ACTOR, PLAY WRITER & MUSICIAN
Historical researchers would dispute that Shakespeare was present at these events, not apart from him playing a musical instrument! Where is the proof, they say? The answer can be found in this painting:
Figure 1 Elizabeth dances with Robert Dudley
This picture although by an unknown artist, reminds me of Dutch artists of the time, has somewhat crude resemblances of people. The obvious ones are the Queen and Robert Dudley, who are dancing, and this is what most people think the picture is about. This action has even brought the Royal guard in to watch! Notwithstanding that, it is not really what the concern of this painting is, or what the painter is trying to convey. The artist gives the impression thus that they have been dancing for some time. The other dances have stopped, based on the couple sat down on the bench and the woman stood near the fireplace - exhausted and wafting her fan to cool down. As the fire is not lit, so this cannot be the cause of the heat, also there is no glow from the fire and the man is too close, if not standing in the fireplace. The other impact that this craftsperson has created is to do with light. Although there are candelabra, they are not lit. The presence of black gloom can be seen in the background and yet it is not night, for then the candles would be burning. On the left side of the candelabras can be seen a shine of the metalwork, which also shows up the guilt work of the fireplace and picture above it, plus other places. That light, almost like a spotlight, illuminates the centre of the picture where the Queen and Robert dance. Clearly the artist' intention, however what is the source of the light and why is the picture in other parts so dark? The solution can be seen in the window, which could be the type found in a castle. The gloom extends outside, but is broken by a glow on the edge of the frame, which rules out moonlight. Leaving the cause of the light to be sunlight breaking in during a thunderstorm, the woman is therefore hot because of the humid heat associated with this type of weather.
So the main interpretation of the picture is the Queen defies the storm and enjoys herself dancing in the sunlight. The political statement of this picture is now fairly obvious, in that the storm represents the trouble that England has past through and which Elizabeth has come through the troubles and can overcome things, because the sun will always shine on her. What the dog means, which stares at the viewer of that picture, is a mystery to me. Though like most images of dogs it most likely to with faithfulness. The best part (for myself) in this illustration, are the musicians, of which there are at least four. One has quite a distinct face, the bearded
man with the Viol da Gamba (Cello like) bears a resemblance to Richard Burbage and to the right another man with the Viol (early Violin) could be Will Kempe. This can't be only coincidence and yet there is another! The young man at the bottom left has the same type of hat as the 1588 picture of William grasping the Queen's hand! Also he looks like him too!! The other young man with the Viol appears to be the same age as what could be the William Shakespeare figure below him. Well then, therefore he could be Christopher Marlowe. Plus looks like the known portrait of him. The exact birth date of Burbage is not known, though a ‘circa’ date of 1567 has been placed on it. My own feeling on these dates is to take them with a pinch of salt! If this is Richard, than he may have been older by a few years than Shakespeare, if this picture is any thing to go by.
The other interesting thing about the young man bottom left is he also appears to be beating a drum, known as a sabeca. It is known that William's plays have a beaten rhythm called an iambic pentameter; here we can see why it was so popular with the actors and Will. He clearly used a drum to sound the words. However what are they all doing playing music and not acting? Without doubt they all must have started out as entertainers, rather than just actors, music being very important to them. That would have been their main source of income. By the way, the man around the fireplace is said to be Sir Philip Sidney, another poet and I would put the date of this representation to around 1580. Any later and Robert Dudley would have, by then, grown too stocky in the waist and Sidney left England in late 1584. Sidney will also help us date plays later in this chapter. This brings William into contact with another great poet, whose style is similar to Shakespeare and the two may have bounced their ideas off one another, to my way of thinking. The dwarf woman is unknown, but could be Ippolyta, who is mentioned in the wardrobe accounts of 1564. Now it just so happens we have a chicken or egg situation, because there is another picture which looks like this one so much that either it’s copying it or the other way around. It is equally possible that it was the same artist or studio. In fact there are two pictures of the event. The Wedding Ball in the Louvre dates to 1581 and shows Henry III and Catherine de’ Medici.
Figure 2 (above & below) Wedding Ball in The Louvre
In William's case the Queen introduced him to the company of players after their meeting, described in the previous chapter. He probably impressed Robert Dudley, who is a most important person to do so. Robert’s role is greater than Elizabeth in many respects. With both their support he could achieve the impossible. In modern terms Dudley was a media mogul. And in 1580 he was growing a vast array of talent from fields in academic, maritime, language, artists and the law, as well as players. Now that word 'players' has become a double meaning, for they are not just actors, but players of musical instruments. In reality the word and what the performers did are mixed up and interchangeable. The link between music and acting as can be seen through the words both use, are very close. To the Elizabethan actors and William especially, they were even more so. We may even have music of his that most of us grew up hearing. For the Banbury Cross nursery rhyme is about Elizabeth and I can’t think of anyone better to write it.
I also noticed a woman’s face with a huge ruff between two of the musicians. As I looked in greater detail it became clear that it was the Queen’s face. Yet she couldn’t be in two places at once. So I looked again and discovered that her face was twice the size of the musicians’ faces, yet she was behind them. Well I know artist can make scale errors, but this one seems to keep things to scale. The only conclusion is that it was indeed the Queen’s face and the men were stood in front of a portrait of her. Judging by the look of her face (showing her as a beautiful blond) a lost portrait of the Queen.
Today we can see plays, films, dramas and the like with ease. Four hundred years ago it was a different matter. Imagine if you would, how people more extreme then the British television decency campaigner Mary Whitehouse, having the power to censor everything, which everyone else regarded as entertainment. By the way that would include books! Basically that was put into effect in Elizabethan times. It wasn't so much the Queen's doing, although Catholics didn't make things any better by producing what she saw as subversive books. Many traditional plays also were totally orientated to that religion. If you can’t get your head around that level of suppression, imagine the worse subject that anybody could want to advocate in the media and you too might be in favour of censorship, as they were. Democracy in England was in the roots of change. It continues to change even now. Religion was in even greater transformation; it played the second part in the censorship battle. Few people today would be able to control what people believe and the customs associated with this belief. But Elizabethan England did try this. It caused them massive problems, for they didn’t accept that if the Queen died the religion would or could change back. Inside the court the feeling was that the switching (of the past) was too damaging to the country. Fortunately for the court the Queen was in the same agreement and even adopted the motto ‘Ever the Same’. Most Catholics felt the same, or were not prepared to rock the boat. However foreign countries would benefit from Catholic rebels and took advantage of the English policy. But both religions had something to say about morals. It was considered a sin for men to dress in the clothing of the opposite sex. That might have been all right to those trying there best to make sense of the Bible, the book they believed in, using it for their ideas of sexual perversions, to prevent them, but it created a problem when it was only used in entertaining. This didn't matter to a growing number of religious people, who found in the same book even more ammunition to use against the actors. They were quick to point out how sinful these people were and also how they could be used by the devil. Other faiths even used their own prejudices to attack those involved in performances. The Puritans never let up in their attacks and saw the actors as Catholic sympathises, plus at the same time devil worshippers. Therefore acting was treading a thin line between faiths and you can’t get a more controversial subject than that in the 16th Century.
Money for nothing
The driving force on suppression however, was idleness or perceived idleness. These days many actors will tell you that they spend a lot of time unemployed. The reverse was probably true then, indeed it was other people who claimed to be of the entertaining trades, who were unemployed, but passing themselves off as entertainers. At least that was what the Government of the country thought. The real problem was the economy of England could not support a growing population, at any rate without making the higher-class pay for it (this still applies, if you ask me). Poor Law provision was in many places inadequate, and full of red tape, taxes were equally unpopular and difficult to collect, so that distribution of wealth was yet more uneven. Inflation was out of control; by 1558 all the church property was in private hands, sold by the crown to give it money. On the whole the economy rested on a constant state of nearly going bankrupt. It’s safe to say that the Crown or state was responsible for the economy (the financial side) as a whole. In practice it couldn’t manage. It needed the House of Commons to raise revenue, even more so after 1590. Parliament met rarely to look at these problems. Not surprising really when you consider a trip to London may have cost an arm and a leg to get there, added to that the ever-present threats of civil war, plus civil disturbances, from rich and poor alike. When it did meet, Parliament was thus able to get passed laws to restrict civil liberties and had the help of the church to do it.
The poor can be seen in Shakespeare's plays clearly. Facial distortions caused by disease and malnutrition, is poked fun at. Only young children would laugh at these today, everyone then. We can also see the poor used to demonstrate the perceived idleness, as in the two servants of the Capulet’s sat-down, at the start of Romeo & Juliet. Pistol in Henry the Fifth, after fighting with someone, declares that he would go back to England to steal and tell everyone that his scars were got from fighting in the wars. Moreover he could also claim to be unfit for work and beg on the streets, using the scars to gain more money. One word of caution should be inserted hear. Modern begging is seen by most people now to be unnecessary for various reasons. However the Elizabethan's viewed only certain types of begging to be a nuisance. For instance if your house had been burnt down, you would have a perfect right to beg, not only that, it was a person's Christian duty to give them money. In spite of that, many went on the streets to beg to earn money. Even students from the Oxford and Cambridge Universities! That got right up many people’s noses. Naturally they tried to stop unlawful begging happening. Yet general crime was a problem too. These are mentioned in his plays. Like men with a long staff who travelled the road with long staffs. If you didn’t give them sixpence they would knock you down! The belief that plays and playhouses were for the low-life to act in and watched by the low-life was still around in 1602. The Privy Council expected to find plenty of recruits for the army by raiding them and giving them something useful to do as an alternative. Instead whom they found watching these performances were: gentlemen, lawyers, clerks, knights of the realm and even an earl. Some like the Earls of Rutland and Southampton were there every day in the summer of 1599. However the authorities didn’t change their minds.
Punishments for both activities were cruel, branding with hot irons and whipping were everyday occurrence in the major towns. Moving around from place to place was controlled; this would stop known false beggars from trying to practice their trade elsewhere. The one problem with this was entertainers, who naturally moved around. Legislation was needed and this had come in 1572. That act stated in order to beg a licence of two justices of the peace had to be obtained. The common players and minstrels were also to be punished too. Only there was a get out clause, which stated that if they belonged to a baron, or any other person of higher degree, they could carry on performing.
All that had happened when Shakespeare was only 8 years of age. So by the time he joined the players, they had already attached themselves to various rich men. The Queen herself had her own group of actors, plus her own musicians. Nonetheless her favourites at court also did, including the top man Robert Dudley. They were not just actors either, in these ‘companies of players‘, as they became known. For when they went a long to the various lords, it is my belief they went as groups and entertained, auditioned if you like, for the noblemen. In other words the actors companies were: minstrels, musicians, fools (comedians), clowns, jugglers and acrobats, as well as just players. They didn’t need to be trained; they were talented people from the start. Yet maybe the stuff they used was old, outdated or just crap! Still it didn't stop them being criticised. And they were placed under further Royal control. Edmund Tilney was made Master of the Revels in 1579. They couldn't perform in various places; sundry officials were also prosecuted for letting them perform in public. Sir John Savage Mayor of Chester was even sent to the Tower. Yet it is a fact that in a few years of that Act being passed new open-air theatres opened on the outskirts of London. New material was about to flow on to the market, but where did it come from?
Gone to the dogs
Other forms of public recreations were not so strictly controlled. Those involving animals for instance had few critics. The people involved in these performances weren't just using bears to dance! These were violent blood sports, beyond belief, bears being not the only creatures used. Bulls, dogs, cocks, were all savaged to bits in fights, of which the only modern forms to survive have been reduce or outlawed, but unfortunately still continue.
The most popular of these in the Elizabethan times was Bear Baiting. Dogs were used to attack a chained up bear in a circular building, not to dissimilar to the playhouses. Indeed many theatres would have originated with this use in mind; some may have had dual use as well. William mentions these activities in various plays; their popularity was about the same as football matches today, believe it or not. Even down to stadiums collapsing from the weight of the crowds. Also if William's bit in The Merry Wives of Windsor is anything to go by, then like football it was not popular with many women. The scene in question concerns a man called Slender and Anne Page. Slender mentions a bear’s name, (Sackerson) which existed in real life and probably did get free 20 times! Anne says she is afraid, which he puts down to bears being "ill-favoured rough things".
Bears might have been rough things, you can not blame them when they were mistreated in these ways, and there were no protection organisations for cruelty to any animals either. The Church didn't see this as ungodly and it is reported that Sunday sermons were rushed so that the clergy and parishioners could go and see these events. Shakespeare himself may not have like these dogs that took part in these baits. His plays never speak of them in favourable terms, hardly surprising as they would have been bred to fight. Many of the breeds exist today, with their names giving the origins away. Breeds such as the famous Bulldog or any with the name bull own their existence to this dreadful sport. Mind you he wouldn’t like dogs much, after being chased by the hunters’ hounds when he was young.
Whether the Queen went regularly to see these baits, I don't know, as the information is sparse. What about the plays? They must have better than the old Catholic material, as someone not of that faith liked them or they would not have got aired at all. The Queen certainly saw all the plays, which the new companies of players performed. Indeed there were no real theatrical buildings in London recorded till around 1575. Plays being put on in Inn yards, more often than not. The Corporation of London in 1574 was grossly appalled that plays were being performed before her Majesty, which had been performed before crude people, on open stages in London & Middlesex. Neither did the indignation of the City of London officials, put Elizabeth off her enjoyment of the plays. She defied them totally, so they refused to let the Companies build theatres inside the City Walls. Clearly plays were therefore performed in the royal palaces. However the Queen didn’t like spending public money. So the companies got permission to perform and make money. Therefore where to build the theatres was solved. They were thus built on the Queen’s land (over the river later) and in the early years at Finsbury. By 1576 the Curtain and Theatre, had opened their doors to the public, along with Bear Baiting and prostitute establishments. It was the beginnings of a revolution in the world of entertainments, a world that William Shakespeare was heading for! And like any true pioneer he was there from the start.
Up to date performance
Certainly by 1580 William had written his first play; however it, along with others, must have disappeared or is now not recognised as written by the Bard. How do I know this? Firstly Tilney, as Master of Revels, is told to licence all plays starting in 1581 and officials don’t take on extra work when they do not need to, so his he responding to Shakespeare play production schedule? Secondly, because I believe the first printing of his works (1623) puts them in order that they were made! With one exception: The Tempest. This was placed there to increase the sales of the book, perhaps because the play was the most popular when the publishers decide to print his works. Strangely editors of present editions tend to preface each play with something about when it was made. You then finish up with a different sequence to the intended. However when you look at the history plays they are in the order that the Kings reigned... Well are they? Leaving that aside for the moment, we can asks why the comedies and tragedies are in the order they are? There are only four possibilities of sequence for the comedies and tragedies. First alphabetical, clearly not that! Second how much money they made. Must be remote as an answer, for even in our times Hamlet is more popular than Coriolanus! Thirdly, random, well that's what everyone seems to have assumed! Lastly in the order that they were written, this brings us back to the Kings. Certainly they do look like as if they follow in the order they were written and not merely the order of each reign. So, the comedies (except Tempest) are in written grouping and so are the histories and tragedies. The big problem really is did he write all the comedies at once then the histories and so on? Or did he mix them up, writing a comedy, then say two histories, or a tragedy or two, plus vice-versa? I can be certain that in the 1623 book of his works, the actors knew the written order of his plays. They also knew that The Two Gentlemen of Verona was the oldest play which they had a copy of in the comedies sequence, as is King John in the Histories, plus Coriolanus in the Tragedies.
Modern historians of this period would have you believe that Elizabethan books went to print shortly after the writer put down the pen, perhaps they might let it stretch to a year or two, but that’s it. We can however dispense with this idea with Sir Philip Sidney’s Apology for Poetry. It was printed in 1595 and Sidney didn’t just knock it off, for unfortunately he had died in 1586. Also he had been fighting for two years before that date hence why he was dead! Again historians look at his book and think writers of the period didn’t listen to what he said. The answer to that was he hadn’t said it when they wrote their plays. Sidney was what we would call a critic. His taste was to the classical writers, as he compares English poets to them. “Poets” to him by the way, were any writers. Since he wrote the book around 1585 or earlier, he comments on plays he HAS seen. As historians have seen various connections in Sidney’s book with the plays of Shakespeare, some of his plays must have been around in some form before 1585. Here is a list of connections that writers have found and thus what Sidney saw…. Henry VI, Love Labours Lost, Coriolanus, As you Like It, Antony & Cleopatra, Richard II & III, Henry V, Two Gentlemen, Taming of the Shrew, Merchant of Venice.
There are other ways to date as well. It's not too difficult to date the ‘Two Gentlemen’ play to around 1583/4. Two years later it was copied by someone, because Peter Alexander thought that William had based it on The History of Felix and Philomena that was played before the Queen in 1585!
So how to date it, first you need some background information, such as the man who William played was Proteus. This is not a guess, but can be gained from Silvia, who says "What's your will?"
A simple pun on Shakespeare's real name! For this to work it would imply that William was well known to the play-going audience. Although Shakespeare played only one part, the two gentlemen are both William! Remember the Sonnets? Yes, these men are illusions to the same one, just like in them. In this play he is in love with Julia. Right your all thinking that must be Elizabeth? Wrong! We have already mentioned her once, she's Silvia. A name she is often referred to as by other poets. So in a way they are both in love with William, yes again the two women in his life, and at this date one we know is the Queen, so Julia is Anne, his wife!
Okay, back to the dating. Like many writers of fiction, William must have used his own experience, for in-filing the plays. This is so in this dramatic piece. Antonio therefore is based on William's father. This character thus fills in some gaps as to William's early life, which records can't. We discover that his father KEPT him home. Yet William went to the Court, however so does Will's double Valentine. By the way William exaggerated the status of his characters, way above his own. So William didn't go to tournaments to tilt, he went as servant and a very loyal one!
Later Proteus admits to Silvia "that I did love a lady, but she is dead". This reference must be to Anne Whateley, for the woman Anne Hathaway is based on says: "For I am sure she is not buried". This fits in with the theory, for the other Anne, that there was no body to inter. So the play was written after 1582. As it seems to be about the love between Proteus (William) and Julia (Anne), then it can be dated to just after their marriage. This also means that the actors would have most likely gone to Shakespeare’s wedding in Stratford. The Burbage’s sent somebody to Stratford anyway, for John Shakespeare gets into a court case with him and who do you think told him to go?
Naturally, William follows this with a tale of wives. He’s not very original in his choice of names for one of them! Anne Page! Really Will, Anne, your own wife and page of a book. Mind you some of the jokes by today's standards are even worse. Like the Sonnets, tongue twisters can be found, also we see for the first time people who misunderstand words another person has said. Shakespeare plays with words that are seen for the first time, yet they might be well known to his audience. Such as rhyming slang: Thus ‘Banbury cheese’ meaning “you liar” ‘Mephostophilus’ - “it is”. Some of these words were well known in academic circles, but Shakespeare probably wasn’t using them in that way. He has favourite words too. ‘How now, Methinks, Sirrah and Tis true,’ are good examples. These are now replaced with words having the same meaning for instance ‘what's up.’ Yet in other places in England, the “how now” replacement would be “Aye up” or I suppose “allwight” if your Michael Barrymore!
One thing does become clear, the female lines just might have been written by women! Certainly some lines hint at clues to who wrote the text. Line 96, page 45 in Silvia’s speech of the ‘Two Gentlemen’ “pale queen” implies and suggests, like the Sonnets, Elizabeth’s involvement again. If you placed a bet on the Queen, writing this speech, you know you are on to a winner when the word ‘flattery’ appears. ‘Pale’ also suggests white and Elizabeth did wear white. The White Dress is even found today as a symbol of virginity, hence the wedding dress! The distinctive style the Queen uses is easy to spot (sometimes) in the Sonnets. If it is used there and seen in the plays, she must have been involved in the writing of them. However there is often a different style used in some of the female lead roles, to that of Elizabeth’s. Readily this could be William doing the work for a change. Nonetheless if he gets someone to write one female part, he might just well get another woman to write others! The male parts were of course (in the 1623 list of plays) all William’s work. The reason we can be certain of this, is because the actor friends, who published it, would have taken a bit of credit for themselves if they had put lines in. Perhaps this is why the play Sir Thomas Moore is not included, as the remains of the text appear to have been written by various people, including Shakespeare. From this it’s transparent that no one knew that the some or all the female parts have a different writers. When in manuscript form the plays that everyone else saw had been copied, by scribes, to clear any mess up, plus any different handwriting styles. No wonder, as Ben Johnson says, he never blotted out a line! Then if he had spent all his time copying he would have none for the loves of his life. One of which was his wife. We’ve already established in the first play that Julia is Anne Shakespeare. Now we know that at this time (1583/4) she was in Stratford, nevertheless I think that William was travelling between London and his hometown on a regular basis, in connection with his court activities and his personal life. So that while he was in London, the Queen can wrote her parts and if William wanted, Anne too could write for the same play, back home. The two women would never know, nor would anyone else! Sounds perfect don’t it? Yes even William thought so and he uses it for various other plays. In Much ado about nothing it’s used in the context of a character playing dead, while others are kept in ignorance. The consequence of this secret coming out played on William’s mind for Romeo takes his life, in the reverse of this scenario. The Comedy of Errors also comes to mind in this!
Because she did write them, I believe, we therefore get to see how Anne feels about William in the Two Gentlemen of Verona. She is Julia, William is Proteus and she describes him thus:
“His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles,
His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate,
His tears pure messengers sent from the heart,
His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth.”
She really does love him then! However his heart was inconsistent and fluttered about from woman to woman. We will also learn of his other faults in other chapters. Then there were these other women that hung around the theatres and inside them. The names of some of his female characters point to them being immortalised in the plays. ‘Overdone, Quickly, Jaquenetta, Audrey, and Doll Tearsheet’ were probably all derived from local prostitutes. These women most likely could not read, that would not have stopped them wanting to be actress. The companies must have got fed up with their asking they had plenty to offer in more ways than one! Some of the companies must have relented to the pressure, whilst others stuck with boys for female parts. However the law was clear - no women actors - yet the person who was the power in the land was a woman. How did she feel about this law? Like most of her life the Queen would have been in two minds about it. A compromise was the solution, so Shakespeare could get women to take the parts, the Queen and her Master of the Revels would turn a blind eye, providing no-one ells knew about it, or then action would be taken. Only since the Queen was present nobody would dare. Accepting no decent woman would risk it, this term didn’t apply to prostitutes, who were illegal anyway and therefore had nothing to loose. It also got the actors out of dressing up in women’s clothes, or kissing men, if they feared God. Though it plainly didn’t bother some and of course the more unpleasant women characters were good parts for the male comedian types.
The Queen may have written women’s parts, yet she could not act them, while she was watching them. Likewise Anne was in Stratford, also early on spending some time pregnant, so she too could not play any parts nor did she ever.
There are not a lot of female roles in his plays; main characters are limited to two in most. This may have been because of the two women in Will’s life. Naturally one of these actresses’s, chosen by Shakespeare, had a look of the Queen! Yet why would the prostitutes want to play parts in dramas when they could earn doing their own trade? The answer is simple - more money! One of the theatre owners, Philip Henslowe, recorded various takings for certain years and of some plays. Known as his ‘diary,’ Henslowe wrote that a play called Hercules Part One by an unknown writer, yet could be by Shakespeare and took 50 to 61 shillings per day in the two-penny gallery of the theatre. This has been calculated at 1,440 people. That wasn’t all! The people who paid only a penny could squeeze into the floor around the stage. They became known as the groundlings and soon the theatre had over 3000 people in it!
Safety was not an issue, so Philip could pack them in like Sardines!! Contrary to popular beliefs (I can’t imagine) he wouldn’t let women perform their real trade, unless he got a cut, during the performance of plays. Also it would have been difficult with the playhouse packed. Plus I am sure the actors wouldn't have any scruples about telling anyone off making noises, during their performances. So that born in mind you can see the prostitutes would be better off acting. They could also do the normal line of work afterwards. One became notorious going under the name of Moll Cutpurse, who in fact was Mary Frith. She tried acting at the Fortune Playhouse, which also resulted in her prosecution, because of the content of her speeches and rude songs. Yet I can’t tell you that she acted in any of William’s dramas.
It was said, of the time, that Elizabeth dressed in the style which prostitutes did, meaning the dresses with exposed upper breasts, though real ones had them fully exposed. Did she get this fashion idea from being around the playhouses? Or the one that might have looked like her? In any case she was not opposed to taking prostitutes on as servants or even one of her ladies in waiting! Actually we don’t need to speculate on what the Queen thought of these women. For William tells us! In Pericles, Prince of Tyre Shakespeare uses the play to record the meeting of the bawd, who plays the look-alike actress, with the Queen. The prostitute is even called a bawd and not given a name, while the Queen’s words become that of Marina. Liz even asks her if she’s a woman, because presumably she thought that William was using boys to play the parts! The woman doesn’t understand the question though! Thus the Queen/Marina says “An honest woman, or not a woman”. This was picked up by Thomas Dekker and others in the play The Honest Whore. But Shakespeare takes it further than that. He takes the Queen to a brothel and leaves her to some lord who comes incognito to taste the fruits on offer. However Elizabeth doesn’t know it’s a brothel! She talks him out of his need and he leaves paying her! When Shakespeare and the bawd return, the bawd plays hell with Will and tells him to take her back. Presumably the lord didn’t recognise the Queen as many of the London prostitutes would dress like the Queen or be taken on because they looked like her. This done to fill the demand of the rich men who liked to have sex with the Queen, but couldn’t! William took her to the brothel to loose her virginity obviously. I’ll tell you soon how I eventually find out who were some of Shakespeare’s actress. The bawd however could well be Emma Ball; she had taken up with the comic Richard Tarleton, who died at his house in Shoreditch (theatre-land of those days) in September 1588. She is recorded as having a “very bad reputation”.
William himself took many of the lead roles in the plays, other actors can also be made out in various parts. One of William’s relations said that he played the part of Adam in As You Like It. But this is only a tiny part and is a personal attack on William, or a silly joke. Then again the
Bard was really good at attacking his relatives, like many of today's famous people! Tarleton had to be written into some roles, because of his trademark, which was banging a drum. This required William to write him specific parts and these can be identified therefore by any person who bangs a drum in the plays. Therefore as mentioned above these plays have to be written before 1588. Tarleton himself is reportedly been able to make people laugh as soon as he came on. A bit like Ken Dodd! Sometimes the truth slips out. A printed copy of the play Much ado about Nothing shows that play script sometimes had the names of the actors in them. Richard Cowley plays Verges and William Kempe is recorded as the constable Dogberry. Things don’t appear as you would be expecting them in some plays. Thanks to Philip Sidney (again) we find that the strong-man Hercules, mentioned in the above play, was dressed in women’s attire, with a ‘great beard’ and caused much amusement.
Call this a script
Things did not always go as the script was originally written. A good example of what actors now call ‘rewrite clinic’ can be seen in the opening of Henry the Fourth part two. Strangely many people today fail to grasp the importance of Shakespeare's History Plays in the role of boosting Queen Elizabeth’s image to the Tudor population. This was achieved by putting humour into history. In the said Henry IV Part two the play starts with some serious speeches, presented by the serious actors of the company. The whole of scene one was meant to be played without any laughs in the first draft of the script, one can imagine. Onstage, however one actor must have tripped up! The actor playing the part of Morton, noticing that the audience reacted to the fall drops in the line “Stumbling in fear.” He thus made a joke of the actor; this quickly was picked up by the other actors and the actor, who stumbled, the one playing Northumberland. “Limbs weaken'd with grief” or “aim to hit” all point to the actor falling down. The fallen actor thus does not want to continue and says and calls it “a lingering act” and “the rude scene may end.” Morton continues the lines with puns on falling, the acting being “stiff” before another actor drops out the usual finish time of the plays being “ten to one.” Meaning with all the errors it would go on longer. There are even more references to things going wrong - props and actors freezing, before the offending actor decides the scene should end!
With all these extra bits added you would think that the play would have been rewritten and indeed it was to include the fall and all the jokes! This is what we are left with today. Exactly the sort of stuff that would be excluded if the piece was a film, becoming out-takes now. Some of these out-takes were very rude! Like the servant in Romeo who’s large penis became exposed. The actor then had to do it every time. The accidental appearance of a dog was also slotted into the same scene and the actor mentions it only in referring to “A dog of the house of Montague moves me.” The whole scene from the start implies the audience has been clued up first. The only way I can think of doing this is someone, perhaps a boy, holding a board up with the characters names on before they speak. This would probably happen each time the audience met a new person.
Sir William Shakestaff
Will’s main part in Henry IV is Sir John Falstaff. Yes later he did have a round belly, but when Will first played the part he was a young man, costume stuffed with straw, make up for the age on his face. This character was to some extent based on William’s father John, who was described as a merry-cheeked old man. Though there’s much of William in him. Certainly Shakespeare was ambitious to be a Sir, have servants and horses. Falstaff makes light of it by saying if his servant can buy a horse for him, when he bought the servant, he thus could be “manned, horsed, and wived” by going to the prostitute places. He thus drops in even more references to the stews as they were called. Later on in scene IV he makes it clear that going to these women leads to catching diseases, so William even made fun of the prostitute actress they employed. And he wasn’t the only writer of plays that made fun of them. Francis Beaumont comments on the play Edward IV in his own play The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Edward’s mistress was called Jane, and in Beaumont’s play she is referred to as Jane Shore. Although it is possible that Shore is her name, it’s more likely to have caught on because she was commonly referred to as a hoar. Allowing for the spelling her name is derived from ‘Jane is a hoar’. Like William he employs the errors and problem of performance of the plays to his advantage. And so when “hecklers” interrupt the performance of the company’s plays; Beaumont followed William’s ideas and incorporates them into the above play. The original hecklers were trades people from the City of London. It appears that they went to these plays and saw how popular they were. Indeed so much so they wanted plays performed which were sought of public propaganda plays that made the City of London look good. Trouble was they were also extremely boring. Beaumont worked for the same company as William and didn’t want to write about the improvements to the drains of London, or about repairing London Bridge. Neither did Shakespeare.
Shakespeare might not just have used prostitutes for actress. People have speculated how he earned money when the playhouses where shut? My theory is that he also ran the brothel or was in partnership with others in it. Again the evidence is only in the play Pericles and in Boult’s taking to Marina, in scene VI. Though the playhouses, brothels, whatever, were perhaps all connected Mafia style! It was the low-life of London don’t you know.
A wordy silence
Shakespeare was really down on academics from Oxford and Cambridge. In Henry IV part two again, Silence, one of the country justices, points out the cost of education at Oxford fell on him to pay for someone attending there. More on this later, however this play also solves how Shakespeare’s vocabulary is double the amount of an educated man of today. ‘Accommodated’ is not recorded before in English and here finds itself used in witty conversation between two characters of the play. When one of them tries to give it a Latin origin, the other defends the word as being of military origin, which it probably was. Like most words in the plays of Shakespeare the audience would have known it well. The truth is that William is just one of a few people who bothered to write them down. Then again it would be double if the Queen was involved in them, massively increased if actors added or changed words. Still this happens to films and plays now, even so they who added bits do not get credited.
With William as Falstaff, we can continue to show Shakespeare’s personality and his ability to make people laugh, by poking jibes at them, such as his father, who by now you can certainly tell that the Bard didn’t like much. Shakespeare could also make fun of the powers of the land in this way too. The recruitment system the army had at that time comes under his witty attack. Falstaff deliberately picks men who are the opposite in some cases of what he says they are. ‘Thomas Wart’ for example is a well built man the type he should pick, but is not picked. On the other hand he does pick a ladies dressmaker, or a thin man called ‘shadow!’ These stereotypes would have been recognised by many Elizabethan people; even the Queen thought they were accurate portrayals. Often the most obvious observations of people can go astray, such as the Queen’s, but historians keep going up blind alleys and inventing mystery with Shakespeare. Because they simply won’t let him play parts, Falstaff is played by the clown
Will Kempe. Then they make mistakes, when the writer of the plays uses real people’s name instead of characters in the scripts. So Shakespeare uses the surname of William Kempe and then calls him by his Christian name in other part. I suppose he could have, but that would confuse the other actors surely? Presumably other historians accepted this. But rather than look at the bleeding obvious, that is that ‘William’ or ‘Will’ means Shakespeare, as no other historians wants to, they instead invent another actor! Now we know that William played the part of Falstaff, her request to have him fall in love in the play now known as The Merry Wives of Windsor takes on a new meaning. In that we know she was in love with William, was she trying to prove that Will was in really in love with her?
The best is yet to come
Apart from the plays that appeared in the 1623 works, many others also were printed with the words “by William Shakespeare” or just the initials “W.S.” on them. Academics and others have dismissed ideas, often by radical writers, that these were written by William Shakespeare. Other plays that have no writers’ name on have also been claimed by some as by Shakespeare. Those who have dismissed the other plays seem to use the 1623 works as a standard to justify this. Some of them are so like those in the first folio they are even claimed as sources of those plays. Even evidence of puns on names, something the 1623 plays often use, can be ignored, if the quality is not right, or so the argument goes. The evidence of Green, punning Shakespeare name, testifies that Green was familiar with William’s puns in the plays. Unless you believe someone else wrote them, Green’s piece is used as evidence of Shakespeare’s impact on his contemporaries. However Arden of Faversham, with all the uses of various names, including puns, is one of these plays that many can not believe Shakespeare wrote. It is based on a true murder of Thomas Arden in 1551, like many murders captured the public mind and was added to Holinshed’s Chronicle. Once again the connection with Will’s mother place of birth should never be ignored, along with character names like ‘Shakebag’ & ‘Black Will.’ No one who thinks that William wrote the works would eliminate Macbeth. Yet the Arden of Faversham play has the victim’s blood being ordered washed away by his wife, uncannily like Lady Macbeth, saying “A little water clears us of this deed,” which means that if this play is not as good for Shakespeare, neither can be Macbeth!
Dated by default
The dates attached to these plays can generally be ignored, as these are when they were printed, not written, or acted. Indeed the plays could have been many years old by the time they got into print. Rather like films today sent to television companies, they could have had a moneymaking period, before being withdrawn to print. The dates should be only used to indicate that the plays were written before the dates of publication. There are stacks of these plays, which probably meant that Shakespeare was a more prolific writer than many people believe. Mixed up in these titles, such as: The London Prodigal, A Yorkshire Tragedy, The Merry Devil of Edmonton, Locrine, and The Puritan, are the odd titles, such as: Romeo and Merry Wives, One Gentleman of Verona, plus the different titles of the plays about Kings. Many of these have been described by various people as "bad Quartos" of his plays. If the text still exists for them, historians can see changes in text of the plays, with the 1623 copies as a guide. Although the publishers of the 1623 works claimed to have true copies of the plays, we can not be certain they were telling the truth. Indeed they might have been simply trying to kill the sales of other true copies of individual plays. Also the other justification for none exclusion is that some are anti-Catholic propaganda. Where’s as the Shakespeare grew up Catholic and this is the reason he would not attack that religion. Though it’s perhaps true that copies and inferior ones at that may have been circulating, some 500 years later it is now impossible to detect any such frauds, it would be like looking at the Mona Lisa picture and saying it's a fake! Which means those copies of Hamlet, with different wording may be true! It makes one think that the true wording after "To be, or not be" is maybe "I there's the point" and not "that is the question", which is now accepted!
Even more ridiculous is this idea of these mystery plays, most anti-Catholic, being source material for a Shakespeare play. Many people have grown up in backgrounds not to dissimilar to the Bard’s, yet they don’t reflect it or embrace it sometimes. Some even fight against it! Therefore he couldn’t be a plagiarist if he was using his own material! By 1623 religious censorship had diluted these plays content down. Earlier I mentioned that the authorities had tried to control the beliefs of the population. One of their successes had been in the young. Education had turned the young into Protestants and Shakespeare was clearly a good example. It would be like making all schools today one religion and regardless of the faiths that went.
what is self-evident is that not all of William’s works have survived. Meres also comments that Christopher Marlowe and George Chapman are imitators of Shakespeare. This must annoy those who think that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare. However Marlowe was certainly acting with William on the stage. Most historians think that Marlowe didn’t act, but there are clues that prove he did. Another claimant to Will’s work is Sir Francis Bacon. Those who thought this were very pleased when a document turned up in 1867, which is now called “The Northumberland Manuscript”. It contains 22 sheets of paper, plus a badly decayed folder/cover that has a contents list, names and other writing scribbled on
it. At sometime it may have belonged to Bacon, but it also indicates that Bacon acted as a scriptwriter for various important Elizabethan people, writing their speeches for them. Bacon could have collected plays also by playwrights for several are included on the contents list. Even some by Shakespeare, though unfortunately they are not still with it. Somebody also scribbled “William Shakespeare” several times on it, as well as “W S” and other indications of the man himself. Though it no-way proves Bacon wrote Shakespeare it does indicate that these two men may have been friends, in some way. This can be emphasised further by William’s knowledge of the Bacon family joke of ‘Bacon and Hog’ in Will’s play The Merry Wives of Windsor, though this may have been told to the Queen, first. All in all these extra plays, if they all been in existence, would amount to more than the published plays in total. I think you can add 46 at least to the 37 plays of the complete works - or it should be perhaps “Un-complete Works”. Indeed I am no-way the first to add plays. William Winstanley in 1687 brought the total up to 48. With some of these titles: Mucedorus, Henry I, Henry II and King Stephen.
Opponents to fame
Unlike Bacon and Marlowe, some of William’s friends didn’t like his success. Shakespeare himself may have not realised that somebody he once helped would turn on him. Nor did this man just turn on Will. For this person attacking knows of William’s closeness to the Queen, thus giving us proof of the friendship that the man had with Will. Once again the academics/biographers underestimate Robert Greene’s Groats-Worth of Witte in its attack on Shakespeare. Green makes it quite clear that he is the main character. Green’s life can be summed up from this document, which is what he wanted everybody to do. Green could not and dare not publish it while he was a live, because it was also an attack on the Queen as well. This pamphlet was a hot potato of scoop for any printer and Henry Chettle, thought it would make money. It was printed within weeks of Green's death. Chettle was apologising by the end of the month!
Green’s life was pitiable if this pamphlet is accurate. The story and thus Green own story starts with the father. He had made a pretty packet from money lending. A will was made out to give Green’s brother all the money. This is because that Robert either did not have a sense of humour or common sense, so his father thought. Instead he left him one Groat! To buy what he needed and lacked. Now as you can imagine Robert didn’t think much of this and sought justice from Queen Elizabeth, called Lamilia in the text, only in a very underhand way. The name came from Liz and Emilia and why the second name will become apparent soon. The Queen saw straight threw this plot on his brother and told him. Elizabeth, by now was a much better judge of character, than when she was young. She was very good at seeing what Green was like anyway! This episode was probably what brought Green into contact with Shakespeare. Whatever, Green states somebody persuaded him to write plays, which must mean Will, for he would have no reason to attack him latter. Green did not make a good playwright; he even put the same play to different playhouses. Though he did make some money he spent it on the good life and ended up in poverty, dying from it. This he blames on Shakespeare calling him “an upstart crow” and Elizabeth who he refers to as a “waspish little worm”. Was this because they made fun of his plays? Elizabeth even comments on the slander in the Sonnets, in the ones that she wrote. Green picked up both remarks from the plays, the ‘wasp’ utterance from The Taming of the Shrew, where Petruchio, played by William, calls Katharina a “wasp”. Her reply, which was given by Elizabeth, uses the exact same word as Green. All this implies that Green was well aware of the Queen's involvement in the plays. The attack though, does give us the massive clue to the Queen’s parody of herself in The Taming of the Shrew as Katharina. All you need to do is substitute that name with Elizabeth or its short form ‘Liz’ as Will does with Kate and you can get a good idea of their relationship. It had already been tested with the play Much Ado about Nothing, the formula worked so why not use it again? In this drama, Benedick was William and Beatrice the Queen; she even quotes from the Sonnets: “For I will never love that which my friend hates”. It all fits in perfectly with the Queen inferiority complex and William’s lover’s arguments with her. The shrew title was picked up from Elizabeth (Bess) Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, arguments with her husband George Talbot. The problems he had with controlling his wife was a national talking point, when the play was written in 1586. Cheekily he used part of her title! Green was also mad that the Queen had got William his job with the actor company. They and she recognised his talents and so he needed little training, which really annoyed Green.
Political spin in play
Sometimes political arguments are used in his plays. Measure For Measure is one of these dramas that capture public opinion to put pressure on events. Written in 1586, because this play uses the death of Anthony Babbington (Claudio who is executed) to justify the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Hence it’s title! While other acting companies are mocked in a friendly way in A Midsummer-Night’s Dream. There is a great deal of humour in the play with William even taking the mickey out of some romance of the real Queen. “Methought I was enamour’d of an ass.” Was he jealous? He is cleverer too in the use of the comedy, where jokes are in the audience’s head. Like the Donkey’s head on the man’s head. Shakespeare only lets the play’s audiences know that the character had been transformed; the characters themselves remain in ignorance. He uses the same theme in Hamlet for the ghost; though he lets Hamlet’s friends see it, as well as the main character. Let’s not forget the onlookers to the scenes!
Dates in history
I have been able to work out that 8 out of 14 comedies in the Works were written in the year 1586. The others were done in twos for the years 1582, 1588, and 1589.
One of them done in 1588 has a perfect title about the outcome of the Spanish Armada. All is Well, That Ends Well, has a thinly disguised female called Helena as Elizabeth. The opening scenes show Elizabeth’s/Helena stance on being a virgin. Well it had to come in somewhere, being what the Queen is well known as being! So a military man called Parolles, says “away with it”. Perhaps it was someone like Sir Walter Ralegh or Sir Francis Drake who really did say it to the Queen! The play’s French background would have been topical that year.
Most experts agree that William used Raphael Holinshed's -Chronicles for the History Plays. William could well have even met Raphael at sometime. The Chronicles were first published in 1577. Thanks in part to Robert Dudley. They were updated in 1586. This must indicate an enormous popularity of the first volumes, reflected therefore in Shakespeare’s use of the 1587 volumes for the basis of his plays. These books along with any other source material, which historians have suggested for the plays, could have been obtained from the Queen’s personal collection. Holinshed may have even consulted the Queen on the history of the Royal Family, for she was reported to be very knowledgeable on the subject.
That’s what I first thought! The problem with this theory is most of the History plays had been performed by the time of Holinshed’s 1587 published books!
Many have accused William as being a plagiarist in this context of taking whole passages out of Raphael’s 1587 books. However this is reversed if William wrote the plays first! Historians tend to be trained in a certain way. They follow logical sequences, such as the 1623 date of his plays and the 1587 one, of fellow historian Raphael Holinshed, then work forwards of the date. Historical researchers distrust modern films and the stage versions of times past as pure fantasy, though they may be loosely based on facts. None would use them as real history to describe the authentic events in an essay or book. If they did other historians would pour scorn on them. For instance if someone included the battle of the Alamo film as being REAL history, then they would be attacked, because the genuine people died during the night! Raphael was not however trained is this way and he unwittingly messed up the dating system. Trouble of the greatest magnitude has resulted, not unlike the Piltdown Man scam, or Hitler’s Diaries, yet they were all broken, as I can with Holinshed. Evidence to the contrary was ignored, as with the skull, which would have put doubt into the theory. The title page of his book gives it away, it records in print: “newlie recognised, augmented and continued (with occurrences and accidents of fresh memorie).”
So how could Raphael have a fresh memory of King John! With that you can work out the passages in the Chronicles that are like Shakespeare’s Plays is because they are! Raphael went to the theatre or spoke to William and wrote them down, leaving out any of the jokes and false praise. Raphael wasn’t concerned if the history was not true, or just didn‘t know. He is not unusual in this case of not using just history, or as historians’ call it documented facts, in a history book. Writers have (long before Raphael) used fable as fact! This is another clue that historians missed in the hopelessly messed up dating theory! This is also common knowledge for academics and historians. Raphael however may have brought out the first companion book to go alongside the Shakespearean plays! Further evidence of Raphael’s not checking records shows in the connections between the 1587 edition and the play Arden of Faversham. In the belief that the play was written after Raphael’s books, editors of later editions of the play, such as Martin White said that the writer copied at times Holinshed, ‘verbatim’ and that he displayed NO knowledge of the murder trial in the Faversham court record book. However if you reverse it so the play was before 1587, then conversely Raphael hasn’t read the records either! There are other clues too. The Chronicles list conversations between the murdered man and his killers, as though Raphael had been there! Well I don’t know of any courts to this day that can get the kind of ‘chit-chat’ that Raphael’s book has. What do historians think that Raphael Holinshed had- a time machine? Names like ‘Black Will’ must have been nicknames; the court records would have given his real name. Yet it’s not in the Chronicle. I pity historians sometimes. But they do make some wapping blunders; despite good facts such as Holinshed became a servant in a village called Packwood where William’s relations lived! They also tend to ignore one crucial one! Raphael Holinshed was dead by 1580. Basically the only safe reference material to use in dating the Bard’s plays is only the one’s prior to 1564!
The real historian is Shakespeare. Yet it seems unlikely that William would go around recording and searching through written records and produce no history book like Raphael did. He didn’t. Holinshed book is in fact John Hooker’s and he wasn’t real either. Oh dear it gets worse for historians as he was in to aliases! Hooker being one of them, so his real name, if he is real at all, was Vowell! All this is now too stupid for words never mind “vowels”. In the end I’ve come to the conclusion that Shakespeare wrote and updated this chronicle! This explains why the murder story even got in and why the imagination of the old minister of God runs away! Historians marvel how well written and up-to-date (for it’s time) and how easy it is to read. The last bit is explained by being written by Shakespeare. He knew that the purpose of all his plays was to promote the Queen and this was all his own idea. I believe he told Liz he was going to write about the founding of her dynasty, by producing plays, bring out a history book, featuring all the Kings and Queens right up to her coronation, at least. He also took out himself the offensive passages about Ireland. The fact that they stop at Henry VIII, with the christening, for me shows her reaction! It must have filled her with horror, which was just too personal! ‘You can go up to my grandfather and no further.’ One can imagine she said to him. Yet we don’t need to make any more of her life up, at least what she said. Because, although Will did not argue the point with her, which no one would anyway, he recorded the details and the history of the events during her father’s reign and after, all the same. He perhaps thought she would come around to letting the stories of Henry and his wives, Edward, Jane and Mary, be performed as plays. She didn’t! Now you’re saying what about the play Henry VIII? That was tested on her! Shakespeare himself comes on at the end to ask the Queen if it “’twill do”. She must have clapped for the rest of those present at its first showing. Then without doubt, called William to a private audience with her, where she went nuts with him! Tilney whose job was to check plays saw nothing wrong with it.
The battle with Camden
Secretly knowing this would be the case all the time, or more likely Will just used them because he could not come up with decent ideas and plots all the time. Nevertheless he weaved the details of all the monarchs’ lives and events, after Henry VII, into all his plays, equally past Elizabeth’s coronation! He even put them into all the history plays, before Liz’s father’s epic.
In the same year near enough William Camden brought out his history book called Britannia. They were competing with one another and I think Shakespeare thought he could make a better Job of it, but which came out first?
This brings us to the Tragedies. Again these have details in them about the Royal households. There is also some use of other people’s work as well! Though, many of the source material for these could well be marginal, such as Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans translated by Sir Thomas North, only just qualifies at a publishing date of 1579. Only it turns out he was related to Sir Edward North, who is the father of Thomas Arden’s wife! Yet William Caxton’s history of Troy at 1474, certainly does qualify, however would he be able to get his hands on a book that old. For me the answer has to be only in the Royal Library could he see such as this and Ovid’s Metamorphoses the original, not the one of 1567. But in any case that was a favourite of the Queen only. It’s seen also as being Catholic, which would put will off, but the Queen lived in Catholic times and liked the book anyway. George Chapman’s Seaven Bookes of Homers Iliads cannot possible be a source as it’s print date of 1598 is long after the original versions (of all the plays) in the 1623 Works had been written, also Mears (remember) said he imitated Shakespeare. I would suggest that as far as the history plays are concerned the entire lot had been written by 1586! Perhaps the entire works of Shakespeare would have been performed by 1590! If not earlier, with huge audiences and only 37 plays they could soon run out of people who had not seen each play! Actually the playhouses need only update them, if they were popular, repeats can suffice! Sort of like the original Star Trek television series. The plays having said that may have been played only to a Court audience, early on, because there are only limited references to their performance. ‘Limited’ is too small a word! Before 1590, if you look at the records, you would think that the only five plays a year being written, afterwards an explosion of them. The truth must be that plays were not recorded, by the revels people. If you compare it with modern times and films. It would be like having one cinema in London one year than next thousands all over! This is ridicules and senseless to say the least. This is how the stupid notion of the “Lost Years” comes about. One reason the explosion happens may be due to the censor dying. Not Tylney, but Sir Francis Walsingham. He as everyone seems to know was chief spymaster to the Queen, more to the point puritan! With him gone the plug was put back in and theatres bonanza was born, having said that he wasn’t all that bad as we will see.
When the actors got into trouble for putting Richard II on at the time of Essex’s uprising, they commented that it was an ‘old play’. They had to be paid 40 shillings to put it on too! This crucial bit of information was recorded by none other than Francis Bacon, going on to also pen the Queen’s remarks on the play itself. “I am Richard II. Know ye not that?” This she gave in conversation with William Lambarde in August 1601. She wasn’t of course Shakespeare’s inspiration for King Richard in this drama. I am afraid it’s that thing she has about herself where she imagines that she is the evil character, which the Bard invented. Then again was he based on a real life person from Elizabeth’s past?
Real words and real people plays
Source material from books is all well and good, for the bases of a play, yet can tincture the play to reflect only the source material’s writer. Many of Shakespeare’s fellow actors agreed with him on the merits of those from the universities who penned plays. Their opinions were also considered suitable subjects for inclusion in drama. The Pilgrimage to Parnassus printed in 1601, sees actors William Kempe and Richard Burbage discussing precisely this. Kempe makes it clear that the university men smell too much of the writer Ovid and others. He then goes on to say that Shakespeare puts them all down by his quality of work and making fun of them, thus confirming that Shakespeare wasn’t too keen on Ovid. Ben Jonson also comes under attack for being sought of a closet university type, though he did not go to one. Yet they may have been right as he was given an Oxford degree in 1618. Having said all that the play was probably performed at St John’s College, Cambridge and also had some of the scholars in it. Burbage also gets one of them to perform the Richard III opening lines, because he thought that the resemblance of the man to the part (Burbage of course played) was uncanny! Not using source material means he had to use his own experience and that’s what we find. Did his friends work it out? Elizabeth, clever as she was didn’t. This is hardly surprising, for William used the source material to get things like dates and names right. All and sundry could write a play about the Norman invasion of 1066, because they might know the basic details. However where do you get the dialogue for the characters to speak? It’s very difficult to make it up, by no-means as easy as many people think! You can base it on your experience, yet if you’re young, as Will was, that is not much of an option. Alternatively you can talk to other people, about past events, though no one can go back more than a hundred years, without it becoming second hand knowledge. This is what William did. He talked to everyone who was anyone at the court and some of the nobodies too. Critics of the Bard, who think that the knowledge about the Earls and Lords, comes from a member of this social group, sadly suffer a setback, with there’s detail about the lower class members of the royal court. Lord or Lady Muck, is not likely to write about them! Middle class William can though! These servants and Lords and Ladies told him things that letters can’t reveal, about life in the courts of Henry VIII through to Elizabeth I. William jumbled them up and added them to all his plays. Most of the details were about Elizabeth’s life, which you would expect, with him being in love with her. I can’t tell if Elizabeth in all the plays penned her own lines or not. They appear to be her words. They could be just these said conversations, which Shakespeare either acquired from being present, remember the court often had musicians present. So what we could see in the Bard’s’ plays is Elizabeth’s own remarks to those present in the Royal chambers, plus her reaction to those events from 1580 (or earlier) up to around 1590. She chatted to him about her past, because there are things in these plays that fit her details. Also the members of her court and what they said. Indeed the Polonius character in Hamlet has long since being recognised as
William Cecil, even by those opponents of Shakespeare’s authorship. You can even find out how the Queen, first met him. Remember I did say that William used real historical events of the Queen’s life. All you need to do is change Hamlet’s words to that of Liz’s, or Princess Elizabeth as she would be at the time, and you can work out that they met before Catherine Parr’s death in 1548. She called Cecil a “Fishmonger”. You can bet he was proud about it when William told the tail to Shakespeare. Again it’s no coincidence that Hamlet is unhappy about the death of his father and the sudden marriage of his mother, this fits with Liz’ life, after the death of her father and her attitude to Parr’s marriage to Thomas Seymour. The two people in the play (these represent) see this bereavement behaviour as madness. However it fits in well with the way Elizabeth reacted to the death of loved ones - always badly! Some people have tried to analyse Hamlet’s character, but without knowing this you might as well assume he was an alien from another planet! Cecil is told by Liz, about Seymour coming into her room, when she becomes a woman again, (as Ophelia) while Hamlet, turns into Seymour. Instead of taking her side, Cecil tells King Edward she is crazy! Henry VIII wasn’t murdered of course, unlike the plays main character’s father. Shakespeare needed to make that bit up, nor did Liz see the ghost of her dad, again Will made that up to prove that Hamlet wasn’t going mad. However there is no reason why Elizabeth didn’t see the ghost of her father, if you believe in that sort of thing. Horatio was probably Robert Dudley by the way. Shakespeare also saw the Elizabeth in Red dress painting. So when I see it now I think “Enter Hamlet reading on a book”.
More Tudor history is found in As You Like It (1586). In scene III, Duke Frederick becomes in real life the Duke of Norfolk during the reign of Mary Tudor. Speaking to Rosalind (Elizabeth) and Celia (Mary), he gives instruction that Elizabeth should be 20 miles from the court. The Duke adds that he doesn’t trust her for being her father’s (Henry VIII) daughter. To which Elizabeth replies that Henry wasn’t a traitor and treason is not inherited anyway! Later the attitude change that Mary had, which I described in my book on the Queen, is revealed, leading to Norfolk calling Mary a fool.
The leading man
While the Bard may have not taken the lead role in Richard III, he did in most of the tragedies, Romeo, Caesar, Hamlet, and Anthony, are his own parts. Contrary to popular belief the balcony in Italy is not the one in the famous balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet. Data already has been found that the Queen was fond of looking out of her window at Hampton Court onto the Royal Gardens. George Talbot’s son did spy her there as he was walking in those very same gardens. It takes no leap of the imagination to see the William had the same encounter with her, yet reacted in a very different way to that of Gilbert Talbot. Most people even think that Romeo & Juliet is about the real two lovers. It’s more about the religious divides in England at that time. The opening chorus mentions the two households. But these are not what they portent to be. Instead they are the two houses of God, or the two religions of England. Thus our hero in the form of William Shakespeare comes from the Catholic house and falls in love with Elizabeth in the form of Juliet from the Protestant house. Juliet even gives the same response that you would expect the Queen to give in questions about marriage. But it all ends badly and it did for William’s family. “By my head here comes an Arden, by my heal I care not.” My God William loves the Protestant Queen! Warring families, warring religions, it’s all the same to Shakespeare and the Arden? Edward executed the same year that Romeo was shown the Queen in1583. His family might have been Catholic but William certainly was not. He was not even loyal to his own family. “Stick to your own kind” the plea from his own family perhaps! Ignored! Quiet the reverse for Shakespeare sells out all his Catholic family and anyone else to Cecil and they act on the information. The only problem with this play is that the lovers get married. Elizabeth can’t be the source of that, so why did William put the scene in? Of course he could be sticking with the plot, yet I think he’s got another reason for this marriage and the reason he picked the story in the first place. It ties in well what happened to William’s first wife. Real life stuff, with William getting married young to a young wife of 14, who dies. One of the priests in the play even has the same name as the priest at Temple Grafton – John! So we find more real life with Romeo’s surname. As even the name Montague was taken to represent the Viscount Montague who spoke out about Elizabeth’s Oath of Supremacy.
We don’t just find the war between the religions here, we find anti-God sentiments too “A plague on both your houses” meaning the ‘houses’ of God, spoken by Mercutio, Romeo’s friend. I am sort of grateful to Clare Asquith for finding out who played the part in the play, though she has no idea that Christopher Marlowe played it! This is a massive clue to prove that Marlowe did act. Clare in her book Shadowplay, believes that Shakespeare put coded details in the plays to show support for Catholics. All she really found was the hidden history and other details in the plays, without knowing what it is about just like knowing the plot of a novel without ever reading the book. Anyway she points out that Romeo and the Nurse play with words connected to the Mercutio character, based on Christopher Marlowe’s name. Things like this are thus part of the code, however not a lot of sense can be made when Romeo (played by William) plays silly bugger with the person playing the nurse, knowing full well as do the audience, that Marlowe plays the part in question. Marlowe adlibs as do all the actors, hence the spy stuff, women from his plays and his atheism! The object of the play was however to tread the middle ground, a view which the Queen approved. Most of the material Asquith comes up with is based on the false dating of the plays and when she finds the play Henry VIII supporting Elizabeth, she deems it to be counterfeited by John Fletcher. Without any evidence to back this claim, her theory falls flat. If anything in the plays suggested support for this religion it more probably there because Elizabeth was sympathetic to those people and that William was including the Catholic Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart in the plays! Still he doesn’t like them at all, as we will see.
In Anthony and Cleopatra the Queen & actor/writer are both represented again in the title roles. Cleopatra (Elizabeth) drops out the give away line in the first scene “Antony Will be himself.” It’s clear that throughout the rest of the play Antony may become other people in the life of Liz. Such as Elizabeth told Robert Dudley to leave after the death of his wife. Cleopatra also tells Anthony to leave after the death of his wife, thus showing the plays are full of Elizabeth’s life. An actor also describes Cleopatra’s barge, but I think it was Elizabeth’s in reality.
Figure 3 Shakespeare as a Roman
Titus Andronicus is the second oldest tragedy in the first folio of 1623. We also have Ben Jonson stating in 1614 that this play first aired in the 1580‘s, this also fits in with my research on dating the plays. More of Liz’s life history enters this play and it reflects the Wyatt rebellion during Mary Tudor’s time as Queen. Arrows were shot into the Queen’s palace and are in this play. Saturninus becomes Mary; bold and brave even though he/she was fired at! Lavinia is also Jane Grey in many aspects, though what happens to the character is not a true reflection of Jane’s life. Though her father did rise up against the Queen and does indeed pay the penalty, like Titus. Even so it’s a blood bath of a play and reflects the times it was written. There is no co-incidence between that of John Stubbs having his hand chopped off (for publishing in August 1579 a book that was against the marriage of Elizabeth) and Titus losing his hand in the play. There’s more up-to-date happenings in this violent of dramas. These outstanding scenes reflect the torture of the priest Edmund Campion and his gruesome execution in 1581. Historian Neville Williams describes this time in his book on Elizabeth. “These were the years of tyrannicide.” What else would you call Titus Andronicus? Regardless of whether it happened in ancient times or not, it struck me that if some of these violent happenings did occur, that was the stimulation for this play, then might the others also be found. As a result I started to search for a horrific crime at around that time or earlier. I was looking for something which might have caught the public imagination and Shakespeare’s, coupled with a remarkable link, however weak, to the drama. As I already believe that William penned the Arden of Faversham play, he was not opposed to writing about such things. That murder happened in 1551, so was too weak. One possible candidate for the scene is the Littlecote murder of 1575. A lady of the house gave birth to a child, during the winter. William Darrell the owner of the hall, who is the first but weak connection, threw the newborn child into the open blazing fire, in front of the midwife and possibly another woman servant. The midwife confessed a few days later to the events, yet Darrell was let off, only to die shortly afterwards being thrown from his horse by a thunderbolt. The episode must have gripped the public, because Darrell became known as ’wild Will’ and even now the story is told to visitors at the hall, and tales of hounds chasing Darrell, across fields on moonlit nights are still around. The wild William tale inspired the Bard to write about it anyway. He has King Leontes in The Winter’s Tale order the death by fire of his new born child, also this was written well after the event. Comparably the piece in Titus is based on the murder. Titus’ daughter being the midwife, being at the time thought as guilty as William Darrell is. Perhaps this comes from the known apprehensions that midwifery had attached to it then. Titus of course cuts two children’s throats. Again the story connection is very weak, yet plausible. There may be other murder cases, nearer to the plays actual date, as thus far I have not found or heard of any.
More about Jane Grey and Catherine Parr are found in Cymbeline performed around 1590,
but written with the WS Chronicle in hand. Imogen represents Jane and her husband is found in Leonatus (Guildford Dudley). The Queen part of this play is a representation of Catherine Parr and her ‘clownish’ son therefore her stepchild Edward (later the King) called Clotton. New historical facts emerge in that Catherine wanted Edward to marry Jane Grey. Not all is entirely historical fact for Imogen believes that her husband has been executed, when it is Clotton that has had his head chopped off. In reality Jane did find out that her husband head had detached from the neck! Later the Roman army invasion is of course Mary Tudor’s Roman Catholic army and Imogen falls into the hands of Lucius. Or if you like Jane fell into Mary’s hands! Unlike the real Jane all ends well for the Bard’s character.
Nobody is a spy
Yet Shakespeare didn’t just write about the events, he makes sure that the authorities have full knowledge of the Catholic parts of his hometown. And Cecil’s and later Walsingham’s men act on it. The schoolmaster at Stratford has to leave when a relation is caught. Even William’s father and his friends are hounded for their religious beliefs! Cecil has even detail information on a map of all the areas Shakespeare knew and all the Catholic families. Most assume that the Bard was being spied on, where did Cecil get his information? Class plays a part here; you don’t waste money trying to catch nobodies, when you’re rich and the rich cause trouble! Nobodies like Shakespeare can be very useful in that respect to men like Cecil.
On the face of it Macbeth should be part of the sequence of the plays about Kings. The reason it’s not is that he was not related to the Queen. It also shows that this play was not done for James I benefit or amusement. Then it wouldn’t when it came out sometime after the death of his mother in 1587. The tragedies were written in logical and timed succession. So if Hamlet is 1589, Macbeth must be in the summer of 1587. To prove the play is about Mary Queen of Scots’ death, it ends with Macbeth’s head being brought out. Macbeth also kills a king and Mary was thought to have killed her husband which was Darnley (seen as a King). The story is a morality tale. The Bard makes him a usurper, Duncan is a caricature of Elizabeth, and Macbeth (Mary) kills him. She too can also be seen in Lady Macbeth. You could even say that Mary’s life was a tragedy, in this context, with her flawed actions leading to her death. The three witches are Mary’s three ladies in waiting, all with the name ‘Mary’. Presumably they were generally regarded as troublemakers. Why so much mystery surrounds the play, with actors not mentioning the name, I find a puzzle. Unless it’s because the Stewart Dynasty did not approve of the play, another possibility, although remote, is an actor fell ill and later died, during its early performance’s. This death could be due to plague, which was growing around then. As an afterthought, this may explain why the playhouses were ordered shut during plague attacks.
The guy who masterminded Mary’s downfall is presented in a different light to the master-spy we are familiar with. Knowing the plays dated to around when Sir Francis Walsingham was the top man under the Queen, he had to have had contact with the Bard. So I found him! William makes him a steward in Twelfth Night or What You Will to Olivia, who is not surprisingly Elizabeth. She is in mourning, when we first meet her, so it’s not too difficult to date the play to after Robert Dudley’s death in 1588, plus there are numerous mentions of a recent sea battle by various characters (the Spanish Armada). The character consults the steward, as would the Queen to her Secretary (Walsingham). When the clown Feste, tries to cheer her up, the steward is amazed she takes delight in the ‘barren rascal’ just like the Puritan Sir Francis would do. This religion is also referred to in context with Malvolio. He comes down pretty heavy on clowns and fools, yet is put in his place when the Queen as Olivia says “There is no slander in an alowed fool.” Even the clown is surprised! She is full of surprises, however and in-house jokes, that only now (that you know that she is the Queen) makes sense. Such as... when asked if she is the lady of the house, or if you like ‘Queen of England‘. She responds with “If I do not usurp myself, I am”.
Okay but what did Walsingham think of William. Will was lodged in the Royal Household at various times, with his actor/entertainer friends. They got drunk and Sir Francis came across them, possibly with a lady in waiting called Mary. He accused Shakespeare of treating the Palace as an “Alehouse” and that the Queen was not “allied” to his “disorders”. He perhaps used the entire episode for Twelfth-Night’s plot, for William has Malvolio say “If you can separate yourself and your misdemeanours you are welcome to the house; if not, she is very willing to bid you farewell.”
So William (the practical joker) plays a trick on Walsingham. He tries to get him to believe that the Queen has fallen in love with him. What the play reveals is that Sir Francis too did have feelings for Elizabeth, if Shakespeare wrote the plays based on his own life and experience. Many would say that this is very unlikely to have happened. Yet William could have made fun of Sir Francis, because the Queen permitted him to do so. Indeed Olivia’s own reaction to her steward is similar to Elizabeth’s opinion of her Secretary. So Walsingham lost his battle with Shakespeare, outwitted by a fool! But then as outlined already, you don’t turn away a guy who would ‘shop’ his parents, when you’re in the spy business!
Shakespeare may have cheated on women, but generally was well deposed to them and their concerns. When he met Anne of Denmark, his response to James Stuart’s reaction, to his new Queen, consequently led to him writing The Winter’s Tale. Many think that this play should be either set in a snow covered place, or told around wintertime. Neither have anything to do with this play. A better title would be “The cold” and not based on temperature either. This is the cold nature of the King in the play, to various people and the Queen! Issues of infidelity are raised; something that concerned William a great deal, that aside the King is heartless to his Queen. This fits in well with James’ later attitude to his own Queen Anne. This is best demonstrated by the retort given to 24 embassy officials’ from the Duke of Lorraine, who ten days after her death, arrived in black, to find the James in blue, being told it was to celebrate the King’s health!
Black as night
Shakespeare is not unlike many writers of fiction or partly fiction in the history plays, in that he uses real people or their characters for the basis of individuals in the dramas. It’s easier than creating someone brand new. Still, it’s all well and said that characters in the plays were based on a person(s) William knew, that doesn’t solve the problem of how the plays started life on paper. I don’t think he started with a plot of a play, if Othello, the Moor of Venice is anything to go by. From a drawing (of the time) of Titus Andronics we can see a black man Othello
himself is also black, his wife Desdemona a white woman. From this we can deduce that this is an early depiction in drama of a mixed race marriage, at least from a modern viewpoint. There is however sufficient detail in other parts of Shakespeare’s works to question this modern view. Indeed it could even be said that this play is nothing to do with the colour of one’s skin, though it does cover racist attitudes. Before I add more particulars to this notion, I do think it could answer the Bard’s starting point. Consider if you will that in the acting company, which William intended this theatrical production for, was a black actor, as opposed to someone dressed up Jolson style, playing the lead role. As I already stated he used female actress to play the women’s roles, although William can only persuade two or three to appear on stage. Similarly if he does have a black actor, he must write parts for this person. Together with parts written to accommodate the actor who plays a drum and you can see that Shakespeare started to write all his plays with a list of the actors’ names in front of him. Indeed the plays all start with a list of the characters first. One must conclude that each one had originally had a person’s name beside it. Sadly the publishers did not think to include this information in the First Folio. I believe that they would have done, if only male actors had performed the plays, after all they had nothing to loose by attaching names if this was the case. They couldn’t because they knew women played the female parts and that was illegal! Even if they left female parts blank, too many questions would be asked. James Stuart was another good reason to not mention women, for in his detest of women, those commissioning the works still wanted his patronage, so they would see it as best to leave names out. The Folio does give us the names of 25 actors who acted in the principle roles of the plays. It leaves out Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe, plus others!
So we have a black actor, whose name we can only guess at, who must have been good at his job, for he’s given the lead part in Othello, the Moor of Venice. William’s starting point for the play has to be a good black actor! Which William deduces from his performance in Titus. He also appears in the Merchant of Venice. He thus needs a plot for him. This comes from some of the Sonnets of Elizabeth’s doing. As I have already explained, Liz uses the word black in them to refer to herself. In sonnet 144 she also refers to herself as having two parts to her personality. So William uses both these subject matters for this play. However he reverses the sex of the two angels in 144, because he knows that Liz is not evil and is fair or beautiful. He also interprets the colour of the “worser sprit” as being ’black’. So his leading black actor in the tragedy becomes this side (evil) of the Queen. William used the theme of jealousy to destroy the good side of Liz, Desdemona, when Othello kills his wife, played by the good-looking Liz-look-alike, female actress, Shakespeare hired, fulfilling the 144 prophecy that the bad angel would fire the good one out. Othello himself is not based on any real man or William, nor does he have the character traits of either the actor playing him or black people of the time. His traits are merely the dark side of the Queen, while Desdemona’s are her lighter side. Of course has Shakespeare has her figured out! For a change, William decides to play the corrupting force, the ‘Devil’s advocate’ himself- calling the character Iago. Leonard Digges in the Second Folio refers to this created person as being ‘honest’. Therefore to them it could be a double standard word, meaning the reverse of its denotation. For who else but Shakespeare could turn even the bad side of the Queen against the good? The bard had the Queen on pedestal all right. Everything she seems to do or has done finds its way into the plays. In the previously mentioned Merchant of Venice her trouble with dealing with candidates for marriage is dealt with. While another plot involving the Jew Shylock runs at the same time. The only connection for most of this drama, between the plots, is Bassanio. He turns out to be the lover of Portia/Elizabeth. Who can be recognised by some not so subtle mentions of her being a Queen. Her lover! Which one! The answer is easy Alecon, because of the contract, plus the rings. As most of this is based on true facts, you can bet the insulting of the various men is true and the Prince of Morocco coming to woo the Queen is as well, if not Morocco, then certainly an African, or Arabic prince. Chances are he said that immortal line, “mislike me not for my complexion”.
Like so many of the Bard’s plays the marriage goes ahead at the end, though in this case they stay married. Life does not follow his drama, though Alecon is paid of by Elizabeth, just like Bassanio is. In bringing most of these dramas to a close he tends to step up the pace of the play, which runs slow at times and in the Merchant, flows with poetry. Peter Alexander says (quite correctly) that the main story and names are based on a book printed in 1558. The Portia character bears no resemblance to this book, however. The cryptic clues to the tasks set, suggest Elizabeth, and we find that Elizabeth may have used a false tale, that her father making it a condition of his will that suitors had to choose from three caskets, to which there was to be in one a miniature of her. Shakespeare puts it in the lead box, though in reality it was in none.
The Lover of Jews
The rest of the plot about the Jew seems to be based on the book, though some think that the connection with Roderigo Lopez, the Queen’s Jewish physician, plus his execution in 1594, had something to do with it. It’s quite possible for Lopez to be based on this man, especially when a doctor defends him at the trail (in the play). The Bard however first penned it in 1586, so unless the trial was added at some later stage, it doesn’t stand up. Also the trial let’s him live, plus he is defended, though brought down, by the Elizabeth person in reality. Shakespeare’s motivation for the inclusion of Jews in the play, however, was love. He had presumably fallen in love again, with Jessica, who was the daughter of a Jew. Now if that was her real name, I doubt it, though I’m convinced she was a real woman. Maybe she was Lopez’s daughter? I just don’t know. I can speculate that it was short-lived romance. The name Bassanio however is not fiction and is another case of the Bard being not very inventive at all. Baptisto Bassanio had been a court musician, just before King Henry VIII’ death and had died himself in 1576, leaving a “reputed” wife and two daughters. At least one daughter knew Shakespeare very well. And in any case they lived in the theatrical district of London St Botolph, Bishopgate.
In King Lear we go back to a parody of Henry VIII, whose two daughters are Mary and Elizabeth. Yes I know Lear has three, however if you bear in mind that Mary Stuart nearly became Henry’s daughter-in-law and then he can have three. It might not be, this time, an exact word for word, transcript of what went of at Henry’s court, but neither is the play with the title about him, having said that the personalities of his daughters fit with those of Henry’s and Stuart’s, as in Macbeth.
The plays in the official series of his Works were all completed by 1590. Why did they stop? Elizabeth most have blackballed Shakespeare in some way. This I will return to in another chapter, although he did not stop writing.
The leading ladies
When we deal with other plays that are not officially listed, yet by the Bard, we come across joint works. Some of these can be proved by other ways, like The Game of Chess, as being with Ben Jonson, rather than looking at the text. Sometimes we can get lucky and the printed version says it was written jointly. Such as The Birth of Merlin, printed in 1622, declaring a work with William Rowley. Others let him slip lines into their theatrical productions, like John Marston in his attack on Ben Jonson in The Malcontent. Marston was lucky it survived, as the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered his works burnt in 1599. Instead of a bitter attack on the church, John joined it 1609 and give up writing plays. Nevertheless this comedy is full of jibes from the start. Marston puts in the names of actors in the abbreviated forms of names seen in the plays, for the benefit of Ben, who clearly had trouble remembering who played what in other dramas. So Bil is Shakespeare and so on. If the play was written before Marlowe’s death, he might be Mal who at the start is playing some music, which is crap! If it was written after 1593, then it may be Marston himself. William gets out the first line, and then follows with a line about it sounding like a tavern singer. At which point the actor with him must have looked at Will and said “You think you are in a brothel-house”. This is a joke at Will’s expense! Later in the production Marston gets the female Liz look-alike actress to act as well. We might be able to establish that her real name or nickname was ‘Bianca’ from this play and that Emilia Lanier was also one of Shakespeare’s actresses as well. But Lanier wasn’t her maiden name. It’s Bassanio! The same name he used in the other play and her father was that court musician. This is not surprising as she was from an immigrant family, who like in most cases find it hard to fit in with the society they have joined. This led to her becoming a prostitute, for Shakespeare, and maybe a lover of Lord Hunsdon who was Henry Carey. She was married to a court minstrel; by the way she’s got some Jewish roots as well! Lord Hunsdon was also the patron of the players, if not the brothel owner! The main reason I can confirm that she did act in Shakespeare’s plays is her age funnily enough. Emilia was born in 1569. Fourteen years later Shakespeare needed a 14-year-old girl of Italian extraction to play Juliet in the play Romeo and Juliet. As already mentioned William picks the people first, therefore he doesn’t need an Italian girl aged 14. He’s already got one in the shape of Emilia Bassanio! Yes her father came from Venice and the play went to performance in 1583 exactly when she was that age. Another daughter Angela was older than Emilia and if you use one why not both! And of course Shakespeare did. The theme of elder and younger daughter crop up in many plays, but for the first time we know what Angela looked like, for she has to look like one special person! So, in 1593 the painter Nicholas Hilliard painted a woman aged 26. This woman was identified, or thought to be Mrs Holland, by other historians, leaving that speculation aside for the moment about who her name was. The woman in the picture is older than Emilia as she was born in 1567. Now if she is the older actress, she must look like Elizabeth, the Queen. A comparison with the Queen’s picture confirms she does, with one notable exception, the colour of her hair. Put them all together and you have.... Wait! Shakespeare’s older actress was Angela Bassanio...true, but she married and became MRS HOLLAND - Bull's-eye! So the colour of Angela’s hair in the picture was black and Elizabeth saw Angela and wrote that sonnet 130
saying she (the Queen) had “black hairs on her head”. The Queen knew Shakespeare’s actress for her all right. Angela probably started with Shakespeare from the start as her family was well connected at court, on the servant side. This may have been why they were both allowed on stage. The Queen granted them the right to do so, without breaking laws and explains why the Bard has only two female leads. However Angela was only 16 in 1583. So in any play that might use a mature woman, that part might not be either of the Bassanio girls. Instead they might be a male actor. Of course there is one alternative. The girls mother Margaret Johnson and since he used the girls... why not mum! She died in 1586 and in the same year there is an explosion of plays for the girls to act in. Co-incidence, I doubt it. So far I have not been able to find out the exact age of Angela from records and the only dating evidence is Hilliard’s picture. Be that as it may, she was married to Joseph Holland, by 1586. The reference to how long married, that I have states a long time! As she’s only 19 that year, this might be wrong, it‘s also Emilia’s age as well. The only other thing is that she lies about her age. Her sister did when she consults Simon Forman in 1597. Maybe Angela was as old as Shakespeare and lied to Hilliard, but if she were 26 or 29, the picture wouldn’t show any major difference anyway, so if Angela was painted what about Emilia? Within days of discovering what Angela looked like, I unearthed Emilia in the guise of Anne Boylen. The picture was
simply assumed to be a likeness, perhaps for the Queen’s benefit. The picture can’t possibly be Anne herself for she has a ruff of the 1590’s. It doesn’t match Angela’s face, though some similarity can be seen, maybe a family member. Of course it has! This Anne Boylen is Emilia when she played her in Shakespeare’s play! It was a popular picture and Frans Pourbus painted a copy later. Oddly enough it’s end up in a theatrical archive. Emilia has black hair too! The actor Tony Haygarth at the time I was writing this book was busy trying to prove that the Holland picture was the mythical Dark Lady of the Sonnets. The Victoria and Albert Museum (where the original is kept) told him the inscription on the reverse was a 19th century one and purely speculative. But the decoration on the dress fit with Bassanio, he found out. Then checking records he thinks Angela Holland might have died in 1584. So he came to the conclusion that it’s Emilia. However that doesn’t fit in with this picture being identified (in the past) by someone as being Angela, clearly Angela wasn’t dead if this picture is her! These Hilliard miniatures are often framed. Indeed they might have been all framed. They are then removed; as this one might have been. When do you think? In the 19th century is my bet and the frame had the name Mrs Holland on it! Eaten away by woodworm or damaged. The person wrote the name on the back and chucked the frame out! Maybe Angela’s daughter, called after her, died in 1584.
A play for a female
Shakespeare also did the same to his leading actress as he did to the black actor. Angela is given a showcase play in As You Like It (1586) as Rosalind. Too drive the point home she closes the play and states that it was not normal practice (‘fashion’) to do that. Also of significance in that play is a man putting poetry in trees and bushes for the lady to find. This must reflect William’s sonnets being placed like that for the Queen to find. Coming back to Green’s attack on Shakespeare, it’s clear he also knew that Emilia was involved with the plays and edits here name to fit in with his own tale.
Traditionally Shakespeare’s works are nearly all assigned to later than the 1582-1589 period. Yet even the 1623 book gives clues to the earlier dates. These clues are as demonstrated are the verity of actors playing the parts. Putting the later dates deprives (by then) dead actors as reading the lines written for them. The problem with the later date system, means that there are more acting companies and they have more theatres to play in. The companies also become more selfish about who works with whom, who writes for who and the rest… Sticking with the earlier date system solves this problem, because around 1583 Walsingham under the Queen’s advice made the company called the Queen’s Servants/Players. They did this by selecting the players from various companies, all with authorisation from the nobles they were attached to. Calling them Servants or Players also let the women in as well. The role was simply to entertain, but of course using Protestant propaganda.
Lastly to overcome the block of Elizabeth and still write things, Shakespeare turned to aliases. These were not made up names, like we see in the Bronte Sisters and the like. No it’s much better to use someone else’s name, for if the Queen or anyone else asks to see who wrote this piece, then William can give them someone to see. Just not the real person, such as Thomas Heywood who is just such a man, or cover name. Thomas would have course benefit vastly from having his name deliberately attached to a Shakespeare Play. He certainly thought highly of the Bard, thinking his own lines ‘not worthy of his patronage’. Yet even Shakespeare couldn’t risk quoting anything the Queen said or making a drama out of her. Which is why ‘A Woman Killed With Kindness’ doesn’t resemble a play from the Complete Works. It evens hints that it’s not like the well-known plays, in its prologue for instance when the text says “Look for no glorious scene”. Yet it is by William Shakespeare. The first reason being it gives you more about the real Shakespeare, then the Works do, with the exception of a few details put in to make it a dramatic piece. The second is that prologue again, with its emphasis on the Muse. However there are scenes which prove that the Bard had a study and was connected with actors at the time of his marriage to Hathaway. This drama is like a movie, in that the scenes jump through time without telling you what happened in the proceeding years. This is because we are dealing with many years of Shakespeare’s life. It starts with his marriage, full of music and dancing and his friends and relations. Progressing to where William arranges marriages for others. We know from archive sources that he did this too. In 1604 Mary Mountjoy got engaged to Stephen Bellott, after Will, who had been living with the Mountjoys ten years, encouraged it. It so happens that in the performance a Mountford character marriage is arranged, by the person who is really the Bard. Similarities aside the dates don’t match up, because the date of the play is 1603. Conversely this may be the encouragement that Shakespeare gave, ironically the play predicts the marriage would not work and indeed they are in court in 1612. The Mountjoys were incidentally French Huguenot’s immigrants.
The play itself deals with another issue that will be dealt with in a latter chapter. It also, from the prologue, gives the impression that it was performed on a plot of land, in the open air, with a brook running through it. Not in a playhouse, or the court. More importantly it also reveals a great deal about the Bard. Point one is that he is a snob! Which we can gather from his need of a Coat of Arms and he prouds himself that Anne (whom incidentally he calls ‘Nan’) is beautiful and chaste! The next thing is that he has servants, although he can be aggressive towards them and punishes them like children. We nowadays see ‘snobbish’ ways and associate it with posh accents, but since English itself had no proper way to be spoken then, this means he didn’t speak posh. Clearly there has to be some way of speaking different in this period, for classy people to utter and I think this must reflect in documents. So we find that Latin or Norman/French is found in these at times. Since Ben Jonson makes a big fuss of Shakespeare having little Latin, thus we know how Shakespeare made himself a class apart from others, by quoting Latin!
Putting this evidence of all this data together has left me with the conclusion that Shakespeare was extremely important to the operation of the theatre companies that used his plays. Moreover he must have had considerable authority over what they did. Even if he weren’t in direct charge, to many of his associates it would have seemed he was. Many of them are younger than him as well. His arrangement with the Queen meant he could be a kind of broker for them. In any case he had power! What did he do with it though? Remember the schoolmasters at Stratford, teaching Ovid, which the Queen liked but the Bard didn’t? So the Privy Council got to know about that and in April 1582 sent out warnings about that sort of teaching. So that’s how you get your own back on the teachers that are telling you the wrong things. He reported them! Has already mentioned he reported on the Catholic elements of his own family and those who didn’t like the greatest love of his life - the Queen. Nonetheless he was held in check by something, because he wasn’t supremely confident and I don’t think anyone would have considered him to be big-headed. Indeed he was quite tolerable of people’s faults; he put up with the Queen and some nasty people, most of the time! So we now know more of his character. Yet what did William Shakespeare and his muse, the Queen, really look like?
This chapter is one that is not fully complete, but I thought you might want to see it anyway.