AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FROM TRIXIE THE CAT!!!
Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code…..
We are thrilled – and humbled – to announce that on at Sunset on Wednesday, 1st February, 2017…..
The Code received its…..
Everything began back in 2002 with the publication of Stewart Trotter’s game-changing book….
…which was made in the same year into a dazzling television documentary for Meridian by Carol White….
(Carol was later to direct an item on Stewart’s theories for BBC TV’s The One Show)
Stewart has been fascinated by Love’s Labour’s Lost since he played Berowne as a teenager in the grounds of a garden at Thaxted in Essex.
He then directed the play in Clare Gardens, Cambridge, when he was an undergraduate…..
….and then professionally in the Northcott Theatre in Exeter in 1982 where he was Artistic Director from 1980-85.
He became convinced that Shakespeare was writing about a ‘real’ place – and took his daughter Amy on a picnic to the ruins of Titchfield Abbey.
There he was astonished to find himself on the ‘set’ of Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Here were the remains of…..
the curious knotted garden
…..mentioned in the play and
the steep uprising of the hill
Later in the London Library he was to find a reference (in the Victoria County History for Hampshire) to…
the place where….
……in a copy of an old map of the area…..
He and Amy took an old friend from Cambridge, Prof. Andrew Saunders of Durham University……
……on another picnic trip to Titchfield on Whitmonday, 2000 –
……and explained his whole theory on the way down on the train.
He showed Andrew the Old Schoolhouse….
…..also mentioned in the play as….
……the Charge House…..
(The school doubled as a toll house – and has the remains of a secure room)
….and as they were leaving it Andrew offered Stewart the direct challenge….
Love’s Labour’s Found was the result.
In the book Stewart argued that Love’s Labour’s Lost was first performed in the grounds of Titchfield Abbey in 1592……
…….by a mixed cast of professional actors and aristocrats….
(It was quite usual for Elizabethan women to perform in private entertainments.)
Stewart believes the play is a ‘romantic satire’ on Queen Elizabeth’s Progress to Cowdray and Titchfield the previous year……
…. when she had shot rounded up deer from specially erected ‘standings’….
(In reality, the Queen used a cross-bow.)
The play was written to a commission from Mary, Second Countess of Southampton……
……to encourage her gay teenage son, Henry Wriothesley (aka ‘Harry Southampton’)
….. to fall in love and marry a woman.
Melvyn Bragg wrote of Love’s Labour’s Found….
What great ideas! Wonderfully interesting! Intriguing! Watch out Stratford-upon-Avon!
Greg Doran wrote….
The book is exquisite. Thank you.
Nicholas Hytner wrote….
Your theory is fascinating and seductive. It rings of truth. I never understand those who say they are uninterested in Shakespeare’s life; the creation of life for the writer of the plays seems an emotional necessity to me. Yours moves me and convinces me. I hope you have a huge success.
…..and Jane Howell….
It’s got such verve, excitement and gusto in it. It just races along and pulls you with it. It’s light, exciting, fascinating and interesting. You somehow get soaked up into the life of those times. It’s a wonderful piece of work. I hope it gets people stirred up and arguing. It’s brilliant!
The ideas in Love’s Labour’s Found were then developed in three talks that Stewart was invited to give at the Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair, London W.1. in 2009
….which later became…
The talks formed the basis of this blog, The Shakespeare Code, which now has….
….. 250 Posts…..
….. and is read in over……
Here are the TOP TWENTY POSTS for 2016:
In First Place
Harry Southampton had a love affair with William Shakespeare…..
…. which lasted, off and on, from 1592 to 1605…..
Harry had a taste for lower class young men…..
……as his mother Mary did….
But this did not stop him from loving and marrying the beautiful Elizabeth Vernon….
……..and having children with her….
Note: This Post was mentioned in a tweet by Stephen Fry…….
…. and received 4000 Views on one day alone!
In Second Place
Shakespeare’s Sonnets lie at the heart of The Code’s studies.
They are highly complex and highly coded, but give us searing insight into Shakespeare’s life, love and thought.
They sometimes make uncomfortable reading…
…..because they are torn from the fibre of life itself.
See also: Shakespeare’s Sonnets Decoded.
In Third Place
Viola’s ‘Willow Cabin’ speech decoded.
Viola’s ravishing, but mysterious, Willow Cabin references a romantic, patriotic incident that occurred at Tilbury during the Spanish Armada scare…..
…..when Elizabeth visited her troops in armour and on horseback.
In Fourth Place
Shakespeare joined the Roman Catholic Southampton family in 1590 as a ‘fac totum’, entertainer, tutor, teacher…..
…. and generally ‘nice-person-to-have-around’.
His plays – some of which had their first performances at Titchfield – deal with the political, moral and religious pre-occupations of the Southampton family…..
….and those of Southampton’s intimate friend, the dashing Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex….
In Fifth Place
Mary Southampton commissioned Shakespeare to write A Midsummer Night’s Dream to celebrate her marriage to Sir Thomas Heneage at Copt Hall in Essex in 1594……
Written for an aristocratic audience of both Roman Catholics and Protestants, the play contains coded praise for BOTH the late Mary, Queen of Scots……
….AND the aging Queen Elizabeth I!
Using Fairy Magic as a symbol of the Old Faith, Shakespeare attempts to lay to rest the troubled spirit of Mary’s first husband, the Second Earl of Southampton.
See also: Faire Lore and Magic in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ – a Grosvenor Chapel talk.
In Sixth Place
The Shakespeare Code will, from time to time, bestow Fellowships on outstanding individuals.
In 2011 it made the fabulous actress and writer Maggie Ollerenshaw – currently starring in Open All Hours – a Fellow of The Shakespeare Code.
Maggie now has the inalienable right to affix the letters F.S.C. to her name.
Read Your Cat’s now classic interview with Maggie in which she reveals ALL!
Other Fellows include Karen Gledhill F.S.C., Michael Hentges F.S.C., Charles Sharman-Cox F.S.C. and John Lyall F.S.C.
In Seventh Place
Mary, Countess of Southampton, commissioned Shakespeare to write seventeen sonnets for her son, Harry’s, seventeenth birthday in 1590….
….. to persuade him to marry Elizabeth de Vere…..
….the granddaughter of Harry’s guardian, Lord Burghley…..
But the scheme backfired when Shakespeare and Harry fell in love with each other.
See also: Shakespeare’s Sonnets Decoded.
In Eighth Place
Twelfth Night was written to appease the Queen Elizabeth, furious after the Earl of Essex burst into her bedroom unannounced……
…..and saw her without her wig or make-up.
The love-sick Orsino represents Essex, pining for the love of his Queen….
….and Olivia an idealised Elizabeth, left with the daunting task of running her ‘household’ – England – after the death of her father and her brother.
Malvolio – who wants to wrest power from Olivia….
…… represents the ruthlessly ambitious Sir Walter Raleigh…..
And the boistrous Sir Toby Belch….
…….Sir George Carey, the Second Lord Hunsdon…..
…..the debauched, bon viveur cousin of Elizabeth….
……who provoked a furious row with Elizabeth when he told her she was too old to ride a horse…
To read B.A. Young’s review in the Financial Times of Stewart’s production of Twelfth Night at The Northcott Theatre in Exeter in 1985….
In Ninth Place
Macbeth was NOT, as most scholars believe, written in the reign of King James….
It was written in the reign of Queen Elizabeth and first performed in Scotland in 1599 at Holyrood House……
….the site of King James’s witch trials.
It was an attempt to get King James to join in with the Essex rebellion against Queen Elizabeth.
She had ‘murdered’ James’s mother – Mary Queen of Scots – when she was her ‘guest’ in England….
….. in the same way the Macbeths murder Duncan when he is a guest at their castle.
It was James’s duty and his destiny to invade England to destroy the tyrant Elizabeth….
James, however, declined….
See also: ‘Something Wicked this Way Comes’. New Light on the Witches in ‘Macbeth’. A Grosvenor Chapel talk.
In Tenth Place
The Earl of Southampton and his Cat
Harry Southampton, jailed in the Tower of London for his part in the Essex rebellion against the Queen, hoped to become King James’s new boyfriend when Elizabeth died.
He sent this painting – with a couple of commissioned sonnets by Shakespeare – to ‘woo’ the King by offering his hand.
But the King didn’t want to know.
He was much more interested in younger men….
The cat on the window-sill, by the way, plays a highly symbolic role….
In Eleventh Place
Harry Southampton ‘dropped’ his lover Shakespeare when his wife, Elizabeth, had a baby boy in 1605.
Shakespeare’s response was the poisonous Sonnet 126…..
…..and four years later he took his revenge by making public all his private love-sonnets.
This Dedication to the Sonnets indicates, in code, who his lover was….
See also: Sonnet 126 Decoded.
In Twelfth Place
Queen Elizabeth gave the Earl of Essex a ring with the promise that, if he sent it to her, she would forgive him, no matter what he had done.
Essex rebelled against the Queen and was sentenced to death. As he was awaiting execution in the Tower he sent the ring, via a likely lad, to Philadelphia Scrope – his supporter at Court and a friend of the Queen.
But the lad gave it to Scrope’s sister, Katherine – who was married to one of Essex’s mortal enemies – Charles Howard, First Earl of Nottingham.
So the Queen never got the ring…..
….and Essex was beheaded.
….pooh-poohed this story in his Elizabeth and Essex…..
……on NO GROUNDS WHATSOEVER!
Historians have followed Strachey like sheep….
But The Code argues that the story is COMPLETELY TRUE!!!
In Thirteenth Place
Thomas Nashe, The Code believes, collaborated with Shakespeare on his plays……
…..just as he collaborated with Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe…..
…..and often wrote and performed the ‘stand-up’ parts at their premieres.
Nashe was basically Shakespeare’s ‘gag-writer’….
……and was in fierce competition with him for Harry Southampton’s patronage.
It was Nashe, The Code argues, who actually attacked Shakespeare for being…..
…..an upstart crow……
….posing as Robert Greene who had just died….
In Fourteenth Place
Stewart, The Code’s Chief Agent, won an Open Exhibition to study English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and then worked for many years in the professional theatre as a director, producer, artistic director and writer. He won the Hugh Beaumont Award for Best Director of 1976 for his production of The Browning Version at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington which re-established the reputation of Sir Terence Rattigan. He worked with Sir Peter Hall at the National Theatre – then ran his own company at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter for five years. He also started Opera 80 – now English Touring Opera – and was its Artistic Director, also for five years. He has directed in the West End and Chichester Festival and his rock version of the opera Carmen – Carmen Latina – was commissioned by the Kammeroper in Vienna and has played in six different countries.
Stewart brings a practical knowledge of the theatre to the subject of Shakespeare.
In Fifteenth Place
Shakespeare, Harry Southampton and Thomas Nashe paid a secret visit to Europe in the spring of 1593.
They called on King Philip II of Spain – a great friend of the Southampton family – at Madrid where Shakespeare saw Titian’s paintings of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.
He recreated them in verse – using the same colours that Titian did…..
Shakespeare also visited Rome and saw the famous obelisk, recently re-erected in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral.
It was a sacred object to Roman Catholics as it was believed to be the last thing St. Peter saw before he was crucified.
Shakespeare used the obelisk in his Sonnets as a symbol of his eternal love for Southampton.
Note: It is often said that Shakespeare gets the geography of Italy wrong: he has a ship sail to Milan from Verona.
In fact Shakespeare got the geography of Italy exactly right: in his day Italy was studded with canals…
See also: Shakespeare’s Italian ‘Mistakes’.
In Sixteenth Place
The ending to King Lear in the 1604 Quarto version is not, as most scholars believe, a printer’s error…
…. it is Shakespeare’s original conclusion to the drama when, stripped of all illusion, the King wills his own death.
This Post also deals in detail with the symptoms of the King’s disease – the Mother.
Is it a physical disease – the Jacobeans asked – or is it possession by demons?
See also: The Background to ‘King Lear’ – A Grosvenor Chapel Talk.
In Seventeenth Place
Willobie his Avisa is an anonymous satire on the relationship between Shakespeare and Harry Southampton…..
……and their blundering attempts to seduce the chaste Avisa.
The Code argues that the author was none other than the mixed race musician, poet, courtesan and coquette, Amelia Bassano/Lanyer – the Dark Lady of the Sonnets….
….who prick-teased Shakespeare, bedded young Harry…..
….. and performed the dark-skinned parts – in private performances – in many of Shakespeare’s plays.
See also: How Shakespeare’s Dark Lady found God – a Grosvenor Chapel talk.
In Eighteenth Place
The antiquarian John Aubrey believed that Shakespeare and Ben Jonson often based the characters in their plays on people they knew.
The Code puts the case for a Titchfield man as the original of Falstaff….
…..an essay which the great Shakespeare scholar, Prof Jonathan Bate……
a terrific article and very persuasive……
SIMON CALLOW writes:
I have read your blog. I entirely accept the Titchfield connection with Shakespeare and equally buy your association of Beeston with Falstaff. I much enjoyed Love’s Labour’s Found. Warmest and best.
In Nineteenth Place
The position adopted by many scholars – that Richard III is a piece of Tudor Propaganda – is complete nonsense!
It is a satire on Queen Elizabeth’s lover who had died a few years earlier….
These early history plays were joint commissions from the Countess of Southampton, and Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke at nearby Wilton…..
…and were played out in the grounds of their estates….
Both women had reason to hate Elizabeth – and feared a civil war – like the one Shakespeare wrote about so often – would follow her death if she did not name a successor.
And in Twentieth Place
After Essex had been placed under house arrest, half his followers wanted him to rebel against Elizabeth – the other half to seek appeasement with her.
Shakespeare was definitely an appeaser.
He shows in the play just how wrong a rebellion can go…
And how Essex was being misled by his secretary Henry Cuffe…..
…..just as Brutus was misled by Cassius…..
So, Brothers and Sisters of The Code – these are the twenty most popular Posts over the past year……
But can Your Cat mention a few of her own favourites?
Tales from The Palace Theatre is a book about the Palace Theatre in Westcliff which Charles Sharman-Cox F.S.C. …
…and Stewart compiled.
In it is ‘Paul’s Tale’ – Paul Greenhalgh’s hilarious account of working in a gay rep company in the 60’s…
Stewart’s brilliant entertainment about Shakespeare was staged in Titchfield itself last autumn.
The Authorities have allowed Shakespeare out of Purgatory for a single day to ‘fess up’ about his life.
You the audience decide whether he should go on to Heaven, stay in Purgatory…..
This is a talk Stewart and Your Cat gave to a packed audience at St. Peter’s Church in Titchfield last Autumn….
It shows how the stunningly beautiful tomb is PACKED with secret Roman Catholic imagery….
FUTURE PROJECTS FOR THE SHAKESPEARE CODE!!!
The Sonnets arranged in Chronological Order.
When Shakespeare published his Sonnets, he did so in basically two piles…..
……’His’ (large) and ‘Hers’ (small).
They are NOT in chronological order…..
Stewart has been working on the mammoth task of working out what that order was…..
An order that Shakespeare deliberately kept secret….
This will give us even more insight into the life of Shakespeare.
The results will be Posted over the year….
All’s Well that Ends Well = Love’s Labour’s Won.
The Code will set out to prove that the mysterious Love’s Labour’s Won that Francis Meeres mentions in 1588 was the ORIGINAL version of All’s Well that Ends Well and was played at Titchfield as a companion piece to Love’s Labour’s Lost.
This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine…
Members of the congregation at the Grosvenor Chapel have asked Stewart to decode The Tempest….
…and he has agreed to do a dramatised talk on a Sunday afternoon after Easter on a date to be announced…..
…..with the fabulous ‘Trotter Players’…
Brothers and Sisters of The Code….
……thank you for all your support over the years……
……..and all your kind praise.
It means a lot to us….
And thanks particularly to…
…’the onlie begetter’ of The Shakespeare Code.
He wrote about our first Post with encouragement from Canada…
…and so the blog was born…..