The Young Shakespeare (9): Shakespeare At Sea

Capture


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


APRIL 1586
Shakespeare crosses the Adriatic

800px-Adriatic_Sea_-_Venice0448

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

041f523d83def9448eb465e12008427a.jpg

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

Spanish_Galley

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

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg

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.


 

Pairing Off

IMG_2025i Gail Watson, Tom McGovern..jpg


Oran Mor, Glasgow
Mar 9 – 16, 2020

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png
Performance: four-stars.png S.O.D.:four-stars.png


Paring Off, by Alma Cullen, is this week’s Play, Pie and Pint offering, and opened with pals Murdo (Tom McGovern) and Kenny (Steven Duffy), sharing a pint and enthusiastically discussing their team, St Mirren. Turned out that Kenny was the manager, and Murdo, a butcher by trade, had a vested interest in the shape of the club pie contract.

Enter Kenny’s girlfriend Mimi (Gail Watson) looking professional in a white dress. Mimi owned Happy Feet Chiropody and had come to treat Murdo who had terrible trouble with his feet (hence the “paring” of the title). It didn’t take us long to realise that Mimi and Kenny’s relationship involved a lot of high voltage quarrelling. However, she spread a towel on her lap settled down to her task of massaging Murdo’s feet while he lay back in utter bliss in a gorgeous looking leather and wood chair.

IMG_2015i, Steven Duffy, Gail Watson, Tom McGovern.jpg

The men were feeling optimistic and excited about the future of their team as they chatted about the various signings and prospective victories that were coming up. Then the mood abruptly changed when it was mentioned that one of the new signings was gay. Kenny immediately showed his revulsion, saying that it was wrong and against the law. Mimi denounces Kenny for being uptight just as she was drawn to Murdo’s more relaxed reaction.

An attraction that grew as Murdo and Mimi become more than enamoured with each other and ended up sleeping together. Mimi confided that she sometimes needed sex to sleep well and that she had a wonderful night with Murdo, enjoying his cavalier attitude towards the whole thing. So when Mimi discovered Murdo’s own secret – given away by the state of his feet – in the shape of his very own pair of women’s dancing shoes, it was all part of a highly charged romantic exchange that ended in Mimi appearing in a sexy red dress and a long dance sequence that left the clumsy Kenny standing on the sidelines.

IMG_2001i Gail Watson, Tom McGovern.jpg

The music was lush, the action endearing and highly charged, catching you up in an intricate dance between the three characters. Funny and intense, it nearly set the place on fire…

Daniel Donnelly

four-stars.png

Viriathus: Scenes 11-13


Scene 11:  Sierra Morena

A meeting of all the Lusitanian chiefs – Viriathus is passing out bread & meat

Viriathus
My generals, my warriors, my friends
You are to me as if another self
Take this meat & bread, tear them into stars
Consume them all before me, while you do,
Mine eyes ensparkling with the brotherhood,
I’ll feed off your warfare’s ferocity
Your loyalty my only nourishment
I trust you all implicitly, whom here
Shall aim straight truth out of rambunctious war

Audax
It is not easy on the ear, my lord

Viriathus
Be frank, tell me…

Audax
We are bruising sorely
My own brother deadslain in train’d battles
The Romans are the strongest I have seen
Reinforced with unheard of frequency
From Africa – it seems they shall not rest
Until we are choken on our own gore

Viriathus
How goes important scorchings of the earth

Camalo
It is as you wish’d, but much suffering
Afflicts the people while Ostia sends
Succorful ships that just keep on coming

Minurus
The sun sets weeping in the seagirt west
Us watching with a wearier espy
Caepio is ruthless, Viriathus,
While country folk down lay their arms all sides
He waters his horses in the Tagus,
& plunders Turdetania for stores

Arantonio
Where all was joy now langour & distress
& anger – our allies’ fields lay wasted
The Vettones, Gallacaeci reluctant
To fight –

Ditalco
Caepio makes war without a conscience
He has turn’d the tide against us harshly

Viriathus
That may be so, but it will turn again
By Hannibal the Romans were themselves
Invaded & their capital besieged
Without those walls they would be Africans
We have walls too, not those of piled up stone
But knowledge of the land, our will to fight
& bonds between us, indestructable
Immovable, like the dog of a house

Astolpas
The heads of all our villages & towns
Are slaughter’d at the point them recogonis’d
Left wild to monster carrion & worms
& any Roman subjects thay they find
Among us, see hands sliced off at the wrist
The rest to living slavery then sold
Beholding daily dwindling meagreness
We are exhausted – we must sue for peace
I am no tyrant listening to pleas
Of reason, no, this is noit the season
For open warfare over such a foes
Audax, Ditalco, Minurs, shall go
As friends & chosen confidantes, einto
The enemy camp, Caepio seek out
& communicate to him my message
I am prepeared to end the war today
On terems yet undecided, but assured
In favour of Rome’s strengthening status
Do you accept the envoy

Audax
Aye

Minurus
Aye

Ditalco
Aye

Arantonio
This is a mistake, do you not sense it

Viriathus
Our women are dying, what can I do
Without them, the Lusitani wither
They must be saved to shelter our seedlings
No, Ditalco, Audax & Minurus
Each one of you I choose for possessing
Indispensible, ambassadorial
Attributes – balance, loyalty, wisdom
Worldly speech – most clever in consulship
Amid foes bellicose, with flawless words
Each of ye three present an olive branch
To Caepio, while echoing my voice.

Ditalco
Together we lay a firm foundation
Of peace on which shall flourish liberty

Viriathus
The future of all Lusitania
Invested in your pivotal success
Go well my friends, the vital hour has come.

Exit Minurus, Audax & Ditalco

Virathus
They will be back tomorrow, until then
We all are still at war – remain alert


Scene 12:
A Mountain Top

Cabruno is railing at a wild & musical storm

Cabruno
O what a storm it is that shakes my soul
The roaring winds aslant old skygates roll
Trees toss their branches, leaves for freedom lurch
At scudding white clouds, in these future lies
In divinations I shall analyze
The reasons in each skysculpt swept in search.

Enter Arco

Arco
Hullo Cabruno, quite the serpent gale
I too was summon’d hither with the wail
The voices of the bird host, the very
Syllables they utter, summon’d by storm;
The wren, listen, twitters ominously
Its notes like diamond lights in daemon form

Cabruno
While you the croakings & the calls compute
I too will draw my augurs from the root
Of crooked tree, the skeletons of sheep
Portent naked & murderous mischief
Mine inner ear has heard a widow weep
Her tears are welling deep without relief

Arco
Out to the moonrise run your ruby gaze
Perceive the limits of its waning phase
Follow tight flock of eagles as they fly
Across its face, now blotting out its light,
When life eclipses life one life shall die
Down stricken in the darkness of the night

Cabruno
Who is the one that like that silver sphere
Did brighten our black tapestry of fear
Whom is the one who rose into the stars
The one we looked to for our strength sky-sent
Who is the one who brighter shone than mars
Our one & only true luminescent

Arco
The birds are busy fretting at the earth
The kite is set to claim its talon’s worth
Of flesh, grey-coated scallycrows sighted,
The famish’d falcon screams, the scop owls bark,
While far off & aloofly affrighted
Raven sails across this tremulous dark

Cabruno
Is it Viriathus

Arco
Aye, it is him,
The long light of his star-days growing dim
We still have time for warning if we speed
Down to the valley, steal a pretty steed

Cabruno
Aye, if we hurry we might save him yet

Arco
So let us run & dash & pant & sweat

Exit Arco & Cabruno


Scene 13: The Roman Camp

Caepio & Sempronius are being entertained by belly dancers

Herald
Sir

Caepio
What is it, can’t you see I’m busy

Herald
Three of the savage captains are in camp

Caepio
Were they captured

Herald
No, of their own accord
Weaponless & wielding olive branches

Virathus
I knew they would come, this phalanx of peace
Send them in & fetch my treasury
Silver, spices, furs & silks, let us see
If savages can yet be civilised

Herald
Yes sir

Exit Herald / Caepio dismisses the dancing girls with a wave of his hand

Sempronius
Quintus, you calculating cad
How did you do it

Caepio
I have done nothing yet
But if I know Humanity at all
By love of lucre loyalty lacks weight
& each man has his price,

Enter Herald

Herald
Sir, they are here

Caepio
Bring them

Herald makes a gesture to the tents door – enter gaurds with Audax, Ditalco & Minurus

Herald
Audax, Ditalco, Minurus

Caepio
Welcome brave opponents, are you hungry
There’s meat & wine aplenty, help yourself

Audax
We do not come to dine, but to entreat
A peace negotiated, end this war
This jagged, manifest predicament
That has a decade laid two nations waste
The canker-sorrow eating at the buds
Of handsome youth

Caepio
Two nations, what you say
I’d hardly call them that – one a motley
Collection of tribes, half-starved & bleeding,
Who push against the other, whose bare hands
Grab the blades of my nation of nations,
Whose strong heart pulses blood to every point
Relentlessly, we have much youth to spare…
But… where is the style in such attrition
Where is the honour in guerilla wars
I too would rather end the war today
But on my terms & only those, do you
Understand

Ditalco
There will be no surrender

Caepio
Rememeber, noble chieftans, your houses
& as you mind recalls once rich repose
Look all around you, lands lost, farmers slain,
Your towns deserted – would you not prefer
To be a wealthy landowner of Rome
The choice you possess, as far as I see,
Is that, or some landless desperado
Become, come, glance about this tent, its style
Let slip into your soul with acceptance

Audax
What do you mean

Minurus
What does he want, you mean

Caepio
I shall speak plainly of the occasion
Kill Viriathius

Audax
What

Minurus
It cannot be

Caepio
It is so, I wish you three to conduct
Assassination, amply rewarded
Shall you be – with lands, jewels & respect

Audax
How dare you dare to ask us such a blight

Sempronius
Each day he lives a hundred more are slain
Both sides are bleeding but yours bleeds the most

Minurus
This is outrageous

Ditalco
& quite difficult
On account of his excessive labours
He little sleeps & when he does he wears
Impressive armour, so when him arous’d
Emergencies are tackled instant pois’d

Audax
Ditalco, brother, what

Ditalco
Relax Audax
As the foremost earsmen of his counsel
The gaurds shall be no trouble if at night
We wish’d, with Vitriathus, to converse

Minurus
What is this?

Audax
What madness overwhelms you

Ditalco
Old friends, we must think of our families
Rome is irrepressible, better we
Live under them than die the death futile

Audax
You really would betray Viriathus

Ditalco
I’m ready, yes, to save lives of thousands

Audax
Must it be so

Ditalco
There is not other way

Caepio
Viriathus must die & die tonight
If what I know of him is half a truth
He will see deception in an eyelash

Audax
It seems I cling unto a flimsy branch
With an oak tree below me being fell’d

Minurus
I cannot stand it

Ditalco
There is Tongina

Minurus
Tongina?

Ditalco
Yes, Minurus, made widow, in the grief
You could offer her shoulders to catch salt-tears

Audax
I will do it, I love him, but his life
Endangers all we know

Ditalco
Will you join us

Minurus nods silently in agreement

Caepio
I see
Audax, take these diamonds as a token
Of friendly intent, for Minurus gold
& for you, Ditalco, pure emeralds

Ditalco
How shall you be informed when all is done

Viriathus
Oh, I shall know, there will be an uproar,
But noise to settle soon enough, of course,
Blood flows then dries then dissapears in winds
These matters are forgotten in mere months
& Viriathus’ name a buried bone
Go to it, do not dally in the deed

Exit Ditalco, Minurus & Aulax

Sempronius
They will never carry

Caepio
My thought differs
I saw the twitch for riches, caught the gasp,
Feint to us, but blowing storm within,
For money, men would sacrifice the skins
Of dead grandmothers, no, the act will pass


THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”

 

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

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: The Gl’ingannati inspired Twelfth Night.
11: Taming of the Shrew i sinpsired 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.’

Viriathus: Scenes 9-10


Scene 9: The Roman Senate

The Senate is discussing the treaty of Viriathus

Magistrate
Senators, the order of the day
Discussion on the Viriathic war
Of how it was concluded, then shall we
Elect by vote appropriate response
First to the floor Popilius…

Popilius
Senate!
Praise Viriathus, that sinewy Prince,
With great sagacity he broke the spears
Namore of our brave soldiers need to die,
Lunging at the Lusitanian lynx
Who wins our gratitudinal respect
For letting us depart him uninjur’d
Upon one point of honour, Rome permits
Hiis peoples an undisturb’d possession
Of native territories, as our friends
& even allies, Servilianus
Was with me, there, when surrender was sign’d
& wishes to speak

Popilius
Popilius
Thank you proconsul
Upon the same terms already mention’d
A treaty was concluded on all sides –
The termination of tedious wars
Such troublesome & tribulating trials
That might have brought a second turgid Troy
But lacking sheer battlements to besiege
For in this age of prosaic spirits
It seems as if Achilles reappears
With Venus weaving godcraft thro’ his deads
A lover & a master of the wars
Fought only for love of gore & glory
Since Viriathus chose to oppose us
Since word of his brutalities return’d
Enrollment in the legions plummets low
Are we to funnel blood & flesh inside
His maw of murder, ’till we bleed no more,
Senators, please greet this treaty fairly,
& vote for Viriathus as a friend.

Magistrate
Galba, stand, you wish to make a statement,

Galba
Senators of our majestic city
& many other cities in the stride,
This treaty is, in the highest degree,
Dishonorable to all we stand for
Staining Servilianus’s career
In short, Viriathus is barbaric
Beheading, disembowels as he please,
A bandit on an unsubsistive soil
For them a border is a line to cross
At will, to empty innocents of blood
While toppling pillars, pillaging purile,
His existence a spider in my mind
For since my childhood games I doted on
Destroying dark daemonicals like him

Popilius
Objection, you paint him as a monster
No, he is human to the high ascent
Owning a unifying spiritus
That never in the axle of this war
Spinning spokes of tribal variety
Was ever sewn sedition; all obey’d,
Render’d fearless in presence of dangers,
Distendent of the pleasures of the world,
As statesman he was neither knelt humble,
Nor leaping overbearing into leagues;
Faithful, exact, aequis, veritable
Vir Duzque Magnus, ancient ideals
Penetrate each atom of his system
& as the adsertor of Hispania
Let us assert our honour to his will
Make good his claims in the eyes of the world
Too many lost already in that place
We owe him our respect

Galba
We owe him death
& retribution for our youthbloom lost

Magistrate
Tranquility & silence! Opposing
Hills where Romulus & Remus quarrell’d,
Or like headlands of the Massillian
Harbours art thou, choose your moor, drop your ball,
The vote is open, senators, the floor

The Vote Begins & ends

Magistrate
What is the vote this day, for war or peace

Magistrate’s assistant
Peace

Lucius
Peace is beautiful

Popilius
Beautiful peace

Magistrate
Then all is settl’d here, & Rome accepts
Completion of the Viriathic war
For like each thing that in its season grows
Peace blossoms to a universal praise
& all may leave these halls more dignified.

Exit all but Quintus Servilius Caepio & Servilianus

Caepio
Brother, what have you done this torrid hour

Servilianus
What do you mean?

Caepio
This terrible treaty
Unworthy of the populace of Rome

Servilianus
What can be done

Caepio
A spot of ruthlessness ne’er goes amiss
I want to lead a legion against him
This Viriathius, who all think a god
If he is human he can be got at

Servilianus
As all men might, but brother pray beware
This human is the rarest specimen,
The legend who has never known defeat,
Unwielding to the starkest privations
Excels he in mind’s powers, & is swift
In planning, accomplishes what’s needful
Does only what he reckons must be done,
While over hills & rough, uneven ways
His men prowl like sleek leopards on the verge,
Observing every movement, skins suntann’d,
Weather’d by wind, harder than ox leather,
Toughest of all their mighty leader sleeps
In armour, every night, ready to prance
To combat a second after waking

Caepio
In warfare, when seeking best success
To know one’s foe the vital pivot forms

Servilianus
Wise Caepio
You have my blessing, you are strong & young
Defeats are defeats, however noble
Come let us dine & talk of my campaign
Learn from its errors, induce fresh insights.

Caepio & Servilianus begin to leave the hall

Caepio
To abandon the war too dangerous
I shall write letter after long letter
Make points like falcons snapping into voles
To lead a legion personally there
In order to procure a treaty-break
Secretly of course, from this we’ll provoke
Viriathus to retributive war
My blame will be buried in the uproar

Exit Caepio & Servilianus


Scene 10: The Temple of Melqart, Gades

Caepio is addressing his legion with Sempronius

Caepio
Sense, soldiers, tutelary spirits
Made welcome at the the temple of Melqart,
We arrive in Hispania at purpose
To render Lusitania servile
As we have tried before, but treaties fail’d,
Dispersing us for we did not present
The destiny-commission’d face of Rome
Distaste instead swept thro’ such enterprise,
& we are here to rectify the shame
Combined together in this famous space
The very spot where Heracles once slew
The snow white bull, before he flash’d beyond
The Pillars – observing familiar rites
We shall emulate him in sacrifice,
As man immortal paragon became
Leap upwards into clouds of Heaven’s vaults,
By brave endeavors of our very own,
The wandering eyes of the goddesses
Make focus on our deeds… men, let us sing
A paean to Heracles, he shall hear
Our voices as we praise his holy tasks.


TWELVE LABOURS

Herakles, Herakles,
Step out of your plaster frieze
Sunder mountain, rip up trees
Herocial Herakles!

Herakles, Herakles,
Come & bless us if you please
Sunder mountain, rip up trees
Herocial Herakles!

Slay, slay the Nemean lion
Hippolyta’s girdle find
Slay, slay, the birds Stymphalian
Capture the Ceryneian hind

The Nine heads of Hydra each decapitate
& Augean Stables decontaminate
& the boar Erymanthian was captured in thick woven snow

Herakles, Herakles,
Step out of your plaster frieze
Sunder mountain, rip up trees
Herocial Herakles!

Herakles, Herakles,
Come & bless us if you please
Sunder mountain, rip up trees
Herocial Herakles!

Steal, steal the golden apples
Of the luscious Hespiredes
Steal, steal the horses dappl’d
Kept by Thracian Diomedes

The Nine heads of Hydra each decapitate
& Augean Stables decontaminate
& the boar Erymanthian was captured in thick woven snow


Caepio
In dangerous times things change in the dirt
Today they bask in a moment of sun,
Like the warm afternoon atween the frosts
But dungeon-days of such a shameful peace
Never writ to exist indefinite,
From unnatural disinheritance
Rome’s progress was always meant to resume,
With one last push Hispania must fall
Our wines of victory fermenting yet
Our enemies are slaver-beasts at best,
Crude, uneducated frugality
No match shall be for well-fed legionnaires
Soldiers, are you with me, are you ready,
For names to be etched in books of fame

The Legion
Aye-Aye-Aye

Caepio
Then let us march together,

The legion cheers – Centurians give commands – trumpets blow – soldiers begin to march past Caepio & Sempronius

Sempronius
Inspiring words, Quintus Servilius,
The men are certainly ready to fight
But how exactly do you mean to win
Upon the heels of deadly disasters
As birds observe & learn each others calls
When danger nears, alarum in the skies,
I urge your upmost caution on campaign

Caepio
This confederation feverish fluke
Or Viriathus conjurer of sorts
The peoples of Iberia possess
No innate inclination to resolve
Their tribal grudges for the greater good,
Maintaining into factions every breath,
But being born backlegged into life
These are mere sheep to be scatter’d at once
When shepherd slain, in timid ones & twos.
{Saluting troops}
I have a plan, Sempronius, we’ll see
If all the Lusitani share the will
To dress the sparse harshness of Spartan lives
Across their naked skins while seeing silks,
Let us isolate mercenary minds,
Find in their greed our triumph was enshrined


THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

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


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


1585: Shakespeare’s 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 Paris

Paris, 1550

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 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

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

images

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

522814

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

thWX56PG7D

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.


 

Daniel

IMG_1963i.jpg


Oran Mor, Glasgow
Mar 2 – 7, 2020

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png
Performance: four-stars.png S.O.D.:four-stars.png


Today’s play, named simply “Daniel”, by Isabel Wright, had an intriguing set, simple but effective – a screen lit with a violet light. This one man show began with Daniel (Jack Tarlton) on the floor of what turned out to be a toilet – a striking image to start the story with. His trousers were round his ankles as he came to and roused himself into discourse, reflecting that the life he was living could be likened to waking in a toilet. It seemed like the beginning of something dark and macabre.

IMG_1967i.jpg

We were soon set straight in the next scene where Daniel stood tall in clothes that no longer made him look like some down-and-out about to shoot up. In darkly comic short scenes the tale of Daniel’s travels in London and Edinburgh began to emerge, peopled by off-stage characters that illustrated the different stages of his life. With more than enough on his shoulders, Daniel was shown on the one hand to be pathetic and yet also able to show resilience as he recounted his feelings for his father, his dog, his true love, Katie Watkins.

The action was punctuated throughout by silences and blackouts, adding impact to Daniel’s weird and wonderful take on life and inviting us to laugh, sometimes guiltily, as his forthright dialogue hit home. All delivered with a quiet physicality that held the room and somehow enlarged the comedy. One scene entirely consisted of him hilariously downing a bottle of Irn-Bru, just that, leaving us exposed in our silence.

IMG_1959i.jpg

Isabel Wright’s play made use of theatrical techniques to create a kind of bottomless comedy that felt new, reflective and powerful. As we followed the protagonist on his journey’s highs and lows, we were taken first into darkness then light where there was love and care, then back to darkness again. It wasn’t a linear journey, but if you took it in your stride it somehow all made sense. As an experience it was enticingly funny, brave and concisive, well worth seeing.

Daniel Donnelly

four-stars.png

Viriathus: Scenes 7-8

roman-consul-costume--mw-107549-1.jpg


SCENE 7: The Hill of Venus


The Lusitanians are gathered around Viriathus, including Nicorontes, Audax, Dialco, Minurus, Astolpas, Tongina & Galucias, the sister of Viriathus

Astolpas
Viriathus

Chorus
Viriathus, Viriathus

Astolpas
Watches over us

Chorus
Over us, over us

Aud. Dit. Min
Lusitania’s, Lusitania’s, Lusitania’s sons
Are the Noblest warriors, warriors

Viriathus
No Roman laws
No Roman bread
We live for liberty & justice instead

Chorus
No Roman laws (no Roman laws)
No Roman bread (no Roman bread)
We live for liberty & justice instead

Galucias
My brother dear, my lord & life
This day is bless’d, propitious day
Consul Popilius has come
In a most suppliant way

Enter Popilius, Servilianus & escort

Popilius
Viriathus

Chorus
Viriathus, Viriathus

Popilius
Sir you honour us

Romans
Honour us, honour us

Viriathus
Rome’s emissaries

Chorus
Emissaries, emissaries

Virathus
Welcome among us

Chorus
Among us, among us

Chorus
Welcome, welcome,
Welcome to our home
Welcome! Welcome!
Ye emissaries of Rome

Viriathus
Come & share the simplest fare of our most humble home

Popilius
We bring you gifts, we bring you gifts
We bring you gifts that were sent from the Senate

Viriathus
Let us see, let us see,
Let us see those gifts sent here by your Senate

Viriathus & Tongina inspect the gifts

Tongina
Jewels, delicacies, riches as these
May please the pleasure-eyed people of Rome
Waylaid by treasures of the dullest sort
But in this land our private thought demands
Sobriety & temperance, & rank
Droplets of liberty above dead gold.

Viriathus
We do not live in your decadent sphere,
Think nothing of the trifles you dare gift
Better to leave this place

Servilianus
Harsh seems your tone

Popilius
We meant no insult, only to endow
Best salutations on you both awed
Sealing respect with gifts as is custom

Viriathus
Your gifts mean nothing to us or my wife,
When luxuries & wickedness entwine
What wretched lifetimes sluggishly ensue
Amply destroyed by excessive leisure

Popilius
I ob-

Viriathus
No words, your Latin taints the air
Go, now, go, go tell your noble senate
Viriathus rejects Rome’s vast riches

Servilianus
You might live to regret such utterance

Virathus
Or better that I die debt-shy & free

Exit Romans

Tongina
They forgot their presents

Viriathus
Burn the dresses
Bar one you like the look of best of all
Distribute the food throughout the country
Those jewels let us trade for Gaulish swords

Tongina
What honour in our house, a proconsul
What shame he ever thought he’d be welcome
They wish our flesh fattening in togas
Some citizen of their dismal cities
As servile as an ox-team to their state
Hemmed in by delibitating progress
Which places boxes on another’s tops
& calls them homes

Ditalco
They show signs of weakness
They come to us like decadent lepers

Minurus
They try & bribe us, fearing feats of arms
Now is the time to strike with all our strength

Viriathus
To strike with all our strength we must improve
Double, treble every effort, reject
Defeat even as possibility
Let perseverance imbue extertion
Energize ability, then triumph
Must follow in the footsteps of the bold

Audax
We are with you Viriathus, lead us
To victory

A great cheer

Viriathus
Return, men, to your homes
See your families, rest & love them well
Then on these slopes our brotherhood resume
When next the moon glows full

All
We shall be here!

Astolpas
Viriathus

Chorus
Viriathus, Viriathus

Astolpas
Watches over us

Chorus
Over us, over us

Viriathus
No Roman laws
No Roman bread
We live for liberty & justice instead

Chorus
No Roman laws (no Roman laws)
No Roman bread (no Roman bread)
We live for liberty & justice instead


unnamed.jpg

SCENE 8 – Sierra Morena

Roman Camp in a narrow pass – Proconsul Popilius in his tent – enter Servilianus in a state of agitation

Popilius
Servilianus, whatever the matter?
Your fluster bubbles up with canker fierce

Servilianus
The siege of Erisana is broken,
That Viriathus somehow snook inside
To sally at our circumvallations
Now we are routed, elephants scatter’d,
Hardly a quarto of the force remains,
The foe in hard pursuit

Popilius
How close

Servilianus
A mile
or less….

Alarum blows

Herald
General, Proconsul, we are
Under attack, the camp is over-run

Popilius
Draw you sword, Servilianus, let us
Die today, together, fighting bravely
As would our ancestors, let the Senate
Speak our names with pride, my friend

Servilianus
It is drawn

They embrace / enter Viriathus & several men / Sevilianus & Popilius are standing back to back

Viriathus
Consul Popilius, we bring you gifts
Even your Jupiter could not refuse
They are the gifts of life, you wish to live?

Popilius
Of course, I have a family

Viriathus
& you

Servilianus
I do

Viriathus
Then lower your keen-edged weapons

Servilianus
How can we trust you

Viriathus
Well I understand
How trust wilts fickle under Roman gaze
But this is Lusitania, our word
Our bond, if Lusitanians offer you
Your lives they are assured, submit your arms
{Popilius & Servilianus hand over their weapons}
This is a precinct of Rome no longer
So say the soldiers of our blood conjoined;
Turdentanians, Bastetanians,
Vettones, Conii, Callaecians
Turduli, Carpetnani, Celticii –
Where there’s unity, there is victory,
Before them your legions were defeated,
The dreadful sounds of slaughter snaking ears,
Escape is impossible, surrender
Unconditional must be, the only
Chance you have to save seven thousand lives
Do you accept

Popilius
What are the terms

Viriathus
{pointing to a map}
You must
Withdraw from here & here & here & here
Then recognize our rule in those places
& everywhere from here to here & here
Return’d to Rome, ratified by senate,
Whenever my country in discussion
Say, ‘amici populi romani,’

Popilius
Such butterfly humility you bring,
Request no extraordinary stretch

Servilianus
Your terms are fair, you could have ask’d far more

Viriathus
My people tire of war, too many scenes
Of blood practicioners, this victory
Denoument deserves, let it be enough
You are surrounded & facing
Certain annhialation, your men
Are hiding under barrack tents in fear
We’re set to burn them down with them beneath
Unless prepar’d surrender is now sign’d
{handing over scroll}
Peruse it please

Popilius
Our defeat so assured
{Popilius reads the scroll}
Excellent Latin, tad colloquial,
But polish’d

Viriathus
Will you sign or will you die

Popilius
I will sign

Popilius signs the scroll

Viriathus
Now we are friends & allies
Tho’ better not to socialise today
You both are free to leave, & all your men,
But none of your possessions may you take
Except the shoes & clothes each wears this hour.

Popilius
You are very gracious Viriathus
I promise to personally assure
This treaty in the Senate, made witness
By Proconsul Popilius

Servilianus
& I
General Servilianus
Shall honour its progression into law
You are an admirable opponent
Fighting like some black panther in the dark
Made pale-faced moon look bloody upon Earth,
I’ve never met a mind as sharp as yours
From Syria out to the Belgic Seas.

Popilius
The day has been decided, & our fates
Servilianus, round up the soldiers
I need to write to Rome…
{exit Servilianus, Popilius turns to Viriathus}
So… would you mind

Viriathus
This tent now ours, Popilius, would you…

Popilius
Of course

Exit Popilius

Audax
You see how swiftly he effects
The old, grating, superior manner
The inks not yet dry on the surrender
Before the Romans thought they held command
We should not sit as timid as a lamb
We should just kill them all

Viriathus
But if we do
Rome will never forget, an eternal
Surge of vengeance will break against our land

Minurus
But they will surely break the oath

Viriathus
Perhaps
But if they do we’ll prove their better match
In adventures catching perilous days
Each fresh defeat inspires the beleagur’d,
Far better to refuse such resurgance
& leave them simmering surrender’s stew

Ditalco
Talk later boys, of boring politics,
We share the greatest victory today,
What are we waiting for, lets celebrate

Viriathus
Yes, of course, to the victor goes the spoils
The Romans say, & give the lion’s share
For them who fought like lions in the fray


THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

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

unnamed.jpg

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