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The World’s Press is full of the news that, on 23rd April this year, Simon Andrew Stirling will publish a new biography of Sir William Davenant….

davenant new

…..entitled Shakespeare’s Bastard…..

shakespeare's bastard

That William Shakespeare was Davenant’s biological father is not exactly news: it was first mentiond by John Aubrey who was born ten years after Shakespeare’s death…..

Aubrey John

Aubrey spoke to Davenant’s brother, Robert, and even attended William Davenant’s funeral, remarking on how fine his walnut tree coffin was. 

He writes:

….when he [Davenant] was pleasant over a glass of wine with his most intimate friends, e.g. Sam Butler (author of Hudibras, etc.) – say that it seemed to that he wrote with the very spirit that Shakespeare [wrote], and seemed contented enough to be thought his son: he would tell them the story as above, in which way his mother had a very light report…

But, even so, the crowd-catching title of the book, Shakespeare’s Bastard, is misleading….

It suggests heartlessness where there was, in fact, wisdom, humanity and warmth.

John Davenant, William’s legal father, was a London vintner and admirer of plays – and of Shakespeare’s work in particular.

According to Aubrey he was a…..

….very grave and discreet citizen….   

…..who married Jennet Shepherd….

…..a very beautiful woman, and of very good wit, and of conversation extremely agreeable.

But the two of them could not produce children strong enough to survive.

Six of them died in a row.

So, when they moved to Oxford in 1601 to run ‘The Tavern’ – a winehouse – they came to an arrangement with Shakespeare…..

…..whose only son, Hamnet, had died five years earlier.

Every spring/summer Shakespeare would travel to Stratford-upon-Avon to stay with his family – and pass through Oxford on his way.

On these occasions he became a guest of the Davenant family……

…..and would sleep with Jennet in the famous painted room…

painted room

….with the full consent and blessing of the husband.

That way both men could enjoy being father to a son – or even sons and daughters….

Dates corroborate this story…..

Jane Davenant was conceived around May 1601 –  after the execution of the Earl of Essex on 25th February when Shakespeare needed to get out of town….

(His play, Richard II, had been performed on the eve of the ill-fated rebellion against Queen Elizabeth….)

Robert was then conceived around June of 1602, Alice around April 1604 (in the new reign of James I and VI)….

….. and William Davenant around June in 1605.

(John and Nicholas were born in 1607 and 1611 and Elizabeth sometime between 1607-11. Even after he had ‘retired’ to Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare often visited London.)

Robert, who became a chaplain, told Aubrey that Shakespeare had….

……given him a hundred kisses…..

…….when he visited him as a boy in Oxford.

Shakespeare became Godfather to William…..

Indeed there was a story that one day young William, who was dashing through the streets of Oxford, was stopped by the Master of New College who asked him why he was running so fast.

‘To greet my Godfather’ said William.

‘Do not take the name of the Lord they God in vain’ replied the Master…..

William possessed the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare….

Chandos portrait

….and the terracotta  Shakespeare bust that is now in the Garrick Club in London….

garrick club bust shakespeare

 

He also had special knowledge of Shakespeare that Nicholas Rowe utilised in his 1709 Some Account of the Life of Mr. William Shakespear:

Nicholas Rowe

There is one instance so singular in magnificence of this patron of Shakespeare’s [Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton] that had I not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William D’Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to inserted, that my Lord Southampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he had a mind to.

Simon Andrew Stirling will no doubt add fresh research to these stories when his biography is published…..

…..and he is undoubtedly right that people, wanting Shakespeare to be divine, have suppressed the evidence that he had a surrogate family…..

…..in the same way they have suppressed the evidence that he was a bisexual Roman Catholic.

HOWEVER….

Mr Stirling also asserts that Shakespeare’s Sonnet 126 was NOT written – as most scholars believe – to his patron and lover, Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton….

Southampton in armour

HE BELIEVES IT WAS ADDRESSED TO THE BABY WILLIAM DAVENANT INSTEAD…..

……AND HERE THE SHAKESPEARE CODE AND MR STIRLING SERIOUSLY PART COMPANY!!!

Here is a facsimile of the ‘Sonnet’ which, at twelve lines long……

…..and, written in rhyming couplets, is not a sonnet at all.

It concludes with a pair of brackets where the final couplet should have been….

Here is a copy of the original printing:

sonnet 126 001

According to the Deccan Herald:

Sonnet 126 has often been suggested to be a homo-erotic poem.

The mistaken gay theme may be explained because the poem comes at the end of a sequence known as the ‘Fair Youth’ sonnets which are understood by scholars to refer to a homosexual passion between Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton.

Stirling notes that the pair appeared to have gone their separate ways in 1594.

We shall have to wait for the publication of the book to learn what evidence Mr. Stirling has for this last statement.

It’s true that George Chapman……

Chapman, George

 

……whom The Shakespeare Code believes to be the ‘Rival Poet of the Sonnets’…..

[See: ‘The Rival Poet Revealed.’]

……and whom Shakespeare satirises as the mincing, lisping Boyet in Love’s Labour’s Lost…..

[See: ‘Boyet: Shakespeare’s Revenge on George Chapman.’]

……published his The Shadow of Night in 1594……

……and that Southampton, to Shakespeare’s horror, toyed briefly with the idea of becoming Chapman’s Patron rather than Shakespeare’s.

But opposed to this evidence is the loving, passionate dedication that Shakespeare wrote to Southampton on the publication of Lucrece in 1594:

The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness.

Your lordship’s in all duty, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.

Also Shakespeare produced A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the marriage of the Earl of Southampton’s mother, Countess Mary….

Mary Browne

…. to Sir Thomas Heneage in 1594.

Southampton came of age that year – so would be in a position to give the £1,000 gift Davenant mentions.

We know that Shakespeare is listed as one of the ‘sharers’ in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men early in the following year, 1595 – so a partnership in the company could well have been……

…… the purchase [Shakespeare] had a mind to.

From the Sonnets, we know that Shakespeare and Southampton, like all lovers, had ups and down in their relationship; but they were still very much together in 1603 and 1604.

Sonnet 107 celebrates Queen Elizabeth’s death in March 1603, James VI of Scotland’s succession to the throne of England and the Earl of Southampton’s release from the Tower on April 5th….

Southampton had been imprisoned for his part in the Earl of Essex’s rebellion against Elizabeth…..

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul

Of the wide world, dreaming on things to come,

Can yet the lease of my true love control,

Suppos’d as forfeit to a confin’d doom.

Neither my own anxieties – nor the prophesies of the world in general – can control the lease of life granted to my true love – the Earl of Southampton – who everyone thought would die in the Tower of London.

The mortal Moon hath her eclipse indur’d,

And the sad Augurs mock their own presage;

Incertainties now crown them-selves assur’d,

And peace proclaims Olives of endless age.

Queen Elizabeth has died – and those people who predicted civil war at her decease find they were completely wrong. With the coronation of King James VI and I all uncertainty is gone and we can look forward to eternal peace – now that the King has ended hostilities with Spain.

[Note: The Moon – cold and chaste – was a symbol of Queen Elizabeth. Pearls were used to present Elizabeth as Cynthia, the goddess of the Moon – and in her famous ‘Rainbow Portrait’ she is depicted with a crescent-moon jewel in her head piece.

rainbow portrait elizabeth moon jewel

Sir Walter Raleigh promoted the cult of Elizabeth as Moon Goddess with a poem he wrote during the late 1580s, The Ocean’s Love to Cynthia, in which Elizabeth is compared to the Moon. Sir Walter was often depicted with a giant pearl in his ear……

raleigh in white

…..to demonstrate his loyalty to Elizabeth.]

Now with the drops of this most balmy time,

My love looks fresh and death to me subscribes,

Since spite of him I’ll live in this poor rime,

While he insults ore dull and speechless tribes;

The Coronation Oil – and the happiness that the new reign has brought – has revived my lover, Southampton, who lay sick in prison – and Death becomes my servant since I’ll live forever in this sonnet while he triumphs over people less brilliant or articulate than me.

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

And you, Harry, will find your monument in this sonnet while the Tudor coat of arms and brass tombs of tyrants like Elizabeth rot away.

tomb of Elizabeth

[Note: The mention of ‘crest’ recalls Queen Elizabeth’s remark: ‘Were I crested and not cloven’ i.e. ‘If I had a penis rather than a vagina.’ Shakespeare is implying that Elizabeth was so unnatural she had a penis of her own. Shakespeare hated Elizabeth because of her persecution of Roman Catholics and his family and friends.]

Shakespeare is still close enough to call Southampton….

……my true love…..

…..and Sonnets 125, 123 and 124 refer to James’s Coronation in 1603 – when Shakespeare, as a Groom of the Chamber, held a canopy over James during the service – and to the State Opening of Parliament in 1604 when the processional route was lined with ‘pyramids’ – obelisks…

triumphal arch

IN THESE THREE SONNETS (OF 1603 AND 1604) SHAKESPEARE CONTINUES TO DECLARE HIS LOVE FOR SOUTHAMPTON!!!

The Deccan Herald continues:

Three of the sonnets are known to have been written in 1603 and 1604, by which time Southampton was heading into his thirties.

Coming so soon after two sonnets composed in 1604,” Stirling writes, “it would be rash to presume that the ‘lovely Boy’ of Sonnet 126 was the mature Earl of Southampton. The poem appears to have been written to a very young child whose birth caused his mother’s full-moon belly to wane.’

The Shakespeare Code’s believes that it would be….

….rash….

…..NOT to assume that Sonnet 126 addressed to Southampton…..

…..WHEN THE OTHER ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE ARE!!!

 The phrase ‘lovely Boy’ is INTENDED to be insulting to ‘the mature’ Southampton…..

….. for reasons The Code will now reveal.

The Sonnet IS about a baby…

BUT NOT THE BABY MR. STIRLING TAKES IT TO BE!!!

SONNET 126 DECODED.

To understand the language and thought of Sonnet 126 we have to study the language and thought of the ‘Birthday Sonnets’……

……the seventeen poems at the start of the sonnet sequence that Shakespeare wrote to celebrate the seventeenth birthday of the Earl of Southampton.

These were a commission in 1590 from Countess Mary to persuade her gay, wayward son, Harry……

henry wriothesley new miniature

…..to marry Elizabeth De Vere, Lord Burghley’s grand-daughter.

Elizabeth_de_Vere

The Countess of Southampton was a widow and Lord Burghley was her son’s guardian.

He had the authority to dictate who her son was to marry: if he didn’t, the Southampton family faced a colossal £5,000 fine….

In these seventeen sonnets Shakespeare outlines the advantages Harry will gain if he marries Elizabeth….

…..and the disadvantages if he doesn’t!!!

In the second sonnet Shakespeare tells Harry if he has a son, he will be able to regenerate, through him, the physical decay old age will inevitably bring:

When forty Winters shall besiege thy brow,

And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,

Thy youth’s proud livery so gaz’d on now,

Will be a tatter’d weed of small worth held:

When you get to the age of fifty seven and have lines and wrinkles on your forehead and your face, your youthful beauty – which looks like the dazzling colours of the livery that servants of great Lords wear….

livery romeo

…will look like a tatty old coat that nobody wants….

[Note: Queen Elizabeth I was 57 years old in the year of the ‘Birthday Sonnets’, 1590.

old elizabeth

Shakespeare is making an oblique coded attack on her loss of physical beauty.]

Then being askt, where all thy beauty lies,

Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;

To say within thine own deep sunken eyes,

Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.

Then if anyone asks you where your beauty has fled to – and what you did with all the semen you produced in your randy youth to reply – ‘It’s all in my shrivelled testicles’ would be an agonising embarrassment and a pointless excuse.

[Note: the vocabulary of the face is often used by Shakespeare to represent the genital area – nose, beard eyes, etc.]

How much more praise deserv’d thy beauty’s use,

If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine

Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse’,

Proving his beauty by succession thine.

If you were to make use of your good looks you would earn much more praise if you then said: ‘My beautiful son shows you how dishy I once was – and makes up for my being old now.

This were to be new made when thou art old,

And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

In Sonnet 4, Shakespeare then reprimands Harry for masturbating instead of making love to a woman.

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend,

Upon thy self thy beauty’s legacy?

Nature’s bequest gives nothing but doth lend,

And being frank, she lends to those are free….

Why are you such a spendthrift with your semen? Why do you ejaculate all over yourself the fluids you are meant to give to others? Nature doesn’t actually GIVE you anything – she just lends it in the belief you will pass it on. Being generous herself, she gives to those who are generous in turn.

[Note: Shakespeare often uses money – and all its associations – as a code for semen.]

Then beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse,

The bounteous largesse given thee to give?

Profitless usurer, why dost thou use

So great a sum of sums yet can’st not live?

Beautiful but miserly, why do you abuse the magnificent penis you were meant to share with others? You are like a money-lender who makes no profit – who spends huge amounts of money but doesn’t have any left to live on. You come many times, but have no baby to show for it.

For having traffic with thy self alone,

Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive,

Because you spend your time masturbating all on your own, you cheat yourself of the lovely baby you could produce if you went to bed with a woman.

[Note: ‘Sweet self’ – is a coded phrase for Southampton’s baby boy.]

In Sonnet 10, Shakespeare also goes on to use the word ‘self’ to mean a baby:

Make me another  self for love of me

That beauty may still live in thine and thee.

In Sonnet 11 he introduces two more code words he will pick up again in Sonnet 126:‘wane’ and ‘grow’.

As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow’st

In one of thine, from that which thou departests.

And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow’st

Thou may call thine, when thou from youth convertest.

As fast as you shall diminish with age, as fast you will grow in the shape of your son in whom you have imbued your characteristics: and that fresh life you bestowed on him when you were young, you can claim as your own when you are old

[Note: Shakespeare is asserting that by having a son Harry can ‘wane’ like the Moon (i.e. grow older and feebler) but ‘grow‘ at the same time (as his son grows older and stronger).

Shakespeare also launches another oblique attack in this sonnet on the childless Queen Elizabeth: ‘Let those whom nature hath not made for store,/Harsh, featureless and rude, barrenly perish.]

In Sonnet 13 Shakespeare talks about the ‘sweet issue’ that Harry will leave behind him if he has a son:

When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.

Harry, of course, ignored Shakespeare’s advice to get married…….

……and so the Southampton family had to pay Burghley his £5,000 fine.

A painful love-triangle then arose at Titchfield in the Plague Year of 1592…..

…..between Shakespeare, Harry and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets – the musician and courtesan Amelia Bassano…

This culminated in a full-blown gay love affair between Shakespeare and Harry which lasted over a decade…

[See: ‘Shakespeare, Love and Religion: The Grosvenor Chapel talks.’ ]

There were infidelities on both sides, but Harry meant everything to Shakespeare….

When Shakespeare lost Hamnet in 1596, Harry even became his surrogate son…..

As a decrepit father takes delight

To see his active child do deeds of youth,

So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite,

Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth. (Sonnet 37)

However, eight years after the Birthday Sonnets, Harry finally fell in love with a woman…

One of Queen Elizabeth’s Ladies-in-Waiting…..

….the beautiful, if unstable, Elizabeth Vernon…..

 

vernon elizabeth comb

She fell pregnant, so Harry married her in secret.

The Queen was furious. She clapped Elizabeth into jail and Harry fled, for a time to France….

[Note: There is a local tradition in Titchfield that Romeo and Juliet was based on Harry’s courtship of Elizabeth Vernon and The Code believes Shakespeare also dramatized himself in the character of Romeo’s ambivalent friend, Mercutio, who loves Romeo and is disturbed by his love for Juliet….

Harold Perrineau as Mercutio in Buz Luhrman's film version of 'Romeo and Juliet'.

Harold Perrineau as Mercutio in Buz Luhrman’s film version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

At one point in the play Shakespeare makes another coded attack on Queen Elizabeth. He has Romeo say:

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
 Who is already sick and pale with grief,
 That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.]

Harry and Elizabeth’s marriage proved a very loving one….

Shakespeare was initially conflicted about the change this marriage would make to his relationship with Southampton….

But in Sonnet 116 Shakespeare comes to the realisation that he has his own spiritual ‘marriage’ with Southampton…  

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments….

And that he will never withdraw his love for Southampton, even if Southampton withdraws his….

…love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove….

In the event, Southampton’s marriage with Elizabeth was initially open enough to include Shakespeare…

Indeed, when Harry joined Essex’s military campaign in Ireland in 1599, he seems to have started a gay affair with someone completely different….

[ Note: On 13th February, 1601 William Reynolds (probably brother of Essex’s secretary, Edward Reynolds) wrote that he ‘marvelled what had become of Piers Edmonds, the Earl of Essex’s man, born in the Strand near me, who had many preferements by the Earl. His villainy I have often complained of. He was Corporal General of the Horse in Ireland under the Earl of Southampton. He ate and drank at his table and lay in his tent. The Earl of Southampton gave him a horse which Edmunds refused a hundred marks for him, the Earl of Southampton would cole and huge [embrace and hug] him in his arms and play wantonly with him’.]

The Irish campaign went disastrously wrong, Essex and Southampton returned to England and finally rebelled against Elizabeth.

She executed Essex in 1601 and imprisoned Southampton, for life, in the Tower.

Shakespeare thought he would never see Southampton again – and wrote a beautiful farewell to him – The Phoenix and the Turtle – in which an exotic Phoenix Bird (Southampton) and a common Turtle Dove (Shakespeare) – are consumed in a mutual flame of love….

However, two years later Queen Elizabeth was dead….

And Shakespeare was re-united with his lover.

People thought that Harry would become the King James’s ‘favourite’….

……as did Harry himself…..

…..but James preferred younger men……

…….like Robert Carr….

robert carr

……and the two years of sickness in the Tower had taken their toll on Harry’s looks……

tower without Trixie

Pushed from the centre of gay power, Harry started to become homophobic…….

But the crunch really came in March 1605.

Elizabeth Southampton gave birth to a baby boy.

She had already given birth to two girls….

But a boy was different.

Now Southampton had an heir for his title….

…and a son, James, he could impress with his manly, soldierly qualities…..

Shakespeare, the player, had to go.

·

Rejection by Harry was something Shakespeare had long been terrified of.

He refers to its possibility again and again in the sonnets….

[See especially Sonnets 36, 48, 49, 57, 58, 61, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92 and 93.]

And it even enters his plays when Prince Harry, at his coronation, rejects his old drinking friend, John Falstaff….

Now it was happening for in reality…

Bereft of the love of his life…..

…..his real son AND his surrogate one….

Shakespeare suffered a complete breakdown….

…….which culminated in his dark, despairing masterpiece, King Lear….

lear with cordelia

And the truly Satanic Sonnet 126….

O thou my lovely Boy, who in thy power

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

Who hast by waning grown and therein showst

They lover’s withering as thy sweet self grow’st

My beautiful boy who holds under his own control the sickle and hour glass – the aging processes – of Father Time himself, who, paradoxically, by growing older and feebler, actually grows younger and stronger and who causes your lover – me – to shrivel with neglect while your baby boy flourishes with your love….

[Note: Shakespeare insults the Earl of Southampton – who was thirty two in 1605 – by calling him ‘my lovely Boy’. He also insults him in a companion ‘Farewell’ Sonnet 87 in which he writes: ‘Farewell, thou art too dear for my possessing’ as though Southampton were a male prostitute too expensive for Shakespeare to hire. He also insults Southampton in the Dedication to the Sonnets themselves: he calls him ‘Mr. W.H” – ‘Mr. Wriothesley, Henry’, reminding him of his days in the Tower when he had lost his title.

Shakespeare also uses the code words ‘wane’ and ‘grow ‘ to mean ‘grow old’ and ‘grow young’ just as he does in Sonnet 11 and ‘sweet self’ to mean Southampton’s baby boy – just as he does in Sonnet 4.]

If Nature (sovereign mistress over wrack)

As thou goest onwards still will pluck thee back,

She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill

May time disgrace, and wretched minutes kill.

If Dame Nature – who has control over the process of decay – keeps you preternaturally young by pulling you back from the natural process of aging – she does so for one reason alone: to show her power over Father Time and time itself.

Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure:

She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!

But you should be terrified of her – you underling who exist simply for Dame Nature’s twisted enjoyment. She may hold up your demise – but cannot control it – like a woman who is holding a precious jewel that is not hers to keep.

[Note: ‘Minion of her pleasure’ suggests one of Queen Elizabeth’s favourites – like Essex: mere toy boys who will be given up when their time comes…]

Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,

And her quietus is to render thee

(                                                                                    )

(                                                                                     )

Nature can delay paying Time’s bill – but paid, it must be. And the only way to settle it is to give you up to death.

[‘Render’ – as well as meaning ‘to give up’ – can also mean ‘break down’ – as one breaks down meat to extract the fat.The brackets at the end of the poem, which indicate where the final couplet should be, also symbolise the gaping grave, waiting to destroy Southampton’s body.]

Shakespeare has promised immortality to Southampton through his verse……

Now he uses it to wish death upon him….

It is the poison pen letter of all time…..

So how Simon Andrew Stirling can interpret Sonnet 126 as  Shakespeare’s peon to his new-born son, William Davenant, is…..

 ……UTTERLY AND COMPLETELY BEYOND BELIEF!!!

THE END.

To read ‘The Dedication to Shakespeare’s Sonnets Decoded’, click: HERE

To read ‘Why did Shakespeare write The Sonnets?’, click: HERE

To read ‘Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Sonnets. (1) Background Jottings, click: HERE

To read ‘Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Sonnets. (2) The Birthday Sonnets, click: HERE

To read ‘Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Sonnets. (3) Was Christopher Marlowe the Rival Poet?, click: HERE.

To read ‘Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Sonnets (4) The Rival Poet Revealed!’, click: HERE.

To read ‘Amazing New Light on Sonnet 86’, click: HERE.

To read ‘Shakespeare’s ‘Bath Sonnets’ Decoded’, click: HERE.

A TRIXIE SPECIAL!!!

Trixie

 

Yes, Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

Brooding hunk, Chris Mills….

chris mills 2

……who played the ‘boarish’ Prince Hal…..

M. Hal feeling falstaff's tummy

…… who transforms into ‘the warrior king’ Henry V…..

M King Henry in battle

…..in Stewart Trotter’s BRILLIANT…

THE MAKING OF A KING

making of a king

…a seamlessly woven….

……compilation of  William Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts One and Two and Henry V…

….and the anonymous Famous Victories of Henry V…

INTO A SINGLE PLAY

…has been nominated by the HIGHLY PRESTIGIOUS…..

evening echo

….as BEST ACTOR IN A SHAKESPEARE PLAY!!!

Of course it’s not ENTIRELY by Shakespeare…..

Stewart has added – to quote The Night I Appeared as Macbeth –

A few comic lines of his own…..

the night I appeared

See: ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’.

….BUT OF COURSE HE’S FAR TOO MODEST TO MENTION THE FACT!!!

Chris IMMEDIATELY got on to Code Headquarters to leave a message…

In a voice trembling with emotion, he said…

Thank you, Stewart, again and again. Without you and Kevin I would never have got this….

I LOVE your blog….

By Kevin, Chris obviously meant the dazzling

KEVIN FRASER

kevin fraser arms outstretched

Director of the WORLD-RENOWNED…

titchfield festival theatre logo

…who played the rascally, lovable Falstaff….

M Falstaff with bottle

in THE MAKING OF A KING….

To read the play….

…which lasts UNDER TWO HOURS….

…and THE RIGHTS TO WHICH ARE NOW AVAILABLE….

Click: HERE!!!

PLEASE NOTE

Shortly The Shakespeare Code will make a….

VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT INDEED!!!

‘Bye, now…

Paw-Print smallest

…by Trixie the Cat!!!

Trixie

 

Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

The last two Sonnets in William Shakespeare’s 1609 Sonnet Sequence…..

…….Sonnets 153 and 154…….

…….have long puzzled scholars….

Here they are…..

SONNET 153

Cupid laid by his brand, and fell asleep:

A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,

And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep

In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;

[Cupid put down the fire-brand that he used to inflame men’s passions and fell asleep. One of the hand-maidens of the chaste Goddess Diana took advantage of the situation: she seized the flaming brand and plunged it into a cold fountain]

Which borrow’d from this holy fire of love

A dateless lively heat, still to endure,

And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove

Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.

[But the sacred flame heated the water instead. The water, hot to this very day, is a bubbling bath which proves beneficial to men with strange illnesses]

But at my mistress’ eye Love’s brand new-fired,

The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;

I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,

And thither hied, a sad distemper’d guest,    

But found no cure: the bath for my help lies    

Where Cupid got new fire; my mistress’ eyes.

[But my mistress’s eyes sparked Cupid’s brand into life: it caught fire again. Cupid, wanting to experiment on me, touched my breast with it. This caused me to fall love-sick. I needed the ‘help of bath’ and went there, an unlucky and diseased guest. But I found no cure: the only remedy for me lies in the same place where Cupid got new fire for his brand: my mistress’s eyes.]

Sonnet 154 begins with the same story…..

SONNET 154

The little love-God lying once asleep

Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,

Whilst many nymphs that vow’d chaste life to keep

Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand

The fairest votary took up that fire

Which many legions of true hearts had warm’d;

And so the general of hot desire

Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm’d.

But the Sonnet has a different conclusion:

This brand she quenched in a cool well by,

Which from Love’s fire took heat perpetual,

Growing a bath and healthful remedy

For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall,    

Came there for cure, and this by that I prove,    

Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.

[I, the slave of my mistress, came to the well for a cure: but I found that though fire can heat water, water cannot cool down love]

As scholars have been quick to point out, these Sonnets are re-workings of a Greek epigram by a sixth century writer called Marianus Scholasticus…..

(Ben Jonson, it seems, had a copy.)

Readers of the Sonnets have taken the ‘disease’ of love to be venereal disease as well as love-sickness….

….and from this some have assumed that Shakespeare ended up…

….a man diseased….

(One writer has even written a whole play on this theme – The Herb Garden…)

But Your Cat believes there are coded clues in these sonnets which show that they…

…..ARE NOT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL AT ALL!!!

Let Your Cat explain……

There are few more beautiful cities in the world than Bath Spa in Somerset….

Its thermal waters……

…….which gush, heated from the ground…..

spa roof steam bath

…..have been famous for their healing qualities since Pagan times…

Then it was thought that the Celtic Goddess Sulis had miraculously heated the waters….

sulis

….but when the Romans built their temple and baths….

roman bath steaming

….Sulis became Minerva….

minerva

 

When the Romans left Britain, the Baths fell into disrepair….

Early Christians were hostile to bathing….

St. Augustine only permitted it once a month….

medieval bathing

…and the Benedictines forbade it to all except the young, the sick and guests….

But in the Middle Ages, the use of the Bath waters as ‘holy wells’ was encouraged by the physician John Tours – who was also the Bishop of Bath and Wells….

At the reformation, King Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell closed the baths down….

They didn’t want England to be associated with Papist ‘magic’.

But the wells later became centres for English recusant Catholics….

They would travel to spas to plot against the Protestant Queen Elizabeth.

When these recusants started to travel abroad……

…… to Spa in the Spanish Netherlands……

……they represented a real threat to Queen Elizabeth….

They might ally with the Spanish and invade England.

So the Protestant Establishment re-invented the ‘holy wells’ at Bath…..

bath 1610

For them they represented a ‘scientific’ cure for diseases….

….and the Queen visited Bath herself in 1574 with her Privy Council…..

It seems she didn’t take the waters herself….

…and disapproved of ‘bucketing’…..

….i. e., throwing buckets of water over patients. 

She regarded it as demeaning for noblemen to be drenched by underlings….

But her favourite, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester…..

dudley youngish

…..patronised Bath….

Henry Percy, the Wizard Earl of Northumberland….

Wizard Earl    

…..was there twice in 1590……

….. and in 1591 stayed there for a month with a retinue of twenty-five….

…..which included his great friend, Sir Walter Raleigh…..

raleigh hilliard

Raleigh was given Sherborne Castle the following year as a gift from Elizabeth….

……..and this was only a few hours ride from Bath…

Raleigh constantly visited the place, even though he was ambivalent about the efficacy of the waters…..

After his 1593 visit with Northumberland he wrote:

I am the worse for the Bath, not the better

But we know for certain he was there in 1596, 1597, 1601…….

….. and in 1602 he visited the town with Northumberland.

It is Your Cat’s belief that……..

….THE REFERENCES TO ‘BATH’ IN THE SONNETS ARE REFERENCES TO THE TOWN OF BATH!!!

Let’s look at Sonnet 153 again….

Cupid laid by his brand, and fell asleep:

A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,

And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep

In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;

Which borrow’d from this holy fire of love

A dateless lively heat, still to endure,

And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove

Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.

But at my mistress’ eye Love’s brand new-fired,

The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;

I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,

And thither hied, a sad distemper’d guest,    

But found no cure: the bath for my help lies    

Where Cupid got new fire; my mistress’ eyes.

The origins of Bath’s thermal waters had long been a matter of speculation…..

…so these Sonnets offer another, mythical origin….. 

The waters of Bath were thought by the Elizabethans said to cure eighty-nine different diseases….

…..hence the phrase….

….the help of bath..

…which really means….

…..the help of Bath…..

And Sonnet 154….

The little Love-god lying once asleep

Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,

Whilst many nymphs that vow’d chaste life to keep

Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand

The fairest votary took up that fire

Which many legions of true hearts had warm’d;

And so the general of hot desire

Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm’d.

This brand she quenched in a cool well by,

Which from Love’s fire took heat perpetual,

Growing a bath and healthful remedy

For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall,    

Came there for cure, and this by that I prove,    

Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.

 So does this mean that Shakespeare was in Bath?

We know that his acting company would sometimes tour there as a diversion for people taking the waters…

(Three or even four weeks stay were recommended by Doctors – who often owned the property their patients stayed in.)

But, no.  The speaker in the Sonnets is not Shakespeare…..

…..and the clue who it is is in the concluding line to Sonnet 154….

…Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love….

THE SPEAKER IS SIR WALTER RALEIGH!!!

raleigh with pearls

‘Water’ was often taken to be a coded reference to Sir Walter….

In October, 1582, for example, Sir Thomas Heneage…….

Sir Thomas Heneage funeral effigy

….. emerged from a clump of trees to confront Queen Elizabeth , holding a letter, a jewelled bodkin and a bucket. The letter, he explained, came from Sir Christopher Hatton……

Hatton Christopher 001

…..craving her love. The bodkin symbolised the dagger Hatton would use to kill himself if the Queen did not return his affection: the bucket represented ‘Water/Walter’ .

The Queen was paying more attention to Sir Walter Raleigh than her own…

…faithful sheep…

The Queen, replying that she would…

…cherish Hatton in a meadow bounded by high banks so sure as no water nor floods should ever overthrow them…

….gave Heneage a dove to show….

…there should be no more destruction by water…..

Elizabeth would also often mock Raleigh’s thick, Devonshire accent by saying….

I thirst for Warter….

So why is Sir Walter Raleigh the speaker of these two sonnets?

It is because he is being satirised by Shakespeare……

….. in the character of Don Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost….

Or rather the character of the Braggart…..

(as he is often referred to in the play…..)

The version of Love’s Labour’s Lost that has come down to us is  an…..

…augmented and corrected……

one that was performed at the Court of Elizabeth at the Christmas of either 1587 or 1588….

love's Labour's Lost frontispiece. 001

 

The original production, The Shakespeare Code believes, was a private one performed in the grounds of Titchfield at Whitsun in 1592……

The play was a ‘romance-satire’, commissioned by Countess Mary Southampton to persuade her son, Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl……

henry wriothesley new miniature

……to fall in love and marry….

The satire was directed at the Earl of Southampton’s enemies……..

….(who were also the enemies of his great friend, Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex…..)

essex young beardeless

…..and chief among them was Sir Walter Raleigh……

…..who, when the play was first produced, was out of favour with Queen Elizabeth…….

(He was wooing Bess Throckmorton……

bess throckmorton

……one of Elizabeth’s Ladies-in-Waiting……

……without the permission of the Queen!

He’d even started to write love poetry to her….)

But in 1587 he had been allowed back into the court after a five years’ banishment….

It is Your Cat’s belief that the Braggart became a Spaniard in the revival of the play to disguise the fact it was originally an attack on Raleigh!

And the Spaniard character was based on the flamboyant homosexual…..

…..called Antonio Perez……

antonio perez

….whom Elizabeth loathed.

But even though the Braggart had become had become Spanish, he still, at times, speaks in broad Devonian!

He greets Holofernes with….

…Chirrah….

…instead of….

….Sirrah….

And, like Raleigh, is hard-up….

(Raleigh’s family was noble but impoverished)

Like Raleigh, Armado is also….

damnable proud.

Raleigh, like Armado the Spaniard, wore black clothes…..

Armado, in the course of the play, falls in love with the country wench, Jaquenetta…….

……just as Raleigh fell in love with Bess Throckmorton…..

…..but Jacquenetta rejects him…..

….and Armado resolves to win her love by writing her sonnets….

Assist me some extemporal God of rhyme, for I am sure I shall turn sonnet….

The original plan, Your Cat believes, was for Jacquenetta to continue to reject Armado….

…..who then resolves to go to Bath to avail himself of the waters miraculous properties…….

…..to cure himself of love…

But finds, like Raleigh himself, the waters to be inefficacious…..

Your Cat believes that Sonnets 153 and 154 are sketches for the Sonnet Armado never delivers….

BECAUSE SHAKESPEARE CHANGES THE STORY IN MID-WAY THROUGH!!!

Jacquenetta – far from rejecting Armado – becomes impregnated by him……

….and overnight becomes…..

…two months gone…..

But why did Shakespeare change the plot in this highly unlikely way?

Because news came during rehearsal…..

……THAT BESS THROCKMORTON WAS PREGNANT!!!

Queen Elizabeth was so furious that she clapped Raleigh into the Tower of London…..

…..where he spent the whole of August, 1592.

The pregnancy was too much of a gift for Shakespeare to pass up…….

…..even if it did make nonsense of the plot…..

…..so these sketches for the Braggart’s sonnets were no longer needed…..

But perfectly good enough to include in Shakespeare’s 1609 collection….

…….where they herald the way to A Lover’s Complaint……..

another satirical attack, but this time against Southampton, whom Shakespeare had fallen out with in a big way……

See: ‘Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Birthday Sonnet’.

There is also, of course, another delicious irony if we take the two sonnets to be ‘performance art’.

The Braggart believes himself to be love-sick…..

…..and hoped Bath would cure him of his disease…..

But the audience, hearing …..

strange maladies

…and…

sad, distempered guest

and

healthful remedy for men diseased

….would automatically think he was talking of……

The Malady of France……

‘Bye, now….

Paw-Print smallest

(Trixie the Cat would like to acknowledge her indebtedness to Phyllis Hembry whose ‘The English Spa 1560-1815 A Social History’ she has drawn on for this Post.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

THE GEAT WITCH FINALE!!

STEWART

Picture the first production of Macbeth at Holyrood house…….

…..with King James in attendance, sitting in state….

Enter the witches round a bubbling cauldron………

'YOU CAN ALWAYS RELY ON DELIA....'

…….constructing a destructive spell……..

…….just like the Satanical conspirators of North Berwick….

north berwick witches (3)

But unlike King James, the witches have unleashed something in Macbeth that was lurking there anyway…..

FIRST WITCH (Amanda Walker)

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.

SECOND WITCH (Kate Godfrey)

Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.

THIRD WITCH (Karen Little)

Harpier cries ‘Tis time, ’tis time’.

FIRST WITCH

Round about the cauldron go;

In the poison’d entrails throw.

Toad, that under cold stone

Days and nights has thirty-one

Swelter’d venom sleeping got,

Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble

SECOND WITCH

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble…………..

THIRD WITCH

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf

Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,

Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,

Liver of blaspheming Jew,

Gall of goat, and slips of yew

Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,

Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,

Finger of birth-strangled babe

Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,

Make the gruel thick and slab:

Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,

For the ingredients of our cauldron.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

SECOND WITCH

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and goo

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

Open, locks, Whoever knocks…

STEWART

Macbeth arrives to consult the witches…………

……….exactly the way Queen Elizabeth used to ride to Mortlake to consult her own wizard, John Dee…

John_Dee_Ashmolean

MACBETH (Mike Burnside)

How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags! What is’t you do?

ALL

A deed without a name.

MACBETH

I conjure you, by that which you profess,

Howe’er you come to know it, answer me:

Though you untie the winds and let them fight

Against the churches; though the yesty waves

Confound and swallow navigation up;

Answer me to what I ask you.

FIRST WITCH

Speak.

SECOND WITCH

Demand.

THIRD WITCH

We’ll answer.

FIRST WITCH

Say, if thou’dst rather hear it from our mouths,

Or from our masters?

MACBETH

Call ’em; let me see ’em.

STEWART

And so the witches summon up their familiar spirits, just as Agnes Sampson did….

FIRST WITCH

Pour in sow’s blood, that hath eaten

Her nine farrow; grease that’s sweaten

From the murderer’s gibbet throw

Into the flame.

ALL

Come, high or low;

Thyself and office deftly show….

STEWART

A floating head appears – just as had been reported to James before his mother’s execution….

armed head

MACBETH

Tell me, thou unknown power,–

FIRST WITCH

He knows thy thought:

Hear his speech, but say thou nought.

STEWART

The floating head utters a prophecy which the play reveals to be completely true:

FIRST APPARITION

Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! beware Macduff;

Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough

MACBETH

Whate’er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks;

Thou hast harp’d my fear aright: but one word more,–

STEWART

The witches then show their power over Macbet……

…….just as Agnes showed her power over King James….

FIRST WITCH

He will not be commanded: here’s another,

More potent than the first.

STEWART

The second apparition appears – a bloody Child.

bloody child macbeth

SECOND APPARITION

Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!

MACBETH

Had I three ears, I’d hear thee.

SECOND APPARITION

Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn

The power of man, for none of woman born

Shall harm Macbeth.

STEWART

The bloody child represents Macduff torn from his mother’s womb!

Another witches’ prophesy which the play proves correct…

MACBETH

Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee?

But yet I’ll make assurance double sure,

And take a bond of fate: thou shalt not live;

That I may tell pale-hearted fear it lies, And sleep in spite of thunder.

STEWART

The Third Apparition appears: a Child crowned, with a tree in his hand….

child with tree macbeth

Macbeth will soon discover who this is….

MACBETH

What is this That rises like the issue of a king,

And wears upon his baby-brow the round

And top of sovereignty?

ALL

Listen, but speak not to’t.

THIRD APPARITION

Be lion-mettled, proud; and take no care

Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are:

Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until

Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill

Shall come against him.

Again a prophecy that James sees enacted before his eyes….

MACBETH

That will never be! Who can impress the forest, bid the tree

Unfix his earth-bound root? Sweet bodements! good!

Rebellion’s head, rise never till the wood

Of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth

Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath

To time and mortal custom.

Yet my heart Throbs to know one thing: tell me, if your art

Can tell so much: shall Banquo’s issue ever

Reign in this kingdom?

ALL

Seek to know  no more!

MACBETH

I will be satisfied: deny me this,

And an eternal curse fall on you!

(Witches laugh)

Let me know.

Why sinks that cauldron? and what noise is this?

FIRST WITCH

Show!

SECOND WITCH

Show!

THIRD WITCH

Show!

ALL

Show his eyes, and grieve his heart;

Come like shadows, so depart!

STEWART

A procession of Kings begins…

witches coven Macbeth

Now Macbeth discovers who the child with the crown was –

…………the start of the Stuart line!

MACBETH

Thou art too like the spirit of Banquo: down!

Thy crown does sear mine eye-balls. And thy hair,

Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first.

A third is like the former. Filthy hags!

Why do you show me this? A fourth! Start, eyes!

What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?

Another yet! A seventh! I’ll see no more:

And yet the eighth appears, who bears a glass

Which shows me many more…..

STEWART

The eighth King holds a great mirror so it reflects King James, sitting in state in the audience…..

MACBETH

Some I see

That two-fold balls and treble sceptres carry……

STEWART

The orbs of Scotland AND England –

…….and the single coronation sceptre of Scotland……….

single sceptre scotland

…… and the double coronation sceptres of England…

double sceptres

MACBETH

Horrible sight! Now, I see, ’tis true;

For the blood-bolter’d Banquo smiles upon me,

And points at them for his.

STEWART

The apparitions vanish.

MACBETH

What, is this so?

FIRST WITCH

Ay, sir, all this is so: but why

Stands Macbeth thus amazedly?

Come, sisters, cheer we up his sprites,

And show the best of our delights:

I’ll charm the air to give a sound,

While you perform your antic round:

That this great king may kindly say,

Our duties did his welcome pay.

STEWART

The witches dance – on exactly the same spot in Holyrood house where the Berwick witches danced – and then vanish.

In every prophesy they are proved to be right…

…..as Agnes Sampson was….

Invade England!……

The witches are saying……

You will establish a line of Kings that will exist unto the end of time!

But, of course, James DIDN’T invade England. He was far too canny for that.

He knew in a few years Elizabeth would die and the crown would become his without a struggle….

So Shakespeare needn’t have bothered writing this play at all…

But I’m awfully glad he did!

BOWS

ENCORE

For an encore, the ENTIRE COMPANY recited The Night I appeared as Macbeth

 ……..by William Hargreaves…..

………with additions by Fenton Gray.…..

MIKE BURNSIDE

For most of my life I confess it

I’ve had no desire for the stage

But one fatal night I was asked to recite

Gadzooks I was quickly the rage!

AMANDA WALKER

I thought that Macbeth was the one role

That would certainly make my career,

And my friends said ‘Of course you must do it,

As long as you don’t do it here!’

KAREN LITTLE

So I went, hired a hall,

Then gave a performance that shattered them all…

STEWART TROTTER

I acted so tragic the house rose like magic

The audience yelled….

MIKE

You’re sublime!

STEWART

They made me a present of Mornington Crescent

They threw it a brick at a time

KATE

The crowd filled the air with their clatter and chatter

And threw an assortment of vegetable matter.

They queered me, they cheered me,

And they cheered at the scene of my death

I got no ‘Hosannahs’ – just eggs and bananas

ALL

The night I appeared as Macbeth!

MIKE

The play tho’ ascribed to Bill Shakespeare,

To me lacked both polish and tone

So I threw in some bits of some popular hits

And a few comic lines of my own

AMANDA

Unfortunately the director

Decided the play was too long

So he forced me to cut out my clog dance

And half of my second act song!

KAREN

And the flowers! What a feast!

They threw them in bag-fulls – self-raising and yeast….

STEWART

I acted so tragic the house rose like magic

An evening of mayhem and thrills,

My tender emotion caused such a commotion

The Dress Circle wrote out their wills.

KATE

They hooted like hounds and they whistled like crickets

Especially those who had paid for their tickets,

The witches, were in stitches

And five of the band met their death

I cried ‘Lay on Macduff’

They cried:

 

STEWART

Lay orf! Enuff!

ALL

The night I appeared as Macbeth!

THE END

the night I appeared

 

 Brothers and Sister of The Code who enjoyed this might like previous Grosvenor Chapel talks….

(1.) Shakespeare, Love Politics and Religion

A Series of Three Talks which cover the Life and Career of William Shakespeare.

(2.) How Shakespeare’s Dark Lady found God

A Talk which deals with Aemelia Lanyer – Shakespeare’s capricious, dark-skinned mistress who, The Code argues, was the secret author of the satire against men, Willobie his Avisa.

(3.)  Fairie Lore and Roman Catholicism in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

A Talk which shows how Fairie Lore was a coded reference to Roman Catholicisim in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

And here is Fenton Gray…..

fenton gray

……. performing his adaptation of ‘The Night I appeared as Macbeth.’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIJdDNwvauI

A miniature by Ian Oliver….

……. of Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton……

……has been sold at auction for £181,250….

henry wriothesley new miniatureIt has fallen into private hands…..

To read the Third and Final part of……

‘Something Wicked This Way Comes…..

…..New Light on the Witches in Macbeth’…..

Please click: HERE!

But it’s best to read Part One and Part Two first.

[It’s best to read PART ONE first]

STEWART

So what was REALLY going on in the kirk at North Berwick?

north berwick witches (4)

Well, I can tell you, the academic world doesn’t have a clue.  

Perhaps, at this late stage, we may never know. But what it important for us is what people THOUGHT was going on.

James really believed in witches. He describes them in his Demonologie as….

KING JAMES (Mike Burnside)

Detestable slaves of the Devil!

STEWART

….and says, of witchcraft, that…..

KING JAMES

Such devilish arts have been and ARE!!!

STEWART

In 1597, though, James had his doubts. One poacher-turned-gamekeeper, the great witch of Balwelly, Margaret Aitken, declared that she could tell a fellow witch by looking into her eyes. Dozens of women were sent to their deaths.

James only discovered that she was a fraud when she declared the same woman to be both a witch and not a witch on successive days….

James, to his credit, called off that whole witch hunt. But he tightened the witch laws in England when he became King there in 1603 and witchcraft became punishable by death.

James never for a second lost his belief that witches, and wise women, could see into the future……

….. and he tried to gain that power for himself.

John Harington, Queen Elizabeth’s godson……

sir john harington

……..famous for having invented the water-closet……….

……..recorded a remarkable conversation he had with the King in 1607………

JOHN HARINGTON

He inquired much of my learning, and showed me his own, in such manner, as made me remember my examiner at Cambridge afore-time. His Majesty did much press for my opinion touching the power of Satan in matter of witchcraft; and asked me, with much gravity…..

KING JAMES

Do you truly understand why the devil works more with ancient women than others?

HARINGTON

I did not refrain from a scurvy jest…..

AMANDA (as herself)

 But we will refrain from it here at the Grosvenor Chapel….

HARINGTON continues….

More serious discourse did next ensue, wherein I wanted room to continue, and sometime room to escape; for the Queen, his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was not forgotten, nor Davison, neither….

KAREN (as herself)

William Davison was Queen Elizabeth’s secretary, whom Elizabeth blamed for Mary’s execution…

KING JAMES

My mother’s death was visible in Scotland before it did really happen. It was spoken of in secret by those whose power of sight presented to them a bloody head dancing in the air…..

HARINGTON

He then did remark much on this gift, and said he had sought out of certain books a sure way to attain knowledge of future chances himself. Hereat he named many books, which I did not know, or by whom written…..We next discoursed somewhat on religion…I made courtesy hereat, and out at the gate.

…..I did forget to tell, that his Majesty much asked concerning my opinion of the new weed tobacco, and said….

KING JAMES

It will, by its use, infuse ill qualities on…. the BRAIN! No learned man ought to taste it. I wish it forbidden.

STEWART

By 1607, James was Shakespeare’s boss and William and his acting company Grooms of the Chamber. But as we have seen, Shakespeare had already met James in Edinburgh in 1599. So why was he there?

The answer, as ever, was politics.

Those who have been coming to these talks, since Father Oakley asked me to start them six years ago, will know that I believe that Shakespeare was an intimate friend of the Earl of Southampton……

Southampton in armour

…… and part of his entourage…..

This meant he was also friends with Southampton’s friends – the Earl of Essex, (the Queen’s favourite)

essex in white

 

…….Baron Mountjoy (the Queen’s ex-favourite)……..

Charles Blount Lord Mountjoyu

 

…….and the beautiful, dark-eyed, Lady Penelope Rich (the Queen’s bête-noire).

penelope rich

Lady Penelope was also Essex’s sister, Mountjoy’s lover and Shakespeare’s leading lady in some of the first, private, performances of his plays at Titchfield.

Southampton, Essex, Mountjoy and Penelope were the Elizabethan Gang of Four, bound in friendship – and FEAR!

Queen Elizabeth refused point blank to name her successor. They were terrified Civil war would break out when she died. Or, worse still, a foreign king or queen would take over the throne….

So the Gang wanted to ensure that King James of Scotland would become King James of England as well….

He was Catholic-friendly – which pleased Shakespeare and Southampton – and he wanted to unite Scotland with England which pleased them all.

So in 1598, Essex and Penelope started to write secretly, in code, to King James. Queen Elizabeth was referred to as……

Venus

…..and Essex….

the Weary Knight……..

…..weary of trying to satisfy the massive sexual desires of the aging queen….

Penelope called herself

Rialta

…..and King James was given the codename……

Victor…

Victor, it was hoped, over Elizabeth…..

By the autumn of 1599, though, things were looking desperate for the Gang. Essex was entirely out of favour with Elizabeth. He’d not only failed to quell the rebellion over in Ireland: he’d had a secret parley with the rebel leader, the Earl of Tyrone….

tyrone

 

When word of this reached the Court, Essex rushed back to England and burst into the Queen’s bed-chamber. Elizabeth was furious – not so much because Essex had deserted his post but because he’d seen her without her wig and make-up….

Still from Benjamin Britten's opera 'Gloriana'.

Still from Benjamin Britten’s opera ‘Gloriana’.

Essex was placed under house arrest and Mountjoy sent to Ireland replace him.

The Gang conceived a daring plan. Mountjoy would bring over from Ireland one half of the Queen’s army, King James would march, at the head of his, to the Borders of Scotland. There he would publish an open letter to the English government of his right to the Succession… If his demand was refused, he would invade….

To persuade James to take part, they sent him their secret weapon – William Shakespeare – and HIS secret weapon – the tragedy of Macbeth….

Now I know most people think that Macbeth was written and performed during the English reign of James. But the great Shakespeare scholar, John Dover Wilson, produced a massive body of evidence to show that not only was Macbeth written during the reign of Elizabeth – but it was also first performed in Edinburgh. The only difference between us is that Dover Wilson thinks it was 1601 – and I, following Guthrie of Brechin, think it was 1599.

My belief is that Shakespeare RETURNED to Scotland in 1601….

But why did Shakespeare and the Gang think Macbeth would persuade James to invade England? It’s important to know that James believed what many people at the time believed – that time was cyclical. As he wrote to his son, Prince Henry…

KING JAMES

By reading of authentic histories and chronicles, you shall learn experience by theoric, applying the by-past things to the present estate, quia nihil nunc dici aut fieri, quod non dictum et factum fit prius…Since nothing is spoken or done which has not been spoken or done before….

STEWART

So when James watched Macbeth he would be automatically comparing it with events in his own life-time. This resonance was made even more powerful by the fact that Banquo was the founder of James’s own line of Kings – the Stuarts.

In Holinshed, Banquo helps Macbeth murder King Duncan – but in Shakespeare’s version Banquo is loyal, wise and brave – just like King James – or rather, how the Gang of Four wanted King James to be….

For the truth of the matter is that James, naturally bookish, would scream if anyone drew a sword in his presence. He even advised his son to wear light armour in battle so he could the more easily run away….

So, one of Shakespeare’s aims in writing Macbeth was to show King James that war was glorious. Shakespeare had written Henry V earlier in the year……..

Chris Mills as Henry V in 'The Making of a King'.

Chris Mills as Henry V in ‘The Making of a King’.

…… and Macbeth does for Scottish patriotism what Henry V had done for English patriotism. 

War is shown in the play as an opportunity to display bravery and loyalty. 

Macbeth, the soldier, without hesitation, ‘unseams’ the rebel Macdonwald ‘from the nave to the chops’ then cuts off his head and fixes it on the castle’s battlements. For this he is rewarded by King Duncan with a new title and he enjoys the…….

…..golden opinions……

….. of his countrymen and women……

By implication, these ‘golden opinions’ would also be won by King James if he were to invade England…

But Shakespeare needs to convince James of the rightness of the action as well: Queen Elizabeth, after all, was related to James through King Henry VII.

Elizabeth herself was also an anointed monarch….

elizabeth as virgin

……and James believed in the Divine Right of Kings.

Shakespeare sets about his task by employing codes. Scotland, in the topsy-turvy, fair is foul world of Macbeth is really England.  And England is really Scotland…

When England invades Scotland to put down Scottish tyranny, it’s really Scotland invading England to put down English tyranny…

The murder of the saintly King Duncan, when a guest in the home of the Macbeths, is a coded re-run of the execution of James’s mother, Mary Queen of Scots, when she had been a ‘guest’ in the land of Queen Elizabeth.

mary q of s execution

Lord and Lady Macbeth, as the play progresses, begin to embody many of the characteristics of Queen Elizabeth….Here are eight of them….

(1.) Her hesitation.

Macbeth hesitates before killing Duncan, weighing up the pros and cons……

MACBETH

He’s here in double trust:

First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,

Strong both against the deed; then as his host,

Who should against his murtherer shut the door,

Not bear the knife myself.

STEWART

Elizabeth, described by contemporary historian, William Camden, as…..

….a woman naturally slow in her resolutions…

…..dithered about the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in the same way…

In the midst of these doubtful and perplexed thoughts, which so troubled and staggered the Queen’s mind that she gave herself over wholly to solitariness, sat many times melancholic and mute and frequently sighing muttered to herself, ‘Aut fer aut feri’…..either bear with her or smite her… And ‘ne feriare, feri’ – Strike lest thou be stricken

These troubled speech patterns are echoed in many of Macbeth’s speeches:

MACBETH

This supernatural soliciting

Cannot be ill, cannot be good: if ill,

Why hath it given me earnest of success,

Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor:

If good, why do I yield to that suggestion

Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair

And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,

Against the use of nature…..

(2.) Her assumption of a masculine role……….

Lady Macbeth says…..

LADY MACBETH (Kate Godfrey)

Come, you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full

Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;

Stop up the access and passage to remorse,

That no compunctious visitings of nature

Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between

The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,

And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,

Wherever in your sightless substances

You wait on nature’s mischief! Come, thick night,

And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,

That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,

Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,

To cry ‘Hold, hold!’

unsex me here

 

Elizabeth would often refer to herself as a ‘Prince’ and in 1560 said to the Swedish Ambassador….

I have the heart of a man and I am not afraid of anything….

Queen Elizabeth, in armour, at Tilbury during the Armada.

Queen Elizabeth, in armour, at Tilbury during the Arm

(3) Her blame-shifting….

Lord and Lady Macbeth put the blame for Duncan’s murder on the two innocent grooms who were guarding the King…

Elizabeth put the blame for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots on her innocent secretary, Davison.

(4) Her use of hit-men….

Macbeth hires two, then three, murderers to kill Banquo.

Elizabeth ordered Sir Amias Paulet and Sir Drue Drury to murder Mary Queen of Scots in secret. The gentlemen declined, to Elizabeth’s fury…

She claimed they were

….lacking in zeal and care….

(5) Her propensity to fits….

Macbeth suffers a fit when he sees the ghost of Banquo at the feast….

ghost banquo feast

Lady Macbeth says to the guests………

LADY MACBETH

…My Lord is often thus,

And hath been from his youth: pray you, keep seat;

The fit is momentary; upon a thought

He will again be well……

STEWART

Elizabeth suffered from similar fits. She would lie, unconscious and speechless, for hours on end and would often swoon through sheer rage…

On 30 June, 1586, the year before the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, the Spanish Ambassador reported to Philip II how

…when the Queen was going to Chapel, as usual in full magnificence, she was suddenly overcome with a shock of fear, which affected her to such an extent that she at once returned to her apartments, greatly to the wonder of those present.

(6) Her bad dreams….

Macbeth talks about….

MACBETH

…these terrible dreams

That shake us nightly….

…and Lady Macbeth sleepwalks, trying to wash Duncan’s blood from her hands as she exclaims….

LADY MACBETH

Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why, then, ’tis time to do’t.–Hell is murky!–Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?–Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him……

out damned spot 2

STEWART

Elizabeth suffered from ‘terrible dreams’ before the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. After she had sent orders to Paulet to murder the Scottish Queen, she was awakened by a violent shriek from the lady who always slept in her bedchamber.

QUEEN ELIZABETH

What ails?

LADY IN WAITING

I dreamed that I saw the hangman strike off the head of the Queen of Scots; and forthwith he laid hands on Your Majesty, and was about to behead you as well, when I screamed with terror…

QUEEN ELIZABETH

I was at the instant you awoke me, dreaming the very same thing…

STEWART

(7) Her isolation and depression…

Macbeth separates himself more and more from his fellow beings – even his wife – and on hearing of her death, utters words of overwhelming despair…..

gielgud macbeth tomorrow speech

MACBETH

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

STEWART

Elizabeth suffered severe bouts of depression all her life. She would stay alone in her room trying to ‘shun melancholy’ by playing the lute or the virginals… 

elizabeth and lute

After the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1587 and the deaths, in the following year, of her lover, the Earl of Leicester………

Middle aged Leicester

…… and the only man who could ‘un-dumpish’ her, her jester, Richard Tarleton…….

Tarleton - large

…..Elizabeth’s depressions became acute.

Lord Burghley, on one occasion, had to smash down the doors of her bed-chamber to get her to eat.

(8) Her propensity to ‘play-act’…

When the murder of King Duncan is discovered, Lady Macbeth, feigning grief and surprise, exclaims

LADY MACBETH

What! in our house

….a response so unnatural that a suspicious Banquo remarks….

BANQUO

Too cruel, anywhere…

STEWART

Lady Macbeth then proceeds to suffer a fainting fit…

what in our house

Elizabeth had knowingly signed Mary Queen of Scots’s death-warrant. She had even joked about it with her secretary, Davison.

But, according to the Regency historian, Lucy Aikin…

Elizabeth heard the news of Mary’s death with great indignation, her countenance altered, her speech faltered and failed her and through excessive sorrow she stood in a manner astonished; insomuch that she gave herself over to passionate grief, putting herself into mourning habit and shedding abundance of tears….

The same day that the people of London heard that Mary Queen had been beheaded, they made bonfires as though England had gained some victory. Elizabeth put her head out of the window and asked….

QUEEN ELIZABETH

What do these bonfires mean?

PEASANT

Mary Queen of Scots is dead, mam….

QUEEN ELIZABETH

What? Is my sister dead? And who has put her to death? They have deceived me then…

STEWART

One nobleman who was present could not help saying…..

See, there, the very trick of a play actress…

And even the contemporary historian, Camden, admits he doesn’t know if Elizabeth’s tears were feigned or not. 

Neither, probably, did Elizabeth…..

So the action of Macbeth shows that Lord and Lady Macbeth are bloodthirsty usurpers of the Scottish throne who deserve to die…

Just as Elizabeth, the bloodthirsty usurper of the English throne deserves to die as well….

James might have been convinced that an invasion of England was morally right …

…but he also needed convincing it would be successful as well….

And this is where the witches really come into their own….

(To read Part Three – the Great Witch Finale – please click: HERE! )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduced by Trixie the Cat

Trixie

Six years ago, the Revd Mark Oakley….

oakley 2;

…now the Canon Treasurer at St. Paul’s Cathedral….

oakley st. paul's

..was the Priest-in-Charge  of the Grosvenor Chapel…

grosvenor chapel with Peter Pan house

Father Oakley asked Stewart Trotter to give a dramatised talk on Shakespeare…..

This grew to three talks entitled:

‘Shakespeare, Love, Politic and Religion.’

This was based partly on his book, Love’s Labour’s Found….

book cover

…published in 2002…

…….and in turn became the basis for this blog, The Shakespeare Code.

For the last six years, Stewart has given one talk a year at The Grosvenor Chapel….

..and this year the present Priest-in-Charge of the Grosvenor Chapel…….

…..the Revd. Dr. Richard Fermer…

fermer, richard

…..asked Stewart to write another talk.

This was called….

Something Wicked This Way Comes

New Light on the Witches in Macbeth

witch on broomstick

It was given after Mass on All Hallows’ Day, 1st November, 2015….

..in the back rooms of the Grosvenor Chapel….

AND HERE IS THE TRANSCRIPT!!!

 ‘Bye, now…

Paw-Print smallest

STEWART

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Stewart Trotter and I should like to introduce the Trotter Players – Amanda Walker, Kate Godfrey, Karen Little – and our guest star, Mike Burnside. ….

We will now undertake the opening scene of Macbeth. Amanda, Kate and Karen will play the three witches. I will play Graymalkin the cat and Mike will play Paddock the toad.

We had considered using Scottish accents in this scene – but thought that might bring the terrible curse of the play down on our heads. So we’re going to be ENGLISH witches and ENGLISH warriors…

Simply by mentioning the Scottish play by name, I have, actors believe, activated its curse: so I shall now neutralise it by employing an ancient theatrical ritual. I shall leave the room, turn round three times, spit, swear a dreadful curse, then knock on the door and plead for re-admittance…..

(Stewart exits, closing the door. Pause: Stewart: One! Two! Three! Spit! Curse!. (Knocks on door). Shouts: ‘Can I come in?’. Stewart re-enters and pauses.)

I declare the curse lifted….

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with some trepidation the Trotter Players now give you the opening scene from Macbeth…..

(Thunder effects from Stewart…Witches stand.)

 FIRST WITCH (Amanda Walker)

When shall we three meet again In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

SECOND WITCH (Kate Godfrey)

When the hurlyburly’s done,

When the battle’s lost and won.

THIRD WITCH (Karen Little)

That will be ere the set of sun.

FIRST WITCH

Where the place?

SECOND WITCH

Upon the heath.

THIRD WITCH

There to meet with Macbeth.

(Stewart miaows insistently)

FIRST WITCH

I come, Graymalkin!

(Mike croaks insistently)

SECOND WITCH

Paddock calls!

THIRD WITCH

Anon!

ALL

Fair is foul, and foul is fair:

Hover through the fog and filthy air.

 three witches

STEWART

So what do we learn about the witches from this opening scene? Well they clearly love team-work, the great outdoors and filthy weather. They are NOT patriotic: to them the battle against the rebels is simply ‘lost and won’. They are NOT rooting for Scotland. They hover through the air and are martyrs to their pets….

However, what they do have, even in this first scene, is the power of prophecy: they KNOW that the battle will be over by set of sun and they KNOW that they will meet with the great warrior, Macbeth. We shall see that this ability is the CRUCIAL function of the witches in the play.

But why did Shakespeare use witches at all? There are no witches in the other great tragedies – not even in Hamlet – and Denmark at the time was notorious for witchcraft. It still is…

The witches in Macbeth come with the territory. Shakespeare nearly always used someone else’s story for his plays and in the case of Macbeth it’s Raphael Holinshed…..

raphael holinshed

His Chronicles had been first published in 1577….

holinshed

…but when they were re-published ten years later, Queen Elizabeth had had enough.

She recalled the books on the grounds that they were

….fondly set out.

Holinshed wrote about the reigns of Elizabeth’s predecessors – and Elizabeth didn’t want ANYONE comparing her reign with anybody else’s. She was even more obsessed with her ‘legacy’ than Tony Blair.

blair worried

However, Shakespeare and his patrons got round this censorship by staging the stories: and the story of Macbeth comes ready-packaged with witches….

Mike will now read from Holinshed:

HOLINSHED

It fortuned as Macbeth and Banquo journeyed towards Forres, where the king then lay, they went hunting by the way together, without other company, passing through the woods and fields, when suddenly in the midst of a land, there met them three women in strange attire, resembling creatures of elder world, whom they attentively beheld, wondering much at the sight….

If you look at the woodcut that accompanies the Holinshed Chronicles…..

holinshed weird sisters

…. the ‘WOMEN’ note – NOT witches – are dressed in clothes that look rather stylish, expensive and fetching….in sharp contrast to – the witches in Macbeth!

(Thunder from Stewart. Witches stand.)

FIRST WITCH

Where hast thou been, sister?

SECOND WITCH

Killing swine.

THIRD WITCH

Sister, where thou?

FIRST WITCH

A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap,

And munch’d, and munch’d, and munch’d:–

‘Give me,’ quoth I:

‘Aroint thee, witch!’ the rump-fed ronyon cries.

Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’ the Tiger:

But in a sieve I’ll thither sail,

And, like a rat without a tail,

I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.

SECOND WITCH

I’ll give thee a wind.

FIRST WITCH

Thou’rt kind.

THIRD WITCH

And I another.

FIRST WITCH

I myself have all the other,

And the very ports they blow,

All the quarters that they know

I’ the shipman’s card.

I will drain him dry as hay:

Sleep shall neither night nor day

Hang upon his pent-house lid;

He shall live a man forbid:

Weary se’nnights nine times nine

Shall he dwindle, peak and pine:

Though his bark cannot be lost,

Yet it shall be tempest-tost!

Look what I have.

SECOND WITCH

Show me, show me!

FIRST WITCH

Here I have a pilot’s thumb, Wreck’d as homeward he did come.

(Stewart makes drum noises.)

THIRD WITCH

A drum! a drum! Macbeth doth come.

ALL

The weird sisters, hand in hand,

Posters of the sea and land,

Thus do go about, about:

Thrice to thine (take three sideways steps to left ) and thrice to mine (take three steps to right)

And thrice again,(take three steps to the left) to make up nine.

FIRST WITCH

Peace! the charm’s wound up.

macbeth meets witches

MACBETH (Mike Burnside)

So foul and fair a day I have not seen, Banquo.

BANQUO (Stewart Trotter)

How far is’t call’d to Forres?

(seeing the witches) What are these

So wither’d and so wild in their attire,

That look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth,

And yet are on’t? Live you? or are you aught

That man may question?

witches lips

You seem to understand me,

By each at once her chappy finger laying

Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,

And yet your beards forbid me to interpret

That you are so.

MACBETH

Speak, if you can: what are you?

FIRST WITCH

All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

(Bows)

SECOND WITCH

All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

(Bows)

THIRD WITCH

All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!

(Bows)

(Macbeth looks astonished at the news – and tempted by it.)

BANQO

Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear

Things that do sound so fair? I’ the name of truth,

Are ye fantastical, or that indeed

Which outwardly ye show?

If you can look into the seeds of time,

And say which grain will grow and which will not,

Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear

Your favours nor your hate.

FIRST WITCH

Hail!

SECOND WITCH

Hail!

THIRD WITCH

Hail!

FIRST WITCH

Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.

SECOND WITCH

Not so happy, yet much happier.

THIRD WITCH

Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none:

So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!

FIRST WITCH

Banquo and Macbeth, all hail!

STEWART

Back to Holinshed….

Herewith the aforesaid women vanished immediately out of their sight. This was reported at first as some vain fantastical illusion: but afterwards the common opinion was, that these women were either the WAYARD Sisters, that is the goddesses of destiny, or else some nymphs or fairies, indued with knowledge of prophesies by their necromantical science, because everything came to pass as they had spoken….

STEWART

Shakespeare’s witches are far more sinister than Holinshed’s ‘wayard sisters’. As we have just seen, they kill pigs for fun, raise revenge storms for chestnut deprivation and try to cast death spells on war heroes….something Holinshed’s three women would never do…

Why did Shakespeare make these changes?

When I was at school studying Macbeth for O-level – as everyone did in those days – we were told that Shakespeare introduced the witches simply to flatter King James….

king james in robes

The implication was that Shakespeare was a highly intelligent Englishman and that James was a stupid, superstitious Scotsman….

But the truth, of course, was far more complex….

Well, a bit more complex…

The witches in Macbeth have their roots in real events that happened in Scotland in 1589….

Shakespeare would have known about them from a pamphlet called The Newes from Scotland printed in 1591….

newes from scotland

He would also have known about it from King James’s own book about witchcraft called Demonologie printed in 1597….

demonolgie

But most importantly he would have known about it from James himself…

Because in 1599 Shakespeare visited Scotland!

William Guthrie of Brechin, the great Scottish historian, wrote in 1767:

King James, to prove how thoroughly he was now emancipated from the tutelage of his clergy, desired Elizabeth to send him in the year of 1599 a company of English actors. She complied, and James gave them a licence to act in his capital, and in his court.  I have great reason to think that the immortal Shakespeare was of the number….

 Putting together information from contemporary sources, this is what happened in Scotland 1589 – or appeared to have happened…..

 Within the town of Trenent in the Kingdom of Scotland, there dwelleth one David Seaton, who being deputy Bailiff in the said town, had a maid servant called Gillis Duncan, who used secretly to be absent and to lie forth of her Master’s house every other night: she took in hand to help all such as were troubled or grieved with any kind of sickness or infirmity: and in short space did perform many matters most miraculous, which things, forasmuch as she began to do them upon a sudden, having never done the like before, made her Master and others to be in great admiration, and wondered thereat: by means wherof Seaton had his maid in some great suspicion, that she did not those things by natural and lawful ways, but rather supposed it to be done by some extraordinary and unlawful means…..

STEWART

Witchcraft! The fact that Gillis was setting out to heal the sick and the infirm – and that she had ‘miraculous’ success with this – was neither here nor there.

She was exercising powers way beyond those of a serving –maid, so she must be in league with the Devil!

At this point her master, Seton….

……put thumbscrews upon her fingers and bound her head with a rope, which is a most cruel torment . Yet would she not confess anything, whereupon they suspecting that she had been marked by the Devil (as commonly witches are) made diligent search about her, and found the enemy’s mark to be in the forepart of her throat. She confessed that all her doings was done by the wicked allurements and enticements of the Devil and that she did them by witchcraft.

Every single witchcraft examination in Scotland at this time followed the same pattern. No witch EVER confessed voluntarily – or even when she was being tortured. It was only when the Devil’s mark was found that she admitted to being a witch. The Devil was said to kiss witches to seal his pact with them and his tongue left a permanent mark…..

But, of course, if you are looking for a body-mark that you are convinced is there, then you’ll find it. And once the mark is found, the game is up: the woman might as well confess she is a witch to stop the pain.

Gillis now began to name names and a literal witch hunt began. It soon became clear that the top witch was called Agnes Sampson….

….commonly called the wise wife of Keith, a woman not of the base and ignorant sort of witches, but matron-like, grave and settled in her answers. In her examination she declared…..

AGNES SAMPSON (Amanda Walker)

I have a familiar spirit, who when I call ‘Holla Master!, appears in animal form, and resolves me of any doubtful matter, especially concerning the life or death of persons lying sick….

STEWART

So that’s why Shakespeare’s witches were martyrs to their pets! They were powerful spirits in animal form.

witch feeding toads

Agnes had spent her life doing good – most of the time. Like Gillis, she healed people, often using Christian prayers, creeds and Ave Marias – and sometimes even transferred their illnesses to herself.

But if people paid her to do evil, she did evil.

She was a hired gun…

She claimed she had made a pact with the Devil out of economic necessity: her husband had died, leaving her penniless, with children to support, in the middle of a famine. Satan had appeared to her in the form of a black dog and told her that if she worked for him he would make her, and her children, rich.

She could also have revenge on her enemies. This last offer seems to have been particularly appealing.

To Agnes, it was a no-brainer.

To have the Devil as her sponsor would give her massive prestige in the area – with the nobility as well as ordinary people. With royalty, even…

King James himself, it seems, was one of her clients.

james nin 1595

He wanted to marry Anne of Denmark.

anne denmark min 1595

He much preferred young men, but he needed to ensure his succession.

However, every time Anne sailed from Denmark, her ship was driven back by storms.

James was staying at Seton at the time – so he could spot Anne’s ship when it sailed down the Firth of Forth. This was only six miles away from the village of Haddington where Agnes was living. She claimed ‘The Sprite’ – the Devil – had told her that Anne would only arrive safely in Scotland if James went to fetch her himself – and she passed on this information to King James.

A timorous, hesitating man, he acted entirely out of character. Like a hero of romance, he risked the storms at sea to claim his bride. The royal couple enjoyed an extended honeymoon at in Norway and Denmark.

But when they returned to Scotland they encountered stormy weather at sea….

north berwick witches (2)

Agnes, as part of the witch-hunt, was now being blamed for these storms – and when James heard about this, he had her brought to Holyrood House so he could examine her himself. He ordered her to be tortured and her hair shaved off, so he could look for the Devil’s mark. Sure enough he found it…

KING JAMES (Mike Burnside)

…..upon her privities…….

STEWART

…..and only then did Agnes confess.

AGNES

Upon the night of Allhallows Even last, I was with a great many other witches, to the number of two hundredth. We all together went by sea, each one in a sieve…

STEWART

Just like the witches in Macbeth……

AGNES

…….with flagons of wine, making merry and drinking by the way to the Kirk of North Berwick in Lothian.

north berwick witches (5)

After we landed, we took hands and danced this reel or short dance, singing all with one voice….

 Commer go ye before, commer go ye, If you’ll not go before, commer let me…….

Gillis Duncan went before us playing this reel upon a small trump, called a Jew’s Harp, until we entered the Kirk….

STEWART

These confessions, says The Newes from Scotland, made the King in a wonderful admiration and sent for the said Gillis Duncan, who upon the like trump did play the said dance before the King’s Majesty.

AGNES

The Devil was already at the Kirk, attending our coming in the habit or likeness of a man, and seeing that we tarried over long, he enjoined us all to a penance, which was, that we should kiss his buttocks: which being put over the pulpit bare, we all did as he said…

north berwick witches

The Devil also told them to dig up bodies in the graveyard and to use bits of them – properly dried and prepared of course – for magical spells.

But even King James’s credulity snapped when, according to the pamphlet.

Agnes Sampson confessed before the Kings Majesty sundry things which were so miraculous and strange his Majesty said…..

KING JAMES

You are all extreme liars!

AGNES

I dinna wish you to believe my words are false! I want you to believe them. I will discover such matter to you as Your Majesty should not any way doubt of….

STEWART

And thereupon, taking his Majesty a little aside, she declared unto him the very words which passed between the Kings Majesty and his Queen at Oslo in Norway the first night of their marriage, with their answer each to other: whereat the King’s Majesty wondered greatly, and swore…..

KING JAMES

By the living God, I believe that all the Devils in hell could not have discovered this! Your words are true.

STEWART

Agnes then confessed she had been part of a witchcraft conspiracy to kill the king….

AGNES

I took a black Toad, and did hang the same up by the heels, three days, and collected and gathered the venom as it dropped and fell from it into an oyster shell. I kept the same venom close covered, until I should obtain a part or piece of foul linen cloth, that had appertained to Your Majesty……

STEWART

She means his dirty old underpants…

AGNES

I would then have bewitched you to death, and put you to such extraordinary pains, as if you had been lying upon sharp thorns and ends of needles.

STEWART

Agnes also admitted that, working in concert with a group of other witches, she had christened a cat, tied body parts to it and threw it into the sea. The first time it had swum back – so they went to sea in  their sieves and threw it further out. It was this act of magic that had raised the tempest on King James’s return from Denmark and caused James’s ship to have a wind contrary to the other ships in his party, which the King acknowledged was….

KING JAMES

Most strange and true….

STEWART

Agnes then tried to save her skin with a bit of flattery….

AGNES

…Your Majesty had never come safely from the sea, if your faith had not prevailed above our intentions….

STEWART

But it was too little and too late. Agnes was first strangled, then burnt at the stake. Her naked, hairless ghost is said to haunt Holyrood House to this day….

witches burnt at stake

But why had she raised a storm against the King’s return? People in the past have argued that the Scottish witches didn’t want a Danish Queen: but we KNOW from Macbeth that Scottish witches at the time WEREN’T patriotic.

They were available to the highest bidder!

And Agnes and her colleagues had been hired by a very high bidder indeed – Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell – King James’s cousin and Chancellor – and his greatest enemy.

Bothwell wanted to be King of Scotland.

While James was cavorting with young men, he was easy to manipulate: but when he decided to found a dynasty, he had to go. So while he was on his honeymoon, Bothwell paid every witch in the area to destroy the King. That’s why they met with the Devil in the Kirk at North Berwick….

And that’s why Agnes Sampson switched sides….

But I can hear you thinking………..

Bare-bottomed Devils? Sea-borne sieves? Talking dogs? Drowned cats, body parts and storms? What on earth was going on?

To find out WHAT WAS going on, read ……PART TWO..