[To read ‘Fairie Lore and Roman Catholicism in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Shakespeare Code’s latest thinking on the play, click: HERE!]
Harry Southampton, the Third Earl of Southampton, was to come of age in 1594 – so his mother, the Countess Mary, had to leave Titchfield….
She and her son had never got on…
She married one of Queen Elizabeth’s old lovers, the elegant courtier (and recent widower) Sir Thomas Heneage and moved to Copped Hall in Essex….
She commissioned Shakespeare to write an entertainment to celebrate the match….
It was to be A Midsummer Night’s Dream…..
A Midsummer Night’s Dream…..
…..proved a nightmare.
Emilia Bassano, the Dark Lady, was back on the scene, making a play for young Harry…
Thomas Nashe was still doing all he could to rubbish Shakespeare….
And Thomas Kyd was pushing for Nashe’s job as Shakespeare’s collaborator….
On top of all this, Heneage, Countess Mary’s bridegroom, was a Protestant…..
So staunch a Protestant, in fact, that he had overseen the execution of Mary Queen of Scots…
There was also the problem of the Countess of Southampton’s first marriage…..
Her husband, the second Earl of Southampton, had died with their quarrel over little Harry unresolved….
He had gone to his grave hating his wife.
As a Catholic, Shakespeare believed that the first marriage needed closure before the second could properly begin…
The soul of the second Earl was probably locked in Purgatory….
And profoundly influenced by actions on Earth….
Shakespeare, the magus…….
….solved everything in a flash…..
He managed to work into the play compliments to BOTH Queen Elizabeth AND Mary Queen of Scots…
He cast – and exposed – Emilia as the scheming little dark-skinned ‘Ethiope’, Hermia…
And cast the diminutive Nashe – who famously could not grow a beard – as Francis Flute the bellows-mender, forced to play Thisbe through his lack of facial hair…
Shakespeare devalued Kyd by parodying a famous line from his big hit The Spanish Tragedy….
Hieronimo, hearing a woman pleading for help, asks….
What outcries pluck me from my naked bed?
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Queen of the Fairies, Titania……
……hearing Bottom singing in his ass’s head….
What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?
Shakespeare cast Heneage as the warrior Theseus…….
…..who admits he has ‘wooed’ Hyppolita (Countess Mary)…
with his sword….
Won her love by doing [her] injuries….
i.e. chopping off the head of Mary Queen of Scots…
The Countess’s quarrel with her first husband over little Harry is re-enacted in the figures of Titania and Oberon, fighting over the changeling boy….
And resolved when Oberon and Titania forgive each other and dance together…..
Shakespeare even throws in a Catholic blessing on the bridal bed and Copped Hall itself at the end of the play….
But it is spoken by fairies…….
…… in case Queen Elizabeth was in the audience…
Emilia and Nashe took their revenge….
Emilia – posing as the virtuous woman ‘Avisa’ – penned an anonymous, scurrilous satire……
She claimed that a ‘blubbing’ young Harry – Mr. H. W. [Henry Wriothesley] and a vindictive ‘Old Player’, W. S. [William Shakespeare] had both tried to seduce her…
Nashe, as Shakespeare’s collaborator on the play, had a big hand in the comic scenes….
He sends ups the early touring days of Shakespeare’s company in the figure of the ‘rude mechanicals’……
……and the theatrical meglomania of Shakespeare himself in the character of Bottom the Weaver…
But Kyd was unable to exact a revenge…..
He was dead by the end of 1594…
The Shakespeare Code has, so far, issued eight posts on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream Decoded’….
To read The Background, please click: HERE
To read The Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, please click: HERE
To read The Comedy of Errors, please click: HERE
To read Love’s Labour’s Lost, please click: HERE
To read William Shakespeare as Berwone and Thomaas Nashe as Moth, please click: HERE
To read Boyet – Shakespeare’s revenge on George Chapman, please click: HERE
To read Don Armado – Thomas Nashe’s revenge on Sir Walter Raleigh, please click: HERE
To read The First Performance in 1594 (i), please click: HERE
More to follow…..