The Scottish pamphlet and William Shakespeare's play pinpoint a historic moment in the English calendar controversy, a moment when 'the most basic category by which men order their experience seemed subject to arbitrary political manipulation.' It is the calendar of Hamlet's nativity which shapes the drama of Shakespeare's Danish tragedy; that is the calendar he wished his wiser sort to contemplate. During Shakespeare's lifetime Julius Caesar's old Julian calendar prevailed in England and in other Protestant enclaves and Greek Orthodox regions. The inexorable precession of the equinoxes made Queen Elizabeth's calendar controversy grist for the pulp publishers of England. Though stripped of hundreds of saints' days by Henry VIII's reforms, the liturgical calendar under Elizabeth and James was peppered with holy days which imposed obligatory observances, oblations and rituals, including some rather bizarre.
This chapter pinpoints 27 December 1601 as the date of the first performance
of Twelfth Night – and demonstrates that Shakespeare wrote his play for two
audiences, one at Elizabeth’s Court, the other at the Inns of Court.