Solving Shakespeare’s riddles in The Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, King John, 1–2 Henry IV, The Merchant of Venice, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Othello, Macbeth and Cymberline
Author: Steve Sohmer

Knowing William Shakespeare better, we are better equipped to know his plays. Better knowing his plays brings us closer to knowing him. This book suggests that Shakespeare wrote not only for the mass audience, but simultaneously for that stratum of cognoscenti whom Gabriel Harvey dubbed 'the wiser sort.' It identifies many passages in the plays which Shakespeare resolves famous cruces which scholars have never been able to unravel, and casts new light on Shakespeare's mind and method. Shakespeare wrote into Julius Caesar more than one passage intelligible only to that handful of the wiser sort who had read Plutarch and knew their Suetonius. Into Macbeth Shakespeare injected a detail accessible only to the few intrepid souls brave or reckless enough to have cast the horoscope of King James I. We find a poem in Hamlet, where the prince invites his love and bandies matters of cosmology which were burning issues (literally) throughout Shakespeare's lifetime. While Julius Caesar's old Julian calendar prevailed in England its rival, the scientifically correct Gregorian reformed calendar, dominated most of Europe. Shakespeare suffused his plays with references to calendrical anomalies, as seen in Othello. By relating Shakespeare's texts, the Renaissance calendars and the liturgy, the book produces a lexicon apt for parsing the time-riddles in Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare handled religious subjects, examined and interrogated the dogmas of the received religions, and parodied the Crucifixion by exploiting Holinshed's account of the persecution and assassination of York.

Author: Steve Sohmer

This book will come as a revelation to Shakespeare scholars everywhere. It reveals the identity of the playwright and Shakespeare’s colleague behind the mask of Jaques in As You Like It. It pinpoints the true first night of Twelfth Night and reveals why the play’s performance at the Inns of Court was a momentous occasion for shakespeare. It also the identities Quinapalus, the Vapians, Pigrogromitus and Feste, as well as the ‘Dark Lady’ of the Sonnets and the inspiration for Jessica in The Merchant of Venice. And it solves Shakespeare’s greatest riddle: the meaning of M.O.A.I. in Twelfth Night. In sum, this book reveals William Shakespeare as a far more personal writer than we have ever imagined.

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.

in Shakespeare for the wiser sort
The new philosophy in Hamlet
Steve Sohmer

Hamlet is bandying matters of cosmology which were the burning issues throughout William Shakespeare's lifetime. The author's own view is that Shakespeare's religious opinions reflected the complexities, and relative tolerance of Queen Elizabeth I's Religious Settlement. There are any numbers of Catholics in Shakespeare's plays just as there were such persons in his family, his England, and in Europe. Shakespeare regularly alludes to rituals of the old Church baptism in Comedy of Errors, shriving and confession in Hamlet, creeping to the cross in Julius Caesar, pilgrimage in All's Well, and Holy Saturday rituals in Othello. In Hamlet Shakespeare even treats Purgatory with respect. None of this proves beyond doubt that Shakespeare was Catholic. But it does prove he was tolerant. Shakespeare's Old Hamlet was Catholic. For Hamlet and Horatio Purgatory does not exist; for Old Hamlet's Ghost it does.

in Shakespeare for the wiser sort
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.

in Shakespeare for the wiser sort
Steve Sohmer

This chapter demonstrates that William Shakespeare crafted Nurse's monologue as a passkey to all his time-riddles in Romeo and Juliet for the wiser sort among his auditors. It shows that solving the time-cruces in this play provides a fresh insight into Shakespeare's mind, his interest in chronometry, and his remarkable knowledge of the rival calendars of the Renaissance. The chapter suggests that recognizing the interval 25-30 July as the span of the action in Romeo and Juliet would allow us to recover other unrecognized instances of Shakespeare's intensive time-play. If the action of Romeo and Juliet is taking place 'since the Earth-quake now eleuen yeares' the wiser sort could instantly calculate that Nurse's conversation with Wife Capulet must be taking place between November 1581 and November 1582.

in Shakespeare for the wiser sort
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.

in Shakespeare for the wiser sort
Abstract only
Shakespeare rewrites the Holy Ghost
Steve Sohmer

This chapter focuses on the identification and enumeration of a constellation of literary devices William Shakespeare adopted for the purpose of publicly interrogating banned theological topics in his plays. It offers to interpret certain responses to Scripture, doctrine, and dogma in Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare's most sophisticated tactics of subversion relied on rubrics of the Elizabethan liturgy which rigidly linked verses of the Old and New Testament with particular dates in the calendar. In Shakespeare's era, free-speaking as well as access to printed documents, including even Scripture was fiercely controlled by censorious civil and ecclesiastical authorities. As a consequence, Elizabethans were masters at reading between the lines. They were also heirs of the Quadrata tradition which taught Christians to receive the words of Jesus, the Apostles, and the Holy Ghost as symbols, signs, analogies, metaphors, topologies, and ciphers.

in Shakespeare for the wiser sort
Steve Sohmer

This chapter suggests that William Shakespeare undertook the writing of Othello in 1603, incorporating that year as the annus praesens of the play. He linked the dramatic action to certain dates on which holy days in the rival Protestant Julian and Catholic Gregorian calendars conflicted ironically. It proposes that Shakespeare contrived the death-struggle between Iago and Cassio to personify the conflict between the Catholic doctrine of works and the Protestant dogma of election. The chapter argues that Jacobeans recognized Cyprus as the penultimate way-station for pilgrims to the Holy Land and that Shakespeare, although he followed Cinthio in setting the action of his drama on Cyprus, and construed Othello's journey as an unconsummated pilgrimage. It also suggests that Shakespeare painted with the colors of Marian idolatry the convert Catholic Othello's obsession with the chastity of his bride.

in Shakespeare for the wiser sort
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.

in Shakespeare for the wiser sort