(It is best to read Part One first)
Not everybody likes cats.
There are, in fact, three names for ‘cat phobia’:
galeophobia, ailurophobia and elurophobia.
William Shakespeare had observed this phenomenon at first hand.
In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, asked why he hates the merchant Antonio, replies:
Some men there are love not a gaping pig
Some that are mad if they behold a cat,
And others, when the bagpipe sings i’ the nose,
Cannot contain their urine: for affection,
Mistress of passion, sways it to the mood
Of what it likes or loathes…
Shylock can find no logical reason why he loathes Antonio, any more than there is a logical reason why some men will hate a ‘harmless, necessary cat’: it is simply:
a lodg’d hate and a certain loathing.
The only character in William Shakespeare’s works who expresses an aversion to cats is Bertram, the Count of Rossillion, in All’s Well that End’s Well. He falls under the malign influence of Paroles, a corrupt and selfish captain. When Bertram learns the full extent of his captain’s treachery, he exclaims:
I could endure anything before but a cat; and now he’s a cat to me!
Then, as he discovers more and more about Paroles, Bertram adds:
He’s more and more a cat!
A pox on him, he’s a cat still!
The Shakespeare Code believes that Bertram, with his ‘arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls’ is a ‘warts and all’ portrait of Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton.
The Code’s reasons for this belief are:
- Both Bertram and Southampton are wards of court
- Both are sons of a widowed Roman Catholic Countess
- Both are ambitious to shine in the Wars
- Both end up as Captains of Horse, and
- Both treat their ‘lower class’ lovers appallingly.
In the great scene of the play, the Countess of Rossillion questions her adopted ‘daughter’ Helena (whose father, a poor, but skilled herbalist, has recently died) as to whether she is in love with her aristocratic son, Bertram.
After an attempt at prevarication, Helena confesses her love:
Then I confess,
Here on my knee, before high heaven and you,
That before you, and next to high heaven,
I love your son…
Helena later adds:
But if yourself,
Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth,
Did ever in so true a flame of liking,
Wish chastely and love dearly, that your Dian
Was both herself and love – O then give pity….
The Countess of Southampton (Henry Wriothsley’s mother, Mary) had, in real life, fallen in love with ‘a common person’ when she was married to the second Earl. But, like the Countess of Rossillion in the play, she did not give way to her feelings. She remained as chaste as the goddess Diana.
The Code believes that:
1. Helena is William Shakespeare in drag.
2. The Countess of Rossillion in the play is the Countess of Southampton.
3. The Countess of Southampton, like the Countess of Rossillion, approved of the liaison between her son, (Henry) and a member of the (relatively!) lower classes (Shakespeare).
If Betram suffered from ‘galeophobia, ailurophobia and elurophobia’ then the Earl of Southampton must have suffered from them as well!
Southampton was an excitable, spoilt young man who was always getting into quarrels. His experience of being sentenced to death after the rebellion (then living through Essex’s botched execution) had a sobering effect on him.
For a time, at least.
He wrote to the Privy Council from the Tower about his ‘lowly and penitent heart’ and his ‘true penitent soul’ and his wish to ‘prostrate [himself] at Her Majesty’s princely feet’.
This is the ‘contrite’ image Southampton now wishes to project to King James in the ‘wooing portrait’ he sends to him. The inscription, written above the dates of his incarceration, reads:
This could mean a defiant ‘In chains, but unbeaten’ or ‘Bloodied, but unbowed’. However, the Latin ‘sed’ (‘but’) does not appear in the inscription.
The implication is that Southampton is unbeatable BECAUSE he is in chains.
‘The chains’, could of course, refer to literal imprisonment in the Tower and all the Earl has learnt from his disgrace.
Equally, ‘the chains’ could refer to the sling he has to wear in order to recover from his illness, from which he has also learnt.
But the most likely reading of ‘in chains’ is that the Earl has
CHAINED HIS OWN PASSIONS!!!
The Tower has turned him into a Stoic.
Southampton is now so completely master of himself that he can even tolerate the presence of a cat, a creature that, like Bertram, he could not ‘endure’ before his imprisonment.
So the cat is, in reality, a symbol – a symbol of passion tamed.
It might have been based on a real ‘harmless, necessary cat’ kept in the Tower to chase off mice and rats: but it cannot be Southampton’s ‘favourite cat, Trixie’.
Southampton hated cats!
But why is the cat looking out of the picture? And what is the cat looking at?
Like the Earl of Southampton, the cat is looking out at the man for whom the portrait was painted – King James.
The cat is exercising the inalienable right of every cat (symbolic or otherwise) first recorded by Shakespeare’s friend, John Heywood, in 1562:
What! A cat may look on a King, ye know.
The cat is black and white. The Earl is pictured in black and white.
The Code has established that the Earl of Southampton is in mourning for the dead hero, the Earl of Essex.
But black and white were also the ‘signature’ colours of the Earl of Essex, to show his loyalty to Queen Elizabeth….
So the ‘black-and-white’ theme of the painting would also evoke, for James, the soul of his ‘martyr’, the Earl of Essex.
Southampton is presenting himself as a ‘substitute Essex’, a glorious remnant of the now glorious revolution against the wicked Queen Elizabeth.
Did the Third Earl of Southampton include a letter to King James along with his portrait? His right hand, after all, was not in a sling.
This, The Code believes, was not Southampton’s style. He would dictate his letters (which his secretary would pen in a ‘secretary hand’:) he would then sign them, with a flourish, ‘H. Southampton’.
The late, great maverick Shakespeare scholar (and war-time Bletchley code-breaker) Eric Sams discovered that a letter to Lord Burghley, and signed by Southampton, is written -
IN SHAKESPEARE’S HAND!
(a discovery confirmed by the American hand-writing expert, Charles Hamilton)
The Code has examined this letter in manuscript at the British Museum and believes Mr. Sams’s and Mr. Hamilton’s claims to be true.
[Lansdowne MS LXX.72. The letter is dated 27th June, 1592]
The Code also believes that Shakespeare wrote another letter for Southampton in his cell to accompany the portrait.
BUT THE LETTER WAS IN THE FORM OF TWO SONNETS!
The Numbers of the Sonnets will be revealed in:
‘The Earl of Southampton and Trixie the Cat. Part Three’.
(It’s best to read Part Three next.)