The Young Shakespeare (14): Ireland, Scotland & Denmark
Discovering the fascinating truth
Of Shakespeare’s missing years
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 would be rewritten by Shakespeare, with lines & phrases from the Ur-types popping all across his extensive ouvre. Where the Queen’s Players produced Richard III & King Leir, so Shakespeare wrote a version of Richard III & the spell’d slightly differently, King Lear. Elsewhere, The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth forms the entire foundation for the material of 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V, while 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 two Hamlets share, ‘the screeking Raven sits croking for revenge.’
Shakespeare’s entry into the Queen’s might be realted to the absence from the troupe of that most famous of Elizabethan actors, & Queen’s Man, Richard Tarleton. He had died in September 1588 & the Men would have been in need of fresh blood – & who better than the brilliant Young Shakespeare to step into the role. Incidentally, Tarleton was a West Midlands lad just like Shakespeare, a remembrance to whom is contained thro the Hamlet’s court jester, to whose skull is spoken the ever famous line, ‘alas poor Yorick, I knew him so well. 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 gets involved with the Blackfriars Theatre
All through his life Shakespeare would be involved in every aspect of the stage, taking part-shares in theatres, writing the plays, & even bloody acting in them. He was a veritable Mr.Theatre. His first venture into the financial side of things was in 1589, when he took a share in the Blackfriars Theatre. Evidence for this comes through a manuscript which had passed into the hands of Lord Ellesmere, the then attorney-general, in the 1840s. 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.
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 was 25 – a fun-loving age if ever there was one – & to have been in attendance at a drunken evening filled with the early stanzas of Shakespeare’s erotic masterpiece would have been great fun. One man that felt the poem more than most 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 1580s, 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.
Shakespeare Visits Ireland
Since their formation in 1583, the Queen’s Players had been the leading troupe of actors in the land, travelling widely, with prominent performances at court over the prestigious festive seasons. Shakespeare joined the Queen’s Players at a time when they were dividing themselves 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.’
Through Shakespeare’s presence among the Queen’s Players, we can now place him in Ireland. Shakespeare. 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 over the Irish Sea to Lancashire, where at Knowsley 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.
While in Ireland Shakespeare would have heard the word, Púca, which means ghost & went on to become ‘Puck’, the name of a ‘spirit’ in Midsummer Nights Dream (Act II Scene 1). He might have also heard phrases like “A hundred thousand welcomes” – Coriolanus (Act II Scene I) & “Did you ever hear the like?…….Did you ever dream of such a thing?” (Pericles Act IV Scene IV 1). The Irish were & still are world renownwed for the music, & famous. The phrase “Calin o custure me” in Henry V is taken from an Old Irish harp melody called “Cailín ó cois Stúir mé”;
When as I view your comely grace
Your golden hairs, your angel’s face,
W.H. Gratton Flood in his ‘History of Irish Music’ devotes a whole chapter to Shakespeare’s knowledge of 11 Irish songs, being;
1. Callino casturame – Mentioned as an Irish tune in ‘A handful of Pleasant dities’ (1594).
2. Ducdame – a corruption of An d-tiocfaidh from Eileen A Rún .
3. “Fortune my Foe” – (Merry Wives of Windsor Act II Scene III) ‘reckoned always an Irish tune’.
4. “Peg a Ramsay” – (Twelfth Night Act II Scene III) A ‘dump tune’ which Flood states were played on a small Irish harp called a tiompán
5. “Bonny Sweet Robin”
6. “Whoop do me no harm, good man”- (A Winter’s Tale Act IV Scene III) known in Ireland as “Paddy whack.”
7. “Welladay; or Essex’s last Good-Night” – about the death of the Earl of Essex in Ireland in 1576.
8. “The Fading ” or “Witha a fading” – (“A Winter’s Tale” Act IV) “is, even on the testimony of the late Mr William Chappell (an uncompromising advocate of English music) undoubtedly an Irish dance tune. Also called the ‘Rince Fada’.”
9. “Light o’ Love” – (Two Gentlemen of Verona Act I Scene 2) an allusion is made to the tune of ‘light o’love’ another Irish tune.
10. “Yellow Stockings” – Known in Gaelic as “Cuma, liom” and the reference is to the saffron ‘truis’ of the medieval Irish.
11. “Edgar: Wantest thou eyes at trial, madam ? Come o’er the bourn, Bessie, to me.” – (King Lear Act III Scene VI)
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. He even composed many decent enough poems of his own. 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 commences Shakespeare’s first visit to Scotland. The statement of the Revels tells us in that 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.’ Among the ‘six maskers,’ we shall place William Shakespeare, now a fully-fledg’d member of one of the half-troupes into which the Queen’s Players were dividing in 1589.
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. The governor of Carlisle, Baron Scroop of Bolton, soon found himself involv’d in this high proflie case of pass the parcel, writing;
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
The xxth of Septemre, 1589
Yowr verie assured loving friend
What Shaksepeare got up to in those 10 days in Cumbria we do not know – there are no traces of the county in his works. One expects they were rehearsing hard for the forthcoming nuptuals, & maybe a little carousing with the locals. Its a nice city.
Shakespeare in Scotland
As storms raged across the North Sea, Princess Anna of Denmark was unable to make the treacherous crossing, leading to James camping up at Seton Castle to watch the Firth of Forth for her ship. 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 week later, William Asheby wrote;
We dailie now expect the fleet of De[nmark]. The Quene embarqued at Copmanhaven [on] Moundaie the first of this moneth, and [hath] not set foote on ground sithence, except [the] last storme, which continued the 12 and thirten of this present southwest, haith driven the fleet back into Norwaie, [as] in all likliehode it haith done.
The Lord Dingwall arrived here this [day]. He left the Quene and the whole fleet on [this] side of Elsenoure, and had sight of the same nere the Skaw. It is certen[ly] looked that the Quene shall arrive in this Firth within as shorte space as [wind] and wether cane serve from Norwaie [to] this cost, which maie be in foure or fi[ve] daies, if thei have keapt the seas, and not entred over farr the Sound of .
The wind haith ben southwest and gre[at] this foure daies last past. This daie it groweth calmer and northwest, so as in . . . daies the Quenes arrivall is expected at Le[ith], where great preparacion is made to receave her.
The wait dragg’d on & on & a very impatient & romantically-minded James, ‘passionate as true lovers be’, was on the 8th of October said to ‘lyeth at Cragmillar, hard by Edenbrowghe, retyred, and as a kind lover spends the t[yme] in sighing.’ His malaise was soon converted to action & he decided that instead of waiting he would risk the crossing & marry his young bride in Norway instead. Bring the mountain to Mohammed.
With him went Shakespeare, but before they sailed from Leith on October 24th, Shakespeare clearly spent time perusing the Royal Library in Edinburgh. In 1589 it held the single, 43,000 lines-long manuscript copy of William Stewart’s Chronicle of Scotland. 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 the 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.’
Other sources for Macbeth which Shakespeare would have studied in the Royal Scottish Library include Andrew Wyntoun’s metrical ‘Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland’ & also the ‘Flyting betwixt Montgomerie and Polwart,’ a poem which contains the three wyrd sisters. In the latter text After their bewitching curses 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 (Flyting)
When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air (Macbeth)
We also have two allusions are to Scots law: “double trust” and “interdiction.” the Oxfordian Richard F. Whalen explains it all quite succinctly’
Macbeth says of Duncan: “He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself” The “double trust” concept was enacted into law in 1587 when the Scottish Parliament raised from mere homicide to treason the slaying of someone of rank who was also a guest of his slayer, with the trial to be held in the highest court.
The legal term “interdiction” occurs in the strange colloquy between Macduff and Malcolm. Macduff laments that Malcolm, the heir to the throne, “by his own interdiction stands accused and does blaspheme his breed” This refers in Scots law to someone conscious of his failings who gives up or is forced to give up the management of his own affairs, which is what Malcolm seemed to be doing, much to Macduff’s dismay.
The thing about Oxfordians is that they are the most meticulous researchers – they turn over stone several times & check for how it looks for the light, & their research has been invaluable to tell you the truth – team work!
One of the most important piecs of local knowledge embedded in the play is that of Macbeth’s armor-bearer being named Seton. The legends of Macbeth do not mention any Setons, but Professor Wilson of the University of Edinburgh was astonish’d that “somehow or other” Shakespeare learned that the Setons were the hereditary armor-bearers to the kings of Scotland. But of course Shakespeare was on the very Seton spot with King James.
Finally, the date of Shakespeare’s visit to Macbeth country is intriguing, as the plays spirit seems to have fused with a contemporary event – the murder of the Duke of Guise by Henry III of France in December 1588. Eva Turner Clark, in her ‘Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays ‘(1931), observed ‘many points in common’ between the Killing of Duncan by Macbeth and the murder of Guise by Henry III, citing ‘the power and influence’ of Catherine De’ Medici, who was inside the Chateau of Blois in France when the murder took place, just as Lady Macbeth is in Macbeth’s Castle in Scotland during the murder of Duncan.
Shakespeare sails to Norway
That Shakespeare & the Queen’s Players went with King James in his 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 the Queen’s Player’s accompanying of King James VI to Denmark.
So Shakespeare & James had set off for Norway, with the king’s the journey being described thus;
He was more than fortunate than his bride in having four days of fair weather, but on the fifth a storm arose & a day later he landed at Flekkefjord in Norway.
It must have been quite a poetic moment for our young bard, leaving him verteux & receptive to the energies which would one day manifest themselves in Hamlet. From Flekkefjord Shakespeare & James proceeded to Oslo. In the Danish cccount of the day, translated by Peter Graves, we observe how Shakespeare fbecame acquainted with the figure who would 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 can observe a certain ‘Jørgen Rozenkrantz.’
Shakespeare visits Kronborg Castle
James and Anne were married in Oslo, November 23rd, at the great hall in Christen Mule’s house with all the splendour possible at that time & place. As they drove from the church James arranged a curious spectacle for the entertainment of the people of Oslo. By his orders four young “blackamoors” danced naked in the snow in front of the royal carriage, but the cold was so intense that they died a little later of pneumonia. After the nuptuals, most of the entourage returned to Scotland, but others – including the Queen’s Players – accompanied the royal couple to Kronborg Castle in Denmark.
The King was in a great mood, & wrote home that, ‘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 govenor of Jutland. Kronborg, however, is on Zealand. Then why did Shakespeare move the scene?
We may now assume that on 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 echoes out into Hamlet’s famous ‘play-within-the-play,’ where a troupe of traveling players enact a ‘Dumb-Show’ call’d the Murder of Gonzaga (or the Mousetrap).
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.
There is a definitive nod to James in Shakespeare’s play. Just as Hamlet’s father is the King in the Dumb-Show was murdered by having poison administered to his ear, 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 was the first husband of James’ mother, Mary Queen of Scots. That the Gonzaga family heralded from Mantua, & of course we have already plaved Shakespeare in thhat city with Stanley.
It must be noted that while half 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.
Shakespeare returns to Scotland
In early 1590, James returned to Scotland with his new wife. That Shakespeare was back in Scotland in wintry months is reflected by his uncanny observation in Macbeth of “so fair and foul a day I have not seen.” During the coronation ceremonies in Edinburgh, the masque 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 masquers 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 masque 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 that winter might have had something to do with it, & more than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick were arrested. Many would soon be confessing – under torture of course – 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. When writing Macbeth, Shakespeare would adapt 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.’
There are in Macbeth quite canny descriptions of Scottish weather, when ‘so fair and foul a day I have not seen.’ Shakespeare also describes how the, ‘air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses‘ to which Banquo adds ‘Heaven’s breath smells wooingly here. The air is delicate,’ Is this a remembrance in Shaksepeare of visiting some Highland scene, especially the castle of Macbaeth, described by Shakespeare as a ‘pleasant seat.’ Arthur Clark also notes that Inverness has an unusually mild “microclimate” distinct from the rest of Scotland, and he too wonders how Shakespeare could have known about it without having visited Inverness. Clark also shows how Shakespeare caccuraelty locates Dunsinane, Great Birnam Wood, Forres, Inverness, the Western Isles, Colmekill, Saint Colme, and the lands that gave their names to the thanes: Fife, Glamis, Cawdor, Ross, Lennox, Mentieth, Angus and Caithness. Again, on the spot knowledge seems likely, while in Banquo’s question: “How far is it called to Forres”? the use of the word “Called,” reflects a typical Scots locution of the time.