Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Henry VIII and Shakespeare

I think that Shakespeare, like many Elizabethans, was very aware of the history of England, and keen to understand the history that was being made around him, in his lifetime.

There were so many tumultuous events in Shakespeare's England that he must have thought it very important to capture as much of it as possible, and write much of it into his plays.

Henry VIII -- Fidei Defensor

On 11 October 1521, Pope Leo X granted the title of Fidei Defensor or "Defender of the Faith" to King Henry VIII.

Henry had defended the supremacy of the Pope against the rising tide of the Protestant Reformation, which had only just begun with Martin Luther in 1517.

Nine short years later, Henry would reverse course, break with Rome, and the English Reformation would begin. This title would be revoked and he would be excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

I doubt Shakespeare would be unaware of this day. The effects of the English Reformation, which tore the country apart and led to bloodshed and persecution, had a direct impact upon Shakespeare's parents, and Shakespeare himself -- born in 1564.

I don't think he would have become the writer we know today, had it not been for these events.

On 12 October 1549, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and later 1st Duke of Northumberland became Premier and soon after he became the Lord President of the Council -- the de facto ruler of England, while King Edward VI was still a child.

John Dudley

The importance of this event is that John Dudley's rival at court was Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton. Dudley was victorious, and purged Wriothesley and his supporters from the court.

What is the relevance to Shakespeare?

John Dudley's son was Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester -- later the Queen's "favourite" and the greatest love of her life.

Wriothesley's grandson was Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton -- Shakespeare's most important patron and friend.

The point is that the rivalry between Leicester and Southampton had deep roots, and on this day in 1549 much of that rivalry was born.

Shakespeare himself would have been allied with Southampton against Leicester and Shakespeare would have done everything he could to support Southampton -- writing Romeo and Juliet in his honor -- and damage Leicester -- Claudius poisoning Hamlet's father was a reference to the rumor that Leicester poisoned Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex in order to marry his wife, Lettice.

Walter and Lettice's son -- oddly named Robert -- was conceived around the same time that Leicester and Lettice were believed to have had an affair.

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, has often been a candidate for having inspired the character of Hamlet.

I think the proof of this is irrefutable, but it is only part of the identity of Hamlet.

In my version of Hamlet, I reveal the true identity of Hamlet -- and why Shakespeare wrote the play in the first place.