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‘The trumpets sound: stand close, the queen is coming’

 
From the First Folio (1623)

 
 
Some Shakespeare scholars have dismissed suggestions that Shakespeare and Fletcher’s All Is True or Henry VIII (1) alludes in part to the royal wedding of James I’s daughter Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine in February 1613. However, during the course of my research I have noted some interesting parallels between the stage spectacle of the play, and printed accounts of the wedding, and what follows are a few of my thoughts.

At the close of All Is True, Henry announces the event of his new daughter Elizabeth’s christening as a day of holiday for all. Similarly, on 14th February 1613, the date of James I’s daughter Elizabeth’s wedding, England celebrated with a national holiday. During the Coronation of Anne Bullen in Act Four of All is True, two Gentlemen, meeting on the street, discuss the event:

First Gent: You come to take your stand here, and behold
The Lady Ann pass from her coronation?

Second Gent: ‘Tis all my business. At our last encounter
The Duke of Buckingham came from his trial.

First Gent: ‘Tis very true. But that time offer’d sorrow,
This, general joy.

Second Gent: ‘Tis well: The citizens
I am sure have shown at full their royal minds.
(4.1.3-9)

It is tempting to read in this exchange an echo of the celebrations on the streets of London on Valentine’s Day 1613. Prince Henry’s funeral in December 1612 had been a sombre and depressing event. Two thousand mourners followed his coffin from St James to Westminster; an event which caused ‘many tears and sighs’ (2). Officials recorded they had never beheld ‘so much sorrow’ (3). Yet by January, Sir Thomas Lake reported ‘The black is wearing out, and the marriage pomps preparing’ (4). In February, the very same crowds which had mourned Henry’s death were cheering for the royal wedding. The ceremony took place at the Royal Chapel, Whitehall, on a Sunday. However the celebrations began on Thursday 11th with a spectacular firework display on the river Thames, and continued into the weekend with mock sea battles, masques, and all manner of ‘triumphant sportes’ (5). The weekend culminated in the wedding itself:

The Court being placed full of people of many Estates, sortes, and Nations, first came the Bride-groom from the newe built Banquetting-house, attired in a white Satten sute, richly beset with Pearle and Golde, attended on by a number of young gallant Courtiers, both English, Scottish, and Dutch, all in rich manner, every one striving to exceede in sumptuous habilliaments, fitte for the attendants of so princely a Bride-groome. After came the Lady Elizabeth, in her Virgin-robes, clothed in a gowne of white Satten richly embroidered, led betweene her royall brother Prince Charles, and the Earle of Northampton. Upon her head a crowne of refined golde, made imperiall by the Pearles and Dyamonds thereupon placed, which were so thicke beset that they stood like shining pinnacles. Upon her amber coloured haire, hanging plaited down over her shoulders to her Waste, betweene every plaight Gold spangles, Pearles, Riche stones, and Diamonds, and many Diamonds of inestimable value embroidered upon her sleeves, which dazzled and amazed the eyes of the beholders… After them came another traine of gallant young Courtiers in sutes embroidered and Pearled… then the king of Heralds bearing upon his shoulder a Mace of Golde… After them four Seargiants of the Mace, bearing upon their shoulders foure riche Enamelled Maces.Then followed the right Honourable the Earle of Aundell carrying the kings Sword. And then in great Royaltie the Kings Majestie himself… Upon her [Elizabeth]attended a number of married Ladies, the Countesses and wives of Earles and Barrons, apparelled in most noble manner which added glory into this triumphant time and Marriage (6).

A comparison with the stage directions in Act Four of All Is True reveals some similarities with the above description:

THE ORDER OF THE CORONATION

1. A lively flourish of Trumpets.
2. Then, two Judges.
3. LORD CHANCELLOR, with the purse and mace before him.
4. Choristers, singing. Music
5. MAYOR OF LONDON, bearing the mace. Then GARTER, in his coat of arms, and on his head a gilt copper crown.
6. MARQUESS DORSET, bearing a sceptre of gold, on his head a demi-coronal of gold. With him, the EARL OF SURREY, bearing the rod of silver with the dove, crowned with an earl’s coronet. Collars of Esses.
7. DUKE OF SUFFOLK, in his robe of estate, his coronet on his head, bearing a long white wand, as high-steward. With him, the DUKE OF NORFOLK, with the rod of marshalship, a coronet on his head. Collars of Esses.
8. A canopy borne by four of the Cinque-ports; under it, the QUEEN in her robe; in her hair, richly adorned with pearl, crowned. On each side her, the BISHOPS OF LONDON and WINCHESTER.
9. The old DUCHESS OF NORFOLK, in a coronal of gold, wrought with flowers, bearing the queen’s train.
10. Certain Ladies or Countesses, with plain circlets of gold without flowers.

Exeunt, first passing over the stage in order and state, and then, a great flourish of trumpets (4.1)

In one of the printed descriptions of the royal wedding, the bridesmaids attending the Princess are described as a ‘skye of Celestiall starres’ (7). The Second Gentleman, commenting on Anne Bullen’s procession in All Is True, refers to the countesses carrying the train as ‘stars indeed’(4.1.53). The Third Gentleman, commenting on the vast crowd watching the Coronation, evokes the spectators cheering Elizabeth, her new husband, and the court, as it processed from Whitehall to the Banqueting house: ‘when the people / Had the full view of, such a noise arose / As the shrouds make at sea in a stiff tempest, / As loud and to as many tunes; hats, cloaks – / Doublets, I think – flew up’ (4.1.70-74).

Similarly, the printed account of the royal wedding describes silver trumpets welcoming the couple into the Banqueting House with such melodious sounds it caused ‘thousands to say at that instant time, God give them joy, God give them joy’ (8). The Third Gentleman in All is True, remarks on the crowds: ‘Such joy / I never saw before’ (4.1.75-6). Likewise, Antony Nixon describes the mood in England on 14th February as one of joy: ‘The day of ioy, the day of iollitie, / That young and old, and all doe celebrate,’ in honour of the nuptials, ‘behold, / How young and old, and high and low reioyce. / England hath put a face of gladnesse on; / And Court and Countrie caroll both their prayse’ (9).

Stage directions in any early modern play present problematic issues. We cannot assume they were always written by the playwright, and thus it is possible that the stage directions in All Is True were penned by a scribe. However, given the specific order of the Coronation procession, the stage directions here do suggest a deliberate attempt to transpose the spectacle of the royal wedding onto the stage at the Globe. So if we accept the possibility for a moment that these stage directions are original and inserted by the playwrights themselves, some interesting questions begin to emerge. Did Shakespeare and Fletcher attended the royal wedding in February 1613, as passive spectators, or even active participants? Given the role of the King’s Men at this time, it is possible they were indeed invited to attend. Perhaps they were absent from London and simply read subsequent printed accounts of the wedding. Wherever they were on 14th February 1613, what is clear is that both playwrights appear to have had specific aspects of the royal wedding in mind when they composed All Is True in the spring of 1613.
 

 
This extract is taken from my original research paper on All Is True, which was submitted to the University of Sussex in 2011.
 
Notes

1) Originally entitled All Is True, its name was changed to Henry VIII in the First Folio, ‘to bring its title in line with those of all the other English history plays, which are named after the kings whose reign they dramatize.’ See Wells, Stanley, Shakespeare & Co (Penguin, 2007), 212
2) Green, Mary Anne Everett (ed), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I 1611-18 (Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, London, 1858), 162
3) Ibid
4) Ibid, 166
5) Anon, The mariage of Prince Fredericke, and the Kings daughter, the Lady Elizabeth, vpon Shrouesunday last VVith the shovves on land and water, before, and after the wedding, as also the maskes and reuells in his Highnes court, with the running at the ring, by the Kings Maiestie, the Palsegraue, Prince Charles, and diuers others of the nobilitie (London, 1613)
6) Ibid, Bv – B2r
7) Ibid, B2v
8) Ibid, B2r
9) Nixon, Antony, Great Brittaines generall ioyes. Londons glorious triumphes Dedicated to the immortall memorie of the ioyfull mariage of the two famous and illustrious princes, Fredericke and Elizabeth. Celebrated the 14. of Februarie, being S. Valentines day. With the instalment of the sayd potent Prince Fredericke at Windsore, the 7. of Februarie aforesaid (London, 1613), B4r

 

Bankside Entertainment London Playwrights Propaganda Stage Theatre

A Game At Chess

The following is an extract from a letter written by the Spanish Ambassador, in which he outlines the performance of a play at the Globe written by Thomas Middleton. A Game at Chess is a notoriously anti-Catholic play. It was licensed for performance on 12th June 1624, but was not performed by the King’s Men at the Globe until 6th August, by which time James I was out of London. It ran for nine days before being closed by the authorities. In addition to the rabid anti-Catholic slant the ambassador so objects to, and it is important to remember the play was performed at the height of English anxiety about the Spanish Match, his account reveals some fascinating details about production and performance styles on the London stage at this time

The actors whom they call here ‘the King’s Men’ have recently acted, and are still acting, in London a play that so many people come to see, that there were more than 3,000 on the day that the audience was the smallest. There was such merriment, hubbub and applause that even if I had been many leagues away it would not have been possible for me not have taken notice of it…

The subject  of the play is a game of chess, with white squares and black squares, their kings and other pieces, acted by the players, and the king of the blacks has easily been taken for our lord the King, because of his youth, dress and other details. The first act, or rather game was played by their ministers, impersonated by the white pieces, and the Jesuits, by the black ones. Here there were remarkable acts of sacrilege and, among other abominations, a minister summoned St Ignatius from hell, and when he found himself again in the world, the first thing he did was to rape one of his female penitents; in all this, these accursed and abominable men revealed the depths of their heresy by their lewd and obscene actions.

The second act was directed against the Archbishop of Spalatro, at that time a white piece, but afterwards won over to the black side by the Count of Gondomar, who, brought onto the stage in his litter almost to the life, and seated in his chair with a hole in it (they said), confessed all the treacherous actions with which he had deceived and soothed the king of the whites, and, when he discussed the matter of confession with the Jesuits, the actor disguised as the Count took out a book in which were rated all the prices for which henceforwards sins were to be forgiven…

The last act ended with a long, obstinate struggle between all the whites and the blacks, and in it he who acted the Prince of Wales heartily beat and kicked the ‘Count of Gondomar’ into Hell, which consisted of a great hole and hideous figures; and the white king [drove] the black king and even his queen [into Hell] almost as offensively.

It cannot be pleaded that those who repeat and hear these insults are merely rogues because during these last four days more than 12,000 persons have all heard the play of A Game at Chess, for so they call it, including all the nobility still in London. All these people come out of the theatre so inflamed against Spain that, as a few Catholics have told me who went secretly to the play, my person would not be safe in the streets; others have advised me to keep to my house with a good guard, and this is being done.

Don Carlos Coloma to the Count-Duke of Olivares, 10 August 1624.

Cited in Houston, S J., James I, Second Edition (Longman, 1995), 128-9

London Maps Shakespeare Theatre

Shakespeare in Cripplegate

I’ve been chasing Shakespeare around London in an attempt to trace his various homes from the early 1590s until his retirement in 1613. I thought it might be fun to compare his approximate locations on the map created by Ralph Agas, who surveyed London in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries (c.1570-1605), with current equivalent locations in modern London. What follows are a series of map locations and images related to Shakespeare’s known accommodation during these years.

 

BISHOPSGATE

Firstly, Shakespeare in Bishopsgate. He is known to have been living here in 1596, when he was assessed on goods valued at £5, and subsequently taxed 5 shillings. We don’t know the exact address at which he lived, but he was recorded as being resident in the parish of St Helens.

 

Bishopsgate

 

 

Bishopsgate c.1595

The arrow indicates the church of St Helens.

 

 

Bishopsgate 2012

St Helen’s church today, indicated by the arrow.

 

 SOUTHWARK

By 1599, Shakespeare had left Bishopsgate and moved across the river to Bankside. He is believed to have lodged in the liberty of the Clink in Southwark, just down from the newly-built Globe theatre.

 

Southwark

 

 

Liberty of the Clink c.1599

 

 

Clink 2012

 

 

Bankside before 1599

 

 

Bankside 2012

 

 

The Globe 2012

 

 

CRIPPLEGATE

In 1604, Shakespeare was living with the Mountjoy family on Silver Street, Cripplegate.

 

City of London

 

 

Cripplegate c.1600

The arrow indicates Shakespeare’s lodgings, in the house at the corner of Silver Street and Monkwell Street.

 

 

City of London 2012

The arrow indicates the approximate site of Shakespeare’s Cripplegate lodgings today, on the corner of Noble Street and London Wall.

 

BLACKFRIARS

In March 1613, Shakespeare bought the Blackfriars Gatehouse. It is unclear whether he ever lived in it, but after his death in 1616, it passed to his daughter Susanna:

And also all that tenemente with the appurtenaunces, wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, lying and being, in the Blackfriers in London, nere the Wardrobe. And all my other landes, tenementes, and hereditamentes whatsoever.

 

Blackfriars

 

 

Blackfriars c.1600

The site of the Blackfriars theatre. Shakespeare owned the Gatehouse nearby.

 

 

Blackfriars 2012

 

THEATRES

Finally, I’ve highlighted many of the theatres familiar to Shakespeare’s audiences on the Agas map.

 Left to Right top Row:

1)The Phoeneix/Cockpit, Drury Lane 2) The Red Bull, Clerkenwell 3) The Fortune, Whitecross Street
4) The Curtain, Shoreditch, and above it 5) The Theatre

Left to Right Middle Row:

1) Whitefriars 2) Blackfriars

Left to Right Bottom Row:

1) The Swan 2) The Hope 3) The Rose 4) The Globe

 

 

Source for Shakespeare’s addresses: Charles Nicholl, The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street (Penguin, 2007). Nicholl’s book provides lots of fascinating detail about Shakespeare’s life in Cripplegate.

Explore the Agas map in detail here

Bankside Education Elizabeth Gunpowder Plot London Review Shakespeare Theatre

Staging the World: Review

 

The British Museum is soon to stage a major exhibition on the world of Shakespeare in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The exhibition provides an insight ‘into the emerging role of London as a world city, seen through the innovative perspective of Shakespeare’s plays.’ It is part of the World Shakespeare Festival and runs from 19 July – 25 November 2012.

The British Museum Press has released several publications to compliment the exhibition, and kindly sent me review copies. A further book on Shakespeare and Food is forthcoming shortly. The titles I’m reviewing here are Shakespeare: Staging The World, Shakespeare’s Britain, and Angels and Ducats: Shakespeare’s Money and Medals,

First up is the rather splendid ShakespeareStaging The World by Jonathan Bate and Dora Thornton. This is a big beautiful book, which considers the early modern period through the eyes of Shakespeare; its premise being that the things he, his players, and his audience saw, ‘mattered at least as much as what they read in shaping their vision of the world.’ This is cleverly illustrated by the juxtaposition of a stunning collection of early modern objects with Shakespeare’s characters and plays.

To look at a woodcut of a Jewish household in Venice and a sixteenth-century Caribbean wood carving of a spirit imprisoned in a tree and a pack of playing cards in which Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth appear side-by-side is to be given a new historical and intellectual perspective on the characters of Shylock, Ariel and Cleopatra.

The book not only serves as a catalogue of the objects on display at the exhibition, it features a rich and detailed commentary by the Shakespearean scholar Jonathan Bate, and the exhibition’s curator, Dora Thornton, which in and of itself enriches both existing scholarship, and our knowledge of daily life in early modern England. The book is divided into nine chapters, each of which explores a specific theme and the objects which serve to bring it to life. For example, Chapter One gives an overview of London in 1612; a World City. It provides a narrative of aspects of London life at this time, and considers the theatres as bustling commercial enterprises. One of the most compelling objects featured in this chapter is a surviving turned oak baluster excavated from the site of the Rose theatre. It may have been part of the safety rail around the upper galleries:

 

© The Trustees of The British Museum

 

Subsequent chapters explore Country, County and Custom, Kingship and the English Nation, The Legacy of Rome, Venice Viewed from London, The Noble Moor, The Scottish Play, and the Matter of Britain. Each is illustrated throughout with truly mouth-watering photographs, illustrations, maps, and woodcuts. One of my favourite objects is this Horn-book from the late 1600s, comprising a sheet of printed paper protected by a layer of horn, similar to the one from which Shakespeare himself would have learned his alphabet and Lord’s Prayer while at school:

 

© The Trustees of The British Museum

 

One of the many facts I discovered while reading Staging The World, is that in 1571, a statute was enacted enforcing the wearing of woolly caps by everyone over the age of six on Sundays and holidays. This knitted man’s cap was found in Moorfields, London and dates to the mid-sixteenth century:

 

 © The Trustees of The British Museum

Perhaps my favourite object is this lantern, traditionally associated with Guy Fawkes. It was given to the University of Oxford in 1641 as a memento of the Gunpowder Plot. It’s made from sheet iron and would originally have had a horn window so it could be completely closed to hide the lighted candle within:
 © The Trustees of The British Museum



Shakespeare: Staging The World is more than just a museum catalogue, it’s a stunning collection of early modern objects brought vividly to life by Jonathan Bates and Dora Thornton. I’d endorse it for anyone with an interest in Shakespeare or early modern England. For the Shakespeare scholar it’s a valuable addition to the bookshelf, for the historian it’s a smorgasbord of early modern artifacts. For the general reader it’s a beautifully illustrated and informative guide to the world of Shakespeare. Highly recommended. Shakespeare: Staging The World, Jonathan Bate and Dora Thornton (The British Museum Press: London, 2012) (£25).
*
A smaller, shorter version of Staging The World can be found in Shakespeare’s Britain, also by Jonathan Bate and Dora Thornton. It contains a condensed overview of some of the objects found in Staging The World and has a specific focus on Shakespeare and Britain; a theme which preoccupied the playwright in his later years, and one which was ushered in by James I who longed for a unified kingdom. Perfect for someone who wants to get a flavour of the period, it neatly encapsulates Shakespeare’s Britain with lavish illustrations. I particularly love the cover image, which comes from a watercolour entitled ‘Going to Bankside’ painted by Michael Van Meer in 1619, and depicts some rather fancy-looking people enjoying a trip across the Thames to Bankside, perhaps to see one of Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare’s Britain, Jonathan Bate and Dora Thornton (The British Museum Press: London, 2012) (£9.99)
The final book, Angels and Ducats: Shakespeare’s Money and Medals, is a fascinating catalogue of the coins on display at the exhibition. As anyone who’s been forced to admire my Elizabethan sixpence will testify, I do love sixteenth and seventeenth century coins. Not because I have any interest in numismatics, but because they give us pause to wonder just who’s pocket they’ve been in, and as such, they connect us with history in a real and immediate way.
© The Trustees of The British Museum
The above ducat dates from the office of Marino Grimani, Doge of Venice from 1595-1605. Ducats were, in origin, ‘the defining gold coin of Venice, but the term also meant any coin of the same standard and it was widely used and familiar.’
Another coin, perhaps my favourite, is a milled sixpence dated 1562, depicting the profile of Elizabeth I. It’s in much better condition than my own. Milled sixpences were machine-made coins circulated in the early 1560s at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. They were treasured at the time, and often used as reckoning-counters.
    © The Trustees of The British Museum

As well as using sixpences as counters, specially-made counters were available for accountants, and a bag or cylinder of counters served as an early modern calculator. The Clown, in The Winter’s Tale, talks of his need for counters before he goes shopping:

I cannot do’t without counters. Let me see, what am I to buy for our sheep-shearing feast? Three pounds of sugar, five pounds of currants, rice – what will this sister of mine do with rice?
(4.3.32-4)

Below is a set of silver counters depicting the Stuart royal family, dating to the 1600s. The accompanying silver box holds all twenty-nine counters.

 

 © The Trustees of The British Museum
Angels and Ducats fulfils a valuable role. It enables us to see for the first time exactly what the coins Shakespeare refers to in his plays actually look like. In this way this book enriches our understanding of both Shakespeare’s work and his life. Angels and Ducats is essential reading for anyone interested in the themes of money and finance on the London stage, but beyond that it is a wonderful introduction to the variety of coins in circulation in early modern England. Angels and Ducats: Shakespeare’s Money and Medals (The British Museum Press: London, 2012) (£9.99).
All three offerings from The British Museum Press are beautifully written and stunningly illustrated. If I had to recommend one, it would be Shakespeare: Staging The World, since it covers all the objects included in the exhibition. However Shakespeare’s Britain is a neat precis of some of the objects on display and Angels and Ducats is unique in its study of specific coins in England during this period. If you’re intending to visit the exhibition then any or all of the books are a great way to familiarise yourself with the history of the objects on display. If you can’t make the exhibition then each of the books serves as charming compensation. But in their own right, all three deserve a place on any bookshelf.
The books can be bought via The British Museum Bookshop online. Tickets for the exhibition Shakespeare: Staging The World can be bought here.
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