motifs occur repeatedly in William Shakespeare’s 1623 Folio, for example the first play to be paginated is the Tempest even though it was probably the last play to be written by the Bard. But this is merely an affirmation of the Masonic and Biblical phrase “the last shall be first and the first shall be last”. Alongside of this is the appearance of the Greek God Dionysus, the patron of drama and Apollo, the patron deity of poetry, and Athena the patron deity of government and law. So an apparent random series of letters could easily conceal a secret message or meaning by appearing to be a piece of poetry. Shakespeare’s 154 verse Sonnets can be structured into a table as follows:
Masonic acronyms usually extended from 2-3 letter combinations. The double A which stands for Athena & Apollo as a decorative motif appears within the introductory pages of the 1623 Folio alongside images of rabbits (symbolising Springtime as well as fecundity). The letters A & O stand for the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet. Three letter acronym ciphers are regularly used in text messages today, eg: LOL = Laugh Out Loud, SAS = Short Attention Span, SSS = Sofa Surfers Suck, etc.
It is merely a short step from this method to devise a triple number system and a great deal has already been elucidated regarding the number 37 as the numerical key to the Old and New Testaments, as already mentioned in other posts on the subject and the division of the triple numbers 111 (AAA), 222 (BBB), 333 (CCC), 444 (DDD), 555 (EEE), 666 (FFF), 777 (GGG), 888 (HHH), and 999 (III) by the “key number” 37 gives us the so-called Fibonacci series of numbers eg: 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 etc. Triple letters are also employed in the Enochain system of invocation which Dr. John Dee utilised and espoused as “a divine language” that only angels could readily understand and were compelled to obey as does the angel Ariel for Prospero’s benefit in the Tempest.
However, it was thought expedient to improve or refine the numerical values of letters to avoid any confusion since ten (1+zero) was the first double value and eleven (11th sign Aquarius invention/reform, a sigil for the zodiac sign of Gemini-the heavenly and earthly twins, the Greek letter Pi (∏), or a dolmen arch of two pillars suggesting logic, ambiguity, and distinction as well as natural polarity) being the first air sign, and Aquarius the last air sign of the zodiac (A-Z). This system derived from Cabalistic practice conveniently dovetails into the Cabalistic 22 letter alphabet and was much favoured by spymasters and known as the “K” (Kaye) Cipher:
The highest value letter being I=33 signifying the Thirty-Three degrees of Freemasonry. Of which an alternative reverse numbered cipher was also employed by spies and cryptographers. The number of letters or words employed also provide clues since numerology maintains that words or letters with the same value are synonymous and resonate at the same frequency. The higher and lower case, italic form or simple forms denoting the count. The number of words are purposely devised to parallel the word or words implied. It may be that a certain everyday word is repeated so many times in a passage so this becomes the basis of a numerical cipher or clue to which system is employed in the text.
The numerous intrigues, plots, counter-plots, secret agents, double agents and widespread espionage during the Reformation and the Inquisition necessitated greater skill, ingenuity, variety and often casual or covert dissemination of encrypted messages or references. Therefore a business contract, a shopping list, a proposal of love, a poem or casual piece of correspondence could really conceal an instruction or piece of information for an agent abroad. The same method is employed by spies today, a regular daily or weekly article in a newspaper, a broadcast message over the radio and so forth would actually conceal the message the agent required so there was no need to send written communications that could so easily be intercepted. However, these crude mechanical means of encoding real meaning were not the only means at the disposal of artists, writers and commentators during the Elizabethan era. In literature, satirical drama and poetry it can be found that allegory or allusion was often the means by which a coded reference, accusation or condemnation could be made, often disguised in some ambiguity, contrary or substitution. Often a play might be performed whose plot or characters parallels a contemporary condition or situation (Parallel Lives & Parallel Dramatic Structures). The enlightened audience of Shakespeare’s’ circle, mostly the aristocracy, the literary cognoscenti and statesmen would intuitively pick up on what the Bard had secretly intended to say.
The links to my current publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and an anthology of poetry “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
Boatswain: “Here, master: what cheer?” Master: “Good, speak to the mariners: fall to’t, yarely, or we run ourselves aground: bestir, bestir.” [Exit, Enter Mariners] Boatswain: “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!” Boatswain: “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”.
“Yond tall anchoring bark Diminished to her cock,-her cock a bouy Almost too small for sight.”
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…”
“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:
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:
“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:
“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”.
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:
“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”:
“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.”
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)
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.
Richard: “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!”
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”
Hamlet: “O God!” Ghost: “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” Hamlet: “Murder!” Ghost: “Murder most foul, as in the best it is; But this most foul, strange and unnatural.” Hamlet: “Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift As meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge.” Ghost: “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.” Hamlet: “O my prophetic soul! My uncle!” Ghost: “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.”
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 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:
“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.”
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”.
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:
Paulina: “‘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?”
Leontes: “O, she’s warm! If this be magic, let it be an art Lawful as eating.”
Paulina: “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;
“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 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:
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 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.
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.
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 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.”
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 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:
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.
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).
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.”
Tranio: “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;”
Petruchio: “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.”
Tranio: “Of Mantua, sir? marry, God forbid! And come to Padua, careless of your life?”
Pedant: “My life, sir! how, I pray? for that goes hard.”
Tranio: “‘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.”
Pedant: “Alas! sir, it is worse for me than so; For I have bills for money by exchange From Florence and must here deliver them.”
Tranio: “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?”
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.
Portia: “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.
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:
“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 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”.
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:
“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.
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.
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.
Accomplice: Be well assured leave the matter to me, I sense his noble days are numbered.
Robert Dudley: Indeed, attend to the business with haste.
Accomplice: Very well my lord.
[Accomplice exits] [Close]
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!” Edward: “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.” Edward: “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.
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?” Edward: “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] Edward: “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. [Exit]
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.”
Edward: 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.
Edward: 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. Edward: 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]. Edward: 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.
Edward: 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. Edward: 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. Reads: ‘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. Reads: ‘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. Reads: ‘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? Edward: 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. Edward: 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.
Edward: 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.
Edward: 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.
Ghost: Mark me, Edward! My hour is almost come, When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames Must render up myself again at dawn. Edward: Alas, poor ghost! Not yet… Ghost: [Moving closer]. Pity me not, dear boy but lend thy serious ear To what I shall unfold. Edward: Speak, speak; I am bound to hear it. Ghost: 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. Edward: Haste me to know it, that I, with wings as swift As meditation or the thoughts of love, May swoop to my revenge. Ghost: 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. Edward: Oh, my prophetic soul! Sir Sidney’s uncle, Robert Dudley? Ghost: 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! [Exits]
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 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.
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”?
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”
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.
1552King 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.
1555Pope 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.
1557Thomas 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.
1559Queen Elizabeth rejects offer of marriage to Phillip II of Spain.