Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 4)

4 – ARTHUR’S FIRST BATTLES

I know we’re supposed to be looking for the Holy Grail, but seeing as its Christmas, I thought a wee waltz through the world of Arthur’s 12 battle would be fun. In general, no-one has a clue as to where they were fought, as long ago as the 12th century; Henry of Huntingdon was declaring, ‘In our times the places are unknown, the Providence of God, we consider, having so ordered it that popular applause and flattery, and transitory glory, might be of no account,‘ while Collingwood & Myers, in their Roman Britain 1937, declared; ‘That the names are genuine is obvious. Not only are they part of the oldest tradition, but there is hardly one whose site is established beyond controversy.’ Still, there’s nothing wrong in trying to find them, is there?

 

The piratical invasion of the Saxons under Hengist and Horsa

 

During my investigations, I have identified five major campaigns in which he fought his wars; one in south England, one in Ireland one in Wales & two in Scotland. Such a wide theater of action is down to Arthur belonging to the native Britons that stretched from Strathclyde & Edinburgh in the north to Cornwall in the south, collectively known as the Kymry. For several centuries they had lived peacefully under the Roman yolk, but when the legions departed they were attacked relentlessly by the Pictish war-bands of Northern Britain that Hadrian’s Wall had been holding back. To counter this threat the British leader Vortigern invited the first Saxons to Britain, & with their help halted the invasions. However, lack of money was a problem, & on not being paid their promised fees, these German mercenaries, led by Henghist & Horsa, finding the island very much to their taste, decided to stay. By the year 500 AD they had taken Kent, Sussex, East Anglia & scattered pockets of territory all up the east coast.

If we are to identify the locations of Arthur’s battles, it is among the literatures of Arthur’s enemies that we will hopefully find a clue two. Thus, returning to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, we find the following entry;

501 A.D. This year Porta and his two sons, Beda and Mela, came into Britain, with two ships, at a place called Portsmouth. They soon landed, and slew on the spot a young Briton of very high rank.

 

The very events of the above campaign seem to be echoed in an ancient Welsh elegy entitled ‘Geraint Son of Erbin.’ The poem is a very pleasant read, & worth being given in its not-too-long entirety.

Geraint, son of Erbin

Before Geraint, the enemy of oppression,
I saw white horses jaded and gory,
And after the shout, a terrible resistance.

Before Geraint, the unflinching foe,
I saw horses jaded and gory from the battle,
And after the shout, a terrible impulsion.

Before Geraint, the enemy of tyranny,
I saw horses white with foam,
And after the shout, a terrible torrent.

In Llongborth I saw the rage of slaughter,
And biers beyond all number,
And red-stained men from the assault of Geraint.

In Llongborth I saw the edges of blades in contact,
Men in terror, and blood on the pate,
Before Geraint, the great son of his father.

In Llongborth I saw the spurs
Of men who would not flinch from the dread of the spears,
And the drinking of wine out of the bright glass.

In Llongborth I saw the weapons
Of men, and blood fast dropping,
And after the shout, a fearful return.

In Llongborth I saw Arthur,
And brave men who hewed down with steel,
Imperator, and conductor of the toll.

In Llongborth Geraint was slain,
A brave man from the region of Dyvnaint,
And before he was overpowered, he committed slaughter.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, with wheat for their corn,
Ruddy ones, with. the assault of spotted eagles.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long their legs, grain was given them,
Ruddy ones, with the assault of black eagles.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, restless over their grain,
Ruddy ones, with the assault of red eagles.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, grain-scattering,
Ruddy ones, with the assault of white eagles.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, with the pace of the stag,
With a nose like that of the consuming fire on a wild mountain.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, satiated with grain,
Grey ones, with their manes tipped with silver.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, well deserving of grain,
Ruddy ones, with the assault of grey eagles.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, having corn for food,
Ruddy ones, with the assault of brown eagles.

When Geraint was born, open were the gates of heaven,
Christ granted what was asked,
Beautiful the appearance of glorious Prydain.

 

Geraint, son of Erbin
Geraint, son of Erbin

The crucial passage tells us, ‘Geraint was slain / A brave man from the region of Dyvnaint.‘ This was the old name for Brythonic Devon, & with ‘Llongborth’ meaning ‘ship–harbour‘ in Welsh (from the Latin ‘Longa Navis’ – port of warships) we have a perfect match for the ASC’s death of a, ‘Young Briton of very high rank,‘ in ‘Portsmouth.’ The poem also describes ‘Arthur,‘ as fighting in the battle as the, ‘Imperator, and conductor of the toll.’ Having already learnt of his Dumnonian connections, it makes sense that he would be riding to battle alongside Prince Geraint of Devon. To the medieval Welsh, Prince Geraint was classed as one of the three prime ‘Seafarers on the island of Britain,’ & to place him in the defence of a port makes perfect sense. Thus, according to the Jesus College genealogies, it was after Geraint’s death at Claunio that Arthur’s half-brother Cador became the king of Dumnonia, as in the lineage; ‘Erbin – Gereint – Cado.

The location, & the presence of Arthur, lead us neatly to the HB’s first battle, ‘at the mouth of the river which is called Glein.‘ The name Glein is a great match for a southern Roman fort called Claunio in the Ravenna Cosmography, & Clausentum by Ptolemy. Scholars have identified Claunio as a Roman Fortress at Bitterne, a suburb of Southampton, stood at the mouth of the River Itchen where she meets the Solent. Its ruins were described by William Camden in 1610 as the, ‘Old broken wals, and trenches of an antient castle, which carried halfe a mile in compasse, & at every tide is compassed for three parts of it with water a great breadth. The Romane Emperors ancient coines now and then there digged up, doe so evidently prove the antiquitie thereof.’

220px-River_Itchen,_Bitterne_Manor_-_geograph.org.uk_-_26956

 

If the Claunio fort at Bitterne once lent its name to the River Itchen – i.e. the River of Claunio – then this battle of 501 should be the one fought at the ‘mouth of the River Glein. ‘  Though not absolutely vital to our Quest, I hope to have shown that Arthur’s first battle was also  recorded in the ASC as the Battle of ‘Portesmūða,‘ giving us a date of 501 for the commencement of his military career – fitting into the picture of Arthur I have painted so far. I also believe that the HB’s next four battles, which were fought, ‘above another river which is called Dubglas and is in the region of Linnuis,’ occurred near Bitterne as well. Dubglas means Blackwater, & there is a river of that name which from its source at north Charford, flows into the Solent near a place called Netley Marsh. This river then connects beautifully with the 508 entry in the ASC.

A.D. 508.  This year Cerdic and Cynric slew a British king, whose name was Natanleod, and five thousand men with him.  After this was the land named Netley, from him, as far as Charford.

 

Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth

This is not the only account of the battle we have. In his HKB, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s HKB describes the battle, but this this time as a victory for the the Britons.

Arthur, therefore, in obedience to the counsel of his retainers, retired him into the city of London. Hither he summoned all the clergy and chief men of his allegiance and bade them declare their counsel as to what were best and safest for him to do against this inroad of the Paynim. At last, by common consent of them all, messengers are sent unto King Hoel in Armorica with tidings of the calamitous estate of Britain. For Hoel was sister’s son unto Arthur, born unto Dubric, King of the Armorican Britons. Wherefore, so soon as he heard of the invasion wherewith his uncle was threatened, he bade fit out his fleet, and mustering fifteen thousand men-at-arms, made for Hamo’s port  with the first fair wind. Arthur received him with all honour due, and the twain embraced the one the other over and over again.

A few days later they set forth for the city of Kaerlindcoit, then besieged by the Paynim already mentioned, the which city lieth upon a hill betwixt two rivers. Accordingly, when they had come thither with their whole host, they did battle with the Saxons and routed them with no common slaughter, for upon that day fell six thousand of them, some part drowned in the rivers and some part smitten of deadly weapons. The residue, in dismay, forsook the siege and fled.

The similarities between this account with both the ASC & the HB are tangible. Whereas the ASC numbers 5,000 British dead, Monmouth declares 6,000 Saxon dead. Hamo’s Port is Southampton, on the other side of the River Test, where Arthur met his nephew Hoel, before moving to Kaerlindcoit. This translates as the ‘Fortress of Lind Wood,’ & should be Tatchbury Mount, a hillfort which dominates Netley Marsh. Around it are a number of barrows & tumuli, the tell-tale relics of Dark-Age battlefields, while five miles away to the west, through the gorgeous New Forest, is the town of Lyndhurst (Welsh = Lindcoit), which means Lime Wood in Anglo-Saxon. In the Domesday Book the town was known as Linhest, which is extremely similar to the ‘region of Linnuis,‘ given, & most probably latinized, by Nennius.

 

Tatchbury Mount
Tatchbury Mount

 

It seems very much that the four battles on the River Dublas given by Nennius have revolved around the key conflict at Netley Marsh in 508. Just as in the Battle of the River Glein, several sources interconnect to paint a logical picture of the battle. Still. The evidence also supports a Dumnonian Arthur, who would have been active upon the de facto border zone between the southern British & the southern Saxons, which was roughly in a line north between Portsmouth & Winchester.

 

Talking of heading  north, though, pack a jumper folks, cos its time that Arthur took on the Picts…

 

 

The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 3)

3 – CADOR

As I have already stated, the Quest for the Holy Grail begins with King Arthur, & I felt it important to ascertain the veracity of his existence. So far Ive pretty much done that, having established in my first two posts that (a) he was born in Tintagel & (b) his military career was acted out somewhere between the years of 488 & 547. Intriguingly, both the same location & time-scale can be applied to certain pieces of dark age broken pottery, coins & glasswork. Discovered at Tintagel itself, & monikered ‘Tintagelware,’ acccording to Rachael C Barrowman et al, there was’only a comparatively brief importation from the Mediterranean lasting from c.AD 475-c.AD 550 at the most.‘ Byzantine in origin, these dark-age relics are found in only a few other ‘elite-status’ sites across Britain, but by far the largest proportion being discovered at Tintagel itself.

 

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One of the other Tintagelware sites is South Cadbury hillfort in Somerset.  The site has long been associated with King Arthur – the 16th century traveler & writer John Leland stating; ‘At the very south ende of the chirch of South-Cadbyri standith Camallate, sumtyme a famose toun or castelle, upon a very torre or hill, wunderfully enstrengtheid of nature, to the which be 2. enteringes up by very stepe way: one by north est and another by south west… The people can telle nothing ther but that they have hard say that Arture much restorid to Camalat.

 

cadbury

South Cadbury is an impressive fortress, a worthy Camelot indeed, & was the site of a grand timber feasting hall thrust up by some powerful leader about the year 500 AD. It was named after a  dark-age king known as Cador, who we can conveniently connect to King Arthur. The monk Lifris, in his ‘Life of Saint Carantoc‘ places a certain Cato as ruling in the same time & the same region as King Arthur; ‘In those times Cato and Arthur were reigning in that country, dwelling in Dindraithov.‘The country in question was Dumnonia, the old Brythonic kingdom that covered the modern West Country counties of Cornwall, Devon & Somerset. The Dindraithov of Lifris appears as Dun Tradui in the Old Glossary of Cormac, which tells us the city was found, ‘in the lands of the Cornish Britons.’ The Glossary describes Dun Tradui as possessing a triple-fosse, which seem a perfect match for the three sets of concentric works surrounding the impressive South Cadbury hill-fort in Somerset.

 

DUMNONIA

Whether South Cadbury was Dindraithov or not  is not so important, it is the fact that Cador & Arthur are seen as joint-rulers in the West Country. Investigating the matter properly leads us to the Brut Tysillo, which spells Cador’s name as Kattwr, as in, ‘Meanwhile, Kattwr and his army attacked the ships of the ssaesson, and filled them with his own men.‘  Let us now return to the Jesus College genealogy from teh first blogpost, which shows the sons of Gorlois/Gliws;

Ewein vab keredic. Pedroc sant. Kynvarch. Edelic. Luip. Clesoeph. Sant. Perun. Saul. Peder.Katwaladyr. Meirchyawn. Gwrrai. Mur. Margam Amroeth. Gwher. Cornuill. Catwall. Cetweli.

Here, Catwall will be Kattwr, with R’s & L’s being exchanged through the phonetic forces of rhotacism. That Cador/Catwall was the son of Gorlois is also mentioned in both the Brut Tysillio, while a genealogy known as the Bonedd yr Arwyr tells us Cador (Kadwr) shared the same mother as Arthur.; ‘Kustenin ap Kadwr ap Gwrlais iarll Kernyw nai ap brawd vnvam ac Arthur.’ 

 

Kidwelly Castle - coincidentally used in Monty Python & the Holy Grail
Kidwelly Castle – coincidentally used in Monty Python & the Holy Grail

 

Catwall gave his name to Kidwelly, by Cardigan Bay in South Wales, close to the ancient realm of Glevesing. In essence, we can now see Arthur’s mother, Ygraine, having married into a great noble house, who ruled a pan-channel demense from Dyfed to Cornwall. Indeed, Tintagelware has also been found at Longbury Bank in Dyfed, & at Dinas Powys near Cardiff, while two genealogies in the Jesus College manuscript confirm such a notion, having the same line of succession for both the kingdom of Dumnonia and Gwent;

Erbin

Geraint

Cado

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Returning to our boy,  as the Historia Brittonum tells us, Arthur was a Dux Bellorum – leader of battles – which is confirmed by two very antique texts. both of which have him leading men from the West Country. A poem known as the Dialogue of Arthur & Eliwood describes Arthur as ‘penn kadoed Kernyw’, or ‘head of the battalions of Cornwall,’ while the Vita of Saint Gildas tells us he, ‘roused the armies of the whole of Cornubia and Dibneria (Devon).’ That he was leading such forces at some point in his career allows us to imagine that at least one of his famous 12 battles was fought at the head of Dumnonian forces. Perhaps even his first battle, at the ‘Mouth of the River Glein…’

 

 

 

 

The Quest For the Holy Grail (2)

2 – DUX BELLORUM

In my last post I showed how several pieces of evidence, when placed in conjunction, confirm that Arthur was born in Tintagel, Cornwall. The question we now have to ask is when? The answer dwells within the pages of a single book given the rather mundane title of MS Harleian 3859 h. This lovely tome’s arrival into the public domain occurred back in 1753, when the Duchess of Portland, Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, sold her family library to to the United Kingdom for £10,000. She was one of the Harley’s, a family of book-loving antiquarians that had over the years collected more than 7,000 manuscripts, 14,000 charters and 500 rolls.

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These treasures are all now held by the British Museum, a rich seam of literary jewels such as the Harley Golden Gospels (made in Aachen c.800AD) & and the Prayerbook of Lady Jane Grey. There is also Harleian 3859h, a beautifully illuminated book that when it comes to deciphering the Matter of Britain is something of a Rosetta Stone, for it contains two of the oldest historical mentions of King Arthur. One of these, the Annales Cambrae, we shall look later on in the quest, but our immediate concern is a fascinating text known as the Historia Brittonum.

Nennius in his preface to the HB of 830, writes; ‘I, Nennius, a disciple of the holy Elbodugus have taken the trouble to write down some excerpts which the idleness of the people of Briton had caused to be throne aside… I, however, have made a heap of all that I have found, both of the annals of the Romans & of the chronicles of the holy fathers, & from the writings of the Irish & of the English & from the information handed down by the old men of our people.‘ This tells us that Nennius added nothing of his own research to the HB, which should be considered a compendium of earlier writing. Towards the end of the text (chapter 56 ) we encounter an important passage called the ‘Battle-List,’ in which Arthur is described as winning twelve militray victories against the Saxon invaders of Britain. Each of the numerous recensions of the HB offers a slightly different version of the list, so to simplify matters I have synthesized them into a single account, being;


At that time, the Saxons grew strong by virtue of their large number and increased in power in Britain. Hengist having died, however, his son Octha crossed from the northern part of Britain to the kingdom of Kent and from him are descended the kings of Kent.

Then it was, that the magnanimous Arthur, with all the kings and military force of Britain, fought against the Saxons in those days, but Arthur himself was the dux bellorum. And though there were many more noble than himself, yet he was twelve times chosen their commander, and was as often conqueror.

His first battle was at the mouth of the river which is called Glein. His second, third, fourth, and fifth battles were above another river which is called Dubglas and is in the region of Linnuis. The sixth battle was above the river which is called Lussas. The seventh battle was in the forest of Celidon, which the Britons call Cat Coit Celidon. The eighth battle was near the fortress of Guinnion, in which Arthur carried the image of holy Mary ever virgin on his shoulders; and the pagans were put to flight on that day. And through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the power of the blessed Virgin Mary his mother there was great slaughter among them. The ninth was at the City of Legion, which is called Cair Lion. The tenth battle was waged on the banks of a river which is called Tribruit. The eleventh battle was fought on the mountain which is called Agnet. The twelfth was a most severe contest, when Arthur penetrated to the hill of Badon in which there fell in oneday 960 men from one charge by Arthur; no one but the Lord affording him assistance. In all these engagements the Britons were successful. For no strength can avail against the will of the Almighty.

And while they were being defeated in all the battles, they were seeking assistance from Germany and their numbers were being augmented many times over without interruption. And they brought over kings from Germany that they might reign over them in Britain, right down to the time in which Ida reigned, who was son of Eobba. He was the first king in Bernicia, i.e., in Berneich.

 

Saint Gildas
Saint Gildas

 

Several 12th & early 13th century recensions of the HB state that the 6th century cleric known as St Gildas was involved in the HB, while Henry of Huntingdon writes, ‘These battles and battle-fields are described by Gildas the historian, but in our times the places are unknown.’ That Saint Gildas wrote Arthurian material  is alluded to by Giraldus Cambrensis in his Description of Wales, who states that Gildas threw into the sea “a number of outstanding books” praising Arthur, as in; ‘With regard to Gildas, who inveighs so bitterly against his own nation, the Britons affirm that, highly irritated at the death of his brother (Hueil), the prince of Albania, whom king Arthur had slain, he wrote these invectives, and upon the same occasion threw into the sea many excellent books, in which he had described the actions of Arthur, and the celebrated deeds of his countrymen; from which cause it arises, that no authentic account of so great a prince is any where to be found.’ 

king_arthur2

 

The battle-list tells us very little about Arthur, who appears not as a famous Excalibur-wielding king of Britain, but more a less-than-noble ‘Dux Bellorum.‘ This is a Roman-style military title meaning ‘Duke of Battles,’is  similar to the Dux Britanniarum, the Roman general based in York responsible for guarding the north of Britain up to Hadrian’s Wall. The HB passage also gives us two concrete dates on which to fix the Arthurian period, based upon the Battle-List being sandwiched between two events verifiable by the beautiful English History known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC).



488 AD –  ‘This year Esc succeeded to the kingdom; and was king of the men of Kent twenty-four winters.’ Esc was the son of Hengist, the death of whom opens the Twelve Battles chapter in the HB, as in ‘Hengist having died, however, his son Octha crossed from the northern part of Britain to the kingdom of Kent and from him are descended the kings of Kent.’  Common sense tells us that Esc (a variant name for Ochta) would have inherited the throne immediately after the death of his father.

 547 – Ida began his reign; from whom first arose the royal kindred of the Northumbrians. Ida was the son of Eoppa, Eoppa of Esa. This presents us with a direct match to the Battle-List’s final sentences, as in; ‘And they brought over kings from Germany that they might reign over them in Britain, right down to the time in which Ida reigned, who was son of Eobba.

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The successions of Esc & Ida form the two book-ends of the Arthurian period, which we can now assume took place between 488 & 547. A great many scholars have tried to place Arthur outwith this time period, from Lucus Artorius Castus (c.200 AD), to Arthur Mac Aedan (c.600 AD) – but I don’t really know how they could just ignore the oldest ‘official’ mention of Arthur we have. These scholars generally just dismiss historical texts with something like – ‘they were wrong‘ – & work out their own private theories regardless. A classic example is Michael Livingstone, who responding to a well-respected medieval chronicler’s work, which didn’t quite fit into the picture he was painting of the Battle of Brunanburh, shrieked;

If I can call anything a fact after such a long remove of time, I’m willing to stake a claim for this one: John of Worcester is wrong. Plain and simple. And, by extension, any hypothesis for Brunanburh that relies on his “eastern entry” for the invading force is similarly wrong…  Brunanburh didn’t happen in the east, and a pox on that darn John of Worcester for giving anyone reason to think it so!

The thing is, you cant just do that. A modern police detective would laugh at such naivety; we must deal only with the facts, & if our oldest Arthurian historian says Arthur was active between 488 & 547, then all we can do is trust his word.

 

 

The Quest for the Holy Grail (1)

1 : ARTHUR’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE

Yesterday I posted the 18th & final post of my Shakesperian Grand Tour. In its wake I believe I’ve managed to open up completely several bard-connected mysteries that have been gnawing at the best academic minds for many centuries. Thing is, I only really spent a month on Shakespeare (September) & pretty much cracked it. So, writing up my notes this past week or so has really whetted my appetite for blogging, & so I’m going to turn to another of the world’s greatest mysteries – where is, & what was, the Holy Grail.  The story that everyone has inherited, describes how the knights of King Arthur go searching for the cup used by Jesus at the last supper.

 

graltab

 

To see if there is any truth in the story at all we need to verify that King Arthur actually lived. The problem is, this topic is a matter of hot academic contention. In the early 12th century, William of Malmesbury writes of the ‘Warlike Arthur… of whom the trifling of the Britons talks such nonsense even today; a man clearly worthy not to be dreamed of in fallacious fables, but to be proclaimed in veracious histories, as one who long sustained his tottering country, and gave the shattered minds of his fellow citizens an edge for war.’ It is because of those ‘fallacious fables’ that our boy’s existence is so strenuously debated, pickling many an academic head & producing a series of ‘Arthurs’ that jump about through time like Doctor Who in his bloody Tardis. The most recent scholarship (2013) places him in the same bracket as UFOs & the continent of Atlantis, with Guy Halsall stating, ‘I wish that Arthur had existed but that I must admit there is no evidence – at any rate none admissable in any serious court of history.’

 

The ‘court of history’ mentioned by Guy is actually a rigid system of academic thinking which tends to attack historical sources rather than use them. The thing is, the evidence must be out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered – there is just too much of an Arthurian tradition for it all to be dismissed as fiction. There have been hundreds of books, plays & films made about him, but in recent years the historicity of Arthur has been pulled into question. Modernity tends to look on these quasi-mythological tales with a sceptical mind, & understandably dismisses the Arthurian ouvre as medieval romancing.

 

Any truth in the historical Arthur has been scattered to all corners of the island, where innumerable places claim their own slice of the legend. To get all the answers we will have to embark on a detective story – it won’t be like Agatha Christie or anything, where a bunch of middle-class grannies & well-educated toffs wander round posh hotels acting all guilty. Instead, we shall embark upon a quest to find those bits of genuine evidence left behind by King Arthur, who was, according to William of Malmesbury; ‘A man worthy to be celebrated, not by ideal fictions, but by authentic history.’

 

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Our quest begins with what I have monickered, ‘Arthur’s Birth Certificate,‘ which sates that Arthur was born at Tintagel – a dark age sea-fortress guarding  the north coast of Cornwall. The story was first found in the 12th century History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who from now on I shall call Big Geoff. The guy is recognized as the godfather of Arthuriana, but unfortunately gets a lot of stick from historians, & I can see why. Honestly, his work is all over the shop, a patchwork quilt of historical flashbacks knitted together in any old fashion – but every now & again he hits the nail right on the head.

In the case of Arthur’s birth, he describes a certain Duke Gorlois of Cornwall & his wife, Igraine, the mother of Arthur. Duke Gorlois, however, wasn’t Arthur’s father. The honour goes instead to Uther Pendragon, who during an invasion of Cornwall had laid siege to Tintagel , where with the help of the wizard Merlin, tricked Igraine into sleeping with him. The following passage, then, is the nearest thing we have to Arthur’s birth certificate;


Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, was there, with his wife Igerne, that in beauty did surpass all the other dames of the whole of Britain. And when the King espied her amidst the others, he did suddenly wax so fain of her love that, paying no heed unto none of the others, he turned all his attention only upon her… At last, committing the siege into charge of his familiars, he did entrust himself unto the arts and medicaments of Merlin, and was transformed into the semblance of Gorlois… They then went their way toward Tintagel, and at dusk hour arrived at the castle. The porter, weening that the Duke had arrived, swiftly unmade the doors, and the three were admitted. For what other than Gorlois could it be, seeing that in all things it seemed as if Gorlois himself were there? So the King lay that night with Igerne.

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More then eight centuries after Big Geoff penned his history, a piece of epigraphical evidence turned up at Tintagel itself, when in 1983, a massive grass-fire raged across the promontory.  Once the fire had done its business, the foundations of several dark-age buildings were uncovered on the promontory, one of which yielded a rather interesting piece of broken slate (8″x14″), known as the Artognou Stone. Scribbled upon it was a sample of sub-roman ‘graffiti’ that has proven to be the key to unlocking the mysteries of King Arthur.


PATERNI COLIAVI FICIT ARTOGNOU

The translation reads something like, ‘Peter Coliavi made this Artognou.’ The ‘Arto’ element of Artognou contains the ‘art’ semantic, & on first finding the slate 1998, an archeologist declared “when I saw the letters A-R-T, I thought, uh-oh.” You can imagine the excitement that rippled out from Tintagel that summer, the discovery sending historians & linguists scrambling to identify what the word artognou meant, with the ‘gnou’ element getting everybody all confused. A few possibilities were mentioned, but no-one got anywhere really – the connection to Arthur was deemed unproven & the whole thing slowly put to bed. The thing is, the slate is broken off at just the place where artognou ends, meaning the word could well have contained more letters. Its all a case of thinking outside the box, or in this case outside the dark-age slate. So I starts chucking some of our 26 noble glyphs at it, & found that by adding a single ‘s,’ we gain the word the ARTOGNOUS,’ or ‘Artogenous,’ a Latin word which translates as ‘of the gens/family – of Arto.’ The slate’s inscription could then be rendered as;


Paterni Coliavi made this, of the family of Arto

 

art

 

A Cornish Paterni turns  up in the 7th century Life of Saint Turian, which describes a certain, ‘Constantine, a king beyond the sea, the son of Peterni, of Cornwall.’ According to big Geoff, King Constantine succeeded Arthur to the high kingship of Britain, as in; ‘Even the renowned King Arthur himself was wounded deadly, and was borne thence unto the island of Avalon for the healing of his wounds, where he gave up the crown of Britain unto his kinsman Constantine.’ I mean, come on, that is pretty strong confirmation that at least one Peter of Cornwall was related to King Arthur.

 

crowningking

 

So far so good, & not only can we connect a Cornish Peter to King Arthur, but we can also connect the name ‘Coliavi,’ to the Birth certificate. The solution comes through following the processes of the ‘Chisper Effect’ on the Latinized Coliavi.

Coliavi – Gleve – Glevesing

In the 9th century Historia Brittonum we read;

Vortigern sent messengers throughout Britain, in search of a child born without a father. After having inquired in all the provinces, they came to the field of Aelecti, in the district of Glevesing, where a party of boys were playing at ball. And two of them quarrelling, one said to the other, ” boy without a father, no good will ever happen to you.”

 

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Glevesing – Glywysg – Glywys

Glevesing was a kingdom that lay in south Wales, roughly corresponding to the modern counties of Glamorgan & Gwent. In the Life of Saint Cadog it is given a slightly different name

There reigned formerly on the borders of Britain, called Dimetia (Dyfed), a certain regulus, named Glywys, from whom all the country of that district, in all the days of his life, was called Glywysyg.

Glywys – Gliws 

King Glywys, as found in the Life of Saint Cadog, appears in a geneaology in a Welsh manuscript known as Jesus College 20, which names the sons of a certain ‘Gliws.’


Ewein vab keredic. Pedroc sant. Kynvarch. Edelic. Luip. Clesoeph. Sant. Perun. Saul. Peder. Katwaladyr. Meirchyawn. Gwrrai. Mur. Margam Amroeth. Gwher. Cornuill. Catwall. Cetweli.

Gliws is a only gentle philochisp away from Gorlois, & we can now safely say Peder son of Gliws was the same man as Paterni Coliavi. His father would have been Duke Gorlois of the Birth certificate,  the first husband of Igraine, which means Paterni would have been Arthur’s half-brother, & definitely Artogenous!

 

This is really only scratching the surface of the matter, but I hope to have shown here how the Artognou Stone confirms Arthur’s Birth certificate, which in turn is supported by  various other sources outwith the Arthurian legend. This, then, is the solid foundation on which we shall commence our Grail-Quest, for if Arthur once existed, then so should the Grail…

 

 

 

 




 

Brunanburh Castle

Yo! Yo! Yo!

Im back in Burnley at the moment, after deciding to spend a bit of time with the family. This includes my god-daughter Kae-Lei, with whom I’m working on material for a second album, & also my 2 & 3/4 year old nephew, Jacob Hewitt : the wee midget in the picture below

 

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For the past few years Ive been wandering the local Lancashire hills in search of the battlefield of Brunanburh, then, the last time I was here, I finally made some progress, discovering a certain ‘Castle Hill,’ behind Townley Hall, which is thought to have been Anglo-Saxon.

 

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With all evidence pointing towards a Burnley site for the battle, Castle Hill becomes a serious contender, & so a couple of days after arriving in Burnley I thought I’d check out the topography. Essentially, Castle Hill is a mound like, pyramidical hill, with the east side being a sheer drop to a small river. To the north & west there are the remains of a trench system, while the south side has no trenches but quite a sheer slope. The top of the hill has a large area big enough for a Saxon settlement & the views are amazing; it woudl have made an excellent border-post against the Viking North. Anyway here’s a few photos;

 

Castle Hill from the South
Castle Hill from the South

 

The western trench
The western trench
Looking north from the summit - the trench is the line of dark vegetation
Looking north from the summit – the trench is the line of dark vegetation

 

The northern trench
The northern trench

 

 

 

The old bridge over the northern trench
The old bridge over the northern trench

 

So there we have it – a genuine, bona fide fortification in the very area that all evidence says the Battle of Brunanburh occurred. Its early days yet, but under the soil of Castle Hill lies the evidence, I believe, that will confirm forever the Burnley-Brunanburh connection.

 

Shakespeare’s Grand Tour (final part)

18 – LATHOM HALL

We have now come to our last post, in which I would like to begin by setting the appropriate scene. William Stanley was an Oxford man, & had grown up with the tradition of plays being acted out over the festive season. MJ Davis writes; Christ Church & St Johns were the two colleges where drama flourished most. At Christ Church there was a decree that two comedies & two tragedies – one of each in Greek &, the others in Latin – wee to be acted during the Christmas season each year. Whereas Cambride excelled in comedy, Oxford excelled in tragedy, with Seneca’s plays prominent towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign.’  In the same fashion, over the Festive season at Lathom Hall 1588-89, two different plays were acted to a great pantheon of northern dignitaries; The Household books tell us

29 December – 4th January
Sondaye Mr Carter pretched at which was dyvers strandgers, on mondaye came mr stewarde, on Tuesday the reste of my lords cownsell & also Sir Ihon Savadge, at nyghte a play was had in the halle & the same nyght my Lord strandge came home, on wednesdaye mr fletewod pretched, & the same daye yonge mr halsall & his wiffe came on thursedaye mr Irelande of the hutte, on frydaye Sir Ihon savadge departed & the same daie mr hesketh mr anderton & mr asheton came & also my lord bushoppe & sir Ihon byron
This tells us that ‘a play was had in the halle’ on New Years Eve, on the very same night ‘Lord strandge came home.’ When Four days later Thomas Hesketh also arrives at Lathom, we suddenly have together in the same place the man who employed Shakespeare early in his career as a musician, & the man whose acting company performed his first plays. The list of visitors includes some of the most important men in the north of England, including the Bishop of Chester, William Chanderton & Sir John Byron, an ancestor of the poet Lord Byron. It is clear that they came to see a play, for the next entry in the household book reads;
5th January to 10th January
sondaye mr caldwell pretched, & that nyght plaiers plaied, mondaye my Lord bushop pretched, & the same daye mr trafforth mr Edward stanley, mr mydleton of Leighton came on Tuesdaye Sir Richard shirbon mr stewarde my Lord bushoppe Sir Ihon byron & many others departed, wednesdaye my lord removed to new parke, on frydaye mr norres & mr tarbocke & mr Tildesley came & went
elizchristmas
The key information here is that a second play was performed on the evening of 5th January – epiphany night – a time known among Christians as ‘Twelfth Night.’ This play is clearly inspired by the Continental adventure, & shares familial patterns with the Comedy of Errors. A major source for Twelfth Night is the Italian play, Gl’ Ingannati, as mentioned in the 1601 diary of John Manningham;
,
Feb. 2.–At our feast wee had a play called ‘Twelve Night, or What you Will,’ much like the Commedy of Errores, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in Italian called Inganni. A good practise in it to make the steward beleeue his Lady widdowe was in love with him, by counterfayting a lettre as from his Lady in generall termes, telling him what shee liked best in him, and prescribing his gesture in smiling, his apparraile, etc., and then when he came to practise making him beleeue they tooke him to be mad.”
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Most scholars imagine this to be the first performance of Twelfth Night – but I would like to propose that it was first played at Lathom in January 1589. The previous year was a leap year, & indeed the play contains a reference to the Leap Year rule, that is to say the time when women rule, as in;

                     Praise we may afford 
To any lady that subdues a lord (4-1)

The name Twelfth Night, by the way, has nothing to do with the play’s contents, & more to do with the date & occasion it was first played. Samuel Pepys writes; ‘Dinner to the Duke’s house, & there saw ‘Twelfth-Night’ acted well, though it be but a silly play, & not related at all to the name or day (Jan 6th 1662).’ I believe that Twelfth Night was originally called Love’s Labours Won, whose sole mention comes in the 1598 Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury, by Francis Meres. The passage basically tells us what Shakespeare had produced by that time;

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As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece his sugared Sonnets among his private friends…. As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latins, so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage…. for Comedy, witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love Labours Lost, his Love Labours Won, his Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his Merchant of Venice; for Tragedy his Richard the 2, Richard the 3, Henry the 4, King John, Titus Andronicus, and Romeo and Juliet. 
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The presence of Loves Labour Lost right next to Loves Labours Won suggest that they were originally played in sequence, which fits in perfectly with the festivities at Knowsley.  I now believe Loves Labours Won was preceeded a few days earlier at Knowsley by Loves Labours Lost, for there are several in-jokes within the play  that indicate it was written for the Stanleys. The play also contains several references to the eagle, an important Stanley symbol, from its presence on the family crest to the Eagle Tower at Latham. An example includes;
,
 What peremptory eagle-sighted eye
Dares looke upon the heaven of her brow
That is not blinded by her majestie (4-3)
Earl Henry would have loved to have heard about his beloved Navarre, while Ferdinando would have been amused by his name being used as the main character in the play. Meanwhile, all present would have noticed that Malvolio was based upon the steward of the Derby Household, William Farrington. The play also contains a masque – the Nine Worthies – identical to the one played annually at nearby Chester. This masque gives us a firm link to William Stanley, whose tutor, Richard Lloyd, actually wrote ‘A brief discourse of the most renowned acts and right valiant conquests of those puissant Princes called the Nine Worthies.

That Love’s Labours Lost, is one of Shakepeare’s earliest plays was recognized early on.  Charles Gildon wrote in 1710, ‘since it is one of the worst of Shakespeare’s Plays, nay I think I may say the very worst, I cannot but think that it is his first.’  Elsewhere, Alfred Harbage writes, ‘I think that this play is more likely than any other to suggest the avenues of investigation if there is ever to be a ‘breakthrough’ in our knowledge of Shakespeare’s theatrical beginnings,’ with Harley Granville-Barker adding, ‘It abounds in jokes for the elect. Were you not numbered among them you laughed, for safety, in the likeliest places. A year or two later the elect themselves might be hard put to it to remember what the joke was…. it’s a time-sensitive play for a very specific and select audience. Once we figure out who that audience is, we’ll know when the play was first written. ‘

Love's Labour's Lost
Love’s Labour’s Lost

That Shakespeare wrote Loves Labours Lost in that period would explain how the Dark Lady of Turkey found her way into the play, when the black beauties of a certain ‘Rosaline’ are described.

FERDINAND – By heaven, thy love is black as ebony.
BIRON – Is ebony like her? O wood divine!
A wife of such wood were felicity.
O, who can give an oath? where is a book?
That I may swear beauty doth beauty lack,
If that she learn not of her eye to look:
No face is fair that is not full so black.
FERDINAND - O paradox! Black is the badge of hell,
The hue of dungeons and the suit of night;
And beauty’s crest becomes the heavens well.
BIRON – Devils soonest tempt, resembling spirits of light.
O, if in black my lady’s brows be deck’d,
It mourns that painting and usurping hair
Should ravish doters with a false aspect;
And therefore is she born to make black fair.
Her favour turns the fashion of the days,
For native blood is counted painting now;
And therefore red, that would avoid dispraise,
Paints itself black, to imitate her brow.
DUMAIN -To look like her are chimney-sweepers black.
LONGAVILLE - And since her time are colliers counted bright.
FERDINAND - And Ethiopes of their sweet complexion crack.

In Loves Labours Lost, the same-sex relationships & the arrival of a woman on the scene which divides the group is an almost mirror image to the story of the sonnets. The composition of  the play would have taken place not long after Shakespeare had experienced the turmoil of his Turkish menage a trois. There is also an extremely famous sonnet reading scene, which shows how much the art form was on Shakespeare’s mind at the time. Examples include;

So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives not
To those fresh morning drops upon the rose,
As thy eye-beams, when their fresh rays have smote
The night of dew that on my cheeks down flows:
Nor shines the silver moon one half so bright
Through the transparent bosom of the deep,
As doth thy face through tears of mine give light;
Thou shinest in every tear that I do weep:
No drop but as a coach doth carry thee;
So ridest thou triumphing in my woe.
Do but behold the tears that swell in me,
And they thy glory through my grief will show:
But do not love thyself; then thou wilt keep
My tears for glasses, and still make me weep.
Did not the heavenly rhetoric of thine eye,
‘Gainst whom the world cannot hold argument,
Persuade my heart to this false perjury?
Vows for thee broke deserve not punishment.
A woman I forswore; but I will prove,
Thou being a goddess, I forswore not thee:
My vow was earthly, thou a heavenly love;
Thy grace being gain’d cures all disgrace in me.
Vows are but breath, and breath a vapour is:
Then thou, fair sun, which on my earth dost shine,
Exhalest this vapour-vow; in thee it is:
If broken then, it is no fault of mine:
If by me broke, what fool is not so wise
To lose an oath to win a paradise?
So that is us done with Shakespeare’s youthful adventures. By the winter of 1588-89, he finds himself firmly established with the establishment, & also bubbling with apropensity for sheer genius.  I really do now hope that my wee dozen & a half blogposts will help to restore William Shakespeare’s reputation as, his reputation as, well , William Shakespeare.  Knowing now how he acquired his sources, there really is no reason to suspect that somebody else wrote his works.
Merry Christmas
Damo

Shakespeare’s Grand Tour (part 17)

17 – London

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This will be my penultimate post on Shakespeare’s Grand Tour – I mean once you get home, the tours over right? But as Ive said before, the legacy of his travels are still being felt today, such as the very words half the world speaks that were enriched by the foreign words that Shakespeare heard as he wandered Europe with William Stanley. We last left them together at Knowsley Hall, where the Christmas festivities of 1587 had seen Thomas Hesketh’s players in the area – one imagines them working with Shakespeare, who would have been one of the principle actors of the play they performed for the Earl of Derby. Impressing Ferdinando, Stanley’s brother, Shakespeare soon found himself in London, writing plays, it seems, for Ferdinando’s acting company – known as the Lord Strange’s Men.

 

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This was a time of great national importance, for all through the first half of 1588. he Spanish had a massive army waiting on the French coast, poised to invade England, & a huge fleet sailing up the Channel in order to help them do it. Cue Sir Francis Drake cutting short his bowling match, Queen Elizabeths stirring speech at Tilsbury, some rather brutal & desperate naval battles, the fireships at Calais which broke up the Armada, & the subsequent securing of English freedom. This victory seemed to operate as some kind of catalyst to national greatness, the age was galvanised with promise & energy, & it was into these exciting times that Shakespeare  stepped, perhaps feeling a motivation that would one day find its way into Macbeth, as in; ‘I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which oerleaps itself, & falls on the other (1-7).’

 

 

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The same year also sees the sole mention of Shakespeare in all his ‘lost years,’ an indirect mention of him being his father’s son in a legal case presented before the Queen’s Bench in London. It took place about Michalemas (September 29th), & concerned John Shakespeare’s remortgaged property at Wilmcote. Edmund Lambert’s son, John, had taken on the property, but had refused to pay £20 that Lambert owed him. This saw John bring a ‘bill of complaint’ against him, naming William as a partner in the suit.

…et quod dictus Johannes Shackespere et Maria vxor eius, simulcum Willielmo Shackespere filio suo…”

“…idem Johannes Shackespere et Maria vxor eius, simulcum Willielmo Shackespere filio suo…
 

Clement's Inn
Clement’s Inn

 

What is absolutely fascinating about the case, is that of all the attorneys in London John Shakespeare could have chosen, he selected John Harborne, the son of William Harborne, the ambassador in Constantinople where we have just placed William Shakespeare. In the past, scholars have brushed over John Harborne, imagining there to be no relevance in the quest for the historical Shakespeare, much in the same way the anti-shakespearians (as i now call the anti-stratfordians) completely ignored the Garland of William Stanley. That Harborne’s father was an ambassador in Constantinople would have been irrelevant, for the academic community scoffed at Shakespeare’s presence in Italy, let alone Turkey. Instead, it is through him that we gain even more support for the Shakespeare – Stanley – Constantinople chain, & inspires us to be more alert about every person connected to Shakespeare, for their may be evidence yet lurking in their own back stories which can help to colour in our great dramatist’s life. For example, John Harborne was trained at Clement’s Inn & seems to be the figure of Justice Shallow in Henry IV Part 1, who is said to have studied law at Clements. One passage in particular relates to our investigation

SHALLOW

By yea and nay, sir, I dare say my cousin William is
become a good scholar: he is at Oxford still, is he not?

SILENCE

Indeed, sir, to my cost.

SHALLOW

A’ must, then, to the inns o’ court shortly. I was
once of Clement’s Inn, where I think they will
talk of mad Shallow yet.
Where Justice Shallow refers to ‘my cousin William’ who is at Oxford and who ‘must then to the Inns of Court shortly,’ we gain a complete match for William Stanley, also an Oxford man, that ‘good scholar’ who enrolled at Lincoln’s Inn in late 1588.

 

Lincoln's Inn
Lincoln’s Inn

 

While in London, Shakespeare would have been in his poetic element, buying books from St Pauls (one of only three places in the country where it was allowed) to feed his muse, he would have happily embraced a life as a dramatist. In 1588, he began to convert all the materials he collected, & all the observations he made whilst traveling, into theatrical gold dust. He may have had a mind burgeoning with ideas, even a few rough sketches of scenes & storylines, & a number of drafted passages of poetic speech. What he needed now was focus, & perhaps he had conversed with George Puttenham, whose Arte of English Poesie was entered at Stationers’ Hall in 1588. WL Rushton has identified over 200 literary links between the Puttenham’s Arte & the works of Shakespeare, showing how the bard must have read it. Shakespeare may even have read the work in manuscript, for there is one passage in particular that seems to be the Shakesperian manifesto;

There were also poets that wrote openly for the stage, I mean plays & interludes, to recreate the people with matters of disport, & to that intent did set forth in shows & pagaents common behaviours & manner of life as were the meaner sort of men, & they were called comical poets, of whom among the greeks Meander & Aristophanes were most excellent, with the Latins Terence & Plautus. Besides those poets comic there were others, but meddled not with so base matters: for they set forth doleful falls of unfortunate & afflicted princes, & were called poets tragical. Such were euripedes among the others who mounted nothing so high as any of them both, but in based & humble style, by manner of dialogue, uttered the private & familar talk of the meanest sort of men, as shepherds, haywards & such like

He was probably inspired also by the growing popularity of playwrights, especially Thomas Kyd, whose Spanish Tragedy had just taken London by storm, & Christopher Marlowe, the writer of such fantastic pieces as  Dido, Queen of CarthageTamburlaine the Great, &  Doctor Faustus.The keen-eyed Shakespearian scholar, TW Baldwin, also places Shakespeare in London, 1588, writing the Comedy of Errors, highlighting allusions in the play to the Armada & Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, which was also published in 1588. Baldwin also highlights a passage in the play which seems to describe Finsbury Fields, one of the sites of London’s public executions;

The Duke himself in person
Comes this way to the melacholy vale
The place of death & sorry execution
Behind the ditches of the abbey here

In the 16th century, Finsbury Fields were indeed seperated from Holyrood Abbey by ditches. Baldwin goes on to say, ‘It would appear that on Saturday morning, October 5, 1588, William Shakespeare attended the execution of William Hartley, seminary priest, in Finsbury Fields, near the Theatre & Curtain; & there received certain impressions which shortly afterward appeared, transmuted by the magic of his imagination, in the Comedy of Errors.’ In the locality stood both the Theatre & the Curtain playhouses, in which Lord Strange’s Men performed their plays in 1588 & 1589. This particular company was under the patronage of a certain Ferdinando, the very brother of William Stanley, whose curious name came from being a member of parliament for the barony of Strange (pronounced strang).

 

The Curtain Theatre
The Curtain Theatre

For the Christmas of 1588, however, both Ferdinando & Shakespeare were back in Lancashire, I believe, for the true unveiling of Shakespeare’s first solo compositions, the plays we now know as Love’s Labour’s Lost & Twelfth Night

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare’s Grand Tour (part 16)

16 – KNOWSLEY HALL

Roundabout late October 1587,  Stanley & Shakespeare would have boarded one of the Levant Company ships & set off home for England. In the Garland, we are told that he went directly to Greenland, before returning to Lathom Hall. It seems rather a large jump, from Constantinople to the Arctic, without popping into England on the way up, so it makes sense that this particular strata of the Garland can be put down to a separate Stanley tour.

 

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In the age of Elizabethan sail, Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind had a top speed of 8 knots, about 9.2 mph. With London lying 3627  nautical miles from Constantinople, the journey would have taken 19 days of unbroken sailing. Slowing down the ship to the speed of a merchant vessel, perhaps 4 or 5 knots, & the journey would have taken just over a month. It is in this voyage that Shakespeare should have gained knowledge of the Bay of Portugal (todays Bay of Biscay), an unusually deep body of water that would have been unsoundable by the plumbing methods of Shakespeare’s time.

ROSALIND: O coz, coz, coz, my pretty little coz, that thou didst know how many fathom deep I am in love! But it cannot be sounded: my affection hath an unknown bottom, like the bay of Portugal. (As You Like It 4:1)

During the tedium that a sea-voyage entails would have been a perfect time for Shakespeare to compose poetry, & as they sailed home, perhaps even sharing a bed, I believe Shakespeare penned the following sonnet to Stanley.

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride;
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen;
Three April pérfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah yet doth beauty, like a dial hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived.
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

If Shakespeare met Stanley in Lancashire at Christmas 1584, then the 12 seasons mentioned as passing – including the three Meditarranean ‘hot Junes’ – beginning with that of Winter 1584-85, would mean the sonnet was composed at the end of Autumn 1587.

 

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According to the ‘Household Books’ of Knowsley Hall, the seat of the earls of Derby, Stanley was ‘home’ in December 1587. A ‘household book,’ would record the toings & froings of visitors to the estate, most of which are lost. However, one miraculously survived the ravagings of time, & it gives us information for 1587-89 – the very period in which Shakespeare is returning to England with a Stanley. It never mentions him by name, at this point in time he would have still been considered a peasant I guess, but there are several entries which suggest that Shakespeare was present.

The Earl of Derby had even built a private theatre at Knowsley, which survived until 1902 as ‘Flatiron House.’ Richard Wilson writes, ‘The Elizabethan playhouse at Knowsley, near Liverpool, remains one of the dark secrets of Shakesperian England. Very few commentators are aware of even the existence of this theatre, built by the Stewards of Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby, on the site of his cockpit, some time in the 1580s.‘ I believe that this was Shakespeare’s first theater, of which Rowe writes; ‘it is at this Time, and upon this Accident, that he is said to have made his first Acquaintance in the Play-house. He was receiv’d into the Company then in being, at first in a very mean Rank; But his admirable Wit, and the natural Turn of it to the Stage, soon distinguish’d him, if not as an extraordinary Actor, yet as an excellent Writer.’

 

The Grafton Portrait - Shakespeare as he looked on his return from the Continent
The Grafton Portrait – Shakespeare as he looked on his return from the Continent

It makes sense for the young William Shakeshaft to have been connected to this theater, then caught the eye of Stanley – who I’m thinking enjoyed the young boys a bit too much (hence Shakespeare calling himself ‘old’ in the sonnets despite only being in his twenties).  On the 17 December 1587, the Book tells us that Stanley arrived at Knowsley from Chester, one week before christmas eve. He would have cut a dashing image – 25 years old, fully tanned & full of exciting takes form the continent. He also would have had with him his great friend – & possible lover – William Shakespeare. The young bard was 23, fresh from a Grand Tour, & flush with the creativity that would soon manifest itself in some of the greatest plays the world has ever seen. I also believe that as he arrived at Knowsley, in his knapsack would have been the manuscript copy of his first plays. I believe that one of these, perhaps Titus Andronicus, was performed that Christmas at Knowsley by Thoms Hesketh’s Players, the very same troupe that Alexander Houghton had ‘given’ William Shakeshaft a few years previously;

On fryday my Lord the earle came home from cowrte & the same night came my Lord bushoppe, mr stewarde mr recyver mr foxe, on satureday Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers went awaie, & the same day me Edwards halsoll, mr Houghton of houghton & many strandgers came to knowsley

KnowsleyHall20050814l

 

 So entering 1588, the year of the great Armada, in the North of England at least,  the name of a brilliant young playwright was being switrled around the dinner-tables.  The first offering from the mind of England’s greatest bard have just been shown at Knowsley, & one of the audience, Ferdinando Strange, William Stanley’s brother, must have been impressed – it was time the Stanleys dragged this boy to London.

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare’s Grand Tour (part 15)

15 – CONSTANTINOPLE

After so many centuries and after so many people have searched the records for her identity, to those seekers she has remained until now the mysterious woman of darkness

Aubrey Burl

 

This blogpost is probably the most satisfying of the whole tour. Thus far, I have shown how the voyage undertaken by William Stanley in his ‘Garland’ corresponds exactly to virtually all the foreign-based plays written by Shakespeare – only the Elsinore of Hamlet is missing. To this we have added the excellent work by Leo Daugherty which shows how the ‘handsome youth’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets is in fact our hero, William Stanley. On combining these two strands of scholarship, we are neatly presented, almost packaged in a box with a ribbon, with the hitherto unknown & highly mysterious Dark Lady of the Sonnets. The clues are found in the Garland, in which the lady who helped William Stanley to freedom is said to have fallen in love with him;

,
Sir William was taken prisoner,
And for his religion condemn’d to die.
,

Before I’ll forsake my living Lord,
My blessed Saviour and sweet Lamb ;
Sweet Jesus Christ that died for me,
I’ll die the worst Death that e’er did man.

Farewel Father, and farewel Mother,
And farewel all Friends at Latham-Hall,
Little do they know I am a Prisoner,
Or how I’m subject unto thrall.

A Lady walking under the prison wall,
Hearing Sir William so sore lament,
Unto the Great Turk she did go,
To beg his life was her intent

A Boon, a Boon, thou Emperor,
For thou’rt a Lord of great command ;
Grant me the life of an Englishman,
Therefore against me do not stand,

For I will make him a husband of mine,
Whereby Mahomet he may adore ;
He’ll carry me into his own country,
And safely thither conduct me o’er.

Take thou thy Boon, thou gay Lady,
For thou art one of a tender heart ;
But let him yield to marry thee,
Or let him be hang’d e’er he depart.

The Lady’s to the Prison gone,
Where that Sir William he did lie ;
Be of good chear, thou Englishman,
I think this day I’ve set thee free ;

If thou wilt yield to marry me,
And take me for to be thy bride ;
To take me into thy own country,
And safely thither to be my Guide.

I cannot marry, Sir William said,
To ne’er a Lady in this country ;
For if ever on English ground I tread,
I have a wife, and children three.

This Excuse serv’d Sir William well,
So the Lady was sorry for what he did say,
And gave him five hundred pounds in gold,
To carry him into his own country ;

But one half year Sir William would stay,
After from prison he was set free ;

 

The story given by the Garland contains elements of a story told in the sonnets, being the ménage a trois between Shakespeare, a young nobleman & a ‘Dark Lady,’ who should now be the noble Turkish woman who helped Stanley escape his prison. She is an excellent candidate for the Dark Lady, & one with an actual back-story which fits the known facts, such as Shakespeare marveling at her non-Aryan beauty;

 

127

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name;
But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,
Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress’ eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland’ring creation with a false esteem:
   Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
   That every tongue says beauty should look so.

 

130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires,  black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks; 
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
 And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
 As any she belied with false compare.

 

The line, ‘If hairs be wires,  black wires grow on her head,’ in the second of these sonnets shows how the Dark Lady is more likely to have Afro-Turkish roots rather than Latino. Her relationship with Shakespeare was probably consummated while Stanley was incarcerated,  & it was after his release that Stanley would too enjoy a brief liaison with her;

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42

That thou hast her it is not all my grief,
And yet it may be said I loved her dearly;
That she hath thee is of my wailing chief,
A loss in love that touches me more nearly.
Loving offenders, thus I will excuse ye:
Thou dost love her because thou knowst I love her;
And for my sake even so doth she abuse me,
Suff’ring my friend for my sake to approve her.
If I lose thee, my loss is my love’s gain,
And losing her, my friend hath found that loss;
Both find each other, and I lose both twain,
And both for my sake lay on me this cross.
But here’s the joy; my friend and I are one;
Sweet flatt’ry! Then she loves but me alone.

 

144

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

 

The latter poem contains some excellent Christian allegories, with Stanley being the angel, & his tempter an infidel ‘devil’ wanting to ‘corrupt’ the ‘purity’ of Stanley’s sainthood. The sonnet also contains a possible clue as to just how Stanley escaped, for when Shakespeare tells us, ‘whether that my angel be turn’d fiend / Suspect I may, but not directly tell,’ we can identify a correlation to the forced conversions of Christians in the eastern Mediterranean. One imagines the Dark Lady pleading with Stanley that only by relenting from his staunch Christian stance & embracing Allah, would his life be saved – a setting described by Thomas Aspen’s, ‘He was arrested for “blasphemy against the religion of Mahommed,” and after being kept a long time in a filthy and dismal prison, a date was fixed for his execution, but a lady interceded on his behalf, and three days before the appointed time he was liberated.’

 

url

 

Her actual name is again beyond the remit of my investigation – I guess I’ll leave that one for the Turks – however, to help them along the way, Dr Aubrey Burl describes her as being  “married, musical, had children, was faithless, enjoyed sex and was egotistically self-centred“. That Shakespeare was writing at least one strata of his sonnets in 1587 is  significantly supported through sonnet 107, which can be dated  to September of that year, through the mention of a lunar eclipse;

,
Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time,
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I’ll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes:
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

On the 16th September, 1587, the Moon was strikingly shadowed in a deep partial eclipse which lasted 3 hours and 7 minutes – about 76% of the Moon was in darkness at its maximum height. Thus, after ‘the mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,’ & Shakespeare’s love, which was ‘forfeit to a confined doom,’ suddenly ‘incertainties now crown themselves assured.’ We can now safely assume that Stanley was freed after the 16th September.

 

Constantinople-in-the-16th-century-centre-of-ottoman-empire

 

At some point in this period, Stanley would have sailed to Constantinople, completing his tour of the Levant Company ports – perhaps in late September after his release. En route we can imagine Shakespeare sat in a boat anchored in the harbour of Mitylene, for in Pericles we read the following stage directions;

 On board pericles’ ship, off Mytilene. A pavilion on deck, with a curtain beofe it; PERICLES within, reclining on a couch, unkepty clad in sackcloth. A barge lies beside the Trian vessel

The Pericles play also includes many other places from the region, including Antioch & of course Tyre, while the Trojan plain of NW Turkey also turns up in his Trollius & Cressida.

 

ottoman-empire-1580

 

They eventually reached a Constantinople that was probably the greatest city ion the world at that time;  only a decade or two before, the Ottoman Empire had reached its high water mark, the defeats at Malta & Lepanto ensuring the Turks could never dominate the world. Instead, they would have to trade with the world, & in the wake of the Italian financial crash of the 1570s, Venetian vessels had stopped sailing to England. It would have to be the English who dealt directly with the Grand Turke. This is the furthest east Stanley would have travelld’, & should have marveled at the city’s status as the mistress of the world, both European & Asian, into whose streets poured all races & creeds. The Constantinople which Shakespeare arrived in was captured by the Flemish writer, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq (1522-1592), who served in the city as an ambassador to the Ottoman Empire on behalf of the Austrians in the early 1580s.

 

I had an opportunity of seeing Constantinople at my leisure. My chief wish was to visit the Church of St. Sophia ; to which, however, I only obtained admission as a special favour, as the Turks think that their temples are profaned by the entrance of a Christian. It is a grand and massive building, well worth visiting. There is a huge central cupola, or dome, lighted only from a circular opening at the top. Almost all the Turkish mosques are built after the pattern of St. Sophia. Some say it was formerly much bigger, and that there were several buildings in connection with it, covering a great extent of ground, which were pulled down many years ago, the shrine in the middle of the church alone being left standing;

 

The sea is perfectly crowded with shoals of fish making their way, after the manner of their kind, from the Sea of Azoff and the Black Sea through the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmora into the Agean and Mediterranean, or again returning to the Black Sea. The shoals are so big, and so closely packed, that sometimes fish can be caught with the hand. Mackerel, tunnies, bigheads,  bream, and sword-fish are to be had in abundance. The fishermen are, for the most part, Greeks, as they take to this occupation more readily than the Turks, although the latter do not despise fish when brought to table, provided they are of the kinds which they consider clean ; as for the rest, they would as lief take a dose of poison as touch them. 

 

Below the palace, on lower ground near the shore, lie the Sultan’s gardens fringing the sea. This is the quarter where people think that old Byzantium stood. You must not expect here to have the story of why in former days the people of Chalcedon were called blind, who lived opposite Byzantium — the very ruins of Chalcedon have now well nigh disappeared ; neither must you expect to hear of the peculiar nature of the sea, in that it flows downwards with a current that never stops nor changes ; nor about the pickled condiments which are brought to Constantinople from the Sea of Azoff, which the Italians call moronellas, botargas, and caviare.

 

I now return to Constantinople. Nothing could exceed the beauty or the commercial advantages of its situation. In Turkish cities it is, as I told you before, useless to expect handsome buildings or fine streets ; the extreme narrowness of the latter renders a good  effect impossible. In many places are to be found interesting remains of ancient works of art, and yet, as regards number, the only marvel is that more are not in existence, when we remember how many Constantine brought from Rome. I do not intend to describe each of them separately, but I will touch on a few. On the site of the ancient hippodrome are a pair of bronze serpents, which people go to see, and also a remarkable obelisk. There are besides two famous pillars at Constantinople, which are considered among the sights. One of them is opposite the caravanserai where we were entertained, and the other is in the
market-place which the Turks call ‘ Avret Bazaar,’ i.e. the female slave market.

 

 dardanelles

If I had not visited the Black Sea, when I had an opportunity of sailing thither, I should have deserved to be blamed for my laziness, since the ancients held it to be quite as great an exploit to have visited the Black Sea, as to have sailed to Corinth. Well, we had a delightful voyage, and I was allowed to enter some of the royal kiosks. On the folding doors of one of these palaces I saw a picture of the famous battle between Selim and Ismael, King of the Persians, executed in masterly style, in tesselated work. I saw also a great many pleasure-grounds belonging to the Sultan, situated in the most charming valleys. Their loveliness was almost entirely the work of nature ; to art they owed little or nothing. What a fairyland ! What a landscape for waking a poet

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It is tempting to see Shakespeare visiting the same pleasure-grounds that  ‘landscape for waking a poet’ so praised by de Busbecq. That he was still writing his sonnets underneath sultry Turkish suns & star-studded Oriental nights is indicated by the following sonnet.

,
56
Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said 
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite, 
Which but to-day by feeding is allay’d, 
To-morrow sharpen’d in his former might: 
So, love, be thou; although to-day thou fill 
Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fullness,
To-morrow see again, and do not kill 
The spirit of love with a perpetual dullness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be 
Which parts the shore, where two contracted new
Come daily to the banks, that, when they see 
Return of love, more blest may be the view; 
Else call it winter, which being full of care 
Makes summer’s welcome thrice more wish’d, more rare.  

The key allusion is that to the Greek myth of Hero & Leander, in which the two lovers were separated by the Hellespont, today’s Dardandanelles, beside which Constantinople lies. Each night Leander would swim across the waters to be with his beloved Hero, which finds a place in the lines, ‘where two contracted new / Come daily to the banks, that, when they see / Return of love, more blest may be the view.’ We gain more support for Shakespeare’s visit to the region in Othello, who compares his personal relentless nature to the strong one-way current at the Hellespont, as in;

,
Like to the Pontick Sea,
 Whose icy current and compulsive course
 Ne’er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
 To the Propontic and the Hellespont,
 Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace,
 Shall ne’er look back, ne’er ebb to humble love,
 Till that a capable and wide revenge
 Swallow them up…… 3-3

,

Joseph Mallord William Turner 'The Parting of Hero and Leander', exhibited 1837
Joseph Mallord William Turner ‘The Parting of Hero and Leander’, exhibited 1837

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Back in Constantinople he would have been entertained by William Harborne, who had been playing an important role for England as its first Ambassador to the Porte. Completely courageous & annoyingly tenacious, he help’d to keep the whole enterprise, & one could say without his efforts, England may never have established the firm foundations in the East which would grow into the British Empire. In 1587, we also see him scuppering the Spanish attempts to forge friendly relations with the Grande Turke. In contemporary letters to Venice, Lorenzo Bernardo writes;

 

April 1st 1587 – The question of a truce with Spain is completely suspended at present; the method of dealing with it has been changed.. .the english ambassador, being afraid that the secretary might be perusaded by the arguments of the agents of Spain, presented a further memorial to his majesty; in this memorial the Ambassador made a violent attack on Beneviste, a Jew, who is in the pay of Spain, & receives numerous gifts form that quarter, & insunuated that the grand vizier acts & advises under the influence of Beneviste. He spoke violently against the Spanish as a shifty, haughty, & deceitful race, which his majesty should not trust… The English ambassador… has spread a report that eight English galleons are on their way here with an ambassador on board… his object is to gain time by inducing the Turks to defer the conclusion of the business until the new Ambassador has arrived

 

Constantinople was the further east our party would go, & after almost three years on the road, it was time to go home. Shakespeare may have only seen his twins at their birth, & would have achinig to hold them in his arms. Stanley would have also been longing to get back to England, to see his father the Earl, & both would have been eager to get going on their theatrical careers after planting so many dramaturgical seeds in the bedsoil of their travels.  We have a probable terminus a quo for the departure, for in a despatch from Lorenzo Bernardo, we hear of a Catholic English gentleman acting quite suspicious about Constantinople;

 

November 11th – An English gentleman arrived her on board the ships ‘Salvagna.’ He says he is a Catholic, that he left England at the end of May with the intention of going to Jerusalem, but on his arrival here he changed his mind, & after staying a few days he left for Patras, there to embark on board an English ship for England. This roused great suspicions, & I succeeded in keeping him under observation
Reading between the lines, we see a Catholic gentleman arrive in Constantinople, perhaps with a message for William Stanley, but discovering that Stanley had already left, returns home to England. With him was the young Shakespeare, his mind brimming with the florid-sounding & exotic words of several foreign languages,  many of which would morph themselves in sound & meaning as he waltzed through his writing career.

As for us, the Grand Tour is not yet over, for it is time to see what happened to those first dramatic creations of Shakespeare’s burgeoning brain, inspired fully by the Stanleyan Grand Tour

 

Shakespeare’s Grand Tour (part 14)

14 – THE LEVANT

 

sicily_malta_map

 

The year is 1587, & Stanley & Shakespeare have returned to the Mediterranean waters in order to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land – & of course look in on the Levant Companies business in places like Aleppo & Constantinople. En route, they would have stopped off at Sicily, for the city-port of Messina appears in Much Ado About Nothing, which opens in front of the Governor’s Palace, today’ s Royal Palace which lies beside the Piazza del Governolo. The play also mentions other topographical details, which were all destroyed in the 1908 earthquake, such as the ancient Temple of Hercules Manticolo. Our very own Paul Roe also shows how Much Ado’s Beatrix uses a typical Sicilian expression – ti manciu ‘u core  (I will eat your heart). Elsewhere, the Winter’s Tale describes the Palace of the Normans at Palermo, while the mention of the return of Cleomenes and Dion from Delphi to Sicily as taking 23 days is an uncanny accuracy.

Returning to the Garland, we read;

And then Sir William he would go, 
To Bethlehem right speedily, 

Likewise to fair Jerusalem, 
Where our blessed Saviour Christ did die 
He asked them if it was so, 
They answered and told him aye. 

This is the Tree, the Jews then said, 
Whereon the Carpenter’s son did die ; 
That was my Saviour, Sir William said, 
For sure he died for the sins of me. 

16th Century Jerusalem
16th Century Jerusalem

 

For two Catholics, a chance to visit the place where Jesus was born could not be missed. There are no traces of the visit in the plays, but instead I shall return to Fynes Moryson’ own visit to the area, whose Protestantism caused quite a kerfuffle;

These foure comming in company to Jerusalem, had beene received into this Monastery, and when they had seene the monuments within and neere Jerusalem, they went to Bethlehem, where it happened that upon a health drunke by the Flemmings to the King of Spaine, which the English refused to pledge, they fell from words to blowes, so as two of them returned wounded to the Monastery of Jerusalem. Then these Italian Friars, (according to the Papists manner, who first make the sicke confesse their sinnes, and receive the Lords Supper, before they suffer Physitian or Apothecary to come to them, or any kitchin physicke to be given them): I say the Friars pressed them to confesse their sinnes, and so to receive the Lords Supper, which when they refused to doe, it was apparant to the Friars, that they were of the reformed Religion, (whom they terme heretikes). Whereupon the Friars beganne to neglect them (I will not say to hate them): and while the two which were wounded staied for recovery of their health, and so detained the other two with them, it happened that the third fell sicke.

 

Sierra Exif JPEG

After their pilgrimage, the two men would have set off toward Constantinople,  probably  stopping off at Tripoli, Lebanon, for supplies, of which place Moryson writes; ‘The Haven is compassed with a wall, and lies upon the west-side of the City, wherein were many little Barkes, and some Shippes of Marsiles in France. The Haven is fortified with seven Towers, whereof the fourth is called the Tower of Love, because it was built by an Italian Merchant, who was found in bed with a Turkish woman, which offence is capitall as well to the Turke as Christian, if he had not thus redeemed his life. Upon the Haven are built many store-houses for Merchants goods, and shops wherein they are set to sayle. The City of Tripoli is some halfe mile distant from the Haven, to which the way is sandy, having many gardens on both sides. In this way they shew a pillar festned upon a hill of sand, by which they say the sand is inchanted, lest it should grow to over whelme the City.’ 

 

From Tripoli, our party would have sailed east, & again would have docked for a while at the ports of Cyprus. It is this visit that may have inspired Shakespeare to place some of his great tragedy, Othello, on the island. The setting is only given as a ‘sea-port‘ of Cyprus, & a ‘A hall in the castle.’ Local tradition says the heavily fortified medieval citadel at Famagusta was ‘Othello’s Castle,’ which best connects with the play’s, ‘The Turk with a most mighty preparation makes for Cyprus. Othello, the fortitude of the place is best known to you. (1. 3)’ It is while staying at the fortress that Shakespeare would have heard the local story of Francesca de Sessa, a dark-skinned Venetian officer serving in Cyprus known as ‘Il Moro.’ The Venetian records tell us that in 1544 he was punished for an unknown crime & sent into exile. The story is given detail by Cinthio in his Gli Hecatommithi (1565) which Shakesepeare may have read in its original Italian. Come Shakespeare’s treatment, our bard changes certain details & has Othello commit suicide on Cyprus.

 

NeapolisToMiletus

On leaving Cyprus, our party would have reached the shores of Turkey,  where  one play in particular contains memories of their visit to the region. The Comedy of Errors sees Egeon, a Sicilian merchant, imprisoned in the ancient Turkish city of Ephesus, & tells a story full of business wheeling & dealing. That Shakespeare visited the city in the bosom of a merchant ship is hinted at by PF Grav, who writes, ‘Shakespeare uses the word money more often in Errors than in any other play… the words gold, mart, ducat & merchant appear at a pace rivalled only by the Merchant of Venice & Timon of Athens, two plays that wear their economic concerns much more openly on their sleeve. The market atmosphere which permeates Errors further contributes to the impression that economics lie at the plays thematic heart.’

 

Selcuk-ephesus-guided-tours-8-ayasuluk-castle

 

In the early days of Christianity, the city of Ephesus played a massive part, being one of the seven churches to which St John of Patmos addressed his Book of Revelations. Fifteen centuries later, & the Christian church had been usurped by the Islamic Ottomans, this once well-populated & sophisticated city locked in a terminal decline. Its river, the Caystros, was steadily silting up into malarial swamps, leaving the once bustling harbours of Ephesus far inland,  created  Despite this, the Seljuk Turks built & maintained a mighty fortress at Ephesus on the hill of Ayasuluk. A century before Shakespeare, the population was said to be 2,000, had maybe halved by Shakespeare’s visit, for by 1824 both town & citadel were abandoned & Ephesus left deserted except for the wild animals.

 

 

What is most interesting for our investigation, is that central to the plot of the Comedy of Errors is the imprisonment of Egeon, the merchant from Syracuse in Sicily. He only appears in first & final acts, framing the traditional story, & the threat of death hangs over him all through the play. With his imprisonment due to a law forbidding merchants from entering Ephesus, I cannot help but notice the tallies between Egeon & William Stanley, who also found himself imprisoned in Turkey. Thomas Aspen writes;

 

After paying a visit to Palestine, he journeyed to Turkey, and had a narrow escape of becoming a victim to the bigotry of the followers of Mahommed. In a discussion with one of the Paschas he defended Christianity and the Bible, and denounced the religion propounded in the Koran as false and deceptive. He was arrested for “blasphemy against the religion of Mahommed,” and after being kept a long time in a filthy and dismal prison, a date was fixed for his execution, but a lady interceded on his behalf, and three days before the appointed time he was liberated

 

The Garland tells us that the imprisonment of Stanley actually occurred in Constantinople. A little confusion reigns here, which undoubtedly will one be sorted out to satisfaction. It most likely that he was sent to Constantinople after his arrest. In 1585, Ephesus was part of the ‘Eyalet of the Cezair-i Bahr-i Sefid,’ the province of the islands of the Mediterranean, & to say you were the cousin of the queen of a distant, Christian island would have won little respect in the region. For these reasons, I believe that Stanley was imprisoned in the Ayasuluk fortress, his Catholic temper may have got the better of him after seeing such a sacred Christian site, the city where St Paul performed many miracles & baptisms (Acts 19), so completed dominated by mosques. Jane Hwang Degenhardt writes, ‘the contemporary location of Ephesus in the Ottoman Empire meant that it was a place where English merchants & adventurers were putting their own baptisms to the test by trading with Muslims… the significance of religious conversion in Ephesus was… informed by…. contemporary reports of Christians being captured & converted to Islam in the commercial port cities of the eastern Mediterranean.’

 

doctor3

 

What is fascinating about Stanley & Shakespeare’s encounter with the Turkish lady, who ‘interceded’ on Stanley’s behalf, is that we have now been given the perfect background for the infamous ‘Dark Lady’  of the sonnets, which I shall go into further in my next post…