Category Archives: The Young Shakespeare

The Young Shakespeare (14): Ireland, Scotland & Denmark


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


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 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. 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 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.


1589
SUMMER
Shakespeare gets involved with the Blackfriars Theatre

Blackfriars2All 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.


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 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.


1589
AUGUST-SEPTEMBER
Shakespeare Visits Ireland

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, 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
Caleno custurame
Your golden hairs, your angel’s face,
Caleno custurame

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)


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. 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

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

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.


1589
OCTOBER
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.’

images (1)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!

Finally, in the play Macbeth’s armor-bearer is 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.


1589
OCTOBER
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.’


1589-90
WINTER
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?

download1We 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.


1590
SPRING
Shakespeare returns to Scotland

English troupes tour’d the continent regularly in Shakespeare’s time – from the Album of Franz Hartmann, of Frankfort on Oder

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.

The Young Shakespeare (12): Return to England


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


NOVEMBER 1587

Shakespeare Sails Home

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

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

In the noble houses of Elizabethan England, the ‘household book’ would record the toings & froings of visitors to the estate. The vast majority of these have been lost, but at Knowsley, however, one of these little diaries miraculously survived the ravagings of time, written down with meticulous energy by the Stanley steward, William Ffarington. Crucially, the book supplies us with information for the three-year period between 1587 & 1589, providing the precise date for Stanley’s return to Knowsley… December 1587. With the lunar eclipse recorded in one of Shakespeare’s Turkish sonnets occurring in September, we are given a three month window for Stanley to be freed from prison & to travel from Constantinople to Lancashire. Intriguingly, in one of Lorenzo Bernardo’s dispatches, we hear of an English Catholic gentleman who was acting quite suspiciously bout Constantinople in that very time period.

November 11th: An English gentleman arrived here on board the ships ‘Salvagna.’ He says he is a Catholic; that he left England at the end of May with the intention of going to Jerusalem, but on his arrival here he changed his mind, & after staying a few days he left for Patras, there to embark on board an English ship for England. This roused great suspicions, & I succeeded in keeping him under observation

Whoever that mysterious Catholic was, if he had been on the trail of Stanley he was too late; for he & Shakespeare were already scudding the sea-lanes home. In the age of Elizabethan sail, Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind had a top speed of 8 knots, about 9.2 mph. With the port of London lying 3627 nautical miles from Constantinople, the voyage would have taken about 19 days of unbroken sailing. Slowing down the ship to the speed of a merchant vessel, perhaps 4 or 5 knots, the same voyage would have taken just over a month. Ample time for Stanley to return to Lancashire by December. In, ‘The Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant,’ we read of the probable route taken from the eastern Meditterranean only a few months after Stanley, picking up the journey at Crete (Candia) in 1588. It took Sanderson 2 months to get to England, but he has several pauses such as the fortnight near the rock of Goletta.

The 23th January [1588] we weare ashore at an iland of[f] Candia, cauled Christiana^. The 25th we cast ancore at Caldarona. The 11th and 12th of Febrewary we passed betwene Sisilia and Malta. The 13th to Pantalaria. The 14th we weare in sight of Cape Bon one Barbarie side. The 15th we sawe Goletta, a rocke a little of[f] of Carthadge. The last of Febrewary we arived in Argier [Algiers]. Sett saile from thence the 2d of March. The 6th came in sight of Cape d’ Gatt.  The 7th at night we passed by Jebberaltare, and so throughe the Streyghts. Frome Suta [Ceuta] we weare espied, who shott  twise. In the morninge we had Cape Spratt [Spartel] about six leagues asterne. The 11th we weare as highe as Cape St. Vincent.  The 19th we weare even with Cape Fenister ; frome thence caped  [i.e. bore] NNW. The 22th, beinge Friday, we came to the soundinges; threwe the lead at night, and found 92 fathome.  Then we caped NE. and by E. The next day in the morninge we  found 70 fathom, and at none [i.e. noon] 55. The next day we  fell with Portland 3 , which was the first of Ingland we had sight  of. Then to the Downes, and so to Gravesend; frome thence in a wherry to Blackewale; so by land to London, the 29th of March 1588.

It is on this voyage that Shakespeare would have gained his knowledge of the Bay of Portugal (the Bay of Biscay), an unusually deep body of water that would have been unsoundable by the plumbing methods of Shakespeare’s time. Memory of the Bard’s time on the Bay can be found in As You Like It;

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

The long hours of tedium that a sea-voyage entails provided a perfect atmosphere in which Shakespeare could compose his poetry. As our two lovers drifted home, sharing, it is possible that Shakespeare found a serene moment to compose yet another sonnet of the series to his ‘Handsome Youth.’ There is one sonnet in particular that can be accurately dated to the Stanleyan Grand Tour.

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

If the twelve seasons mentioned begin with that of winter 1584-85, then it is the three Mediterranean ‘hot Junes’ of ’85, ’86 & ’87 which Shakespeare spent with Stanley that are meant. This means the sonnet was composed at the end of autumn, 1587, just as they were sailing home.


DECEMBER 1587

Stanley Spends Christmas in Lancashire

In the year of 1587 the plague came to the good folk of Lancashire. This was pterry bad, of course, but the return of our gallant & sun-bronzed adventurers cheered up the county, no end. Stanley would have cut a dashing image; 25 years old, fully tanned & bubbling with exciting tales from his travels – there were sea-battles, death-row prisons, duels, magicians & a sordid love triangle – its had everything really. There is an account made in that very year by William Harrison of how Stanley might have appeared to English on his return.

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

Might Stanley have even taken his great new 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. It is no wonder that after travelling Europe in such a fashion that the young Shakespeare, verteux – as the French say – & amorous – as the French do -, would find his mind & spirit filling with so much poesis it would take years to spill onto the page. How it became such stellar poetry was down, of course, to his flowering genius, which surely was first nourished in the fertile bedsoil of the Stanleyan Grand Tour – a perfect start for a career of high genius. The dramatic continental output of the Shakesperean ouvre is, in all essence, a grand & brilliant creochisp of the Swan of Avon’s especial flight abroad. Some plays were being penned already, some may have only been a title with a few scraps of notes, some were yet to be born.

There seems an incredible dedication by Shakespeare to recording as many details of the Grand Tour is possible in his plays. 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. These two might even have been performed that Christmas at Knowsley, when the Household Books record a visit by ‘Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers’ 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

This could well have been the performance that won the newly-emerging playwright his first laurels of appreciation. That the disembarkation of the flower-garlanded galleon that was England’s true bard occurred at Knowsley, introduces Stanley’s brother, Ferdinando Stanley, into the equasion. Taking the bardic baton from his brother, who had his education to continue, Ferdinando would drag our boy back to London, & into the realisation of his prenominate destiny.


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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 a 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 – 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.

The England the Spanish were aiming to attack 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 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

Watson, born in St Olave Parish in 1555. There is a record for him studying at Winchester College in 1567, & when he supplied verses to Greene’s Ciceronis Amor (1589), Watson signed himself an Oxford man – which means that he studied at the that university at some point. This is confirmed by the Oxford antiquarian Anthony à Wood (Athenae Oxonienses 1691) who stated, “Thomas Watson, a Londoner born, did spend his time in this university, not in logic and philosophy, as he ought to have done, but in the smooth and pleasant studies of poetry and romance, whereby he obtained an honourable name among the students of those faculties.” One of these students could well have been William Stanley, who was 6 years younger than Watson & who studied at St Johns. William Stanley may also have met Watson in Paris 1582, as fourteen years afterwards, in 1596,  the anonymous author of Ulysses upon Ajax  describes a certain, ‘Tom Watson’s jests, I heard them at Paris fourteen years ago: besides what balductum play is not full of them?” 

It seems that Watson’s own time on the continent was a surreptitious escapade in Catholic scholarship. It is 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. In 1577 Watson was 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 this new return to England, Watson began 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 18 line ‘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 at some point before Shakespeare prepared it for printing.

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 own 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.

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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. One person in the household was Cornelia Cornwallis, one of the younger daughters, who would eventually – in 1601 – marry Sir Richard Fermor of Somerton, Oxfordshire. His auntie, Anne(d.1550), had been the wife of William Lucy (d.1551), & thus the mother of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, Warwickshire, the very estate where the young Shakespeare was caught stealing deer!

In 1588, another of Cornwallis’ daughters, 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

The language, spelling & rhythms of the Shakespeare poem in the Cornwallis-Lyon possess an extremely similar ring to the language, spelling & rhythms of the poem attributed to WS in 1577, which I gave in an earlier post, but shall give again the first seven libes;

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,

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips had this to say about the comparison between the Cornwallis-Lyon & the Passionate Pilgrim stanzas;

In this (manuscript) reading, we get rid of the harsh and false metre of the third (printed) line, and obtain a more natural imagery; the lady wringing, her lover’s ear for betraying her secrets, being certainly a more appropriate punishment for his fault than that of merely whispering (to) him.

Invention has been racked to account for the utter disappearance of the poems of Shakespeare in his own hand. The Rev. Mr. Hunter, in his recently published New Illustrations of the Life and Writings of Shakespeare, ingeniously supposes that the last descendant of the Poet, Lady Barnard (granddaughter of the Stratford citizen) in her over-religious zeal, may have destroyed any writings that remained in her hands. Whatever cause it may be owing, it is a certain fact that, at the present time, not a line of (William Shakspere’s) writing is known to exist. In the absence of his (literary) autographs, any contemporaneous manuscript is of importance; and in this view the present (Cornwallis) one may justly be deemed a literary curiosity of high interest.

In conclusion, I may observe that during a search of ten years later extended to about fifty years and after a careful examination of every collection of the kind I could meet with, either in public or private libraries, the present is the only specimen of any of Shakespeare’s writings I have seen which was written in the sixteenth century. Scraps may be occasionally met with in miscellanies of a later date, but this volume, in point of antiquity, may be fairly considered to be unique in its kind, and as one of the most interesting illustrations of Shakespeare known to exist


1588 SUMMER

Shakespeare Gets To Work

download (2)Whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line Ben Johnson

His mind and hand went together: And what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarse received from him a blot in his papers Preface to the First Folio

In 1588, Shakespeare began working on converting into theatrical gold dust all the materials he had collected on his travels. His mind would have been burgeoning with ideas; bubbling with a few rough sketches of scenes & storylines, & nibbled at by 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.’ Samuel Johnson’s opinion of Shakespeare’s career path should also be taken into account;

He found the English stage in a state of utmost rudeness; no essays either in tragedy or comedy had appeared, from which it could be discovered to what degree of delight either one or other might be carried. Neither character nor dialogue were yet understood. Shakespeare may be truly said to have introduced them both amongst us, & in some of his happier scenes to have carried them to the utmost height. 

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


John Shakespeare – Our Poet’s Poppa

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’s remortgaged property at Wilmcote. Another John, surnamed Lambert, had taken on the property, but refused to pay £20 that he owed our poet’s father. In the Bill of complainant in Queen’s Bench case of Shackespere v. Lambert, William is named twice as his son.

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 had just 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.

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, whose 1588 enrollment at Lincoln’s Inn supports his being a ‘good scholar.’


1588 AUTUMN

The Comedy of Errors

Our budding bard would have been inspired by the growing popularity of the theatrical 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. The keen-eyed Shakespearean scholar, TW Baldwin, highlights allusions in the Comedy of Errors play to both the Armada & to Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, published in 1588. COE also contains a clever pun about France, ‘making war against her hair,‘ referring to the ‘War of the Three Henries’ fought between 1585 & 1589. The same passage also suggests the Spanish Armarda of 1588.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE Where France?
DROMIO OF SYRACUSE In her forehead, armed and reverted, making war against her heir.
DROMIO OF SYRACUSE Sir, upon her nose, all o’er-embellished with rubies, carbuncles, sapphires, declining their rich aspect to the hot breath of Spain, who sent whole armadas of caracks to be ballast at her nose.

Baldwin also 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.’  

The Young Shakespeare (11): The Dark Lady


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


FEBRUARY 1587
Shakespeare in Cyprus

After the John Dee meeting in the Garland come three stanzas which whisk our travellers to the Holy land;

But one three years Sir William would stay,
Within the Emperor’s court so freely,
And then Sir William he would go,
To Bethlehem right speedily,

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

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

In the possession of one of our party members might have lain the delightful Informacion for Pylgrymes unto the Holy Londe, published by Wynkyn de Worde in 1498. The Rough Guide of the Middle Ages, it was packed full of advice for tavellers, including the best equipment to take with them on their journey including; ‘a lytell cawdron, a fryenge panne, dysshes, platers, cuppes of glasse… a fther bed, a matrasse, a pylawe, two payre sheets & a quylte.’ The book also suggests travelling with six chickens in cages, which brings the romantic image of travelling the continent crashing down to earth somewhat.

Sailing south through the Adriatic once more, this time they hung a left at Greece & eventuslly came to dock for a while at the ports of Cyprus. This visit would inspire Shakespeare to bescene parts of his tragedy, Othello, on the island. The official setting is given in the text as only a ‘sea-port’ of Cyprus, & a ‘hall in the castle,’ with local tradition affirming that Shakespeare was describing the heavily fortified medieval citadel at Famagusta. It is while staying at this fortress that Shakespeare would have heard the local story of Francesca de Sessa, a dark-skinned Venetian officer serving in Cyprus known as ‘Il Moro.’ Both place & person were implanted in Shakespeare’s vernal imagination, waiting for them to catch the creative fire one day which would burn Othello into existence. When it did so, the play would be given further gloss by raiding Cinthio’s Gli Hecatommithi (1565), which Shakespeare had read in Italian. This pattern of development continues throughout most of Shakespeare’s continental plays: when metapoetic travelogues are liberally sprinkled with the plots of foreign authors.

In 1553, on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the diarist John Locke recorded his experiences of Famagusta, a sample of which read;

We alighted at Famagusta , and after we were refreshed we went to see the towne. This is a very faire strong holde, and the strongest and greatest in the Iland. The walles are faire and new, and strongly rampired with foure principall bulwarkes, and betweene them turrions, responding one to another, these walles did the Venetians make. They have also on the haven side of it a Castle, and the haven is chained, the citie hath onely two gates, to say, one for the lande and another for the sea, they have in the towne continually, be it peace or warres, 800 souldiers, and fortie and sixe gunners, besides Captaines, petie Captaines, Governour and Generall. The lande gate hath alwayes fiftie souldiers, pikes and gunners with their harnes, watching thereat night and day. At the sea gate five and twentie, upon the walles every night doe watch fifteene men in watch houses, for every watch house five men, and in the market place 30 souldiers continually. There may no soldier serve there above 5. yeres, neither will they without friendship suffer them to depart afore 5. yeres be expired, and there may serve of all nations except Greekes. They have every pay, which is 45. dayes, 15 Mozenigos, which is 15 shillings sterling. Their horsemen have onely sixe soldes Venetian a day, and provender for their horses, but they have also certaine lande therewith to plow and sowe for the maintenance of their horses, but truely I marvell how they live being so hardly fed, for all the sommer they feede onely upon chopt strawe and barley, for hey they have none, and yet they be faire, fat and serviceable. The Venetians send every two yeeres new rulers, which they call Castellani. The towne hath allowed it also two gallies continually armed and furnished.

The 30 in the morning we ridde to a chappell, where they say Saint Katherin was borne. This Chappell is in olde Famagusta , the which was destroyed by Englishmen, and is cleane overthrowne to the ground, to this day desolate and not inhabited by any person, it was of a great circuit, and there be to this day mountaines of faire, great, and strong buildings, and not onely there, but also in many places of the Iland. Moreover when they digge, plowe, or trench they finde sometimes olde antient coines, some of golde, some of silver, and some of copper, yea and many tombes and vautes with sepulchers in them. This olde Famagusta is from the other, foure miles, and standeth on a hill, but the new towne on a plaine. Thence we returned to new Famagusta againe to dinner, and toward evening we went about the towne, and in the great Church we sawe the tombe of king Jaques, which was the last king of Cyprus , and was buried in the yere of Christ one thousand foure hundred seventie & three, and had to wife one of the daughters of Venice , of the house of Cornari, the which family at this day hath great revenues in this Island, and by means of that mariage the Venetians chalenge the kingdom of Cyprus .

The first of October in the morning, we went to see the reliefe of the watches. That done, we went to one of the Greekes Churches to see a pot or Jarre of stone, which is sayd to bee one of the seven Jarres of water, the which the Lord God at the mariage converted into wine. It is a pot of earth very faire, white enamelled, and fairely wrought upon with drawen worke, and hath on either side of it, instead of handles, eares made in fourme as the Painters make angels wings, it was about an elle high, and small at the bottome, with a long necke and correspondent in circuit to the bottome, the belly very great and round, it holdeth full twelve gallons, and hath a tap-hole to drawe wine out thereat, the Jarre is very auncient, but whether it be one of them or no, I know not. The aire of Famagusta is very unwholesome, as they say, by reason of certaine marish ground adjoyning unto it. They have also a certaine yeerely sicknesse raigning in the same towne, above all the rest of the Island: yet neverthelesse, they have it in other townes, but not so much. It is a certaine rednesse and paine of the eyes, the which if it bee not quickly holpen, it taketh away their sight, so that yeerely almost in that towne, they have about twentie that lose their sight, either of one eye or both, and it commeth for the most part in this moneth of October, and the last moneth: for I have met divers times three and foure at once in companies, both men and women. Their living is better cheape in Famagusta then in any other place of the Island, because there may no kinde of provision within their libertie bee solde out of the Citie.


MARCH 1587: Shakespeare Sees Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere, John Locke remarks on the banning of the wearing of the colour green by the Muslaim authorities;

The 23 we sent the bote on land with a messenger to the Padre Guardian of Jerusalem. This day it was notified unto mee by one of the shippe that had beene a slave in Turkie, that no man might weare greene in this land, because their prophet Mahomet went in greene. This came to my knowledge by reason of the Scrivanello, who had a greene cap, which was forbidden him to weare on the land.


APRIL 1587

More Levantine Travels

NeapolisToMiletus

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

In ‘The Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant,’ we read of another Englishman’s medical experiences of the port of Tripoli in Syria.

One eveninge, ridinge with a janesarie to the waterside, sittinge uppon my asse, in the midest of a plaine fields, I felte a paulpable blowe a good one the left shoulder, which staied me one my asse. The janesary angell ridinge before me looked backe, but nether I nor he sawe any thinge. When I came backe in my chamber some hower after, standing at a table, sowinge a little gould in my doblett (for the next day I should have gone for Alepo, my horse hire paid for and aparrell sent), I sank downe uppon a lute, that stode at the corner of my bourd, and broke it all in peces. At last, a littell recoveringe, I crept to the dore and cauled for aquavita; which was brought, and I threwe myselfe thawart the bed.

Then I fell into a Jewe doctors hands, a phesition, who purged and drewe so much blodd frome me that I was not wholie recovered of that sicknes in many monthes after. Yet I put myselfe into the shipp Hercules, full weake, and ther had the yealowe
janders, after that I had bine so weake (and recovered againe) that I was not able to stand or goe, but every time I was lifted to a cheaire, whilst John Bond and William Tett (who weare my good attendants) made my bed, I sounded [i.e. swooned] awaye, and beinge laid in bed againe I recovered : a strainge and most greviouse sicknes. I lived four monethes at least by barly water boyled thicke and thickened with suger; also stued prunes and dried apricoks put in water, and the water of them I dranke,
which did refreshe and kepe me alive. Then I fell to a little chickin broth, and so to tast the chicken etc. That Tripoli ayre at that time had infected 40 or 50 Inglishmen at least. Onely the maisters mate and four others died. The coffin was made and sett
out for me, but God prevented that busines (His name be ever praised).

It is possible Shakespeare & Stanley went deeper into the Syrian hinterland, for the city of Aleppo is mentioned in Macbeth and in Othello. In Macbeth we see the mention of a merchant trading ship –  ‘Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’ the Tiger’ – while the second mention is found Othello, spoken by the man himself, who describes his killing of a Turk just as he stabs himself!

In Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turban’d Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog,
And smote him, thus.

Aleppo

From Syria our party pass’d on to Turkey, & there is one play in particular which contains memories of their visit. In the Comedy of Errors, a Sicilian merchant called Egeon is imprisoned in the ancient city of Ephesus. The city played an integral part in the early days of Christianity, being one of the seven churches addressed by the Book of Revelations. Fifteen centuries later, the Christians were usurped by the Islamic Ottomans, & this once well-populated & sophisticated city became locked in a terminal decline. Its river, the Caystros, was steadily silting up into malarial swamps, leaving the once bustling harbours of Ephesus far inland. Population levels plummeted so much that a century before Shakespeare’s visit, the city was said to contain 2,000 souls. By the time our Bard reached the city the numbers had halved, & come 1824 both town & citadel had been abandoned completely, except for wild animals wandering its time-haunted streets.

It is time now to focus our investigation on a situation central to the plot of the Comedy of Errors – the imprisonment of Egeon. The plotline surfaces only in the first & final acts, but the threat of death hangs over Egeon throughout the entire play. In light of the Stanleyan Grand Tour, we must notice the tallies between Egeon & Stanley, who was himself imprisoned while visiting Turkey. Thomas Aspen writes; ‘after paying a visit to Palestine, he journeyed to Turkey, and had a narrow escape of becoming a victim to the bigotry of the followers of Mahommed. In a discussion with one of the Paschas he defended Christianity and the Bible, and denounced the religion propounded in the Koran as false and deceptive. He was arrested for “blasphemy against the religion of Mahommed,” and after being kept a long time in a filthy and dismal prison, a date was fixed for his execution, but a lady interceded on his behalf, and three days before the appointed time he was liberated.‘ That ‘dismal prison’ was not situated in Ephesus, however, but in Constantinople; a city towards which our suntann’d party traveled next.

Heading out of Syria, as the young Shakespeare was sailing along the shores of western Turkey, he was already jotting ideas down for the play, ‘Pericles.’ At one point he was reclining lazily in a boat, anchored in the harbour of Mitylene, a moment which transchispered itself into the play’s stage directions;

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

‘Shakespere’s own muse his Pericles first bore,’ said the great poet of Restoration England, John Dryden. The uneven writing of Pericles suggests its first two acts were co-written. As early as 1709, Nicholas Rowe was suggesting,

‘there is good Reason to believe that the greatest part of that Play was not written by him; tho’ it is own’d, some part of it certainly was, particularly the last Act.‘ The second author’s identity is unknown, but Pericles does contain a number idiomatic expressions of the Lancashire dialect,such as would have been native to Stanley, such as ‘keep thee warm.’ So yet again, as we travel with Stanley & Shakespeare, the idea of them collaborating & composing the prototypes of a number of the canon’s early plays remanifests.


MAY 1587
Shakespeare Visits Constantinople

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

Our Grand Tourists have now reached the furthest limits of their travels, reaching the heart of the Ottoman Empire. Only two years before their arrival, an Elizabethan traveler called Henry Austel had recorded his own visit to the ‘most statelie City of Constantinople, which for the situation & proude seat thereof, for the beautiful & commodious havens, & for the great & sumptuous buildings of the Temples, which they call Moschea, is to be preferred before all Cities of Europe.’ It had only been a decade or two since the Ottoman Empire had reached its high-water mark, but defeats at Malta & Lepanto ensured the Turks would never ever dominate the world. They would now have to trade their way to global improvement, & in the wake of the Italian financial crash of the 1570s it was the English merchants who would deal directly with the Grand Turke.

As he walked around its capital, Shakespeare would have marveled at the minarets & markets, while as under sultry Turkish suns & star-studded Oriental moons may have penned the following sonnet to Stanley.

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

The key allusion is to the Greek myth of Hero & Leander, the two passionate lovers were seperated by the Hellespont, today’s Dardandanelles, near which Constantinople lies. Leander would swim each night across the straits to make passionate love to his beloved Hero, as in the sonnet’s, ‘where two contracted new / Come daily to the banks, that, when they see / Return of love, more blest may be the view.’ More support for a direct Shakespearean visit to the area can be found in Othello, where the relentless nature of individuality is compared to the strong one-way currents found at the Hellespont.

Like to the Pontick Sea,
Whose icy current and compulsive course
Ne’er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
To the Propontic and the Hellespont

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

Embedded in Shakespeare’s description is the word ‘icy,’ a word which indicates personal knowledge. The reference does not appear in Pliny – or anywhere else despite the efforts of the best anti-shakespeareans – but is true all the same


SEPTEMBER 1587
Stanley Incarcerated

We have already learnt of Stanley’s incarceration in Turkey on trussed up charges of Blasphemy. The Garland tells us;

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

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

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

More details are given in the Brief Account, in which this we are told how a certain ‘bashaw’ (pasha) attempted to entangle Stanley in religious controversy. The Lancashire lad was shrewd at first, until the Pasha cunningly declared Christianity to be a fable; ‘your prophet is an imposter, your profession hypocrisy.‘ Stanley countered with a spirited defence, on which he was swiftly arrested by ‘a band of janissaries’ & cast in a prison, three yards square. Stanley’s imprisonment would last for 5 weeks, without bread or water, & suffering the constant torments of an insolent jailor, while all the time the Pasha was using his ‘utmost influence’ to bring Stanley ‘to the gibbet.’

These events seem to have taken place in September 1587, as discerned thro’ the mention of a lunar eclipse in sonnet 107;

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

On the 16th September, 1587, the Moon was shadowed in a deep partial eclipse, lasting 3 hours and 7 minutes, when 76% was shrouded in darkness. Thus, it was after this event, when ‘the mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,’ that Shakespeare’s love for Stanley became ‘forfeit to a confined doom,‘ ie imprisoned in a Turkish prison awaiting death. Fortunately for the lads & their love, a heroine was just about to ride to their rescue, whose entrance into the story should settle the greatest Shakespearean mystery of them all… the identity of the mysterious ‘Dark Lady’ of the sonnets, who was in fact a Turkish noblewoman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the Brief Account, while in Constantinople Stanley had endeared himself to the family of an influential Turk, whose wife & daughter had become greatly concerned about his incarceration. The daughter – who is clearly mentioned in the Garland – managed to get an interview with the Sultan, & eventually secured Stanley’s freedom. As she turned up at the prison, the Brief Account tells us it was with ‘the most rapturous emotions’ that Stanley ‘beheld his female deliverer.‘ She found him in a most sorry state indeed; his body was decimated, his eyes were sunken, his cheeks were pallid & his mind was maddened by thoughts of imminent execution. Instead, at the eleventh hour he was saved from the gibbet by the ‘romantic gallantry’ of a ‘worthy family.’


OCTOBER 1587
The Dark Lady

It is clear that there was a Turkish woman very much in love with Stanley at the same time as was Shakespeare. The back-story reflects itself with neatness onto the dramatic sub-structure of the sonnets, in which a Dark Lady courts both Shakespeare & the Handsome Youth, who we have already associated quite clinically with Stanley. Metric reminiscences of this ménage a trois are found in sonnets 127–152, where Shakespeare & Stanley are shown to be in love with the same dark-skinned woman, who appears to have had some kind of amorous relations with both men. Sonnets 127 & 130 are fine reflections of Shakespeare’s internal torment at falling for an exotic beauty;

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

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

doctorwho37

A little of the Dark Lady’s personality can be discerned by a deeper reading of the sonnets. She is painted as a most promiscuous creature, who ‘robb’d others’ beds revenues of their rents,’ & ‘in act her bed-vow broke,’ which may implyWe also see her described, in sonnet 128, as something of a musician;

How oft when thou, my music, music play’st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st

There is one stand-out sonnet in the Dark Lady series, number 135, which seems to have been written by one William for another. Leo Daugherty states, ‘virtually all editors & other scholars believe to constitute wordplay referring not only to Shakespeare’s own given name but also probably to his addresses as well.’ It reads;

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in overplus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea all water, yet receives rain still
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
One will of mine, to make thy large Will more.
Let no unkind no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will

Sonnet 136 is a similarly gentle play on the fact that the Dark Lady is love in with two different men called William, or Will;

If thy soul check thee that I come so near,
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
Will, will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
In things of great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number one is reckoned none:
Then in the number let me pass untold,
Though in thy store’s account I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:
Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me for my name is ‘Will.’

There are two sonnets in the series which contain elements of Stanley’s Turkish captivity. The metaphor of imprisonment in sonnet 133 hints at the dire straits in which Stanley had found himself;

Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward,
But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe’er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigour in my jail:
And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.

Sonnet 144 contains some excellent & appropriate Christian allegories attached to the ‘two loves’ of Shakespeare, which paint Stanley as an angel & his tempter – the Dark Lady – as an infidel ‘devil’ wanting to ‘corrupt’ the ‘purity’ of Stanley’s sainthood.

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

The same sonnet also yields a clue as to how Stanley escaped prison, for when we read ‘whether that my angel be turn’d fiend / suspect I may, but not directly tell,’ we can identify a correlation to the forced conversions of Christians in the eastern Mediterranean. Only by relenting from his proud Christian stance, & embracing Allah, would his life be saved. Stanley was a member of a family of survivors, & clearly did what was needed to secure his freedom. One can only imagine the joy felt by Shakespeare on his release.


Shakespeare & The Turks

Throughout his plays, Shakespeare mentions the Ottomans more than 40 times, some with those accurate & obscure details which pinned him down to Italy.  We see in Henry IV Part 2 the porte exacting an ever increasing tribute form the conquered provinces,  & despotic sultans follow on from each other. We have seraglio mutes in  Henry V & Turkish euneuchs in Alls Well, but the most interesting reference is made in King Lear, directly associating the Turks with the illicit extra-marital affairs.

A serving-man, proud in heart and mind; that curled
my hair; wore gloves in my cap; served the lust of
my mistress’ heart, and did the act of darkness with
her; swore as many oaths as I spake words, and
broke them in the sweet face of heaven: one that
slept in the contriving of lust, and waked to do it:
wine loved I deeply, dice dearly: and in woman
out-paramoured the Turk:

In Othello we learn that Shakespeare knew the Turks were the common enemy of Venice & the Saracens, that they were circumcised & that Mohammed had forbidden his followers to quarrel with one another. In the Merchant of Venice, when the Prince of Morocco proclaims his courage by saying, “by this scimitar / that slew the sophy & a persian prince / that won three fields of Sultan Solyman,” we may observe an accurate depiction of the 16th century Turko-Perisan wars.

Henry IV, Part 2, contains an interesting insight into Turkish court intrigue, when the dying king admonishes his son, ‘This is the English, not the Turkish court; Not Amurath an Amurath succeeds, but Harry, Harry.’ Its implication is that on succeeding the throne Henry IV declares says that he will not remember old grudges, opposed to the Turkish sultans – in 1574, Amurath murdered his brothers on succeeding to the throne, and his successor in 1596 did the same.

The Young Shakespeare (10): Tasso & the Alchemist, John Dee


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


September 1586: Shakespeare Meets Tasso

On leaving Algeria, Stanley & Shakespeare sailed into the Tyrranean Sea, passing Sardinia & entering Italy at either Livorno or Genoa. From here they re-entered Lombardy, and in September reached Mantua. Its ruler, Duke William, father of Prince Vincenzo, was in a receptive mood to the arts. Analyzing the letters of Striggio, we learn that Duke William was looking for young instrumentalists, &  gives a lovely flavour of the age;

I have received from Messer Flavio Riccio Your Illustrious Lordship’s note and I have informed him that in Florence there are two lads, aged 16 or 17, but they are poor and brought up by Franzosino of the Abandonati. They play cornett, transverse flute, viola and trombone. Franzosino has them play constantly, every day on the Grand Duke’s balcony [on the Palazzo Vecchio; or the Loggia de’ Lanzi] and at table. They also performed at the comedy which the Grand Duke put on for the Ferrara wedding (Florence, 1586). They do not have a regular salary from His Highness, although they are constantly in service. But they go about playing in churches, accompanied by the organ, wherever necessary, in Lucca and Pistoia and elsewhere, as requested. One of them would be suitable for His Highness {Duke William}, and although they are not altogether excellent they are at least more than passable. Because they are dependent and obligated to Franzosino, who has taught them, it is necessary to refer to and come to an agreement with him; also to clothe and provide shoes for them, for they are still supplied with clothes from the Ospedale, and they still eat and sleep there, unless things have changed since I left Florence.

There are several pointers which suggest that Shakespeare encountered Tasso while visiting Mantua. Tasso’s sister was called Cornelia, the same name as Titus Andronicus, which I suspect Shakespeare was comping at the time. The birth of the bard’s version of Hamlet may have also been born from this prodigious meeting. There are clear connections between Hamlet’s madness & that of Tasso’s – both occasionaly feigned – & we can trace a connection between Hamlet’s drawing of his sword in his stepmother’s chamber, where he killed the chief counseller Polinus, & Tasso’s drawing of a knife on a servant in the Duchess of Urbino’s apartment in 1577. There is also the famous play-within-a-play embedded within Hamlet, which concerns the very family into which Tasso had been released. It appears in Act 3 scene 2 as a play called The Murder of Gonzago (or The Mousetrap), during which we hear;

He poisons him i’ th’ garden for ’s estate. His name’s Gonzago. The story is extant, and writ in choice Italian. You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife.

It is a delightful thought to imagine the Italian poet reciting some of his magnificent poem, Jerusalem Delivered, to Shakespeare in Mantua. One character in the epic that may have stuck was the Saracen sorceress, Armida, who in the strongest moments of emotion forgets her spellcraft & resorts to tears & prayers & persuasions. A few years later, when Shakespeare was writing Anthony & Cleopatra, he has the latter do just the same;

CLEOPATRA
O my lord, my lord,
Forgive my fearful sails! I little thought
You would have follow’d.

MARK ANTONY
Egypt, thou knew’st too well
My heart was to thy rudder tied by the strings,
And thou shouldst tow me after: o’er my spirit
Thy full supremacy thou knew’st, and that
Thy beck might from the bidding of the gods
Command me.

CLEOPATRA
O, my pardon!

MARK ANTONY
Now I must
To the young man send humble treaties, dodge
And palter in the shifts of lowness; who
With half the bulk o’ the world play’d as I pleased,
Making and marring fortunes. You did know
How much you were my conqueror; and that
My sword, made weak by my affection, would
Obey it on all cause.

CLEOPATRA
Pardon, pardon!

MARK ANTONY
Fall not a tear, I say; one of them rates
All that is won and lost: give me a kiss;
Even this repays me. We sent our schoolmaster;
Is he come back? Love, I am full of lead.
Some wine, within there, and our viands! Fortune knows
We scorn her most when most she offers blows.

Hamlet also seems to have been inspired by Tasso’s work on the Torrismondo, created in the very moment & the very city where I am placing the William Shakespeare of 1586. Louise George Clubb describes both plays possess, ‘a preoccupation with genre, with experimentation with hybrids & structure is made manifest by conducting a critical action simultaneously with a dramtic fable, underlaid with a paradigmatic myth calling attention to genre. In both, the choice of Scandinavian medieval chronicle is the sign of the sequence to come: from history to myth to genre to critical contemplation of structure. In short, Shakespeare & Tasso were upping their game with some pretty innovative drama, whose familial offerings in the history of theatre are with each other & each other only.‘ The materials of Torrismondo & Hamlet, adds Club, ‘allowed for a confrontation of ostensible history with undeclared myth in plots which silently claimed kinship with the very arguments cited by Aristotle.


1586: Shakespeare Encounters Tasso’s ‘Aminta’

Following its quiet debut in Ferrara in 1573, & more public performance at the 1574 Pesaro Carneveal, Tasso’s Aminta became a highly influential success, with Lisa Sampson observing how the play, ‘was rapidly seized upon for scenarios, episodes & characterisation by a wide range of writers from all over the peninsular.’ A 5-act play, it seems that Shakespeare witness’d the play at first hand. Love’s Labours Lost borrows from the Intermedio II chorus of Aminta, first printed in 1665, while As You Like It contains direct translations & numeorus echoes. Shakespeare was heavily influenced by Tasso’s mythology-steeped Renaissance Pastoralism, described by Cody as, ‘the Platonic theory of a good inner life, accomodated to the literary myth of the courtier as lover & poet. In the Italian Renaissance… pastoralism becomes the temper of the aristocratic mind: the reconciling of discors & contradictions in the medium of the work of art, that shadow of the ideal.’ Cody also describes Shakespeare as integrating Love’s Labours Lost into the, ‘Elizabethan aesthetic Platonism under its pastoral-comical aspect,’ adding, ‘the advantage of recognizing that the orthodox, elegaic Italians & the festive English comedian speak a common language of pastoral Neo-Platonism is considerable.’

Other plays to possess a strong streak of this consciously artificial, highly allegorical, hyper-mythomemed Pastoralism are Twelfth Night & the Two Gentleman of Verona, the latter worldscape described by Cody as ‘clearly the Italianate courtier-lover’s world, translated,’ adding, ‘the series of groups into which the play resolve sitself is pastoral & kinetic in the  manner of the Aminta.’ As in Aminta, the heroine is called Sylvia; & just as in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Silvia is pursued & threatened with rape by Proteus, so in Aminta a satyr kidnaps & nearly rapes Sylvia. Cody also compares the Two Gentlemen of Verona’s Silvia scene to Tasso’s work, stating, ‘it is the one scene in which Shaksepeare successfully invokes the ‘magic potency of the theatre,’ seeking as Tasso does in his third intermedio in the Aminta to gather up his audience into the art of his play by reminding them of  a reality beyond their own.’ Perhaps the most pastoral of the plays, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream was created in 1595 – for William Stanleys wedding – & includes a passage heady in the language of pastoral myth, which also seems to nod at the early death of Tasso, also in 1595,

The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.”
We’ll none of that: that have I told my love
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.
“The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.”
That is an old device, and it was played
When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
“The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceased in beggary.”

The passage above makes reference to Hercules, allusions to whom crop up in the other two early Pastoral comedies, Loves Labours Lost & the Two Gentlemen of Verona. ‘Not that the comedies are the earliest of his plays,’ writes Cody, ‘in which pastoralism appears. In the histories there is at least one important pastoral theme among the cluster of commonplaces concerning Fortune, Nature, & the Prince: it has been termed ‘the rejection of the aspiring mind.’ It is central to the Henry VI trilogy, as witness the scene on Towton Field (2.5); & Shakespeare continues to develop it, more satisfyingly than anywhere perhaps in Henry IV.’ Cody also connects the garden scene of Richard II to the Renaissance habit of observing nature on a divine plane, stating, ‘It is to this aspect of the tradition – a Neo-Platonic landscape of the mind, mythopoeically conceived, as by Tasso in his Aminta – that appears to have been the model for Shakespeare’s orginiative experiments in romantic comedy.’


1586: Tasso Inspires Hamlet

Hamlet is a play supposedly from Shakespeare’s middle period. The story initially burst into literary life with Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century, but could it be that during Shakespeare’s time with Tasso that he began to court the same affection for Scandinavian royal dramas of the Middle Ages as the Italian poet. Perhaps, in France, Shakespeare had picked up a copy of François de Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques (published in 1574) while in France, in which Saxo’s story was given great embellishment. Was meeting Tasso the catalyst for Shakespeare to create what is called the ‘Ur-Hamlet’ (the German prefix means primordial). No copy of this has survived, but its existence must date to before 1589, when Thomas Nashe in his preface to Greene’s prose work Menaphon, entitled To The Gentlemen Students of Both Universities, referred to the ‘English Seneca read by candlelight yields many good sentences, as ‘Blood is a beggar,’ and so forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches.’

Back in Italy, let us imagine Shakespeare’s hamlet being inspired by Tasso’s work on the Torrismondo. Louise George Clubb describes in both plays, ‘a preoccupation with genre, with experimentation with hybrids & structure is made manifest by conducting a critical action simultaneously with a dramtic fable, underlaid with a paradigmatic myth calling attention to genre. In both, the choice of Scandinavian medieval chronicle is the sign of the sequence to come: from history to myth to genre to critical contemplation of structure. In short, Shakespeare & Tasso were upping their game with some pretty innovative drama, whose familial offerings in the history of theatre are with each other & each other only.’

The materials of Torrismondo & Hamlet,’ adds Club, ‘allowed for a confrontation of ostensible history with undeclared myth in plots which silently claimed kinship with the very arguments cited by Aristotle.’ It certainly feels as if Shakespeare was inspired by Tasso’s Torrismondo, which was being created in the very moment & the very city where I am placing William Shakespeare of 1586.

It is also distinctly possible perhaps that Shakespeare’s knowledge of sail-making at Bergamo given in The Taming of the Shrew came from a visit there with Tasso, for it was the Italian poet’s paternal town.


OCTOBER 1586
Shakespeare Visits John Dee

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On leaving Mantua,Stanley & Shakespeare embark’d on a tough, overland, Brokeback Mountain ride up & over the Alps, during which time our budding bard may have etched the opening to sonnet 33;

Full many a glorious morning have I seen,
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye

There is also this passage from Anthony & Cleopatra which seems to invoke the Alpine crossing;

Sometimes we see a cloud that’s dragonish,
A vapor sometime like a bear or lion,
A towered citadel, a pendant rock,
A forkèd mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon ’t that nod unto the world

According to the Garland of William Stanley, our young Lancastrian nobleman – & Shakespeare – had made a great geographical leap from Algeria to Russia (via Mantua) in order to spend some time with John Dee. It reads;

Within the Court of Barbary,
When two full years Sir William had been,
Into Russia he needs must go,
To visit the Emperor and his Queen,

One Doctor Dee he met with there,
Which Doctor was born at Manchester ;
Who knew Sir William Stanley well,
Tho’ he had not seen him for many a year.

Pray what’s the Cause, the Doctor said,
Brings you, Sir William, into this Country
I’m come to travel, Sir William replied,
And I pray thee, Doctor, what brought thee!

I came to do a cure, the Doctor said,
Which was of the Emperor’s feet to be done,
And I have perform’d it effectually,
Which none could do but an Englishman.

Then he brought him before the Emperor,
Who entertained him with Princely cheer,
And gave him Gold and Silver store,
Desiring his company for seven year.

But one three years Sir William would stay,
Within the Emperor’s court so freely,
And then Sir William he would go,
To Bethlehem right speedily

The Chispologist here identifies two chispers, the first being the exageration of the dates, & the other being the wrong Tsar. In the mid-1580s, John Dee, that famous Elizabethan alchemist & academic from Manchester, & his mate Edward Kelley were in Bohemia, at the court of another ‘Tsar,’ the Holy Roman Emporere, Rudolf II. His title was in fact ‘Ceasar, to the harking back to pagan Roman emporers whose authority he inherited. But of course the word Tsar is the Russian deviation of Ceasar. It was Dee’s eldest son, Arthur who was in Russia c.1600, who heal’d the the Tsar’s foot before returning to Norwich, & was subsequently confused with his father in the Garland.

Both Dee & Kelly were known to the group. Dee was from Manchester, near the Stanley lands, & indeed the Garland says, ‘knew Sir William Stanley well / Tho’ he had not seen him for many a year,‘ while Edward Kelley was the same man who created the woodcut images for Spenser’s Shepheard’s Calendar. Dee records a number of meetings with Derby in hi sdiaries, & other nuggets such as the date and time of William’s daughter’s birth. Derby would eventually swing Dee into being a director of Christ’s College, Manchester.

In late 1586 Dee & Kelly were in residence at Trebona in Bohemia (in the modern-day Czech Republic), during which time Dee was making contact with the court of the Russian Tsar, but from hundreds of miles away. On reaching Dee, the arch-magus would have filled them in on recent developments, of how at first he had been a valued guest of the court of Rudolf II, an intellectual hotbed centered on Prague. PJ French states, ‘Dee’s world view was thoroughly of the Renaissance, though it was one which is unfamiliar today, one of a line of philosopher-magicians that stemmed from Ficino & Pico della Mirandola & included, among others, Trithemius, Abbot of Sondheim, Henry Cornelius Agrippa Paracelsus. etc…. Like Dee, these philosophers lived in a world that was half magical, half scientific.’

Dee eventually fell upon the wrong side of Rudolf, & after being banished from Prague was given shelter at in the household of Vilém of Rožmberk, Bohemia’s most powerful nobleman, in the town of Trebona. Equidistant between Prague & Vienna, Trebon welcomed Dee & Kelley on the 14th September, 1586, along with Kelley’s wife Joanna, Dee’s wife Jane & their four children, including an infant boy called Michael.

Dulwich_Picture_Gallery’s_Venus_and_Adonis

Also in Prague at that time was a copy of Titian’s Venus & Adonis – or perhaps even the original – commissioned by the Holy Roman Emporer, Charles V (d.1558), as discerned through a letter written by F. Mueller, the correspondent in Italy for the court of Bavaria. Now held in the Galleria Nazionale of Palazzo Barberini in Rome, it is mark’d out from all the other V&As painted by Titian (there were many copies made, usually completed by his students) by the hat worn by Adonis. In Shakespeare’s poem we actually have various mentions of such a hat, as in, ‘with one fair hand she heaveth up his hat,’ & ‘therefore would he put his bonnet on.’ It is possible that Stanley & Shakespeare were living the swancy-fancy life of art connoisseurs at this point & making an effort to study the work of evidently their favorite painter & painting. Indeed, on their Italian itinerary they may have seen copies of the V&A at the Palazzo Mariscotti in Rome, or in the possession of the Barbarigo-Guistiniani family in Padua.


SHAKESPEARE & MAGIC

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Shakespeare’s knowledge of esoteric tradition is a highly sophisticated one, one that weaves through his sonnets and plays to a surprising degree. In The Winter’s Tale the statue of Hermione (from from Hermes) springs to life in the same way that the Hermetic Asclepius is described as being effected by Egyptian magic. Elsewhere, Sonnet 33 is full of alchemical references & also of the earth-heaven phenomena called ‘correspondancdes’ – surreptiously placed in a mountainous landscape such as Bohemia.

Full many a glorious morning have I seen,
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green;
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy:
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride,
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow,
But out alack, he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath masked him from me now.
Yet him for this, my love no whit disdaineth,
Suns of the world may stain, when heaven’s sun staineth.

Shake-speare is using the idea of “correspondences”, in which earthly phenomena are related to the heavens, as the logical structure of this sonnet. In particular, macrocosmic heavenly phenomena are paralleled by microcosmic human ones. There are also numerous astrological references in Shake-speare’s plays, while Sonnet 15 is laden with astrology & the ‘secret influences’ of celestial bodies.

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment.
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment.
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and checked even by the self-same sky:
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory.
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay,
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful time debateth with decay
To change your day of youth to sullied night,
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.


November 1586
Shakespeare sketches the Tempest

At this point in the Stanleyan Grand Tour, the first outlines of the plot & structure of a play called the Tempest appeared in Shakespeare’s notebooks. It was first performed in public in 1611, yet a proto-version could have been one of the earliest creations of his blossoming mind – you can’t rush genius like – especially when the Tempest is the first play one comes to when entering the First Folio. A clue might be found in five consecutive lines of the Garland, where we observe quite succinctly the setting of the Tempest (Barbary is North Africa) & its principle subject Prospero, a dead-ringer for John Dee.

Within the Court of Barbary,
When two full years Sir William had been,
Into Russia he needs must go,
To visit the Emperor and his Queen,
One Doctor Dee he met with there

Where Prospero had his Ariel, Dee declared he possessed a benevolent angel called, ‘Uriel, the angel of light.’ Such an early date for the proto-Tempest is unwittingly hinted at by Sydney Lee’s; ‘the influence of Ovid, especially the Metamorphoses, was apparent throughout his earliest literary work, both poetic & dramatic, & is discernible in the ‘Tempest.’ This play reflects the early experiences Shakespeare enjoy’d with Commedia dell’Arte; which sometimes featured a magician, his daughter & supernatural attendants. CDA also contained archetypical clowns known as Arlecchino and Brighella, on which the Tempest’s Stephano and Trinculo are clearly based, while its lecherous Neapolitan hunchback has a perfect correspondence in Caliban. The Tempest is also one of only two of his plays that utilise the Classical Unities – a dramaturgical tradition of setting a play in a single place & time, with the other being the very early Comedy of Errors. Coincidence or not, CoE is set in the eastern Mediterranean, the same part of the world where Stanley & Shakespeare would be moving to next…


December 1586
The Trebona Familists

Many of the Shakespeare’s esoteric themes and sources lead the chispologist to the library of John Dee. Also using the library at that time was Edward Kelley, who seems to have dedicated a poem in the Venus & Adonis stanza form to his ‘especiall’ friend, GS. The reference appears in Elias Ashmole’ 1652 anthology, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, when we must remember that the name Gulielmus Shaksper appears on the Bard’s baptism recodr. As already postulated, Shakespeare could well have been working on Venus & Adonis during the Grand Tour, perhaps even reading a few stanzas out to his compatriots in Trebona. This could later have inspired Kelly to try out the poetic form for himself, of which I’ll give a few of my favorites stanzas;

S.E.K. concerning the Philosophers Stone, written to his especiall good friend, G.S. Gent.

The heauenlie Cope hath in him natures fower,
Two hidden, but the rest to sight appeare:
Wherein the Spermes of all the bodies lower
Most secret are, yet spring forth once a yeare:
And as the earth with water Authors are,
So of his part is drines end of care.

If this my Doctrine bend not with thy braine,
Then say I nothing, though I sayd too much:
Of truth tis good, will mooued me, not gaine,
To write these lines: yet write I not to such
As catch at crabs, when better frutes appeare,
And want to chuse at fittest time of yeare.

Thou maist (my friend) say, What is this for lore?
I aunswere, Such as auncient Phisicke taught:
And though thou red a thousand bookes before,
Yet in respect of this, they teach thee naught:
Thou maist likewise be blinde, and call me foole,
Yet shall these Rules for euer praise their Schoole.

The same collection of poems also has a commentary which tells how Kelley performed an alchemical tansmutation to, “gratifie Master Edward Garland and his Brother Francis.”These brothers also turn up in Dee’s diary, along with two other ‘Garlands’, Robert & Henry, & none of the four of have ever turned up anywhere else in the Elizabethen world, suggesting the true names were incognito. The ‘Brothers’ element more than hints at the Familist connection. But this is rabbit-hole’s worth of a tangent, so its only a maybe for me, but adding a note of the going’s on with the Garland brothers as given in Dee’s diary – note its connection to the actual Russian Tsar.

8 Dec: Monday, about noon, Mr Edward Garland came to Trebona to me from the Emperor of Muscovia, according to the articles before sent unto me by Thomas Simkinson

9 Dec: On the 19 day (by the new calendar), to please Master Edward Garland (who had been sent as a messenger from the Emperor of Muscovy to ask me to come to him, etc, and his brother Francis, E.K. made a public demonstration of the philosophers’ stone in the proportion of one grain (no bigger than the least grain of sand) to 1 oz and a ¼ of common and almost 1 oz of the best gold was produced. When we had weighed the gold, we divided it up and gave the crucible to Edward at the same time.

 

Dee’s connection to the Familists is more assured, such as;

1: He was associated with many Continental Familists, including Christopher Plantin, the Antwerp printer who published the works of Niclaes) & the Antewerp bookseller Arnold Birckmann,

2: In 1577 Dee suggested to the cartographer Abraham Ortelius, another Familist, that correspondence could reach him via Birckmann’s servants.

3: Familists married within the group, & if widowed would quickly remarry, with age having no bearing on the choice. John Dee married three times, with little space between them, his third wife, Jane Fromond, being 28 years younger than him.

4: Dee & Kelley were friends with the Familist Francesco Pucci, spending time together in Krakow in 1585, & Prague the following year.

5: Dee & Kelley were also on excellent terms with Prince Albert Laski of Poland, whose relation, Johannes Alasko, lived in the Familst ‘capital’ of Emden.

6: Dee was a big favorite of Queen Elizabeth, whose own personal Yeomen Gaurd were Familists. In the anonymous Supplication of the Family of Love (1606) we read, “It appeareth that she [Elizabeth] had alwayes about her some Familistes, or favourers of that Sect, who alwaies related, or bare tidinges what was donne, or intended against them.”


Shakespeare in Bohemia

Shakespeare’s own brief stay in the region can be traced via three separate plays;

(i) Measure for Measure is set in Vienna.
(ii) The Winter’s Tale is set in ‘Bohemia’.
(iii) ‘The old hermit of Prague,’ is mentioned in Twelfth Night.

As the old hermit of 
Prague, that never saw pen and ink, very wittily 
Said to a niece of King Gorboduc, ‘That that is is;

A slender hint indeed, but when attached to Stanley’s recorded visit to Dee, we can trace the thought roots to seeds physically planted. Although no firm evidence has as yet been unearthed of their visit, we do know a little of what the skryrer’s Kelley & Dee were up to. Rudolf had given them a lab to practice their alchemy, including experiments on a mysterious red powder Kelly had found buried at Northwick Hill. Kelley was also dabbling with Catholcoism, even fasting for a whole month before a visit to a Jesuit priest.

Throughout January, a suddenly very wealthy Kelley made several visits to Prague, & let us for a whimsical moment conject that Shakespeare went with them. I normally have evidence to back my statements, but for once I’d like to just imagine Shakespeare going with Kelley to see Prague – I’ve been there myself, & thoroughly enjoyed the experience, including a rather ridiculous  encounter with some Mancunian drug-dealers back in 2001, which you can read all about in my Epistles to Posterity.

The Young Shakespeare (9): Shakespeare At Sea

Capture


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


APRIL 1586
Shakespeare crosses the Adriatic

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images3That Shakespeare took to the whale-roads is reflected by an extremely accurate knowledge of both the sea & its sailing terms. Most scholars presume he acquired this knowledge thro’ book-reading, but with Sir Henry Mainwaring releasing the first nautical dictionary only in 1644, this avenue may be precluded. Instead, of Shakespeare’s sealore, AF Falconer declares he, ‘must have learned it first hand for there was no other way,’ adding that the Bard possess’d, ‘an understanding of naval ceremony, naval strategy & the duties & characteristic ways of officers & men.’ One passage in particular contains a highly obscure sailing term;

Believe me, sir, she is the goodliest woman
That ever lay by man: which when the people
Had the full view of, such a noise arose
As the shrouds make at sea in a stiff tempest

‘It is a puzzle,’ writes WB Whall, ‘how Shakespeare, unless he had been a sailor, could have known enough of sea life to write such a magnificently apt simile as this. It could not have occurred to anyone who had not been at sea. The shrouds are the heavy ropes of the rigging which supports the masts of a ship on neither side so that they can carry sail.’ Another naval accuracy comes in Hamlet’s, ‘methought I lay worse than the mutinies in the bilboes,’ with the latter word being sea-slang for leg-shackles. One also gets the feeling that Shakespeare even personally experienced a ship-wreck, his plays are simply littered with them, including;

After our ship did split,
When you and those poor number saved with you
Hung on our driving boat, I saw your brother,
Most provident in peril, bind himself,
Courage and hope both teaching him the practise,
To a strong mast that lived upon the sea;
Twelfth Night 1:2

Across the Adriatic from Italy lie the thousand-islands of Croatia, or Illyria as it was known in more antique times. In 1553, an English gentleman called John Locke recorded his own pilgrimage to Jerusalem, & withit being only three decades before Shakespeare, its pretty close to how it woudl have been for our party.

We sayled all the day long by the bowline alongst the coast of Ragusa {Dubrovnik}, and towardes night we were within 7 or 8 miles of Ragusa , that we might see the white walles, but because it was night, we cast about to the sea, minding at the second watch, to beare it againe to Ragusa… This citie of Ragusa paieth tribute to the Turke yerely fourteene thousand Sechinos, and every Sechino is of venetian money eight livers and two soldes, besides other presents which they give to the Turkes Bassas when they come thither. The Venetians have a rocke or cragge within a mile of the said towne, for the which the Raguseos would give them much money, but they doe keepe it more for the namesake, then for profite. This rocke lieth on the Southside of the towne, and is called Il cromo, there is nothing on it but onely a Monasterie called Sant Jeronimo. The maine of the Turkes countrie is bordering on it within one mile, for the which cause they are in great subjection.

In 1586 Illyria was the only independent city-state on the eastern littoral of the Adriatic in the sixteenth century. It is mentioned ten times by Shakespeare, who sets his Twelfth Night there, which we may now conject was after he had experienced for himself the port of Ragusa. As one hears references to Illyria’s coasts, sailors, the ‘Uskok’ pirates, tall population & robust wines, one senses the snatch of time Shakespeare had with the country as he sailed south through the Adriatic. Elsewhere in the canon, the term for Ragusa’s ships, Argosies (after Ragosies), was used by Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Henry VI, Part III and The Taming of the Shrew, while in Measure for Measure a plot turn in the last act depended on the substitution of the severed head of a “Rhagozin” pirate for Claudio’s. A Croatian on ths pot, Josip Torbarina, in his “The Setting of Shakespeare’s Plays,” (Studia Romanica et Anglica Zagrabiensia 17 (1964) & Shakespeare & Dubrovnik (1977) amasses compelling evidence for Shakespeare’s use of contemporary Dalmatia and the city of Ragusa as the setting for Twelfth Night.


MAY 1586
Stanley in Egypt

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Leaving ‘Illyria,’ our party sailed on to Egypt, & the sweaty flesh-pots of its capital, Cairo. In, ‘The Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant,’ we may read a contemporary English account of a visit to Cairo & its surrounds, including the place where the baby Jesus had fled to from Herod.

Cairo is mutch bigger then Constantinople. Many thinges noteable ar in and about this citie, which others no doubt reporteth and ar not beleved; as ar the twelve storehouses wheare they say Josiph kept the come the seven deere years (some say the same was reserved in the vaults of the Peramidis). I went twise to aplacetenn miles frome Cairo, cauled the Mataria, beinge yet solemlie visited by Christians ; it is wheare Josiph and Mary remained with our Saviour. Ther is a springe of water which, as they report, have bine ever since; and alike a plott in a garden wher groweth spriggs that yealdeth balsamo. The Papists come often to this house a massinge in great devotion, and observe a place like a cubberd, wher they say our Saviour was laid ; and alike a great crossebodied wild figge tree in the gardin, with also the water wherein our Ladie washed our Saviours clouts.

At Cairo I was shewed howe and of what sorts of serpents the
Moors do make thier treacle. I did ther also see both wild and tame gattie pardie^ (cats of mountayne, as we caule them), little and great monkies, dragons, muske cats, gasells (which ar a kind of roebucke), bodies of momia [see p. 44], and live cocadrills 5 , both of land and water ; which have bine offered at my gate to be sold. Some I have bought at some tim[e]s for my recreation, of most of thes sorts; for ther I remained 18 monethes. Onse I caused a villaine to ripp a cocadrill, which was of some 2J yeards longe ; the same beinge a female, which had in hir paunch above
100 eggs, yealowe like youlks of eggs and just of sutch bignes.

On arriving in Cairo would have sought out the principle headquarters of the Levant Company, from which office emanated tendrils of pre-imperial trade into the ports & courts of the eastern Mediterranean. Powerful cities such as Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Jerusalem, Damascus & Aleppo had all become secure stopping-stations for the Levant Company, as was Constantinople, where Company man William Harborne had become the de facto English ambassador to the Ottomans. Within two decades the East Indies Company would be formed, the majority of its nucleus members being Levant Company men, & one could say that British India has its true roots in these Elizabethan mercantile expeditions to the east.

The connection between William Stanley & the Levant Company begins with Barry Coward, author of a book on the history of the Stanley family, who states, ‘from 1584 to 1593 Earl Henry borrowed as he had never done before… the loans raised by Earl Henry & his son, Ferdinando, were all raised by bonds pledging a cash surety, made with important London merchant financiers, like John lacy, Richard Martin, Peter Vanlore, Michael Cornleius, William Cuslowe, Nicholas Mosley, & Sir Rowland Hayward.’ A key link here is Richard Martin, a two-time mayor of London & one of the founding members of the Levant Company in 1581. The Stanley’s financial embroilment with such a fellow would have led to William Stanley being sent to check up on the family’s investments in the new markets.

nile-crocodile-16th-century-artwork-middle-temple-libraryStanley’s journey to Egypt is given more details by Thomas Aspen, who records; ‘afterwards he proceeded to Egypt, and with the assistance of a native guide, went to reconnoitre the River Nile. Whilst on their journey, a large male tiger suddenly appeared from behind a thicket, and with a hideous howl came rushing towards them. Sir William had two pistols, and discharged one as the tiger was making a spring at them. Unfortunately he missed his aim, and it was only by dexterously stepping aside that he eluded the grasp of the ferocious brute. Before the animal had time to take another spring, Sir William drew a second pistol, discharged the contents into the tiger’s breast, and as it reeled drew his sword and killed it.’ That our party visited the River Nile allows us to look deeper into one of Donne’s sonnets.

See, sir, how, as the sun’s hot masculine flame
Begets strange creatures on Nile’s dirty slime,
In me your fatherly yet lusty rhyme
For these songs are their fruits—have wrought the same.
But though th’ engend’ring force from which they came
Be strong enough, and Nature doth admit
Seven to be born at once; I send as yet
But six; they say the seventh hath still some maim.
I choose your judgment, which the same degree
Doth with her sister, your invention, hold,
As fire these drossy rhymes to purify,
Or as elixir, to change them to gold.
You are that alchemist, which always had
Wit, whose one spark could make good things of bad.

This sonnet’s opening lines invoke a definite sense of witnessing the Nile at first hand. The decisive evidence comes with the sonnet being placed among a sequence dedicated by Donne to a certain ‘E of D,’ implying his Grand Tour patron, William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby


MAY 1586
Shakespeare’s Sonnets to Stanley

Gay men in Egypt- it actually illegal in the country these days
Gay men in Egypt-  manlove is actually illegal in the country these days

Shakespeare’s own time in Egypt is reflected by two unusual eye-witness accounts found in two of his earliest plays;

Thou art more puzzled than the Egyptians in their fog
Twelfth Night

An Egyptian that had nine hours lien dead who was by good appliance recovered
Pericles

Just as Donne was writing deliciously sensuous sonnets to & for Stanley, so was Shakespeare. What happens on the Grand Tour stays on the Grand Tour, & here was our bard in Egypt, where the demands of a young family had been replaced by poetical yearnings to see pyramids & sail the love-barges of Cleopatra. He was also traveling with a prominent member of his country’s royal family, & as we have discerned from the secret back story behind Venus & Adonis, Stanley actually fancied him. Sleeping your way to the top has always been a good way to get ahead, & in Shakespeare’s case he didn’t mind if it was with a member of the opposite sex. Read what you will of it as you may, but on his return to England Shakespeare never sired another child, implying perhaps he became fully LGBTQ on the Grand Tour.

It is Shakespeare’s love for Stanley that provides an important keystone in the dissemination of the many mysteries behind Shakespeare’s famous sonnet sequence. The form chosen for these poetical lovegasms is the short, 14-line photo-poem – the sonnet –  a poetical form capable of storing some of the most refined & musical expressions of human thought. That Shakespeare was writing sonnets at such an early stage in his career was opined by his greatest biographer, & most ardent analyticist, Sydney Lee, who proclaim’d; ‘in both their excellences & their defects Shakespeare’s sonnets betray their kinship to his early dramatic work,’ compating their, ‘unimpressive displays of verbal jugglery,’ with similar instances in the early plays.

Eventually published in 1609, Shakespeare’s sequence seems to be a collection of individual sonnet-clusters. The exact order in which these sequences of creative pulses, eternally crystalized & unified by gorgeous iambic pentameter, were written is beyond the remit of this book. One of these mini-sequences reflects Shakespeare’s homosexual love for a young aristocratic man & in 1586, there were no love sonnet sequences from one man to another except for one – Michaelangelo’s impassioned sonnets to Tommasso dei Cavalieri which Shakespeare may even have come across in Italy.

So who was Shakespeare’s muse? That the fellow is a member of the uppermost echelons of the aristocracy is suggested by sonnet 125, which begins, ‘were it ought to me I bore the canopy.’ The ceremonial material in question is that carried over the head of the incumbent monarch by England’s leading noblemen, in procession to Westminster Abbey & the coronation. On becoming the Earl of Derby himself, William Stanley himself would conduct this very act at the 1603 coronation of James I.

Over the past two centuries, the Bard’s corpse has been argued over & dissected so much, that hardly anything remains of the man: his flesh & bones have been shredded, flung & scattered across the ever-expanding wastelands of Shakespearean criticism. The one bonus of all these efforts is that the Elizabethan Age has been scrutinized to a near infinite degree by scholars hoping to turn up some precious new nugget of biographical detail concerning the Bard. There have been successes & among this vast sea of uncertainty one may find the following island of logical thinking;

A few years down the road, & increasingly mindful of Haines’ caution to Buck Milligan that Shakespeare’s sonnets are, ‘the happy hunting ground of all minds that have lost their balance,’ I nonetheless came to conclude from the evidence I accumulated that not only was Barnfield’s Ganymede the sixth Earl of Derby, William Stanley, but also that Barnfield published poems from 1594 (including over twenty homoerotic love sonnets) were in dialogue with some of Shakespeare’s own homoerotic sonnets to his Fair Youth... we hardly have reason to be very surprised if, after all, Shakespeare’s beloved & revered male addressee might turn out to be William Stanley

This passage was written by Leo Daugherty whom, after surviving such a process of intense academic endeavour with his wits intact, stated in his brilliant book, ‘William Shakespeare, Richard Barnfield & the Sixth Earl of Derby’ that he had made, ‘conclusions of some enormity.’ The crux of his excited proclamation was that the identity of the Handsome Youth was a certain Elizabethan nobleman called William Stanley. Yes, our William Stanley! It makes sense, for there are positive analogies in language between Venus and this set of sonnets.

There is one sonnet in particular that reflects the logistical relationship between Shakespeare & Stanley, with our young poet highlighting his role as a retainer ;

Being your slave what should I do but tend
Upon the hours, and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend;
Nor services to do, till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world without end hour,
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour,
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But, like a sad slave, stay and think ofnought
Save, where you are, how happy you make those.
So true a fool is love, that in your will,
Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.


JUNE 1586
Shakespeare joins the Levant Company fleet

We have now placed Shakespeare firmly among the buccaneering world of corsairs that constituted the Elizabethan navy, where men like Drake, Hawkins & Raleigh were the idols of the day. Our young bard is about to board one of the Levant Company ships in Egypt with all five vessels of the mini-fleet having made successful trading operations in Turkey, Egypt & Syria. Three of the ships had met up in the Egyptian port of Alexandria: The Toby, the Susan & the Edward Bonaventure; & by the June of 1586 they had combined with the remaining two Company ships off the Greek island of Zante.

All five ships, & four other non-Company vessels from England, had fused together for security reasons – the journey through the Straits of Gibraltar, a cannon’s shot from hostile Spain, would be treacherous for one or two vessels traveling on their own. It was a prudent move, as a very real danger was imminent; two separate squadrons of Spanish & Maltese galleys had left the Straits of Gibraltar & were hunting down the English like hungry, prowling wolves.


JULY 1586
The Battle of Pantelleria

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Deep in the middle of a sultry summer, Shakespeare found himself sailing west through the Mediterranean as a passenger of the Levant Company fleet. After safely bypassing Malta, they were suddenly intercepted by a squadron of eleven Spanish and Maltese galleys under Don Pedro de Leyva. The engagement took place off the island of Pantelleria on the 13th July, a five-hour running battle which saw the massive devastation of Spanish ships like some prophetic glimmer of the Armada. A Venetian ambassador to Rome, Giovanni Gritti, recorded;

Between Sicily & the island of Pantalara the galleys of Naples & of Sicily fell in with nine English galleys returning form Constantinople, full of merchandise, & although they attacked the English ships they failed to take them. The galleys have returned to Naples for reinforcement & will sail again to search for the English. They have sent news of these English to Genoa, so that they may be on the look out for them in the waters of Corsica & Sardinia

After five hours of fighting the Spanish galleys had been battered into submission. On the English side only two sailors had died, & a handful more being wounded. The tough English sailors had simply outmaneuvered, & more importantly, outgunned the Spanish. Remembrances of Shakespeare witnessing such a brutal sea-battle lies scatter’d throughout this plays. AF Falconer writes how he, ‘distinguishes between various types of ordnance & gun, understands how they work & are managed, & is familiar with gunnery terms & words of command.’ We can see for ourselves in examples, such as

The nimble gunner
With linstock now the devilish cannon touches
Henry V

Like an overcharged gun, recoil
And turn the force of them upon thyself
2 Henry VI

What’s this? a sleeve? ’tis like a demi-cannon
What, up and down, carved like an apple-tart?
Taming of the Shrew


JULY 1586
Shakespeare visits Linosa

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While stopping for provisions & water round about the time of the Battle of Pantelleria, Shakespeare took a wander of the island of Linosa – anciently ‘Aethusa.’ In a great moment of creative fusion, the island became embedded in his mnemonic vaults, & probably sketch & reported on in his notebooks, ready for the right moment to become the setting of one of his poems or plays. This eventually occurred when Shakespeare was writing the Tempest, the last to be performed publicaly in his lifetime.

Linosa is an extremely pretty island, its three lofty cones being the spiky remnants of ancient volcanoes. In Shakespeare’s time Linosa was deserted, like the other islands of the Pelagian archipelago in which it lies. Of a possible Tempestesque shipwreck on the island, GD Gussone wrote; ‘before 1828 some travelers going to Linosa found three human skeletons on those mountains which, in his opinion, where the remains of men who were perhaps thrown by a storm on to the island and that miserably perished for lack of food.’

imgresLinosa’s position between Sicily & Tunisia fits neatly with the geography of the Tempest, in which Alonso, King of Naples, washes up on a deserted island on his way to see the King of Tunis. The island also plays host to the witch Syrocrax, banished there from Tunisia’s neighbor, Algiers. The true Syrocrax is mentioned in John Ogilby’s ‘Accurate Description of Africa,’ in which she advises, soothsayer fashion, the commander of Algiers not to surrender the city to Emperor Charles V in 1541. The citizens did as they were bidden, & the fleet of Charles V was destroyed in a ‘terrible Tempest.’ Unfortunately for Syrocrax, ‘to palliate the shame and the reproaches that are thrown upon them for making use of a witch,’ she was exiled in a pregnant state on Linosa, & was perhaps even one of the skeletons found on the island. According to the Tempest, she was dead by the events of the play, but her son Caliban was still alive. His character, then, may have been based on a real meeting with Shakespeare, whose bones were laid to rest beside his mother’s on the mountains.


330px-Torquato_TassoJuly 6th 1586: Tasso released from the Asylum

While Shakespeare was fighting the Battle of Pantelleria, after seven years of poor mental health Torquato Tasso was released from Hospital of St. Anna at Ferrara, at the request of Vincenzo I Gonzaga, Prince of Mantua. Gonzago was a major patron of the arts and sciences, and had turn’d Mantua into a vibrant cultural center. Tasso, Italy’s finest renaissance poet, was given a beautiful apartment in the royal palace, furnished with comforts he could need. Perfect conditions for poetic composition, which climate soon inspired Tasso to rework his 1573 tragedy Galealto Re di Norvegia into a new drama, Torrismondo.


AUGUST 1586
Shakespeare in Algiers

After the battle of Pantelleria, the Company fleet headed for Algiers in order to restock supplies & make any necessary battle-repairs. These movements fit neatly into the itinerary of William Stanley, who according to the Garland visited ‘the King of Morocco and his nobles all / Then went to the King of Barbary.’ A connection between Stanley & North Africa comes through the Barbary Company, formed in 1585. The Queen herself had invested in the project, alongside Stanley’s father. The Levant Company connection is tentative, but the presence of William Stanley at this particular emporium further supports the notion he may have been working for his father – details on contracts needed to be fine-tuned, perhaps, or accounts checked.

Despite suffering little in losses & damage, the battle of Pantelleria would have shredded the nerves of our young party, & at this point Stanley would have ordered his youngest charge, John Donne, to make his way back to England in the relative safety of the armed merchantmen. With the help of a thick sea-mist, this little fleet avoided the waiting Spanish at Gibraltar, & was soon unloading their wares at the London docks. John Donne would eventually return once more to the service of the Earl of Derby, where on the 13th May 1587 the Derby Household Books included a ‘Mr John Downes’ alongside the same six waiters who appeared on the 1585 retinue list with a certain ‘Mr John Donnes.


 

The Young Shakespeare (8): Shakespeare in Italy


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


November 1585: Shakespeare Reaches Italy

Like all art, poetry grows naturally out of accumulated materielle, to which is added an individual poet’s personality & technique. Their creations should be seen as the fragrant flowers of a bush, the roots of which are buried deep under the earth. By following these roots to their sources of nourishment, we can slowly create a picture of the poet’s unseen life, the one that lives beneath the surface of the page. If Shakespeare had accompanied Stanley, the sheer wealth of scenery & culture that Europe contains should have found an eventual memorial among his plays. When the English poet Lord Byron visited the Continent in the early 19th century, his composition of a long poem called Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage is more or less a record of his travels. In the same fashion, it is through the Chisper Effect that we can see how the plays of Shakespeare are a metacreative journal of his travels with Stanley. Doctor AW Titherly concurs with such a notion by stating,

Shakespeare’s geography, being ubiquitous in its range, is evidentially inconclusive, except in so far as its abiding realism manifestly betrays extensive travel experience as distinct from mere book-learning.’

It is time, then, to proceed with the upmost joy unto the Italian peninsular, the greatest of all the Shakespearean hauntlands. It is in the famous Shelleyan  ‘Paradise of Exiles,’ that Shakespeare would set more than a quarter of his plays, such as the seminal classic, Romeo & Juliet. Shakespeare & Italy are like pasta & wine – they go together so darned well. A great deal of their connections were unearthed by an amiable Californian, Richard Paul Roe, who sadly departed this world in 2010. The last twenty-five years of his life were spent wandering about Italy with a well-thumbed copy of Shakespeare in his hands, hunting down clues as to whether the Bard had visited the country or not. To say his efforts were a success are a clear understatement, the Indiana Jones of Shakespearean studies, he dug out & polished many prime artefacts, concluding;

The ‘imaginary’ settings for the ten Italian plays of Shakespeare have presented both specific, and strikingly accurate, details about that country, as a result of dedicated sojourns within it by the playwright. The author’s journeys took him from its Alpine slopes to the toe of its peninsula, across the length and breadth of its great island of Sicily, and included sailing trips on both the adjoining Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas. For the last four hundred years, nearly all of the playwright’s descriptions of Italy’s places and treasures have either gone unrecognized as being true, or have been dismissed as mistaken.

Italy burned an indelible mark into Shakespeare’s creative consciousness, & throughout his works we find over a hundred scenes set in that country, alongside 800 general other references. A great study of these was made by another Bard-in-Italy aficionado, Ernesto Grillo, a 20th century teacher & lecturer of Italian studies at Glasgow University, & absolute Shakespeare nut. After a lifetime of lectures, one of his students assembled Grillo’s copious notes into a book entitled Shakespeare and Italy. Published in 1949, it quotes Grillo in conclusion:

Italy with its public and private life, its laws and customs, its ceremonial and other characteristics, pulsates in every line of our dramatist, while the atmosphere of many scenes is Italian in the truest sense of the word. We cannot but wonder how Shakespeare obtained such accurate information, and we have no hesitation in affirming that on at least one occasion he must have visited Italy

This ‘one occasion’ was in the company of William Stanley. ‘Open my heart and you will see / Graved inside of it, ‘Italy!’’ sang Robert Browning, & it makes perfect sense that our budding Bard would have visited the land of Virgil, Dante, Petrach & Tasso, for it is felt & known by the English poets the Italian influence that raises their art to its highest pitch.


NOVEMBER 1585
The Levant Company Launch Five Ships from London

As Shakespeare was having his first frothy coffees in Italy, to promote the trade of Elizabethan England the Company of Merchants of the Levant was formed to take advantage of the declining international trade of both the Portuguese & the Venetian empires. The Company would establish ‘factories’ in the Syrian city of Aleppo (its headquarters), Constantinople, Alexandria and Smyrna. They also commissioned a small fleet of five ships to trade in the Near East, but at the very moment they were set to embark, in November 1585 Phillip II of Spain declared war on England. This forced the Company to heavily arm the fleet; the 300-ton galleon Merchant Royal, the William and John (one ship), the Toby, the Susan and the 300-ton armed merchant galleon Edward Bonaventure. They sailed later in the month, & we shall see in a short while how important this little fleet is to the unwritten history of William Shakespeare.


DECEMBER 1585
Shakespeare in Florence

Piazza Ognissanti

Like any poet of substance, Shakespeare’s soul would have been fired up for his first visit to Florence; the home of Dante and a true diamond among the many jeweled delights of Tuscany. Florence is a veritable beauty to behold, especially when observed from its heights, when the weighty Duomo rises out of a sea of orange rooves like some volcanic, Polynesian island. Shakespeare would set several scenes of Alls Well that Ends Well in the city, while an accurate knowledge of Florence & the Florentines is heavily evident in other plays. In Alls Well (3-5) we hear, ‘if they do approach the City, We shall lose all the sight,’ a statement elucidated by Roe’s, ‘the ‘City’ in question is an area to north of the Arno, where stood the walled Roman colony of Florentia.’ Roe also pinpointed the description of a religious hostelry situated ‘at the Saint Francis here beside the port.’ On investigation, Roe discovered that the ‘Saint Francis’ in question was, ‘the ancient name of Piazza Ognissanti, where the Chiesa di Ognissanti (Church of All Saints), belonged to the Franciscans since 1561.’ To this we may add the findings of Ernesto Grillo who describes how Shakespeare knew, ‘the Florentines were notable merchants and mathematicians, making frequent use in their commerce of letters of credit and counting their money by ducats; and he was also aware that they were constantly in conflict with the Sienese. And here the poet uses a phrase which is pure Italian–The Florentines and the Sienese are by the ear (si pigliano per gli orecchi).’

At the time the city would have been abuzz with anticipation for the upcoming dynatsic marriage between Virginia de’ Medici, daughter of Cosimo I de’ Medici, to Cesara D’Este, on of Alfonso, Marquis of Montecchio, in turn the illegitimate (but later legitimized) son of Alfonso I, Duke of Ferrara. They would be married in Florence on the 6th February 1586, & it is possible that Shakespeare & Sytanley were in attendance. To celebrate the event the artists of Italy were in ferment; a comedy ‘l’Amico Fido’,  by Giovanni de’ Bardi, was comissioned  with the lyrics of Alessandro Striggio, who had been been ‘continually involved in some intermedi and musical compositions for the Grand Duke‘ for months. Meanwhile, in Ferrara the poet Torquato Tasso was dedicating a cantata to the newlyweds.

While in ever-flourishing Florence, Shakespeare connected on a spiritual & artistic level with the great Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, visiting his natal house which still stands to this day. It would have been a grand transferance of the Parnassian baton, for Dante’s contribution to world literature is the brilliant Divine Comedy, a most beautiful epic poem through which the poet explored Hell, Purgatory & Heaven, embroidered by some of the most sublimely beautiful language. So gorgeous were his words, in fact, that when the fragmented Italian principalities were searching for a national language; out of the many dialects on offer it was Dante’s Tuscan that won the day. In the same fashion, Shakespeare’s influence over the English language has been equally meritorious, for there is something about a song sung on the highest slopes of Parnassus that reverberates along the tongues of a poet’s fellow countrymen for forever & a day. John W. Draper, in his Shakespeare and Florence and the Florentines (Italica: December 1946) elucidates excellently the Shakespeare-Florence connection;

What did Shakespeare know of Florence? That it bred great men, and also great gentlemen, as appears in Claudio and Cassio; that it sometimes depended on France in wars against its neighbors, apparent in All’s Well; that it was a leader in the new theories of warfare and in the mathematics that they required, for otherwise Othello’s appointment of Cassio is absurd and perhaps Claudio’s success in war owed something to such knowledge; that it was a great financial center, is evidenced in the Pedant’s bill of exchange and in lago’s slurs against his rival; and perhaps Shakespeare thought of Lucentio’s “philosophy” as distinctively Florentine. These are all cultural or intellecutal things; of the physical aspects of the city and its peculiar customs, he offers nothing: for Venetian local color, he uses the Rialto, the special police, the gondoliers; but Shakespeare’s Florence, though he thought of it no less than Venice as a center of commerce and culture, has no Ponte Vecchio, no churches, no palaces, no markets; it is a mere ghost city. In All’s Well, he lays eight scenes in or near the city, yet never refers to the Arno; and the “Duke” who gives Bertram the command of horse is not mentioned as a Medici. Surely young roistering nobles would have given him a much more vivid picture of the city; and even a single book on Florence, like Contareno’s Venice, would have supplied a fuller and more balanced view. One is led to the conclusion that such local color as was not in his sources


JANUARY 1586
Shakespeare visits Rome

Braun_Roma_HAAB

In 1586, the Eternal City was a shadow of the epic metropolis of the Ceasars, but still held the same charm & fascination as it does to the tourist of today. ‘Of the ground contained within the walls,’ remarked Shakespeare’s contemporary, William Thomas, ‘scarcely the third part is now inhabited, and that not where the beauty of Rome hath been but for the most part on the plain to the waterside and in the Vatican, because that since the Bishops began to reign every man hath coveted to build as near the court as might be. Nevertheless, those streets and buildings that are there at this time are so fair that I think no city doth excel it.’ The digs were also of a high quality & were remembered by Montaigne on his tour of the continent, 1581-82; ‘the lodgings in Rome are generally furnished a little better than at Paris, as they have great abundance of gilt leather, with which the lodgings of any pretence are upholstered.’

For Stanley, a visit to the Italian capital was truly relish’d, where the Vatican City especially would have been a most soulful draw for our pro-papal party. In the England of 1585 it was a treasonous offence to be, or even harbor, a Catholic priest; while £20 fines were handed out to anybody who failed to attend a protestant service. What a relief for our party who would have been overjoyed to step into any Roman church they liked, to worship their version of Jesus in the open. Shakespeare might even have taken the opportunity to examine the Vatican library, as Montaigne did & recorded a few years previously.

I saw the {Vatican} library without any difficulty: anybody sees it this, & makes what extracts he pleases; & it is open almost evetry morning. I wa shown over the whole & invited by a gentleman to make use of it whenere I wishe. I saw here, too, a Virgil written by hand, in exceedingly big letters, & in those long & narrow characters which we see in the inscriptions of the time of the Emperors – for instance, about the period of Constantine – which have something of the Gothic form, & have lost that square proportion which we see in the old Latin handwritings. This Virgil confirmed the opinion I have always held, that the first four lines they put in the Aeneid are borrowed: this book has them not. (from) Montaigne’s Trip to Italy, 1580-1581

There was also the Jesuit connection, who had built another ‘English College’ in Rome itself. What is fascinating is that in 1585, a leather parchment kept by the college names a certain in ‘Arthurus Stratfordus Wigomniensis.’ In 1587 we then see a “Shfordus Cestriensis” while 1589 saw the residence of a certain “Gulielmus Clerkue Stratfordiensis.” Are any of these Shakespeaere? Possibly, probably not, but the Stratford = Catholicism -Rome connection is here assured. At the college in late 1585 was Robert Southwell, a young & talented Jesuit with a tendency for the pen & the creation of excllenet poetry. That he & Shakespeare connected at some point i sreflected by a small notice in Southwell’s Saint Peter’s Complaint (1595), published on the Continent after the martyr had suffered. The significant passage read: “to My Worthy Good Cosen Master W.S.” and the conjecture that the W.S. is indeed William Shakespeare. Southwell remonstrates with his good cousin about the abuse of poetry: “Worthy cosen, Poets, by abusing their talent, and making the follies, and faygnings of love the customary subject of their base endeavours, have so discredited this facultie, that a Poet, a Lover and a Lyar, are by many reckoned but three words of one signification.”


JANUARY 1586
Shakespeare Begins Titus Andronicus

Stanley & Shakespeare delighted in seeing the ruins of the ancient city, which according to the Brief Account reflected Stanley’s, ‘credit on his taste.’ It was upon these walks that Shakespeare’s creative connection to Rome was forged, as reflected by his four Roman Plays; Julius Ceasar, Anthony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus & Titus Andronicus. While wandering the remains of the Forum & the Colosseum, already 15 centuries old, Shakespeare’s innate enthusiasm was fired into tackling themes of grand antiquity. Of these, it is the play Titus Andronicus that was begun in earnest on the spot, a brutally violent revenge play in the style of the Roman dramatist Seneca. Most poets have several pieces going on at any one time, & when the epic Shakespearean scholar Walter Raleigh relates, ‘his early play of Titus Andronicus, which is like the poems,‘ we obtain a feeling that Shakespeare was writing a proto-Titus at the same time as he was penning Venus & Adonis. Philip C Koln observed in them a ‘close kinship’ where ‘both Titus & Venus contain rape (or attempted rape), Ovidian in origin, transformations, heavily embellished poetry to express the deepest physical & psychic wounds, the curse of doomed love, & the powerlessness of gods & goddesses to protect.’  A 1585-86 date for Titus also fits well with Ben Jonson who, writing in 1614, describes Titus as being, ‘these twenty five or thirty years,‘ old; i.e. 1584-89.

It had not been so long since Shakespeare had stood in the Alcazar gazing deeply at the brushwork of Titian’s Rape of Lucrece. As he combobulated his new play, Lucrece’s enforced ravishment became the inspiration for a similar rape. Indeed, in Titus, as the sexually molested and mutilated Lavinia reveals the identity of her rapists, her uncle Marcus invokes the story of Lucrece in order to invoke an oath of vengeance;

And swear with me—as, with the woeful fere
And father of that chaste dishonoured dame,
Lord Junius Brutus swore for Lucrece’ rape
That we will prosecute by good advice
Mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths,
And see their blood, or die with this reproach

On an allegorical level, in her excellent book, Shadowplay, Clare Asquith notes how the rape of Lavinia seems to represent English Catholocism in the early 1580s. This wasan appropriate choice of metaphor, reinforced by Lavinia’s lopped off hands, reflecting the Catholic inability to worship freely in Elizabethan England. In the wake of the Tudor Reformation, Asquith reminds us, ‘the faces, arms & attributes of thousands of images of the Madonna & the saints were still being mutilated in exactly this way all over England; some of them, faces slashed & hands removed, still remain in parish churches.’ Such hidden, pro-Catholic layers would have resonated powerfully with a sympathetic 16th century audience. ‘A related similarity between Tamora & Elizabeth is inescapable,’ writes Asquith, & it is through Titus’s hidden Catholic layer that she finds an allusion to events of the year directly preceding that in which Shakespeare began writing the play. ‘In 1585,’ states Asquith, ‘Richard Shelley… was imprisoned for presenting a petition for toleration, dying later in jail without trial. The demented Titus accosts a simple countryman & asks him to deliver a letter that… also contains a weapon… a knife – a hint at the barbed attacks contained in the appeals. The message is twice called a ‘supplicatio.’ For running this errand, the poor clown, who delivers the letter with a cheerful invocation to God & the martyr St Stephen, is hanged on the spot.’

That Titus was Shakespeare’s first dramatic production is also cryptically embedded in the play itself. The plot has no historical basis, but the name of its chief character seems based upon Livius Andronicus, a Roman poet & dramatist of the third century BC, also known as Titus. The Roman writer Livy describes how Livius Andronicus had been an inspired dramaturgical innovator, who ‘was the first, some years later, to abandon saturae and compose a play with a plot. Like everyone else in those days, he acted his own pieces; and the story goes that when his voice, owing to the frequent demands made upon it, had lost its freshness, he asked and obtained the indulgence to let a boy stand before the flautist to sing the monody, while he acted it himself, with a vivacity of gesture that gained considerably from his not having to use his voice. From that time on actors began to use singers to accompany their gesticulation, reserving only the dialogue parts for their own delivery.’ It would have been apt for a forward-thinking playwright to name his first play after a similar-minded dramatist of the past, & a nod to the Roman may be seen in the cutting off of Lavinia’s tongue, mirroring the mute dramaturgy as utilised & made famous by Livius Andronicus.

In 1687 Edward Ravenscroft was the first to question Shakespeare’s authorship in the introduction his own adaptation of the play, stating; ‘I have been told by some anciently conversant with the Stage, that it was not Originally his, but brought by a private Author to be Acted and he only gave some Master-touches to one or two of the Principal Parts or Characters; this I am apt to believe, because ’tis the most incorrect and indigested piece in all his Works, It seems rather a heap of Rubbish then a Structure.‘ In the modern age the academic community agrees that Titus Andronicus was only co-authored by Shakespeare – whether actually agreeing, or massively polarized in the ‘he wrote it/he did’nt write it’ camps. There are clear discrepancies in style & vocabulary rippling all throughout the text; the blank verse especially doesn’t feel like Shakespeare’s. The earliest commentary on the play’s origins, made by Edward Ravenscroft in 1687, describes Titus as, ‘the most incorrect and indigested piece in all his Works; It seems rather a heap of Rubbish then a Structure.’ This creative jumbling forwards Stanley as a candidate for co-authorship, that Titus was the product of a collaboration between our erstwhile, literary-minded travelers. Stanley, of course, was a good old Lancashire lad, who would have spoken in that broad, Elysium-dripping accent of the North, & his presence during the penning of Titus which would account for its numerous dialectical idoms, such as; blowse, brabble, brat, caterwauling, chaps, codding, egall, faire-fast, gald, leere, luls, ruffle, slonke, tawnt, trull & welkin. That Stanley was involved in the creation of Titus would also help to explain why his family’s private troupe of players were the first to perform the play. When it was printed in 1594 – the year Stanley became the Earl of Derby – the title page of the first quarto edition reads; ‘as it was Plaide by the Right Honourable the Earle of Darbie, Earle of Pembrooke, and Earle of Suffox their Seruants.’

There is one more angle to the composition of Titus, & that is a leaning by certain scholars towards George Peele’s co-authorship of the play J. Dover Wilson writes of the repetition of phrases and sentiments in Act 1 that “most of the clichés and tricks are indubitably Peele’s. No dramatist of the age is so apt to repeat himself or so much given to odd or strained phrases,” WHILE Robertson identified 133 words and phrases in Titus which he felt strongly indicated Peele. Many of these concern Peele’s poem The Honour of the Garter (1593). One word in particular has advanced the Peele argument; “palliament” , meaning robe and possibly derived from the Latin “pallium” and/or “palludamentum.” If Peele & Shakespeare were collaborating, there are two possibilities as to the why. The first is that he helped with the play on Shakespeare’s return to England, just as they had worked on the Arraignment together. The second possibility is the most intriguing – Peele disappears from the annals for three years; in 1585 he was employed to write the Device of the Pageant borne before Woolston Dixie on his becoming Lord Mayor of London (October 1585), & in 1588 he writes a play on the Spanish Armada. It is possible that Peele joined our tourists at some point, & may have been invited along by Stanley, who had been studying at Oxford in the exact same period as Peele.

 


JANUARY 1586
Shakespeare Travels Through Italy

Leaving the Eternal City, let us now head north once more in the company of Shakespeare, Stanley & perhaps the 12-year-old John Donne. It was on this journey that Stanley, according to Thomas Aspen, ‘assumed the garb of a mendicant friar for the purpose of gaining information and the more readily getting through the country.’ This circumstance would one day found its place in Measure for Measure, where Vincentio also disguises himself as a friar. Meanwhile, Shakespeare was skimming through through the openly homoerotic sonnets of Michaelangelo. In that great painters’ old age he addressed a series of the most passionate sonnets unti two handsome young noblemen of his intimacy; Tommaso dei Cavalieri & Vittoria Colonna. ‘A great theme,’ Shakespeare thought as he looked up from the pages to idolize his dear Stanley.

Between Terni and Rome, according to Smollett, the inns were `abominally nasty’, generally destitute of provisions; and when provisions were found the guests were ‘almost poisoned by the cookery’. Samuel Sharp (The Horrors of an Italian Journey) confirmed this verdict:

Give what scope you please to your fancy, you will never imagine half the disagreeableness that Italian beds, Italian cooks, Italian post-houses, Italian postilions, and Italian nastiness offer to an Englishman in an Italian journey; much more to an English woman. At Turin, Milan, Venice, Rome, and, perhaps, two or three other towns, you meet with good accommodation; but no words can express the wretchedness of the other inns. No other bed but one of straw, and next to that a dirty sheet, sprinkled with water, and, consequently, damp; for a covering you have another sheet, as coarse as the first, and as coarse as one of your kitchen jack-towels, with a dirty coverlet. The bedsted consists of four wooden forms, or benches; and English Peer and Peeress must lye in this manner, unless they carry an upholsterer’s shop with them, which is very troublesome. There are, by the bye, no such things as curtains, and hardly, from Venice to Rome, that cleanly and most useful invention, a privy; so that what should be collected and buried in oblivion, is forever under your nose and eyes


FEBRUARY 1586
Shakespeare in Padua

In 1545 a troupe of communally-funded traveling performers of the new-fangl’d, definitely not medieval ‘commedia erudite’ went to a notary office in Padua to make their existence official. The theatrical traditon was about to explode into Europe & by the end of the century permanent playhouses were springing up all across the continent. Shakespeare’s knowledge of the fair city of Padua, perched upon those perfect plains of north Italy, transcends anything he could have acquired through bookish lore. In the Taming of the Shrew, where Biondello says, ‘my master hath appointed me to go to Saint Luke’s, to bid the priest be ready to come against you come with your appendix,’ Paul Roe tracked down the actual church, declaring it to be the Saint Luke’s Church of via Venti Settembre 22. Only a stone’s throw away, Roe was delighted to pass through the arched Porta Barbarigo & straight into Act I, Scene I of the Taming of the Shrew; with its waterway, landing place and wide open space with clustering buildings. That Shakespeare stayed in the city just feels right; Padua was home to one of the greatest universities of the Renaissance, & a trip to such an academic environment fits in with Stanley’s intellectual itinerary. At the time of their visit, the majority of Europe’s greatest medical doctors & teachers were based in Padua, & a period of erudition in the city by the young Shakespeare helps account for the high level of medical knowledge in his plays. An example comes in Love’s Labours Lost, when Holferness states;

This is a gift that I have, simple, simple; a foolish, extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, revolutions: these are begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater, and delivered upon the mellowing of occasion

This passage shows a remarkable insight into the obscure biological material known as the ‘pia mater,’ a Latin term for the inner lining or membrane of the brain and spinal cord, along with its neurological connections to the brain’s activities. The key to the conundrum comes with an English physician known as William Harvey (1578-1657), the first man to describe to the English the processes of the circulation of the blood about the body. His book, De Motu Cordis, was published in 1628, yet Shakespeare was hinting at this very process decades before, where in Julius Ceasar we read, ‘you are my true and honourable wife, as dear to me as are those ruddy drops that visit my sad heart.’ How on earth could Shakespeare & Harvey both have obtained this select & secret knowledge? The answer can only be at Padua, whose university Harvey entered in 1592. While there he developed a relationship with Hieronymus Fabricius of Acquapendente, who had held the chair of Medicine and Anatomy at the time of Stanley’s visit. Back in the 1570s, Fabricius had discovered that veins possessed valves which kept the blood flowing in the direction of the heart, & one expects that is was in his private lectures that men like Shakespeare would have first heard of the pia mater & the circulation of the blood.  Shakespeare would have enjoyed his stay in Padua, in part down to the  ‘pensions of the highest class’ recorded by Montaigne a few year’s previously;

There is … a house boy or some women who wait upon them. Each one has a very neat bedrooom, for in their rooms & candles they provide for themelves. The catering, as we saw, very good; one lives there very reasonably, which is the reason, I think why many foreigners, even when they are no longer students, settle there

FEBRUARY 1586
Shakespeare in Lombardy

images2Being now at the beating heart of the Veneto Plain we find ourselves within striking distance of several more of Shakespeare’s Italian plays. Of these productions, his most famous is Romeo & Juliet, which sees the Montagues & Capulets playing out their tragic feud in Verona & Mantua, while The Two Gentlemen of Verona, is set in, well, Verona. These two cities, along with Milan, are sited in what Shakespeare accurately describes as ‘fruitful Lombardy, the pleasant garden of great Italy.’ That Shakespeare spent time in Mantua is hinted at in The Winter’s Tale, where he describes Queen Hermione’s statue as; ‘a piece many years in doing and now newly perform’d by that rare Italian master, Julio Romano, who, had he himself eternity and could put breath into his work, would beguile Nature of her custom.‘ Julio Romano was actually famous for being a painter, not a sculptor, but in Vasari’s Lives of Seventy of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, we are given two (now-lost) Latin epitaphs on Romano which confirm his status as both sculptor & a painter! Such obscure & minute details like these only serve to reinforce Shakespeare’s personal observations of his time in Italy.

We have previously seen through Shakespeare’s creation of Venus & Adonis how the great art of Europe inspired our impressionable young poet. Likewise, we may also assume that he saw a famous painting by Correggio while visiting Milan. From 1585, the Jupiter and Io was exhibited in the palace of the sculptor, Leoni, of which viewing experience Shakespeare writes, ‘we’ll show thee Io as she was a maid / And how she was beguiled and surpris’d / As lively painted as the deed was done.’ While in Milan, Shakespeare certainly discovered the city’s Well of St Gregory, for he understood that it was a burial pit for plague victims, rather than a water-storage unit. To these Milanese connections we can add another observation, this time made by Grillo, who writes; ‘despite being 100 miles from the coast, the city of Bergamo, near Milan, produced sails. In the Taming of the Shrew, Vincentio says to Tranio,Thy father! O villain! He is a sailmaker in Bergamo.’

By placing the young Shakespeare in Verona provide the thoughtseeds which would blossom into the plays of Romeo & Juliet & The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Of these, the latter is thought by many scholars to be the first of Shakespeare’s fully written plays. Two Gentlemen is an immature play whose “dramatic structure,” declares Stanley Wells, ‘is comparatively unambitious, and while some of its scenes are expertly constructed, those involving more than, at the most, four characters betray an uncertainty of technique suggestive of inexperience.” The play oens with the love-obsessed Valentine talking to Proteus, with Valentine preparing to leave Verona for Milan so as to broaden his horizons.

Proteus
Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus:
Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits.
Were’t not affection chains thy tender days
To the sweet glances of thy honour’d love,
I rather would entreat thy company
To see the wonders of the world abroad,
Than, living dully sluggardized at home,
Wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness.
But since thou lovest, love still and thrive therein,
Even as I would when I to love begin.

Valentine
Stop trying to convince me, enamored Proteus!
Young people who always stay at home are very dull.
If love didn’t keep you here—chaining you to your beloved’s sweet looks—
I would ask you to join me, so you can see the wonders of the world abroad.
That’s better than to live in a dull way,
being lazy at home and wasting your youth by doing nothing.
But since you’re in love, continue to love and let your love grow.
I’ll do the same when I fall in love.

The legacy of Romeo & Juliet has had, in Verona, a most profound effect. Every day sees a new set of star-crossed lovers arrive in the city to take a bubble-bath in its lake of wistful romanticism. Close to the imagined site of Juliet’s Balcony, explosions of graffiti & notes cover the walls on a daily basis, leading to the irate & rather staid Veronese authorities instigating 500 euro fines to anyone who stick notes up with chewing gum! Another Shakespeare-induced visitor to Verona, Paul Roe, was not looking for love, however, but was drawn there by the a singular passage in Romeo & Juliet, which contained a very distinctive topographical clue;

Madam, an hour before the worshipped sun
Peered forth the golden window of the East,
A troubled mind drove me to walk abroad,
Where, underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from the city’s side,
So early walking did I see your son

roes-verona-sycamores

To this day, there stands a grove of Sycamores outside the western walls of the city, which were joyously observed by Roe; ‘in the first act, in the very first scene, of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the trees are described; and no one has ever thought that the English genius who wrote the play could have been telling the truth: that there were such trees, growing exactly where he said in Verona.‘ Roe also points out that Verona’s Chiesa di San Pietro Incarnario is mentioned by Juliet’s, ‘now, by Saint Peter’s church, and Peter too. He shall not make me there a joyful bride.’ Shakespeare also understood the etymology of a minor place very much off the normal radar, ten miles from Verona on the banks of the Tartaro River. Called Villafranca, its name translates as ‘Freetown,’ & in Romeo & Juliet we hear, ‘you Capulet, shall go along with me; And Montague, come you this afternoon, To know our father pleasure in this case, To old Freetown our common judgment place.’ As details like these are absent from both the 1562 Arthur Brooke poem, The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, & the Italian originals by da Porta and Bandello, once again we must place Shakespeare in person at the scene-setting of one of his plays.

Before we leave Lombardy, let us put to bed an Anti-Shakespearean factochisp of his time there, as told by Sydney Lee; ‘the fact that he represents Valentine in the ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ as travelling from Verona to Milan by sea, & Prospero in the ‘Tempest’ as embarking on a ship at the gates of Milan, renders it impossible that he could have gathered his knowledge of Northern Italy from personal observation.’ To counter this assumption Roe rummaged ferret-like through the Verona State Archives & finally found a map dated to 1713 which show how the Adige, Tartaro, and Po rivers were once connected by a system of canals. These would have allowed the water-borne journey along the fossi as undertaken by Valentine in the Two Gentlemen. As for the aquatic ‘gates of Milan,’ the fact that a sea-going ‘bark’ such as was described in the Tempest as leaving Milan finds confirmation through the pen of Michel de Montaigne, who in 1581 wrote; ‘we crossed the river Naviglio, which was narrow, but still deep enough to carry great barks to Milan.’ Shakespeare’s select knowledge of those unexpectedly navigable north Italian river ways bolsters our touring Bard yet further.


1586: SHAKESPEARE’S ITALIAN STUDIES

The Decameron

The chief purpose of their visit to Italy, in fact the whole trip to Europe, was to further the party’s education. JC Collins writes of another poet’s trip to the same country a decade earlier, stating of Sydney’s twelve-month stay that, ‘before he left Italy he was master of Latin, Italian & French, & anxious also to begin a study of Greek.’ Of his travels in 1574, Sidney’s travelling companion, Lodowick Bryskett remembers the same Italy through which our Grand Tourists would have travelled;

Through many a hill & dale,
Through pleasant woods & many an unknown way,
Along the banks of many silver streams,
He with him went; & with him he did scale
The craggy rocks of th’ Alp & Appenine
Still with the Muses sportin

There are many traces of Shakespeare’s reading of Italian literature, whether at leisure or in scholarship, reading matter for the long journeys id the 16th century; on foor, horseback or even carriage. Among the many plays & prose pieces are names & the plots of which would eventually find their way into the Shakesepeareean ouvre. Many of these were untranslated into English before the plays were composed, such as those five stories by the Italian Renaissance poet, Matteo Bandello, which were later adapted by Shakespeare into Cymbeline, Othello, the Claudio subplot of Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo & Juliet & Twelfth Night, Edward III (part 2, story 29). Bandello also inspires certain motifs in Shakespeare’s Lucrece poem. Away from the enthiusiastic Bandelllo, nuggets include;

1 : Hamlet’s ‘what a piece of work is man,’ is suggesed by the ms of Leon Battista Alberti’s Delle Tranquilita dell Animo – not printed til 1843
2: Andrea da Darnerino’s ‘Reali di Francia’ is similar to Cymbeline
3: Ser Giovanni Fiorentino’s Il Pecorone – in which we find the debtor Antonio – inspired the Merchant of Venice
4: There are flashes of Berni in Othello
5: Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso inspired Othello, the Tempest, a Midsummer Nights Dream & Much Ado About Nothing
6: Othello’s story was taken from Cinthio’s El Capitano Moro, of which there was then no translation.
7: The Clever Wench tale found the in the 9th story of Boccaccio’s Decameron inspired Alls Well that Ends Well
8: The Hecatomiti of Cinthio would also inspire the Isabella adventures in Measure for Measure
9: The 15th century Novellino of Masuccio Salernitani influenced both the Merchant of Venice & Romeo & Juliet
10:  Taming of the Shrew is inspired by the Notti piacevoli of Straparola, published in Venice in 1550

We should at this point recognise the influence on Shakespeare of John Florio’s Engish manual for learning Italian, Folio’s First Frutes (1578), which contains the sentence, “we need not speak so much of love, all books are full of love, with so many authors, that it were labour lost to speak of Love.”

FEBRUARY 1586
Shakespeare experiences Commeddia Dell Arte

Four_Commedia_dell’Arte_Figures_claude-gillot

The history of Elizabethan theater is a curious hybrid, an amalgam of continental trends & the medieval folk traditions of the English provinces. By the Elizabethan age, her playwrights had developed an uninhibited secular drama, inspired by a burgeoning humanist world-view & fueled by a constant stream of renaissance minds forged in grammar-schools & varnished in the land’s universities. It is in Shakespeare’s visit to Italy, then, that these forces were truly emblazoned upon a single individual spirit. To the Elizabethan mind, Italy was poetry, & Italian theatre the most innovative on the planet. In 1586, from the fertile fields of the Veneto Plain, directly to the east of Lombardy, a new kind of improvised comical theatre called Commeddia Dell Arte began to spring up. The full name of the form is commedia dell’arte all’improvviso, or ‘comedy of the very creative ability of improvisatio,’ & were rather like the romantic comedies of today, & were typically acted out by masked ‘archetypes’ trained to give out improvised performances. These stock characters included foolish old men, mischievous servants, brash military officers, & miserly merchants. In Act II Scene II of Hamlet, Hamlet seems to be describing a performance as he speaks to an actor;

I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never acted; or, if it was, not above once; for the play, I remember, pleased not the million; ’twas caviare to the general: but it was–as I received it, and others, whose judgments in such matters cried in the top of mine–an excellent play, well digested in the scenes, set down with as much modesty as cunning. I remember, one said there were no sallets in the lines to make the matter savoury, nor no matter in the phrase that might indict the author of affectation; but called it an honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine.

Most of Shakespeare’s early plays – The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night & Much Ado About Nothing – were inspired by the tradition. Of Love’s Labours Lost, where Geoffrey Bullough writes, ‘there may have been an earlier play, continental in origin & affected by the commedia dell’arte tradition,‘ he is referring to the use of CDA’s archetypical characters; foolish old men, mischievous servants, brash military officers & miserly merchants such as the braggart (Armado) & ostentatious pedant (Holofernes). Another early play, Twelfth Night, utilises many of CDA’s ‘lazzi,’ a stock comic element, as when the ‘Pantalone’ is tricked by other characters into doing those daft things they have convinced him will impress the woman he admires.

That Shakespeare witnessed a performance at some point seems likely, for Verona, alongside sities such as Mantua, wasfirmly  on the circuit of traveling CDELA troupes. Grillo writes that English theatre, ‘borrowed from Italian drama much of its technique–chorus, echo, play within a play, dumb show, ghosts of great men, mechanical stage apparatus and all the physical horrors which aroused in the audience feelings of awe and terror,‘ & with Shakespeare’s trip to the Continent beinf in all essence an academic pursuit, it seems that the study of Italian theater was on the curriculum.


MARCH 1586
Shakespeare in Venice

Of all the cities in adorable Italy, Shakespeare seems to know the most about the floating pleasure-palace that is Venice. When, in the Merchant of Venice, he writes, ‘what news on the Rialto?’ he was well aware of the rumor-laden tittle-tattle that flock still to that famously beautiful bridge. Elsewhere in the pantheon, just after  Shakespeare introduces Cassio as a ‘Florentine’ in Othello, he has the Venetian lago become all prickly & slurry,  reflecting the provincial Italian animosty our bard must have observed at first hand. In the MOV in particular, Grillo finds, ‘an inimitable Italian atmosphere… the topography is so precise & accurate that it must convince even the most superficial reader that the poet visited the country, acutely observant of all its characteristics as he traveled through its mountains & valleys. One instance is the gift of a dish of pigeons which Gobbo takes to his son’s master. Gobbo is a purely Venetian name, which must certainly have been suggested to Shakespeare by the statue of the kneeling hunchback of the Rialto, which forms the base of the pillar upon which in ancient days were affixed the decrees of the Republic.’

shylocks-penthouse3The inimitable Paul Roe found the very house where MOV’s Shylock lived: a ‘penthouse’ on the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, where Jewish Banks once leant the Christians money. That it was, & still is, supported by three columns, just as Shakespeare describes, is yet another incredible accuracy from our poet in Italy. The MOV gives the following directions to the house; ‘turn upon your right hand at the next turning, but at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at the very next turning, turn of no hand; but turn down indirectly to the Jew’s house,’ which is an uncanny way of describing the mazy lanes of Venice. ‘Other Shakespearean Venetian references,’ says John Hudson, ‘are to the characteristic gondolas & chopins – a kind of platform shoe – as well as to the Venetian calendar & judicial procedures.’

Titian Sacred Profane - Copy (15)

There is also a very subtle time-clue  that Shakespeare was visiting Venice before 1589.  In the MOV, we hear Portia say, ‘Tarry, Jew. The law hath yet another hold on you. It is enacted in the laws of Venice, if it be proved against an alien that by direct or indirect attempts he seek the life of any citizen.‘ This ‘law’ cannot be applicable to tha 1589 ruling made by the venetian Senate which declared the city’s Jewish  residents were now full citizens of the Republic.

Another Elizabethan traveler to Venice, Fynnes Moryson, offers an accurate insight into the city which Shakespeare would have encountered. Notice how he observes the Traghetti ferries, which in the Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare calls, ‘trajects,’ as in, ‘unto the traject, to the common ferry. Which trades to Venice.’

This stately City built in the bottome of the gulfe of the Adriatique sea… is eight miles in circuit, and hath seventy parishes, wherein each Church hath a little market place, for the most part foure square, and a publike Well. For the common sort use well water, and raine water kept in cesternes; but the Gentlemen fetch their water by boat from the land. It hath thirty one cloysters of Monkes, and twenty eight of Nunnes, besides chappels and alines-houses. Channels of water passe through this City (consisting of many Ilands joyned with Bridges) as the bloud passeth through the veines of mans body; so that a man may passe to what place he will both by land and water. The great channell is in length about one thousand three hundred paces, and in breadth forty paces, and hath onely one bridge called Rialto, and the passage is very pleasant by this channell; being adorned on both sides with stately Pallaces. And that men may passe speedily, besides this bridge, therebe thirteene places called Traghetti, where boats attend Gondole. called Gondole; which being of incredible number give ready passage to all men.

Through Moryson, we can really get a feel for Shakespeare’s stay in Venice; absorbing all the vibrant life & colour of the market-places, or perhaps studying in the city’s library. Here are a couple more Venetian passages from his ‘Itinerary.’

Right over against the Dukes Pallace, in the… second market place of the pallace, is the library, whose building is remarkable, and the architecture of the corner next the market place of the Bakers, is held by great Artists a rare worke, and divers carved Images of Heathen Gods, and Goddesses in the old habit, are no lesse praised, as done by the hands of most skilfull workemen. On the inside, the arched roofes curiously painted, and the little study of ivory, with pillars of Allablaster, and rare stones, and carved Images (in which an old breviary of written hand, and much esteemed, is kept) are things very remarkeable. The inner chamber is called the study ; in which many statuaes and halle statuaes, twelve heads of Emperors, and other things given to the State by Cardinall Dominicke Grimani, are esteemed precious by all antiquaries. And in this Library are laid up the Bookes, which the Patriarke and Cardinall Bessarione gave to Saint Marke (that is to the State) by his last will, and the most rare books brought from Constantinople at the taking thereof, and otherwise gathered from all parts of Greece.

This City aboundeth with good fish, which are twice each day to be sold in two markets of Saint Marke & Rialto, & that it spendeth weekly five hundred Oxen, & two hundred & fifty Calves, besides great numbers of young Goates, Hens, and many kinds of birds, besides that it aboundeth with sea birds, whereof the Venetian writers make two hundred kinds, and likewise aboundeth with savoury fruits, and many salted and dried dainties, and with all manner of victuals, in such sort as they impart them to other Cities. I will also adde that here is great concourse of all nations, as well for the pleasure the City yeeldeth, as for the free conversation ; and especially for the commodity of trafficke. That in no place is to be found in one market place such variety of apparell, languages, and manners.

While in Venice, Shakespeare would have pictorially seen the next stage in the development of his Venus & Adonis. The above painting is by Titian, his amazing ‘Sacred & Profane Love,’ in which the coat of arms of a leading Venetian politician – Niccolo Aurelio – can be seen. In the sculptural relief below the two women – one of whom is Venus – there is a man on the ground that invokes the image of a chastised Adonis. The rampant horse & the woman being checked by the hair in the relief seem to represent the halting of the passions, with the horse being the Platonic symbol of libido. This pictorial motif then turns up in the poem as;

But, lo, from forth a copse that neighbours by,
A breeding jennet, lusty, young and proud,
Adonis’ trampling courser doth espy,
And forth she rushes, snorts and neighs aloud:
The strong-neck’d steed, being tied unto a tree,
Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes he.
Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
And now his woven girths he breaks asunder.

The Venice that is portrayed in Othello shows a personal appreciation by the bard. Grillo summoned up concisely much of the true Venetian atmosphere that he could see in the play, being, ‘the darkness of morning, the narrow and mysterious “calli,” Brabantio’s house with its heavy iron-barred doors, the Sagittary, the official residence of the commanders of the galleys, the hired gondolier witness of gallant intrigues… the galleys sent on a multitude of errands, the armaments, the attendants with torches, the special night guards, the council chamber, the senators, the Doge —the beloved Signor Magnifico— the discussions about the war… the history of Othello with all the sacrifices made in defence of the republic, the appearance of the divine Desdemona, fair & beautiful as a Titian portrait – all give the impression of a vivid portrayal of scenes enacted in the very heart of the Queen of the Adriatic.’ This wonderful passage brings us to the end of our search for Shakespeare’s secret Italy. He surely visited the country, for where else would he have picked up such a native phrase such as, ‘sano come un pesce / sound as a fish,’ an expression Grillo states was, even in his time, ‘still in common use in certain parts of Italy.’

The Young Shakespeare (7): Shakespeare in France & Spain


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


1585: Shakespeare Starts His Grand Tour

AS I stated in the opening chapter of this essay into Shakespeare’s missing years, the key to the solution is the placement of Shakespeare on the Grand Tour of Europe undertaken by William Stanley 1585-87. Immediately we are struck by the fact that that in every place Stanley visited in the ‘Garland’ ballad – Greenland aside – we can site one or more of Shakespeare’s continental scenes, the only exception being the Elsinore of Hamlet.

SHAK

The England Shakespeare had departed from was recorded in a despatch, written in 1585, by Giovanni Francesco Moresini, the Venetian ambassador to Constantinople.

The true description of England & its present State. The circumference of the island of England is 3,500 miles. It is most powerful in its infinite number of warlike inhabitants. It has thirty-nine counties full of cities, forts & villages. In the City of London alone there are three hundred thousand warriors always ready. It is rich in all kinds of fruits, & in mines of silver, tin, copper, lead, iron, sulphur, saltpetre. That part which does not feed horses or other beasts, yields crops or metals, so that there is no part of it impossible for mans use. All kinds of animals abound, noble horses , bulls, chiefly because there are no wolves, sheeps with wool like silk, from which they weave cloth of all sorts. The workmen are able masters of every craft. There is great abundance of rabbit skins, leather of bull, calf, sheep, lamb, & goat skin, which not only supplies Europe but also Asia, Africa, & America. England owns many islands, among them Ireland, but little smaller than England itself. And in short England is independent of other countries though they cannot do without her. In England, the present Queen, Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, has reigend twenty-six years, may god preserve her. Her revenue is six millions in gold, apart from the expenses of her court which are paid by the country. At her command she has one hundred & thirty thousand armed men, from twenty to fifty years old. She is in alliance with all the Princes of the true Christian religion, of which she is the head. She has a fleet more powerful than all the other Princes of Christendom, so strong that one must see it to believe it.

The people are naturally brave, indomitable, & valorous in war. They attack the foe with such ardour thay they usually come out not dead but victorious. They are impatient of injuries & revenge them fiercely. They religiously keep their treaties & highly honour their allies. Their judges are most learned & full of sound judgements, they take no bribes. The nobles & gentlemen are affable, & delight in arms & the liberal arts; the people best friends to their friends, cruel foes to their foes; & all obey the Queen, so that on her command they would go to death without a word.

It seems nothing much has really changed since then. The year 1585 would turn out to be a good year for those salty Elizabethan Sea-Dogs, explorers ready to further the domains, markets & knowledge of England in the burgeoning New World. Sir Richard Greenville voyaged to Virginia, North America, commanding ‘seven sailes, to wit, the Tyger, of the burden of seven score tunnes, a Flie-boat called the Roe-bucke, of the like burden, the Lyon of a hundred tunnes or thereabouts, the Elizabeth, of fiftie tunnes, and the Dorothie, a small barke: whereunto were also adjoyned for speedy services, two small pinnesses.’ M.J. Davis made an attempt to find a North West passage to the Pacific Ocean, ‘with two Barkes, the one being of 50. tunnes, named the Sunneshine of London, and the other being 35. tunnes, named the Mooneshine of Dartmouth.’ Later that same year, & far to the south, Sir Francis Drake led a large fleet on the rampage, taking the cities of Saint Iago, Santo Domingo, Cartagena, and the town of Saint Augustine in Florida. For Shakespeare, a vastly smaller sea-voyage was about to be undertaken….


January 1585 – Shakespeare at Dover

Of the journey to France, Elias Ashmole says, ‘on the 26th of January, the Earl, with his Train, passed from London to Gravesend, where taking Post-Horses they rid to Sittingborne, and from thence to Dover.’ A German traveller at that time, Paul Hentzner, describes the castle built by Henry VIII which still dominates the first port of England to this day;

Upon a rock, which on its right side is almost every where a precipice, a very extensive castle rises to a surprising height, in size like a little city, extremely well fortified & thick set with towers, and seems to threaten the sea beneath, Matthew Paris calls is the door & key of England. The ordinary people have taken it into their heads that it was built by Julius Ceasar

That Shakespeare saw Dover with his own eyes can be discerned from his accurate description of samphire-gathering on the white cliffs, as in King Lear’s: ‘halfway down hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade.’ Samphire is a local delicacy of Dover, a fleshy plant which grows upon the cliffs & is described by Gerard in his ‘Great Herbal’ (1597) : ‘the leaves kept in pickle and eaten in salads with oil & vinegar is a pleasant sauce for a meat.’ Perhaps samphire was included in the meals of the Earl of Derby’s 250-strong entourage as they readied themselves to cross the Channel. Such a company would have needed a large number of ships, & Shakspeare may have remembered the scene when he wrote the following segment of Henry V, describing the ‘well-appointed king…

…Embark his royalty; and his brave fleet
With silken streamers the young Phoebus fanning:
Play with your fancies, and in them behold
Upon the hempen tackle ship-boys climbing;
Hear the shrill whistle which doth order give
To sounds confused; behold the threaden sails,
Borne with the invisible and creeping wind,
Draw the huge bottoms through the furrow’d sea,
Breasting the lofty surge: O, do but think
You stand upon the ravage and behold
A city on the inconstant billows dancing;
For so appears this fleet majestical

Reading through this passage, one really does get the sense that Shakespeare witnessed such a scene, that he actually saw a noble fleet drifting out of Dover. Such a vivid poetical remembrance is suggested by Walter Bagehot’s, ‘Shakespeare’s works could only be produced by a first-rate imagination working on a first-rate experience. It is often difficult to make out whether the author of a poetic creation is drawing from fancy, or drawing from experience; but for art on a certain scale, the two must concur. Out of nothing, nothing can be created.’


FEBRUARY 1585 – Shakespeare in France

Capture.PNG

As Shakespeare crossed the English Channel, he would have gazed wide-eyed with wonder at the Earl of Derby’s fleet as it skimm’d across the choppy green waters to France. After making footfall upon foreign shores, we can follow his first steps abroad via contemporary records of the Garter procession;

7th February : The Earl of Derby… is coming to bring the Garter to this king. He has disembarked at Bolounge with a great following of English nobles, & is to be lodged, & apparently splendidly entertained, by the king
Bernardino de Mendoza

Ffom Bolougne it is more or less a straight shot south to Paris. However, theer is an intriguing possibility that Shakespeare saw Rouen on a small detour of about 40 miles. The reason being is that In Henry VI part 1, the list of Talbot’s titles include the “great Earl of Washford, Waterford and Valence, which” was formerly fixed via epitaph upon Lord Talbot’s tomb. Talbot had died at the Battle of Bordeaux in 1453 & had been buried in Rouen.


FEBRUARY 1585 – Shakespeare in Paris

 

21st February : The Earl of Derby arrived at Saint Denis. He was sent by the Queen of England to bear the garter to the most Christian king. Lord Derby stayed two days at St Denis, & on the third day he took the roads with all his company, which consists of two other lords, fifty gentleman, & others to the number of two hundred
Giovanni Dolfin

Once in Paris, the Earl & his party took up residence at the Louvre, dazzling French nobility with the extravagance & magnificence of his embassy. On the 28th February, the Order of the Garter would be finally handed over with much ceremony to Henri III. Shakespeare must have been blown away by the experience, his ears swelling with the florid language & sickly pomp of such grandiose, courtly affairs. It must have been a moment of creative epiphany, for during his career all but one of his plays (Merry Wives of Windsor) would be set in an aristocratic environment. Our young poet would have marvell’d at the extravagances of the Earl of Derby, but the truth of the matter is that such spectacular showboating was bleeding the Earl dry, who was pretty much doing the whole thing on bills of credit. By Paris he had spent-up, of which circumstance Sir Edward Stafford wrote to Walsingham, ‘at their coming to town they had not a hundred crowns left, & no other provision.’ Sir Francis Walsingham & his bills of credit ended up footing the bill, when the cost of post-horses, carts & carriages, alone amounted to £463 15s.


MARCH 1585 – Stanley & Shakespeare Embark on their Continental Tour

In our noble sanguinities, being the second son of an aristocratic family generally means you are left to your own devices, to enjoy a life of luxury without the pressure of carrying on the family name & lands. In Elizabethan England, many of these privileged young libertines traveled extensively across Europe, & Stanley was no different. The Queen had encouraged such tours, when in her own words, ‘young men of promising hopes’ such as the Earl of Essex & Phillip Sydney did travel through, ‘foreign countries for the more complete polishing of their Parts & Studies.’ Stanley had already toured the Continent once, in 1582-83 & was going back for more.

To actually be out of gloomy England & heading for sunnier climes & all the pristine culture of Europa would have felt as wonderful to Shakespeare as it does to any modern Briton holidaying abroad. He would later remember such a moment of liberating freedom;

Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,
The better part of my affections would
Be with my hopes abroad. I should be still
Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind,
Peering in maps for ports and piers and roads.
The Merchant of Venice

As The Garland of William Stanley describes, the optimum reason for such a continental sojurn was the study of various languages;

Then first Sir William travell’d to France,
To learn the French tongue and to dance;
He tarried there not past three years,
But he learnt their language and all their affairs.

And then Sir William would travel to Spain,
There for to learn the Spanish tongue;


MARCH 1585 – Shakespeare visits the Ardennes

13th_Earl_of_Derby

It seems that the time spent at Douay in his formative years had given Shakespeare at least a rudimentary basis in French. Nicholas Rowe once stated it was certain that Shakespeare, ‘understood French, as may be observ’d from many Words and Sentences scatter’d up and down his Plays in that Language; and especially from one Scene in Henry the Fifth written wholly in it.’ In that scene, where Katherine says, in pretty good French, ‘Alice, tu as été en Angleterre, et tu parles bien le langage,’ Alice replies, ‘un peu.’ Shakespeare’s knowledge of French would have made life much easier for our party as they traversed the primeval forest of the Ardennes between Paris & Antwerp. This very region turns up in As You Like it, where the ‘Forest of Arden’ is set in an un-named duchy of France. The play contains a wrestling match at a tournament, mirroring Thomas Aspen’s description of William Stanley’s travels in which our Grand Tourist, ‘took laurels in many of the chief tournaments.’ 

In As You Like It, a certain Rosalind dressing up as a boy-child called ‘Ganymede,’ a figure that Shakespeare drew from classical mythology. Legend states how the baby Ganymede had been abducted by Jupiter in the guise of an eagle. This very motif was chosen by the Stanleys to decorate their family’s noble crest (above), & placing the emblem in As You Like It seems a clear nod by Shakespeare to his patrons.


APRIL 1585 – Shakespeare Witnesses the Siege of Antwerp

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Among the gentlemen waiters who traveled to France in the Earl’s retinue, we may observe a 13-year-old John Donne, a young fellow destined to enter the leading ranks of the English poetic pantheon. Modern scholar Dennis Flynn shows how Donne’s uncle, Jasper Heywood, was a leading Jesuit missionary, & in the anti-Catholic atmosphere of that age, ‘he & his sister, Donne’s mother, seemingly conspired to get him out of harm’s way by arranging this trip to the continent as a member of the ambassador’s retinue,’ adding, ‘since Donne did not return to England with the Earl in March 1585, the most plausible explanation for his turning up later in Derby’s household is that at some point he joined the Earl’s son William Stanley on the continent.

We may presume that our gallant young Englishmen swaggering about the continent had at least some kind of sympathy to Catholicism, & that Jasper Heywood’s nephew, the young John Donne was welcome in their company. According to Flynn, Donne was present at the 1585 siege of Antwerp as conducted by the Duke of Parma. Flynn insists that Donne reflected upon his time at the siege in a set of ‘Latin Epigrams’ which were composed, ‘during a period datable by their contents to April or May 1585.’ Flynn cites additional evidence in a poem by Donne’s, entitled ‘To Sleep, stealling upon him as he stood upon the Guard in the corner of a running Trench, at the siege of Duke’s-Wood,’ which includes the lines;

Our very standing still here business finde;
Duty imploys our bodies, cares our minde.
Duty which may the next hour double strike;
Whilst each man here stands grasping of a pike;
Waitings stoln onsets with our weary spears,
Examining even whispers with our ears.

Despite tensions between England & Spain, Stanley’s Catholicism & noble breeding would have ensured a friendly reception from the Duke of Parma. At the siege, opposing the Spanish, were two men with connections to our party; Sir William Stanley, a kinsman of our own William Stanley, & serving under him was Richard Hesketh, the brother of the Shakeshaftean Thomas Hesketh in Lancashire.


MAY 1585 – Shakespeare Crosses France

On leaving the Antwerp seat of war, our party set off south, passing through the great Gallic hinterland. As they proceeded they would have noticed the devastation of two decades worth of civil strife. Between 1562 & 1580, the French had seen SEVEN civil wars fought between the Catholic & Protestant factions, a bloody struggle which had turned many French towns to rubble. These visions of urban desolation seem to be remembered later by Shakespeare in Henry VI (part 1);

Look on thy country, look on fertile France,
And see the cities and the towns defaced
By wasting ruin of the cruel foe.
As looks the mother on her lowly babe
When death doth close his tender dying eyes,
See, see the pining malady of France;
Behold the wounds, the most unnatural wounds,
Which thou thyself hast given her woful breast.

It is possible that as they travelled south, in the possession of one of our party members lay the delightful Informacion for Pylgrymes unto the Holy Londe, published by Wynkyn de Worde in 1498. The Rough Guide of the Middle Ages, it was packed full of advice for tavellers, including the best equipment to take with them on their journey including; ‘a lytell cawdron, a fryenge panne, dysshes, platers, cuppes of glasse… a fther bed, a matrasse, a pylawe, two payre sheets & a quylte.’ The book also suggests travelling with six chickens in cages, which brings the romantic image of travelling the continent crashing down to earth somewhat. Whether they travelled so heavily or not is not important here, & I feel it will be better for the rest of our sojurning to imagine our party as a dashing trio on horseback, galloping along the open roads of Europe, wind whipping back their hair like trailing flames – & yes, Shakespeare would have had hair in those days.


1585 – Ronsard’s Sonnets

Pierre de Ronsard

While in France Shakespeare seems to have made his acquaintance with the recently published sonnets of prince of the ‘poets,” Pierre Ronsard, freshly remade from 1578’s sonnets pour Helene.’ J Dover Wilson declared the influence of these sonnets on Shakespeare as ‘pretty conclusive,’ while HM Richmond (Ronsard & the English Renaissance – Comparative Literature StudiesVol. 7, No. 2 (Jun., 1970), – explain’d for Shakespeare’s world view is usually mapped out in Ronsard’s expository poems, like ‘Les Daimons’ & the ‘Hymn de la Mort.‘ They provide specific allusions & imagery clarifying such famous speeches as ‘To be or not to be‘ & ‘Be absolute for death.‘ The especial transmutational qualities of Ronsard’s literary gift were absorbed by Shakespeare who would also transfoim all he touch’d into something new & strange.  Of the 111 sonnets, number 42 is the most famous;

When you are very old, by candlelight in the evening,
Sitting by the fire, reeling and spinning,
Say, singing my verses, marveling:
“Ronsard celebrated me when I was beautiful!” “

Then you will not have a servant hearing such news,
Already under half-sleeping labor,
Who does not wake up at the sound of Ronsard,
Blessing your name of immortal praise.

I’ll be underground, and, boneless ghost,
By the mysterious shadows; I will take my rest;
You will be at home an old squatting,

Regretting my love and your proud disdain.
Live, if you believe me, don’t wait until tomorrow:
Pick the roses of life today.

Ronsard died at La Riche, Tours, on the 27th December 1585, the very same year that Shakespeare was in the country. They may even have met as our party headed south, for Shakespeare seems to have become very familiar with Ronsard’s The Adonis (1564), upon which mythological canvas was unleashed a variety of tones in the very same way as which as the bard would treat the same Ovidian fable. Meanwhile, in 1918, one of the Derbyites – those who think that William Stanley was in fact Shakespeare – Abel Lefranc identified Ophelia in Hamlet to be a portrait of Hélène de Tournon, a young woman who is supposed to have died of love and whose story was told by Pierre de Ronsard.


JUNE 1585 – Shakespeare Visits Nerac

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In the summer of 1585, Shakespeare accompanied Stanley – & Donne – into the kingdom of Navarre, which stretched across both sides of the Pyrenees like a blanket drying on a wall. On arrival they received an excellent welcome – Stanley’s father had befriended Henri of Navarre in their youth & he himself had been in Nerac only three years previously. Shakespeare’s own time in the kingdom would heavily influence his composition of Love’s Labours Lost. Set in Navarre itself, Abel Lefranc describes that play’s, ‘easy familiarity with the atmosphere reigning at the court of Navarre… the Park of Navarre… is easily identifiable with the park of Nerac.’

The town of Nerac lies in south-west France, near Toulouse, in which place Henri of Navarre had installed a humanist academy whose academic atmosphere permeates the poetry of Love’s Labours Lost. In this charming play we encounter the austere intellectual endeavors of four young men completely rattled by the arrival of the Princess of France, when all pretensions of mental asceticism soon descend into glib rounds of love-gifts, sonnets & masques. The charming start of Love’s Labours Lost shows the state of mind of four young men, whose ebullient language bubbles with a deep passion for scholarship.

ACT I SCENE I. The king of Navarre’s park;
Enter FERDINAND king of Navarre, BIRON, LONGAVILLE and DUMAIN

FERDINAND
Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register’d upon our brazen tombs
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
The endeavor of this present breath may buy
That honour which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge
And make us heirs of all eternity.
Therefore, brave conquerors,–for so you are,
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world’s desires,–
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;
Our court shall be a little Academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
You three, Biron, Dumain, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years’ term to live with me
My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes
That are recorded in this schedule here

The three years that Stanley spent on the continent (1585-1587) are a direct match for the three-year course of study planned by the play’s principle character, Ferdinand; alongside Biron, Dumain, and Longaville, two of whom are perhaps metapoetic reflections of Shakespeare & Donne. When Biron says, ‘study is like the heaven’s glorious sun,’ we can sense the importance Shakespeare attached to his time in Nerac.

If Love’s Labours Lost is Shakespeare’s poetical tribute to his time in Navarre, then the part of Ferdinand would have been based upon King Henry. Likewise Shakespeare, Stanley & John Donne would have been reflected by Longaville, Dumain & Biron. That our intrepid tourists were in reality setting out upon a quest for educational enlightenment finds a thorough reflection in the play’s passionate desire for learning – one stymied by the arrival of women at Nerac. This could well be a remembrance of true events, for in the play we get the first whiff of Shakespeare’s infidelities;

First, from the park let us conduct them thither;
Then homeward every man attach the hand
Of his fair mistress: in the afternoon
We will with some strange pastime solace them,
Such as the shortness of the time can shape;
For revels, dances, masks and merry hours
Forerun fair Love, strewing her way with flowers.

Emile Montegut describes the familiarity of Love’s Labour’s Lost with the idiosynchracies of the French court; ‘it is something extraordinary to observe Shakespeare’s fidelity to the most minute details of historic truth. The conversations of his lords & ladies are thoroughly French; vivacious, sprightly, witty, an unbroken game of battledore & shuttelcock, a skirmish of bons mots, a mimic war of repartee. Even their bad taste is quite French.’

We must acknowledge Shakespeare’s uncanny knowledge of local politics, for both the Dukes ‘De Biron’ & ‘Longueville’ were actual allies of Henri of Navarre in real life, while Derran Charlton tells us, ‘the names Boyet, Marcade & de la Mothe appear in contemporary registers of court officials.’ The play contains a certain Lord Dumain, who was a counterpart in the very real Duke of Maine. When Charlton adds into the mix,’The King’s impetuous riding (4.1.1-2) & his covering the whole sheet, ‘margin & all,’ in his letter-writing (5.2.7-8) were actual habits of Henri of Navarre,’ it becomes almost necessary to accept that Shakespeare had visited Nerac, where he undoubtedly met Henry of Navarre in person.


AUGUST 1585: Shakespeare In Spain

On leaving Nerac, the party ascended the myriad-mountain’d Pyrenees; those gorgeous rocky giants abutting the beautiful, sierra-swept lands of Spain.

And then Sir William would travel to Spain,
There for to learn the Spanish tongue ;
He tarried there not past half a year,
But he thought he’d been in Spain too long

Their route south would have crossed the ancient pilgrim’s way ot Compostela, which Shakepseare would later record in All’s Well That Ends Well;

I am Saint Jaques’ pilgrim, thither gone.
Ambitious love hath so in me offended
That barefoot plod I the cold ground upon
With sainted vow my faults to have amended

That Shakespeare was with Stanley in Spain has been half-noticed by Sir Henry Thomas. Of the ‘Tawny Spain’ phrase found in Love’s Labour’s Lost, he declares it, ‘so apt a description of the landscape, at least in some parts of Spain & at certain seasons of the year, that it suggests personal observation. I such it really was, the trip to Spain might be a youthful escapade.’ Shakespeare seems to have also understood the rudiments of the Spanish tongue, with Sir Henry stating; ‘it is common ground that Shakespeare had some knowledge of Spain and the Spaniards that a few Spanish words were among his stock-in-trade… Shakespeare’s allusions to Spain are very numerous, he uses Spanish phrases and gives an English garb to others.

Learning Spanish enabled Shakespeare to study its literature, such as the 1585 edition of La Galatea by Cervantes, containing the Proteus-Julia-Sylvia love triangle, which would later inspire The Two Gentlemen of Verona, & Lope de Rueda’s  ‘Comedia los Enganos,’ the seminal influence on Twelfth Night. It is a tantalising thought to imagine Shakespeare buying La Galatea in the very year & in the very country it was printed.

kw3300101Remembrances of Donne’s visit to Spain are foundupon a portrait of the young poet, painted in 1591, where we see the phrase; ‘Antes muerto que mudado.’ Its translation is ‘sooner dead than changed,’ reflecting a secret nod to his Roman Catholicism. Donne may have picked up the phrase at first hand while in Spain, in the middle of stocking up on books for his personal library. In his middle-age, in 1623, Donne wrote a letter to the Duke of Buckingham confessing, ‘in my poore library I can turn my eye toward no shelf, in any profession from the mistress of my youth, Poetry, to the wife of mine age, Divinity, but that I meet with more authors of the {Spanish} nation than of any others.’


August 1585 – Shakespeare’s Spanish Reading

While in Spain, Shakespeare bought books to study upon those long journeys that the pre-mechanised era entailed. While never as big a fan as Donne would become, Spanish literature definitely influenced Shakespeare, as Sir Henry Thomas connecting together most assiduously;

The Winter’s Tale to Amadis de Grecia… The Tempest is at any rate related to Eslava’s Noches de Invierno, even if Shakespeare knew nothing of the Spanish book. His apparent allusion to The Mirror of Knighthood may warrant the suspicion that he read, and perhaps utilized that romance ; and we may at least speculate as to whether he came under the influence of Cervantes and the Celestina… It has for some time been on record that Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and Twelfth Night deal respectively with the same subjects as Lope de Rueda’s Comedia Eufemia and Comedia de los Enganados, and his Romeo and Juliet with the same theme as Lope de Vega’s Castelvines y Monteses. Recently Pericles, which is partly Shakespeare’s work, has been similarly brought into line with Gil Vicente’s Comedia de Rubena… The earliest Spanish work that has been connected with Shakespeare is the Conde Lucanor, the fourteenth-century collection of apologues by Don Juan Manuel, which was first published in 1575. One of the stories told in the Conde Lucanor, obviously taken from an oriental source, has a similar theme to The Taming of the Shrew, and as late as 1909 Mr. Martin Hume was still claiming that the Shakespearian play was derived from the Spanish story… Over a century ago, Robert Southey, fixing on the name Florizel in The Winter’s Tale, observed that Shakespeare in this play imitated Amadis de Grecia— one of Feliciano de Silva’s continuations of the famous romance Amadis de Guala— which was not translated into English till 1693.

O! had thy mother borne so hard a mind,
She had not brought forth thee, but died unkind.

In writing The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Shakespeare drew on the Spanish prose romance Los Siete Libros de la Diana (The Seven Books of the Diana) by the Portuguese writer Jorge de Montemayor. Diana was published in Spanish in 1559 and translated into French by Nicholas Collin in 1578 – an English translation was not available until Bartholomew Young published his in 1598. The History of Felix and Philiomena (now lost), which may have been based on Diana, & was performed for the court at Greenwich Palace by the Queen’s Men on 3 January 1585.


SEPTEMBER 1585 – Shakespeare Begins Venus & Adonis

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Like any good tourist, Shakespeare availed himself of the opportunities to wander foreign caches of culture. While visiting the Court of King Phillip II in Madrid, he would observe two paintings by the great Italian renaissance painter, Titian. Since the 1550s, Titian had created a series of large mythological paintings for the Spanish king, Philip II. Many of these were taken from Ovid’s ‘Metamorpheses’ including ‘Danae’, ‘Venus and Adonis’, ‘Perseus and Andromeda’ and the ‘Rape of Europa.’ In letters to his patron, Titian monickered the paintings as ‘poesie,’ to distinguish them from standard historical paintings. Hung in the Alcázar Palace in Madrid, viewing them would have been a totally immersive experience & one only a fabulously wealthy monarch such as the silver-stealing emperor of the Spanish Empire could afford.

Two of the paintings are intrrinsically tied to Shakespeare,The Rape of Lucrece and Venus & Adonis, with the substance of each utilised by Shakespeare for two long poems printed in the early 1590s.  It seems our poet was inspired to begin the composition of at least ‘Venus & Adonis’ almost immediately, for on its publication in 1593, on the title page Shakespeare calls the poem ‘the first heir of my invention.’ A key factor in placing Shakespeare directly in front of & staring at Titian’s painting can be observed in the poet’s rejection of Ovid’s version of events, & his following of Titian instead. Like Shakespeare’s depiction, the painting has Adonis backing away from the advances of Venus, shirking Ovid’s portrayal of the young god happily embracing his bonnie suitor. ‘Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone, Well-painted idol,‘ says Venus, who around the neck of Adonis, ‘her yoking arms she throws: She sinketh down, still hanging by his neck.‘ This is just as is pictorially described by Titian, as is Shakespeare having Adonis ‘urging release… from the twining arms.’  Shakespeare also appears to be mirroring the painting when he writes, ‘O, what a war of looks was then between them!’ 

More evidence that Shakespeare saw the painting & wanted to recreate the story it told in words comes within the poem itself. Erwin Panofsky, in his, ‘Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographical,‘ writes, ‘Shakespeare’s words, down to such details as the nocturnal setting and “love upon her backe deeply distrest,” sound like a poetic paraphrase of Titian’s composition,’ & gives stanza 136 as a good example;

With this he breaketh from the sweet embrace
Of those faire armes which bound him to her brest,
And homeward through the dark lawnd runs apace;
Leaves love upon her backe, deeply distrest.
Looke, how a bright star shooteth from the skye,
So glides he in the night from Venus’s eye.

The poem is very much moulded by homoerotica, suggesting Shakespeare had been seduced by Stanley on their Grand Tour. On analysis of the poem, we may observe how Venus – who would be based on Stanley – is rather more humanized than one would expect of a member of the immortal pantheon. The poem could in actuality be a versified memorial to Stanley & his sexual overtures towards the younger, twenty-one year old, Adonis-like Shakespeare. Evidence for such a sequence of events may be obtained through understanding the Elizabathan tendency to name one another via ingenious allusions.

(i) In the poem, Venus says to Adonis; ‘Art thou obdurate, flinty, hard as steel? Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth: Art thou a woman’s son, and canst not feel what ’tis to love? How want of love tormenteth?’
(ii) In 1597, a young Cambridge graduate named Joseph Hall published two books of satires in which he marks out for especial criticism a certain ‘Labeo,’ telling him to ‘write better’ three times, & at one point to even refrain from writing completely.
(iii) In 1598, John Marston wrote, ‘so Labeo did complain his love was stone, Obdurate, flinty, so relentless none.’ This hints that Labeo was the same person as Shakespeare’s Venus – ie William Stanley. At this very period, John Marston was heavily involved with Stanley in reviving the St Paul’s Boys troupe, & would have acquired an intimate insight into the secret Stanley-Shakespeare affections.
(iv) In 1599, we gain solid evidence concerning Stanley’s mediocre, playwrighting pretensions. In a letter which George Fenner sent to Humphrey Galdelli, Stanley was said to be, ‘busy penning plays for the common players.’ These were most probably The Maid’s Metamorphosis and The Wisdom of Doctor Dodypoll, two ‘anonymous’ productions performed in 1599 by the St Paul’s Boys. Both of these are inferior productions of the Elizabethan tradition, & may be among the pieces criticized by Joseph Hall when he attacked the dodgy writings of ‘Labeo.’


SEPTEMBER 1585 – Stanley Duels with a Spaniard

With the Armarda only three years away, to be an Englishman in Spain in 1585 must have been a tense experience. Relations between the two countries were steadily souring, & our party got themselves into a bit of a scrape. Thomas Aspen describes how Stanley;

Was challenged by a Spanish nobleman to single combat. In the first encounter the Spaniard succeeded in wounding Sir William on his right arm, and causing him to fall to the ground, but he was soon upon his feet again. In the second round the Spaniard aimed three deadly blows at the wounded Englishman, but they were all skillfully averted, and Sir William gave his adversary a thrust on the right breast, inflicting a severe wound, and causing him to reel to the ground. Blood flowed freely, and the friends of the Spanish nobleman counselled his withdrawal from the contest, but he was too enraged to heed their advice, and in the third encounter rushed at Sir William with the force of desperation, but the blows were successfully parried, and the representative of the house of Stanley once more secured the crown of victory by inflicting a second wound on the breast of the Spaniard, and thus effectually disabling him.

This would not be the last time a bunch of (probably drunk) English tourists got themselves into a spot of bother in Spain, but having survived the fracas it was definitely time to hop-it out of a country growing more & more hostile by the hour.


OCTOBER 1585 – Shakespeare Passes Through Aragon

In the anonymous 1801 appendix, ‘A Brief Account of the Travels of the Celebrated Sir William Stanley,’ we are told that following his duel in Spain, Stanley predicted ‘the vengeance of the whole court would fall upon him‘ & so purchased the habit of a friar in order to flee the country in disguise. As they made their way through Aragon, enduring ‘considerable hardships,’ I believe Shakespeare took down a series of notes which would find a home in the extremely popular 17th century play, Mucedorus.

The earliest known edition of this play is dated to the year 1598; but the words, ‘newly set foorth,’ on the title page indicate an earlier performance. The plot has a certain Prince of Valencia disguising himself as a shepherd so he can sneak into Aragon in order to view its famously beautiful Princess – a sequence of events which heavily echo Stanley’s own incognito travels in the same district. That Shakespeare had a hand in the writing of the play came to light in the 17th century, when the play was assigned to Shakespeare in Edward Archer’s play list of 1656. In that very period three scripts were discovered in the royal library of Charles II, bound together & labelled ‘Shakespeare. Vol. I’. The MS contained Fair Em, The Merry Devil of Edmonton & a the vital 1610 quarto printing of Mucedorus.


OCTOBER 1585 – Shakespeare crosses the French Riviera

Roussillon

After the sojurn in Spain, the Garland tells us, ‘to Italy then Sir William would go, To Rome.’ It is apparent that our intrepid poetical gentlemen took the land route, for on leaving the gorgeous sierras of Spain they must have passed through Roussillon, a region which which makes an appearance in All’s Well That Ends Well. Roussillon, stands at the start of the French Riviera, while further along the coast we reach the sprawling sea-port of Marseille, another of All’s Well’s localities. This play is also set in the city of Florence, Italy, & one expects Alls Well to be some kind of metapoetic tribute to one of Shakespeare’s 1585 journeys, the one that swept him along the French Riviera & into northern Italy.


 

The Young Shakespeare (6): Daddy Shakespeare


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


Rufford Old Hall

1581: Shakespeare & the Heskeths

A Hesketh family tradition dating to at least 1799 says that William Shakespeare performed at Thomas Hesketh’s seat, Rufford Old Hall, about 10 miles south of Preston. 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 very decade. 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, while Alexander Nowell’s mother, Douse, was also a Hesketh.

Oblique support for the Shakespeare-Houghton connection comes through John Weever’s Epigrammes (1599), in which Weever 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: Anne Hathaway & Shakespeare Get It On

anne-hathaway-shakespeares-wife-759x1030In 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 even have attended & caught the eye of Anne, who was a good few years older than him.

A possible glimpse into the budding love of Shakespeare & Anne Hathaway can be found in the 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 other masterpieces in the collection, Andrew Gurr calls it, ‘arguably the worst of all the Shakespeare sonnets.’ It is written in a different meter to the rest (Iambic Tetrameter), while the versification, vocabulary, syntax & stylistics definitely 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.


1582: The State of the Theaters

While Shakespeare was cooped up in Lancashire, the theater world was happily evolving down south, with Oxford College accounts showing that in the second half of February 1582, a comedy and two tragedies were played at St John’s and a comedy and three tragedies at Christ Church. Magdalen’s accounts for 1582 also mentioned musical activity & a ‘tempore spectaculi’ at the time of the show. A contemporary document hitherto overlooked makes clear the names or themes of those seven plays and suggests that the last two weeks of February, 1582, saw a co-ordinated festivals of drama, involving not only the seven plays at St. John’s and Christ Church, but also one at Magdalen.

Meanwhile in London, Stephen Gosson, in his Playes Confuted in Five Actions, describes; ‘In the playhouses at London it is the fashion of youths to go first into the yard, and to carry their eye through every gallery, then like unto ravens where they spy the carrion thither they fly, and press as near to the fairest as they can. Instead of pomegranates they give them pippins, they dally with their garments to pass the time, they minister talk upon all occasions, and either bring them home to their houses on small acquaintance, or slip into taverns when the plays are done. He thinketh best of his painted sheath, and taketh himself for a jolly fellow, that is noted of most to be busiest with women in all such places.’


1582: William Stanley in Europe

In 1582, when William Stanley was about 21 he obtained leave from his father & the government to travel for three year. With him wen two servants & his tutor, Richard Lloyd. From the latter’s hand two letters are extant, sent by Lloyd to ‘Secretary’ Walsingham at court.

Mr Stanley arrived in Paris, on Wednesday, 25th July; we mean shortly to journey towards Orleans, Blois, or Angers, and the sooner if we had received our license from you, which I pray you either to send to the Lord Ambassador, or keep until our return to Paris. Aug. 6, Paris. 

I received your letter, dated Oatlands, 12th. Sept., with Mr. Stanley’s license, for which we thank you. Since it is your pleasure that I should send you such letters as Mr. Stanley sends to the Earl, his father, I will not disobey you, for it is a great favour done to him. According to your advice, we travelled towards Angers, where we are now, taking Orleans, Blois, Tours, Saumur, and other town upon the Loire. We mean to remain the winter here, and yet I find it a place out of the way, and little frequented. The Papists and those of the religion accord very well, and none are compelled to come to church, and yet the place appointed for preaching is eight miles off. Oct. 6. Angers.

After Angers they seem to be among those ‘personnes of quallitie’ residing at the court of Henry of Navarra, at Nerac. A letter from Lord Cobham to Walsingham, in June 1583, states that the King of Navarre had ‘reformed his house, The Princesse his sister Catherine de Bourbon hath done the lyke… there are sundry noblemen, protestants papists, repaired unto the Kynge of Navarres Court– there are dyvers special personnes of quallitie…’

To an edition of Seacome’s, History of the House, of Stanley printed in Preston, 1793 a 47 page account of Stanley’s travels & adventures were prefixed. This in turn was a reprint of an earlier pamphlet of unknown date,printed by J Nuttall of Liverpool. Entitled, ‘A brief account of the travels of the celebrated Sir William Stanley, son of the fourth earl of derby of Latham Hall, Lancashire.’ In it we gain more detail of Stanley’s time in Paris where he was welcomed by the ‘grand monarque & his consort’ due to fame of his father. He would spend about three years in France where his military skill brought down the envy of the nobles, but was still widely famed for his ‘gallantry & amiable accomplishments.’ Being of ‘high birth & engaging manners’ he had access ‘to all companies,’ while visiting Roman remains at Paris, Chaolons, Vienne, Rheims, & Lyons. He also visited 28 universities, several scholars, acquiring en route an ‘enlarged mind‘ & the ‘accomplishments of the scholar.’

What is crucial to our scheme is that in Paris, 1582, both Stanley & Thomas Watson were present, for 14 years after, in 1596, the anonymous author of Ulysses upon Ajax describes a certain, ‘Tom Watson’s jests, I heard them at Paris fourteen years ago: besides what balductum play is not full of them?”


Nov 1582 – Shakespeare Marries Anne Hathaway

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Like any any other 18-year-old, Shakespeare had found a great romance in his earliest carnal occasions, a romantic dalliance which sometime around August 1582 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 after the marriage, the baptism record tells us that Shakespeares’ first child, Susanna, was christened on May 26th, 1583. Read into that what you will – was it a mariage of honour & necessity or one of true love, we don’t really know.


1582: Thomas Watson’s Hekatompathia

In xxxx Watson shook up the world of English poetry with the release of his debut, Hekatompathia: Passionate Century of Love. This series of 18 line ‘sonnets’ or ‘passions’ contains the phrase, ‘her lips more red than any Coral stone,’ which foreshadows Shakespeare’s, ‘coral is far more red than her lip’s red.’ It has also been noted that Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence is divided into themes of an 26 sonnet intro, a set of 100 subdivided into groups of 80 & 20, an outr of 26, & two late add-ons to conclude. Significantly the 100 sonnets of the Hekatompathia are also divided into two groups of 80 & 20.

‘A Pasquine Piller erected in the despite of Love,’ one of the earliest concrete poems in English – Watson been exposed to the form as a vogue from his time on the continent.


1584:  Shakespeare Appears in Print

George Peele

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 this early English pastoral play may even have been co-author’d by our prodigal young & a certain 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.. In contrast are the records of mid-seventeenth century booksellers such as Kirkman & Winstanley who recorded Shakespeare as the author, as in; fa’Arraignment of Paris, a Pastoral, which I never saw; but it is ascribed by Kirkman to Mr. W. Shakespear,’ Gerard Langbaine, Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691). The simple solution here is that both writers were involved in the creation of the play, a hyperbasis which remains stands firm upon further scrutiny. Peele’s sister, Isabel, had married a certain Matthew Shakespeare, with whom she sired eight children. They lived in Clerkenwell in London, & if Matthew was a relation of Shakespeare’s then we have a crucial familial link between the two playwrights.

The Arraignment of Paris is a heavily mythologized piece based on the famous judgement of Paris which led to the Trojan war, its authors utilizing a great number of variant poetic forms, from euphonius blank verse to charming lyrics. The majority of the play bares the stamp of Peele, but there are sections which undoubtedly belong to the hand of our young bard. Its astounding really how the following extract remembers (a) Shakespeare’s time with Spenser when he was composing the Calendar; while (b) the poetic forms are identical to those we have already ascribed to Shakespeare as the W.S. author of both 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 his textual presence in the Arraingnment shows a probable earlier involvement with the troupe, probably in the late 1570s, & given his age would have been one of its actors. The Arraignment has an influential place in Shakespeare’s works with a one-man play’s thematic & a precursor Othello, consisting of speaker, listeners & supporting cas. The play’s motif of the judgement of Paris pops up again in Henry V, Troilus & Cressda & Romeo & Juliet, while his self-justication speech turns up in Macbeth’s

Prithee, peace
I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more, is none


JANUARY 1585: Shakespeare joins the Earl of Derby

Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby

In the chilly late January of 1585, Shakespeare’s twins, Hamnet & Judith arrived in the world.  Just after the twins were born, Oxford & Worcester’s Men received payment for a performance in Stratford on the 20th January, which we can tentativelt place Shakespeare at. The twins were baptized 2 weeks later in Stratford, on the 2nd February. It is possible that Shakespeare was present, but he would have had to afterwards travel to Dover in 3 days or so – doable, but stretching it. I’d say Shakespeare set off south not long after the 20th on a journey of meticuolous note-taking, a great deal of which would eventually find their way into his immortal plays. ‘Let him carry with him also some card, or book,’ suggested Sir Francis Bacon to the young travelers of the age, ‘describing the country where he travelleth, which will be a good key to his inquiry; let him not stay long in one city or town, more or less as the place deserveth, but not long: nay, when he stayeth in one city or town, let him change his lodging from one end and part of the town to another, which is a great adamant of acquaintance.’

Shakespeare had found himself a very minor station in the grand retinue of William Stanley’s father, the 4th Earl of Derby, who was readying himself for a trip to Paris. His mission was to present the French King with the Order of the Garter on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, one of only 26 – no more, no less – noble investees of the a tradition founded by Edward III in 1348, & religiously maintain’d by Elizabeth. There are several manuscripts extant which contain a list of the leading members of the Earl’s retinue, together with numbers for their anonymous, un-named staff. Among the names we may observe;

Sir Richard Shireburn, treasurer – 3
Sir Randulp Brereton of Malpas – 6
Thomas Arderne, steward – 2
William Fox, comptroller -1
Stanley of Chelsea – 2

Of great significance is the presence of Thomas Arderne, the cousin of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary, while William Stanley appears as Stanley of Chelsea. On & off, throughout his entire life, Stanley did indeed live in the fashionable parts of West London. For his trip to France he was accompanied by two of the aforementioned un-named servants, one of whom was Shakespeare. So pack yer bags & grab a passport, cos we’re all about to go on us holidays!


 

The Young Shakespeare (5): Shakespeare’s Blossom


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


Old_St._Paul's_Cathedral_from_the_Thames_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16531

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.’

View of London Bridge, John Norden (1597)


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.’ According to William Castle, the parish clerk of Stratford at the end of the seventeenth century, Shakespeare began as a servitor, while Malone in 1780 records a tradition he was a call-boy or prompters assistant. 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 might not have been the Charlecote incident, but was instead connected to his & his Lancashire hosts’ Catholicism. Either way, 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, one of the very editors of 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.


1579: Shakespeare Meets Thomas Watson (Again)

We also have living in Westminster in 1579 a certain Thomas Watson. Three years earlier he was in Douay at the same time as Shakespeare, which suggests a later encounter in London. Thomas Watson, born in St Olave Parish in 1555. Watson signed himself an Oxford man – which means that he studied at the that university at some point  confirmed by the Oxford antiquarian Anthony à Wood (Athenae Oxonienses 1691) who stated, “Thomas Watson, a Londoner born, did spend his time in this university, not in logic and philosophy, as he ought to have done, but in the smooth and pleasant studies of poetry and romance, whereby he obtained an honourable name among the students of those faculties.

Watson was a prolific poet, & in a verse preface to his Latin version of the Antone, he gives us more 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, and Justinian was especially dear. But often Mars troubled Pallas against her will, and wars often interrupted my study. Yet I shunned the camps, save for the camps of Phoebus, which contained the pious Graces together with the Muses. Bartolus, you were a great tome. I was not permitted to carry you about, nor your legal puzzles, learned Baldus. I took up Sophocles, I taught his Muses to grow gentle. I made Latin out of his Greekish verse. Thus, though disturbed, I spent my hours a useful man, I taught Antigone how to speak Latin.’

It seems very much that Watson’s time on the continent was a surreptitious escapade in Catholic scholarship. The English College diary at Douay records on October 15, 1576, ‘Dominus Watson went from here to Paris.’ The following May he 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.’ He was more interested in, and conversant with, Italian literature and culture than French, and this hints where he spent most of his time. The fact that he is called both Dominus and Master in the Douai diary hints that he may have acquired degrees at some Italian university. It is likely that he met the Italian Jesuit Metteo Ricci during this period, for a system of local memory training he would publish as a treatise in 1585 was identical to the one used by Matteo to wow the Chinese when he was there.


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 on the Familists, which may have been the trigger for the Earl of Warwick’s pulling out of London for ‘health reasons.’ John Shakespeare himself 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.’ His non-attendance was met with a heavy fine of £20.  Also that year we see the disappearance of Jerome Savage from London, possibly 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 the latter’s brother, Geoffrey Savage, who had married into the minor gentry of Lancashire. Geoffrey’s wife was Jennet Hesketh of Rufford Old Hall, near Preston, the illigitimate sister of a minor gentryman called Thomas Hesketh, & described as one of his ‘bastard brethren’ in his will. So, to sumnmarize, this is how Shakespeare gets from London to Lancashire…

London Theatre – Jerome Savage – Geoffrey Savage – Jennet Hesketh

Shakespeare would next be 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 Joh Cottam’s brother, Thomas, was also training to be a Jesuit priest during the very period that Shakespeare was in Douay. Indeed, when Thomas Cottam was arrested in England in May 1580, he was on his way to Shottery near Stratford with messages for the Debdale family from none other than Shakespeare’s schoolmate, Robert Debdale, who by now was a seminarian in Rome.

The Government was hot on Campion’s traial, however, & on August 2nd of that year, the Sherriff of Lancaster wrote a letter to Sir John Biron asking him to; ’cause the said houses to be searched for books & other superstitious stuff; & especially the house of Richard Houghtion, where, it is said Campion left his books & to enquire what is become of said books

Douai-Rheims_New_Testament_(1582)


1582: The Jesuit New Testament Arrives in England

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.  A year later 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.’

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. Clara Longworth de Chambrun’s Shakespeare Rediscovered (Scribner’s, 1938)

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 text 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 Bibles freely without pricking his religious conscience.


1580 – Edward Campion In 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, in order to utilise the locality’s Catholic libraries in order to prepare tracts to argue 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 Campion’s poem in Latin on the nature of the human soul called De Anima, a concept which finds its way into such plays as Twelfth Night, Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida. There is also 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

Campion

Campion was soon 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, 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. Alexander’s will is of great interest to our research, 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 Lancashire ‘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.

As for Fulk Gyllome, his father Thomas was 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 corner of Shakespeareana in the previous post.

viol-tenor_guitar-held_Elizabethan-consort_deta


The Young Shakespeare (4): Shakespeare’s Burnley


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


On the Moors over Burnley

On graduating from Pembroke College in Cambridge, like any other student making their first steps into the world, Edmund Spenser went home to Burnley. Proof begins with 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 famous poem among, ‘those hylles, that is the North countrye, where he dwelt,’ adding that after the poem’s composition E.K. says Spenser removed, ‘out of the Northparts’ & then, ‘came into the south.’ The initials E.K. stand for Edward Kelly, a friend of the Mancunian Magician John Dee, who was once pilloried in Lancaster for fraud, having his ears ‘cropped’ as a punishment. On Spenser’s homelands, TT Wilkinson’s paper quotes a certain Dr Craik, who in turn is quoting Mr. F. C. Spenser, of Halifax;

Various conjectures have been formed as to the precise locality intended by ‘the north;’ but the most probable one is that urged by Dr. Craik in his elaborate work on Spenser and his Writings. In a communication to the Gentleman’s Magazine for August 1842, Mr. F. C. Spenser, of Halifax, “produces such evidence as can scarcely leave a doubt that the branch of the Spensers from which the poet was descended was that of the Spensers, or Le Spensers, of Hurstwood, near Burnley, in the eastern extremity of Lancashire ; and that the family to which he immediately belonged was probably seated [here, or] on a little property still called ‘ The Spensers,’ near Filly Close, in the ancient Forest of Pendle, about three miles to the northward of Hurstwood. 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.

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.’  According to Alexander Grosart’s interpretation of the corrupted text (MS BM Sloane, 93, fol 37), Harvey reads; ‘To be shorte, I woulde to God that all the ill-favorid copyes of my nowe prostituted devises were buried a greate deale deeper in the centre of the ergye then the height & altitude of the middle region of the verye English Alpes amountes unto in your shier.’ To Grosart, Harvey is referring to Pendle Hill, that great solitary heap of Earth that dominates the East Lancashire skyline, which is indeed in the ‘I’ of the English Pennines, stretching as they do 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 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. Elsewhere, 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 as a Burnley boy, 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
Crow Over – to boast over someone
Dapper – pretty smart
Latch – temporary fastening of a door
Smirke – smile in a smugly winning manner

Wilkinson adds; ‘The Folkspeech of East Lancashire is somewhat peculiar, both in words and pronunciation, and many of its oldest terms and phrases have a close affinity to the Lowland Scotch. Both contain an admixture of words derived from the Danes and Northmen who conquered and colonized the district… Robert Chambers… in his interesting Book of Days, vol. I, p. 07, asserts that when Spenser tells of a ewe that ” she mought ne gang on ” the green,” he uses almost the exact language that would be employed by a Selkirkshire shepherd, on a like occasion, at the present day. So also when Thenot says ” Tell me, good Hobbinol, what gars thee greete ?” he speaks pure Scotch. In this poem Spenser also uses tway for two ; gait for goat (?) ; mickle for much ; wark for work ; wae for woe ; ken for know ; crag for the neck ; icarr for worse ; hame for home ; teen for sorrow all of these being Scottish terms.’

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. for indeed, Pendle Forest was one of the last haunts for the English wolf.

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.

There is a passage in the Calendar which shows how Spenser had come into contact with Sir John Townley, who is given a quiet cameo. Spenser was, let us say, a political Protestant, & his true religious sentiments seem hidden &  confused. We get the sense, then, that a religio-neutral neutral 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.

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 be rendered 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


1576: Spenser Encounters Shakespeare


 

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 hot lady is my wife)

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

It is now time to introduce an extremely significant clue into Shakespeareana which has hitherto been unacknowledged, or even noticed. In the August eclogue, Spenser places a young shepheard boy called Willye, who is versed in French poetry, in the company of Cuddy & Perigot. On the other occasion he uses the name Willye, it seems more than clear he is talking about William Shakespeare. Saying they are the same person is at first only matter of conjecture, but it is possible to follow a chispological factochain from the August eclogue to junior Shakespeare in just five steps, two of which were followed in the previous chapter. Retracing our passage then, as with any factochain I shall present as much supporting evidence as possible in order to strengthen the chain.

1: Willy = William Shakespeare

2: Cuddy = Cuthbert Mayne, back in England 1576

3: Cutbert Mayne in Douay, 1575/76

4: Simon Hughes in Douay 1576/76

5: Simon Hughes teaching Shakespeare in Stratford, 1575

In support we have the following nuggets;

1: Spenser would use the ‘Willye’ nick-name for Shakespeare over a decade later, when referring to the bard in a poem known as The Tears of the Muses;

Our pleasant Willie, ah! is dead of late.
With whom all joy and jolly merriment
Is also deaded and in doleur 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.

Here 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.’

2: The name Cuddy is northern dialect English for Cuthbert.

3: The unique name ‘Perigot’ derives from the Périgord region of the Dordogne in France, in which a Jesuit convent was active in 1576.

4: Burnley (Reedley) was home to Robert & John Nutter, who would soon be at Douay training to be Jesuit missionaries for the spiritual reconquista of England. In fact, one sixth of all Jesuits trainees at Douay, were from Lancashire, along with another sixth from neighbouring Yorkshire. It must be noticed that in Reedley is Filly Close, where Dr Craik places Edmund Spenser’s family. Another Nutter-Spenser connection comes with Margaret Spenser of Hurstwood’s 1605 will, in which, ‘Margaret, and ffrances Nutter daughters of the said Henry,’ were inheritors.

5: 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.

6: I cannot help but see hints of the Reformation, Counter-reformation, & even the Familists in the eclogue…

PERIGOT.
Ah, Willy, now I have learn’d a new Dance;
My old Musick marr’d by a new Mischance.

WILLY.
Mischief mought to that Mischance befall,
That so hath raft us of our Meriment:
But read me, What pain doth thee so appall?
Or lovest thou, or been thy Yonglings miswent?

PERIGOT.
Love hath misled both my Yonglings and me:
I pine for pain, and they my plaint to see.

WILLY.
Perdy and weal away! ill may they thrive;
Never knew I Lovers Sheep in good plight:

and a little later

WILLY
Thereby is a Lamb in the Wolve’s Jaws:
But see, how fast renneth the Shepherd’s Swain,
To save the Innocent from the Beast’s Paws;
And here with his Sheep-hook hath him slain.
Tell me, such a Cup hast thou ever seen?
Well mought it beseem any harvest Queen.

PERIGOT.
Thereto will I pawn yonder spotted Lamb,
Of all my Flock there nis sike another;
For I brought him up without the Damb:
But Colin Clout raft me of his Brother,
That he purchast of me in the plain Field:
Sore against my Will was I forst to yield.

In the above extract, the shepherd metaphor screams Jesuit, for in the 16th century leading Jesuit Jérôme Nadal was writing in notebooks that their task par excellence was to search for the ‘lost sheep.’

The natural conclusion is that Shakespeare & Cuthbert Mayne were staying at Townley Hall, about a mile away from Spenser at Hurstwood. They had found a relatively safe, obscure & extremely pro-Catholic corner of the country to hide. 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.’ A year previously, the Privy Council had been even more condemning identifying Lancashire as, ‘the very sink of popery where more unlawful acts have been committed & more unlawful persons holden secret than any other part of the realm.’


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


While Shakespeare was buzzin’ about round Burnley, & Spenser was creating some proper smart poetry, the Protestants were setting their Reichstags on fire, turning their gorgon gaze on the the medieval Mystery plays. These early proto-plays were especially popular in Wakefield, Yorkshire, & it is to 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.


1577 : Shakespeare Works on the Towneley Manuscript


Townley Hall

While at Townley Hall, there is evidence that Shakesepeare & Spenser were 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,’ who 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 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 schoolboy south. A remembrance of Spenser’s 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.


1576 – Shakespeare Dines with the Towneleys


The kitchen at Townley Hall

Burnley is one of the friendliest places on the planet, & the Townleys would have doted over this young pro-Catholic prodigy that had arrived with Cuthbert Mayne. Shakespeare in turn woul have relished the bountiful tablewhich appeared every meal time at the Hall. William Harrison, in Description Of Elizabethan England, 1577
(from Holinshed’s Chronicles), describes the quality & quantity of the available fare.

In number of dishes and change of meat the nobility of England (whose cooks are for the most part musical-headed Frenchmen and strangers) do most exceed, sith there is no day in manner that passeth over their heads wherein they have not only beef, mutton, veal, lamb, kid, pork, cony, capon, pig, or so many of these as the season yieldeth, but also some portion of the red or fallow deer, beside great variety of fish and wild fowl, and thereto sundry other delicates wherein the sweet hand of the seafaring Portugal is not wanting: so that for a man to dine with one of them, and to taste of every dish that standeth before him (which few used to do, but each one feedeth upon that mnat him best liketh for the time, the beginning of every dish notwithstanding being reserved unto the greatest personage that sitteth at the table, to whom it is drawn up still by the waiters as order requireth, and from whom it descendeth again even to the lower end, whereby each one may taste thereof), is rather to yield unto a conspiracy with a great deal of meat for the speedy suppression of natural health than the use of a necessary mean to satisfy himself with a competent repast to sustain his body withal. But, as this large feeding is not seen in their guests, no more is it in their own persons; for, sith they have daily much resort unto their tables (and many times unlooked for), and thereto retain great numbers of servants, it is very requisite and expedient for them to be somewhat plentiful in this behalf.

The chief part likewise of their daily provision is brought in before them (commonly in silver vessels, if they be of the degree of barons, bishops, and upwards) and placed on their tables, fall should nothing hurt it in such manner; yet it might peradventure bunch or batter it; nevertheless that inconvenience were quickly to be redressed by the hammer. But whither am I slipped?

The beer that is used at noblemen’s tables in their fixed and standing houses is commonly a year old, or peradventure of two years’ tunning or more; but this is not general. It is also brewed in March, and therefore called March beer; but, for the household, it is usually not under a month’s age, each one coveting to have the same stale as he may, so that it be not sour, and his bread new as is possible, so that it be not hot.


1577 : Shepheard’s Play Performed at Chester


Valiant “RedCross Knight” enters the Cave of Despair

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, a relationship which we shall see has plenty of legs!