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(It’s best to read Parts ONE, TWOTHREE and FOUR first)

puck lead

 Puck thinks all mortals are fools.

 puck quizzical

He terrifies them…..

puck terrifying

……manipulates them…..

puck manipulates

……imitates them….

puck imitating

……and laughs at them….

puck roaring

But in the end he blesses them….

puck magic

When thou wakest,

Thou takest

True delight

In the sight

Of thy former lady’s eye:

And the country proverb known,

That every man should take his own,

In your waking shall be shown:

Jack shall have Jill;

Nought shall go ill;

The man shall have his mare again,

And all shall be well.

Shakespeare here gives Puck the same words that God Himself used when he spoke to Mother Julian of Norwich….

mother julian of Norwich

All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well….

At the end of the play, the iron tongue of midnight tolls twelve.

Theseus and Hippolyta…

theseus leaving feast (2)

…….Lysander and Hermia…….

lysander hermia bed

…….. and Demetrius and Helena……

demetrius helena bed

…….. leave the wedding feast to consummate their love in their bedchambers.

Puck then enters, lit by the dying embers of the fire….

The fireplace at Copped Hall.

The fireplace at Copped Hall.

……broom in hand, to cleanse the Hall and prepare it for magic….

Now the hungry lion roars,

And the wolf behowls the moon;

Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,

All with weary task fordone.

Now the wasted brands do glow….

Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud,

owl

Puts the wretch that lies in woe

In remembrance of a shroud.

Now it is the time of night

That the graves all gaping wide,

Every one lets forth his sprite,

In the church-way paths to glide:

And we fairies, that do run

By the triple Hecate’s team,

From the presence of the sun,

Following darkness like a dream,

following darkness (2)

Now are frolic: not a mouse

Shall disturb this hallow’d house:

I am sent with broom before,

To sweep the dust behind the door.

puck woodcut 1629

Oberon then enters with Titania followed by the fairy band…..

oberon titania flying in

….with, the original stage directions say…..

……waxen tapers on their heads…..

Queen Elizabeth might have banned candles from her subjects’ altars….

But King Oberon floods Theseus’s palace with living light…..

oberon light end

Through the house give glimmering light

By the dead and drowsy fire

Every elf and every sprite

Hop as light as bird from briar…

We can be sure that when Mary married the Second Earl of Southampton, Catholic priests were in secret attendance…..

(Mary’s father kept them on his payroll, disguised as liveried servants and gardeners)

One of them would have said the ‘Benedictio Thalami’…….

…..the traditional blessing on the wedding bed…..

Benedicto domine thalamum hunc….

Bless o Lord this bed. May all who dwell in it remain in Thy peace, abide in Thy will, grow to old age, and be multiplied to the length of days and attain at last to the kingdom of heaven.

Per Christum dominum nostrum. Amen

The priest then sprinkles holy water over the bed……

……and over the bride and groom……

benedictio thalami

……in the form of a cross…

Shakespeare gives Oberon a fairy version of this blessing.…

oberon blessing

To the best bride-bed will we,

Which by us shall blessed be;

And the issue there create

Ever shall be fortunate.

So shall all the couples three

Ever true in loving be;

And the blots of Nature’s hand

Shall not in their issue stand;

Never mole, hare lip, nor scar,

Nor mark prodigious, such as are

Shall upon their children be.

But instead of using holy water for the consecration, Oberon uses dew from the fields….

With this field-dew consecrate,

Every fairy take his gait;

And each several chamber bless….

Through this palace, with sweet peace;

And the owner of it blest

Ever shall in safety rest.

Trip away; make no stay;

Meet me all by break of day…

Puck, left alone, addresses the audience directly……

puck at end (2)

If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended,

That you have but slumber’d here

While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream…..

But nothing is ever straightforward with Puck…

The rest of his speech is filled, if not with the equivocation of the fiend, then certainly with ambiguity….

Gentles, do not reprehend:

If you pardon, we will mend:

Does he mean ‘If you pardon our failings as actors, we will improve as performers….’?

Or does he mean ‘If you pardon our failing as fairies we will make your lives better for you…..’?

And, as I am an honest Puck…..

…..which clearly he isn’t….

 If we have unearned luck

Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,

We will make amends ere long….

Is ‘the serpent’s tongue’ the hiss of a displeased audience?

Or is it the tongue of Satan himself, tempting figures of light – as he tempted Eve – to become figures of darkness like himself?

And what are these ‘amends’?

Else the Puck a liar call…..

puck liar

So, good night unto you all.

Give me your hands, if we be friends,

And Robin shall restore amends.

What does Puck mean by ‘Give me your hands’?

Does he mean: ‘Applaud’?

Or does he mean: ‘Take your hands in mine’?

And what does he mean by ‘Robin shall restore amends’?

Does he mean he will make amends for what he has done?

Or does he mean he will make amends for what has been done to you?

 Is Puck saying:

Applaud us and we will produce better plays for you in the future….

 Or is he saying:

 Reach out and grasp my hands and I will make up for all you have suffered…..

 I will heal the past….

Puck means both……

………and Shakespeare is directing these last lines at his patron, the Countess Mary…..

Mary Browne

Did she reach out to grasp the hands of Puck?

Did the reconciling magic of the play work ?

We are in the extraordinary position of knowing that it did…

Heneage, sadly, died the year after the play was performed……

….but  Mary went on to marry a third, much younger husband ….

When, however, she finally came to write her will in 1607, she asked to be interred at St. Peter’s, Titchfield…..

….as near as may be unto the body of my honorable and dearly beloved Lord and husband, Henry, late Earl of Southampton…..

second earl close-uo

The Fairies had done their work well…….

FINIS……

……AND FAIRY POSTLUDE…..

When The Shakespeare Code first announced these Posts……

…… the Rev. Canon Tony Dickinson…..

canon tony dickinson

…..Vicar of  Giles Gilbert Scot’s St. Francis of Assisi Church, High Wycombe…

…..contacted The Code’s Chief Agent…..

…Stewart Trotter…

…and asked him if he planned to quote from….

THE FAIRIES’ FAREWELL

This was written by Bishop Robert Corbett (1582-1635)

…..who would have been twelve years old when A Midsummer Night’s Dream was first performed.

Stewart could not believe his eyes when he read the poem!!!

It entirely corroborates The Shakespeare Code’s theory…..

That magic and spirituality fled England in the reign of Elizabeth…..

….and that the Fairy World was equated completely with…..

‘The Old Profession’….

ROMAN CATHOLICISM!!!

Here is the poem, with thanks again to Rev. Canon Dickinson….

FAREWELL rewards and Fairies!

Good housewives now may say;

For now foul sluts in dairies

Do fare as well as they;

And though they sweep their hearths no less

Than maids were wont to do,

Yet who of late for cleanliness

Finds sixpence in her shoe?

sweeping hearth

Lament, lament old Abbeys,

The fairies lost command;

They did but change priests’ babies,

But some have chang’d your land;

And all your children stol’n from thence

Are now grown Puritans,

Who live as changelings ever since,

For love of your demaines.

puritans 2

At morning and at evening both

You merry were and glad,

So little care of sleep and sloth

These pretty ladies had.

When Tom came home from labour,

Or Ciss to milking rose,

Then merrily went their tabour,

And nimbly went their toes.

fairies dancing

 

Witness those rings and roundelayes

Of theirs, which yet remain;

roundelay 3

Were footed in Queen Mary’s days

Mary Tudor

On many a grassy plain.

 

But since of late Elizabeth

old elizabeth

And later James came in;

king james de critz

They never danc’d on any heath,

As when the time hath been

 

By which we note the fairies

Were of the old profession:

Their songs were Ave Maries,

Their dances were procession.

fairy procession

But now, alas! they all are dead,

Or gone beyond the seas,

Or farther for religion fled,

Or else they take their ease.

fairy asleep

THE END

The Shakespeare Code would also like to acknowledge the work of Richard Simpson, M. A. (1820-76)

….an Oxford Graduate and Anglican Priest who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1844.

He was the first to advance the theory that William Shakespeare was a Catholic…….

….and met with howls of derision from the Victorian Academic Establishment.

They needed their Bard to be  a Protestant…..

…..in the way our own Establishment once needed him to be Straight!!!

shakespeare rainbow

THE SHAKESPEARE CODE WOULD LIKE TO POUR….

…. FAIRY BLESSINGS….

… ON ITS BROTHERS AND SISTERS….

- FROM ALL ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-TWO NATIONS –

….AT THIS CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL…

christmas fairy

(It’s best to read Parts ONE, TWO  and THREE  first)

William Shakespeare couldn’t have Saints and Angels in A Midsummer Night’s Dream interfering in the destinies of men…….

…….so he had fairies and goblins do the job instead.

And he establishes from the start that Puck – like the old Roman Catholic Church – is powerful, magical AND ambivalent…..

puck rooney illustration

 As the First Fairy says to him…

first fairy with puck

Either I mistake your shape and making quite,

Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite

Call’d Robin Goodfellow: are not you he

That frights the maidens of the villagery;

Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern

And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;

And sometime make the drink to bear no barm;

Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?

puck laughing away 2

But the First Fairy then goes on to reveal there are different names for Robin Goodfellow…

……and different natures…..

Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck,

You do their work, and they shall have good luck…..

If you are good to Puck, Puck will be good to you…

It was just like praying to a Catholic Saint…..

Puck replies….

puck emerging from ground

 Thou speak’st aright;

I am that merry wanderer of the night.

I jest to Oberon and make him smile

When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,

Neighing in likeness of a filly foal:

And sometime lurk I in a gossip’s bowl,

In very likeness of a roasted crab,

And when she drinks, against her lips I bob

And on her wither’d dewlap pour the ale.

The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,

Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;

Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,

And ‘tailor’ cries, and falls into a cough;

And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh,

And waxen in their mirth and sneeze and swear

A merrier hour was never wasted there.

This is close to the joy, celebration and anarchy of the old Catholic holidays……..

feast of fools 2

….which Elizabeth killed at a stroke.

She cut the number of Holy Days from over a hundred a year to a mere twenty-seven….

But Shakespeare goes out of his way to show that the Fairies in the play…..

 ……are NOT……

…..as the Protestants taught……

…..sent from the Devil.

Puck warns Oberon that daylight is approaching……

……a time when the ghosts of men and women who have done evil in their lives return to their graves….

ghosts returning to graves

 Night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast,

And yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger;

At whose approach, ghosts, wandering here and there,

Troop home to churchyards: damned spirits all,

That in crossways and floods have burial,

Already to their wormy beds are gone;

For fear lest day should look their shames upon,

They willfully themselves exile from light

And must for aye consort with black-brow’d night.

But Oberon then explains to Puck how he and his entourage are a quite different order of beings….

…..spirits of light who relish the golden dawn…

 oberon prophesy

But we are spirits of another sort:

I with the morning’s love have oft made sport,

And, like a forester, the groves may tread,

Even till the eastern gate, all fiery-red,

Opening on Neptune with fair blessed beams,

Turns into yellow gold his salt green streams.

Shakespeare shows how the world of fairies resonates with the world of mortals…..

Puck says of Oberon…

The king doth keep his revels here to-night:

Take heed the queen come not within his sight;

For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,

Because that she as her attendant hath

A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king;

She never had so sweet a changeling…..

Anita Louise as Titania.

Anita Louise as Titania.

And jealous Oberon would have the child

Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild….

jory on horseback

But she perforce withholds the loved boy,

Crowns him with flowers and makes him all her joy:

And now they never meet in grove or green,

By fountain clear, or spangled starlight sheen,

But, they do square, that all their elves for fear

Creep into acorn-cups and hide them there.

This fight between Oberon and Titania over the changeling boy EXACTLY mirrors the fight between Countess Mary…….

Mary Browne

……and the Second Earl of Southampton……..

full face second earl of southampton (2)

…… over their son Harry……

henry_wriothesley_3rd_earl_of_southampton

The phrase Puck uses about the changeling……

…..lovely boy……

…..is EXACTLY the phrase Shakespeare uses to describe Harry in Sonnet 126….

O thou my lovely boy who in thy power

Dost hold time’s fickle glass, his sickle hour….

When Oberon and Titania meet for the first time in the play, they accuse each other of sexual infidelities…

…..just as the Second Earl and Mary had done….

Oberon, confronting Titania for the first time in the play, says:

I’ll met by moonlight, proud Titania.

oberon large starry (2)

And she replies with…

What, jealous Oberon! Fairies, skip hence:

I have forsworn his bed and company….

titania confronts oberon

Oberon:

Tarry, rash wanton: am not I thy lord?

Titania:

Then I must be thy lady: but I know

When thou hast stolen away from fairy land,

And in the shape of Corin sat all day,

Playing on pipes of corn and versing love

To amorous Phillida…..

corin and phillida

They even accuse each other of affairs with Theseus and Hippolyta themselves…

Titania:

Why art thou here,

Come from the farthest Steppe of India?

But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,

Your buskin’d mistress and your warrior love…..

hippolyta smiling

To Theseus must be wedded, and you come

To give their bed joy and prosperity.

Oberon:

How canst thou thus for shame, Titania,

Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,

Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?

ian hunter as theseus

Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night

From Perigenia, whom he ravished?

And make him with fair Aegle break his faith, With Ariadne and Antiopa?

Their quarrel is so charged it affects the weather itself…

As Titania says:

 titania close up……the winds, piping to us in vain,

As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea

Contagious fogs; which falling in the land

Have every pelting river made so proud

That they have overborne their continents:

The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain,

The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn

Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard;

The fold stands empty in the drowned field,

And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;

The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,

And the quaint mazes in the wanton green

For lack of tread are undistinguishable….

titania sad

The human mortals want their winter here;

No night is now with hymn or carol blest:

Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,

Pale in her anger, washes all the air,

That rheumatic diseases do abound:

And this same progeny of evils comes

From our debate, from our dissension;

We are their parents and original….

This is a blow by blow description of the weather in 1594 – the year of the play’s premiere…..

Simon Forman, the astrologer, wrote:

simon forman

June and July were very wet and wonderful cold like winter, that the 10th day of July many did sit by the fire it was so cold and so it was in May and June. There were many great floods this summer….

Heneage and Mary had had their official wedding ceremony in London on 2nd May – but wanted a Midsummer wedding celebration at Copped Hall round what had become St. John’s Day – 24th June….

Parts of A Midsummer Night’s Dream were clearly written to be played in the grounds and woods: there are mentions of oaks and hawthorn brakes and at one point Puck has to……..

……overcast the starry welkin with drooping fog as black as Acheron…….

…..an effect more easily achieved outdoors than indoors.

So the weather would have had a devastating effect on the plans for the Wedding Feast….

According to the historian and antiquarian, John Stow……….

john stowe 2

……..it wasn’t till August that the weather improved.

Now even in these Godless times, people take the weather at a wedding as a sign of things to come….

So what did the Roman Catholic friends of the Southamptons make of the weather of 1594? Catholics then – and indeed Protestants – saw omens in everything!

They would have believed that the soul of the Second Earl, cheated of his tomb, was unquiet. And that the row between himself and Mary was echoing through the cosmos…..

Just as Oberon’s and Titania’s was…..

 This row would HAVE to be resolved before Mary’s second marriage had a chance of succeeding….

So Shakespeare resolves it in the play itself….

Oberon punishes his wife for the theft of the changeling boy.

He enchants her eyes and she falls madly in love with Bottom the Weaver…..

cagney as bottom 2

…..whom Puck has transformed into an ass…..

bottom as ass

 

….just as Countess Mary had fallen madly in love with a…….

 ……common person.

It’s the Feast of Fools all over again…..

feast of fools

Titania, though, expresses her infatuation with Bottom in language of great naturalness and beauty…..

Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms.

So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle

Gently entwist; the female ivy so

Enrings the barky fingers of the elm.

O, how I love thee! how I dote on thee!

 bottom and titania

Oberon’s heart fills with pity for Titania’s dotage……

…… for her humiliation as a woman……..

…….which even the dew on the flowers she has picked for Bottom feels as its own….

Oberon forgives her and takes the spell from her eyes….

 oberon freeing titania (2)

Be as thou wast wont to be;

See as thou wast wont to see:

Dian’s bud o’er Cupid’s flower

Hath such force and blessed power.

Now, my Titania; wake you, my sweet queen…

It is as though the spirit of the Second Earl has returned to forgive his wife….

Titania restores the changeling boy to Oberon’s bower in fairy land……..

oberon and changeling boy on chariot

….. and Oberon and Titania….

…..new in amity….

new in amity (2)

…rock the ground…..

…… with a dance of concord as they prepare to bless Duke Theseus’s house…..

oberon titania dance 2

And Fairy blessings fill the rest of the play….

 titania arrival

To Read the Fifth and Last Post in this series, ‘Fairy Blessings’, please click: HERE!

 

(It’s best to read Parts ONE and TWO first)

In writing A Midsummer Night’s Dream William Shakespeare takes on the rôle of a Catholic Priest…..

……but, like Bottom in the play who wants to act all the parts himself…….

 

James Cagney as Bottom from Max Reinhardt's film of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream from which stills have been taken.

James Cagney as Bottom from Max Reinhardt’s film of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream from which stills have been taken.

……he can’t help taking on the rôle of Best Man as well….

A Best Man needs, above all things, to be diplomatic. Shakespeare knew that half of his audience at Copt Hall would be Roman Catholic and half would be Protestant. Catholics had had their hopes dashed only seven years before with the execution of Mary Queen of Scots….

execution mary queen of scots

……..followed swiftly by the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Armada sea-battle

Heneage had played a large part in both….

Shakespeare deals with this problem by acknowledging it….

Aristocrats, in Elizabethan times, often acted at university and in private entertainments. It is my belief that Thomas Heneage – described as …

……a man for his elegancy of life and pleasantness of discourse, born, as it were, for the court

…..took the part of the conqueror Theseus……

Ian Hunter as Theseus

Ian Hunter as Theseus

……and Countess Mary Southampton – who had fought so much for the Catholic faith – the conquered Amazon, Hippolyta……

Verree Teasdale as Hyppolyta.

Verree Teasdale as Hyppolyta.

Theseus says….

Hippolyta, I wooed the with my sword

And won thy love doing thee injuries

But I will wed thee in another key

With pomp, with triumph and with revelling…..

Heneage was Queen Elizabeth’s old lover to whom she had sent the famous Armada jewel…….

armada jewel

She hated weddings, but was bound to see the play at some time…

….so Shakespeare had to work in a compliment to her….

Officially, at least, she was still the Virgin Queen – so Shakespeare has Oberon, the King of the Fairies……..

Victor Jory as Oberon.

Victor Jory as Oberon.

……say to his henchman, Puck….

Mickey Rooney as Puck.

Mickey Rooney as Puck.

That very time I saw, but thou couldst not,

Flying between the cold moon and the earth,

Cupid all arm’d: a certain aim he took

At a fair vestal throned by the west, And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow,

As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;

But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft

Quench’d in the chaste beams of the watery moon,

And the imperial votaress passed on,

In maiden meditation, fancy-free.

Shakespeare knew this would upset the Catholics…….

…..especially as Mary Queen of Scots had been imprisoned for a time at Copped Hall itself….

Copped Hall in Essex.

Copped Hall in Essex.

So Shakespeare has Oberon slip in a coded compliment to her as well…

oberon with puck

She was often depicted as a Mermaid, bare breasted with he hair cascading over her shoulders….

mary q. of. s. as mermaid

Thou rememberest

Since once I sat upon a promontory,

And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back…..

The…..

……dolphin…..

……is Dauphin Francis of France……

Dauphin Francis of France, who became Francis II.

Dauphin Francis of France, who became Francis II.

Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath

That the rude sea grew civil at her song……

The ‘rude sea’ is rebellious Scotland..

And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,

To hear the sea-maid’s music……

The……

 …..stars……

….are the late Lord Montague……

Montague, Lord

……. and the Second Earl of Southampton…….

full face second earl of southampton (2)

…….who plotted to put her on the throne of England and so……

 ……shot madly from their spheres….

The Best Man is also expected to send everyone up – and Shakespeare is happy to oblige.

The very opening speech of the play is a satire on Queen Elizabeth herself – who, hitting sixty, her cheeks stuffed out with rags, loved to be compared to the moon….

fairy queen

Theseus says:

Now fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour

Draws on apace; four happy days bring in

Another moon – but o methinks how slow this old moon wanes….

Shakespeare saves himself from the Tower by immediately shifting the attack to Mary Southampton herself ……

Mary Browne

…..notorious for keeping son Harry short of money….

She lingers my desires

Like to a step-dame or a dowager

Long withering out a young man’s revenue….

Shakespeare has another dig at Elizabeth – this time at her sexuality – when he has the First Fairy say to Puck….

Nina Teillade as First Fairy.

Nina Teillade as First Fairy.

And I serve the Fairy Queen

To dew her orbs upon the green…..

(Elizabeth ALSO loved to be known as the Fairy Queen…)

fairy queen

The cowslips tall her pensioners be……

Now pensioners to us are old men who hang round Chelsea in red, wearing their medals….

cheslea pensioners

But not to Elizabeth! They were her body-guard, a hand-picked corps of fifty tall, handsome young bucks on horseback – the flower of the gentry – dressed in gold lace and jewels.

One of the Pensioners – recruited personally by Elizabeth for his height and his staggering good looks – was only seventeen….

The First Fairy continues describing the red ‘spots’ in the yellow petals of the cowslips…..

cowslips

…..and compares them to the ruby ‘favours’ Elizabeth would give to certain of her Guards….

In their gold coats spots you see;

Those be rubies, fairy favours,

In those freckles live their savours.

I must go seek some dew-drops here

And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear….

The particular ‘cowslip’ Shakespeare had in mind was the newly appointed Captain of the Pensioners…..

…..Sir Walter Raleigh, another of Elizabeth’s lovers……..

…..who was so proud of his pearl earring he had himself painted wearing it…….

raleigh in white

A Best Man is also expected to make jokes about sex….

Nowadays, the Bride and Groom have probably been living together for years before the ceremony……

…… and often bop till they drop with the rest of the guests….

Not so in the old days!

Then there was a massive sexual charge in the air at a wedding……

……resolved only when the Bride and Groom left the feast for the honeymoon….

bride and groom leaving wedding feeast 2

We have seen Theseus, at the beginning of the play, yearning for his wedding night, scarcely able to cope with the four days’ wait…

theseus randy (2)

And Shakespeare shows how sex is on Lysander’s mind when he finds himself lost in the woods with his beloved Hermia….

 

Olivia de Havilland as Hermia and Dick Powell as Lysander.

Olivia de Havilland as Hermia and Dick Powell as Lysander.

– the Elizabethan equivalent of running out of petrol in your car…

Lysander:

Fair love, you faint with wandering in the wood;

And to speak troth, I have forgot our way:

We’ll rest us, Hermia, if you think it good,

And tarry for the comfort of the day.

hermia lysander wood

Hermia (suspecting what’s up)

Be it so, Lysander: find you out a bed;

For I upon this bank will rest my head.

Lysander: (trying it on)

One turf shall serve as pillow for us both;

One heart, one bed, two bosoms and one troth.

Hermia: (warding him off – but trying not to offend him)

Nay, good Lysander; for my sake, my dear,

Lie further off yet, do not lie so near.

lysander hermia 5

Lysander: (trying to suggest that all he wants is a spiritual union)

O, take the sense, sweet, of my innocence!

Love takes the meaning in love’s conference.

I mean, that my heart unto yours is knit

So that but one heart we can make of it;

Two bosoms interchained with an oath;

So then two bosoms and a single troth.

Then by your side no bed-room me deny;

For lying so, Hermia, I do not lie.

lysander hermia 3

Hermia: (not taken in for a second)

Lysander riddles very prettily:

Now much beshrew my manners and my pride,

If Hermia meant to say Lysander lied.

But, gentle friend, for love and courtesy

Lie further off; in human modesty,

Such separation as may well be said

Becomes a virtuous bachelor and a maid…..

(Suddenly worried Lysander might walk off altogether…..)

So far be distant; and, good night, sweet friend:

Thy love ne’er alter till thy sweet life end!

lysandeer hermia 6

 

Mary was hoping that some of this heterosexuality would rub off onto the gay Lord Harry….

henry wriothesley miniature

…..so Shakespeare obliges by showing how perverse it is for Demetrius to flee from the charms of the beautiful Helena….

Jean Muir as Helena and Ross Alexander as Demetrius.

Jean Muir as Helena and Ross Alexander as Demetrius.

……just as it was for Harry to flee from Lord Burghley’s grand-daughter, the Lady Elizabeth…

lady elizabeth de vere

Oberon, invisible, watches the whole episode….

demetrius helena oberon

Demetrius:

I love thee not, therefore pursue me not.

Hence, get thee gone, and follow me no more.

Helena:

You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant;

But yet you draw not iron, for my heart

Is true as steel: leave you your power to draw,

And I shall have no power to follow you.

 

Demetrius:

Do I entice you? do I speak you fair?

Or, rather, do I not in plainest truth

Tell you, I do not, nor I cannot love you?

Helena:

And even for that do I love you the more.

I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,

The more you beat me, I will fawn on you:

Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,

Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,

Unworthy as I am, to follow you.

Demetrius:

Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit;

For I am sick when I do look on thee.

demetrius and helena 2

Helena

And I am sick when I look not on you.

Demetrius:

I’ll run from thee and hide me in the brakes,

And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.

Helena:

The wildest hath not such a heart as you.

Run when you will, the story shall be changed:

Apollo flies, and Daphne holds the chase;

The dove pursues the griffin; the mild hind

Makes speed to catch the tiger; bootless speed,

When cowardice pursues and valour flies.

Demetrius:

I will not stay thy questions; let me go:

Or, if thou follow me, do not believe

But I shall do thee mischief in the wood.

Helena:

Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field,

You do me mischief. Fie, Demetrius!

Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex:

We cannot fight for love, as men may do;

We should be wooed and were not made to woo.

(Demetrius runs off)

I’ll follow thee, and make a heaven of hell

To die upon the hand I love so well.

(Helena runs after Demetrius)

 

oberon prophesy

Oberon then steps forward and says:

Fare thee well, nymph: ere he do leave this grove,

Thou shalt fly him and he shall seek thy love.

Oberon then orders Puck to put a ‘conversion’ spell on Demetrius….

……rather in the way that Countess Mary would like a conversion spell to be put on her son…..

puck and lysander

Churl, upon thy eyes I throw

All the power this charm doth owe.

When thou wakest, let love forbid

Sleep his seat on thy eyelid:

So awake when I am gone;

For I must now to Oberon…..

Puck of course gets his Athenians mixed up….

……which just adds to the chaos….

But with this intrusion of the world of spirit into the world of mortals, Shakespeare abandons his Best Man role…….

…..and takes up that of Priest……

 catholic priest

To read Part Four, please click: HERE!

 (It’s best to read Part ONE first)

To appreciate what William Shakespeare was up to with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we need to understand the woman who commissioned it……..

……the extraordinary Mary Browne, Second Countess of Southampton…..

Mary Browne

She was the daughter of Anthony Browne, first Viscount Montague……..

anthony browne, first viscount montague.

………one of England’s leading Catholics who had refused to take the Oath of Supremacy when Elizabeth came to the throne.

Mary married the Second Earl of Southampton………

full face second earl of southampton (2)

………another committed Catholic……

……..and both families plotted to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and put Catholic Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.

NPG 1766,Mary, Queen of Scots,by Unknown artist

The rebellion failed and Montague and Southampton nearly lost their heads.

But canny Elizabeth – wanting the bad boys on her side – made the repentant Montague a Lord Lieutenant.

The unrepentant Second Earl, however, was thrown into the Tower. His wife Mary must have had very liberal visiting rights. While he was still a prisoner she bore him a son – Henry Wriothesely, the third Earl of Southampton, also known as Harry.

The Second Earl’s mother, Jane, had warned her son about marrying the strong-willed Mary – and she was right. Mary fell in love with…..

….a common person….

…..and her husband, worked on by a family ‘friend’, disowned her.

She wrote a letter to her husband, pleading her innocence and got six year old Harry to deliver it.

But, as she later wrote to her father…..

….his heart was too great to bestow the reading of it, coming from me. Good my lord, procure as soon as you conveniently may, some end to my misery for I am tired of this life…..

The Second Earl seized the boy, cut off all relationships with the Montague family and in the words of Mary….

….made his manservant his wife….

He also passed on his hatred of women to his son and surrounded himself with an all-male entourage of…

….at least a hundred well-mounted gentlemen and yeomen – tall goodly fellows that kept a constant pace…

The servants of the Southampton family would fight with the servants of the Montague family – just as they do in Romeo and Juliet

street fight romeo and juliet

The Catholic Faith was the Second Earl’s undoing. He tried to arrange a meeting with the Jesuit Missionary, Edmund Campion……..

edmund campion

……..but Campion was arrested and tortured and revealed names. The Second Earl was thrown into the Tower again and ‘examined’. He died two months later, under house arrest, at the age of 36.

He had written a will leaving the care of his eight year old son and his estates to his manservant: but Mary was having none of it.

She pulled aristocratic strings and got the will reversed …..

One of her husband’s requests had been for a solitary tomb to be set up for him at St. Peter’s Church in Titchfield…….

st. peter's titchfield

……..as an eternal rebuke to his wife…

Mary ignored this request for thirteen years – then subverted it in 1594…..

This was the year young Harry was to come of age.

henry_wriothesley_3rd_earl_of_southampton

Like his father, he was fiercely Catholic and, also like his father, loathed women – his mother in particular.

So Mary had commissioned fellow Catholic, William Shakespeare, to write a series of Sonnets to persuade her son of the joys of marriage.

William Cecil, now Lord Burghley……….

burghley on donkey 001

…….had become Harry’s guardian and wanted him to marry his Protestant grand-daughter, Lady Elizabeth de Vere.

Elizabeth_de_Vere

If Harry refused, the Southampton family faced a gigantic £5,000 fine…

Mary knew that Harry would throw her out of the family estate at Titchfield when he reached his majority. So she decided to marry an old friend and widower, Sir Thomas Heneage………

Sir Thomas Heneage funeral effigy

……..who lived at Copped Hall in Essex.

copped hall

But there were problems.

First, Heneage was a committed and politically active Protestant.

Second, he had no son: so his hated his son-in-law stood to inherit his estate. Heneage was in his sixties – but Mary was only forty two. So Bride and Groom HAD to produce a son to block the inheritance.

And then there was the question of the Second Earl’s tomb…..

Unless Mary moved quickly, Harry would carry out his father’s wishes.

So she ordered a family tomb instead, which displayed the effigies of her husband’s father and mother as well as the Second Earl himself…….

wriothesley tomb - colour

……and engraved her own name and history at the back.

tomb inscription

The actual bodies remained in the crypt and do so to this day – preserved in the purest honey….

There had never been any reconciliation between Mary and her husband. He had gone to the grave hating her – and she herself had written….

That his lordship continued his hard mind towards me to his last I grieve more for his soul than any harm he hath done therein, for my assurance of living rested not in his arms to bear. For the rest I weigh not, but by my troth am rather glad he hath given me so just a cause to forget him that otherwise I should have carried my remembrance with grief more than enough to my last hour….

For a Catholic woman, this was a catastrophe. She knew – despite what the Calvinist State was telling her – she still had active, spiritual links with her dead husband.

What either of them did or thought would affect the other – in this world and the next.

What she wanted was an old-fashioned, Roman Catholic priest who could hold Requiem Masses for the soul of her first husband and bless the wedding bed of her second….

catholic priest blessing 3

But what she got instead – to our lasting benefit – was William Shakespeare……

Chandos portrait

To read Part Three, click:HERE!

 

HOW QUEEN ELIZABETH’S CALVINIST STATE TRIED TO DESTROY THE SPIRITUAL IMAGINATION OF ENGLISH CATHOLICS….

AND HOW WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE CAME TO THEIR DEFENCE BY USING…..

FAIRY POWER!!!

puck and fairy

A FIVE PART SERIES TO BE POSTED BETWEEN NOW AND CHRISTMAS!!!

PART ONE

On 17th November, 1558, Princess Elizabeth became Queen of England and Ireland.

elizabeth as virgin

She inherited from her half-sister, Mary Tudor……..

…..known to history as ‘Bloody Mary’……….

 

Mary Tudor

……a kingdom that was Roman Catholic.

For the first month of her reign Elizabeth attended the Latin Mass and all Catholic services, wearing a black dress and holding a rosary and missal….

Princess Elizabeth, Henry VII's grand-daughter.

But at Christmas it was all change. She flounced out of  Mass when the Bishop of Carlisle elevated the host.

Detail from a Fresco Painting of a Saint Receiving the Eucharist Attributed to Simone Martini and Others

And on Twelfth Night, Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s new Master of Horse……….

Tom Hardy as Robert Dudley

Tom Hardy as Robert Dudley

……put on a court entertainment which shocked the Duke of Mantua’s agent to the core:

He described it as a…..

….mummery performed after supper

….which featured….

….crows in the habits of Cardinals, asses habited as Bishops, and wolves representing Abbots.

cardinals lampooned

This entertainment I will consign to silence. Nor will I record the levities and unusual licentiousness practised at the Court….

Dudley had been Elizabeth’s childhood friend. Now he was her open lover.

Ann-Marie Duff as Queen Elizabeth.

Ann-Marie Duff as Queen Elizabeth.

Together with William Cecil, her new Secretary of State……….

william cecil

…….the three intended to destroy Roman Catholicism in England for ever.

It had been introduced by Pope Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century……..

pope gregory the great 2

…….partly for aesthetic reasons…

One day he had seen some handsome slave boys, with beautiful blonde hair, for sale in the market place at Rome. He asked where they came from, and on being told they were Anglo-Saxons, famously remarked:

Not Angles but Angels…

not angles

On learning the lads were Pagans, he determined to convert their land to Christianity. So he sent St. Augustine to England….

St. Augustine of Canterbury.

St. Augustine of Canterbury.

Gregory was a brilliant psychologist. He said…

You can’t convert a whole people over-night – anymore than you can climb a mountain in a single step…

He instructed Augustine to take over existing Temples and Shrines, clear out the Pagan idols and replace them with crucifixes and relics of Christian Saints. That would give the new faith a warm, familiar feel. Holy Wells stayed Holy Wells…….

St. Augustine's Well, Cerne Abbas.

St. Augustine’s Well, Cerne Abbas.

……but now they were presided over by Christian Saints, sometimes by the Virgin Mary herself.

Pagan Festivals – like Samhain – which heralded the Autumn -

samhain

…..became Hallowmass…..

hallowmass

…….and Yuletide, of course….

yuletide

……became Christmas.

father christmas red

The Anglo-Saxons also loved roasting and eating oxen on their holidays: so Gregory continued this custom on Dedication Days and Saints’ Days. He wanted the practice of Christianity to be associated with celebration, feasting, holiday and joy.

pagan christmas

So for centuries in England, Paganism rubbed along comfortably with Roman Catholicism. The Feast of Fools…….

feast of fools

……..inspired by the Roman Saturnalia……….

saturnalia

…..was brought into the Churches.

The congregation played card games on the high altar, a choir-boy became the bishop……..

boy bishop

……. and the ‘Amen’ at the end of each prayer was replaced by a donkey’s bray…

donkey in church

But there was already an element of magic in Roman Catholicism itself……

The Catholic Priest – regardless of any shortcomings he might have as a man – possessed the miraculous power of turning bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ.

communion service

 

This had a knock-on effect. People would steal consecrated wafers and holy water for their own uses – bad as well as good – and many Catholic practices became profoundly ambivalent. When you prayed to the Saints, it was as much to ward off harm as to enlist their positive aid.

St. Catherine with her wheel.

St. Catherine with her wheel.

Babies were baptised largely to save them from Satan….

baptism

And Requiem Masses said to stop visits from ghosts.

requiem mass 3

In fact a Requiem Mass was the most ambivalent practice of all. If you wanted to kill off an enemy, you got a priest to say a Requiem Mass for him…

Priests were more like shamans……….

shaman 2

……blessing fields and wedding beds, exorcising demons and healing the sick.

The new Queen Elizabeth did away with all this. Although her father, Henry VIII…….

Henry VIII

……had broken with Rome, he had stayed a Catholic: but her stepmother, Katherine Parr……….

katherin parr

……Henry’s last wife, had been a closet Protestant. She had introduced the young Princess Elizabeth to the teachings of John Calvin………

Calvin john

These had been re-enforced by Elizabeth’s tutors – all Cambridge men and all graduates from the new St. John’s College – a hotbed of Calvinism.

st. john's college

Calvin, like other Protestants, taught that Scripture was everything. If it wasn’t in the Bible, it wasn’t Christianity.

So out went transubstantiation…….

transubstantiation

…….purgatory…..

purgatory 2

……Saints…….

saints

 

…relics…..

relic

 

…..shrines……

shrines 2

…..pilgrimages…..

pilgrimage medieval

…..requiem masses……

requiem mass illustration…..incense…….

incense

…..copes……

copes

…..processions……

corpus christi procession in church

….. and even candles on the altar.

candles on altar

But Calvin also advanced a doctrine which appears NOWHERE in the Bible:

PREDESTINATION.

He argued that because God knows everything, he knows whether you are going to heaven or hell……

…..BEFORE YOU ARE EVEN BORN…

If you are one of the chosen – the elect – he bestows favours to you in this world as well as the next….

Bloody Mary had imprisoned Princess Elizabeth in the Tower of London……..

tower tudor

Elizabeth had prayed to God, God had released her and then made her Queen of England.

So Elizabeth reckoned she must have been one of His ‘elect’.

But if she hadn’t been, there was nothing she could have done about it.

Nothing at all.

She would have been packed off to a predetermined Hell.

hell

The living had no interplay with the souls of the dead – not even with the Virgin Mary and the Saints.

Miracles had ceased with the Apostles and if you saw a ghost…….

ghost

……..or even a goblin…..

goblin

……..elf……

elf 2

……..or fairy…..

fairy 2

…….it was an illusion sent from Satan himself.

 satan 2

At a stroke, Elizabeth robbed the Catholic Priest of all his power. And his congregation of theirs. There was no intercession, no negotiation, no redemption, no romance, no colour, no magic, no warmth, no joy, no celebration, no hope.

And above all……

….NO DRAMA!!!

This is where William Shakespeare…..

Chandos portrait

 …..and A Midsummer Night’s Dream……

rooney puck 1

 …..come in…..

TO READ PART TWO, CLICK: HERE!

  [It’s best to read Parts One, Two and Three of Trixie the Cat’s Interview with Stewart Trotter first]

Trixie

How embarrassing, Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code……

……to fall in a dead faint to the floor of the Café Laville!!!

But Your Cat was soon revived in the strong arms of Chief Agent  Stewart Trotter….

…and the divine Marco….

marco the waiter

…also brought her a saucer of Bailey’s Cream…..

baileys

 …which she LAPPED UP.

As soon as she had her wits about her…….

……Your Cat returned to her Interview…..

…to question Stewart’s EXTRAORDINARY CLAIM!!!

TRIXIE

Shakespeare!

Evil?

Boss!!!

How can you say such a thing?

STEWART

I didn’t say Shakespeare was evil.

I said the evil in the play comes from Shakespeare’s own heart.

He has looked at his dark side with complete honesty….

…..and is trying to work out the implications of this in dramatic form.

It must be said, it’s not always to the advantage of the play….

TRIXIE

Give me an example!

STEWART

Take Lear’s great tirade on the heath against society….

…..when he has gone completely ‘mad’……

lear happy mad (2)

See how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Change places – and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar….And the creature run from the cur? There thou mightst behold the great image of authority: a dog’s obeyed in office.

How, Trixie, has the King acquired this perspective on life?

He admits, in the storm, that he has taken….

…..too little care….

…..of the poor and oppressed in his Kingdom…..

….but this is a far cry from the satirical outburst of……

.…..a dog’s obeyed in office….

TRIXIE

Well, a cat certainly isn’t!

STEWART (ignoring Your Cat’s observation)

Where has this view of the world come from?

It bears only a marginal relationship……

……..if any relationship at all……

…….. to anything Lear himself has experienced in the play.

It DOES however bear a COMPLETE RELATIONSHIP to Sonnet 66……….

…….in which Shakespeare……

…….disgusted by the unfair ills of society under Queen Elizabeth….

……and her imprisonment of the Third Earl of Southampton for treason….

…….contemplates suicide……

 Sonnet 66 001

As the concluding couplet tells us…….

…..the only reason Shakespeare does NOT commit suicide is that he would leave his lover…..

…..the Third Earl of Southampton….

Trixie 2.

…..alone in the Tower of London…..

…..a true case of…..

…..gilded honour shamefully misplac’d…..

Shakespeare is appalled by a system in which some people…….

……through no fault of their own……

…….are…..

….born….

….into beggary…..

……while others……

…..through no merit of their own…..

….. are born into the aristocracy…..

Shakespeare in the Sonnet describes these ‘noblemen’ as….

……needy nothing trimm’d with jollity…..

And Lear, in the play, describes them as…

……gilded butterflies….

Shakespeare is clearly using the King as a mouthpiece for his own anarchic ideas…..

……and so is stretching DRAMATIC credibility.

He stretches this even further with Lear’s ‘mad’ rants about female sexuality……

lear flowers large

Behold yond simpering dame,

Whose face between her forks presages snow;

That minces virtue, and does shake the head

To hear of pleasure’s name;

The fitchew, nor the soiled horse, goes to ‘t With a more riotous appetite.

Down from the waist they are Centaurs,

Though women all above:

But to the girdle do the gods inherit,

Beneath is all the fiends’…..

There’s hell, there’s darkness, there’s the sulphurous pit,

Burning, scalding, stench, consumption; fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!

Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination: there’s money for thee.

NOTHING that Lear himself experiences in the play justifies this attack on women.

He does not know, as we do, that Goneril and Regan have been lusting after Edmund…..

……..in fact Lear still believes at this stage in the play that Edmund is Gloucester’s good son.

Lear’s sexual disgust, though, is……..

….. IDENTICAL…….

…… to Shakespeare’s OWN sexual disgust in Sonnet 66…..

……when he writes about….

……maiden virtue…..

……being…..

……rudely strumpeted….

And in Sonnet 129 which begins…..

Th’expense of spirit in a waste of shame…..

Is lust in action; and till action, lust

Is perjur’d, murderous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;

Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight…..

And again in Sonnet 144 where Shakespeare makes……

…… EXACTLY THE SAME COMPARISON…..

……that of female genitals with Hell….

……. as Lear does in the play.

Shakespeare describes in the Sonnet how his mistress, the Dark Lady……

….. has seduced his patron and lover…….

southampton hilliard

And whether that my angel [Southampton] be turn’d fiend

Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;

But being both from me, both to each friend,

I guess one angel in another’s hell.

TRIXIE

So, Boss, you are saying Shakespeare’s……

…….. PERSONAL AGENDA……

……. threatens to wreck the play……

Are there any other examples of this?

STEWART

Yes. A very famous one. The dreadful curse of Lear……

lear left hand out

…..on his daughter, Goneril….

…..when he asks the Goddess, Nature, to…..

…..convey sterility….

….into her womb.

You’ll need some background first…..

TRIXIE

Your Cat’s all ears!

STEWART

In my Grosvenor Chapel talk on King Lear…….

[See: The Background to ‘King Lear’]

…….I argued that in the original, ‘Armada’,  King Leir play……

 leir frontispiece

‘Gonorill’ was a satirical portrait of Mary Tudor….

Mary Tudor

…..the Catholic ‘Bloody Mary’……

…..who burnt hundreds of Protestants to death…..

marian execution

…..and who, in a desperate wish  to produce a son for her husband, King Philip II of Spain…..

…..and, indeed, King of England….

philip_II

…..experienced a whole series of phantom pregnancies.

These pregnancies are referred to in the old play by King Leir……

……. who says of ‘Gonorill’….

…….poor soul, she breeds young bones,

And that is it makes her so touchy, sure.

‘Young bones’ was the phrase the Elizabethans and Jacobeans used to describe the foetus in the womb…..

I discovered in rehearsals for King Lear that…….

……GONERIL IN THE LATER PLAY IS PREGNANT AS WELL!!!

Zia Wheeldon as Goneril.

Zia Wheeldon as Goneril.

TRIXIE

Proof, Boss, proof!

STEWART

The proof shall be yours, Trixie the Cat!

In a scene with Regan and her husband Cornwall……

Tom Piercey as Cornwall and Kirsten Carmichael as Regan.

Tom Piercey as Cornwall and Kirsten Carmichael as Regan.

……Lear curses Goneril in her absence….

……and says..

All the stored vengeances of heaven fall

On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,

You taking airs, with lameness!

‘Young bones’ is EXACTLY the same phrase that Leir uses in the old play……

The King is WILLING Goneril to give birth to a disabled child….

To make the point clearer, I hobbled round the stage….

 TRIXIE

Did this shock the audience?

STEWART

Well it certainly shocked my son-in-law, the Duke of Cornwall…..

He responds with…..

Fie, sir, fie!

TRIXIE

Hang on a minute! 

This must mean that when Lear calls on Nature to sterilise Goneril….

……or at least to make any child born to her….

A thwart disnatured torment to her…..

…..HE KNOWS SHE IS ACTUALLY PREGNANT!!!

STEWART

Yes. And to point up the horror, I struck her across the womb with my whip….

TRIXIE

That is truly horrible….

STEWART

I agree, Trixie….

….but it seemed something Lear……

…..in his highly charged state……

….would do.

But NOTHING in the play has justified……

…..or remotely provoked….

…. this extreme behaviour.

…..Goneril has simply asked him to…..

…..disquantity…..

…..his train of a hundred knights!

HE IS NOT ONLY CURSING HIS OWN DAUGHTER…..

……HE IS ALSO CURSING HIS OWN POTENTIAL GRANDCHILD…..

HE IS, IN FACT, CURSING THE WHOLE WORKINGS OF NATURE!!!

Lear’s……

……strong emotions….

….in the words of T.S. Eliot….

t.s. eliot

…….in an essay he wrote about Hamlet……

…..exceed the facts of the play…….

And they exceed ‘the facts of the play’  because they proceed from Shakespeare himself…..

As I explained in the SECOND PART  of my Grosvenor Chapel talk on Lear……

……Shakespeare’s heart had been broken in 1605……

……when the Third Earl of Southampton’s wife, Elizabeth Vernon……

Eliz Vernon as Countess

……gave birth to a son.

Fifteen years before, working to a commission from The Third Earl’s mother, Mary Southampton….

Mary Browne

…..Shakespeare had written seventeen sonnets on the Third Earl’s seventeenth birthday……

…..to encourage him to get married and have an heir……

See: THE BIRTHDAY SONNETS.

But, following a love triangle with the Dark Lady……..

……Shakespeare had embarked on a passionate affair with the Third Earl himself.

This affair survived Southampton’s courtship and marriage to Elizabeth Vernon……

vernon elizabeth comb

……and survived the birth of daughters to the Countess…….

But the arrival of a BABY BOY led to Southampton’s rejection of Shakespeare.

Southampton had hoped to be King James’s lover when he came to the throne in 1603…..

….and had even sent him a wooing portrait…..

See: THE EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON AND TRIXIE THE CAT.

But when he was rejected…..

…..and excluded from the King’s gay inner circle….

……Southampton turned bitterly homophobic.

He wanted to set a ‘manly’ example to his son….

So Shakespeare, the player, had to go.

Shakespeare responded with the poisonous  Sonnet 126………

…….which I decoded in my Grosvenor Chapel talk……

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

…..in which Shakespeare describes how Southampton’s affection…….

….. and pre-occupation with his baby boy…….

…… had led to Shakespeare’s own…..

…..withering….

……while Southampton’s…..

……sweet self…..

……his son….

……grow’st…..

Shakespeare is so devastated by this neglect that he wishes Southampton dead…..

…..and rotting in his grave…..

….. like meat that has been….

…..rendered….

…..by Nature herself….

For a dark, bleak period in Shakespeare’s life, Shakespeare became…..

AN ENEMY TO LIFE……

AND TO ALL THE FUNCTIONS OF LIFE.

TRIXIE

Knowing this, do you still love Shakespeare?

STEWART

If anything, Trixie, I love him even more…..

The great American playwright Tennessee Williams……

tennessee williams

….admitted that all great artists were……….

…. monsters….

And Shakespeare has acknowledged his own monstrosity.

As  the great magus, Prospero, says of Caliban…..

…This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine….

 thing of darkness 2

Shakespeare has looked at himself with devastating honesty…..

…..AND MADE HIS BRUTALITY WORK FOR HIM IN HIS ART…..

……AS PROSPERO MAKES CALIBAN WORK FOR HIM ON HIS ISLAND…..

TRIXIE

So do you think we need to reconsider ‘Shakespeare the Man’?

STEWART

Yes. 

When Charles Darwin………

darwin charles

…….challenged conventional religious belief in the nineteenth century……..

……..people needed a new divinity. 

Shakespeare fitted the bill.

He  became the guru who……..

…….in the words of Matthew Arnold…..

Arnold Matthew

…out-topped knowledge…..

….like a great mountain whose top could never be seen.

And if you look at Shakespeare’s statue in Stratford-upon-Avon….

shakespeare contemplative 2

…….you see a man contemplating life from afar…..

…….as though he were a philosopher rather than a playwright…..

shakespeare contemplative

But anyone who has read the Sonnets finds a man completely engaged with life…..

 …..full of contradiction, lust, obsession, self-doubt, loyalty, violence, tenderness and jealousy…….

…..just like the characters in his plays…

……and just like humanity itself….

He was probably the most fully HUMAN writer that has ever lived…..

TRIXIE

But how did the audience respond to your own performance as King Lear?

Could you keep their sympathy AT ALL as you hit your pregnant daughter with a whip?

STEWART

I only acted the part, Trixie!

I’m in no position to judge….

 Just then there was a roar of a Harley Davidson outside….

…..then Tom ‘X’ came bounding into the caff…….

tom X

….. brandishing a piece of paper in the air…..

Tom ‘X’

Chief, guess what?

You’ve just had an e-mail about King Lear…..

……from the Revd. Susan Allman!!!

susan allman

(Susan, as many will know, is the highly respected and dynamic Vicar…….

…..of  the thriving St. Peter’s Church in Titchfield)

st. peter's titchfield

You Cat grabbed the e-mail before Stewart could take it……..

…. read it….

……. then said……

We have the answer to my question here, Boss!

And what a glorious answer it is!!!

Susan writes…..

I don’t know whether you realised but we were sitting right at the front at the Great Barn, partly because I forgot my long-distance specs. We did enjoy the intimacy of the performance and had a real sense of being transported back to the Shakespearean era. I studied Lear for my A-Levels many years ago but had forgotten some of the subterfuge and sexual jealousy which was so vivdly portrayed. When you carried in Cordelia at the end it was truly heart-rending and brought a tear to my eye. I always had a soft spot for her. 
Your Lear was very human; infuriating at times but mostly lovable, with occasional glimpses of the powerful bearing he once had.
Our local community is truly blessed to be able to access drama of this high standard – and in such a special place!
 

After such an endorsement…….

……. from such a person……

……. there was little left for Your Cat to do…..

……..except bring this Interview with Stewart to a tactful, silent, close……

‘Bye, now….

Paw-Print smallest

 

Trixie

Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

Our Chief Agent, Stewart Trotter…

…..recently played King Lear for….

The Titchfield Shakespeare Festival Theatre.

lear cross

Your Cat is in the process of interviewing him…….

…… about what it’s like to play the King………

(For Part One of the Interview, click: HERE and for Part Two, click: HERE)

Your Cat asked him the question:

 ‘Where does the evil in ‘King Lear’ come from?’

He paused for what seemed an age…..

…. then replied….

Let’s go for a walk, Trixie the Cat!

And so we did: Stewart grabbed a couple of books from the floor of The Code…….

…..why do men ALWAYS leave books on the floor?….

…..and we walked into heady Maida Vale….

maida vale

…..the highly-desirable……..

…..leaf-strewn……

…..celebrity-rich…..

……district of West London.

STEWART

You’ve been writing well,  Trixie……

…..and The Code Rehabilitation Programme is certainly working for you….

Let me take you as a reward to your favourite caff!

Your Cat……

……taking her lead from Her Majesty the Queen…..

……PURRED with pleasure…..

She knew EXACTLY where Stewart meant….

……the world famous…….

……canal-straddling…..

…….haunt of the international Bohemian set…..

…..the NOTORIOUS Café Laville…..

cafe laville 2

Your Cat has said that Maida Vale is celebrity-rich….

…..but that day The Vale outdid itself!!!

Guess who we saw walking in the street…..

…..as though she was just like everyone else?

Shakespeare Code Fellow….

….and SUPERSTAR IN HER OWN RIGHT…

MAGGIE OLLERENSHAW, F.S.C.

maggie ollerenshaw star

 …..celebrated……

…..as the world well knows……

…..for her wonderful portrayal of Wavy Mavis….

Wavy Mavis

……in the CLASSIC B.B.C. T.V.  sitcom…..

……OPEN ALL HOURS….

open all hours close up

…..a NEW PILOT of which was screened last Christmas……

new open all hours

Modest as ever, Maggie asked Stewart how King Lear went in Titchfield….

…….THEN BROKE THE SENSATIONAL NEWS…..

MAGGIE

Open All Hours is to be REVIVED…….

FOR A WHOLE NEW SERIES!!!

Please be my guests at the recording…..

 Before we could reply a B.B.C. stretch-limo screeched to a halt by Maggie’s side…..

…..and a leather-clad chauffeur in shades leapt out…..

…..and opened one of its many doors…..

CHAUFFEUR

Sorry to trouble you, Miss Ollerenshaw…..

The BBC’s gagging for an in-depth interview….

MAGGIE (pointing to Your Cat)

But I’ve already given an in-depth interview to Trixie…….

It’s been read the world over…..

CHAUFFEUR

That’s the problem…..

The Beeb says everyone knows it by heart…..

Everyone, that is, who lives in the……..

……. ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY TWO COUNTRIES…

……. which make up The Shakespeare Code!!!

STEWART

Monsieur le Chauffeur, you exaggerate..

……It’s only one hundred and ninety one…..

CHAUFFEUR

Haven’t you heard?

…..Benin has just joined! 

benin

The Beeb are besides themselves with jealousy…

 TRIXIE

Benin? Where the bronzes come from?

benin bronze

CHAUFFEUR

No less than that, Trixie the Cat.

At this point Maggie stooped to give Your Cat a loving, sisterly kiss…

MAGGIE

You are a victim of your own success, dear Trixie……

But I’ll NEVER give another interview as profound as the one I gave to you…..

You delved to the bottom of my heart…..

And with that Maggie was off……

…..whisked away by the leathered chauffeur……

….. like the great star that she is….

[If you would like to read Your Cat’s LIFE-CHANGING interview with Maggie, then click: HERE! ]

Stewart and I continued on our way to Café Laville….

…..where we were IMMEDIATELY spotted…….

….. and led to prestigious canal-side seats…….

cafe laville 3

…..by the lovely Marco…….

marco the waiter

……the new waiter friend of Tom ‘X”s…..

thomas 'X' 2

We both settled down to complementary froth-coffs as Your Cat got out her pad……

…..and continued her Interview with The Code’s Chief Agent…..

TRIXIE

So, Stewart, what IS the source of the evil in King Lear?

STEWART

This is the question Lear himself asks in the play…….

…… when sheltering in Gloucester’s outhouse in the storm…..

anxious lear (2)

Then let them anatomise Regan, see what breeds about her heart. Is there any cause in nature that make these hard hearts?

But there is no reply to his question……..

As I said in my Grosvenor Chapel talk…..

(SEE: The Background to ‘King Lear’ )

…..King Lear is a play that asks QUESTIONS rather than gives ANSWERS….

In the last scene alone…….

…… the characters onstage ask a total of THIRTY QUESTIONS….

TRIXIE

Does that mean we’ll never know where the evil comes from?

STEWART

Well, I think I know…..

…..but I’d like to approach it bit by bit…….

Don’t want to shock you, Trixie!

TRIXIE

You CANNOT shock Your Cat…..

Please proceed!

STEWART

I argued in my talk  that Shakespeare’s portraits of Goneril and Regan……

Zia Wheeldon as Goneril and Kirsten Carmichael as Regan

Zia Wheeldon as Goneril and Kirsten Carmichael as Regan

 …..are a Roman Catholic’s attack on Protestant Queen Elizabeth….

Shakespeare is satirising Elizabeth’s lust for power….

….her dominance over men….

….her elevation of minions….

….her rampant sexuality…..

….and her delight in cruelty and torture.

Elizabeth had died a few years before the play was written….

elizabeth's funeral

…..and so could be attacked with impunity…..

And remember, King James VI and I……

James with orb and sceptre

…..who had come to the English throne in her place…..

…..wouldn’t have minded a bit…..

Elizabeth had chopped off his mother’s head…..

execution mary queen of scots

During rehearsals at Titchfield, I found another coded reference to the dead Queen…..

Lear refers to his…..

…..pelican daughters….

The mother pelican was thought to peck at her own breast to feed her young with her own blood…..

pelican misericord

This had been an old symbol of Jesus Christ…….

christ as pelican

….. who had given his blood for his church…..

Dante, for example, calls Christ…..

Nostro pelicano…

Elizabeth, as well as appropriating the Catholic Church in England for herself……

…..had also appropriated the symbol of the pelican.

Nicholas Hilliard painted a miniature of her……

pelican 3

…..with a pelican pendant round her neck…….

pelican queen 2

…..and she also possessed a pelican cup…..

pelican cup

Elizabeth was implying she was giving her own life-blood…..

……both to the Church of England….

……and to her subjects.

But in the satire of the play, Shakespeare reverses the image…..

Goneril and Regan are the pelican DAUGHTERS…..

…..who drink the blood of their parent….

So, by association, Elizabeth becomes a pelican daughter as well….

……who drank dry the symbolic blood of the Catholic Church…..

…..and the literal blood of the English Catholic martyrs….

The Execution of Edmund Jennings

Edward Arden…….

…….Shakespeare’s own relative on his mother’s side………

…….had been hanged drawn and quartered in 1583…..

…….and St. Swithin Wells…….

wells swithin

…..an intimate friend of Shakespeare’s patrons, the Southampton family….

….had been hanged near Southampton House in London in 1591…..

But satire is primarily a ‘cool’, intellectual medium……

….and this play is ‘hot’ and passionate…..

There ARE satirical elements in it……

But the play is not primarily a satire….

TRIXIE

So where does this heat in the play come from?

Stewart paused for a moment, removed some of the coff-froth from his Lear-beard and said….

STEWART

Well, Shakespeare does toy with the idea of planetary influences....

TRIXIE

You mean astrology?

STEWART

Yes, but he called it….

…..astronomy…..

He never used the word….

…..astrology…..

Science and Art had not yet split asunder…..

He examines the idea……

……that the planets govern our actions and emotions….

…… in other plays like The Winter’s Tale…….

……..where Hermione…….

Mary Anderson as Hermione

Mary Anderson as Hermione

…..the victim of her husband Leontes’ mad, jealous fits…..

…..says, in way of explanation….

There’s some ill planet reigns….

And remember, Trixie, the Elizabethans and Jacobeans were much more comfortable with Astrology than we are…..

Queen Elizabeth had consulted her magus, John Dee…..

John_Dee_Ashmolean

…..on the most auspicious date for her Coronation…..

dee's calculations

And even the historian, William Camden……

camden, william

…….speculated that Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester……

dudley youngish

……. and Queen Elizabeth……..

elizabeth as virgin

…….. had such an intimate relationship because their birth dates were the same.

In Lear the Bastard, Edmund…..

Josh Coates as Edmund

Josh Coates as Edmund

…..denigrates astrology……

At this point Stewart started flicking through the copy of ‘Lear’ that he had brought with him….

STEWART

Ah! Here it is….

Edmund says….

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we a re sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon and stars; as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves thieves and treachers by spherical predominance….

….etc., etc,….

….but he then goes on to say……

My father compounded with my mother under the dragon’s tail. and my nativity was in Ursa Major; so that it follows that I am rough and lecherous. Fut! I should have been that I am had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardising…

…..So, despite himself, Edmund VALIDATES ASTROLOGY!!!

Astrology certainly provides a good REASON for the fact that Cordelia…….

Jenny Bradshaw as Cordelia

Jenny Bradshaw as Cordelia

….. can be so different from her older sisters….

As Kent says…..

It is the stars, the stars above us govern our conditions,

Else one self mate and make could not beget,

Such different issues…

Astrology also explains why such catastrophe should hit two seperate households at once….

But my gut feeling is that for Shakespeare astrology was a bit of a theatrical device…….

He used it to explain away implausible events and behaviour….

Stewart then began to leaf through his well-thumbed copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets….

STEWART

It’s true that in Sonnet 15 Shakespeare talks about…..

…..the stars….

…commenting…

…..on life with their ….

….secret influence….

But in Sonnet 14 he states that he never consults them…..

……all he needs to consult are two eyes of the Earl of Southampton……

henry_wriothesley_3rd_earl_of_southampton (2)

……to know that truth and beauty will always be bound together…..

…..AS LONG AS SOUTHAMPTON PRODUCES A SON!!!!

And in Sonnet 107 he points out that astrologers got the fate of the Earl of Southampton…….

…… COMPLETELY WRONG!!!…..

They prophesied that he would die in the Tower of London…..

…..after he had been imprisoned for rebelling against Queen Elizabeth…..

….and….

….supposed…..

….that he was…

…..forfeit to a confined doom….

 southampton in tower

But as Brothers and Sisters of The Code well know……

……Harry Southampton was freed from imprisonment when James came to the throne…..

……and became the hero of the hour because he had fought for the succession of King James…

As a consequence…..

…..the sad augurs now mock their own presage…..

My own belief is that Shakespeare ultimately sides with Cassius when says in Julius Caesar…..

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars

But in ourselves….

TRIXIE

So where DOES the evil in the play come from?

Out with it, Boss!!! Your Cat can take it….

Stewart paused for a moment…….

….then looked Your Cat straight in the eye….

STEWART

From the heart of William Shakespeare himself….

(This Interview will continue as soon as we’ve managed to revive Trixie the Cat)

TRIXIE HAS NOW RECOVERED!!!

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