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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Monday, May 13, 2013

Shakespeare, Mary Queen of Scots and the Battle of Langside

On 13 May 1568, armed forces defeated Mary, Queen of Scots at the Battle of Langside.

Battle of Langside, by Giovanni Fattori

This was the beginning of the Marian Civil War.

Mary had just escaped from Lochleven Castle and quickly amassed an army. She wanted to regain her throne, and she would have to fight to get it back.

She had abdicated the throne of Scotland, which passed to her infant son James. She claimed that she had been unlawfully forced to abdicate.

Lines were drawn and two armies faced each other on 13 May.

The battle was brief, only 45 minutes.

But it was decisively not in Mary’s favor. She withdrew and fled the battle.

Little did she know perhaps that she had begun a war that would be fought off and on for 5 years, and divide the country for a very long time.

Night After the Battle of Langside, by Sir John Lavery

William Shakespeare, who would have been 4 years old when the Battle of Langside was fought, would have heard all the stories about Mary’s controversial life and death. 

He would have been 9 years old when the Marian Civil War ended.

The story of Mary, Queen of Scots would have been a big story in Shakespeare’s youth. He must have heard his parents and neighbors talk about her on a very regular basis.

He would have been fascinated by these stories.

Also, he would have heard not just what was historically accurate or true. He would have heard all of the rumors and gossip about the story.

When we read about Mary, on the Internet for example, we read what is fact. 

Mary, Queen of Scots

When Shakespeare was a boy, he would have heard all of the fiction, too. 

For him, and for anyone in the Elizabethan period, it would have been very hard to separate fact from fiction.

I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of these kinds of events on the mind of the young Shakespeare. 

At his school, he learned Latin and Greek, and read the plays of Plautus and many others. All of this would serve him later as the most successful playwright in England.

However, almost more importantly he was learning how to tell stories because he heard some spectacularly entertaining stories as a child.

The stories he heard of heroic and villainous people like Mary, Queen of Scots -- who lived during his lifetime -- would inspire his creativity which lasted his entire life.

I think that Mary Queen of Scots and her lover the Earl of Bothwell were an Elizabethan Bonnie and Clyde, lovers and outlaws both.

Mary and Bothwell

To a little boy like Shakespeare, who lived in a time before Twitter, TV and newspapers, one of the greatest sources of entertainment was news of any kind -- spoken between people.

Shakespeare, like anyone in England, Scotland and Europe for that matter, would have eagerly awaited the latest news about Mary, Queen of Scots.

He was an amazing storyteller because he heard amazing stories as a child.

I like to think of him, trading bits of gossip and hearsay with his Stratford friends -- all of them eager to know what Mary, Queen of Scots was up to now, where she was and where she was going, and whether she would survive from one day to the next!

He and his friends might have acted out the Battle of Langside in the same way that children today play cops and robbers, for example.

For all we know, Shakespeare was in charge of the Battle -- giving them lines to say and directing all of them!


David B. Schajer

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