He died almost 22 years to the day that he became King of England, on 24 March 1603.
He had become King of Scotland when he was 13 months old. He became King of England when he was 36 years old.
|King James in 1621|
There are whole books about him, and there is so much that can be said about this remarkable and endlessly fascinating king.
What is remarkable is that there is so little written about the relationship between King James and William Shakespeare.
When James became king, he was not like Queen Elizabeth. He was a very different kind of monarch.
He hated his Parliament, and fought with them often. He closed Parliament on more than one occasion, and ruled without them from 1614 to 1621.
He was famous for his financial incompetence. When he became king the country was broke. When he died, it was even deeper in debt.
He didn't particularly like to be king, and much preferred to go hunting. He didn't like crowds, and didn't seem to care if the public liked him.
He left much of the exercise of his power in the hands of men like Robert Cecil.
He made rather sudden shifts in foreign policy, like the Anglo-Spanish peace treaty in 1604.
He also had a short temper for Catholics, whom he persecuted especially in the early years of his reign.
He had an insatiable curiosity and he was very learned. He wrote poetry and published books. He gathered together the finest poets of the period, which included Shakespeare and others like Ben Jonson.
He had a great appetite for entertainment. He was very fond of masques, in which he and his queen, Anne, would join the actors and entertainers as they danced, sang and played music.
He commissioned a new standard bible, which came to be known as the King James Bible.
In the first weeks of his reign, there were already plots against his life -- the Main plot and the Bye plot.
On 5 November 1605 there was a Gunpowder Plot to kill him, his family and blow up Parliament.
All of this was happening in the very first years of James's reign.
|King James, early in his reign|
These are the years in which Shakespeare was writing Othello, Macbeth, Coriolanus, King Lear, Timon of Athens, The Tempest, Henry VIII and Antony and Cleopatra.
It is very surprising to me that there is very little that is written about King James and Shakespeare.
It is an amazing mystery to me why no one wants to connect these two men -- one of the greatest monarchs in history and the single greatest artist in history.
Shakespeare was not just any playwright. When James became king, he elevated Shakespeare's company of actors. They became the official royal playing company -- The King's Men.
With so much going on in the court of King James, I find it inconceivable that Shakespeare would not or did not write about it in his plays.
In the coming months and years, I will be adapting some of these plays, and publishing them for you to read.
In these new versions of the plays I think you will be surprised at how often and to what degree Shakespeare wrote about King James.
As I have just recently announced, I will begin with a version of Shakespeare's Othello play.
I have discovered the real identity behind the character Othello and it is King James himself. Shakespeare wrote the play, in 1604, to paint a portrait of James.
It was not the first time that Shakespeare put the king in a play, and it was far from the last.
If Othello is any indication, Shakespeare was fascinated by King James, and the portraits he painted of him in his plays gives us a picture of James as a king who possessed great strength, great weakness, and despite his crown, was all too human.
David B. Schajer
Othello is Otho is King James
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