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PROVING AN OLD ROMANTIC MYTH IS TRUE

A TRIXIE SPECIAL

trixie

(It’s best to read Parts One Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Seven first)

Now, Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code…..

We come to the crux of The Ring argument…..

We come to letters that Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex…..

 essex miniature

……wrote to Queen Elizabeth I……

elizabeth 1590's

…..letters cited by his descendant, Walter Bouchier Devereux…..

….in his magnificent two-volume Life and Letters of the Devereux Earls of Essex (1853)….

(See Part Seven for information about Old Salt Devereux

….who believes ‘The Ring Story’ is true…..)

Here is one letter - undated – which reveals the true nature of the relationship between the Queen and her young favourite, Essex…..

Madam, The delights of this place cannot make me unmindful of one in whose sweet company I have joyed as much as the happiest man doth in his highest contentment; and if my horse could run as fast as my thoughts do fly, I would as often make mine eyes rich in beholding the treasure of my love, as my desires do triumph when I seem to myself in a strong imagination to conquer your resisting will. Noble and dear lady, though I be absent, let me in your favour be second unto none; and when I am at home, if I have no right to dwell chief in so excellent a place, yet I will usurp upon all the world. And so making myself as humble to do you service, as in my love I am ambitious, I wish your Majesty all your happy desires. Croydon, this Tuesday, going to be mad and make my horse tame. Of all men the most devoted to your service. Essex.

The sado-masochistic nature of the relationship is clear…..

Essex dreams of conquering the Queen’s……

 ……resisting will……

  ….and plans to go…….

…….mad…..

…….and make his horse…..

……..tame……

…….much as he plans to ‘tame’ the Queen of England…..

Essex, who was half the Queen’s age…..

essex young beardeless

……was a replacement for Elizabeth’s old lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester……

 

robert dudley old 2

…..who had been Elizabeth’s exact contemporary…..

eliz and leicester miniatures

…… and who had died in Armada year, 1588.

Essex…….

…..who was rumoured to be Leicester’s son…..

…..came from an old, but impoverished family.

Elizabeth’s favour allowed Essex to live up to his title….

…..and wear clothes that weren’t falling to bits.

But there was a price to pay….

 The Queen wanted Essex constantly by her side……

…..that’s why she made him her Master of Horse.

But Essex…..

……like most young noblemen at the time…..

……wanted to achieve glory in battle……

Essex in gold armour marigold

So there was always a tension between his wishes and the Queen’s.

The Queen had no interest, as Essex did, in creating an empire…..

…….or ruling over countries that were not Protestant.

She thought that the cult of….

…… chivalry…..

…….developed by Essex’s soldier-hero, the late Sir Philip Sidney……

sidney sir philip hand on hip in white

……..was a stupid and dangerous waste of time……

……..except of course when handsome knights…….

tilting

 

 …..tilted before her at Whitehall each year….

……in honour of her Accession to the Throne 0n 17th November.

elizabeth as virgin

 

When Essex came to the court, the Queen was in her mid-fifties……..

….. and so could, if she wished, have sexual relations with her favourites without danger of child birth.

(She was rumoured to have given birth, by Leicester, to a son – who was brought up in Venice – and a daughter as well.)

Essex wasn’t the only one to receive the Queen’s attention…..

Sir Walter Raleigh…..

raleigh in white

.

……had his work cut out….

He later confessed to, George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham…..

villiers, duke of Buckingham

……King James’s boyfriend…..

……that….

Minions were not so happy as vulgar judgements thought them , being frequently commanded to uncomely and sometimes unnatural employments.

Elizabeth, as we have seen from Essex’s letter, was excited by ritualistic sex…..

….and dark games.

Her hangman, Topcliffe, even wrote letters to the Queen…….

…..describing how he intended to torture Roman Catholics….

torture with hoop

He even claimed to have fondled the Queen’s breasts and thighs…..

(See ‘The Background to ‘King Lear” Part: Two. )

When the Spanish seized Calais, though, the romps with Essex had to stop….

Everyone thought that Spain was planning another Armada…..

…….so Essex had to go to war to save England.

He sailed on an expedition to sack Cadiz……

cadiz battle

…..and though Elizabeth had told the Lord Admiral, Charles Howard, First Earl of Nottingham……

howard, charles first earl of nottingham

 

…..to keep Essex out of danger…….

…..Essex was the first to jump into the waters and lead the attack on the town….

essex sails for cadiz

Dressed in the Queen’s colour, white,  he returned a bearded hero….

essex in white

…….and for a while led a self-consciously godly and religious life.

But he soon embarked on affairs again with Elizabeth’s Ladies-in-Waiting…..

…..and sulked in his bedchamber for days on end when he couldn’t have his way with the Queen.

Elizabeth thought he had inherited his stubbornness from his mother…….

…..her cousin once removed….

…..her great friend……

…..and great enemy…..

…..and great rival for Leicester’s affection…..

…..Lettice Knollys…..

leetice knollys

On 25th February, 1597, Rowland White wrote:

 My lord of Essex comes out of his chamber in his gown and nightcap…Full fourteen days hath my Lord of Essex kept his chamber: Her Majesty, as I heard, resolved to break him of his will, and pull down his great heart; who found it a thing impossible, and says he holds it from the mother’s side; but all is well again, and no doubt he will grow a mighty man in our state…..

Essex would visit the Queen every day……

……..often dressed in in his night-clothes and using a secret stairway……..

But the Spanish returned to their attack on England…..

……and planned to join forces with the Irish rebels.

The Queen had to agree to release Essex for a further expedition…..

This time to the Azores….

……to seize Spanish ports….

……and to seize Spanish shipping….

……galleons, laden with silver, returning from the Indies.

galleon, spanish

While Essex was waiting to sail with the English ships at Sandwich…..

…..Elizabeth sent one of her Knights to deliver her…..

…..blessings to the fleet and the army…..

…..and to……

….bestow…..

…. on Essex a…..

…..fair angel to guard [him]

Essex sent a letter of thanks to the Queen by way of the Knight:

 Most dear Lady – For your Majesty’s high and precious favours, namely for sending this worthy Knight to deliver your blessings to the fleet and army, but above all other for your Majesty’s bestowing on me that fair angel which you sent to guard me; for these, I say, I neither can write words to express my humble thankfulness, nor perform service fit to acknowledge such duty as for these I owe. For whatsoever I could be able to do as your Majesty’s servant , subject, creature, and humble vassal, I did owe it and a great deal more before. But as I am tied to your Majesty by more ties than was ever subject to a Prince, so I will strive to be worthy of your gracious favour with more industry than ever man did upon this earth, for my industry and my humble affection will be, as my duty, an obligation ever infinite, which I most humbly beseech your Majesty to believe of your Majesty’s humblest and most affectionate vassal.                                     Essex

 Just over a week later – on 6th July – Essex, docked at Portland Road, wrote another letter to the Queen:

My dear and most excellent sovereign, – I received your gracious letter full of princely care, of sweetness, and of power to enable your poor vassal to all duties and services that flesh and blood can perform. I received this dear letter, I say, as I was under sail, coming with your Majesty’s fleet into the road of Portland. And because I think it will be welcome news to your Majesty that we are all with safety thus advanced, I send the gentleman whom your Majesty despatched to me forthwith back again. By whom, if I could express my soul’s humble, infinite and perfect thankfulness for so high favours as your Majesty’s five dear tokens, both the watch, the thorn, an, above all, the angel which you sent to guard me, for your Majesty’s sweet letters indited by the spirit of spirits; if, for this I say, I could express fit thankfulness, I would strain my wits to perform it. But till God in time make my poor endeavours and services my witnesses, I must hope your Majesty will conceive, in your royal breast, that which my weak words cannot signify. So shall you do justly as you ever used to do, and so shall you bless and make happy your Majesty’s Humble vassal whose soul is poured out with most earnest, faithful, and more than most affectionate wishes.

Essex AGAIN uses the phrase…….

…..the angel which you sent to guard me…..

So the words…..

…… MUST HAVE COME FROM QUEEN ELIZABETH HERSELF!!!

But what was this ‘angel’?

Essex uses the same word in a letter to the Queen, written three years later…..

……on 4th April, 1600….

To encourage me to be an unfortunate petitioner for myself, I have a lady, a nymph, or an angel, who, when all the world frowns upon me, cannot look with other than gracious eyes ; and who, as she resembles your Majesty most of all creatures, so I know not by what warrant she doth promise more grace from your Majesty than I without your own warrant dare promise to myself.

So, this….

…..angel….

…is also….

….a lady or nymph….

….who….

…..resembles your Majesty most of all creatures…

….and…..

….promises more grace from your Majesty than I without your own warrant dare promise to myself…..

Devereux believes…..

…….and Your Cat is happy to believe with him…..

……that the ‘angel’ is the ring which Elizabeth gave to Essex…..

……with a portrait of herself engraved on it…..

It came with a……

…… promise……

…… of the Queen’s…..

……grace…..

It CANNOT be a painting…..

……or even a miniature…..

……because Essex, in the first two letters, is about…..

…..TO DO BATTLE AT SEA!!!

 But is there any HISTORICAL evidence…….

……as opposed to LITERARY evidence……

…. that the…..

…..fair angel….

….. is the ring?

BRILLIANT EVIDENCE….

…..NEVER CITED BEFORE…..

…..WHICH YOUR FAITHFUL CAT WILL PRESENT IN HER NEXT POST!!!

‘Bye now…..

Paw-Print smallest

 

 

PROVING THAT AN OLD ROMANTIC MYTH IS TRUE

Trixie

A TRIXIE SPECIAL

(It’s best to read Parts One Two, Three, Four, Five and Six first)

For a summary of ‘The Ring Story’, click: HERE.

Your Cat has demonstrated how ALISON WEIR…..

…..a.k.a….

….’A.W.’…weir alison 2

…great as she is….

……has lifted her dismissive view of ‘The Ring Story’…….

…….word for word…..

….. almost…..

….. from LYTTON STRACHEY’S…..

…..Elizabeth and Essex….

lytton strachey painting

….without examining Strachey’s ‘evidence’ at all….

See Ring Story: Part 6

Alison Weir – j’accuse!)

This was an easy mistake to make……

BECAUSE THERE WASN’T ANY!

But Your Cat’s……..

…… PAW OF BLAME…….

…… now points at…..

STRACHEY HIMSELF!!!

Brilliant new evidence has been unearthed by our mysterious…..

…..and hugely talented, tender-foot, agent……

…..(with a Triple First in Persian and Arabic from Oxford and Cambridge)….

…..not to mention Harvard and the Bronx….

….. ‘Tom X’…..

While everyone was hard at work on the highly prestigious Grosvenor Chapel Lecture……

THE BACKGROUND TO ‘KING LEAR’

 …….(including Your Cat, who was honoured with a Guest Spot in Part Two)…..

…..Tom was hurtling down to the London Library on his Harley Davidson…..

motorbike silhouete 2 (2)

…..WAKING UP the older scholars trying to sleep there….

…..and SHAKING UP the entire Academic Establishment.

He is now in a position to…..

…….. REFUTE……

……. Strachey’s…….

………REFUTATION…..

….. of the Ring Story!!!

 It isn’t just A.W. who hasn’t read the ‘sentimental novelette’…..

……. The Secret History of the Renowned Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex…

IT WAS STRACHEY HIMSELF!!!

Over to you, Tom…..

….for your first ‘Solo Spot’ for The Code!!!

Toi! Toi! Toi!

tom X

Thanks, Trix….

Brothers and Sisters of The Code…….

I would like to introduce the bracing tang of sea air to the ‘Ring Story’….

Step forward……

……WALTER BOURCHIER DEVEREUX…….

……a Captain in Queen Victoria’s Royal Navy…..

…….and a water colourist to boot….

devereux walter bourchier painter

He published a two volume Family History.

Nothing exceptional about that, you might think…..

…. except he was from……

THE ANCIENT HOUSE OF DEVEREUX….

devereux essex crest 001

….AND CONSEQUENTLY A DESCENDANT OF ROBERT DEVEREUX, SECOND EARL OF ESSEX!!!

essex young beardeless

Walter B. Devereux published his…..

……..Lives and Letters of the Devereux, Earls of Essex……

……in 1853……

(It kept him occupied when he was……

……’left high and dry’…..

…… with no more ships for him to command at sea).

DEVEREUX BELIEVES THE RING STORY IS TRUE!!!

…….and in a footnote in the Second Volume, he writes:

The story of the ring is also related in a little book called ‘Secret History of the most Renowned Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex by a Person of Quality’. Printed at Cologne in 1695 and in London without date.

So, Devereux mentions 1695 as the Cologne printing date……

But offers NO DATE for the London edition…..

Strachey……

…..(who cites Devereux’s work in his Bibliography)….

…..takes the LONDON date to be the same as the COLOGNE date…..

SOMETHING DEVEREUX NEVER DID!!!

…..AND TAKES THAT DATE TO BE THE DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION!!!

SOMETHING DEVEREUX NEVER DID EITHER!!!

This is a piece of sloppy plagiarism…..

(No wonder Strachey never got the Cambridge Fellowship he applied for)

If Strachey had been a Genuine Scholar…..

…..one glance at the British Library Catalogue would have shown him that the earliest date……

…….on the DOZEN or so copies of the novel held in the Library…….

…… is 1680…..

secret history frontispiece 001

 

So, the great debunker of all things Victorian…

…..Giles Lytton Strachey…..

strachey smiling

….has lifted his information wholesale from an Eminent Victorian sailor….

…..but twisted it to his own Freudian-based….

……anti-Romantic…..

…..achingly snobby….

….Bloomsbury Set……

…. Agenda…

 

That’s it Trix…..

See you in The Chippenham later?

chippenham 2

 

Trixie

 

You certainly will, Tom!

Mine’s a LARGE plate of cream!

You’ve helped me re-write history!

We’ll be hearing MUCH MORE from Tom’s ‘Old Salt Devereux’ in subsequent Posts…….

 So, to recap,  The Shakespeare Code has now……

…… UTTERLY REFUTED…..

….. the claims of…..

The Earl of Clarendon

 clarendon hyde

See Part: Three.

Leopold von Ranke

ranke leopold von - oldish

See Part: Four.

Lytton Strachey

lyttton strachey

See Parts One,Two and Three

Alison Weir

weir alison 2

See Part: Six.

…….and poor Simon Adams….

  1. ….(remember him?)….

 adams simon

See Parts One and Two.

The only ‘authority’ left to refute is the anonymous writer in the 1876 Quarterly Review Volume…..

….. who…..

……parroting von Ranke…..

……writes:

To those who know how carefully all prisoners were guarded in the Tower when left for execution, it will appear incredible that the Earl ‘suspicious of those about him’ – for so the original story runs – ‘and not caring to trust any one of them with the ring, as looking out of his window one morning’ – where did the narrator suppose he was confined? – ‘saw a boy with whose appearance he was pleased; and engaging him with money and promises’ – his keeper of course taking no notice – ‘directed him to carry a ring, which he took from his finger and threw down to Lady Scroope, a sister of the Countess of Nottingham, with the request that she should present it to her Majesty. ‘ These directions he must have given to a boy wandering about the Tower, whom he had never seen before, and must have furnished him with sufficient instructions how to find Lady Scroope, and what to say to her without attracting the notice of the warders…..

The Tower has always been NOTORIOUS for the laxness of its security…..

It was never designed to be a prison….

….and in Queen Elizabeth’s time boasted royal apartments…..

….a library…..

… and even a menagerie!

menagerie tower of london

(The lions had kept Elizabeth awake when she had been imprisoned there……..

……and access to the Princess was so open a little boy brought flowers to her every day.)

Indeed the FIRST EVER prisoner placed there in 1100…..

….one Bishop Ranulf Flambard….

…..effected an escape by getting all his guards drunk.

In 1597……

……..only four years before the execution of Essex….

…….a Jesuit priest called Father John Gerard….

…….who was tortured, chained and imprisoned in the Salt Tower in April of that year……

…… kept up a correspondence with a number of people, by sending seemingly harmless letters with secret information written with invisible orange juice. One of the men he sent letters to was a fellow Tower prisoner, John Arden, who was detained in the Cradle Tower opposite the Salt Tower. They were able to convince the guard to let them meet in order to celebrate Mass together in the Cradle Tower. In their meetings, Gerard was able to form a plan. On October 5 1597, in collaboration with people outside, Gerard and Arden were able to descend the Cradle Tower on a rope, swing across the moat and catch a boat that was waiting for them….

If a manacled Jesuit was able to execute this high-wire escape from the Tower….

……then the Earl of Essex was certainly able to throw a ring to a boy….

…..as a present, via Lady Scrope, to his Queen….

…..from one of the many windows in the Devereux Tower….

devereux tower london 2

And we know FOR CERTAIN Essex was able to open the windows in his cell…..

Devereux records how:

……On Tuesday night, between eleven and twelve, he [Essex] opened the casement of his window, and spoke to the guards: ‘My good friends, pray for me, and tomorrow I shall leave an example behind me you shall all remember. You shall see in me a strong God in a weak man. I have nothing to give you, for I have nothing left but that which I must pay to the Queen tomorrow, in the morning…

 

 BUT ENOUGH OF THIS DEFENSIVE NEGATIVITY!!!

LET’S BRING ON MORE OF THE HISTORIANS WHO BELIEVE THE RING STORY IS TRUE….

AND, MORE IMPORTANT, BRING ON THE DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE!!!

‘No Documents! – No Evidence!’

…..cries von Ranke….

‘I have Documents! I have Evidence’..

….cries Your Cat

AND SHE WILL REVEAL THEM ALL IN HER NEXT POST!!!

NOW READ PART EIGHT.

‘Bye now…..

Paw-Print smallest

(It’s best to read Parts One, Two and Three first.)

As part of the Lent 2014 Lent Course at The Grosvenor Chapel…..

grosvenor chapel with Peter Pan house

…. Trevor Nunn’s 2008 production of King Lear was screened on 12th March.

 lear film mckellen logo

It stars Ian (‘Gandalf’) McKellen……..

mckellen straight

…..and Sylvester (‘Dr. Who’) McCoy…..

mccoy solo 2

…….as King Lear and his Fool…..

mck and syl as fool and lear

The production has some fine things in it…..

….McKellen’s willowy grace as the King…..

…..and the knowing innocence of McCoy’s Fool……

However……

NUNN’S PRODUCTION CHEATS!!!

nunn trevor

How?

IT SETS OUT TO SHOW THAT SHAKESPEARE WAS AN ATHEIST!!!

Why?

BECAUSE NUNN HIMSELF IS AN ATHEIST!!!

In the Daily Telegraph, on 16th March, Nunn stated:

Shakespeare is my religion. Shakespeare has more wisdom and insight about our lives, about how to live and how not to live, how to understand out fellow creatures, than any religious tract.

Nunn goes on to say that Shakespeare does this….

…..one hundred times more than the Bible. Over and over again in the plays there is an understanding of the human condition that doesn’t exist in religious books….

Nunn may not be interested in religion……..

But Shakespeare certainly is!!!

As I have shown in the three ‘Background to ‘King Lear’ Posts…….

(See Parts One, Two and Three

…….Shakespeare wrote with a Roman Catholic sensibility.

This is not to say he didn’t express the darkest, most nihilistic thoughts in the piece….

…..and paints Ancient Britain as a wasteland neglected by the Pagan Gods…..

…..abused by them, even.

But he also shows the redeeming power of love…..

…..even in the vilest and most brutal of circumstances….

…..and how Christian values arise naturally in men and women….

…HUNDREDS OF YEARS BEFORE THE TIME OF CHRIST!!!

To drive this point home, Shakespeare in the play employs blatant……

……deliberately anachronistic……

….. Christian language….

…..and Christian imagery…..

……as the ‘decent’ characters experience redemption…

So how does Nunn cheat?

Well, for a start he sets the play in Edwardian times……

…..in a sort of mittel-European ‘Ruritania’…..

Lear is first shown crowned …….

mckellen russian orthodox

…..like a Patriarch in the Russian Orthodox Church….

patriarch 2

…..and in the dim light he appears to be making signs of the cross with his fingers…..

Immediately Nunn equates the Pagan Gods with the Christian God…..

……so when the one is discredited, so is the other…..

And in pursuing his atheistic agenda……

…..Nunn deliberately robs the play of all its spirituality.

…..SO POOR ROMOLA GARAI…..

garai romola as cordelia

……WHO PLAYS CORDELIA…..

……..suffers most.

Shakespeare shows  Cordelia to be in a mystical bond with the earth…..

She says:

All bless’d secrets,

All you unpublished virtues of the earth

Spring with my tears….

How does Nunn get out of this?

nunn trevor

HE CUTS CORDELIA’S LINES!!!

Returning from France……

…… to save Lear from the savagery of Goneril and Regan……

…….Cordelia says:

O dear father!

It is thy business that I go about…..

…..a direct quotation from the Gospel According to St. Luke, 2.49….

When the boy Jesus goes missing and is found by his frantic parents in the Temple, he asks them….

How is it that ye sought me? Know ye not I must go about my Father’s business?

How does Nunn get out of this?

nunn trevor

HE CUTS CORDELIA’S LINES!!!

Lear is spiritually re-born in the hovel…..

…..and Cordelia evokes the birth of Christ in the manger when she says…..

And was thou fain, poor father,

To hovel thee with swine and rogues forlorn,

In short and musty straw?

How does Nunn get out of this?

nunn trevor

HE CUTS CORDELIA’S LINES!!!

And when Cordelia prepares to restore the senses of her deranged father….

…. by drawing on the spiritual power of her love…..

….she says:

O my dear father, Restoration hang

Thy medicine on my lips, and let this kiss

Repair those violent harms that my two sisters

Have in thy reverence made….

How does Nunn get out of this?

nunn trevor

HE CUTS CORDELIA’S LINES!!!

ROMOLA GARAI SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE PHONE TO HER AGENT!!!

AND IT’S NOT JUST CORDELIA WHO SUFFERS……

When Lear goes mad and is found…..

…Crown’d with rank fumiter and furrow weeds,

With hardocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo flowers,

Darnel and al the idle weeds that grow

In our sustaining corn….

…..Shakespeare clearly wants to suggest Christ crowned with thorns…..

lear with thorn crown

And to make his point, he has Edgar say of the King…..

….in pity…..

O thou side-piercing sight

…..a reference to Christ’s agony on the cross when…..

…..one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. (Gospel According to St.John, 19.34.)

How does Nunn get out of this?

nunn trevor

HE CUTS EDGAR’S LINE!!!

And even King Lear is not exempt….

In expressing his sublime happiness at being with Cordelia in prison, Lear evokes the image in Joseph’s dream in Genesis (41.35) of the seven ‘good years’ of plenty Egypt would experience….

And let them gather all the food of those good years that come and lay up corn under the hand of Pharoah for food, in the cities and let them keep it

He says to Cordelia….

Wipe thine eyes,

The good years shall devour them flesh and fell

Ere they shall make us weep: we’ll see ‘em starv’d first.

Cordelia’s eyes CANNOT be starved in the Biblical time of plenty…..

It is a beautiful, oblique, sophisticated way of saying that the good-hearted Cordelia will never make Lear unhappy….

How does Nunn get out of this?

Yes, you’ve guessed it…..

nunn trevor

HE CUTS KING LEAR’S LINES!!!

But even more pernicious than what Nunn leaves out…..

….IS WHAT NUNN PUTS IN!!!

Edmund has ordered that Lear and Cordelia be killed in prison.

He repents – and an officer is sent to stop the executions.

At this point in the production, Albany says:

The Gods defend her!

…..and the whole company kneels in silent prayer……

…..a silence which is broken by Lear’s howls of grief as carries on the dead body of his daughter….

scofield-with-cordelia-dead-in-his-arms

The prayers were all in vain…..

No God – or Gods - are listening…..

All very effective….

….BUT NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TEXT OF THE PLAY!!!

Immediately after Albany has said ‘The Gods defend her’ – he gives orders for Edmund to be taken away…

Bear him hence a while….

…and Lear immediately enters with Cordelia…..

WITH NO PRAYER MEETING AT ALL!!!

Perversely, what this screening did for me was to ENFORCE the Catholic perspective of the play……

In Elizabeth’s time, Roman Catholics believed that the queen was an evil, usurping tyrant…..

To be true to England, they would have to back Mary Queen of Scots’ claim to the English crown….

…..and as such they were considered traitors…..

…..and tortured and executed…..

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS TO THE ‘DECENT’ PEOPLE IN KING LEAR!!!

To back King Lear means they must be disloyal to the reigning monarchs of England….

…..suffer victimization and persecution just as the recusants did…..

…..and look to liberation from the French army landed at Dover…..

cliffs of dover

……just as Catholics looked to liberation from the Spanish Armada…..

Armada sea-battle

But why Dover?

Dover is mentioned a staggering ELEVEN times in the play……

……and often as a haven of friendship, warmth and love…..

Kent says:

To make your speed to Dover, you shall find
Some that will thank you, making just report
Of how unnatural and bemadding sorrow
The King hath cause to plain.

Gloucester says:

Dover, friend, where thou shalt meet
Both welcome and protection.

And Oswald says:

Who, with some other of the lord’s dependants,
Are gone with him towards Dover, where they boast
To have well-armed friends.

Dover isn’t mentioned in any of the King Lear sources…..

…. or in the original King Leir play…..

It was while I was watching this screening that the penny dropped…..

IT IS ANOTHER CATHOLIC REFERENCE!!!

Dover was the landing place for many of the Jesuit missionaries…..

…..Englishmen, often young……

…..who had been ordained abroad at Douai and Rheims.

Edmund Campion, Cuthbert Mayne, Robert Persons, Henry Garnet, John Hart landed at Dover……

…..and Shakespeare’s ‘cousin’…..

… the mystic poet, Robert Southwell……

Robert_Southwell

…..not only landed there……

…..he was also later arrested there as well….

Dover for Catholics was a place of hope and martyrdom…..

Exactly as it is, for the ‘decent’ people, in Shakespeare’s play……

 (It’s best to read Parts One and Two first)

In King Lear Shakespeare allows all his revulsion at Queen Elizabeth’s cruelty and lust to boil into dreadful life in the love-denying, language-abusing figures of Goneril and Regan.

goneril and regan painting

They both pursue Edmund in the same lustful way that Elizabeth pursued Essex.

goneril and edmund

And Regan relishes bloodshed every bit as much as the dead Queen.

It is Regan who insists that BOTH of Gloucester’s eyes are gouged out….

regan at blinding of gloucester

Cinderella has turned into the Ugly Sisters. With a vengeance….

Shakespeare also spews up all he hates about mankind….

 …..and womankind…..

…..in the words of the mad, but profoundly percipient, old King.

mckellen lear

He also allows all the unexpressed grief for his son, from a decade ago, to well up and overwhelm him.

The dead body of Cordelia in Lear’s arms…….

scofield-with-cordelia-dead-in-his-arms

……. is, in reality, the dead body of Hamnet, finally in Shakespeare’s.

It was cathartic for him.

And horrifying for us.

So horrifying, that the Poet Laureate, Nahum Tate…..

tate nahum

……chiefly remembered now for composing ‘While Shepherds watched their flocks by night’ …

…..substituted a happy ending for the play in the 1680’s….

……in which Lear is restored to his throne again…..

…….and Cordelia marries Edgar…

This version held the stage for…..

A HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS!!!

Even Samuel Johnson…….

johnson samuel

……preferred Tate’s version, admitting….

……I was many years ago so shocked by Cordelia’s death, that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them as an editor.

So can these last scenes be justified? Understood even?

At the end of Shakespeare’s original version, the stage is littered with corpses.

As Gloucester says earlier in the play….

As flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods,

They kill us for their sport.

But is this what Shakespeare himself believes?

We must remember that the play is set in Celtic times…..

Gloucester is talking about PAGAN gods!

Even the characters in the play express scepticism about the beliefs of the age they live in….

Edmund the Bastard, denying that the stars in the heavens have any influence at all on human behaviour, says

I am rough and lecherous. Fut! I should have been that I am had the maidenliest star twinkled on my bastardising….

And when Lear swears…..

By Apollo…..

…..Kent responds with…

Now, by Apollo King,

Thou swearst thy God’s in vain.

There is certainly no Calvinist God in control of events in the play.

The good perish headlong with the bad.

But is there the shadow of a Roman Catholic God?

Philip II of Spain’s reaction to the defeat of the Armada was fascinating.

He said, the following year…..

It is impiety, and almost blasphemy, to presume to know the will of God. It comes from the sin of pride. Even kings must submit to being used by God’s will without knowing what it is.

It is my belief that that Shakespeare came to the same conclusion.

God’s will is unknowable.

Anarchic even.

And that is why Shakespeare introduced the Fool to the play.

fool tarot

Fools were already famous for their wisdom, healing and truth-telling.

Even Elizabeth had her own Fool, Richard Tarleton…….

Tarleton - large

…….who, John Fuller tells us….

…..was master of his faculty. When Queen Elizabeth was serious, he could un-dumpish her at his pleasure. In a word, he told the Queen more of her faults than most of her chaplains, and cured her melancholy better than all of her physicians…

But Shakespeare had lived through an event that raised the Fool to the level of Christ himself…

When St. Swithin Wells was executed in 1591, with him on the scaffold was a twenty four year old Jesuit priest, called Edmund Jennings…….

NPG D25344,Edmund Geninges,by M. Bas

– codename, Ironmonger.

He was celebrating a mass at Wells’s house when it was raided by Topcliffe and his thugs. Just like a priest in a Graham Greene novel, Jennings refused to let them in till the mass was completed.

Topcliffe demanded revenge. So, to make Jennings…

……a scoff to the people…..

…..the authorities at his trial…..

……vested him again, not with his priestly garments, but (almost as King Herod and Pilates soldiers did our Saviour) with a ridiculous fools’ coat, which they found in Monsignor Wells’s house, and they laughing told him, he was more fit in that attire to be presented to the Queen for a jester, then to a Nun for a Confessor…..

This image – of a Catholic martyr dressed as a Fool – haunted Shakespeare’s imagination.

When, in Sonnet 124, he talks about….

…..the fools of time

Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime…

….’the fools of time’ are the Catholic martyrs who have been executed…..

…..not because they are bad, but because they are good.

For them, being alive as Catholics in the reign of Elizabeth, is a crime in itself.

Jennings in his fool’s coat also had Biblical resonances for Shakespeare…

St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, writes…

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.

Hath God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?

St. Paul is pursuing the conundrum that, in the material world, what is thought foolish is, in fact, wise.

And what is thought wise is, in fact foolish.

And this is the conundrum that motors Shakespeare’s play…

Vicktor Frankl……

frankl victor

……the Jewish psycho-therapist who survived Auschwitz…..

……believed people divide basically into two groups….

….the decent and the indecent….

…..and that is certainly true of King Lear.

The indecent people…..

…….Goneril, Regan, Edmund, Cornwall and Oswald the servant….

…….start by destroying other peoples’ lives…..

……..but end up by destroying their own.

The ‘worldly wisdom’ of the indecent people has, in fact, proved foolish.

But, you might say, the decent people…. –

…….Cordelia, Kent, Edgar, the Fool, Albany, Gloucester and Lear……

……every single one of whom is called ‘fool’ at some point in the play…..

……also end up either dead or damaged.

So how can their foolishness be wisdom?

The answer is…….

…….they have found love.

Death comes to us all.

Love doesn’t.

And as Shakespeare, along with everyone else at the time…..

…..thought the world was so bad it must be coming to an end….

….life wasn’t that important.

Along with love come truth, loyalty and humour……

……all the qualities displayed, in the highest degree, by the character of the Fool himself…

fool kneeling

As he says to Kent…

That sir which serves and seeks for gain,

And follows but for form,

Will pack when it begins to rain,

And leave thee in the storm.

But I will tarry; the Fool will stay,

And let the wise man fly:

The knave turns fool that runs away;

The Fool, no knave perdy.

the fool no knave perdy

All the decent characters learn to empathize with others…..

……as the Fool has to do to keep his job.

They also discover a paradox: to hold onto the truth, you must act a part…..

……something the Fool does every day of his life.

Kent has to act out the part of a rustic to protect the King…..

kent in stocks

…….and Edgar has to act out the part of a madman to protect his father.

edgar kneeling gloucester

He makes him believe that his life has been saved by a miracle.

It’s a lie – but it gives Gloucester a reason to go on living.

And, as Frankl says, you could only survive in the camps if you found meaning in life.

And with that meaning comes the ability to endure…..

…….as Gloucester manages to do till his heart…..

….. bursts smilingly….

And as Lear, to everyone’s astonishment, also manages to do, to the very end.

He has gone through the greatest journey of all.

He is not a bad man, just a superficial, unthinking, sentimental one who has been flattered all his life and who has never properly known himself.

He has to lose everything to discover who he is.

He can only become himself when he finds out – in the storm – what it’s like to be somebody else…

Learns, in fact, the ultimate Christian lesson…

Another paradox of this play is that in a brutal, ruthless, Pagan world, the teachings of Christianity…

…..and its imagery……

…….rise up as naturally as the leaves to the trees….

The new Lear is born in a hovel among straw and swine…..

….descends into the hell of madness…

lear as christ 2

…. and rises again, from his purgatorial ‘wheel of fire’, to the heaven of Cordelia’s love.

And when Cordelia returns from France to save her father, she speaks the same words as the Christ-child in the Temple….

O dear father!

It is thy business that I go about…..

christ child

Lear learns to love – properly love – his glorious daughter.

As they are sent away to prison , the two achieve a bliss that is almost beyond this world….

Cordelia

We are not the first

Who, with best meaning, have incurr’d the worst.

For thee, oppressed king, am I cast down;

Myself could else out-frown false fortune’s frown.

Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?

King Lear

No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison:

We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:

When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,

And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,

And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh

At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues

Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,

Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;

And take upon’s the mystery of things,

As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,

In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,

That ebb and flow by the moon.

Edmund

Take them away.

King Lear

Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,

The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee?

He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven,

And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes;

The good-years shall devour them, flesh and fell,

Ere they shall make us weep: we’ll see ‘em starve

first. Come.

lear and cordelia happy

And so Lear finds completion in his daughter Cordelia……

……as I believe, Shakespeare found completion in his own daughter, Susanna.

From now on his plays brim over with fathers and daughters!!!

But, remember…..

Lear and Cordelia have only been able to achieve their supreme happiness because others have set out to destroy it.

Is this a law of the universe?

That, in response to a great evil, a great good will automatically arise?

Or is it the working of a God, wise enough to know he must leave his creatures to suffer so they might learn?

This play doesn’t give answers: it asks questions.

And one of them is the profoundest ever asked by any character, in any play, at any time – Lear’s question to the dead Cordelia….

And my poor fool is hanged. No, no, no life.

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life

And thou no breath at all?

lear question 3

For us, here, there can be no answer….

All we can do is accept what life has to throws at us…

And respond to it with as much truth as we can.

As Shakespeare has done by writing this play…

And as Edgar says at its end….

The weight of this sad time we must obey

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say

The eldest hath borne most. We that are young..

Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

The End

(To read the Postcript to these Posts, click: HERE.)

 (It’s best to read Part One first)

As promised in the last Post, Trixie the Cat…..

……who is working night and day on…

‘Queen Elizabeth, the Earl of Essex and the Ring’

elizabeth and essex

…….has agreed to do a guest spot on ‘The Background to King Lear‘ Trilogy…….

She will now give a potted summary of the changes William Shakespeare made to the original King Leir story and play…..

Take it away, Trix…

trixie

Hi, Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code!!!

Fasten your seatbelts!

We’re in for a bumpy ride!

The Earl of Gloucester has two sons.

One, Edgar, is legitimate……

edgar son...

…..the other is a bastard, Edmund…..

edmund son to gloucester

Edmund wants Edgar’s inheritance, so persuades Gloucester that Edgar is plotting to kill him.

Edgar is proclaimed a traitor and has to flee into the countryside and disguise himself as mad Tom.

mad tom solo

Poor Tom’s a-cold!

Lear has a faithful follower, Kent, whom he banishes, but who returns in disguise as the blunt old soldier, Caius.

kent in disguise

If but as well I other accents borrow

That can my speech defuse, my good intent

May carry through itself to that full issue

For which I razed my likeness.

Goneril and Regan throw Lear out into the storm, accompanied by his Fool and Kent…..

lear and fool in storm

Blow winds and crack your ….

Lear starts to go mad and the trio encounter Mad Tom.

An extraordinary scene ensues in which one character is pretending to be mad, one is genuinely going mad, one makes a living out of madness and one is in rustic disguise.

complicated scene

It doesn’t get more complicated than that!

Cornwall and Regan discover that Gloucester is aiding the old King……

…..so tear out his eyes as a punishment.

gloucester being blinded

Out, vile jelly!

One of Cornwall’s servants, shocked by what is happening, kills his master.

Regan throws Gloucester out of his own house ordering him to….

…..smell his way to Dover.

gloucester blinded alone

The lustful widow Regan is now free to pursue Gloucester’s dishy bastard son, Edmund. Goneril fancies Edmund as well and ends up in deadly rivalry with her sister.

goneril regan and edmund

Goneril’s husband, the Duke of Albany, finally sees the truth about his wife.…

O Goneril, you are not worth the dust which the rude wind

Blows in your face….

But it is too late! Cordelia has set sail from France to save her father with the French army. Gloucester decides to kill himself…..

…. and his son, Edgar, still disguised as Mad Tom, leads his father to the edge of a cliff.

edgar leading gloucester to cliff

Except it isn’t the edge of a cliff. It’s flat ground.

Edgar wants his father to think that when he jumps, he has been saved by a miracle.

Lear, now completely mad, enters fantastically dressed in flowers….

every inch

…. but…

Every inch a king!

He and Gloucester meet and Lear rails against the ills of society.

lear and gloucester

Cordelia sedates Lear with herbs and, in one of the most touching scenes in all drama, father and daughter are reconciled.

lear reconciliation scene

BUT…

Cordelia’s forces are overcome in battle, Edgar kills his brother Edmund, Goneril poisons Regan then stabs herself, Cordelia is hanged in prison and Lear enters with Cordelia dead in his arms…..

lear and cordelia dead in arms

He then dies himself.

And Kent isn’t feeling too well either….

‘Bye, now….

Paw-Print smallest

Thanks, Trix.

And now back to me.

What is going on? 

How could such a light and optimistic play turn into such a dark and strange one?

To try to understand, we must look at what had happened to Shakespeare….

……and what had happened to England……

…….after the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

First, the Spanish tried to conquer the English…..

Armada sea-battle

The battle that ensued was nothing short of a holy war.

Queen Elizabeth……

tilbury, elizabeth in armour woodcut 001

…..wrote a special prayer to be read in churches twice every week…..

O let Thine enemies know that Thou hast received England, which they most of all for thy Gospel’s sake do malign, into thy protection. Set a wall about it, O Lord, and evermore mightily defend it. Let it be a comfort to the afflicted, a help to the oppressed, and a defence to Thy Church and people prosecuted abroad. O give good and prosperous success to all those that fight this battle against the enemies of thy Gospel.

And King Philip II of Spain….

philip_II

…..according to Gregorio Leti…

leti gregorio

……caused to be placed in all the vessels of the Armada, a quantity of relics of saints, of crosses, of crucifixes and images which he had blessed by the Nuncio on behalf of the Pope. Each vessel was like a church; mass was said every morning and vespers with music every evening.

The Protestant winds blew and the Spanish ships were scattered.

This was great if you were an English Protestant.

But what if you were an English Catholic?

How would it look to you?

How, in fact, would it look to William Shakespeare……..

Chandos portrait

…….whose parents were Catholic……..

……..whose patrons, the Southampton family, were Catholic……..

…..and who, according to Richard Davies, the Dean of Lichfield, writing in 1690…..

Died a Papist

Would you still believe in a Catholic God?

After the Armada victory, Elizabeth persecuted Catholics even more violently than before. Catholicism had to go underground……

……..Jesuit priests arrived with bogus identities and codenames……

…….and masses were held, often at night, in conditions of the utmost secrecy.

secret mass

Shakespeare joined the Southampton household at this time as a ‘fac totum’……

See Shakespeare the Movie.

……and was commissioned by the Countess of Southampton……..

Mary Browne b and w.

…….to write seventeen sonnets for her son’s seventeenth birthday. Their aim was to persuade her son…..

……the gay, wayward, Third Earl of Southampton…….

henry_wriothesley_3rd_earl_of_southampton

…….to get married and have an heir.

[See: Just how gay was the Third Earl of Southampton? This Post has received nearly 10,ooo Views]

The problem was the young man was more interested in Shakespeare than he was in fatherhood . And Shakespeare, finally, reciprocated. He wrote…..

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…..

….. to Southampton and the two began an affair that was to last into the reign of King James.

Shakespeare witnessed, at first hand, the agony Queen Elizabeth caused the Southamptons.

In 1591 she executed Swithin Wells……..

wells swithin

……an old family friend, outside Southampton House in London.

Her psychotic hangman, Richard Topcliffe, went on to hang, draw and quarter Shakespeare’s own cousin, the Jesuit mystic, Robert Southwell.

Robert_Southwell

Topcliffe even wrote a letter to Elizabeth, describing in detail the tortures he intended for Southwell, for the Queen’s…..

….pleasure….

Southwell, he wrote, should be manacled at the wrists…

……his feet standing upon the ground and his hands but as high as he can reach against the wall. It will be as though he were dancing a trick or a figure at trenchmore.

Topcliffe also boasted how he would fondle Queen Elizabeth’s body, telling her that she had….

…..the softest belly of any womankind….

…..to which Elizabeth, allegedly, replied….

Be not these the arms, legs and body of King Henry?

And when Topcliffe affirmed they were…..

…..Elizabeth gave him a present of….

….a white linen hose wrought with white silk….

But Elizabeth’s sado-masochism was not confined to torturers….

She was also having an affair with Southampton’s friend, the impoverished Earl of Essex…….

essex young beardeless

……..a man literally half her age. Everything had turned into a gigantic game of who would dominate whom.

To excite the aging Queen, Essex writes….

….if my horse could run as fast as my thoughts do fly, I would as often make mine eyes rich in beholding the treasure of my love, as my desires do triumph when I see myself in a strong imagination to conquer your resisting will….

In 1596, though, real life intruded on Shakespeare…

His son, Hamnet, died, aged 11.

Shakespeare threw himself into work, gambling, drinking, sex and violence…….

He was even bound over by a London magistrate to keep the peace.

We know, from Sonnet 37, he turned the Earl of Southampton into his surrogate son….

As a decrepit father takes delight

To see his active child do deeds of youth,

So I, made lame by fortune’s dearest spite,

Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth…

Shakespeare, in fact, did everything except what he should have done…..

……mourn with his family back at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Hamnet had a twin sister, Judith, and an older sister, Susanna.

And, of course, a mother, Anne….

anne hathaway 2

Queen Elizabeth became too much, even for Essex….

She refused to name her successor…….

….so Essex rebelled against her to secure the throne for King James VI of Scotland…….

James with orb and sceptre

…….Mary Queen of Scots’ son.

Initially Shakespeare was in favour of this rebellion as he believed it would lead to religious freedom for Catholics: but when Essex failed so spectacularly in his campaign against the rebels in Ireland, Shakespeare realised all was lost.

He tried to give Essex coded messages through his plays……

………particularly Julius Caesar…….

julius caesar assassination

………that the rebellion was doomed…..

But Essex wasn’t listening. He went ahead.

And Elizabeth played the ultimate sado-masochistic game.

She chopped off his head.

execution of essex

Southampton was sentenced to death and sent to the Tower.

He was reprieved…..

…..but Shakespeare believed he would never see his lover again.

The rebels had performed Shakespeare’s Richard II on the eve of the rebellion……

….. and Elizabeth knew she was the target of the satire.

She said to the old scholar, William Lambarde…

Lambarde

I am Richard II. Know ye not that?

Shakespeare, who hated Elizabeth just as much as she hated him, considered suicide….

In Sonnet 66, he launches a scathing attack on the sort of society that Elizabeth…..

…..who at this stage walked with a stick…

…..had created….

He loathes its disparities in wealth, its frivolity, its Godlessness, its apostasy, its perversion, its censorship and its tyranny…

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,

As to behold desert a beggar born,

And needy nothing trimmed in jollity,

And purest faith unhappily forsworn,

And gilded honor shamefully misplaced,

And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,

And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,

And strength by limping sway disablèd,

And art made tongue-tied by authority,

And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,

And simple truth miscalled simplicity,

And captive good attending captain ill.

Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,

Save that to die, I leave my love alone…

Alone in the Tower of London…

tower of london 1647

But suddenly Elizabeth died……

elizabeth dying 001

…..James became king of England and everything turned round.

The Earl of Southampton…….

Trixie 2.

……. became a hero rather than a traitor……..

……. and was released from the Tower.

Everyone thought he would become James’s new favourite…

But James preferred much younger men.

Blocked from the centre of power, Southampton became bitterly homophobic.

His affair with Shakespeare had survived his marriage to Elizabeth Vernon……

vernon elizabeth comb

……and the birth of two daughters.

But in 1605, Southampton finally had a son.

Shakespeare, the actor, had to go.

Shakespeare’s response was to send Southampton the infamous Sonnet 126…..

…….a poem of pure, distilled poison.

It begins positively by stating that Southampton has conquered Old Father Time….

old father time

…..and even holds Time’s hour glass and sickle in his own hands.

Southampton has become even more fortunate and  more good-looking with the passing of the years.

He has, miraculously….

……by waning grown…

But as Southampton’s baby son……

……whom Shakespeare’s calls his….

…sweet self….

…grows…..

……..Southampton neglects his lover, Shakespeare, leaving him….

…..withering…..

Shakespeare, though, warns Southampton…..

…….termed, ironically, his…

…lovely boy….

….that he is simply a pawn in the battle between Dame Nature and Father Time.

Nature may be keeping her….

…minion….

….her toyboy Southampton….

…..preternaturally young. But in the end she will have to pay back her debt to Father Time……

…..and she will do it by…..

….. rendering….

……Southampton.

‘Rendering’ here has two meanings…

It means giving Southampton over to the ravages of time….

….but it also means breaking down Southampton’s body….

….as you ‘render’ a lump of meat for it’s fat….

Sonnet 126

O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power

Dost hold Time’s fickle glass, his sickle, hour;

Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st

Thy lover’s withering as thy sweet self grow’st;

If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,

As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,

She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill

May time disgrace and wretched minutes kill.

Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;

She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure:

Her audit, though delay’d, answer’d must be,

And her quietus is to render thee.

The sonnet – which at twelve lines isn’t a sonnet at all – concludes with two pairs of empty brackets….

….the empty, gaping, grave that, Shakespeare hopes, awaits Southampton.

sonnet 126 001

Shakespeare’s real son had died. Now he wants his surrogate son dead as well.

It was in this murderous, bloody frame of mind that Shakespeare wrote King Lear….

CLICK HERE FOR PART THREE!!!

 This Trilogy of Posts is based on a dramatised talk…..

….Stewart Trotter….

…..gave at…..

……. The Grosvenor Chapel……

….Mayfair, London, W.1…..

grosvenor chapel with Peter Pan house

…….on Sunday, 2nd March, 2014.

Taking part were Amanda Walker, Kate Godfrey, Karen Little and Patrick Godfrey.

Part One

AND MY POOR FOOL IS HANGED…..

For William Shakespeare, King Lear…..

…..or rather King Leir as he was first known….

leir frontispiece

……was a real, historical figure. He reigned in England 800 years before Christ was born, founded Leicester and is buried in a vault under the River Soar….

soar river

Geoffrey of Monmouth, a monk……

geoffrey of monmouth

…..first recorded Leir’s story in the 12th Century….

It later appeared in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles in 1577….

…..then, in a new edition, in 1587.

holin chronicles 2

Shakespeare had a copy of the 1587 edition. He doodled on the index page…..

Black soap, pig-meat and honey mingled together: good for a horse’s leg, swollen.

soap 002

Here is Holinshed’s version of the story of King Leir…

Leir was a prince of right noble demeanour, governing his land and subjects in great wealth.

leir with daughters (3)

He had, by his wife, three daughters……

… whose names were….

Gonorilla…….

leir monmouth (2)

Ragan……

leir monmouth

….and Cordeilla.

leir with daughters (4)

….which daughters he greatly loved, but specially Cordeilla, the youngest.

When this Leir therefore was come to great age, he thought to prefer her whom he best loved, to the succession over the kingdom. Whereupon he first asked Gonorilla, the eldest, how well she loved him: who calling her gods to record, protested that she loved him more than her own life, which by right and reason should be most dear unto her…

…..with which answer, the father being well pleased, turned to the second, and demanded of her how well she loved him: who answered (confirming her sayings with great oaths)….

……that she loved him more than tongue could express, and far above all other creatures of the world.

Then called he his youngest daughter, Cordeilla, before him, and asked of her what account she made of him…..

Knowing the great love and fatherly zeal that you have always borne towards me, (for the which I may not answer you otherwise than I think, and as my conscience leadeth me) I protest unto you, that I have loved you ever, and will continually (while I live) love you as my natural father.

Leir, being nothing content with this answer, married his two eldest daughters, the one the Duke of Cornwall, and the other to the Duke of Albania, betwixt whom he willed and ordained that his land should be divided after his death: but for the third daughter, Cordeilla, he reserved nothing.

Nevertheless it fortuned that the Prince of France, hearing of the beauty, womanhood, and good conditions of the said Cordeilla, sent over to her father, requiring that he might have her to wife: to whom answer was made…..

….that he might have his daughter, but as for any dower, he could have none, for all was promised and assured to her other sisters already….

The Prince of France, notwithstanding this answer, took Cordeilla to wife.

After that Leir was fallen into age, the two dukes that had married his two eldest daughters, arose against him in armour, and reft from him the governance of the land. But the greatest grief that Leir took, was to see the unkindness of his daughters, in so much they scarcely would allow him one servant to wait upon him.

In the end, such was the unkindness, or (as I may say) the unnaturalness which he found in his two daughters that he fled the land, and sailed into France, there to seek some comfort of his youngest daughter Cordeilla.

The lady Cordeilla first sent to him, privily, a certain sum of money to apparel himself withal, and to retain a certain number of servants that might attend upon him in honourable wise. When he came to court, he was so joyfully, honourably, and lovingly received, both by his son in law, the Prince of France, and also by his daughter Cordeilla, that his heart was greatly comforted.

The Prince of France caused a mighty army to be put in readiness, and likewise a great navy of ships to be rigged, to pass over into Britain with Leir to see him again restored to his kingdom.

Leir and his daughter Cordeilla with her husband, arriving in Britain, fought with their enemies, and discomfited them in battle, in the which the Dukes of Cornwall and Albania were slain: and then was Leir restored to his kingdom, which he ruled after this by the space of two years and then died..

Cordeilla was admitted Queen and supreme governess of Britain. She ruled right worthily during the space of five years, in which time her husband died; but her two nephews, sons to her aforesaid sisters, disdaining to be under the government of a woman, levied war against her and finally took her prisoner, and laid her fast in ward, wherewith she took such grief, being a woman of a manly courage, there she slew herself.

The End.

An anonymous play, called The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his three daughters, Gonorill, Ragan and Cordeilla appeared in the same year as Shakespeare’s edition of the Chronicles….

The action has been transported to Christian times. Not only Christian times but Protestant times. And not only Protestant times, but Calvinist times.

Calvinists…..who follow John Calvin…..

Calvin john

………believe that everything has been pre-ordained by God. He has chosen those who will go to heaven…..

heaven christian medieval

………and those who will go to Hell…..

hell christian

….. before they were even born.

He protects his chosen ones, his ‘elect’, and rewards them by giving them money, power and success.

Gonorill and Ragan in the play are definitely NOT among God’s elect…

They are, in fact, the ‘Ugly Sisters’…..

ugly sisters

…..envious of Cordeilla’s good looks….

Gonorill says of her…..

Besides, she is so nice and so demure;

So sober, courteous, modest, and precise,

That all the Court hath work enough to do,

To talk how she exceedeth me and you.

And both sisters are clearly Roman Catholic……

Ragan says…..

Peace (Puritan) dissembling hypocrite,

Which art so good, that thou wilt prove stark naught:

Anon, when as I have you in my fingers,

I’ll make you wish yourself in Purgatory.

Although Cordeilla……

……like Cinderella…..

cinderella

…….is cast out penniless and in rags…..

…….she insists that she will only marry for love. Prince Charming arrives in the figure of the King of France , together with his Dandini, Lord Mumford.

charming dandini 2

He woos Cinders in the disguise of a poor pilgrim to make sure she loves him for his self alone.

pilgrim

Then he whisks her off to France…..

The Uglies now strip their father of his entourage of servants and begin to plot his death: they even hire a murderer.

But Lear IS one of God’s elect….

When the murderer raises his dagger to kill the King, a clap of thunder sends him scurrying off.

God sends Leir a dream in which Gonorill and Ragan hack off his limbs……

……but Cordeilla revives him by pouring balsam into his bleeding wound.

As luck would have it, Cordeilla is ‘elect’ as well….

…..As she tells the King of France….

……God miraculously hath bestowed on me,

In raising me out of my mean estate,

When as I was devoid of worldly friends,

And placing me in such a sweet content,

As far exceeds the reach of my deserts….

Leir seeks out Cordeilla in France and they have a reconciliation which develops into a kneeling competition…

Cordeilla

Condemn not all, because of other’s crime:

But look, dear father, look behold and see

Thy loving daughter speaketh unto thee. [She kneels.]

Leir

O, stand thou up, it is my part to kneel, [She stands]

And ask forgiveness for my former faults. [He kneels.]

Cordeilla

O, if you wish, I should enjoy my breath, [She kneels]

Dear father rise, or I receive my death.

Leir

Then I will rise to satisfy your mind,[He riseth]

But kneel again, til pardon be resigned. [He kneels]

Leir goes to France, Cordeilla and the King of France sail to back to England, they kill the Uglies and their husbands and restore Leir to his rightful throne.

The play does NOT include Leir’s death…..

…..nor does it include the rebellion of Cordeilla’s cousins….

…disdaining to be under the government of a woman….

….for an obvious reason….

elizabeth 1588

Elizabeth was on the throne!!!

So what was the point of this play?

1587 was a highly significant year for England…….

…….and, indeed, Scotland…..

On 8th February, Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scots, went to the block…..mary q. s. execution

 

Mary Stuart….

mary stuart hat feather

 

…….had been a thorn in Elizabeth’s side ever since she had fled to England, thirty years before. A devout Catholic, she was the focus of all the Catholic hopes that England would return to Rome. And, as the granddaughter of Henry VII…

henryVII

 

…….she had a legitimate claim on the English throne.

In 1569 a plot had been hatched by the Catholic Northern Lords to depose Elizabeth and crown Mary Stuart Queen of England. Elizabeth’s troops crushed the rebellion in days……

…….but Elizabeth ordered the hanging of 700 of…

…..the meaner sort of rebels. For the terror of others…

hanged men

The following year Pope Pius V…….

pius v

……. issued a bull which excommunicated Elizabeth…..

…..the pretended Queen of England and the servant of crime….

…..and all those who obeyed her laws.

In 1585 the Catholics returned to the attack – this time in print. A book was published which claimed that Henry VIII’s wife, Anne Boleyn…….

…..had been the King’s own illegitimate daughter.

And that the King…….

henry viii drawing

……had known this all along…..

Princess Elizabeth, therefore…….

elizabeth young

…….was the bastard product of this incestuous union, and when she had come to the throne….

……Satan, and the power of darkness, took possession of the whole of England.

satan

Next, in 1586, came the Catholic Babbington plot on Elizabeth’s life……

babington conspirators

When the conspirators were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered………

disembowelling

 

…..Elizabeth insisted that her Council invent…..

….some new device…

….of execution….

….for MORE TERROR…

Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, Lord Burghley……..

burghley on donkey 001

……writing to Lord Hatton…….

Hatton Christopher 001

……said…

……I told her Majesty, if the fashion of the execution shall be duly and orderly executed , by the protracting of the same both to the extremity of the pains in the action and to the sight of the people to behold it, the manner of the death would be as terrible as any new device could be….but therewith her majesty was not satisfied….

In the event, the crowd was so revolted by the disembowelling of the first batch of conspirators that the executioners were forced to just hang the rest…..

But when it came to executing Mary Stuart, Elizabeth hesitated…. .

Not only was she the Lord’s anointed, she was Elizabeth’s cousin as well.

Like Hamlet pondering the death of Claudius….

claudius at prayer

…..Queen Elizabeth…..

……gave herself over wholly to solitariness, sat many times melancholic and mute and frequently sighing muttered to herself, ‘Aut fer aut feri: either bear with her or smite her. And ‘ne feriare, feri – Strike lest thou be stricken….’

Elizabeth needed Mary dead: but she didn’t want to go down in history as a tyrant.

So she hit on an age-old solution. She blamed her secretary. She claimed she had only signed Mary Stuart’s death warrant as a precaution.

When news arrived in London of her execution , bonfires were lit and cheering broke out. Elizabeth, feigning ignorance of her death……

…..like Lady Macbeth with Duncan……

lady mcb.

……put her head out of the window and demanded to know what the commotion was about.

When told the reason, she cried….

What? Is the Queen my sister dead? And who has put her to death? They have deceived me then….

As a contemporary observed….

The Queen’s countenance altered, her speech faltered and failed her and through excessive sorrow she stood in a manner astonished; then she gave herself over to passionate grief, putting herself into mourning habit and shedding abundance of tears….

One nobleman who was present could not help remarking…..

…..See, there, the very trick of a play-actress….

Elizabeth desperately needed an image make-over: enter the Queen’s Men…

This was a company set up four years earlier by the hard-nosed spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham…..

 Walsingham, Sir Francis

…..and Elizabeth’s debauched favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

 Middle aged Leicester

Its aims were simple: to promote Elizabeth, promote Elizabeth and promote Elizabeth.

The players, highly-paid and swaggering round in the Queen’s scarlet livery…….

livery red

…..were exempt from arrest…..

…..and exempt from all parish duties.

It was the Queen’s Men who staged The True Chronicle History of King Leir in the year of Mary Stuart’s execution….

And in so doing, exonerated Elizabeth….

How?

At one point , Ragan, hoping to bamboozle her father, says….

O that I had some pleasing Mermaid’s voice,

For to enchant his senseless senses with!

Everyone in the audience in 1587 would know that this was a reference to Mary Queen of Scots. The mermaid was her trade-mark……..

She had been lampooned in a cartoon as a bare-breasted mermaid, with her hair falling down to her shoulders…..

mary q. of. s. as mermaid

……..and had actually appeared at the window of a jail in Edinburgh with, as Alison Weir puts it….

…… her bodice undone, her breasts exposed and her tangled hair loose, and with ‘piteous lamentations’ ….

But if Ragan represents Mary, Queen of Scots, who is Gonorill?

Well, we know she’s Roman Catholic…..

…..But we also know she is jealous of Cordeilla’s beauty…

…..And her ability to attract men….

Exactly as Mary Tudor – Bloody Mary…….

Mary Tudor

……had been jealous of her half-sister, Princess Elizabeth….

elizabeth with fan 001

When the dashing young Edward Courtney……

courtney edward

…… had been freed from wrongful imprisonment in 1553, the new Queen Mary suggested he might like to become King of England.

But Courtney was far more attracted to Princess Elizabeth. In the words of the great American Regency historian, Lucy Aikin….

Mary was left to vent her disappointment in resentment against the ill-fated object of her preference, Courtney, and in every demonstration of a malignant jealousy towards her innocent and unprotected rival, Princess Elizabeth.

Mary sent Elizabeth to the Tower….by way of Traitors’ Gate…

traitors_gate

So if Ragan and Gonorill are the two Catholic Marys, it needs no Sherlock Holmes to tell us who Cordeilla is….

QUEEN ELIZABETH HERSELF!!!

elizabeth red 001

Cordeilla, as we have seen, believes she is one of God’s elect, and so, protected by him.

Elizabeth thought the same about herself . She wrote in her prayers…

Thou hast willed me to be not some wretched girl from the meanest rank of the common people, who would pass her life miserably in poverty and squalor, but to a kingdom thou hast destined me, born of royal parents, and nurtured and educated at court. When I was surrounded and thrown about by various snares of enemies, Thou hast preserved me with thy constant protection from prison and the most extreme danger; and though I was freed at the very last moment, Thou hast entrusted me on earth with royal sovereignty and majesty….

Cordeilla, in the play, wants to marry only for love. She says…..

For if the greatest Monarch on the earth,

Should sue to me in this extremity,

Except my heart could love, and heart could like,

Better than any that I ever saw,

His great estate no more should move my mind,

Than mountains move by blast of every wind.

And Queen Elizabeth said to the French Ambassador…

I do not want a husband who honours me as a Queen, if he does not love me as a woman.

Cordeilla says…

I will betake me to my thread and Needle,

And earn my living with my fingers’ ends…

Queen Elizabeth said…..

I thank God I am endued with such qualities that if I were turned out of the realm in my petticoat I were able to live in any place in Christome.

Cordeilla is wooed by two romantic Frenchman: Elizabeth had been wooed by two equally romantic Frenchmen, the Duc D’Anjou…..

d'anjou 2

……..and Jean Simier…….

…….eight years earlier.

But the biggest signpost is a verbal one….

When Elizabeth’s parliament asked her, point blank, if she intended to execute Mary Stuart, she replied…

You must take an answer without answer at my hands. For if I should say I would not do it, I should peradventure say that which I did not think, and otherwise than it might be. If I should say I would do it, it were not fit in this place and at this time, although I did mean it….

…..and having completely baffled her parliament, she concluded triumphantly…..

Wherefore I must desire to hold yourselves satisfied with this answer answerless.

In the play, when Cordeilla replies to Leir’s question about how much she loves him, Gonorill retorts….

Here is an answer answerless indeed…

So the author of The True Chronicle History of King Leir has turned a piece of ancient history into a political allegory……

Leir is England, taken over and wounded by the Roman Catholicism of the two Marys.

Elizabeth restores it by pouring the healing balsam of Calvinism into its wounds.

So next time you go with the kids to see Cinderella……

cinders and coach

…..remember it’s a piece of Anti-Papist propaganda.

cinders 2

So who wrote the play? Would you be shocked to learn that the older, scholars thought it was by Shakespeare?

And would you be even more shocked to learn that I agree with them?

But with this, same, proviso: Shakespeare was twenty-three at the time, and a junior collaborator on the play with Thomas Kyd, six years older than Shakespeare and already an established playwright.

Kyd was a free-thinker who was later to share lodgings with Christopher Marlowe…..

Marlowe, Christopher

……and get tortured by the state on suspicions of atheism……

rack

 

But he was a hired gun. If the state wanted propaganda, he gave them propaganda….

But Leo Tolstoy……..

tolstoy leo

……who looks rather like Lear himself….

……famously preferred this Leir play to Shakespeare’s later one.

And there are some remarkable passages in it…..

Cordeilla, addressing the King of France disguised as a pilgrim, says….

I’ll hold thy Palmer’s staff within my hand,

And think it is the Sceptre of a Queen,

Sometime I’ll set thy Bonnet on my head,

And think I wear a rich imperial Crown,

Sometime I’ll help thee in thy holy prayers,

And think I am with thee in Paradise.

Thus I’ll mock fortune, as she mocketh me,

And never will my lovely choice repent:

For having thee, I shall have all content.

 Only Shakespeare could have written this…

When he came to write his own version of the Leir story twenty years later, Shakespeare set it back in pre-Christian times…….

lear celtic

…….threw in a jester…….

sad polish jester

……. and lifted a subplot from the Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney….

sidney pastoral

In our Next Post, Trixie the Cat will give a potted version of ….

….ALL THE CHANGES….. 

…..Shakespeare made to the original Leir story….

trixie

….AND THEY ARE EXTRAORDINARY!!!

To find out HOW extraordinary, click: HERE!

Yes, Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

…..on February 20th, 2014….

….The Code notched up….

……ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY THOUSAND VIEWS!!!

…..and welcomed into its ranks…

THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA

liberia

This brings the number of participating countries to an awe-inspiring…..

…..ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY!!!

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