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Wrapped in the strong arms of the Union

Shakespeare and King James

Neil Rhodes

This chapter addresses the issue of William Shakespeare and Scotland through the writing of King James himself and, in particular, through his manual of kingship, Basilicon Doron, his 'royal gift' to Prince Henry, and the speech to parliament of 1603. The story of the publication of Basilicon Doron is itself an instance of James's double voice, since it began as an intensely private affair but ended up very much as a public statement. Shakespeare's political drama moves from a sense of England and Scotland as independent kingdoms into an alignment with the views of the Unionist King James. The original act of union was a fact of James's accession to the English throne in 1603, but that was all it was. The Union existed only within the person of James himself, hence the marital analogy.

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‘Who’s there?’

The men behind the masks of Falstaff, Faulconbridge, Lamord and Hamlet

Steve Sohmer

This chapter identifies three postmortem tributes: the first for William Brooke, Lord Cobham, in Henry V; a second for Henry Carey, first Baron Hunsdon, in King John; the third for Carey and his son, George, in Hamlet Q2. In recovering these lost encomia the chapter reveals the historical figures behind some of William Shakespeare's most remarkable, memorable characters. There is evidence that Shakespeare placed the death of Sir John Falstaff immediately after Henry's discovery of the conspiracy of Richard, Earl of Cambridge. King John's most admired Shakespearean creation is dismissed as a supernumerary: 'King John with Philip Faulconbridge as hero is a play without form and void, signifying nothing. Remarkable Antiquities of the City of Exeter is a tale uncannily parallel to Shakespeare's anecdote of Lamord. In the Folio the 'dram of eale' soliloquy has vanished and Lamord has become Lamound.

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Warlike women

‘reproofe to these degenerate effeminate dayes?

Carol Banks

This chapter proposes to return the female characters to the centre of history's stage, to reopen the closet to which they were seemingly confined in Henry V. In King John, in addition to the stage presence of the warlike Queen Eleanor, whilst the men are failing to protect their country and save 'mother England' from foreign occupation, brave English women are taking matters into their own hands. Constance's verbal performance in King John is reminiscent of the female roles in Richard III, for here women's tongues are likewise sharp and active. The impact of images of women conveyed via the language of the plays should not be underestimated. It has been argued that William Shakespeare's audiences possessed a highly tuned 'image consciousness' inherited from their medieval ancestors, so that spectators at the drama could readily construct offstage pictures in the mind's eye.

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David M. Bergeron

Poets reflected on the royal wedding, as some of the same ones, such as Thomas Heywood, Peacham, John Donne, and George Wither, had responded to Prince Henry's death and funeral. London 1613 included the most renowned playwright and the most prominent actor, in the immediate aftermath of the wedding. Donne begins by hailing 'Bishop Valentine', whose day the wedding commemorates. He then turns to work several changes on the idea of the phoenix, a concept and image linked to Duke of Lennox, King James, and in Webster's poem on the death of Henry to the prince himself. As Lennox well knew, some of the residue of resentment or uncertainty grew out of the court's wrestling still with the overwhelming reality of Henry's death. But in the final outburst of wedding festivities Queen Anne participated fully.

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David M. Bergeron

Prince Henry and King James served as the principal spectators, surrounded by a court of noblemen and women, including Duke of Lennox. The 'great preparation' for the two noble kinsmen included playwright Thomas Dekker's pageant, as John Chamberlain's report makes clear. Lennox remembered vividly the events of Henry's life that led up to Dekker's Lord Mayor's Show and its House of Fame with a vacant room. In the real world of London's theatres members of the Common Council sent a letter to the Lord Mayor on 8 November announcing Henry's death. Henry's death had shattered the royal family's tranquillity and certainty. Cyril Tourneur wrote a poem, 'On the Representation of the Prince at His Funeralls', to commemorate and react to the coffin, concluding, 'His aptnesse fluently appeares, / In ev'rie Souldiers griefe, and Schollars teares'.

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David M. Bergeron

The mid-seventeenth century provided a dubious spate of books that lambasted the early Stuarts, among them Arthur Wilson's The History of Great Britain. In a rare dispassionate moment Wilson rightly observes: 'The City of London, and the Court at White-hall, like two great Stars in Conjunction, had one and the same influence and operation.' These two great stars each had its own sphere of cultural, political, and economic influence; but they reflected the light of the other. A simple example: the King's Men performed William Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV during the extraordinary outpouring of drama at court in early 1613. Sylvester Jourdain's Discovery of the Bermudas, and the Council of Virginia's True Declaration of the state of the Colonie in Virginia, generated great excitement and probably influenced Shakespeare in writing The Tempest, performed recently at court in early 1613.

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‘two and fortie houres’

Did Shakespeare know Bandello?

Steve Sohmer

By patient examination of the original Italian text of Matteo Bandello this chapter offers evidence that William Shakespeare had read the story of doomed lovers in the Novelle, and perhaps in Luigi da Porto's 1530 version, too. It shows that Shakespeare is not the first author to carefully link the events in this fictional story of star-crossed lovers to actual dates, holy days, and lunisolar events in a specific calendar year. The chapter also shows that Bandello reworked da Porto's story to conform the action to the solar and liturgical calendars of AD 1302. It suggests that Shakespeare's close reading of Bandello may have inspired Shakespeare to exploit the tale of Romeo and Juliet to interrogate the Gregorian reform of 1582 by linking events in his tragedy to actual dates and holy days in that topsy-turvy year.

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‘to please the wiser sort’

Shakespeare’s other (smarter) audience

Steve Sohmer

Over the past four hundred years an enormous community of scholars have heeded assiduously John Hemminges's and Henry Condell's advice. They have read and reread William Shakespeare, edited his language, modernized his punctuation, parsed usages, debated intentions, and analyzed his words with tests: syntactical, historical, linguistical, and digital. There's a convenient example of Shakespeare writing for a tiny clique in Julius Caesar, the tragedy he purpose-wrote to christen the new Bankside Globe in 1599. Shakespeare composed his Roman tragedy for the delectation of a mass audience who shared a common appetite to see a tyrant ridiculed and slain. But Shakespeare also wrote into this play more than one passage intelligible only to that handful of the wiser sort who had read Plutarch and knew their Suetonius.

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There is a history in all men’s lives

Reinventing history in 2 Henry IV

Alison Thorne

Popular versions of history purveyed by the common folk diverged from historiographical conventions in various ways. The 'old folk' of 2 Henry IV assume the mantle of unofficial historians in their accepted capacity as 'time's doting chronicles'. Pierre Nora's suggestive analysis of the different modes of thought that have shaped modern historical consciousness and 'memory-history' offers a useful schema. This schema may enable to bring into sharper focus the competing models of 'history' at issue in 2 Henry IV. The need to reassess the productive role of memory in generating different forms of historical knowledge is emphasised by its omnipresence in 2 Henry IV. For, like the interest in rumour and prophecy, reinventing the 'times deceased' is a pastime that extends well beyond the lower orders.

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‘The time is out of joint’

Queen Elizabeth’s calendar muddle

Steve Sohmer

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.