Monthly Archives: March 2018

Chispology 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom

 —————————————————————————————–

chisp cover

Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

 ————————————————-

This next chapter represents a continuation of my Shakesperean studies, focusing upon the years 1588-92. In the Chisper Effect I spent two whole chapters on Shaskespeare’s Grand Tour, while we have just seen the prelude to the moment our bard join’d the Earl of Derby’s retinue on its way to Paris. In the Chisper Effect, the last of my chronological entries in the Dark Lady chapter showed how, fresh from his European tour in the company of Shakespeare, William Stanley returned to his home in Lancashire. Did he return in a state of mild arrogance as suggested by William Harrison (1587);

 The usual sending of noblemen’s and mean gentlemen’s sons into Italy, from whence they bring home nothing but mere atheism, infidelity, vicious conversation, and ambitious and proud behaviour, whereby it cometh to pass that they return far worse men than they went out….. they have learned in Italy to go up and down also in England with pages at their heels finely apparelled, whose face and countenance shall be such as sheweth the master not to be blind in his choice

For ease of dictate I shall repeat the final entry of the Dark Lady, & continue in the same chronological fashion until the moment Shakespeare’s star has truly risen over the world of London theatre in the spring of 1592

1587
DECEMBER
Stanley spends Christmas in Lancashire

In the year of 1587 the plague came to the good folk of Lancashire. This was bad, but the return of our gallant & sun bronzed adventurers cheered up the county no end. Stanley, especially, would have cut a dashing image; 25 years old, fully tanned & full of exciting tales from his travels. He may even have taken his great friend Shakespeare with him to Lancashire. Our young bard was 23, fresh from a Grand Tour, & flush with the creativity that would soon manifest itself as some of the greatest plays the world has ever seen. As our party arrived at Knowsley, Shakespeare’s knapsack would have contained the manuscript copies of his & Stanley’s co-written plays, such as Titus Andronicus, & Pericles. They may even have been performed that Christmas at Knowsley when the Household Books record ‘Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers.’ No evidence exists for these players having performed the early Stanley-Shakespeare plays, but it certainly feels right, & if so, the events surrounding their debut as playwrights were recorded in December 1587;

On fryday my Lord the earle came home from cowrte & the same night came my Lord bishoppe, mr stewarde mr recyver mr foxe, on saturday Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers went awaie

027SLO000002596U00052000[SVC2]

1588
SPRING
Shakespeare in London

On the 24th April 1588, William Shakespeare turn’d 24. He was now in the full prime of youth & beauty, bubbling with that particular propensity for sheer genius. As for his sexuality, falling in love with William Stanley seems to have had a hand in some kind of alteration, for it must be noted that from this moment on Shakespeare sires no more children, & would eventually leave his bequeath his wife their ‘second best bed’ in his will. The timing of his return coincided with an epoch of great national importance, for the Spanish were assembling a huge fleet ready to sail up the channel in order to help ferry across the Channel a great army of invasion they were massing at the French coast.

Shakespeare’s England was on the rise; possessing a fledgeling colony in America & mercantile interests across the globe. Just as it is today, London was both a thriving international sea-port & a cosmopolitan national capital. The city was fueled by such a melting-pot of culture, attracting the best of the provincial talents, that the Elizabethan theatre would evolve into its capsules of dramaturgical, philosophical brilliance, helped no end by having the genius of Shakespeare in the mix. ‘He began early to make essayes at Dramatique Poetry,’ recorded Aubrey, ‘which at that time was very lowe; and his Playes tooke well. He was a handsome, well-shap’t man: very good company, and of a very readie and pleasant smoothe Witt.’

1588
SUMMER
Shakespeare enters Thomas Watson’s circle

Watson-WGB-242x300

Enter Thomas Watson. The English College diary at Douay records on October 15, 1576, ‘Dominus Watson went from here to Paris.’ Like Shakespeare, who also benefitted from the poetically-charged atmosphere of the English College, Watson would become a profound & prolific poet. In a verse preface to his Latin version of the Antigone (1581) he gives us a little gloss concerning his life;

I spent seven or eight years far from my homeland, and learned to speak in diverse tongues. Then I became well versed in Italy’s language and manners, and also thy our tongue and ways, learned France. Wherever I was wafted, I cultivated the Muses as best I could

It seems very much that Watson’s time on the continent was a surreptitious escapade in Catholic scholarship. It is also likely that he met the Italian Jesuit Metteo Ricci during this period, for a system of local memory training Watson would publish as a treatise in 1585 was identical to the one used by Matteo to wow the Chinese when he was there.

the year after he went to Paris, Watson is back in Douay, where we read ‘August: on the seventh day Master Watson, Master Robinson, Master Griffith, and some others left for England because of the riots.’ On his return to England, Watson was living in Westminster, where he began to write poems for his ‘Passionate Century of Love’ (1582) – the first significant sonnet sequence of the age. These sonnets were actually three comblended sestets – ABABCC – the form which Shakespeare would us for his Venus & Adonis. Indeed, in the Polimanteia (1595) a certain WC describes a ‘Wanton Adonis’  (Shakespeare had just published Venus & Adonis) as ‘Watson’s heyre.’  In addition, Watson’s 1585 Latin poem, Amyntas, ends with their heroes transforming into flowers (as in V&A), while Watson’s translation of Coluthus’ erotic Raprus Helenae (1586) may also have influenced the poem.

By 1589 Watson had become the tutor to John Cornwallis, son of William, a high-ranking, yet Catholic, advocate of the Queen’s Bench. William Cornwallis described Watson as being able to, ‘deuise twenty fictions and knaveryes in a play, which was his daily practyse and his liuing.’ Watson’s theatrical bent is confirmed in the Palladis Tamia of Francis Meres in 1598, which places him among such eminent company as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Drayton, Johnson & Kyd as being ‘our best for tragedie.’  Only one of Watson’s plays survives, from 1589, called ‘The Trewe Misterie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke’ with its obvious Shakesperean connotations.  That Shakespeare was actually Watson’s friend can be discerned thro’ analyzing a line in sonnet 32, the full text of which reads;

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,
And though they be outstripped by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love.

The key line is ‘march in ranks of better equipage’ which connects to a statement by Nash, in his preface to Greene’s Menaphon (1589) which expresses that Watson’s works, ‘march in equipage of honour.‘ Watson died in 1592, & if I am right, then this sonnet was written after that occasion, & when Shakespeare writes, ‘had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age, A dearer birth than this his love had brought, To march in ranks of better equipage: But since he died and poets better prove, Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love,’ he is stating that tho’ better exist than Watson, the love he professes in his poetry is worth emulating.

download (1)

In the National Archives there is the Prerogative Court of Canterbury copy of the will of Sir William Cornwallis, from 1611, which tells us that he became owner of an enormous mansion known as Fisher’s Folly in 1588, on the site of the present Devonshire Square. Described as a huge structure with ‘gardens of pleasure, bowling-alleys and the like,’ it had up til then been in possession of the Earl Of Oxford, who made the place the, ‘headquarters for the school of poets and dramatists who openly acknowledged his patronage and leadership,’ a fertile breeding ground indeed. In 1588, Cornwallis’ daughter, Anne, became the transcriber of a short anthology of sixteenth century poetry known as the Cornwallis-Lysons manuscript. This leather-bound quarto bears the large feminine signature, “Anne Cornwaleys her booke,” & contains an attribution to a certain WS. After coming into the possession of James Orchard Halliwell in 1852. He soon became convinced that one poem in particular would appear as Shakespeare’s in the 1599 collection of poems attributed to Shakespeare known as the Passionate Pilgrim.

Now hoe, inoughe, too much I fear;
For if my ladye heare this songe,
She will not sticke to ringe my eare,
To teache my tongue to be soe longe;
Yet would she blushe, here be it saide,
To heare her secrets thus bewrayede.
Cornwallis-Lysons

But soft; enough, too much I fear,
Lest that my mistress hear my song;
She’ll not stick to round me i’ the ear,
To teach my tongue to be so long:
Yet will she blush, here be it said,
To hear her secrets so bewray’d.
Poem XIX, The Passionate Pilgrim

1588
SEPTEMBER
Shakespeare in court

On Michalemas (September 29th), 1588, the Court of Common Pleas in London heard a case between William Burbage of Stratford and John Shakespeare, the poet’s father. The matter concerned was John Shakespeare’s remortgaged property at Wilmcote. John Lambert had taken on the property, but had refused to pay £20 that he owed our poet’s father. This saw John Shakespeare 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…”

What is 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 very ambassador in Constantinople where we have placed William Shakespeare. Scholars have brushed over John Harborne, imagining there to be no relevance in the quest for the historical Shakespeare. That Harborne’s father was an ambassador in Constantinople would have been irrelevant, for the academic community has scoffed at Shakespeare’s presence in Italy, let alone Turkey. Instead, it is through John Harborne that we gain support for the Shakespeare–Stanley–Constantinople factochain. Harborne was trained at Clement’s Inn, & he seems to be satirised as Justice Shallow in Henry IV Part 1, who is also 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 was 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.

the-arte-of-english-poesie-by-george-puttenham-title-page-1589-english-ERGXJH

1588
AUTUMN
Shakespeare gets to work

On his return to England, Shakespeare began to convert all the materials he had collected on his travels into theatrical gold dust. His mind would have been burgeoning with ideas; a few rough sketches of scenes & storylines, & perhaps a number of drafted passages of poetic speech, for in the words of William Wordsworth, ‘poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.’ In 1588, George Puttenham entered his Arte of English Poesie at the Stationers’ Hall, published by Richard Field the following year, which Shakespeare was definitely familiar with. WL Rushton has identified over 200 literary links between Puttenham’s Arte & the works of Shakespeare, & 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

As Shakespeare entered his mid-twenties in April 1588, his dramatic muse was starting to explode in lights & sound & colour. Our budding bard would have been inspired by the growing popularity of the profession; the likes of Thomas Kyd, whose Spanish Tragedy had just taken London by storm, & Christopher Marlowe, the writer of such fantastic pieces as Dido, Queen of Carthage, Tamburlaine the Great, & Doctor Faustus. Of Shakespeare’s ease of composition, ‘Ben Jonson writes, ‘I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line.’

download (2)

The keen-eyed Shakespearian scholar, TW Baldwin, highlights allusions in the Comedy of Errors play to the Armada & Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, which was published in 1588. There is also a clever pun about France, ‘making war against her hair,‘ referring to the civil war fought in 1589 in which Henry of Navarre allied with King Henry III of France following a public uprising over the French king’s assassination of the Duke of Guise. Baldwin points to 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 separated 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.’

 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.’ To this, Clare Asquith adds, ‘now the first and dominant conviction at which we arrive in a rapid reading of the text is that Loves Labours Lost was written as a topical play; that it bristles throughout with topical allusion; and that most, if not all, of its characters were meant by shakespeare to be portraits or caricatures of living persons.’ The name ‘Armardo’ is a clear reference to the armada, while the play also makes reference to the Martin Marprelate controversy which raged from 1588-89.

15419711_1339120979432393_5482233092806334365_o

1588-89
CHRISTMAS
Shakespeare at Knowsley

The Stanleys were Oxford University boys, & would had grown up with the long-standing 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 – were 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 of 1588-89, two different plays were acted to a great pantheon of northern dignitaries. The Household Accounts book describe the events of the theatrical festive seasons;

29 December 1588 – 4th January 1589

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 get the idea that Shakespeare was also in the vicinity. The play would have been performed in the Derby’s private theatre at Knowsley, which survived until 1902 as ‘Flatiron House.’ It had been built on the waste by Richard Harrington, a tennant of Prescot Hall, of which place 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.’ 

Other visitors that Christmas include some of the most important men in the north of England, such as 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

The key information here is that a second play was performed on the evening of 5th January –  a time known to the Church of England as ‘Twelfth Night.’ A similar timed performance was played at court & recorded as, ‘1583. Jan. 5. A mask of iiadies on Twelfth Eve.’

Looking at the Shakespearean ouevre, it makes sense that his early-feeling Twelfth Night was played on this occasion. Samuel Pepys recorded on January 6th, 1662; ‘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.’ There is another ‘lost play of Shakespeare’s, whose nsole mention comes in the 1598 Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury, by Francis Meres. The passage basically tells us what Shakespeare had produced by that time;

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.

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. Loves Labours Lost would have been performed at Christmas, with Love’s Labours Won/Twelfth Night being performed on the evening of January 5th.  Stylistically & linguistically, the frantic energetic comedy of Love’s Labours Won/Twelfth Night resembles the Comedy of Errors, which we have dated to 1588. Twelfth night is also full of sexually unusual pairings, a feast of homerotic feelings erupting from its chief author & its muse, who seem mirrored in the absolute bonding between Antonio & Sebastian. There are many subtextual echoes of the sonnets in Twelfth Night, especially in its handling of the humiliation of rejected love. Interestingly, the romantic wool seems to have fallen from Antonio’s eyes, whose god seems now more of a ‘vile idol.’ There is also an echo of the sonnets’ menage a Trois in the Orsino, his boy & his lady triangle.

Sebastian & Antonio
Sebastian & Antonio

As for Loves Labours Lost, ‘it abounds in jokes for the elect,’ writes Alfred Harbage,’ 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.’  When we observe tthere are a number of nods to the Stanleys throughout the play, surely we can answer Mr Harbage’s question. The play contains, for example, several references to the eagle; an important Stanley symbol as found on the family crest to the Eagle Tower at Latham.

What peremptory eagle-sighted eye
Dares looke upon the heaven of her brow
That is not blinded by her majestie

Earl Henry would loved to have heard about his beloved Navarre, the play’s setting, while Ferdinando would have been amused by his name being used as the main character. The Stanley household would have noticed that Malvolio was based upon steward, William Farrington. The play also contains a masque – the Nine Worthies – identical to the one performed annually at nearby Chester. This gives us a firm link to William Stanley, whose tutor, Richard Lloyd, wrote, ‘A brief discourse of the most renowned acts and right valiant conquests of those puissant Princes called the Nine Worthies.’ Shakespeare must have seen Lloyd’s mask at some point in order to import the songs into his own play.

There is an extremely famous & charming 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?

The composition of LLL would have taken place not long after Shakespeare had experienced the turmoil of his Turkish menage a trois as depicted in his sonnets. This explains how the Dark Lady of the sonnets found her way into LLL, when the beauties of a certain sable-skinned lady called ‘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.

the_royal_shakespeare_theatre_auditorium_2010_peter_cook_c_rsc_11013.tmb-img-912

1589
SPRING
Shakespeare joins the Queen’s Players

The parallels between Shakespeare’s plays & the Queen’s plays,’ writes Terence G Schoone-Jongen, ‘are substantial & intricate,’ & that Shakespeare was a member of the Queen’s Players seems likely. A number of their recorded plays were rewritten by Shakespeare, with lines & phrases popping all across the his extensive ouvre. Where the Queen’s Players produced & acted in Richard III & King Leir, so Shakespeare wrote a version of Richard III & the slightly differently spelt King Lear. Where The Two Gentlemen of Verona shares much with the Queen’s Players’ Felix & Philomena, so the playlet of the mechanicals in Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream bears a strong resemblance to the Players’ Clyomon and Clamydes. Likewise, while The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth forms the entire foundation for the material of 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V; their Troublesome Reign of King John is simply a redaction of Shakespeare’s King John. So much so, that in the 1611 quarto printing of the Troublesome Reign, the authorship was assigned to ‘W. Sh’ which was elongated in the 1622 printing into ‘W. Shakespeare.

Among the many similarities which have been observ’d, Launce’s rebuking of his dog, Crab, in Two Gentlemen, finds a precedent in Sir Clyomon & Sir Clamydes. Regarding the two Leirs, Sir Walter Greg suggested that, ‘ideas, phrases, cadences from the old play still floated in his memory below the level of conscious thought, &… now & again one or another helped to fashion the words that flowed from his pen.’ Elsewhere, Brian Walsh remarks on Shakespeare’s acute familiarity with the ‘recitation of genealogy from plays in the Queen’s Men repertory,’ & also observes how Shakespeare’s King John keeps the line, ‘For that my grandsire was an Englishman,’ & the Hamlets share, ‘the screeking Raven sits croking for revenge.’ We have also seen how Richard Tarleton died in September 1588, a West Midlands lad just like Shakespeare, he could well be creoshisped into the court jester Yorrick in Hamlet, to whose skull is spoken the the famous line, ‘alas poor Yorick, I knew him so well.

1589
SUMMER
Shakespeare gets involved with the Blackfriars Theatre

Blackfriars2

All his life Shakespeare would be involved in all aspects of the stage, taking part shares in theatres, writing the bloody plays, & even acting them. He was Mr. Theatre. His first venture into the financial side of things was in 1589, when he took a share in the Blackfriars Theatre. Evidence came through a manuscript which passed into the hands of Lord Ellesmere, then attorney-general, turning up in the 1840s at Bridgewater House. The manuscript reveals how Shakespeare’s name stands twelfth in the enumeration of the members of the company;

These are to certifie your right Honble Lordships, that her majesty’s poore playeres, James Burbadge, Richard Burbadge, John Laneham, Thomas Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. Wadeson, Thomas Pope, George Peele, Augustine Phillipps, Nicholas Towley, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, & Robert Armyn, being all of them sharers in the black Fryers playehouse, have never given cause of displeasure, in that they have brought into their playes maters of state & Religion, unfitt to be handled by them, or to be presentved before lewde spectators: neither hath anie complaynte in that kinde ever bene preferrd against them, or anie of them. Wherefore, they trust most humblie in your Lordships consideration of their former good behaviour, being at all tymes readie, & willing, to yeelde obedience to any command whatsoever your Lordships in your wisdome may thinke in such case meete, &c.

1589
SUMMER
Shakespeare reads out Venus & Adonis

One hot summer’s day in London 1589, perhaps on the lawn of Fisher’s Folly, Shakespeare was reading Venus & Adonis to a select crowd. He would have turned 25 – a fun-loving age if ever there was one – & drunken evenings filled with the early stanzas of Shakespeare’s erotic masterpiece would have been great fun to have attended. One man that did hear the poem was Thomas Lodge, whose 1589 poem ‘Scillaes Metamorphosis,’ has many captivating echoes of V&A. Lodge also spent time in the Earl of Derby’s household in the same decade, which ensures his admission into the private circle about Stanley & Shakespeare. As for his ‘Scillaes Metamorphosis, Shakespeare’s words are taken almost wholesale;

But like a stormy day, now wind, now rain,
Sighs dry her cheeks V&A

And when my tears had ceas’d their stormy shower
He dried my cheeks Lodge

Sometimes she shakes her head, and then his hand,
Sometime her arms infold him like a band  V&A

Some chafe his temples with their lovely hands,
Some weep, some wake, some curse affection’s bands Lodge

Lodge’s poem uses the same 6-lined stanza & rhyme scheme of Venus & Adonis, & even pays tribute to Shakespeare’s master-class with the following stanzas;

He that hath seen the sweet Arcadian boy
Wiping the purple from his forced wound,
His pretty tears betokening his annoy,
His sighs, his cries, his falling on the ground,
The echoes ringing from the rocks his fall,
The trees with tears reporting of his thrall:

And Venus starting at her love-mate’s cry,
Forcing her birds to haste her chariot on;
And full of grief at last with piteous eye
Seeing where all pale with death he lay alone,
Whose beauty quail’d, as wont the lilies droop
When wasteful winter winds do make them stoop:

Her dainty hand address’d to daw her dear,
Her roseal lip allied to his pale cheek,
Her sighs, and then her looks and heavy cheer,
Her bitter threats, and then her passions meek;
How on his senseless corpse she lay a-crying,
As if the boy were then but new a-dying.

1589
AUGUST-SEPTEMBER
Shakespeare tours with the Queen’s Players

Richard Tarleton
Richard Tarleton

Since their formation in 1583, the Queen’s Players had been the leading troupe of actors in the land, travelling widely, & also performing at court over the prestigious festive season. One of its principle members was the not physically attractive, yet highly acclaimed comic actor, Richard Tarelton. After his death in Shoreditch in September 1588, the company was a man down, which at some point in the coming months would be filled by William Shakespeare. Coincidence or not, a certain trustee of Tarleton’s will, William Johnson, would one day become a trustee on Shakespeare’s purchase of a house in Blackfriars.

Shakespeare joined the Queen’s Players at a time when they sometimes divided into sub-troupes. ‘By 1589,’ writes Terence G Schoone-Jongen, ‘each branch – one apparently led by John & Laurence Dutton, the other by John Laneham – was sometimes identified by its leader as well as patron. Initially, the divided branches may have been a touring practice.’ An entry in the Ancient Treasury Book of Dublin reveals that in 1589, four pounds was paid to troupes called The Queen’s Players and The Queen and Earl of Essex Players ‘for showing their sports.’ These two troupes then travel to Knowsley, where the Queen’s Men performed in the evening of 6th Sept. and in the afternoon of 7th Sept., and then Essex’s players performed in the evening of 7th Sept.

1589
SEPTEMBER
The Queen’s Players are sent to the court of King James

King James VI of Scotland clearly loved the theatre, surrounded himself with artists and musicians, collectively known as the Castalian Band, & composed many quite decent poems of his own. Thus enamour’d with the literary arts, to help celebrate his upcoming marriage to a princess of Denmark called Anna, he asked Queen Elizabeth of England if he could borrow some of her actors. It is her majesty’s granting of her royal cousin’s request that begins Shakespeare’s first visit to Scotland. The statement of the Revels tells us in September 1589 money was paid; ‘ for the furnishing of a mask for six maskers and six torchbearers, and of such persons as were to utter speeches at the shewing of the same maske, sent into Scotland to the King of Scotts mariage, by her Majestieís commanundement.’ We are here going to place William Shakespeare as one of the ‘six maskers,’ ie a member of one of the half-troupes into which the Queen’s Players sometimes divided.

Not long after the request, the governor of Carlisle, Baron Scroop of Bolton, found himself involv’d. This shows that Shakespeare was in Carlisle on September 20th. After the request had reached Knowsley, & after their last performance there on the afternoon of the 7th, it seems that it took the Queen’s Players three days to travel the 100 miles or so between Knowsley & Carlisle by the 10th September.

After my verie hartie comendacions: vpon a letter receyved from Mr. Roger Asheton, signifying vnto me that yt was the kinges earnest desire for to have her Majesties players for to repayer into Scotland to his grace : I dyd furthwith dispatche a servant of my owen unto them wheir they were in the furthest part of Langkeshire, wherevpon they made their returne heather to Carliell, wher they are, and have stayed for the space of ten dayes, whereof I thought good to gyve yow notice in the respect of the great desyre that the king had to have the same Come unto his grace: And withall to praye yow to gyve knowledg therof to his Majestie. So for the present, I bydd yow right hartelie farewell

Carlisle
The xxth of Septemre, 1589
Yowr verie assured loving friend
H Scrope

 

1589
OCTOBER
Shakespeare in Scotland

Because of stormy seas, Princess Anna could not make the treacherous crossing of the North Sea, & James had camped up at Seton Castle to watch the Firth of Forth for any ships from Denmark. A letter from William Asheby to Walsingham. [Sept. 8, 1589) reads;

With the first wind the Queen is expected out of Denmark. It is thought that she embarked about the 2nd instant, but that contrary winds keep the fleet back. Great preparation is made at Leith to receive her, and to lodge her till the solemnity, which shall be twelve days after her arrival. The King is at Seaton till her arrival.

A very impatient & romantically-minded James decided instead to risk the crossing & marry his young bride in Norway instead. With him went Shakespeare, but before they sailed from Leith on October 24th, Shakespeare clearly spent time perusing the Royal Library in Edinburgh. It is that place that the single manuscript copy of William Stewart’s Chronicle of Scotland. 43,000 lines long, and written in the Scottish vernacular, there are positive parrallels with Macbeth, including one of sixty-five lines which elucidates the murderous motives of Macbeth and his wife. Wilson notes that, ‘Boece and Holinshed have nothing corresponding to this, and yet how well it sums up the pity of Macbeth’s fall as Shakespeare represents it.’ Another chronicle-marker is a 26 line tirade by Lady Macbeth as she taunts her husband as being a coward and unmanly and breaking his vow to seek the crown (1.7.36–61). ‘In every case in which Stewart differs from Holinshed,’ says Stopes, ‘Shakespeare follows Stewart.’

images (1)

Other source for Macbeth which Shakespeare studied in the Royal Scottish Library include Andrew Wyntoun’s metrical ‘Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland’ & the ‘Flyting betwixt Montgomerie and Polwart,’ which contains the three wyrd sisters. In this poem, after their cursings come to a close, they begin to speak to each in turn, just as they deliver their prophecies in Macbeth.

The first said, ‘surelie of a shot;’
The second, ‘of a running knot;’
The third, ‘be throwing of the throate,
Like a tyke ouer a tree.

1589
OCTOBER
Shakespeare sails to Norway

That Shakespeare & the Queen’s Players went with James in the large wedding entourage can be discerned through an epigram in John Davies of Hereford’s The Scourge of Folly (c.1610). Dedicated to, ‘our English Terence Mr. Will: Shake-speare,’  it begins;

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

Scholars have scratched their heads over this passage for centuries, but there is a starkness to it which fits with consummate ease into Shakespeare & the Queen’s Player’s accompanying King James VI to Denmark. On October 30th James landed at Flekkefjord in Norway. He and his entourage then proceeded to Oslo. In the Danish Account of the day, translated by Peter Graves, we may observe how Shakespeare first became acquainted with the figure who be creochisped into ‘Hamlet’ as Guildenstern, the friend of Rosencrantz.

When his majesty arrived, he went to to Old Bishop’s palace to meet her ladyship. this was the order of the procession: first walked two Scottish noblemen (who were his majesty’s heralds) each bearing a white stick as a sign of peace; next came Steen Brahe, Henning Gioye, Axel Gyldenstierne, Hans Pederson, Ove Juel, Captain Noimand & Peter Iversen; then came his majesty between the Scottish earl & another Scottish lord; after them came the king’s courtiers & the Scottish nobility, all with their hats in their hands

As for Rosencrantz, he would have been about somewhere, for among the Danish signatories to the prenuptual demands made by Scottish enjoys on behalf of the king (9th July 1589), we may observe a certain ‘Jørgen Rozenkrantz.’

1589-90
WINTER
Shakespeare visits Kronborg Castle

James and Anne wre married November 23rd, after which most of the entourage returned to Scotland, but others – including Shakespeare – accompanied the royal couple to Kronborg Castle in Denmark from where, wrote James, ‘we are drinking & dryving (killing time) in the auld manner.’ Kronborg is the very place in which Hamlet as we know it was set, yet the original story as given by Saxo Grammaticus, shows how Hamlet’s father was the govenore of Jutland – Kronborg, however, is on Zealand.

download1I am inclined to think that during his visit to Denmark, Shakespeare began to revise his Hamlet, adding genuine on-the-spot location stuff to an earlier verision of the play. Shakespeare’s presence at Kronborg as part of a wandering troupe of players seems to echo out into Hamlet’s famous ‘play-within-the-play.’ In this passage from Hamlet, the traveling players enact a ‘Dumb-Show;’

Enter a King and a Queen, very lovingly: the Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the Kingís ears, and exit. The Queen returns;  finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts; she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love.

Just as Hamlet’s father, the King in the Dumb-Show, was murdered by having poison administered to his ear, in a similar fashion a French surgeon, Ambrosie Parex, was suspected of killing the French King, Francis II, by giving him an ear infection during the course of treatment. Francis, of course, was the first husband of James’ mother, Mary Queen of Scots. It must be noted that while some of the Queen’s Players are in Denmark, the others are performing over the festive season for Queen Elizabeth, where for a performance at Richmond court on the 26th December, they recieved the princely sum of £20.

 

1590
SPRING
Shakespeare returns to Scotland

Later in 1590, James returned to Scotland with his new wife. During the coronation ceremonies, the mask ordered by James the previous September finally got its chance to be aired. Although Shakespeare is not mentioned by name, the clothes He & his five other maskers are, as given in Lansd.MSS 59.

A maske of six coates of purple gold tinsell, garded with purple & black clothe of silver striped. Bases of crimson clothe of gold, with pendants of maled purple silver tinsell. Twoe paire of sleves to the same of red cloth of gold, & four paire of sleves to the same of white clothe of copper, silvered. Six partletts of purplee clothe of silver knotted/ Six hed peces, whereof foure of clothe of gold, knotted, & twoe of purple clothe of gold braunched. Six fethers to the same hed peces. Six mantles, whereof four of oringe clothe of gold braunched, & twoe of purple & white clot of silver braunched. Six vizardes, & siz fawchins guilded.

Six cassocks for torche bearers of damaske; three of yellowe, & three of red, garded with red & yellow damaske counterchaunged. Six paire of hose of damaske; three of yellow, & three of red, garded with red & yellowe damaske counterchaunged. Six hatts of crimson clothe of gold, & six fethers to the same. Six vizardes.

Four heares of silke, & four garlandes of flowers, for the attire of them that are to utter certaine speeches at the shewing of the same maske.

The mask may have been part of the luscious celebrations made during the procession up the royal mile made by the new queen, or perhaps performed at the festivities in Edinburgh castle. That Shakespeare was under the Stuart wing at this time seems to reflect itself into Macbeth again, in particular the 1590 witch trials of Denmark & North Berwick, near Edinburgh. The poor ‘witches’ had been given the blame for the bad weather keeping Anna from James, & also the terrible storms they had to endure on the return voyage. No-one dared to mention it had actually been Winter, & so more than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick were arrested, and many confessed under torture to having met with the Devil in the church at night, and devoted themselves to doing evil, including poisoning the King and other members of his household, and attempting to sink the King’s ship. In Macbeth, Shakespeare adapted many concepts from the trials, including the rituals confessed by the witches & the borrowing of  quotes from the treaties, such as spells, ‘purposely to be cassin into the sea to raise winds for destruction of ships.’

1590
AUTUMN
Shakespeare in Titchfield

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton

According to Aubrey,  Shakespeare had been, ‘in his younger yeares a schoolmaster in the countrey.’ On returning to Britain in 1590, Shakespeare’s ‘younger years’ are running out somewhat, & we only have two more years to go until he is a smash-hot dramatist & the talk of all London. There is a trail that does lead to a possibility of Shakespeare tutoring a younger person, for in 1594 our bard would dedicate venus & Adonis to Henry Wriothesley, the young Earl of Southampton. Nicholas Rowe describes how Shakespeare, ‘had the honour to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favour and friendship from the Earl of Southampton, famous in the histories of that time for his friendship to the unfortunate Earl of Essex.’ Rowe adds;

There is one instance so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakespeare’s, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William D’Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted, that my Lord Southampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great and very rare at any time, and almost equal to that profuse generosity the present age has shown to French dancers and Italian eunuchs

In 1590 Edmund Spenser had settled for a while near Alton in Hampshire, with Samuel Woodford telling Aubrey how ‘Mr. Spenser lived sometime in these parts, in this delicate sweet air; where he enjoyed his muse, and wrote a good part of his verses.’ Some of these verses were included volume of poems called The Tears of the Muses, registered on the 29th December, 1590. They were dedicated to a relation, Alice Spencer of Althorp, who had married Ferdinando Stanley, with Spenser referring in his dedication to, ‘some private bands of affinity which it hath pleased your ladyship to acknowledge.’ In one of the stanzas we see the return of the very ‘Willy’ who inhabited Spenser’s Calendar.

And he, the man, whom Nature self had mad
To mock herself, and Truth to imitate,
With kindly counter under mimic shade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah! is dead of late:
With whom all joy and jolly merriment
Is also deaded, and in dolour drent.

But that same gentle spirit, from whose pen
Large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow
Scorning the boldness of such base-born men,
Which dare their follies forth so rashly throw;
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell,
Than so himself to mockery to sell

Spenser’s ‘large streams of honey and sweet nectar,’ is reminiscent of Francis Meres own description of Shakespeare, in the Palladis Tamia: Wit’s Treasury, as ‘the witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous & honey-tongued Shakespeare.’ That Shakespeare was dead of late indicates he is between creative periods, while the ‘cell’ mentioned by Spenser points to Shakespeare having taken up the position of tutoring the Earl of Southampton. Fresh from Cambridge, he was spending the summer only twenty five miles away in Titchfield, where his mother, Countess Mary, was in residence in Titchfield House. Plans of 1737 show a large room on the upper level of Titchfield House labelled as ‘Play House Room,’

1591
Shakespeare’s creative output

Despite Spenser assuming Shakespeare was ‘dead of late,’ in reality our bard was working on The Taming of the Shrew, & the cycle of History plays which would soon be making his name & fame. Henry VI had married Margaret Anjou in Titchfield Abbey in 1445, which is of course relevant, while his relationship with the Stanleys cemented the theme of his pro-Tudor dramatical paeans. ‘There is general agreement, writes Lefranc, ‘that Shakespeare, in the historical dramas he devoted to the wars of the Roses, in spite of his usual impartiality, shows himself Lancastrian.‘ Similarily, Honigmann relates that, ‘Shakespeare rearranged history so as to make Stanley’s services to the incoming Tudor dynasty seem more momentous than they really were.’ The Stanleys had helped Henry VII gain victory on the fields of Bosworth back in 1485, earning them great earldom of the north in the process. The first Earl of Derby, Thomas Stanley, was even said to have crowned Henry on the battlefield;

Then therle of Darby without taking more reade, Straighte set the crowne on King Harry the Seaventh his heade The Rawlinson Poet

The coat of arms can be seen on Shakespeare’s monument, above his grave in Holy Trinity Church, and versions of it can be seen on Shakespeare’s Birthplace, above the entrance to the Shakespeare Centre and at Shakespeare's New Place.
The coat of arms can be seen on Shakespeare’s monument, above his grave in Holy Trinity Church, and versions of it can be seen on Shakespeare’s Birthplace, above the entrance to the Shakespeare Centre and at Shakespeare’s New Place.

Shakespeare’s own great-grandfather also fought at Bosworth a fact we know through a record made by Shakespeare’s father when he applied to the College of Heralds for a family coat of arms in 1596. A draft prepared by William Dethick, the garter king-of-arms, declared by ‘credible report’ that John Shakespeare’s, ‘parentes & late antecessors were for their valeant & faithfull service advanced & rewarded by the most prudent prince King Henry the seventh of famous memorie, sythence whiche tyme they have contiewed at those partes in good reputacion & credit.’ One imagines a solid & immutable bond between Shakespeare & the Stanleys, based upon sharing such a seminal event in their ancestral history. As the years progressed, the bard & his sponsors would have conversed upon many occasions; great fuel for the epic Historical Cycle that Shakespeare was destined to write. ‘Richard the Third,’ writes Richard Wilson, ‘is constructed around a series of tributes to the Stanleys that exaggerates their importance in the invasion of 1485 which brought the Tudors to power.’

The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare’s hilarious man versus woman romcom, with its spectacular ‘Kiss Me Kate’ conclusion, seems to have been written before 1592. In Antony Chute’s poem Beawtie Dishonoured written under the title of Shores Wife (printed 1593) we read ‘He calls his Kate and she must come and kisse him.’ There are, in fact, two versions of the play –Taming of a Shrew & Taming of the Shrew. Of these, the first is set in Greece, & Shakespeare’s version is set in Italy, suggesting a relocation by our Italy-loving bard. In A Shrew there is a stage direction of Enter Simon, Alphonsus. Since the play’s character ‘Simon’ is already on stage, we may presume that Simon was the real name of ‘Alfonsus’, thus making him Simon Jewell of the Queen’s Players who died in August 1592. We may also discern verbal parallels between ‘A Knack to Know a Knave’ and both Shrew plays. A Knack was first performed by Strange’s Men at the Rose on 10 June 1592 and marked ‘ne’ (meaning ‘new’) in Henslowe’s diary.

1592
FEBRUARY
The Battle of Alcazar

In early 1592, it seems that one of the plays he had work’d on with Stanley on the Continental tour was also being prepared for performance. When in North Africa, Shakespeare would have listened to tales of the Battle of Ksar El Kebir, fought in northern Morocco on the 4th of August 1578. Brian Vickers shows the numerous verbal echoes between the co-authored parts of Titus Andronicus & the Battell of Alcazar. Macdonald P Jackson (1996) has highighted quite expertly how the weird formalities of the first Act of Titus are mirrored by those of the Battle of Alcazar, while Vickers highlights the highly similar double consonantal alliteration found in Titus & Alcazar

Honor the spurre that prickes the princely minde
Blacke in his looke, & bloudie in his deeds Titus

Give us the proudest prisoner of the Goths
But if you hunt these bear-whelps then beware Alcazar

‘The Battell of Alcazar,’ was more properly titled, as printed in its quarto edition, ‘The Battell of Alcazar, fought in Barbarie, between Sebastian king of Portugal, and Abdelmelec king of Marocco.’ Topical references to the Armada suggest the play was written 1588-1589. One of the characters in the pay is called ‘Muly Molucco,’ & a play going by that very name was first performed by Lord Strange’s Men on the 21 February 1592.

shakespeare

1592
MARCH
A Star is Born

 In the March of 1592, the world at large became witness to Henry VI part 1, performed by Ferdinando Stanley’s Lord Strange’s Men. After an unprecedented six performaces at court over the winter season,  they began playing in the capital’s theatres, including the Rose, which opened on February 19th, 1592. In his diary, the Rose’s theatre manager, Philip Henslowe recorded quite succinctly that on the 3rd March 1592,  he had seen a ‘ne’ play called ‘Harey the vj.’ This was one of only 105 performances of 24 different plays performed by Lord Strange’s Men between 19 February & 22 June 1592. In the August of that year, when in his Pierce Penniless, Thomas Nashe refers to a play he had recently seen which featured a rousing depiction of Lord Talbot, a major character in Henry VI part 1, supporting the hyperfact that ‘Harey the vj’ was indeed Henry VI part 1.

The paying public would have been amazed, & with this play & its prequels/sequels, Shakespeare thrust himself onto the public imagination in much the same way George Lucas did with his Star Wars trilogy. Takings for the run were three pounds, sixteen shillings & eightpence, which equates to 16,444 pennies in the ‘box’ – a clear hit! There was a new kid on the block, with this box-office smash, Shakespeare began his journey to the highest peaks of fame.

1592
SUMMER
Shakespeare attacked by Greene

Shakespeare’s plays were clearly a hit, but true fame is laced with a bit of envious spite, thus enter fellow playwright, Robert Greene. Writing practically on his deathbed in his Groatsworth of Wit, he vilifies Shakespeare as, ‘an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.’  By parodying Shakespeare’s line ‘O tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide,’ (Henry VI, part 3), it is clear Greene is alluding to Shakespeare in quite jealous tones. In the same pamphlet, Greene castigates Shakespeare & Thomas Kyd with, ‘it is pity men of such rare wits [Nashe, Marlowe and Peele] should be subject to the pleasures of such rude grooms.’ On their formation in 1583, the Queen’s Players were given the title, ‘grooms of the chamber.’ This provides further eevidence to place Shakespeare with Her Majesty’s players.

The old order was dying – Greene passed away on the 2nd September – & a completely new theater was springing up about the marvellous & remarkable quill of an ‘uneducated’ Warwickshire yeoman. By the end of the year, even Greene’s publisher was climbing aboard the bandwagon, when in a preface to Kind-Harts Dreame by Henry Chettle, we find;

220px-greenes-groats-worthAbout three moneths since died M. Robert Greene, leauing many papers in sundry Booke sellers hands, among other his Groatsworth of wit, in which a letter written to diuers play-makers, is offensively by one or two of them taken, and because on the dead they cannot be auenged, they wilfully forge in their concietes a liuing Author: and after tossing it two and fro, no remedy, but it must light on me. How I haue all the time of my conuersing in printing hindred the bitter inueying against schollers, it hath been very well knowne, and how in that I dealt I can sufficiently prooue. With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them I care not if I neuer be: The other, whome at that time I did not so much spare, as since I wish I had, for that as I haue moderated the heate of liuing writers, and might haue vsde my owne discretion, (especially in such a case) the Author beeing dead, that I did not, I am as very, as if the originall fault had beene my fault, because my selfe haue scene his demeanor no lesse ciuill than he exclent in the qualitie he professes: Besides, diuers of worship haue reported, his vprightnes of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writting, that aprooues his Art. For the first, whose learning I reuerence, and at the perusing of Greenes Booke stroke out what then in conscience I thought he in some displeasure writ; or had it beene true, yet to publish it, was intollerable: him I would wish to vse me no worse than I deserue. I had onely in the copy this share, it was il written, as sometime Greenes hand was none of the best, licensd it must be, ere it could bee printed which could neuer be if it might not be read. To be breife I writ it ouer, and as neare as I could, followed the copy, onely in that letter I put something out, but in the whole booke not a worde in, for I protest it was all Greenes, not mine nor Master Nashes, as some unjustly haue affirmed.

It seems that Mister William Shakespeare, gent., had arrived, & at 28 his youth, his true youth, was over.

 

——————————————-

Next Wednesday, 21/03/18

Chapter 9:  The Badon Babel Tree

—————————-

chisp cover

CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

—————

THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang

Chispology 7 : The Young Shakespeare

 —————————————————————————————–

chisp cover

Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

 ————————————————-

In the Chisper Effect, I focuss’d my attention on the period of the Grand Tour undertaken by Shakespeare with the young English nobleman, William Stanley. Plunging in media res, I very much neglected to deposit any information as to how  Shakespeare ended up in such a situation. However, just as it was possible to trace Shakespearse course across the continent, so shall we be able to follow the course of Shakespeare’s youth up to the moment in 1585 when he finds himself in the retinue  the Earl of Derby, William Stanley’s father. An important key to unlocking the puzzle can be found with another of the great Elizabethan poets, Edmund Spenser of the Faerie Queen fame, to whom chispology may also unearth some long lost knowledge. As in the Chisper Effect I shall present the information in chronological order…

————————————–

1525: Shakespeare’s family lands

In 1525, Richard Shakespeare, our poet’s grandfather, possessed lands at a place called Wroxall, between Coventry & Birmingham. Eight miles to the north of Wroxall lies the manor of Meriden, known to have belonged to the Earl of Derby, who possessed, according to Thomas Aspden;

The ancient seats of Lathom and Knowsley, with all the houses, lands, castles, and appurtenances in Lancashire, Cumberland, Yorkshire, Cheshire, and many in Wales ; also the manor of Meriden, in the County of Warwick, with the old seat in Cannon Row, Westminster (afterwards called Derby Court), and also the advowson of the Parish Church of the Holy Trinity, in the city of Chester.

It is only a loose connection, but we can positively determine how the ‘antecessors’ Stanley & the Shakespeare were, in essence, nieghbours.

Image_3674

1552: Edmund Spenser born

Edmund Spenser was born to Lancastrian parents, but down in the nation’s capital. Spenser’s father, John, originally from the Burnley area (like me), had moved to London to seek work, appearing in the Merchant Taylor’s school annals as a free ‘journeyman, clothworker.’ In the Spenserian epoch, East Lancashire was simply teeming with Edmunds & John Spensers, the two names alternating from generation to generation, as seen in a will made by Margaret Spenser of Hurstwood in 1605;

Mary, Margaret, and ffrances Nutter daughters of the said Henry, Edmund Spenser son and heir of John Spenser, deceased, ” to him ” all my manure or worthinge,”  Henry Spencer base son of John Spenser, Nicholas Towne and Grace Towne now his wife ” “one churn one Masheknoppe” ” Mary Spenser daughter of John Spenser deceased, Richard Cowcrofte to whom I am Aunt, Henry Cowcrofte of Birchecliffe, John Spenser, of Hurstwood, Ellinor now his wife, Edmund Spenser son of the said John Spenser

In the gorgeous wee hamlet of Hurstwood, near Burnley, there is a tudor building known as ‘Spenser’s House’ still standing today. In and around Hurstwood, & at Extwistle-and-Briercliffe in Burnley, the Spensers, formerly Le Spensers, had long held property. In the Gentleman’s Magazine of August 1842, Dr Craik cites the research of a certain FC Spenser of Halifax, who declared;

The poet always spelt his surname with an s; and it appears from the registers that it was spelt in the same manner by the family at Hurstwood; not only in the reign of Elizabeth, but for a century afterwards; while even at Kildwick, near Skipton, only about ten or twelve miles distant, it is spelled with a c, in the manner as did, and do, the Spencers of Althorpe.

1557: John Shakespeare marries into the Arden family

Shakespeare’s father turns up in Stratford on June 17, 1556, brought to court by a certain Thomas Such for the recovery of £8. He is described as, ‘John Shakyspere of Stretforde, in the county of Warwick, glover.’ After three hearings that summer, the case was eventually dismissed when Thomas Such, ‘did not complete the action he embarked on.’ A year later he marries Mary Arden in Stratford-upon-Avon, whose family were staunch Catholics under a Catholic queen, Mary Tudor. The excellent essay, To Be or Not to Be (Catholic, That is),’ by Daniel Wackerman shows how Shakespeare’s maternal grandfather, Edward Arden, ‘was said to have secretly kept his own catholic priest, disguised as the family gardener,’ adding that Shakespeare’s mother, ‘made specific mention of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her will, a practice long out of fashion for all save Catholics in 16th-century England.’ It seems the old faith would never really leave their son, William, whom according to the Rev. Richard Davies, the rector of Sapperton (1695), ‘dyed a papist.’

1558: Familists

Mary Tudor died in November 1558. During her time as queen she had reversed her father’s establishment of the Protestant Church of England & ruled as a Catholic, burning a whole heap of Protestants along the way. Her sister & successor Elizabeth would re-establish her Henry VIII’s ‘Church of England,’ which at a stroke sent Catholic families such as the Ardens into secret worship once again. In the middle of this religious schizophrenia that was western Christendom in the 16th century, one sect fluttered about like a butterfy in a hurricane, preaching peace & unity of faith. The Familists were a radical, non-sectarian religious group known as the ‘Family of Love,’ who embraced both Catholics AND Protestants – the perfect alternative for the schismatic psyche of the Tudor state.  Familism began to take hold in England during the 1550s, led by a certain Christopher Vittels, who had been a disciple of the Dutch Familist leader, Henry Niclaes. Worshipping in secret, the Familists would conceal their true beliefs while putting on a show of conformity for the outside world. If they were ever outed, they would stringently deny it, realizing it was better to briefly lie & stay alive in order to continue the worship of God, rather than let pride lead them to the bonfire.

1559: The establishment of Douay University

The small town of Douay lies on the River Scarpe, twenty miles south of Lille in northern France. A flourishing, medieval conurbation; it had become stuffed full of English Catholics in exile, hoping to save their country from the ‘heathen’ protestant church. In1559 the town established a university, with its first chancellor being the exiled Dr. Richard Smith, former Fellow of Merton and regius professor of divinity at Oxford.

imgres1

 1560: John Shakespeare signs his Catholic Spiritual Testament

In the 18th century, in the rafters of the house on Henley Street, Stratford, was found ‘The Sacred Testament,’ a handwritten personal dedication to the Catholic faith, signed by Shakespeare’s father himself. That our bard at some point in his life encountered the Testament seems quite likely, based upon the strikingly similar parallels between Article I of the Testament and the Ghost’s words in Hamlet;

I may be possibly cut off in the blossom of my sins, and called to render an account of all my transgressions externally and internally, and that I may be unprepared for the dreadful trial either by sacrament, penance, fasting, or prayer, or any other purgation whatever
Testament

Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel’d, disappointed, unanel’d,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
Hamlet

In the Testament, where John Shakespeare beseeches,‘all my dear friends, parents, and kinsfolks,’ the pluralization of parents means the testament must have been made before 1561, the year when John’s father Richard, died.

1564: Birth of William Shakespeare

In April 1564, just as the season of spring was beginning to flood the British Isles with scent & colour, a certain Mary Shakespeare has just given birth to a boy. Holding her hand is her husband, John Shakespeare, excited at the prospect of their baby, but nervous as to whether he would survive the rigors of infancy. Their first two swaddling baby girls had pass’d away before they could walk, & it would have been with doubtless trepidation when ‘Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere’ was scribbl’d in the Baptismal record of Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church on the 26 April 1564. It turned out that John & Mary had no need to worry, even when three months later the plague struck Stratford. By the end of the year over 200 people had been buried, about one fifth of the population of the town, but thro’ fate or fortune baby Will survived the outbreak, & would eventually grow up into one of the finest young men in the kingdom.

1566: Sir John Townley imprisoned for Catholicism

This countri as yett is verie backward in religion’ wrote Thomas Mead,’they that have the sword in there handes vnder her maiestie to redresse abuses among vs, suffer it to rust in the scabarde,’. He was talking about Lancashire, probably the most staunchly Catholic county in England. Lancashire was a superstitious, underpopulated region, where almost all of the gentry refused to accept the new religion imposed on them by Henry VIII & his daughter Elizabeth. They were more than willing to pay fines to the state rather than join a parish congregation onto which a Genevan vicar had been foisted. Of these nobles, the most prolific offender was Sir John Townley of Towneley Hall, whose gorgeous mansion was situated in the most serendipitous grounds just to the south-east of Burnley.

Anybody who did not attend the regular Anglican services was termed a recusant, & Sir John was to be imprisoned several times for his open defiance, paying over £5000 in fines throughout his lifetime in order to avoid attending the Protestants. He would worship the Old Faith in secret at Towneley Hall – now a museum & art gallery – where one can still see the secret chambers where the Catholic priests were hidden. The hall also possesses a beautiful painting of Sir John Towneley sitting with his family, which is imbibed with the following inscription, dated to 1601.

This John, about the 6th or 7th year of her Majesty that now is, for professing the Apostolic Catholic Roman faith, was imprisoned first at Chester Castle, then sent to the Marshalsea, then to York Castle, then to the Blockhouses in Hull, then to the Gatehouse in Westminster, then to Manchester, then to Broughton in Oxfordshire, then twice to Ely in Cambridgeshire; and so now of 73 years old, and is bound to appear and keep within 5 miles of Townley his house; and who hath, since the statute of 23 Elizabeth, paid into the exchequer 20 the month and doth still, so that there is already paid above £5,000. A.D. thor.

1568: The English College founded in Douay

This year sees a bunch of Lancastrian Catholics make a sideways attempt at bringing their country back under the fold of the Vatican. The plan was to train up hundreds of Jesuit priests in Douay, who would return to England as the vanguard of a spiritual reconquista. The brains behind the scheme was a certain Lancastrian Catholic called William Allen, while funding for the college also came from Lancashire, where a certain gentleman called Thomas Hoghton diverted profits from his Alum mines to France. In a flash Douay was filled with cardinals, scholars & would-be priests, a hectic band whose sole purpose was to reclaim English spirituality in defiance of Protestant law. There would be blood, but there would be prayer.

Henley Street
Henley Street

1568: John Shakespeare becomes chief bailiff of Stratford

The first decade of William’s life saw his father grow in influence & affluence all about their home town. In July 1565 he was elected one of the 14 alderman of Stratford, becoming chief bailiff between the autumns of 1568 & 1569. It was on his watch that the Stratford corporation paid for its first ever set of travelling actors to perform in the town, the Queen’s Players. One can imagine the very young Shakespeare observing the theatrical spectacle for the first time, a lightning bolt of electricity which would sear his soul with the sheer wonder of it all.

1569: Death of Robert Nowell

 Another member of the Lancastrian Catholic community was Robert Nowell, a half-brother of Sir John Townley. Upon his death in 1569, to satisfy the requirements of the will both Sir John & Robert’s full brother, Alexander Nowell, distributed linen and woollen cloth among the poor of the parish-dwellers of Burnley. Among the ‘poor kynsfolkes’ who benefited from other parts of the will were Lyttis Nowell of Castle Parish in Clitheroe, who had married a certain Lawrence Spenser. Another Spenser to benefit would be our young poet down London, for Robert Nowell was also the headmaster of the Merchant’s School in which the young Spenser was attending. The 19th century antiquarian J McKay writes of the will;

At folio 25 there is an entry of ‘Gownes geven to certeyn poor scholler (s) of the scholls aboute London, in number 32, viz., St. Paul’s, Merchant Taylor’s, St Anthony’s Schole, St. Saviour’s Gramar Schole, & Westminster Schole. Cost of cloth, with making, xixll. Xs. Vijd.’ First on the list of the scholars of Merchant Taylors’ who recived these gifts stands ‘Edmunde Spenser.’

 1570+: Spenser enters Familist Circles

Throughout the 1570s, the writings of the de facto Familist leader, Henry Niclaeus, were translated by Christopher Vettels & disseminated throughout England. The brains behind the move, according to popular feeling at the time, were the Jesuits, whom the Welsh clergyman Meredith Hanmer (1543–1604) declared did ‘shaketh hands’ with their ‘brethren’ the Familists, a ‘detestable’ society of ‘like antiquity… who say that God is hominified in them & they deified in God.’ That a certain Dutch poet, Sir Jan van der Noot, was among their number can be discerned through his 1576 book, ‘Das Buch Extasis,’ which contains many Familist elements. In 1569 we gain the first hint of Spenser’s own connection to the group, for as a young man he became the English translator of der Noot’s ‘Theatre for Wordlings.’ Spenser admitted to such in 1591 when he reworked & reprinted the verses under his own name, stating them as being ‘formerly translated.’ Van der Noot’s use of embletic woodcuts throughout the 1570s would also inspire Spenser’s series which decorate the months of his Shepheard’s Calendar. We may also observe that in the extreme vicinity of Pendleside – where a Lawrence Spenser who died in 1584 seems to have been the poet’s grandfather – the hamlet of Grindleton was home to one of only two known nests of Familists in the north of England.

1570 : Shakespeare starts school

Of Shakespeare’s schooling, Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) writes, ‘his Father…. had bred him, ’tis true, for some time at a Free-School.’ This statement comes from Rowe’s introduction to his 1709 edition of Shakespeare’s plays in which he acknowledges, ‘the most considerable part of the passages relating to this life,’ were given him by the actor Thomas Betterton (1634-1710), who had made, ‘a journey to Warwickshire on purpose to gather up what remains he could, of a name for which he had so great a veneration. Founded in the 14th century, Stratford Grammar School is still standing today, kept in a good condition by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. In 1568, according to the chamberlain’s accounts of the town for that year, we see money being spent on ‘repairing the scole,’ ‘dressing and sweeping the scole-house,’ ‘ground-sellynge the old scole, and taking down the sollar over the school,’ which means Shakespeare’s schooling had begun just after a big paint job. He would have started attending from about the age of 6, force fed a diet of endless Latin repetitions with a heavy emphasis on the Roman writers Ovid, Plautus & Seneca. He would also have been made to learn Greek in order to study the scriptures in their original form, being drilled in the Bible until it became second nature to him. Shakespeare even gives us an accurate glimpse into his own schooldays, one expects, when in The Merry Wives of Windsor the headmaster tests the knowledge of a pupil named, appropriately, William.

Sir Hugh Evans
Show me now, William, some declensions of your pronouns.

William Page
Forsooth, I have forgot.

Sir Hugh Evans
It is qui, quae, quod: if you forget your ‘quies,’ your ‘quaes,’ and your ‘quods,’ you must be preeches. Go your ways, and play; go.

 1570: Queen Elizabeth excommunicated

Since Elizabeth took the throne, Catholocism had been more or lass banned in England by a paranoid English government. In 1569 a rebellion of Catholic Northern Earls was brutally quashed by Elizabeth, & a year later the Pope excommunicated the Queen, which initiated, according to Stephen Greenblatt (Will in the World 2005), ‘a nightmarish sequence of conspiracy & persecution, plot & counterplot that continued throughout Elizabeth’s long reign.’

1574: John Shakespeare is doing rather well for himself.

John Shakespeare’s profession, as tradition holds, was a butcher (Aubrey), a glover (official records), a wool merchant (Rowe), or most likley he was employed in all three. By 1574, enough money had been made to pay Edmund & Emma Hall £40 for two freehold houses, complete with lovely tudor-style gardens & orchards. Also in the property portfolio, the family home was still at Henley Street, while the Shaksepeare’s  were still the owners of properties which Mary had inherited.

1574 : Shakespeare writes for the Familists

When Joseph Walford Martin described certain Elizabethan references as being, ‘explicit in their charge that Familist at least incline toward Rome,’ we may now plant a hyperbasis of the pro-Catholic Shakespeares, in fear of persecution but hardly wanting to conform to the Anglian church, beginning to  dabble with this new-fangled ‘Familsm’ in the early 1570s. It is in this year of his John Shakespeare’s greatest financial prosperity that the first official works of William Shakespeare came to light. He was ten at the time, an age where massive minds such as his should have been revealing their first glimmers of genius. Only two years ago, in 2016, a certain Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu became the youngest ever International Master (the level below Grandmaster) in history, at the age of 10 years, 10 months & 19 days. It makes sense that the greatest ever writer in the English language would have shown some intimations as to his talent at an early date. If we see creative output as vegetation, Shakespeare’s would be something akin to the vast & ancient yew tree found on the Whittinghame Estate, East Lothian; with a tangled canopy of green & a root system spreading half a mile or more. Such roots run deep, & when analyzing the Shakespearean metaphysic, we must assume that his own would have ran stretched into startlingly far corners.

There are two ballads printed in 1574 which reflect Shakespeare’s youthful knowledge of the Bible as aqcuired at school. Accredited to a certain W.S., each contains a number of rather neat, but not amazingly written stanzas. The ballads are packed full of semi-quotations from the bible, & it seems to be a learning tool straight from the cloisters of grammar school academe. Printed in Cologne, they made their way to Germany & into the hands of the Familist Hendrik Niclaes, who printed these along with many of his own poems that year, such as his Exhortatio, Evangelium Regni & Epistola. Margaret Healy highlights some of the influence that Niclaean teaching had on Shakespeare;

We might look again in this context at the line in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 124, which seems to designate religious martyrs (those who ‘die for goodness’), rather unheroically, as ‘fools of Time.’ One’s inner spiritual state was crucial, outward appearance was mere show (it is intriguing to recall the line in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 102, ‘I love you not less, though less the show appear’, in relation to this). H.N. believed that through Christ & the Resurrection every man could become spiritually regenerated & godded with god or ‘deified’ (an odd word, which appears in A Lover’s Complaint, line 84).

Almost 450 years later, only single copies of the ballads remain, housed in the Bodleian library at Oxford. The first two stanzas from each poem are given here, when the author, W.S., is named in the Latin statement; Per W.S. Veritatis Amatorem. Anno. 1574.  Reading through these ballads, one can feel the youth of their composer, while also sensing the indescribable talent burgeoning with the promise of beautiful verses yet to come. Note the appearance of the initials of Henry Niklaes (HN).

A new balade or songe of the Lambes feast

I Hearde one saye:
Coma now awaye /
Make no delaye:
 Alack / why stande yee than?
All is doubtlesse
 In redynesse /
 There wantes but Gesse /
 To the Supper of the Lamb.
For Hee is now blest // in verye deede /
Thats found ad Gest // in the Mariage-weede.

THE Scriptures all /
 Perfourmede shall
 Bee, in this my Call /
 Voyced-out by H.N. (than):
I am Gods Love /
Com from above /
All Men to move /
 To the Supper of the Lamb.
 For Hee is now blest // in verye deede /
Thats found ad Gest // in the Mariage-weede

Another, out of goodwill

The Grace from God
     the Father hye /
Which is of Mightes most a /
The Mercye eake from Christ our Lorde /
     And Peace from the holye Gost a /
Com to All // That now shall /
     In Love with us agree a /
And consent // With whole Intent /
     To the Loves Soscietee a 

LOVE the Lorde above al-thinge /
     Is the first Precept by name a:
Love thy Neyghbour as thy-selfe /
     The seconds lyke the same a.
Thus wee see // Love to bee,
     Written with Gods-his owne Hande a /
Toe geeve us Light // And guyde us right /
     Eaven out of that darke Lande a.

It has been long-observed how the writings of the Familist,  Justus Lipsius, had a profound effect on our bard’s political thought, especially his 1584 translation of the treatise De Constantia. In that text, when Lipsius quotes Petronius’ ‘the whole world is a stage-play’ we get the seedlings of one of Shakespeare’s most famous passages, As You Like It’s;

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

c-l-doughty-shakespeare-being-disciplined-as-a-boy

1574 : Italian  actors in England

As we shall see soon enough, Italian theatre would have a major influence on the art & output of our bard. In 1573 & 74, a troupe were in England performing for the queen & in the provinces. The Chamberlains accounts in Nottingham read;

4 or 14 September for serteyne pastyems ‘Italians’… were paid five shillings to ‘make a shewe of an instrument of strange motions within the citie’ before Maister Meare & his brethren

Regarding Queen Elizabeth’ sprogress to Reading & Windsor, we may also trace ‘pastoral’ costumes & props in the Revel Accounts.

a plank of ffyrr… Golde lether for cronettes… shepherdes hookes. maskynnes for Shepperds. Horstayles for the wilde mannes farment… Hoopes for Garlandes. Baye Leaves & flowers… a Syth.

These actors may have been ‘The Gelosi,’  who could well have been performing Torquata Tasso’s recently penned & highly inspirational ‘Aminta.’ We shall see more of Tasso later…

1575: Shakespeare taken out of school

What comes up must come down, & in 1575 John Shakespeare began to tighten his belt, pulling his eldest son out of school. Rowe tells us; ‘the narrowness of his Circumstances, and the want of his assistance at Home, forc’d his Father to withdraw him from thence.’ Confirmation of Shakespeare’s premature departure from grammar school is found in a pleasant eulogy made by Shakespeare’s fellow playwright, Ben Jonson, which reads, ‘and though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek, from thence to honour thee I would not seek.’ Later on in the 17th century, Thomas Fuller adds ‘he was an eminent instance of the truth of that rule, poeta non fit, sed nascitur; one is not made, but born a poet. Indeed his learning was but very little.’

1575
Shakespeare at Kenilworth

In July 1575, in the queen’s royal train on the procession to Kenilworth palace, not far from Stratford, were the Children of the Chapel, a troupe of child actors led by William Hunnis. The outlandish celebrations, especially Hunnis’ device of the Lady of the Lake, would turn up again in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, where plays plays within plays weave with delight through phantasmagorical mythscapes, where Oberon;

Sat upon a promontory
& heard a Mermaid on a Dolphin’s back
uttering such dulcet & harmoinous breath
That the rude seas grew civil at her song
& certain starres shot madly from their spheres
to hear the sea-maids music

This matches a section in George Gascoigne’s ‘The Princely Pleasures, at the Court at Kenilworth’ (1576), where at the Station of the song of Protheus: a water pageant begins with Protheus appearing on a dolphin float with a musical consort inside: “the Dolphyn was conueied vpon the boate, so that the Owners seen to bee his Fynnes. With in the which Dolphyn a Consort of Musicke was secretly placed, the which sounded, and Protheus clearing his voyce, sang his song of congratulation.”

1575: Shakespeare leaves Stratford

In 1575, two events conspired to propel the eleven-year-old Shakespeare out of his hometown. The first echoes the modern truanting teenager, whose idle, juvenile sporting lands them in trouble with the local authorities. In the case of Shakespeare, it was a spot of poaching that landed him in hot water, when according to Rev. Davies our young bard, ‘was much given to all unluckiness in stealing venison & rabbits, particularly from Sir Thomas Lucy, who had him oft whipt, & sometimes imprisoned, & at last made him fly from his native county to his great advancement.’ A transchispering remembrance of these incidents with Sir Thomas bubble to the surface in both Henry IV pt.2 & the Merry Wives of Windsor, in which a certain vain & self-delusional character known as Justice Shallow seems very much modelled on Lucy. Where Shallow says his coat-of-arms depicted ‘luces’, i.e the fish called pikes, so did the Lucy’s of Charlecote. This was not the first time that Lucy would inspire Shakespeare’s words, as discern’d from Rowe’s account of the poaching episode,

He had, by a Misfortune common enough to young Fellows, fallen into ill Company; and amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of Deer-stealing, engag’d him with them more than once in robbing a Park that belong’d to Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that Gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely; and in order to revenge that ill Usage, he made a Ballad upon him. And tho’ this, probably the first Essay of his Poetry, be lost, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the Prosecution against him to that degree, that he was oblig’d to leave his Business and Family in Warwickshire, for some time, and shelter himself in London

Rowe is here seguing into one story two known facts about Shakespeare’s early life, that he (i) left Stratford after getting into trouble & (ii) settled in London. Between these events I believe that Shakespeare did a lot more living. The trail begins in 1575, when Lancashire-born Simon Hunt gave up his post as Stratford schoolmaster after three years in the post. The First Douay-train’d Jesuits had arrive in England in 1574, cavorting from priest-hole to priest-hole, giving masses in secret to all the favorable nests of papistry. Arriving in Stratford, they struck had been struck to his holy Catholic core, who decided to enroll at the English College in Douay. Accompanying him was Stratford youth, Richard Debdale of Shottery, & also,  we shall here conject, Shakespeare, whose early blossoming in the poetic arts, such as the Familist ballads & the satire pinned at Charlecote, marked him out as a special talent. This faculty for the Muses would have defined him as the perfect student for a certain Douay Jesuit called Edward Campion, who described the imbecabillity of writing poetry (but not love poetry) during one’s youthful studies, while at the same time becoming intimate with, ‘the majesty of Virgil, the festal grace of Ovid, the rythm of Horace, & the buskined speech of Seneca.’

149433-004-6B64985E

1575-76: Shakespeare attends the English College in Douay

Douay was to be a fertile bedsoil in which our poetical prodigy suddenly found himself; heated & passionate rhetoric would have abounded on all sides, infiltrating our wee bard’s psyche with the rhythmic pulsations of intelligent conversazione. The academic atmosphere he found himself among is perfectly described by a grandee at the English College, Rev. Gregory Martin, who described how at mealtimes;

The reader from the pulpit reads aloud the portion of the old Testament which occurs in the Roman breviary at the time… so that the whole bible is easily gone through in one year. Twice a day at the end of each meal they will have the usual explanation of a chapter; only it is done more perfectly than formerly, not merely on account of the pains which Richard Bristow takes, and his knowledge which was always very great, but also because of the increased authority and maturity which is implied in the degree of doctor in divinity lately conferred on him.

That the creative sponge of Shakespeare’s young mind was occupied by Douay is suggested by Cardinal Allen, who stated, ‘we preach in English, in order to acquire greater power and grace in the use of the vulgar tongue’. Of all those listening in 1575, there was one wide-eyed boy in a corner who was acquiring that very‘greater power & grace’ by the minute.

1576: Shakespeare returns to England

After a six-month stint at the English College, the intellectual capacity of our young bard would have been swollen no end. This period was one of the first stages of a unique course of education which just so happened to create one of the greatest poets to have ever lived. His time abroad would have helped mould a mind capable of such epic feats of linguistics that would, later in his career, expand his native tongue with hundreds of loan-words from foreign languages, including French. His departure from Douay, I believe, was with a certain Cuthbert Mayne, who had qualified as a Bachelor of Theology on the 7th February 1576. Two months later, on the 24 April 1576, Shakespeare turn’d twelve. The following day, Cuthbert Mayne set out for England with another priest called John Payne; & let us hyperfact Shaksepeare in that small party also. On arrival in England, Payne went to the South East, while Mayne spent a short period in Cornwall. As for Shakespeare, he suddenly finds himself thrust into the world of child acting in the nation’s capital.

Edmund_Spenser_oil_painting
Edmund Spenser

1576: Theaters spring up across London

While Shakespeare was in East Lancashire, three theaters were built just outside the city limits of London (a fourth, the Curtain, would be built in 1577), where beaurocratic regulations did not apply. The first to be erected was the Newington Butts Playhouse, a mile south of the Thames, which stood roughly on the east side of Walworth Road near the junction with New Kent Road. The landlord was Richard Hickes, one of Queen Elizabeth’s bodyguards – the Yeomen of the Guard – most of whom were secret Familists. Hickes sublet the theatre on the 25th March 1576 to a certain Stratford man called Jerome Savage, described by his contemporary, Peter Hunningborne, as a, ‘verrie lewed fealowe’ who ‘liveth by noe other trade than playinge of staige plaies and Interlevde.’ Very much a man of the vernal Elizabethan theatre, Savage also ran a troupe of actors for the Earl of Warwick, known as Earl of Warwick’s Players.

Three weeks after the Newington Butts Playhouse began its life, a second permanent playhouse was erected at Shoreditch, called rather appropriately the ‘Theatre.’ Later that year, the third London dramahouse was built by court composer & master of the Children of the Chapel acting troupe, Richard Farrant. The location was Blackfriars, upon a section of the site of the monastery dissolved by Henry VIII. Circular & made of wood, these theaters could comfortably hold several thousand people, who would drop a penny into a box (2 for a cushion) as they entered. Later on, this box would be taken to a room, the contents emptied & leading to the phrase ‘Box Office’ of modern theater. The atmosphere created by the circular auditorium, & the closeness of the audience, manifested itself into something akin to that of a modern football match – theater was now popular entertainment, when the lowest & the highest born would rub shoulders together for a couple of hours of fantasy & drama. Just as today, they would had their opinions as to what they were watching – some of the poorer actors & productions had abuse & rotten vegetables hurled at them.

 

1576: Edmund Spenser writes the Shepheard’s Calendar in East Lancashire

On graduating from Pembroke College in Cambridge, like any other student making their first steps into the world, Edmund Spenser went home. Proof comes from the contemporary gloss to the June eclogue of the Shepheard’s Calendar, Spenser’s first major work written in 1576. Provided by a certain ‘E.K.,’ the gloss describes Spenser as composing his poem among, ‘those hylles, that is the North countrye, where he dwelt,’ adding that after the poem’s composition Spenser removed, ‘out of the Northparts’ & then, ‘came into the south.’ According to the ‘Letterbook’ of Gabriel Harvey – the same gentleman to whom the Calendar is dedicated – Spenser’s home ‘shier ‘ is described as being, ‘the middle region of the verye English Alpes.’  It seems certain that the Lancashire sections of the Pennines are meant, which chain stretches from Cumberland down to Derbyshire.

It is while staying at Hurstwood, near Burnley, that Spenser created his sophisticated mini-masterpiece. The Shepheard’s Calendar is pregnant with a wide array of references, & the first real original English poetic production of any merit since Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Wishing to emulate the dorick transfusions as enacted by Theocritus in his own Roman pastorals, Spenser also daubed his creation with a great deal of the lilting local patter of East Lancashire. Where John Dryden describes Spenser as a,‘master of our northern dialect,’ Dr Grosart identified 550 words in the Calendar unique to East Lancashire & West Yorkshire. TT Wilkinson, in a speech to the Historic Society of Lancashire on January 10th 1867, listed forty-five words in that ‘folkspeech’ used by Spenser that were still in circulation in his day. As I can personally attest, some of these words have survived in the locality even to the 21st century, such as;

Brag – boast proudly
Chips – fragments cut off
Clout – blow with flat of hand
To crow over – to boast over someone
Dapper – pretty smart
Latch – temporary fastening of a door
Smirke – smile in a smugly winning manner

There is even a passage in the Calendar which shows how Spenser had come into contact with Sir John Townley, who is given a quiet cameo. We get the sense that Spenser is alluding to Sir John’s enforced silence in the face of a Protestant England, & that the Shepherds mentioned by Spenser are actually Catholic priests.

Truly Piers, thou art beside thy Wit,
Furthest fro the Mark, weening it to hit.
Now I pray thee, let me thy Tale borrow
For our Sir John, to say to-morrow,
At the Kirk, when it is Holiday:
For well he means, but little can say.
But and if Foxes been so crafty, as so,
Much needeth all Shepherds hem to know.

In the Calendar, Hobbinol’s mentions of wastefull hylls, bogs & glens, invokes quite accurately the East Lancashire Pennine landscape. We also have the following exchange which indicates that in the locality of the Calendar, a few Wolves were still clinging to English soil.

Hobbinoll
Fye on thee Diggon, and all thy foule leasing,
Well is knowne that sith the Saxon king,
Neuer was Woolfe seene many nor some,
Nor in all Kent, nor in Christendome:
But the fewer Woolues (the soth to sayne,)
The more bene the Foxes that here remaine.

Diggon
Yes, but they gang in more secrete wise,
And with sheepes clothing doen hem disguise,
They walke not widely as they were wont
For feare of raungers, and the great hunt:
But priuely prolling too and froe,
Enaunter they mought be inly knowe.

The publish’d poem contains a woodcut for each month, painted by the enigmatic ‘E.K.,’ whose pictorial accuracy is proclaimed by Spenser in a 1580 letter to Gabriel Harvey;

Therin be some things excellently, and many things wittily discoursed of E.K., and the pictures so singularly set forth, and purtrayed, as if Michael Angelo were there, he could (I think) nor amende the beste, nor reprehende the worst.

When comparing the woodcuts with photographs I have made of Pendle from similar angles, even the staunchest opponents of Spenser coming from Lancashire must become visibly silent.

pendle - february.

Pendle is to the left of the picture next to the guy's head - notice the lines are a match for the gouges in the flanks of Pendle in the photograph
Pendle is to the left of the picture next to the guy’s head – notice the lines are a match for the gouges in the flanks of Pendle in the photograph
Pendle’s distinctive slope (from the south)
Pendle's very distinctive slant can again be seen to the left of the picture, next to the kirk
Pendle’s very distinctive slant can be seen to the left of the picture, next to the kirk
December
December’s woodcut – more Pendle Hill – compare with the next image…
…of Pendle by K Melling

I’ve also been looking at the Familist connection to Spenser. Its growing clear that the ‘Family of Love’ was kicking about Shakespeare, a quite masonic sect that infiltrated the private bodyguard of the Queen herself. Now then, in all the corners of the north they could have set up shop it is amazing that other than in the metropolis of York, the only place they got to was Pendle. They went on to form a little subsect of their own known as the Grindletonians, of whom McKay writes; Grindleton, at the foot of the big end of Pendle, is a place of note, being the birthplace of that strange fanatical set in the Grindletnoians, whose queer performances made a great stir in the country some centuries ago. Roger Brearley, who was for some six years incumbent of Burnley, was in his day a conspicuous man, an author & a poet.’

1577: Spenser encounters Shakespeare

While Spenser is writing his Calendar, it appears that Cuthbert Mayne & Shakespeare arrived in the area, most probably staying at the pro-Catholic Townley Hall. The previous year, in a letter written by Bishop Downham on the 1st Feb 1575 to the Privy Council, Sir John Townley is placed alongside other notables in Lancashire who, ‘in our opinion of the longest obstanancy against religion & if by your lord’s good wisdoms they would be reclaimed, we think others would as well follow their good example in embracing queen majesty’s most goodly example as they have followed their evil example in contemprising their duty in that behalf.’ That Townely was receiving Jesuit priests such as Cuthbert Mayne is suggested by Spenser’s August eclogue, where we see a certain Cuddy – northern dialect English for Cuthbert. With him are shepheards boyes’ called Perigot & Willye, who also conduct a rhymed discussion in the March eclogue. The youthful appearance of Willye clearly matches the 12-year-old Shakespeare. Spenser would even use the same nick-name for Shakespeare over a decade later, when referring to the bard in a poem known as The Tears of the Muses.

Woodcut to the August eclogue – Willy, Perigot & Cuddy in conversation – note the hill in the far left background with the rolling arm & compare it with Pendle Hill (the lady is my wife)

My bird at Pendle, a couple of miles from Roughlee.

In the August eclogue, ‘Willye’ is speaking in a poetic form known as the Roundelay. This 24-line form had been devised in France only in 1570, & while in Douay a young & poetically minded Shakespeare would have been keen to have kept abreast of the latest developments in the poetic arts.

 PER. It fell upon a holy Eve,
WILL. Hey ho Holiday!
PER. When holy Fathers wont to shrive:
WILL. Now ‘ginneth this Roundelay.
PER. Sitting upon a Hill so high,
WILL. Hey ho the high Hill!
PER. The while my Flock did feed thereby,
WILL. The while the Shepherd self did spill
PER. I saw the bouncing Bellibone;
WILL. Hey ho Bonnibel!
PER. Tripping over the Dale alone,
WILL. She can trip it very well.

Old_St._Paul's_Cathedral_from_the_Thames_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16531

1576 : The Protestant authorities came down hard on the Catholic Mystery Plays

The Mystery plays were the medieval fore-runners to the theatrical tradition forged in the late Elizabethan era by Shakespeare & his contemporaries. These early proto-plays were especially popular in Wakefield, Yorkshire, & it is the populace of that town that the Diocesan Court of High Commission at York ordered;

In the said play no pageant be used or set further wherein the Ma(jest) ye of God the Father, God the Sonne, or God the Holie Goste or the administration of either the Sacrementes of baptism or of the Lordes Supper be counterfeited or represented, or anything plaid which tend to the maintenance of superstition and idolatry or which be contrary to the laws of God or of the realm.

This really ripped the stuffing out of the heavily iconographied Mystery Plays, a death knell that saw this once massively popular national theatre all but banished from the noble Halls & bustling market places of the land. The last play performed in Wakefield was, May 17th 1576, was the ‘commonlie called corpus christi plaie,’ after which the Mysteries were never heard in the town again.

Towneley Hall

1577 : Shakespeare works on the Towneley Manuscript

While at Townley Hall, Shakesepare & Spenser are given the task of copying various Catholic ‘Miracle Plays’ recently banned by the Government. A manuscript was prepared which stored the entire cycle of 32 plays for posterity, with the press-mark on the first page of the only manuscript stating Christopher Townley (1604-74) was the owner of the book. I believe his father, Sir John, was the instrumental force behind preserving the plays for the Townleys & the other twenty or so recusant families in & around the Burnley area.

The anonymous author has been monickered the ‘Wakefield Master,’ for he peppers the text with local topography such as the reference in the manuscript’s Second Shepherds’ Play to Horbery Shrogeys – with Horbery being a town near Wakefield.  Scholars have calculated that the original plays – dating to about 1400  – were rewritten & added to towards the end of that century. The new plays were Caesar Augustus, The Talents, Noah, the First Shepherds’ Play, The Second Shepherds’ Play, Herod the Great, and The Buffeting of Christ.

The unique mansucript was sold by auction in 1814, & is now housed at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, & it just so happens to contain the handwriting of William Shakespeare. This is evinced by the matches on the MS with the three & a half letters on Shakespeare’s will – the only samples of his formal handwriting to have survived. Orthographically speaking, we cannot use his flourish-heavy signature as proper evidence, which means all that the Bard left in his own true hand are the four letters of ‘by me’ or even ‘by mr’ that preceed a signature on his will. These letters were written in 1616, four decades after the Townley MS was created, yet individual handwriting styles are set in stone at an early stage, & linger throughout one’s life.

Of the four letters, only B, Y & M can be used to any satisfaction. At this point you can decide for yourselves by checking out the graphology below & making your own mind up, while taking into consideration that four decades would have passed between the inscriptions.

by me

Shakespeare’s ‘By Me’

Some Ms & Ys from the Townley MS
Some Ms & Ys from the Townley MS
A few Bs & a couple more Ys
A few Bs & a couple more Ys

The presence of some North Midland forms, rather than the northern forms, supports the Warwickshire-born Shakespeare as working on the manuscript. Spenser may have assisted at some point, for in the Cycle’s impressive Second Shepherd’s Play, a Nativity burlesque, the regular dialect is north-midlands, while that of a character called Mak heralds from Spenser’s south. A remembrance of Spenser’s his time with the Towneley manuscript seems to have inspired the Despair episode of his Faerie Queene, which contains the almost identical essence of the Cycle’s Hanging of Judas.

 While working on the Cycle, we can see how Shakespeare was to be profoundly affected by the Mystery Plays. In later years, Gloucester’s blinding in King Lear appears very much like the brutal treatement of Christ found in the Towneley Cycle, where Caiaphas is stricken with an overwhelming desire to put out the eyes of Christ: ‘Nay, but I shall out-thrist / Both his een on a raw.’  Highlighting another Shakespeare-Cycle connection,  Glynne Wickham, referring to the Cycle’s ‘Deliverance of Souls,’ states, ‘in the Townley play Rybald receives his orders from Belzabub, in Macbeth, the porter’s first question is, “‘Who’s there, I th’name of Belzebubit was Rybald in the Towneley ‘Deliverance’ who cried out to Belzabub on hearing Christ’s trumpets at Hell-gate

… come ne,

ffor hedusly I hard hym call

 Thunder, cacophony, screams & groans were the audible emblems of Lucifer & hell on the medieval stage. Those same aural emblems colour the whole of II-iii of Macbeth &, juxtaposed as they are with the thunderous knocking at a gate attended by a porter deluded into regarding himself as a devil, their relevance to the moral meaning of the play could scarcely have escaped the notice of its first audiences.’

Shakespeare would continue to be influenced throughout his career by the Mysteries motifs. Dramatic actions; the providential structurality of history; the emblemeatic allusions to moralties such as Time, Death & the Wheel of Fortune; all appear in some form or another. The Mysteries were also bloody, visceral affairs; in the mid-seventeenth century the preacher, John Shaw, remembers seeing in his childhood, a Corpus Christi play, where there was a, ‘man on a tree, & blood ran down.’ Such gruesome scenes would permeate Shakespeare’s own work.

Valiant “RedCross Knight” enters the Cave of Despair

1577 : Shepheard’s Play performed at Chester

Despite being banned in Yorkshire the previous year, one of the Mystery plays was performed in Chester in 1577.Archdeacon Rogers upon Chester recorded (Harl. MS. 1944)

1577, the Earle of Darbie did lye 2 nightes at his [the mayor of Chester’s] house; the Shepheardes play, was played a the highe crosse, with other triumphes

Accompanying the 4th Earl that day was his son Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange. If this particular version of the Shephearde’s Play was taken from the Townley MS, we gain our first possible theatrical connection between the Stanleys & Shakespeare.

1577:  Shakespeare goes to London

In 1576, Sir John Townley was imprisoned once again for his stubborn devotion to recusancy. The authorities were coming down hard on the Catholics in Lancashire, forcing Cuthbert Mayne to return to Cornwall where he would be arrested in Probus, June 1577. For Shakespeare, the flight from Lancashire occurred with the assistance of  Sir John’s half-brother, Alexander Nowell, under whose wings he now found himself at the tender age of 13. To the modern world, Alexander Nowell should be immortally famous as the first man to discover the benefits of bottling beer. In his own day, however, he was more famous for being the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, & by proxy the ultimate boss of the St Pauls Boys troupe of actors. Their leader was a certain Sebastian Westcott, the cathedral’s organist who had converted the site’s Almoner’s hall into a playhouse.

 ‘Master Sebastian’ as he was more famously known, was an avowed Catholic who had arranged the music for the formal restoration under Queen Mary of Catholicism at St. Paul’s, in November 1553. In the Repertories of the Court of Common Council (December 8th 1575), a complaint was lodged against Westcott, who was admonished for not communicating, ‘with the Church of England’ & that he ‘kepethe playes & resorte of the people to great gaine & peryll of the Coruptinge of the Chyldren with papistrie.’ A perfect place, then, for the son of John Shakespeare to go. At least as far as the authorities were concerned Alexander Nowell was a staunch Protestant, but nothing is clear cut in the religious conflict of those days, & for him to keep on an obvious & obstinate heretic at the cathedral suggests a hint of papal compliance. The anonymity of a cosmoplitan city was a far safer place to practice one’s secret Catholocism, a far cry from the whispering heaths of the hilly north country.

We may ask the question how Westcott could get away with being a Catholic, despite being a very public figure in the heart of the nation’s heart-beat. An explanation comes through Queen Elizabeth’s secret leniency towards the Familists, among whom the yeomen of her personal guard were to be counted.  The only time he got into trouble for recusancy was in 1577, when he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea. Luckily for him, the Queen missed her customary Christmas plays by the choristers of St. Paul’s, which led to Westcott’s release the following March. If you could please the queen with a good enough play, it seemed, even the vile phantom of Rome would be tolerated.

1577: Shakespeare writes a poem for John Grange

The London that Shakespeare came to as a boy held 300,000 inhabitants, cramming into two-storey timber houses with high, gabled red rooves. Most of London lay upon the north bank of the river, but there was also Southwerke, connected to London via a single bridge across the Thames, the original London Bridge. Not far away rose the first Saint Paul’s Cathedral, stood only a stone’s throw from the Inns of Court where a certain John Grange, a ‘Student in the Common Lavve of Englande,’ was making his studies in 1577. Shakespeare would have already met John Grange the previous year in Douay, where recognizing our young poet’s talents Grange asked Shakespeare to add a few lines of poetry to his 1577 book of prose & poetry, The Golden Aphroditis.

W.S. in Commendation of the author begins

Of silver pure thy penne is made, dipte in the Muses well
They eloquence & loftie style all other doth excell:
Thy wisedom great & secrete sense diffusedly disguysde,
Doth shew how Pallas rules thy minde, & Phoebus hath devisde
Those Golden lines, which polisht are with Tagus glittering sandes.
A pallace playne of pleasures great unto the vewers handes.
Thy learning doth bewray itselfe and worthie prayse dothe crave,
Who so thee knew, did little think such learning thee to have.
Here Vertue seems to checke at Vice, & wisedome folly tauntes:
Here Venus she is set at naught, and Dame Diane she vauntes.
Here Pallas Cupid doth detest, & all his carpet knightes:
Here doth she shew, that youthfull impes in folly most delightes.
And how when age comes creeping on, with shew of hoary heares,
Then they the losse of time repent, with sobbes & brinish teares.
Thou Ambodexter playste herein, to take the first rebounde,
And for to shew thy minde at large, in earth doth the same compound.
So that Apollo Claddes his corps all with Morycbus clothes,
And shewes himself still friendliest there, wher most of all he lothes.

Here we can see a marked development of Shakespeare’s poetry. It is still Juvenilian, yes, but is starting to expand in scope & metre. Some scholars have wondered whether W.S. was William Shakespeare based upon the juvenilian feel to the poem, but its sheer earliness has left many doubters. Yet, if another illustrious, epoch-breaking genius such as Mozart could have composed Apollo et Hyacinthus, at the age of 11, & Bastien und Bastienne at twelve, the Golden Aphroditis poem was well within the capabilities of the world’s finest poet. We may even see the young Shakespeare being described by Grange in a little anecdote appertaining to the title of his work, where ‘certen young Gentlemen, and those of my professed friendes, … requested me earnestly to haue it intituled A nettle for an Ape, but yet (being somevvhat vvedded as most fooles are to mine ovvne opinion vvho vvould hardly forgoe their bable for the Tovver of London) I thought it good (somevvhat to stop a zoilous mouth) to sette a more cleanly name vpon it, that is, Golden Aphroditis.’

1577: Shakespeare gets a job in the London theaters

Shakespeare’s first entry into the London theatre scene could be connected to Cibber’s comment that, ‘some of the players, accidentally conversing with him, found him so acute, & master of so fine a conversation, that, struck therewith, they recommended him to the house, in which he was first admitted in a very low station.’ In his Prolegomena to Shakespeare (1765), the megalithic literary giant of 18th century Britain, Dr Samuel Johnson, recalled a long-standing tradition that Shakespeare’s first taste of the London theatre world was holding the horses of the playgoers, something of the nature of a modern-day car-park attendant.

Shakespeare, standing outside a playhouse and holding the horses of the actors as they arrived

In the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not at all in use, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horseback to any distant business or diversion. Many came on horseback to the play, and when Shakespeare fled to London from the terrour of a criminal prosecution, his first expedient was to wait at the door of the play-house, and hold the horses of those that had no servants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this office he became so conspicuous for his care and readiness, that in a short time every man as he alighted called for Will. Shakespeare, and scarcely any other waiter was trusted with a horse while Will. Shakespeare could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakespeare finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection, who, when Will. Shakespeare was summoned, were immediately to present themselves, “I am Shakespeare’s boy, Sir.” In time Shakespeare found higher employment, but as long as the practice of riding to the playhouse continued, the waiters that held the horses retained the appellation of Shakespeare’s boys.

The ‘terrour of a criminal prosecution’ experienced by Shakespeare was not the Charlecote incident, but was instead connected to his & his Lancashire hosts’ Catholicism. That horses were needed to attend the theatre points towards the Newington Butts Playhouse ran by Jerome Savage, situated more than a mile to the south of the Thames. The main patron of the theatre was the Earl of Warwick, suggesting Shakespeare got the job through familial or social connections based in Stratford. These backscratching links would run deep, for Jerome’s nephew, Thomas Savage, would in 1599 take a part share in the Globe Theatre alongside Shakespeare. Thomas Savage owned two houses which we may offer Shakesperean connections; a house in the parish of St Olave Silver Street, the same locality in which Shakespeare lodged for a time in Silver Street at the house of Christopher Mountjoy; & another which was occupied by the actor John Heminges, who also edited the First Folio.

1579: Shakespeare commences his acting career

The timing of Shakespeare’s arrival in London, at just that point in history when stage-crafted drama was beginning its primal blossoming, was impeccable in the sweetest sense. The burgeoning dramaturgy would penetrate the puberty of our budding dramatist at just the right moment in his development; a fusion of zeitgeist & genius that would soon mean that Elizabethan theatre & William Shakespeare of Stratford were one & the same spirit. Aubrey tells us that Shakespeare eventually outgrew his horse-tending job, & reinvented himself as an actor; ‘this William, being inclined naturally to Poetry and acting, came to London… and was an Actor at one of the Play-houses, and did acte exceedingly well.’ That Shakespeare was a boy actor  left an indelible imprint on his his art. According to Stanley Wells & Sarah Stanton, ‘Shakespeare’s dramatic persona include more boys than any other major body of drama: Sir John’s page in Henry IV, Merry Wives & Henry V, one ‘young Lucius’ in Titus & another in Ceasar, young Martius in Coriolanus, William Page in Merry Wives, & many anonymous pages in other plays.’  It must be noted that int he same year that Shakespeare began to act, his Stratford nieghbour Richard Field, arrived in London to begin his career as a book-printer… which would lead a decade & a half later to him publishing Shakespeare’s long poems, Venus & Adonis & Lucrece.

1580: Shakespeare goes to Lancashire

Throughout the 1570s, a series of Anti-familist trachts had galivinsed popular opinion against the group. Come 1580, the Elizabethan government began to crack down against the Familists, which may have been the trigger for the Earl of Warwick’s pulling out of London for ‘health reasons.’ Also that year we see the disappearance of Jerome Savage from London, most likely connected to the Earl of Warwick’s departure. Savage’s whereabouts for the next seven years are unknown, after which, according to William Ingram in ‘The Business of Playing,’ Savage’s will tells us he had returned to London. His departure from London, however, provides a missing piece of the jigsaw of Shakespeare’s early years. I believe that the now 16-year-old Shakespeare. went north with Jerome, staying with Jthe latter’s brother, Geoffrey Savage, who had married into the minor gentry of Lancashire. His wife was Jennet Hesketh of Rufford Old Hall, near Preston, the illigitimate sister of a minor gentryman called Thomas Hesketh, described as ‘bastard brethren’ in his will.

While staying in that part of Lancashire, Shakespeare was introduced into the service of a neighbour of the Heskeths, Alexander Hoghton. Other neighbours,  at Dilworth in Ribchester, were the Cottam family, of whom John, perhaps not so suprisingly, had become the headmaster of Stratford Grammar School in 1579. It seems that Shakespeare’s hometown was being used a secret sanctuary for the Jesuit Reconquista, with the Shakespeares very much a part of the chain, for John’s brother, Thomas, was training to be a Jesuit priest during the very period that Shakespeare was in Douay. Indeed, when Thomas Cottam was arrested at in May 1580, he was on his way to Shottery near Stratford with messages for the Debdale family from Shakespeare’s schoolmate, Robert Debdale, now a seminarian in Rome.

Douai-Rheims_New_Testament_(1582)

1580 – Shakespeare receives the Jesuit New Testament

In 1580 a couple of the Douay big-hitters were in England preaching the cause, namely Robert Parsons & Edward Campion. Three decades later Parsons would be associated with Shakespeare by historian John Speed (The Theater of the Empire of Great Britain 1611), as ‘this papist and his poet.’  Parsons’ father-in-law was an Arden, & related to Shakespeare, while his wife was a Throckmorton, recusants who lived 8 miles from Stratford. With Parsons & Campion came copies of a freshly translated version of the New Testament known as the Douay-Rheims.  When in June 1581, William Allen, rector of the English College at Rheims wrote to Alphonsus Agazarri at the English College in Rome, reporting that Father Robert Parsons in England, ‘wants three or four thousand or more of the testaments, for many people desire to have them.’ These would be distributed throughout England en masse in 1582.

The Douay-Rheims contains great deal of latinized English words, a fore-runner of Shakespeare’s own etymylogical experiments in the language.  Nassed Shaheen lists; ‘supererogate for spend more; prefnition of worlds for eternal purpose; exin-anited for made himself of no reputation; depositum for that which is committed; neophyte for novice & prescience for foreknowledge.’ A number of passages in the plays match moments in the Rheims, such as the word ‘cockle’ (Matt 13.24-25) which appears in Coriolanus as ‘the cockle of rebellion.’ John Henry De Groot’s ‘Shakespeare and the ‘Old Faith’ showed how the phrases ‘narrow gate,’ and ‘not a hair perished‘ were also peculiar to both Shakespeare & the Rheims. That Shakespeare used this as well as protestant versions such as the Geneva has always baffled scholars, but with Shakespeare’s upbringing being influenced by the non-sectarian Familists, he would have used both texts freely without pricking his religious conscience.

Clara Longworth de Chambrun’s Shakespeare Rediscovered (Scribner’s, 1938) : “A small circumstance, but one of singular interest, indicates that when William Shakespeare made use of the Parable of the Sowers from the Gospel of St. Matthew he had the Reims translation in mind, and not either the socalled ‘Breeches’ or ‘Bishops’ Bible. Though verbal, the evidence is striking. Down to the present day all Protestant Bibles employ the word tares in speaking of the ill-weeds sown among the wheat, whereas the Catholic texts use cockle. Now, in the whole course of Shakespeare’s work the word tares is never found, but when he recalls the parable of the sowers the word cockle appears in its place, as in the Reims translation. . . . In Love’s Labour’s Lost we find : ‘Sowed cockle reaps no corn,’ and again in Coriolanus the same term appears in similar connection : ‘That cockle of Rebellion, Insolence, Sedition, Which we ourselves have ploughed for, sowed and scattered.'”

1580 – Edward Campion visits Lancashire

In sonnet 124, Shakespeare refers to ‘the fools of time, which die for goodness, who have lived for crime,’ which certainly feels like the doomed reconquista Jesuits on a mission to topple Elizabeth. In 1580, Edward Campion stayed at Lapworth Park in Warwickshire, the seat of Sir William Catesby, a friend of John Shakespeare. On reaching Lancashire he  stayed at the home of Alexander Houghton’s brother, Richard. The Jesuit was in the Hoghton-Hesketh locality in order to use the libraries of the Catholic noblemen to prepare tracts with which he could argue the Catholic cause. ‘The day is too short, and the sun must run a greater circumference,’ wrote Campion, before he would be able to, ‘number all the Epistles, Homilies, Volumes and Disputations,’ which lay in the Hoghton libraries.

Campion’s influence on Shakespeare may be traced through our bard’s familiarity with the Mulberry tree in plays such as Coriolanus and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One wonders how such an exotic and rare specimen, introduced to England by Queen Elizabeth or James I depending on which story is to be believed, would find its way into the imagery of the rustic bard Shakspeare writing in London surrounded by the dirt and grime of city streets. Later, when he retired to Stratford, he is rumoured to have planted a specimen which was later chopped down by a subsequent owner of “ New Place”. Campion also wrote a poem on the nature of the human soul.  subject in Latin called De Anima, a concept which finds its way into such plays as Twelfth Night, Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida.

1580: John Shakespeare fined

There is an event of 1580 relates directly to the religious persuasion of Shakespeare’s poppadom. He had been summoned to the Queen’s Bench in London in June 1580 alongside 220 probable Catholics to answer for a mysterious ‘breach of the peace.’ That he didn’t attend was met with heavy fines, a personal £20 & another £20 for the non-attendance of the Nottingham hat-maker, John Audley, who was in turn fined £60 for non-attendance plus £10 for not bringing John Shakespeare to court. Earlier in the year his name headed a list of ‘gentlemen & freeholders’  expected to contribute financially to the government’s anti-papal efforts of that year, the ‘musters.’ Queer doings indeed, & the two indictments may be connected, as also there may lie in the depths of those fellow 220 a number of Familists. A fertile field for future investigations, one expects.

Campion
Campion

1580: The Capture of Campion

Campion was soon enough caught by the authorities, followed not long after by Thomas Cottam, leading to the Stratford council’s sacking of John Cottam from his post at the Kings School. By 1581, Catholocism would be banned outright in England, & with the execution of Campion, the Jesuit Reconquista of England was dead-in-the-water. If Shakespeare was involved in the Jesuit cause, this was the time he would have buried his head in the sand, the brutal beheadings of Campion & co. putting him off any public outpourings of pro-Catholicism for the rest of his life. Yet, we do hear a faint echo of Campion’s Trial Speech in The Winter’s Tale;

Since what I am to say must be but that  Which contradicts my accusation and  The testimony on my part no other But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me  To say ‘Not guilty’. (4.3..2)

1581 – The English government comes down hard on the Familists

In 1581 a bill was introduced for the ‘punishment of the Hereticks called the Family of Love… the professors of the Familye of Love may for the first offence be whipped & for the second branded with this lettre H.N., & the third time judges a felon.‘ About this time the Queen’s Familist bodyguard are removed, while the rest went underground, so to speak. Christoper W Marsh tells us, ‘Familists were inconspicuous. Following Niclaes’s in junctions, they became part of the social fabric, obeying magistrates, serving in ecclesiastical & public offices, being good neighbours & good citizens, but remaining secretive about their religious view & usually only sharing them only within the family.’ The identities of those high-ranking Familists remains a mystery, but in 1645 John Etherington at least tells us, ‘there have been & are great doctors of divinitie, so called, yea, and some great peers.‘ Perhaps one of the peers was the Earl of Warwick, whose ‘illness’ was nothing but a cover to get him out of London, while  there is one Doctor of Divinity who we have connected to Shakespeare already, who is described by Fuller as, ‘Alexander Nowell, Doctor of Dvinity, & Dean of St Pauls in London, born in Lancashire…’

Shakeshafte

1581 – Alexander Houghton names Shakespeare in his will

Alexander Hoghton was a clear recusant, whose brother, Thomas, had helped to fund the English College in Douay. His will is of great interest to us, dated August 3rd 1581, attended by John Cottam, who was an actual legate attending Alexander Houghton’s will. The timing of the will-making is important. Three days earlier, on July 31st Campion, finally gave up his secrets on the rack, while on August 2nd the Sheriff of Lancaster wrote a letter to Sir John Biron asking him to search certain houses, ‘for books & other superstitious stuff; & especially the house of Richard Houghton, wherein it is said the said Campion left his books & to enquire what is become of said books.’ It was in this quite uncertain climate that Hoghton made his will. In it we obtain a rare glimpse of the young Shakespeare.

 Item. It is my mind and will that the said Thomas Hoghton of Brynescoules my brother shall have all my instruments belonging to music, and all manner of play clothes if he be minded to keep and do keep players.

 And if he will not keep and maintain players then it is my mind and will that Sir Thomas Hesketh knight shall have the same instruments and play clothes.

 And I most heartly require the said Sir Thomas to be friendly unto Fluke Gyllome and William Shakeshafte now dwelling with me and either to take them into his service or else to help them to some good master as my trust is he will

Of Shakespeare’s variant family name, EAJ Honigmann observed that in the Court rolls of College St Mary in Warwick (1541-42), the poet’s grandfather, Richard, ‘seems to be both Shakstaff and Shakeschafte, as well as Shakspere …in the Snitterfield manor records.’  That this ‘Shakeshafte’ is considered to be a ‘player,’ fits perfectly with our young bard having just strutted his stuff on the London boards. . Of a players functions, Giovanni Della Casa, in his amply-titled, ‘The rich cabinet furnished with varietie of excellent discriptions, exquisite charracters, witty discourses, and delightfull histories, deuine and morrall’ (1616) writes;

Player hath many times many excellent qualities: as dancing, activity, music, song, elocution, ability of body, memory, vigilancy, skill of weapon, pregnancy of wit, and such like: in all which he resembleth an excellent spring of water, which grows the more sweeter and the more plentiful by the often drawing out of it: so are all these the more perfect and plausible by the often practice.

 Fulk Gyllome and his father, Thomas Gyllome, were from an old family of pageant organisers. The Gyllome’s were responsible for producing the mystery plays in Chester, which I have already flagged up as interesting in 1577.

viol-tenor_guitar-held_Elizabethan-consort_deta

1581: Shakespeare & the Heskeths

If the young Shakespeare was working as William Shakeshaft in Lancashire, his job would have been very much like that of a musician on a modern cruise-liner, & Shakespeare’s wages were probably sent home to Stratford to support his father’s growing family – another son, Edmund, was born in 1580, bringing the total number of dependancies to six. That Shakespeare was taken on by Hesketh has no official record, but a family tradition dating to at least 1799 says that he acted at Thomas Hesketh’s seat at Rufford Old Hall.

It is here that we find ourselves a significant step closer to William Stanley & the Grand Tour. The Hesketh’s were the noble neighbours of the Stanleys, that great northern court of Elizabethan England, whose seat at Lathom Hall, near Ormskirk, was a stone’s throw from Rufford. There is a record in 1587 of ‘Sir thomas hesketh plaaiers,’ in the Earl of Derby’s Household Book, showing that the Heskeths provided theatrical entertainment for the Stanleys in that period. We should also notice the link between the Heskeths & the Townleys, whose families were united in the early 16th century.  The mother of Sir Thomas was Grace Townley, which reinforces the idea of our Shakespeare being connected to the Catholic north where Alexander Nowell’s mother, Douse, was also a Hesketh.

Oblique support for the Shakespeare-Hoghton connection comes through John Weever’s Epigrammes (1599), in which the poet ingratiates himself with a literary clique centred upon Thomas Houghton’s brother, Sir Richard. Alongside literary paeans such as that on the death of Stanley’s brother, Ferdinando, Weever dedicates this delectable sonnet to Shakespeare.

Honey-tongued Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue
I swore Apollo got them, and none other,
Their rosy-tainted features clothed in tissue,
Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother.
Rose-cheekt Adonis with his amber tresses,
Fair fire-hot Venus charming him to love her,
Chaste Lucretia virgine-like her dresses,
Proud lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her:
Romea-Richard; more, whose names I know not,
Their sugred tongues, and power attractive beauty
Say they are Saints, although that Sts they show not
For thousands vows to them subjective dutie:
They burn in love thy children Shakespear let them
Go, wo thy Muse more Nymphish brood beget them.

1582 Debdale returns to Shottery

In September 1581 a young woman called Anne Hathaway became evidently more attractive, for her father left a clause in his will giving her £6 13s 4d if and when she married. Of Shakespeare’s wife-to-be, Rowe tells us she, ‘was the Daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial Yeoman.’ The Hathaways were from Shottery, a hamlet close to Stratford, as was Richard Debdale who had gone with Shakespeare to Douay in 1575. On Debdale’s return to England in 1580, he was immediately arrested & imprisoned for two years, being discharged on the 10th September 1582. Going home directly home to Shottery, he would have arrived on September 12th or 13th, whose homecoming party the young Shakespeare may have attended. Doing the natal maths on ovulation dates & periods & stuff, if Shakespeare & Anne got down to it at this occasion for festivity, then any babies thay had conceived in a drunken corner of party would have been due roundabout the 5th June. This virginial moment was surely remembered when he wrote of the seven stages of life in As You Like It;

At first the Infant
Mewling and puking in the Nurse’s Arms:
And then, the whining School-boy with his Satchel,
And shining Morning-face, creeping like Snail
Unwillingly to School. And then the Lover
Sighing like Furnace, with a woful Ballad
Made to his Mistress’ Eye-brow.

anne-hathaway-shakespeares-wife-759x1030

  A possible glimpse into the budding love of Shakespeare & Anne Hathaway can be found in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Printed in 1609 – when he was forty-five – they are a compilation of both individual poems & sequences written throughout his early years. Of these, sonnet 145 sticks out like a sore thumb, both technically & artistically. Although fine enough verse, when compared to the other masterpieces in the collection, Andrew Gurr calls it, ‘arguably the worst of all the Shakespeare sonnets.’  Sonnet 145 is written in a different meter to the rest (Iambic Tetrameter), while the versification, vocabulary, syntax & stylistics seem less mature. It reads;

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said “I hate”
To me that languished for her sake.
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that, ever sweet,
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
“I hate” she altered with an end
That followed it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
“I hate” from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying “not you.”

Gurr proposed this sonnet was actually written for Anne Hathaway, noticing a possible pun in ‘hate away’ & Hathaway, while ‘and saved my life’ was a phonetic match to ‘Anne saved my life.‘ The editor of Gurr’s essay, FW Bateson, adds, ‘in Stratford in 1582 Hathaway & hate-away would have been a very tolerable pun.’ With Shakespeare’s name appearing elsewhere as ‘Shagspere,’ pronunced with a short vowel like the ‘a’ in cat, we can see how the Warwickshire vowel lengths were interchangeable, & that Hathaway could easily have become Hate-away. If Shakespeare is writing this sonnet to Anne, we can see how he had developed a teenage crush for her, after which he, ‘languished for her sake.’ His advances seem to have at first been spurned, gaining a few verbal backlashes from Anne’s, ‘tongue that, ever sweet / Was used in giving gentle doom.’ The sonnet then describes how Anne, seeing his ‘woeful sake’ seems to have taken pity on the pining lad, when, ‘in her heart did mercy come.

Nov 1582 – Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway

Like any any other 18-year-old, Shakespeare had found a great romance in his earliest carnal occasions, a romantic dalliance which had resulted in Anne’s pregnancy. As soon as she began to show, a rapid wedding between the two youngsters was organised. The Episcopal register at Worcester, dated to November 28th, 1582, gives us a record of the marriage.

The condicion of this obligacion ys suche that if herafter there shall not appere any Lawfull Lett or impediment by reason of any precontract consanguinitie affinitie or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoeuer but that William Shagspere on thone partie, and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the Dioces of Worcester maiden may lawfully solennize matrimony together and in the same afterwardes remaine and continew like man and wiffe according vnto the lawes in that behalf prouided

Six months later, the baptism record tells us that Shakespeares’ first child, Susanna, was christened on May 26th, 1583.

1583-4: The Arraignment of Paris

There are two events of 1584 which we may apply to Shakespeare. We can at least pin him to April 1584, when he conceived the twins with his wife, Anne. It was also in this year that a play known as the Arraignment of Paris was printed. On account of evidence internal & external, it seems that one of the first ever pastoral plays in English, The Arraignment of Paris, was co-author’d by our prodigal young bard & George Peele. Of the latter, William Beloe wrote (Anecdotes of Literature I: 1807) “This writer flourished in the time of Elizabeth. He was a very good Poet, and produced four plays, or as some say, five; all are remarkably rare…. {The Arraignment} piece has been attributed to Shakspeare; but its real author was George Peele.

The earliest authorship attributions were indeed to Peele; in his preface to Greene’s Menaphon, Nashe describes the Arraignment as Peele’s ‘first increase,’ while in 1600, a book called England’s Helicon printed selections over the name Geo. Peele. Set against this are the records of mid seventeenth century booksellers such as Kirkman & Winstanley who recorded Shakespeare as the author. The simple solution is here is that both writers were involved in the creation of the play, a hyperbasis which remains firmly standing upon further scrutiny. It may be of significance that Peele’s sister, Isabel, had married a certain Mathew Shakespeare, with whom she sired eight children. They lived in Clerkenwell in London, & if Matthew was a relation of Shakespeare then we have a crucial familial link between the two playwrights.

‘The position of the Arraignment of Paris on Table 10.1,‘ we read in The New Oxford ‘Shakespeare: Authorship Companion (ed. Gary Taylor, Gabriel Egan), ‘makes it strikingly anomalous. Did we not know better, we might suppose it was by Shakespeare.‘ The same opinion was given by seventeenth century booksellers such as Kirkman In 1691, Gerard Langbaine recorded (Account of the English Dramatick Poets: 1691), “Arraignment of Paris, a Pastoral, which I never saw; but it is ascribed by Kirkman to Mr. W. Shakespear.”

The Arraignment of Paris is a heavily mythologized piece based on the Judgement of Paris which led to the Trojan war, heavy influenced by Ovid’s Metamorpheses, especially the Heroides sections. The play utilizes a great number of variant poetic forms, including  euphonius blank verse & charming lyrics, & also contains an elongated speech by Paris of 100 lines plus, which only a child actor of some genius could have tackled – our young Shakespeare fitting the bill perfectly. The majority of the play bares the stamp of Peele, but there are sections which undoubtedly belong to the hand of our young bard. The follwing section, for example, remembers Shakespeare’s time with Spenser when he was composing the Calendar; the poetic forms are also identical to those we have already ascribed to Shakespeare as the W.S. author of the ‘songe of the Lambes feast’ & the fourteeners of the Golden Aphroditis.

ACT. III. SCENA. I.
COLIN THENAMORED SHEEPHERD SINGETH HIS PASSION OF LOVE.
THE SONG.
O gentle Love, ungentle for thy deede,
Thou makest my harte
A bloodie marke
With pearcyng shot to bleede.
Shoote softe sweete love, for feare thou shoote amysse,
For feare too keene
Thy arrowes beene,
And hit the harte, where my beloved is.
Too faire that fortune were, nor never I
Shalbe so blest
Among the rest
That Love shall ceaze on her by sympathye.
Then since with love my prayers beare no boot,
This doth remayne
To cease my payne,
I take the wounde, and dye at Venus foote.
Exit COLIN.

ACT III. SCENA. II.
HOBINOL, DIGON, THENOT.

HOBBINOL.
Poor Colin wofull man, thy life forespoke by love,
What uncouth fit, what maladie is this, that thou dost prove.

DIGGON.
Or Love is voide of physicke cleane, or loves our common wracke,
That gives us bane to bring us lowe, and let us medicine lacke.

HOBBINOL.
That ever love had reverence ‘mong sillie sheepeherd swaines.
Belike that humour hurtes them most that most might be their paines.

THENOT.
Hobin, it is some other god that cheerisheth their sheepe,
For sure this love doth nothing else but make our herdmen weepe.

DIGGON.
And what a hap is this I praye, when all our woods rejoyce,
For Colin thus to be denyed his yong and lovely choice.

THENOT.
She hight indeede so fresh and faire that well it is for thee,
Colin and kinde hath bene thy friende, that Cupid coulde not see.

HOBBINOL.
And whether wendes yon thriveles swain, like to the stricken deere,
Seekes he dictamum for his wounde within our forrest here.

DIGGON.
He wendes to greete the Queene of love, that in these woods doth wonne,
With mirthles layes to make complaint to Venus of her sonne.

THENOT.
A Colin, thou art all deceived, shee dallyes with the boy,
And winckes at all his wanton prankes, and thinkes thy love a toy.

HOBBINOL.
Then leave him to his luckles love, let him abide his fate,
The sore is ranckled all too farre, our comforte coms to late.

DIGGON.
Though Thestilis the Scorpion be that breakes his sweete assault,
Yet will Rhamnusia vengeance take on her disdainefull fault.

THENOT.
Lo yonder comes the lovely Nymphe, that in these Ida vales
Playes with Amyntas lustie boie, and coyes him in the dales.

HOBBINOL.
Thenot, methinks her cheere is changed, her mirthfull lookes are layd,
She frolicks not: pray god, the lad have not beguide the mayde.
The play was printed in 1584, & declares it had been, ‘Presented before the Queenes Maiestie, by the Children of her Chappell’ at some unknown point beforehand. Having already traced Shakespeare’s connection to the Children of the Chapel through his mimesial remembrances of the Kenilworth procession in 1576, then in between these two bookends we may assume now that Shakespeare was heavily involved with the troupe, & given his age would have been one of its actors. Perhaps with puberty he moved upstairs, so to speak, & with his clear talent with a pen, began to become involved in the conception & creation of the plays themselves.

In 1584, the Children of the Chapel played at the royal court the last time; the Pipe Rolls records the performances of two un-named plays on January 6th & February 2nd. Later that year the landlord of Blackfriars, Sir William More, closed the theatre down. After this, the Children of the Chapel were dissolved & Shakespeare was out of a job. Like any modern worker being made redundant, it was clearly time for a holiday…

——————————————-

Next Wednesday, 14/03/18

Chapter 8:  Shakespeare’s Blossom

—————————-

chisp cover

CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

—————

THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang