The “Shadowy Figure” of Shakespeare

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

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

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

BI (Ben Jonson)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The title page of Love’s Martyr by Robert Chester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An engraving depicting the execution of Mary Queen of Scots

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

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

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

An artist’s lithograph of Shakespeare’s Family Home

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

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

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

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org


The Month of September

The traditional Harvest Queen

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

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

Artist’s impression of the journey to Widecombe Fair

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hammered gold pectoral found in Wales near Mold

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

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

Dancing at the traditional Braemar Gathering of Scottish Clans

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

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

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

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

Model of Stephenson’s Rocket

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

The traditional Abbots Bromley Horndance Parade

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

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

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

The Autumnal Equinox at Stonehenge, Wiltshire

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

A re-enactment of Uncle Tom Cobley an’ all

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

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

The traditional Hop Queens

In 1864 Chambers Book of Days wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Harvest Queen Straw Dolly as made in Saxony

Literary Sources:

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

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


The Month of October

Artist’s impression on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
(King Henry Vth, Act IV, scene 3)

The month of October derives its name from the Latin Octo, meaning the 8th year in the Roman Calendar which begins in March. The old Celtic season of Samhain or in the later Christian calendar, namely All Hallow’s Day (Halloween) ends the pagan year. The beginning of the end that led to a “new beginning” was usually a time of great celebration and festivity in the Celtic year and originally took place in Ireland on the 1st of November. It was followed by “All Soul’s Day” since 1,000 AD. The foundation of All Souls’ Day for a general intercession on November 2 is due to Odilo, abbot of Cluny, who died in 1048. The observed date, which became essentially universal before the end of the 13th century, was determined to follow All Saints’ Day. After celebrating the feast of all the members of the church who are thought to be in heaven, on the next day, the body of Christ shifts to remember and pray for those souls suffering in purgatory. As the 2nd November was considered “hallowed” meaning holy, and to the Celts as Samhain, which was preceded by All Hallow’s Eve, although this festival period began on the 31st October and continued until the 8th November. In the churches and abbeys prayers were offered for the newly departed, vigils and requiem masses were held to honour those who have died as martyrs or saints until the church bells finally fell silent. In celebration of the 1st quarter of the yearly round and considered the start of the Celtic New Year it was an opportunity to commune with the Spirits or Souls of the Dead. It was a time to revere the ancestors and those souls who have departed to heaven, hell or purgatory. Being equivalent to Candlemass or All Saints Day in the Christian calendar, it also heralded the departure of the faery sprites, until the occasion of Beltane at Springtime. However, bonfires were lit on the hilltops or Tors in honour of the Sun’s passage through the coldest period of the year. It was also a time of elemental chaos and unexpected reversal with the natural order of things. The people consulted their oracles, propitiated the tempestuous or evil spirits and made their sacrificial offerings. These were usually of apples and nuts, similar to some extent to the Roman Pomona, where the apple is a symbol of immortality and a gift of the goddess to the victorious solar hero who has successfully completed his quest. Animal sacrifice of pigs, geese and cattle were also undertaken in celebration of the Anglo-Saxon black sow-goddess (Annis) equivalent to the “Black Madonna” of Spain. Sacred and secular dancers wore their masks and colourful costumes presented on the back of carts pulled by horses, followed by processions, feasting and musical contests.

An artist’s impression of the mythical Black Annis

This festival usually followed the old Druidic rite when a bough of mistletoe was cut with a golden sickle at midsummer. This was the customary occasion when “quit rents” were paid to the Lord of the Manor by those independent tenants who chose not to work on the Lord’s estates but instead to rent their own lands or fields. This now only occurs in two estates, in the Moors of Eardington, Shropshire and at the Forge in St. Clement Danes in London and involves the cutting of a bundle of hazel rods and the presentation of six horseshoes including 61 nails. October the 5th was the anniversary of the Jarrow Marchers who left Tyneside in 1936 to march, two hundred strong to the Houses of Parliament to protest against poverty during the depression. Cheered by crowds of supporters and well-wishers they bore a petition signed by 11,000 inhabitants of the town which they presented to the House of Commons (See Jarrow Crusade).

Scenes from the Jarrow Crusade, 1936, Marchers from Jarrow in the North East of England, walk to London where they will hand in a petition to the House of Commons in a plead for more work as the depression and starvation of the 1930’s hits hard creating unemployment on a large scale with many industry’s perishing, As marchers walked through towns and villages on the journey, local people would show them hospitality by providing them with food, warmth, and a hot bath where needed (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

“Come on follow the Geordie Boys,
They’ll fill your heart with joy,
They’re marching for their freedom now.
Come on follow the Jarrow Lads,
They’ll make your heart feel glad,
They’re saying now, yes now is the hour!”

The traditional Jack o’ the Green Festival at Hastings

Generally speaking, but not as an absolute rule, comedies were especially favoured by audiences and playwrights for Yuletide, tragedies and satires for All Hallows, romances and tragedies for Easter and histories or riddle plays for midsummer. Mummer’s plays were local travelling theatrical productions that featured mythical characters such as George and the Dragon, Beelzebub, or Jack of the Green, that occurred in the 15th century and were revived sometime in the early 19th century for the amusement of adults and children. 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. An example of the latter can be found in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in the cameo version entitled “Pyramus & Thisbe” who are obliged to continue their romantic yearnings through a chink in a wall.

Apples ripening on their boughs

Contrary to many chroniclers writing about Shakespeare’s Literary Sources, the Italian Commedia d’elle Arte never visited the British Isles and any similarities may hark back to an earlier period in English cultural history when the Greeks and Phoenicians made trade visits to the British Isles. The name for these wandering players in England varies considerably from any known locality, sometimes they were 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: using facial expressions such as a grimace or mime, and perhaps the wearing of masks or taking on of disguises to remain anonymous. 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 English form of “mummers”, probably of the sword dance or stick-hitting tradition. The most popular times for these ritual re-enactments being the Winter Solstice, Easter, Midsummer and late Autumn.

Morris dancers of York

In his poem “The Wasteland” T. S. Eliot writes:

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn,
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope.
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour;
Because I do not think,
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power.
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always time;
And place is always and only place.
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place;
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice,
Because I cannot hope to turn again.
(T. S. Eliot, “The Wasteland”)

Important liturgical festivals for this being the Feast Day of St. Francis which takes place on the 4th of October. Another would be that of St. Ethelreda or St. Audrey on the 17th which takes place in Ely while St. Luke’s Day is celebrated on the 18th. The latter was formerly known as Charlton Horn Fair which was held in the heart of London until 1872. At this important fair all manner of goods made of horns were sold such as shoe-horns, trumpets, loud hailers and toasting cups. On October the 4th saw the institution or birth of the United Nations in 1945 just after the end of the 2nd World War, among the signatories to its charter were the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the USSR, France and China. Moreover in China they will be celebrating the occasion of the founding by Mao-Tse Tung of the Chinese People’s Republic on the 1st October 1949 although in England it was the day Winston Churchill made his first public broadcast in the United Kingdom and in America the day Walt Disney opened his first film studio in Florida. Historically, the 14th of October is the anniversary of the Norman Conquest of 1066, where the English King Harold was killed, apparently by a stray arrow in his left eye during the invasion named the Battle of Hastings, this incident is recorded in the Bayeux Tapestry. William the Conqueror as he was subsequently named was crowned King of England on Christmas Day, 1066.

Winston Churchill

The prayer of St. Francis (made famous by Margaret Thatcher on becoming Prime Minister):

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

Medlars ripening late Autumn

In the agricultural regions this was a time for apple picking and cider making as the full moon of this month heralded the end of Autumn and the onset of winter. Fields were cleared of windblown debris or weeds and prepared for next year’s early growth. This time was known to the Anglo-Saxons as Wynmonath or “Wine Month” if the weather was dry and warm it was euphemistically called an “Indian Summer” although still a rare event in the British Isles. The last of the barley grain was usually stored around this time to prepare the malts for beer-making too. As a tribute to cider-making and the revival of the apple orchard in all its splendid varieties October 21st was called “Apple Day”. Old Michaelmass Day, also known as “Dog-Whipping Day” was confined to some parts of Yorkshire and takes place between the 10th – 18th of October (St. Luke’s Day, 18th October) celebrating the day a dog stole the consecrated communion wafer during the service at York Minster. This event was later suppressed by the police in 1853 when it became a public nuisance. Stray dogs were usually rounded up and publicly whipped by the “dog-rappers” who were paid to perform such cruel public service. St. Luke, the evangelist was a Greek physician, a disciple of St. Paul and a key figure in the early Christian Church and of course the patron saint of physicians, apothecaries, surgeons and artists. He is usually depicted accompanied by a horned ox for some peculiar reason. Some chroniclers have suggested the ox represented sexual prowess or fertility (see Charlton Horn Fair or Cuckold’s Point), but as in Abbots Bromley Horn-dance in Staffordshire it might have a Phoenician or Cretan origin.

18th century painting of Nottingham Goose Fair

“Hey, Ho for Halloween
All the witches to be seen,
Some in black and some in green
Hey, Ho for Hallow’s Eve.”
(traditional rhyme)

Nottingham Goose Fair, which dates back to 1541 is held around the first week in October when the geese were brought out from the Fens, slaughtered and sold at local markets. This may be a remnant of St Matthews Day, formerly the 21st September which was moved to the 2nd of October after the calendar reform of 1752. Many other fairs such as Ivy Day in Ireland, Pack Monday Fair in Sherbourne, Dorset were similarly re-dated in accord with the Julian calendar. Pack Monday Fair was originally an agricultural event but later featured side-shows, stalls of produce and a funfair of rides and other amusements and was intended to coincide with Michaelmass Day. It celebrates the termination of the pacts made by tenant farmers to the Lords of the Manor, and usually involved moving their rags and belongings to another location (“Pack-Rag Day”) and was known in Yorkshire as “Pack & Penny Day” (Old Martinmass Day). However, “Pack Days” also refers to the numerous travelling pedlars and household repairers selling their wares or services from their carts, banging their metal wares and creating a big din in the neighbouring towns and villages. Similar fairs occurred at Weyhill near Andover, in Hampshire from 1377 (see Langland’s “Piers Ploughman”) with rides, funfairs and staged shows around the 11th of October. A similar agricultural fair of arcane origins is Bampton Fair, near Tiverton, Devon which may date back to as early as 1212 AD. It traded in sheep, cattle, pigs and more importantly horses and ponies but also held craft workshops, auctions, art exhibitions and funfairs.

An inspiring selection of Pumpkin Lanterns

“Oh, the Moon is clear and bright,
Dispelling fear or fright,
So tell your sons and daughters,
It’s Punkie Night tonight.

On such a starlit night,
The zombies take delight,
To scare your sons and daughters,
On this our Punkie Night.

Well, the bats have taken flight,
Our pumpkins are alight,
So tell your sons and daughters,
Tonight is Punkie Night!

It’s Punkie Night tonight,
It’s Punkie Night tonight,
Give us a candle, and give us a light
Oh, tonight is Punkie Night!”

The Annual All Hallow’s Eve Festival at Whitby, Yorkshire

Of some interest when discussing the origin of some customs and traditions is “Punkie Night”, where in certain towns and villages in Britain, for example Somerset in the villages of Hinton St. George and Lopen, participants hollowed out turnips (mangold-wurzels) which are then made into lanterns placed on sticks and paraded around the streets at night. This custom was said to have originated from the nearby Chiselborough Fair where drunken men were, for a small fee accompanied safely home by someone bearing a lantern. In some parts, north and south it is also known as “Mischief Night”, which is where the Halloween custom of “trick or treat” is derived and still celebrated particularly in the United States where it has gained considerable notoriety. There, children are encouraged by their parents to dress up as witches, zombies, bandaged mummies, ghosts, wizards or vampires and call on their neighbours, door to door offering residents either a treat or a trick. At some point in history the turnips were exchanged to the now familiar orange pumpkin which is perhaps easier to carve and hollow out. These were placed outside doorsteps presumably to ward off evil spirits and not to aid drunken folks back home safe and sound. Similar remnants of this custom have actually been recorded at Blacko, Lancashire where children perpetrate practical jokes on their parents and relatives such as front doors being turned upside down, knocking on doors then running away to hide, or garden gates being removed and their chimneys being blocked, but these originally took place on May Day Eve and the tricks were subsequently transferred to Halloween and Guy Fawkes Eve by the early 1950’s when the jokes were deemed as community vandalism by the police of Yorkshire and Lancashire. It was known there as “Miggy Night”, when parents told their children that they could not be arrested or prosecuted by the authorities if they performed any illegal acts on that night. They were of course being misled by their parents and were often suitably reprimanded for their “impish behaviour”. For the recent burgeoning Gothic community of the famous seaside resort of Whitby, in Yorkshire, where apparently Count Dracula first set foot on English soil, Halloween has become a major festival occasion frequented by countless tourists and visitors. Coincidentally, in the Arthurian Festival Cycle October sees the emergence of Princess Morgana and her step-brother Mordred who challenge King Arthur to take part in the final battle between darkness and light at Camlan on the 29th of October. Lying wounded the next day Arthur instructs Sir Bedivere:

Sir Bedivere comforts Arthur before his final departure

“Take thou Excalibur and cast it into the lake nearby”. And, as we all know, Sir Bedivere hesitated and returned twice before he had the courage and wisdom to do it. “And lo! A hand and an arm, clothed in white samite, rose from the water, and caught the sword, and brandished it twice, and then withdrew it beneath the surface. When he heard this Arthur gave a long sigh, and stretched himself out on the earth as if he would die.” Morgana meanwhile betrays Merlin by invoking the magical words that entomb him forever in the Web of Wyrd.

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn,
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope.
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour;
Because I do not think,
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power.
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always time;
And place is always and only place.
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place;
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice,
Because I cannot hope to turn again.

The 20th October sees the staging of the Colchester Oyster Fair (Sea Harvest Festivals), originally a relatively small civic luncheon that enlarged itself to an attendance of more than 300 dignitaries. This was usually followed by the Trafalgar Day annual commemoration on the 21st of October celebrating Admiral Nelson’s victory over Napoleon Bonaparte in 1805. Other notable feasts were that of St. Crispin the patron saint of shoemakers of Faversham, Kent which dates back to 285 AD. He is mentioned in Shakespeare’s famous play of King Henry Vth; a speech given by the King on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt during the One Hundred Years War (25th October, 1415).

A scene from Shakespeare’s King Henry Vth

“This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.”

Amarita Muscaria, the Walt Disney mushroom which is deadly poisonous and highly hallucinogenic

In the countryside hedgehogs usually begin to hibernate around this time, autumn is approaching, the leaves are turning to rich browns, reds, orange and yellow. If you have the time and experience it is also a good time for truffle-hunting and mushrooms that decorate the woodland floor. Now, the deciduous woodlands are ablaze with colour as their leaves display their dying colours on the forest floor like a multi-coloured carpet. Horse Chestnut trees are dropping their “conkers” and Hazel trees are rich in nuts which are sought after by squirrels and brightly coloured jays. The Horse-chestnuts, sweet chestnuts and acorns are ripening on the boughs and are a rich source of protein and carbohydrates for hungry wood pigeons as well as pigs, squirrels, and badgers.

Literary Sources:

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

An “Upstart Crow?”

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

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

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

The Title page of Doni’s Book of Animal fables

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

The poets/playwrights that were addressed by Robert Greene

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

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

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

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

Robert Greene, A Groatsworth of Wit (1592)

An illustration from a Hindu book on Animal Fables

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

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

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

Portrait of Robert Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Arthur Golding Classic “Ovid’s Metamorphoses”

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

A Carrion Crow Calling out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edward de Vere, the real author of the Sonnets

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

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

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

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org

Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms

One of many versions of Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms

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

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

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

Another later version of Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms

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

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

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

The original manuscript for the Shakespeare coat of arms application

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Lookin through a keyhole]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Ben Jonson exits]

[Fade and Close]

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

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

An artist’s impression of the infamous Mermaid Tavern

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

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

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

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

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

Henry Chettle:
This proves me still a sheep.

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

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

Little Bo-Peepe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org

“Shakespeare On Deformity”

Classical portrait of King Richard the Third

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caliban performs a jig to the amusement of the mariners

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

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

Bottom is transformed into a monstrous Ass

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Deformity:

From Manuscripts 1612, 1625 by Francis Bacon:

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

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

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

August, the Harvest Month

The Harvest Basket of fruits and vegetables

Of this time, the Roman Boethius writes:

Augustus Caesar

“The world with steady trust,
Changes in regular seasons.
Seeds that struggle out of earth
Keep to pre-determined bounds.
Daily the golden Sun
Leads with his chariot the rosy dawn,
And nightly the evening star
Leads out the Moon to rule the sky.
The greedy surging sea
Is kept to certain limits
Lest our uncertain world
Be swamped within its flood.”

The month of August was originally called Sextilis in the Roman Calendar but it was changed to August in 8 BC after the first Roman Emperor Augustus whose reign was extremely auspicious. However, it was known to the Anglo-Saxons as “Weed Month” (Weodmonath), that is the grassy or plant month. Among the herbs to be collected no doubt was Woad from which a special blue dye was made for clothing as well as tattoos. To the ancient pagan Celts this time signalled one of four major festival dates in their calendar along with Imbolc, Oimele or Brigantia (1st February or Lent) then Beltane (1st May), and Samhain-All Hallow’s Day (1st November or Halloween). The time of Lammas or Lughnasad, which means second flush of leaves, was generally celebrated from 1st – 8th August. The Harvest festival of Gule (Harvest Moon) was also part of this important seasonal celebration on the first full moon of the month. The apple tree is sacred to this month:

Apples, the fruit of immortality and Fall from garce

“Way up high in an apple tree,
Two little apples smiled at me.
So I shook that tree as hard as I could!
Down came the apples
Mmmm, they tasted good!”
– Anon

The apple tree species in the British Isles also include quince, pears and medlar are sacred to this month. As the author D. H. Lawrence wrote:

“I love you, rotten,
Delicious rottenness.

Medlars ripening on the bough
  • I love to suck you out of your skins
    So brown and soft and coming suave,
    So, morbid as the Italians say….
    Wineskins of brown immortality,
    Autumnal excrementa;
    What is it reminds us of white gods?
    Gods nude as blanched out kernels,
    Strangely, half-sinisterly flesh fragrant
    As if with sweat,
    And drenched with mystery.
    Sorb-apples, medlars with dead crowns.
    I say wonderful are the hellish experiences,
    Orphic, delicate Dionysus of the Underworld.”

The Celtic name Lammas translates as “loaf-mass”, that being the first loaf ritually baked from the grain at harvest time. The ceremonial baking of bread from the first grain (Loaf-mas) was an important rite in many agricultural communities. Also equally important was the preservation of seed for sowing next year. At this time the hay meadows would be opened and available for grazing. Sheep fairs would be held, animals sold or slaughtered for sale or sacrifice. Hand-fasting was also a feature of August whereby trial marriages were arranged and need only legally last for one year, but could after that time be prolonged should partners decide. After the trial period the couple would decide whether to remain together or part forever. As a result in the discrepancy between the old and new calendar the old fairs usually fell by custom around the 15th day of the month (August Bank Holiday).

Farmhouse sourdough bread

In London the early August festival was known as “Grotto Day”, on the 5th of August when street urchins were allowed to roam the streets and markets begging or scavenging for food and resources that might in any case be thrown away or given to pigs. Among the commodities were clinker, oysters and their shells, broken china, candles, ribbons, flowers and moss. From all that “bric-a-brac” they would build a small grotto on the street with an entrance and place a lighted candle within and invite passers-by to donate some money for charity. An ancient rhyme recalls:

“Please remember the Grotto
Me father has run off to sea
Me mother’s gone to fetch him back
So, please give a farthing to me!”
Rose Gamble, Chelsea Child (1979)

Other important feasts were The Knighthood of the Old Green, the Archers of Arden based in Meriden, Warwickshire, Harvest Thanksgiving in most regions and Minden Day for Army Veterans. The Feast of St. Peter and Vincula usually celebrated on the 1st August takes place in Congleton, with the early ringing of bells from the local church. This is usually the time of the Notting Hill Festival in London which in the past has seen riots and social disturbance. Many important rural fairs are held around this time in Cornwall, Ireland, Wales and Scotland celebrating the Harvest Queen in a variety of different ways. For example St. Bartholomew’s Day, followed by a fair, while in Kent there was the Sandwich Bun Race, and Marldon Apple Day Fair. In Exeter a large white leather glove is stuffed and paraded on a pole while the Lord Mayor gave his August Proclamation. In Ireland they have Ould Lammas Fair in the last week of August celebrated with tree prayers/blessings, well-dressing, poetry and of course ale. In the past celebrations focussed on the pagan god Lugh whose name incidentally means light and wisdom, since apples were synonymous with immortality and secret knowledge. It was also a time to reflect on Lugh and his own dedication to the Great Earth Mother (whose constellation was presumed to be zodiacal Virgo). The ancient Greeks knew her as Ceres and the Titan Gaia although in Gaul it was strongly connected to the cult of the Greek God Hermes (Mercury).

An artist’s impression of the play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

In act two, scene one of Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare writes:

“I know a bank whereon the wild thyme grows
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and with eglantine;
There sleeps Titania some time of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamelled skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.”

The annual harvest festival usually occurred anytime towards the end of August or September (depending on the harvest product or region) and occurs after the Celtic festival of Lammas or Lugnasad (Old Lamas Day-11th Aug). It was also intended to symbolise the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn. However, in some regions it usually began at the Autumnal Equinox, which is another important marker for the year when the days of light and darkness are equalised. The harvest feast was also known as “First Fruits”, “Harvest Moon” (Full Moon in August or September), “Harvest Home” or the “Mell Supper”.

Traditionally, the first grain and loaf were offered to the gods or altar and a goose was an appropriate offering to the lord or master of the shire. Corn Dollies or plaited decorations were made from the last corn sheaves gathered by the workers symbolising the Earth Mother and as a prophylactic to avert blight and ensure a good yield in the year to come. An ancient Greek hymn to Gaia proclaims:

Corn dollies

“Gaia, mother of all, hard, splendid as rock,
Eldest of all beings; I sing the greatness of Earth!
She feeds the world’s creatures; those on the sacred land,
Those in the paths of the sea, and those that fly in air;
All are hers; she feeds them, from her sacred shore.
Fair children and fair harvests depend on her blessing;
She provides for us to live, and when she withholds we die.”

Although older than antiquity, and celebrated universally throughout the world, this secular and religious feast was not officially instituted until the late 19th century in the British Isles. Traditionally, before the advent of the New Year’s day festival in January, the old pagan year was coming to an end usually in September giving birth to the All Hallows festival in November when the veil of the astral world was permeable. On the 20th of August 1940 Winston Churchill gave his most renowned speech in the House of Commons:

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

It was also the day when in 1914 German troops captured Brussels, when Russian troops marched into Czechoslovakia to put down the reform programme known as the Prague Spring in 1968 and in 1991 when independence was declared by the people of Estonia. The 22nd of this month was when the great English usurper Richard Crook-Back (Shakespeare’s Richard IIIrd was finally killed at Bosworth Field; 1485). While the 24th of August the citizens of Ukraine will be celebrating their Democratic Independence from Russia. However, on the Saturday nearest the 5th of August in Grasmere the annual rush-bearing festival, which is presumed to be of Egyptian origin is held as this hymn recounts:

“Our Fathers to the House of God
As yet a building rude
Bore offerings from the flowerie sod
And fragrant rushes strewed.
There by the Great Redeemer’s grace
Bright emblems here are seen
He makes to smile the desert place
With flowers and rushes green.”

Rush-bearing festival

Around this time of year in the countryside are beautiful displays of ferns, liverworts and rushes. Of this time Gerard Manley Hopkins writes:

“Glory be to dappled things
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon a trout that swim;
Fresh fire-coal chestnut-falls; finche’s wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced-fold, fallow and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle trim.”

Elderberries and its dwarf relative Guelder Roseberries are now forming on branches in colourful clusters for those who enjoy wine-making. Heather or Ling, as it is sometimes called, is flowering abundantly on the moorlands and is a rich source of nectar for busy, late summer bees. Evening Primrose, Soapwort, Goldenrod, Ox-eye daisy, Scentless Mayweed, Tansy, Yarrow, Mugwort, Teasel, Great Mullein, and Woody Nightshade are all out in bloom. Other flowering species during this period include Comfrey, Bugle, Borage, Wood Sage, Bugloss, Lady’s Bedstraw, Centaury, Cleavers, and a great number of umbelliferous plants such as Hedge Parsley, Wild Carrot, Giant Hogweed, Hemlock, and Purple Loosestrife. Look out for rabbits, moles and shrews who are out on secluded pastures, fields as well as deep undergrowth, in hedgerows and woodlands towards dawn or late evening when it’s quiet.

Literary Sources:

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

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


“A Rose By Any Other Name…”

Stained glass emblem of the Tudor Rose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard the Second, Richard the Third & Henry the Sixth

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

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

The famous balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet

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

The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots at Fotheringay Castle

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

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

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

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

Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field

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

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

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

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

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

And later:

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

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

The statue of England’s Britannia

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

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

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

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org

Gurdjieff’s Psychodynamics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Drama Triangle in Action

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

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

The Conscious, Unconscious and Subconscious energies at play during Psychoanalysis

I believe that every dysfunctional interaction, in relationship with others or oneself, takes place on the victim triangle. But until we become conscious of these interdependent dynamics, we cannot transform them and move on. And unless we do transform them effectively, we cannot move forward on our personal journey towards re-claiming emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.
Generally speaking the three, apparently fixed roles on the victim triangle are Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim, although the terms “Saviour”, Abuser” and “Victim” are also employed. For some unknown reason Stephen Karpman placed these three roles on an inverted triangle and described them as being the three aspects, or faces of a victim. No matter where we may start out on the triangle, the role of victim is still where we end up, therefore no matter what role we’re in on the triangle from the onset of an interaction, we end up in victimhood. If we’re on the triangle we’re living as victims, plain and simple and there is no escape!

The Drama Triangle

I have already described in a previous post on the life and times of an historical victim, “Mary, Queen of Scots” how this type of scenario can play itself out in real life, and still continues to do so today in social media like Facebook and Twitter. However, each person has a primary or most familiar role what is called their “starting gate” position. This is the place from which we generally enter, or “get hooked” onto, the triangle in the first place. We first learn and adopt our starting gate position within our family of origin. Although we each have a role with which we most identify, once we’re on the triangle, we automatically rotate through all the positions, going completely around the triangle, sometimes in a matter of minutes, or even seconds, many times every day as circumstances or the other players dictate.
Starting gate Rescuers (SGR) see themselves as “helpers” or “caretakers”. (see my previous post on “Group Dynamics & the Enneagram”) They need someone to rescue (a victim) in order to feel vital and important in their lives. It’s difficult for SGR’s to recognise themselves as ever being in the position of a victim. They’re the ones who apparently have all the answers.
Starting Gate Persecutors (SGP), on the other hand, also identify themselves primarily as “victims”, but in another sense. They are usually in complete denial about their own blaming tactics. But when they are pointed out to them, they argue that their attacks are warranted and necessary for their own self protection and personal dignity. These two roles — the Rescuer and the Persecutor — are the two opposite extremes of Victim Mentality. But again, regardless of where we start out on the triangle, all roles eventually end up in the adapted role of victim. It becomes an inevitable phase unless they can escape their own unconscious projections.
You may have noticed that both the Persecutor and Rescuer are on the upper end of the triangle. These roles assume a “one-up” position over others, meaning they relate as though they are better, stronger, smarter, or more-together than the victim. Sooner or later the victim, who is in the one-down position at the bottom of the triangle, develops a metaphorical “crick in the neck” (inferiority complex) from always looking up. That is feeling “looked down upon” or “worth– less than” the others, the Victim then builds their own resentment and sooner or later, retaliation follows in its course. A natural progression from victim to persecutor will automatically follow. This generally moves the persecutor or rescuer into the mode of “victims of the set-up”. This is reminiscent of a not-so-musical game of musical chairs, all the players sooner or later rotate positions, but the chairs are not gradually taken away, so they get stuck in a vicious circle acting out in turn their own delusions.”

The Pythagorean triangle of Psychoanalytic Approaches

Work on Oneself

Firstly, you are advised to merely observe yourself as an objective manifestation and interaction of three basic centres – Body, Feelings, and Thoughts. The mutual and harmonious interaction of these vital functions is the goal of what will now be termed “Work on Oneself”. There is no external enemy or battleground on this path – the real fight is enacted within your own psyche between your higher and lower self. This manifests daily on the material plane as tension and conflict caused by your repeated attempts to gain control of your own mind and make it a servant, not the master of your destiny.
Before any work is undertaken a small word of advice for those eager to proceed, for many are called but few are chosen, fewer still succeed. In order to illuminate what is entailed in “work on oneself” a suitable analogy may suffice. It is as if someone buys a house for the first time with the intention of renovating or refurbishing it. Some people begin on the outside erecting scaffolding, planks and tarpaulins but they encounter difficult weather conditions, or the workmen fail to turn up on time and sooner or later the work is abandoned. These types of people end up selling their property for less than they paid for it and settle for living in a new fully furnished apartment. However, another type of people manage to complete the exterior work on their property and then begin work on the inside but without sufficient funds or an organised plan they go from room to room destroying one structure and interfering with some utility or another until they find themselves living in a chaotic building site. Seeing all the devastation around them and quite unable to remedy the situation in desperation they end up living in the shed at the bottom of the garden. Another type approach the work with sincerity, several a priori plans, a great understanding of what is involved, several contingencies and with devotion, determination as well as a lot of personal sacrifices achieve the allotted goal. However, these are few in number so beware……

Jeanne de Saltzmann who spent nearly thirty years with Gurdjieff from 1919 in Tiflis until his death in 1949 discussed the role of the work in relation to the numerous organisations which claim sovereignty over his ideas, principles and working methods. In this respect she made the following statement:

“Today when Gurdjieff’s teaching is being studied and put into practice by sizeable research groups in Asia, America and Europe it seems desirable to shed some light on a fundamental characteristic of his teaching. While the truths sought were the same, the forms through which he helped his pupils approach it served only for a limited time. As soon as a new understanding had been reached, the form of the teachings would change. The readings, talks, discussions and studies, which had been the main feature of work for a period of time and had been a stimulus to the pupils intelligence, opening them up to a new way of seeing, being and doing were, for some reason or other suddenly brought to an end.”

The Interaction between Psychoanalyst & Client

Essentially this put the pupil on the spot and prevented any automatic assimilation or comprehension of the material. Acquiring information for its own sake like an academic parrot was not encouraged as this did not contribute to a greater awareness of the self. It was more advantageous however to acquire the correct attitude and apply this in as many circumstances as were presented in the individual’s life. Therefore in so much as it is possible to describe Gurdjieff’s working methods and doctrines by way of text, analogies and diagrams it is a different matter to begin working with them and to acquire competence without the essential aid of a living teacher or guide. For example one may be able to describe the motions of swimming, but it is a totally different matter for them without previous practice and experience to get into a pool or ocean and begin a cross-channel swim. I am not personally a member of any group or authorised Gurdjieff Society or organisation, so with this in mind I have simply attempted to summarise Gurdjieff’s ideas and hopefully stimulate an interest in the reader so that they may become curious enough to find out more. To begin “work on oneself” a person will need to be acquainted with someone who has fully realised the Principles of Gurdjieff, and in my own personal opinion will also need to have the following qualities:


  1. Physical Effort.
  2. Time set aside for “Work”.
  3. A Place to Meet.


  1. Empathy – a sincere heart.
  2. Enthusiasm.
  3. Humility.


  1. A discriminating Mind.
  2. Concentration.
  3. Creative & Subtle Perception.

Development of these 6 human qualities alongside the ideas and practices outlined by Gurdjieff will result in:


  1. FAITH – Always maintaining your Faith (A Positive Attitude).
  2. HOPE – Selfless Action, Service and non-attachment.
  3. LOVE – The Company of those dedicated to personal development.

(Open Discussion with your Teacher, True Friends or your Spiritual Circle)

Whether we have recognised it or not human conditioning, whether mental, emotional or physical, is usually a result of early childhood experiences, imitation of one’s parents and other natural associations like friends, brothers and sisters. This all happened on an unconscious or subliminal level and its relationship to our everyday experience has now been lost to us. Instead of untying these “knots” or psychological dilemmas, we continue to react to external impressions instinctively and dump negative emotions for example into our body, or our feeling centre. This causes many blocks to occur mainly in our musculature, organs and bones which in turn affects our vital centres and stops us from experiencing life fully. In situations like this Gurdjieff maintained that a lot of bio-energy was lost or simply wasted. One of the first things pupils had to ensure was that they should attempt to relax and conserve energy which could be used for spiritual development. Untying and releasing these so-called “knots and blocks” is the aim of the numerous meditation techniques available today which are often combined with physical exercises such as Yoga and Tai Chi.

Individuals can be classified according to their inner workings and outward manifestation of personality traits. They fall firstly into two distinct groups that are commonly called introvert and extrovert. The “introvert” is essentially an extrovert working against a certain extrovert tendency or “complex”, while the “extrovert” is also affected by an unconscious introversion and is attempting to balance out the two opposing qualities in their human psyche. When a certain pattern of energies accumulate in one’s personality we are prone to create a certain type of psychological complex which if it is not properly dealt with will form into more permanent “psychoses or neuroses”. Whether they are prepared to admit to it or not, most people are a series of dominant or passive and some indifferent or unrecognised sub-personalities. Until a real and sustainable sense of “I” is developed a person is generally victim to their subconscious hopes, feelings and fears (Emotional Centre), automatic or conditioned thought processes (Thinking Centre), and the personal animal or carnal appetites (Physical Centre).

Adaptation to environmental factors and personal phobias or inadequacies is often expressed on the instinctual and emotional levels simply with the well-known “fight or flight” response. On a mental level they will fall into the categories of identifying their impressions as “true or false”, “good or bad” – the individual will then use their inherent skills and ability to memorise, internalise and intellectually decide what further tactics to employ. Several decisions will then become available to an individual who is confronted by both new and repeated experiences and they will respond using their experience of past events to decide their next move. The traditional game of chess is analogous to this process of learning using memory, personal experience and acquired knowledge. These tactics can further be defined as ACTIVE, PASSIVE, and NEUTRAL reactions – and manifest as positive ACTION, long periods of INDECISON or instinctive RETREAT.

Furthermore, throughout this process the biological organism is attempting to cope with numerous physical and chemical processes and interactions using a natural cycle of growth and decay (hormonal metabolism). We become subjected to certain states such as waking, sleeping, dreaming and require several fuels or foods to function fully in our environment. As the products of great nature go in – FOOD, AIR & IMPRESSIONS (5 senses) they are processed and assimilated, consequently further actions take place and numerous waste products are eliminated. This process can be viewed as the Yang (male principle) extending into the Yin (female principle) – the two polar aspects of NATURE and the self co-existing within a much greater cosmic principle – our solar system and the Universe beyond. Gurdjieff recognised this interaction of energy as “Holy Affirming”, “Holy Denying” and “Holy Reconciling” – or The Law of Triamazikamno. We could summarise the entire requirements of organic and spiritual life as follows: “Transmuting the Five gross elements into the five subtle elements.”

What most people fail to recognise is that they are a combination of negative and positive qualities that need to be recognised, accepted and reconciled as mutually dependent forces. Most virtues can easily become vices, and vice versa, vices can become virtues if handled correctly. There is often some element in the psyche which is primarily meant to offset or balance out another. However, because of social or parental conditioning there might have been a tendency to view this sub-personality or social vice with some disdain and consequently to block or repress it. This effectively allows for some excess eg: charity,- the act of giving too much of oneself for fear of social alienation from others – manifests as an unacceptable notion that love and respect can somehow be bought. This of course could be true, so some considerable tension within the ego would be built up until this alter-ego is recognised and allowed to operate within the framework of ones’ personal experience. Some internal and external friction is often necessary for personal development to manifest.

In fact, a battle for control, between Light & Darkness may even continually be taking place, and which though internalised, may also be projected onto emotional or environmental conditions in order for the individual to deal with them visibly and practically.

The esoteric view accepts that projection and absorption are alternating principles in self-awareness, and equally valid training grounds for:

“S O U L C O N S C I O U S N E S S”


These 7 human traits form the basis of the material in 2nd Grade Papers where they are discussed in more detail.

Accusing others of faults which you secretly harbour yourself and hypocritically blaming them for your inadequacies.

Failing “to be..to hear..to see..to touch..or to taste life fully and experience life as it is in the here and now.

Putting off till tomorrow what you can do today.

Misplaced faith in external circumstances, people or things.

Missing the point or target, relying only on a theoretical or philosophical understanding of the truth.

Inflating ones’ ego, lying unconsciously to oneself and others.

Causing delays and interference or disrespect to others and immersing oneself for long periods in the world of self-pity or hedonistic self-indulgence.

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org

“Midsummer Madness”, the Month of July

A field of Sunflowers in Ukraine

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun?
-Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go. (William Blake, 1794)

In the British Isles counting rhymes are the remnants of ancient pagan rituals or Druidic rites often associated with human sacrifice or trial by contest and ordeal that were usually chosen by lot, eg; “Eeny, meeny, miney, mo” and “Ten Green Bottles”. Other counting rhymes emerged from pastoral traditions for the purpose of counting flocks of sheep usually in lots of twenty and other agricultural commodities. The same principles of rhyme and number as found in say “Baa, baa black sheep” would no doubt have been employed as a mnemonic device and for accounting of other goods such as fish, bags of flour, etc and as a mental aid in the monotonous activity of weaving, knotting and knitting by old ladies. Remnants of the Celtic, Brythonic and Gaelic tongues can be found among the many regional variants for example in Cornwall the counting rhyme began; “Hanna, manna, mona, mike, or N. Yorkshire; Yan, tan, tithera, mithera”, and from High Furness; “Aina, peina, para, peddera” etc. One other such example is “Hickory, dickory dock” whose phonetic digits have evolved from the Westmoreland dialect and probably used to educate children at school.


The three main cycles of celebration and festivity reach their hiatus in the month of July, so-called by Brutus after the death or rather assassination of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar who was born on the 12th of July. It was originally named Quintilis being the 5th month in the Roman calendar and is also the seasonal setting of Shakespeare’s well-known play “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Direct or indirect reference to some of these early nursery rhymes was often made by William Shakespeare and other dramatists in their own plays and performances. For example the line “Fee, fie, foh, fumme, I smell the blood of an Englishman” is quoted in the play “King Lear”, and “The Man in the Moon” theme occurs in a cameo production of Pyramus & Thisbe by the so-called “mechanicals” in “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Although some nursery rhymes date back to before medieval times, the term “nursery rhymes” itself does not appear until the third decade of the 19th century. Previously they were known as ballads, lullabies, ditties or songs and later as Tom Thumb Songs/Rhymes or Mother Goose rhymes. The British nursery rhyme Old King Cole dates back to the reign of Prince Cole (3rd century AD) a benevolent monarch of the ancient Brytonnes. Others date back to the pagans of Greek and Roman times and some even from certain biblical sources. Not all of those uncovered by compilers are simply doggerel or badly-hacked verse, indeed some are equal in quality to that of the nation’s sublime and superlative verse although clearly intended to be educational, surreal, linguistically childish or satirical. The ability to be instructive, prophetic, entertaining, funny, tragic or romantic puts nursery rhymes in a unique genre in terms of their poetic and narrative qualities. The onomatopoeic and mnemonic property of rhymes intended for both children and adults as well as other factors such as the weaving of subtle allusions imbued with topicality, historical significance, fabulous themes or dream symbolism, and then embroidered with rhyme, consonance and assonance suggests a complex poetic form unequalled in other literary forms, especially when their originality and longevity in literature are taken into account. In actual fact some nursery rhymes originated from adult collections of bawdy jokes, limericks and drinking songs, others derived from extracts of Mummer’s Plays, while others derive from the repertoires of Revels (unruly dramas) or those antics or pageants performed at festivals or fetes by railers, ranters, jesters and tumblers. Despite the absence of any written versions for many years there are virtually identical rhymes even within a great variety of languages and cultures due largely to widespread acculturation and dissemination. Scandinavia (N. Europe) and Germany seem highly significant in this regard as remarked by Jamieson (1814) and may suggest an Aryan/Teutonic origin or influence for our own nursery rhymes. The well known mnemonic calendar rhyme “Thirty days hath September” which is still in use today has its literary origins in 13th France. “London Bridge is falling down” also has its equivalence in France, Italy and Germany. The popular English rhyme “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall” found its way onto a Danish island when it was occupied by British troops during the Napoleonic Wars and then further into parts of Saxony, Switzerland and Transylvannia. Some, like the well-known:


“Monday’s Child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go
Friday’s child is loving and giving
Saturday’s child works hard for their living
And the child that was born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.”

Were intended to assist anyone wishing to form a harmonious relationship with the right type of person. Clearly some rhymes solely intended for adults eventually found their way into the nursery when amended or abridged for juvenile consumption. An early collection of European nursery rhymes can be found in “Demaundes Joyous”, thought to have been written or collated by the humanist French scholar Francois Rabelais (1483-1553). He was also responsible for works of satire and comedy – “Pantagruel”, “Gargantua”, “Tiers Livre”, and “Quart Livre” which suggests that nursery rhymes were in part a form of underground propaganda aimed at undermining the authority of the established Church, the monarchy or the political rulers of the time. Another older collection was published at Strasbourg in 1505 and an anthology “Les Adeuineaux Amoureux” in Bruges around 1478. A great number of nursery rhymes were associated specifically with children’s games/dances (eg; “Ringa-ringa-roses, a pocketful of posies”) and were used to educate and instruct on word pronunciations, and other phonetic and linguistic attributes of the local language. These later became known as tongue-twisters, the most typical being that of “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper”. However, there is usually a sinister, deeper meaning or significance to the rhyme for as in the case of “Ringa-ringa-roses”, it subtly refers to the advent of the Black Death as evidenced in the succeeding line “achoo, achoo we all fall down”. It was also common practice to put into rhyme some historical event or universally define some actual personage whose life or antics were a source of amusement, warnings or moral instructions such as the “Grand Ole Duke of York” and “Mary, Mary quite contrary”. The latter apparently referring to the historical Richard III and the latter to Mary Queen of Scots. A great number of nursery rhymes were often written in doggerel, as in the case of the limerick, and were probably work songs as in the case of “See-saw Margery Daw…” that were devised by the logger and sawyer of the woodlands. Another frequent source of rhymes emerged in the weaving and knitting sheds of the British Isles, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, these were often employed practically to help weavers keep numerical track of their textile patterns and to avoid the onset of boredom. The spread of rhymes to distant regions can also be attributed to immigrant culture and especially to seafaring folk whose sea shanties and chants eventually became universal interludes in many pantomime productions of fairy tales, folklore and legends. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries rhymes became the province of a predominantly adult audience who enjoyed theatrical performances spiced with rhyming interludes. While still many more are so elegant in their style and choice of verse indicating they were intended to be accompanied by sophisticated dance steps or sundry notes of music. One such example with many variants is “Lavenders green, diddle diddle, Lavender’s blue” written around 1672 and published under the title of “The Kind Country Lovers” it was usually performed on St. Valentine’s Day or a leap year. Somewhat reminiscent of “Roses are red, violets are blue” the lyrics became regenerated as a playful love song even in the 20th century. It is clear therefore that this type of nursery rhyme was often associated with folk dances or dramatic performances and pageants while others still formed the basis of popular songs, broadsides or ballads disseminated by minstrel poets, troubadours and travelling street performers (Fr. trouvéres) who were for the Medieval period a type of popular tabloid press. Although nursery rhymes were popular from the 12th-16th centuries they found their most ardent and widespread appeal from the 17th century onwards through to the Hanoverian and Victorian era. A well known rhyme for the midsummer sacrifice is “Who killed Cock Robin?”

“I,” said the Sparrow,
“With my bow and arrow,
I killed Cock Robin.
“Who saw him die?
“I,” said the Fly,
“With my little eye,
I saw him die.
“Who caught his blood?
“I,” said the Fish,
“With my little dish,
I caught his blood.
“Who’ll make his shroud?
“I,” said the Beetle,
“With my thread and needle,
I’ll make his shroud.
“Who’ll dig his grave?
“I,” said the Owl,
“With my spade and trowel,
I’ll dig his grave.
“Who’ll be the parson?
“I,” said the Rook,
“With my little book.
I’ll be the parson.
“Who’ll be the clerk?
“I,” said the Lark,
“I’ll say Amen in the dark;
“I’ll be the clerk.
“Who’ll be chief mourner?
“I,” said the Dove, “I mourn for my love;
I’ll be chief mourner.
“Who’ll bear the torch?
“I,” said the Linnet,
“I’ll come in a minute, I’ll bear the torch.
“Who’ll sing his dirge? “I,” said the thrush,
“As I sing in the bush I’ll sing his dirge.
“Who’ll bear the pall? “We,” said the Wren,
“Both the cock and the hen; We’ll bear the pall.
“Who’ll carry his coffin?
“I,” said the Kite, “If it be in the night, I’ll carry his coffin.
“Who’ll toll the bell? “I,” said the Bull,
“Because I can pull, I’ll toll the bell.
“All the birds of the air Fell to sighing and sobbing
When they heard the bell toll
For poor Cock Robin.

It was James Orchard Halliwell, a renowned Shakespearean scholar who published the definitive “Nursery Rhymes of England” as well as “Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales” (1849), thereby elevating the genre to an untold high with as many as fourteen different categories of verse. Unfortunately he never listed all of his sources (written or oral) which may have been extensive and varied, for example; The Old Mother Hubbard books were intended for busy mothers with too many children. It contains notes about the origins and age of each rhyme. His compendium of 1849 (“Popular Rhymes & Nursery Tales”) laid the foundation for other academic anthologies for the children’s nursery. In the latter he made reference to some of his sources namely; Infant Institutes (1789), to “Gammer Gurton’s Garland” otherwise known as “The Nursery Parnassus” (1810), to “The Popular Rhymes of Scotland” (1824 & 1842) and the Bodleian library’s “Songs for the Nursery”. A distinct tradition of nursery rhymes evolved in the New World propagated by the Pilgrim Fathers of Boston and New England that are now known in the United States as Mother Goose rhymes. Excellent examples of these can be found in the “Tommy Thumb’s Song Book” printed in Massachusetts in 1788 and based on the earliest known anthology of nursery rhymes (c. 1744). The poet and traveller Edward Lear, the story teller A. A. Milne and the polymath C. S. Lewis have all found a contemporary niche for the nursery rhyme tradition in their own literary works. More recently the student who is interested in the origins and age of rhymes is advised to consult “The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes”.

At this time of the year the traditional cycle is ostensibly interdependent, the beginning denotes Birth/Creation (nativity-winter solstice), the middle denotes Life/Maintenance (vernal equinox) and the final cycle Death/Sacrifice (midsummer solstice). From now on the days will become shorter and the nights longer, we embrace this inevitability and celebrate our common humanity with great feasts and festivals such as Glastonbury, sporting activity such as Wimbledon and in culture with the Last Night of the Proms and the Welsh National Eisteddfod. However, different cultures and religions marked the beginning and the end of the year at differing periods according to their secular and religious calendar. For example the Hebrews celebrate the beginning of the year at Easter, the ancient Celts the end of the year in October. The ancient Druids traditionally made a sacrifice, usually human in this month of summer. Known as “Hay Moon” to the ancient Celts it was also the occasion for the Horse Sacrifice, this being the greatest offering a warrior could make to the Celtic Gods, next to his own life of course. The Anglo-Saxons knew it as Heymonath or Maedmonath in respect of hay-making and the flowering of meadows. Edmund Spenser in his poetic masterpiece the “Faerie Queen” mentions its significance:

Then came hot July, boiling like to fire
That all his garments he had cast away;
Upon a lion raging yet with ire
He boldly rode, and made him to obey.

However, it was said in rural proverbs of the time that if the first day of July was rainy weather that it would rain further for the next four weeks. Many regional fairs such as Honiton and Tolpuddle are held in this month, and usually it is a “Month of Fairs, Fetes and Festivals”. The Manx Parliament which use to take place in June officially opens on the 14th July (Tynwald Day). The following day was St. Swithin’s Day referred to in Shakespeare’s play, commemorating the burial of St. Swithin or Swithun, an advisor to the Bishop of Westminster who requested being buried in the churchyard so that “the sweet rain of heaven might fall upon his grave”. The monks honoured his wish on the 15th July 971 (Gregorian Calendar) but it rained for the next forty days thereby delaying the proceedings. In exploring the history of St. Swithun’s day, I discovered one man who was potentially named after the popular St. Swithun who is not only a contemporary to William Shakespeare, but would himself go on to be canonized in the 20th century by Pope Paul VI. Swithun Wells was a Roman catholic martyr during the life of Queen Elizabeth Ist. His family was known to house and shelter catholic recusants during Shakespeare’s lifetime, with Swithun Wells was executed by Elizabeth Ist for housing and hiding Catholics suffering persecution.

At this time many merchants, industrial artisans stage their annual processions or gatherings such as the Worshipful Company of Vintners, the Dyers, Gunsmiths, Apothecaries, Tailors and Weavers.

In purely wildlife or rural terms this is the height of summer and there is a lot to look out for on all fronts, the hedgerows, fields and woodlands are rich with flora and fauna, for example several varieties of purple and white flowering thistles, Field Scabious, and knapweed many of which attract a large variety of butterflies such as the Meadow Brown, Marbled White and the Gatekeeper. The yellow and black striped Cinnabar Moth caterpillar is usually feeding on Ragwort, the Privet Hawkmoth and Elephant Hawkmoth are lurking amongst the Rosebay Willowherb and on garden Fuschias. Lakes, marshes and ponds are abundant with numerous insects including Dragonflies, Banded Demoiselles, Common darters and the azure blue and common blue Damselflies. If you’re lucky you might find some newts, frogs and even grass-snakes. Amongst the reed beds and streams you will hear Sedge and Reed Warblers, and occasionally Coots and Moorhens with their chicks. Fruits, nuts and berries are beginning to form on most trees and shrubs ready for autumns rich harvest. For example Dog Rose, acorn, beech and hazelnuts most of which are favoured by squirrels and the secretive but brightly plumed Jays, a close relative of the Magpie. Where there is an abundance of insects, especially if there are suitable habitats usually there will be several varieties of bats such as the Pipestrelle, the Common Brown, the Noctule and especially the Long-eared Bat all of which usually come out of their roosts around dusk.

In the Christian calendar July 22nd is St. Mary Magdalene Day, the patron saint of penitents followed soon after by St. James’ Day on the 25th .

This is a good time to harvest wild or even cultivated soft fruits such as blackcurrant, bullace, gooseberries, strawberries and raspberries. Excellent wines or cordials can be made from these or they can be preserved as jams.

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


Website: www.qudosacademy.org

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