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, March 8, 2013

Shakespeare, King James and Bloody Murder

9 March is a reminder that King James was never far from violence.

King James

His mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was executed. The executioner bungled her beheading -- not only did he have to chop twice to separate her head from her body, but he lifted her head by the hair, and the head dropped to the ground, because she had been wearing a wig.

The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

His father, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was assassinated. He was strangled to death in a garden after having been in a house that was blown up by gunpowder, while he may have been suffering from being poisoned!

The crime scene of the murder of Lord Darnley, his body at the top right

But there were rumors that James was not the son of Darnley.

There were rumors that James was the son of Mary's private secretary, David Rizzio, who was born in Italy to a noble family.

On 9 March 1566 -- several Scottish Lords ganged up on David Rizzio and stabbed him to death 56 times -- while Mary was in the room!

And while she was 7 months pregnant with James!

So not only was James born into a violent and bloody world, bloody violence surrounded him while still in the womb!

Murder of Rizzio

But there were also rumors that James may have been the son of yet another man.

He may have been the son of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. Bothwell is the man who most likely hand his hands around the neck of Darnley in the garden, strangling him to death.

Mary and Bothwell

Bothwell and Mary got married right after Darnley's murder, while they were under suspicion in the murder of Darnley, and had to run away from an army, raised up by some Scottish Lords who challenged their authority.

Mary was eventually taken into protective custody in England, but later executed on orders from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth.

Bothwell escaped to Norway, which at the time was under the rule of Denmark, where he had a bad reunion with the first of three women he had married, named Anna Throndsen. Bothwell was imprisoned by Anna's cousin Erik Rosenkrantz.

King Frederick II of Denmark moved Bothwell to a terrible prison in Denmark, and while in prison he went insane and died.

All of this happened before young King James was 13 years old.

What did all of this have to do with Shakespeare?

Careful readers will have noticed certain details like poisoned in a garden, a widow marries her husband's killer, a Denmark prison, Rosenkrantz, and a man driven insane.

These all refer of course to Shakespeare's Hamlet. 

But more importantly, when Shakespeare greeted his new king in 1603, after Queen Elizabeth had died, he would have known all of these stories about James.

As interesting as the stories were, and no doubt Shakespeare knew all of the rumors of his new king, nothing could have prepared him for James himself.

The king made Shakespeare a King's Man, the official royal playwright to the court of King James.

Shakespeare's job was to entertain this new king.

Hamlet was first written in 1601. It was now 1603.

Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, partially about King James, before he had ever met him.

Hamlet was yesterday's news.

What would Shakespeare come up with now?

What would please his king?

The first play Shakespeare wrote and performed for James was Othello.

I have just recently discovered the origin of the name Othello, and it has everything to do with King James.

Othello is a gripping and violent story of love and murder.

Shakespeare must have realized that far from disliking bloody violence and finding it distasteful, King James had a real and insatiable taste for violence, the bloodier the better.

Perhaps he developed a taste for it early -- maybe even before he was born.


David B. Schajer

Related Articles:

Othello is Otho is King James

Something Rotten in the State of Scotland

Shakespeare's Hamlet, Macbeth and the Murder of Darnley

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  1. I find your blog amazing and very interesting. Following right away.

    1. Thank you very much! I really appreciate it! :-)