A DISRUPTIVE PUPIL
WHEN THE VICAR at Stratford christened William, probably on the 26th April 1564, he would have no idea that William would have a great wit when he grew up, unless the baby did something in his font! Yet Ben Jonson would describe him as a man with a fantastic sense of humour in the Works published in 1623. It is hard to imagine that William didn't show signs of this from an early age, added to this being very talented and possibly showing an acting ability too. David Bellamy (the botanist) has commented that from his Works you can see an interest in plants and the countryside, suggesting that William might have been a gardener. We also know that when he left the stage for a home in Stratford, this house had a garden, where he planted a Mulberry tree. Horticulture too may have been an interest to the young William. You can also tell from the Works there is an obsession with Kings and Queens. Which may have been there from his youth, fostered, if not started by the reading of books adding the tales of Roman and Greek legends? These may have been given as New Year presents which then was shortly before his birthday! Rather like we give Christmas gifts. The Court did give New Year gifts to one another, oddly on the 25th March (this is when the year began then) so the custom must have common for those even with less money. What would have been cheaper surely, to give the young William, rather then books with words printed in them, are plain paper books. People often used blank paper (bound) volumes for writing things in, such as diaries, sales ledgers and the like. With such a book he could have recorded his thoughts and the events of his life, easing the need to store tons of knowledge in his brain. Many years later in 1599 Richard Quiney’s son asks his father to get him some blank paper books from London. If the present idea sounds fanciful, then a plain paper book intended for schoolwork, only not being used for that, may appeal. He must have put something in that ‘satchel’ mentioned in As You Like It. However what is not in the grey matter is his writing abilities.
I don't disagree with Stanley Wells’ conclusion that William would have gone to Stratford Grammar School, because William did learn to write, although he had to be able to do that before he entered the school at seven years of age. Some form of early education was thus needed and Stratford had an elementary school as well. Each boy in this type of school (there were no girls allowed) had a hornbook, which had the alphabet printed on it. It looked like a hand mirror and to loose it would entail severe punishment. The school and their hornbooks would leave an impression on the young Will and it can be found in various plays.
With all the above on the young William's brain, school would seem like a prison sentence to him. The day at the grammar school long, nearly 12 hours from 6 o’clock in the morning, Monday to Saturday! Little wonder he refers to a schoolboy reluctantly going to school in the above-mentioned play. An active mind would not have made him popular with his teachers either, with that sense of humour or his acting ability, despite the fact that drama was taught. Teachers then were nothing like the people most of us are familiar with today. Neither were children, as they were treated like young adults, in the sense that they were just smaller than adults were. Once language was grasped they would have been like midgets of their parents. Many would still behave like children now and they played games or whatever. Yet that’s when
they were only (say) eight years plus, by twelve they could well be married off! Combine this with what has been deduced already and our William could have been a handful! From one of his plays you can extract what might have occurred at elementary school. The master would have been trying to teach a younger boy (than William) the letters B and A backwards or Ba. The schoolmaster repeats the word ‘ba’ several times and then says to the boy who has not taken it in “look at your horn.” Will then said “Ba a silly sheep with horn.” He was thus poking fun at the boy and master and he wouldn't have got away with it though! Grammar school was no better and no doubt he deliberately mispronounced his Latin words and clearly, if Ben Jonson is right, picked up only a little Latin and less Greek, as he stood on tables and benches performing in character. One can imagine if this happened to be a king the master would have been lucky, if a horned animal not so, for we have the young Bard acting the goat here! Other times he must have sat looking out of the window watching the seasons pass and wondering how the wild animals are doing in the woods he spent his leisure time in, or daydreaming in other words. A child psychologist's would have classed him with something and be filling him up with mood altering drugs, these days. Though if we all had to sit for 12 hours speaking Latin and reading out Shakespeare and other poetry for 6 days a week, we would have to be on drugs! Nor was this education free, though there were no fees.
Whether his father's circumstances had changed or not he wouldn't have been at Stratford Grammar School long under these conditions. I doubt if he went regular at all, preferring to go to the local woods, plus with his disruption, may have been expelled from the school. Regular arguments with the parents, especially his father over the cost of this education: books, pens, paper and the clothes and William’s waste of it would have been insured. Many parents now have faced the summing to school over their child, with the familiar words- ‘when he is here he disrupts the whole class’. Few parents told that would think that their child would become a god! There’s another side to this education, the school should have had empathies on the Protestant faith, due to that being the official faith, yet as his father John was more than likely Catholic in his ways, would have led to something being said about that. Only the curriculum consisted of debating skills, that we know William picked up (from his plays) and the young lad would answer back to his father on that, with William arguing that the Catholic ways were based on superstition, even if he didn’t believe it!
When he was there though, he did pick up Latin, mostly because it was drummed into the boys by endless repetition. It is incorrect to say that it was the source of his memory as this is a biological function of the body. Even more so if he had a notebook! The one thing not in dispute is he went to church. The Tyndale Bible and its phrases are scattered about his writing like Lennon & McCartney lyrics in music today. But precisely what form of religion, the young lad is getting, is not too clear to most historians. Some seem to think that if a teacher was Catholic then they would be teaching it. Nevertheless what a teacher teaches is not what pupils learn sometimes. If William is like most children, then he will reverse what a teacher says, also change it to fit in with their own theories. Rather like historians do with facts. Just because there’s is a lot of Ovid references in William’s work does not mean he was enthused by Ovid, being taught by the (Catholic background of his) teachers. Because something happens later that destroys this idea.
A crack at educationThat Shakespeare did not go to College or a University may have been a blessing. One of his school pupils did, which proves William could have gone if he had the ability or has I believe a different temperament. This chap also called William, only Smith went to Exeter College, Oxford and later becomes a Schoolmaster. It may be this William who Shakespeare gets mistaken for, when later historians went hunting for clues about Shakespeare's early life in Stratford. As William Smith only became a schoolmaster, despite going to Oxford and William Shakespeare became a great playwright, one wonder's about the merits of a University Education! Shakespeare certainly did in my opinion. His plays and his colleagues’ works suggest that William was quite hostile to education in general. This was perhaps not just verbal insults or parodies in his drama. For William Beeston may have told the historian Aubrey the story of Will being a schoolmaster from what his father Christopher knew yet may have got it muddled up. What Christopher Beeston may have really said was that Shakespeare had in his younger years beaten up a schoolmaster in the country! Maybe it was William Smith!
In any case the English dictionary would have been a lot lighter if Shakespeare had gone to University. For playwrights who did go use less new English than Will does, even Marlowe! One side effect of this schooling or reading books, might have been that a lot of his Warwickshire accent disappeared when he spook. I can personally testify, that many people who live in my locality, just to do with the way I talk, don’t think I was born there! So also many might have thought that about Shakespeare. Conversely, I can use my accent and understand those with a broader based one, so we find in the plays, words with Warwickshire origins. Indeed we will find out later that he perhaps sounded like he had been to University, for he comes into contact with high up aristocrats and holds his own with them. Plus as he does become an actor, some even think a top class one and you don’t get to be one of them speaking any accent people have problems understanding. Common sense really! What he sounded like then, you must be asking. I think he would sound most like Jasper Carrot!
One fellow pupil and had to be William's friend, was Richard Field. An altogether wonderful stroke of luck or fate brought these two men back together, if they had parted, which may have been the case. Field was apprenticed to George Bishop in 1579 for seven years. The first six years he was to work with Thomas Vautrollier and both men lived in London. The spot of luck or fate for William was that Richard's Master George was a stationer and Thomas, a Huguenot printer! Richard Field advanced well in the publishing field and even married Vautrollier's wife, after his death. Although other boys were apprenticed out to printers and the like from Stratford School, a chance meeting between Richard and William in London would bring these back together when Richard published Venus and Adonis in 1593.
I don't think that William was apprenticed out, though it would have been the logical thing after being expelled from school. As to any references to glove making and the like in the plays, he would know about his father's trade anyway. Simply being around the shop and if his father was in trouble financial; William getting money elsewhere would have been better. Shakespeare’s mother might have more say in William’s career than his father. Rather like D. H. Lawrence’s mother, Mary Arden was better educated than her husband John was. However all this can be put aside, fate would intervene first!
That Royal touchIt is known that when Shakespeare was eight years old, Queen Elizabeth was in the area of Stratford. Rather like Royal visits today, Queen Elizabeth attracted the common people to her like a magnet. Unlike modern Royals they saw more of her, slow moving carriages, went at walking speed, she would also walk more than Elizabeth II and see more of those that came, due to the smaller population. Touching the Queen’s hand would have been somebody’s highlight of the day. People believed you could be cured of certain sickness by touch of the Queen. You would be proud and you wouldn’t forget it. The young William would have gone to see her perhaps with the entire family, or one maybe two of them. He may have been in the area when she passed by or gone on his own, perhaps with friends. If the school didn’t let him out, then it was another of his truants from school! The way Elizabeth talks in her speeches and her love of the people, might have even meant that she singled out Shakespeare and praised him, as part of a speech directed to those gathered, as one of her beloved children of England. Imagine what that would have done to the boy’s ego!
One thing is certain he did meet her when he was young. Shakespeare's plays and poems are defiantly in code. However this is not a cipher code, based on letters and the positioning of them, nor by someone else either. William also did not deliberately put the code in and yet it's there. Once a person accepts various concepts about William, the coded bits appear that answers our questions on Shakespeare’s life. This is the case with his youth, and as I have already explained he knows Queen Elizabeth in his latter life, so we need only to search for their meeting in his works. Sure enough it's there in the Passionate Pilgrim No.9.
In this verse the second line has been removed, with purpose I might add. It was written in respective, maybe around 1590 and so introduces love to the first meeting, which would not have been the case to the young Will. The seventh line says ‘silly queen’ and must give us a clue to the missing second line. It may have even said ‘Elizabeth’ in it!
The verse is amusing as most of Shakespeare’s works are, and yet does furnish us with that first meeting between William and Elizabeth. For starters we know that Elizabeth went hunting regular and she often had a pale complexion. What appears to have happened to the young William in this verse is that he came across Queen Elizabeth on a hunt. Came across is not really how it would have happened! For Will would have been out walking in the countryside ‘proud and wild’ to quote the poem, when horn and hounds came right upon him and he would have to have taken flight! Running to safety he passed by the hunting stand where the Queen was. Scared half out of his wits no doubt, he nearly ran into a dangerous piece of land, before the Queen stopped him. Liz then explained how she did the same thing when she was young and showed him the injury she had received from a wild boar and saying thus "See in my thigh, here is the sore". As she did so she lifted her skirts up and Will was pretty embarrassed by what he saw!! In truth according to the poem he ran off! More or less scarred stiff by meeting the Queen face to face, one imagines.
This would fit in well for her behaviour as the dumb blonde type, and even William called her ‘silly’! William is once again called Adonis in this poem, but the Queen isn't referred to as a Goddess name is this one, as she is in others. As the Passionate Pilgrim verses was not done in any kind of order numbers 4 and 6 appear to be connected to number 9, number 6 thus being the logical successor to it. So our story continues with after Will has run off. He has got so hot running he needs to cool off. One of his favourite spots in this part of the country (where I don't know) was an Osier tree growing by a brook, he must have come across it and as the poem implies he used it often to bathe in. Meanwhile Elizabeth who was more upset probably than forlorn, had gone after the young lad on her horse (though it does not mention it) to see if he was all right. As she approached the tree, William was about to jump in, after taking all his clothes off, presumably laying them on the ground. Something made him look around, perhaps the sound of her horse, and William stood there naked, in front of the Queen! The result was more embarrassment, which either caused him to fall in the brook, or jump in, with hilarious results for Elizabeth. I am sure this last line was added to the verse with later hindsight: "O jove quoth she why was not I a flood."
Again the word 'Queen' is mentioned, but this time Elizabeth is referred to as ‘Cytherea’ something she is called by other writers and poets as well.
The other verse suggests that these events happened when he was about 12 or more (1575/6). The brook is mentioned again and so would appear to link the events to together. Elizabeth must, after she had stopped laughing, have helped William out of the brook and helped him dress. Now at this age Liz was 43 and she wouldn't get to see many young lads, you can imply what you like from that! She was well educated and could easily tell him things to delight his ear. She was VERY affectionate and was in her nature to behave the why the verse suggests; however nothing came of it, because Will just smiled and cracked jokes! He was a bit too young and definitely got the wrong idea when she fell on her back, exhausted by the heat and don't forget all those clothes would not have helped. So once again he ran off! Perhaps he was not too young to understand anyway? Strangely the verse finishes with the words: "ah! fool too froward". Which one of them wrote that we wonder?
It's worth considering verse 5 as it could be one of the things she delighted his ear with. I mention this only in the context as it speaks of Osier trees, a good link with the other verses. We cannot judge this episode in Shakespeare's life on the morals and laws of modern society, which would put the whole business down to a lusty old woman after a young boy. For the Elizabethan’s marriage was not uncommon at the age of 12 and sex would therefore be permitted. Having said that the lusty writing of them was done by an older William to a woman he loved.
The Royal talent spotterWe do find for the first time some poems in this group of 20 that are not by William or Elizabeth. This is because when William Jaggard printed the Passionate Pilgrim, he got into a lot of trouble from the other poets. Numbers 17 to 20 are not Will’s work or the Queen’s and should not really be included. The other 16 regardless of claims that some are dubious are definitely his work. Indeed there are more references to these events in the plays themselves. Even some of the sonnets might have sprung into being at this very meeting. Remember the note book possibility? If he had it with him, the Queen could have picked up of the ground and read it (perhaps it was in that satchel). Maybe the odd Sonnet was in it, she thought they were good and wrote even altered some! If so William has a new and highly educated teacher, plus the best connection he needs. The Queen loved poetry, as you can be certain it would remind her of what Anne Bolyn clearly loved, for she would have seen the poetry that Thomas Wyatt had sent to her mother. Elizabeth translated books even rare ones, that puzzled academics have wondered how Shakespeare even got hold of! She was so good at the classical education she had received that the top tutors of the land thought she was better than them at it.
Let’s just reflect on what might have been the topic of conversation after she saw poems in the lad’s bag. One of the things that many historians believe is that Shakespeare was a big fan of Ovid. Yet Protestants see this as being a sort of Catholic book. If academics can see Ovid in his works how then does it get away with it? The answer is simple enough, he wasn’t the one who was nuts about Ovid, but Elizabeth was! They quote a line from Titus Andronicus believing it was Mary Shakespeare who gave William the Ovid book. Not so, for the line was spoken by the Queen and Catherine Parr was the mother who gave it her. That’s why the correct translation is given in one of the plays, because Elizabeth was much better than Arthur Golding at translation. Thus was one of the topics the merits of Ovid, which William might have just as easily said he was crap!
There is one last piece of evidence that we know happened for certain. The Queen did visit Kenilworth castle in the summer of 1575. So he had a very strong association with the right person, as they say. The next piece of information shows how wrong you can go. The historian Nicholas Rowe tried to piece William's early life together from various sources, yet Rowe's occupation with Shakespeare centres on whether he was by 18th Century standards a gentleman. He however picked up a tale that Shakespeare stole deer from Thomas Lucy’s park at Charlcote. The story was untrue in two respects, first is that the park seems to have been made in 1618. Moreover the family might well have been on friendly terms with William, as they where with Ben Jonson and players. Justice Shallow (from the plays) and the rest were his merry jests at friends. Even so there might have been some truth in the tale. He may have been out walking through the grounds of Charlcote, doing what the young William like to do. Then a new grounds man arrested William for poaching, taking Will to see Thomas Lucy. Of course Thomas would have herd tales of how young William travelled around the Warwickshire countryside and they would have had a good laugh about the episode! Yet there is a much stronger connection. Lucy was a sidekick of Robert Dudley and as the Queen was visiting Robert’s home in 1575, there’s another man who was out with the Queen the day she bumped into the young Bard. Robert thus knew William well.
And for those who do like cipher coded stuff, this connection quickly brought William to court and gossiping members soon thought that the young William wasn’t a country lad at all.
Bacon and DoddsThe cipher story starts with somebody who thinks that Shakespeare is a nobody. Yes it’s one of our friends from “I know who wrote...” This time it’s a Baconite! Alfred Dodd is obviously a complete twit at times. But at least he does question the Shakespeare lobby who do not look for anything that doesn’t fit in with their explanation of how the Bard did things. Dodd’s not much better, for he just accepts the Shakespeare lobby point of view as well. There rule that William doesn’t turn up in London and the court before 1587 gives the Bacon and Marlowe and Oxford camps scope. But this rule is simply because they can’t find him anyway! And in all Shakespeare biographies the time becomes known as the ‘LOST YEARS’. Dodd did, well at least he knows someone...A YOUTH... is in the court earlier than that date. It came to pass in Francis Bacon’s Personal Life-Story. Alfred Dodd in that book thinks its Bacon. It’s not! Anyway back to the cipher. Dodd reports that a woman called Mrs Gallup was made a laughing stock in the Times and the academic world, when she decoded a silly story about Elizabeth having a son. Dodd firmly believed that this story was true and of course the son was Francis Bacon. Dodd and the rest of the establishment at that time were brought up on good manners and Victorian ways. You know absolutely no sense of humour. This they applied to the past as well. Cipher codes as Dodd points out where part of the secret service world and used in wars. They can also be used to play tricks and jokes on people. This never occurs to Dodd, although he points out that Bacon tells jokes. So here’s the real joke...
The young William Shakespeare is at the court and Queen Elizabeth is making a lot of fuss about him. People in the court start commenting on his resemblance to both the Queen (his lips) and Robert Dudley. Rumours spread that William is there son and the joke is born when Elizabeth catches Lady-in-waiting Lady Scales laughing about it. Confronted she tells the Queen and probably remarks on the Queen’s inability to produce a child. This the Queen never takes well, even though she always says she wants to be a virgin and as a result slaps the woman. Shakespeare enters at this point and stops her. Elizabeth then throws in the catchphrase. “You are my own born son, but because you have taken sides against your mother to champion a graceless wench, I bar you from the Succession.”
300 years to decode a silly joke and nobody understood it or knew it was only a joke, when they did! Poor Dodd, he worked out correctly that Francis Bacon wasn’t Nicholas Bacon’s son, yet believed that he was Dudley’s and the Queen. This to him was proof of the connection and proof that Bacon knew the Queen was his mum! Unfortunately for Dodd, Bacon later presses his suit to Queen Elizabeth. Dodd couldn’t find out what this “suit” was about. Yes we all do! Sir Francis Bacon wanted to marry Elizabeth. Dodd states categorically that young men chasing after or being in love with older women is disgusting or words to that affect. So I don’t think he would have been pleased about incest. The Bard was never going to be considered for the throne and nobody else (who had a claim) was taken seriously by the Queen if she did say it. Bacon knew Shakespeare well as Dodd well help us prove later. Bacon himself was of course the son of Anne Bacon (nee Cooke), who his real father was, is therefore not known. It’s not Nicholas Bacon, Dodd’s right about that as he left Francis nothing in his will. The Queen also made a joke about Nicholas which Dodd did get... “his soul is well lodged.... in fat!”
King Arthur the foolStill Elizabeth gets taken to seriously at times. Another heir joke crops up with the incredibly stupid Arthur Dudley. He seems to have fallen for the tale of being the son of Robert Dudley and the Queen. Only he was the son of Robert, just not the Queen. His tale comes about because Robert couldn’t keep his breeches on with the ladies of the court around! He was just too good looking to them. Elizabeth accepts this flaw in him, because he is a man. Going back to the Sonnets and her “all men are bad,” remember. However she loves children and wouldn’t let them be blamed for the sins of their parents. So Arthur is given special treatment, when she finds out, protecting Robert as well. So she loves him okay. In 1587 the young man turns up in Spanish hands and tells this stupid story with facts. Englefield, questioning Arthur, however still doesn’t think it’s true, even though he asks key questions that are correctly answered. He resolves that Arthur is a spy and the story was invented by the Queen herself to squash and divide Catholic support. I think that Arthur was probably really stupid and was played a trick on by his father and the Queen, hearing that he had turned Catholic. Though he was not as stupid as Engelfield! There are a lot of Worcester connections in the tale, including a schoolmaster called Smith, could William be in on it?
Of course there’s something missing from our teenage years of Shakespeare, his first wife. If Shakespeare married Anne Whateley around 1578 he presumably wouldn’t be at school during this period. Will’s relationships with females certainly blossoms, after his nervous episodes with the Queen. We may find that he has more women friends than the Queen would approve of. He needs that more for his career than anything. The final proof of the need for a strong connection with Elizabeth comes from an Act of Parliament of 1572.
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