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The ‘dramatised talk’ will be performed on Sunday, 30th November at 12.30 at the Grosvenor Chapel, 24, South Audely Street, London, W1K 2PA

Click: HERE!

Meanwhile, Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code, here is a….

SNEAK PREVIEW!!!

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

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 black, rosary and prayer book in hand….

Princess Elizabeth, Henry VII's grand-daughter.

But at Christmas it was all change. She flounced out of Christmas Day 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 12th 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 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 Anglo-Saxon 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…….

yuletide

……became Christmas.

father christmas red

The Anglo-Saxons also enjoyed roasting and eating oxen on their Holy Days: so Gregory continued this custom on Church 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 one strengthening the other. The Feast of Fools…….

feast of fools

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

saturnalia

was celebrated in the Churches, during which the congregations gambled on the high altars, boys became bishops……..

boy bishop

……. and a donkey’s bray replaced the ‘Amen’ at the end of prayers –

donkey in church

 

…….while Ceres, the Corn Goddess……..

ceres

…….was worshipped in the fields right up to the reign of Elizabeth.

But there was already an element of magic inherent 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 from the Churches 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 they might do you as to enlist their positive aid.

St. Catherine with her wheel.

St. Catherine with her wheel.

Babies were baptised as much to save them from the Devil as initiate them as Christians.

baptism

And Requiem Masses said as much to stop visits from ghosts as to grant rest to the dead.

requiem mass 3

In fact a Requiem Masses 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.

And not just humans. The old Catholic Priest at Temple Grafton – who might well have married William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway – was famous for healing sick or injured hawks.

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

Calvinism took over Cambridge in sixteenth century in the same way Marxism took it over in the twentieth.

 

Anthony Blunt, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess

Anthony Blunt, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess

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 knew everything, he knew whether you were going to heaven or hell……

…..BEFORE YOU WERE EVEN BORN…

If you were one of the chosen – the elect – he bestowed favours to you in this world….

Bloody Mary, when she had been Queen, 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 pre-determined 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 the people 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…..

MORE TO FOLLOW…….

 

Trixie

TRIXIE THE CAT

….warmly invites all Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

…..who are in the London area at lunchtime on Sunday 30th November…..

…..to….

‘FAIRE LORE AND ROMAN CATHOLICISM IN A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

….a dramatised talk written by Stewart Trotter…

….the Chief Agent of The Shakespeare Code….

….and performed by Amanda Walker, Kate Godfrey, Karen Little and Patrick Godfrey.

It will last around forty-five minutes….

….and show how Queen Elizabeth’s Calvinist State…..

William Cecil, the Lord Burghley.

William Cecil, the Lord Burghley.

…..attempted to destroy the spiritual imagination of English Catholics….

….and how William Shakespeare rose to their defence….

…by calling on…

FAIRY POWER

puck sexy

It will take place in the back rooms of the Grosvenor Chapel, 24 South Audley Street WIK 2PA

…..at 12.3o p.m. on Sunday, 30th November…

grosvenor chapel with Peter Pan house

Bring sandwiches to share if you would like to eat and there will be a plate collection for the Chapel.

You might like to come to the Advent Sunday sung mass (with professional choir) at 11 a.m.

T L da Victoria Missa Vidi speciosam

William Byrd Laetentur coeli

 Fr. Bill Ritson – a theatre fanatic – will be preaching.

If you would prefer to come just for the talk and the front doors are closed, please enter by the blue side door, to the right of the Chapel as you look at it…..

….Next to the Peter Pan House….

peter pan house

…whose top window inspired the Walt Disney cartoon….

window peter pan house

COME TO THE TALK AND MEET YOUR CELEBRITY CAT!!!

‘Bye, now…..

Paw-Print smallest

Paw Note:

To read Stewart Trotter’s other A Midsummer Night’s Dream Posts, click: HERE!

TO SEE A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE TALK, 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!!!

 To read the First Part of Trixie the Cat’s Interview with Stewart Trotter….

…..click: HERE!

Trixie

Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code…..

We finished the Dom Perignon at Shakespeare Code speed…….

……and Tom ‘X’ left to work on a new Sonnets’ project……….

……inspired by our visit to beautiful Titchfield.

south street 3

Your Cat then began the Second Part of her interview with  The Code’s Chief Agent, Stewart Trotter…..

…..about what it was like to play King Lear….

TRIXIE

What have you learnt about Lear…….

…….by playing the part……

Stewart Trotter as King Lear. Lear production photographs by Tim Gulliford.

Stewart Trotter as King Lear. Lear production photographs by Tim Gulliford.

…… that you didn’t know before?

STEWART

Two main things.

The first……

….how much Lear relishes life!

Not only do I think actors and directors get the last scene of the play wrong…….

(See Part One  of this interview)

….I NOW THINK THEY GET THE FIRST SCENE WRONG AS WELL!!!

It’s normally all foreboding and gloom….

scofield opening lear

…….BUT NO-ONE IN THE PLAY KNOWS WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN LATER!!!

For Lear, this should start of as the happiest day of his life……..

lear with horn cup (2)

He is retiring from the cares of state…..

…..he is bestowing the gift of his kingdom on his daughters……..

…..and he is giving away the hand of his beautiful, youngest daughter in marriage.

Goneril and Regan actually COMPETE with each other to tell the old man how much they love him….

lear and regan (2)

And it’s ONLY when Cordelia refuses to play the game that things go wrong…..

Lear is then furiously hurt by her rebellion against his authority……

…….and by the plain talking of his old friend, the Earl of Kent……..

…….whom he banishes in a fury…..

But the next time we see him he has returned from a vigorous hunt…….

 

David Lee as Lear's Attendant.

David Lee as Lear’s Attendant.

 

………can’t wait to have his dinner…….

…….. and orders up a knockabout session with his Fool.

Kevin Fraser as the Fool.

Kevin Fraser as the Fool.

Lear’s LAUGHTER at the Fool’s jokes is actually written into the script…….

lear's laughter 001

……but is never, ever played….

Rather the relationship is presented as some sort of bitter competition…..

…..and in a moment of STUPENDOUS MISJUDGEMENT……..

….. in the Royal National Theatre production of the play…..

r. beale lear

……LEAR ACTUALLY KILLED HIS FOOL!!! (sic)

At Titchfield, we tried to suggest that the Fool was a surrogate son to the King…….

fool lear kent (2)

…….the son that the King never had to inherit his Kingdom….

The other side of the King’s jollity, though, is his frequent lapses into depression…..

lear melancholy

The Fool is well aware of this………

 ……and uses to his jokes to try to cheer up the King….

Lear and fool on bench (2)

……rather in the way the jester Richard Tarleton…..

Tarleton - large

…..used to…..

……undump…..

…..Queen Elizabeth I…..

…..who notoriously suffered from…..

…..melancholy….

elizabeth sad

But the problem is that the Fool..

…..like the young George Washington…..

Youn George Washington, admitting to his father that he cut down the chrry tree.

Young George Washington, admitting to his father that he cut down the chrry tree.

 ….GENUINELY cannot tell a lie.

So sometimes, when he is trying to make the King laugh………

………the Fool makes things worse by letting slip the truth…..

……..and so, without meaning to…..

……..helps push the King into madness….

me lear mad

But even that madness brings the King happiness….

When he rushes into the storm and cries…..

Blow winds and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes spout

Till you have drench’d our steeples, drowned the cocks…..

lear storm large

….he is not…..

……defying the storm…..

…..HE IS ENCOURAGING IT!!!

TRIXIE

So that’s another trap for hammy old actors….

STEWART

It certainly is, Trixie!

TRIXIE

Name other ways in which Lear’s madness makes him happy….

STEWART

He ADORES his new friendship with ‘Mad Tom’……

Sam Goodall as Edgar

Sam Goodall as Edgar

……Edgar in disguise…..

……whose improvised ramblings, he believes, hold ‘the meaning of life’…..

And on the heath……..

……dressed in a crown of wild flowers……..

……he becomes like a child again……

lear happy mad (2)

 

…..full of anarchic games…..

……and fresh insights into life.

He does, it’s true, go through agonies of rage and pain…..

……. as his daughters strip him of everything that he values…..

me lear distraught

But losing everything has the effect of lightening him…..

……and liberating him…….

Even the language he speaks changes in the course of the play….

At the beginning…….

……when he is improvising a retirement scheme….

 …..he says to his sons-in-law, the Dukes of Cornwall……

Tom Piercey as The Duke of Cornwall.

Tom Piercey as The Duke of Cornwall.

….and Albany….

Stuart Hibbard as the Duke of Albany.

Stuart Hibbard as the Duke of Albany.

I do invest you jointly with my power

Pre-eminence and all the large effects

That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course

With reservation of an hundred knights

By you to be sustained shall our abode

Make with you by due turn.  Only we shall retain

The name and all th’addition to a King. The sway

Revenue, execution of the rest

Beloved sons be yours….

Lear is using the compact, clotted, language of politics…….

……manipulative and threadbare……

……with clauses within clauses……

……. that cannot be questioned or challenged.

But when he has gone mad….

……and is later reconciled with Cordelia…

lear reconciliation scene (2)

……. and experiences an ecstasy beyond anything he has ever felt before….

 

reconc scene (2)

 …….his language becomes transparent, sweeping, graceful and lyrical….

Come, let’s away to prison. We two alone will sing like birds i’th’cage,

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

And ask of thee forgiveness.  And 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 ‘em too,

Who wins, who loses, who’s in, who’s out….

And take upon’s the mystery of things as if

We were God’s spies….

He concludes with the sublime…

Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia, the Gods themselves throw incense…..

No wonder W. B. Yeats……..

w. b. yeats

……the most lyrical of poets, calls Lear…..

….gay….

TRIXIE

I beg your pardon?

STEWART

In the old-fashioned sense of the word, of course.

TRIXIE (not convinced)

Mmmmm……..

Now what was the second thing you learned about the play?

STEWART

Just how RADICAL its politics are.

The play is a massive critique of Kingship…

As I wrote in the Titchfield programme note…..

(To read Stewart’s note, click: HERE!)

…….Lear is in many ways a very good King.

He has kept a potentially turbulent country together….

….and is trying his best to ensure that peace will follow his death……

He has inspired complete loyalty in his close follows…..

…..has massive personal authority…..

…..and can make quick, decisive and irreversible decisions.

Now all this is great on the field of battle…..

…..BUT IT’S NOT SO GREAT IN THE HOME….

…..ESPECIALLY A HOME FULL OF DAUGHTERS!!!

Lear is a……

……man’s man…..

……happy in his rough and tumble relationships with the Fool and Kent and his knights…

……but insensitive to the feelings of Goneril and Regan……..

Zia Wheeldon as Goneril and Kirsten Carmichael as Regan

Zia Wheeldon as Goneril and Kirsten Carmichael as Regan

…..especially when he openly favours his youngest daughter, Cordelia….

Jenny Bradshaw as Cordelia

Jenny Bradshaw as Cordelia

Very early on in the play, he recognises how wrong he has wronged her…

But he cannot revoke this decision……

…..BECAUSE HE MADE IT AS A KING….

Kingship………

……for all its seeming power……

……puts Lear into a straitjacket.

IT IS ALSO DELUSORY….

King’s are vulnerable to flattery…..

…..and because they possesses the power and wealth that other people want…..

…….THIS FLATTERY HAS COMPLETELY UNDERMINED LEAR’S HOLD ON REALITY….

He has to go ‘mad’ to realise that Goneril and Regan….

……far from loving him….

flattered [him] like a dog…..

Also,  because Shakespeare deliberately sets his play in Pagan times…..

…..LEAR BELIEVES HIMSELF TO BE A PRIEST KING….

……..able to call on the powers of the Sun and Moon and the planets….

……..and even Dame Nature herself…..

…….. to enact his will….

invoking heaven lear

He needs to be exposed, bare-headed, to a furious storm……..

 ……. to realise he has no control WHATSOEVER over the universe……

……..or even the rain……

He is just a poor old man……

……..pitifully grateful for the shelter and straw of a hovel.

In the storm, though, he stops being a King…..

…..BUT HE BECOMES A HUMAN BEING INSTEAD…..

He starts to empathise, for the first time, with the poor and the homeless…..

lear looking at mad tom (2)

….. and admits……

……in one of the greatest passages in the play….

……that he has….

…..ta’en too little care of this….

The rich MUST share their wealth with the poor…..

….. and, in so doing, prove……

…….more just……

……than….

……..the heavens…..

…..  themselves.

This thought is so shocking and new to the King that it flips him into madness……

……..a place where the Fool can no longer reach him with his jokes.

TRIXIE

So what’s Shakespeare’s final position on Kingship?

STEWART

I don’t think Shakespeare has a ‘final position’ on anything, Trixie…….

That’s why we are all so fascinated by him….

But at the end of the 1608 version of King Lear…….

…..Kingship has become so degraded that Albany….

……who, as the only surviving Duke, is the rightful heir to the Kingdom……

…….doesn’t want the throne……

He offers it JOINTLY to Edgar and Kent…..

….but BOTH Kent AND Edgar refuse it……

…. and Albany is stuck with it….

…..a burden rather than a glory.

This is a society aching for some other kind of political structure…..

But what that structure might be……

……no-one has a clue……

TRIXIE

As Tom ‘X’ and I watched the Titchfield Shakespeare Festival production of the play……

……there was a real sense of growing evil….

……lustful evil…..

Marco Cristina as Oswald.

Marco Cristina as Oswald.

….. an evil that overwhelms everyone and everything…..

Brian Fitzmaurice as the Earl of Gloucester, blinded by the Duke of Cornwall and his wife, Regan.

Brian Fitzmaurice as the Earl of Gloucester, blinded by the Duke of Cornwall and his wife, Regan.

Where does it come from?

STEWART

That, Trixie the Cat, is the ultimate question of the play….

Can I think about it a bit before I answer?

TRIXIE

Of course.  Take your time, Boss….

Take your time…..

(To read the next part of Trixie’s Interview, click: HERE!)

 

 

Trixie

 Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code……

Before you read Your Cat’s interview with Stewart Trotter…….

……it’s best to look at ‘The Original Ending to King Lear’ Parts One,  Two  and Three.

The Agents of The Shakespeare Code have been examining William Shakespeare’s ORIGINAL ending to King Lear..

 As part of this research, the Code’s Chief Agent actually PLAYED the part of the King….

Photos by Tim Gulliford at http://www.timgulliford.smugmug.com/

Photos of the Titchfield Shakespeare Festival production of ‘King Lear’ are by Tim Gulliford at http://www.timgulliford.smugmug.com/

…..at the HIGHLY PRESTIGIOUS Titchfield Shakespeare Festival…..

king lear programme 001

….to find out how this ending works in performance.

Stewart is now back……

…..recovering…..

….. in The Code’s Headquarters in West London…..

…..where he finally consented to give…..

…..AN INTERVIEW TO YOUR CAT!!!

AND HERE IT IS…….

(Stewart is the Chief Agent, so this Interview is rather more verbatim than is Trixie’s wont…..)

TRIXIE

So, Boss….

…..you don’t mind me calling you that, do you?

STEWART

Not at all, Trixie…..

TRIXIE

Tom ‘X’ and I LOVED your new ending to King Lear…..

…or should we say your OLD ending as it hasn’t been performed since 1608…..

Can you please explain to people who weren’t there what happens?

And how it differs from the ending that is normally played….

STEWART

Well, the BEGINNING of Lear’s last scene is exactly the same..

..It’s only at the end that it’s radically, gloriously different.

TRIXIE

Talk us through the whole scene….

STEWART

Offstage, Lear discovers a soldier is hanging his daughter, Cordelia, in her cell….

He kills him and cuts down Cordelia…. 

But it’s too late…..

In one of the most shocking moments in the whole of drama…….

…..Lear enters with Cordelia dead in his arms…..

Lear with dead Cordelia

TRIXIE

Not bad for an eighty year old!

What’s he on? Celtic spinach?

STEWART

Remember, Trixie, the King is ill…..

….with a disease called ‘The Mother’.

It’s his illness gives him supernatural strength….

lear with mother

TRIXIE

Of course! You mentioned that in your programme note!

(To read the note, Brothers and Sisters, please click: HERE!

To read more fully about Lear’s illness, please click: HERE!)

STEWART

Another symptom is suffocation in the chest…….

……. and choking in the  throat…..

That’s why, when Lear enters……

……..he commands the men on stage to…..

Howl, howl, howl, howl…..

This is because…..

……HE IS TOO ILL TO HOWL HIMSELF!!!

When  this command is met with shocked silence…….

…….he attacks the soldiers for being…....

…..men of stones…..

…..and adds….

Had I your tongues and eyes I’d use them so that

Heaven’s vault should crack…..

TRIXIE

So all those hammy old actors…….

….. who come on bawling their heads off…..

…… have got it wrong!

STEWART

You might say that, Trixie the Cat….

…..but I couldn’t possibly comment…..

TRIXIE

What happens next……

STEWART

Lear, trying to accept that his daughter is dead, says…..

I know when one is dead and when one lives…..

She’s dead as earth……

But as T.S. Eliot says in The Four Quartets…….

t.s. eliot

TRIXIE (showing off)

Humankind cannot bear very much reality…..

STEWART

Brava, Trixie the Cat!!!

Lear’s sick, old mind instantly rejects the truth…..

……and he asks the soldiers for a looking glass…….

TRIXIE

…..about the last thing a soldier would ever take into battle…..

STEWART

……to see if Cordelia’s breath will…..

……mist or stain the stone….

Instead he finds a feather…….

……in our production, part of Cordelia’s dress….

lear with cord feather (2)

TRIXIE

Looks a bit like Ginger Rogers’ dress in Top Hat…..

ginger rogers feather

STEWART

Trixie!

TRIXIE

Sorry, boss…

STEWART

Lear holds the feather to Cordelia’s mouth and cries…..

This feather stirs…..

But the feather only stirs because Lear’s own hands are shaking so much……

The loyal Earl of Kent…….

……..who has followed the King in disguise as his servant Caius….

Ron Long as Kent

Ron Long as Kent

…….tries to introduce himself…..

But Lear thinks he is one of the ‘murderers’ and ‘traitors’ who have plotted to kill Cordelia…

He then begs Cordelia to…..

…….stay a little….

…..and imagines she is talking to him…

But when no-one else can hear her, he explains….

Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low….

An excellent thing in woman…..

TRIXIE

Bet the feminists love that!

STEWART (ignoring Your Cat)

Lear then boasts to Cordelia that he has……

……killed the slave that was a hanging thee…..

……and immediately becomes a proud, young warrior king again….

I have seen the day with my good biting falchion [short sword]

I would have made them skip……

But then……

……in a moment of heart-breaking pathos…..

…….confesses…

I am old now, and these same crosses spoil me….

For a moment he recognises Kent……..

…..but cannot understand that Kent is the same man as his servant Caius…..

……a good fellow….

……who will…

……strike and quickly too….

Then he confuses Caius with Cordelia….

……and says….

He’s dead and rotten…

Lear then goes on to confuse the Fool with Cordelia as well…..

And my poor fool is hanged……

In his bewildered state, all the people he has loved……..

……..and who have loved him…….

……..are present in the dead body of his daughter.

Lear finally accepts that Cordelia has…..

…..no, no, no life….

……..then asks the great, unanswered……

……..and unanswerable……

……..question of the play…..

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

And thou no breath at all?

lear cord feather (2)

In an act of SUPREME MORAL HONESTY…..

……Lear admits to himself that he will never see his daughter again….

Thou’llt come no more,

Never, never, never, never, never…..

He then asks Kent to undo a button on his tunic……

And it’s at this crucial point that our version of Lear…..

…… and the one that’s usually played……

……. part company…..

TRIXIE

What happens in the usual version?

STEWART

The King suddenly reverts to his old delusion that Cordelia is alive……

……and believes he can see her lips moving….

lear looking at Cordelia's lips

Do you see this? Look on her! Look her lips,

Look there! look there.

He then dies……

Like the Earl of Gloucester, earlier in the play, Lear’s heart has….

…burst smilingly…..

TRIXIE

Now tell our Brothers and Sisters what happened at Titchfield!

STEWART

As Lear utters those hammer-blow words to his soul…..

 Never, never, never….

…..it provokes a final attack of The Mother…..

….which Shakespeare’s contemporaries believed was a fatal disease.

The King, suffocating and choking……

…..asks Kent to undo the button at his neck…..

He then gives a great cry of agony as he collapses on the body of Cordelia….

….indicated in the text by an extraordinary…..

O,o,o,o,o….

 

1608 Quarto version of 'King Lear'.

1608 Quarto version of ‘King Lear’.

Edgar cries: 

He faints! My lord! My Lord’….

Then the King raises himself up and says….

Break heart, I prithee break…..

He has spent the whole of the play trying to CONQUER his illness….

When he sees his servant has been put in the stocks by his daughter and son-in-law…..

….. he cries out….

O how this Mother swells up towards my heart….

Historica passio, down thou climbing sorrow,

Thy element’s below….

Now, in the full, dreadful, knowledge that his daughter is dead……

HE LETS HIS ILLNESS CONQUER HIM!!!

He CONTROLS his destiny by SUBMITTING to it……

As he COURTEOUSLY ……

……but HEROICALLY……

…..IMPLORES HIS HEART TO BREAK…

It is a suicide which is NOT a suicide……

It follows the flow of the universe itself……

 At this point there was a knock at the door…

..It was Tom ‘X’….

thomas 'X' 2

 …..brandishing a print out….

TOM ‘X’

Thought you might like to read this, Chief….

It’s Ian Burleigh writing in The Portsmouth News….

STEWART

Tom! You know it’s very unprofessional to read reviews…..

….you might start to believe them!

As dashing Theatre Colossus, Sir Peter Hall……

peter hall

…….once remarked to me….

…….when I was working as his ‘Assistant’ on productions at the National Theatre and Glyndebourne…..

Today’s review is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper….

…….except, of course, no-one wraps up fisn’n’chips in newspapers any more…

TOM ‘X’

But this is NOT like a review, Chief.

It’s more an appreciation…..

TRIXIE

Let Tom read it to you…

…..pleeeeeeeease Boss!!!

STEWART (reluctantly)

If it makes you happy, Trixie…

TRIXIE

Hooray!!!

TOM ‘X’ (reading)

Where has Mr Trotter been hiding all these years?

He is obviously made to be on stage! His anguish came from the heart and I have NEVER been reduced to tears by Shakespeare before.

I expect to see much more of him on the London stage.

me lear distraught
This Fool played by Kevin Fraser is not to be missed either……

…he really understands what he is saying and knows how to interpret it for us.

fool horns (2)
The fight scene between Josh Coates and Sam Goodall as brothers Edmund and Edgar is truly spectacular – I have not seen better in a live performance.

edgar edmund fight

[To see a video of the fight filmed from the audience, click:

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=926678037351929&set=o.812371435457710&type=2&theatre ]

 

The production is staged in a barn that Shakespeare almost certainly knew.

barn interior

Were he in the audience today, he would be amazed and alarmed by the lighting and the sound effects…..

……but he would certainly have recognised the honesty of the set……

….. and the passion of the company of players.

curtain call lear 2
There is so much that is good and not to be missed about this production.

TRIXIE

Well, Boss, it seems to me that Ian Burleigh  ‘got it’…..

STEWART (brushing away a tear)

I’ll drink to that Trixie….and to him. He’s a real professional.

TOM ‘X’

Thought you might say that Chief!

 That’s why I’ve got a bottle of Dom Perignon outside…..

dom perignon

TRIXIE

Time for a little break, Boss?

Stewart nodded.

So it was….

‘Bye, now…

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(To read the second part of Trixie’s interview with Stewart, click: HERE! )

 

Trixie

As Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code well know…..

……The Code will always put its money where its mouth is!!!

We have all been examining Shakespeare’s original, 1608 ending of King Lear……

[See: Shakespeare’s Original Ending to King Lear Parts: One and Two]

……and many of us began to speculate about how this ending might work in performance.

There was only one way to find out…..

……TO PERFORM THE PLAY ITSELF…..

……..WITH THE ORIGINAL ENDING INTACT!!!

To that end, our Chief Agent, Stewart Trotter…..

………in an act which Shakespeare Code Fellow,  Charles Sharman-Cox……

charles sharman cox 1

…..branded as…….

….. fearless…

……undertook the role of King Lear…..

Stewart Trotter as King Lear. All photographs of this production are by Tim Gulliford at http://www.timgulliford.smugmug.com/

Stewart Trotter as King Lear. All photographs of this production are by Tim Gulliford at http://www.timgulliford.smugmug.com/

……for the Titchfield  Shakespeare Festival…..

…in the Great Agincourt Barn….

barn interior

As Brothers and Sisters of the Code well know……

…….Titchfield in Hampshire is where Shakespeare really fell in love…..

…..both with the Dark Lady,  Aemelia Lanyer….

(See: How Shakespeare’s Dark Lady Found God)

…and with the wayward, gay, teenaged, cross-dressing Third Earl of Southampton…..

Henry Wriothesley…..

henry_wriothesley_3rd_earl_of_southampton

(See: Just how Gay was the Third Earl of Southampton.)

The Titchfield Shakespeare Festival is run by the dynamic Kevin Fraser……

….who also played the Fool in the production.

kevin as fool

Stewart first played King Lear in a school production…..

……SOME TIME AGO!!!

Here he is on the right – with John Lyall, F.S.C., playing Gloucester on the left.

stewart and john in King Lear

Agent Tom ‘X’ and Your Cat biked it down to Titchfield…..

……..MOTORBIKED it down….

harley davidson

…….to catch Stewart’s Lear…..

…and stayed in the village’s beautiful South Street…..

south street 3

As we waited, expectantly, for the performance in the Great Barn, we read Stewart’s Programme Note…..

‘Historica Passio’ – the King’s Disease.

There are two different versions of King Lear: one is a ‘pirated’ Quarto-sized version printed in 1608…….

lear pide bul quarto 001

…….and the other is from the ‘authorised’ Folio-sized collection, published in 1623, seven years after William Shakespeare’s death……..

firrst folio frontispiece 001

For this production we have drawn on both versions. The Folio version cuts the ‘trial’ of Goneril in the storm scene when the King is going mad and we’ve done the same.

We have, though, restored the original ending to the play – which probably hasn’t been seen since 1608! We don’t want to spoil your experience, but warn you that this ending is even MORE uncompromising than the Folio ending.

It does, however, display the King’s final, Stoic control of his own destiny.

We have also emphasized a theme that was more readily understood by Shakespeare’s audience. The King, as well as ‘suffering’ from old age, is suffering from an illness called ‘The Mother’ – or what Shakespeare calls ‘historica passio’ (though everyone else called it ‘hysterica passio’).

The symptoms of ‘the Mother’ were: acute pain in the stomach, a feeling of suffocation in the chest, choking in the throat, mania and superhuman strength. Michael Drayton….

drayton michael 2

…….(the poet friend of Shakespeare’s) compared to illness to the Severn bore – a huge wave that bursts into the river from the sea and, as its force is constricted by the narrowing banks, smashes all before it.

severn bore violent

This illness was very ‘fashionable’ when Lear was written….

Catholic priests (‘massing’ in England illegally) had interpreted the symptoms as demonic possession and had performed exorcisms on recusants…..

‘Scientific’ Doctors had argued that the ‘the Mother’ was not the work of the Devil – it was simply a disease.

Shakespeare, in the play at least, goes along with this.

It is fashionable to present the King as a fascistic, mittel-European tyrant…….

lear statue

– but this production sets the play where Shakespeare intended it – in Celtic, pre-Christian Britain.

celtic britain

We’ve also tried to see events from Lear’s point of view (as well as everyone else’s!) He IS in many ways an impossible, unpleasant old man. (Would YOU want him turning up at your home with a hundred knights?)

But he has managed to hold his turbulent kingdom together by the force of his personality and, in doing so, has earnt the undying love of his followers, Kent, Gloucester and the Fool.

Like King Henry VIII at the beginning of his reign………

henry VIII 2.

…….Lear does not have a son to inherit the kingdom

me lear

This stress, we believe, has soured his relationship with his daughters, Goneril and Regan, who must have known their father wanted a boy………

Zia Wheeldon as Goneril and Kirsten Carmichael as Regan

Zia Wheeldon as Goneril and Kirsten Carmichael as Regan

……..By the time Cordelia came along, Lear had given up hope. So she got all the love….

Jenny Bradshaw as Cordelia

Jenny Bradshaw as Cordelia

Lear is old and he is ill, probably terminally ill as ‘the Mother’ was thought to be fatal.

Unlike Henry VIII’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth……..

old elizabeth

……Lear does all he can to avoid Civil War at his death. He divides his Kingdom, with meticulous fairness, between his three daughters and their husbands.

A war can only occur if two daughters make an alliance against the third. However, Lear suddenly decides on a silly –and in our production, drunken – game: he suddenly decides his daughters must all tell him how much they love him.

In reality, the kingdom, as Shakespeare makes clear, has already been divided.

Cordelia, full of love for her father, but as stubborn and as spoilt as he is himself, refuses to play this game.

And the rest is ‘The History of King Lear’.

And then we stopped reading the notes as the devastating play began……

Stewart is now  back at Code Headquarters in West London……

…. where Your Cat found him sprawled on The Code’s famous sofa…..

sofa

….comatose from his Thespian exertions…..

Your Cat pounced on him…..

……and pinned him down….

……… till he finally agreed to be interviewed….

(His modesty is legendary)

To read his extraordinary interview…..

CLICK: HERE!

 

‘Bye, now…

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