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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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happy Birthday King James!

Happy Birthday King James!

Charles James Stuart was born 447 years ago today, on 19 June 1566.

He was named after Charles IX of France, his godfather.

He was the only living child of Mary, Queen of Scots. His father was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, who would die 8 months later at Kirk O’ Field -- due to injuries he sustained from an explosion under his room, although it is possible that he was poisoned as well.

There is some possibility that the real father was James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.

Bothwell was rumored to have had an affair with Mary, and they were both suspected of murdering Darnley.

Mary and Bothwell married only 3 months after the death of Darnley, and their marriage set off a  civil war that would last for 5 years.

Mary would  abdicate her throne in 1567, and her son James succeeded her.

He became King of Scotland when he was 13 months old.

There is so much to say about King James. 

Since I write about Shakespeare, I would like to share one little story today, for his birthday.

When James became King of England and Scotland in March 1603, almost immediately he made Shakespeare and his company the official royal playing company to the king -- the King’s Men.

What did this mean to Shakespeare personally?

Was he happy? Scared? Reluctant? 

Did he see this as a blessing or a curse?

Queen Elizabeth in her time had her own official royal players -- the Queen’s Men.

Why don’t we hear about the plays and actors from this company, while we know so much about Shakespeare and his company of actors?

One reason might be the fact that in addition to performing in London, in other cities, and at court -- this company was a propaganda tool for the Queen. 

They were probably also required to spy on the country and report back to the Queen, and her spymaster Francis Walsingham.

Walsingham may have been the one who created the Queen's Men in the first place.

It is very clear that Shakespeare’s career as an actor and playwright would not have been seen as propaganda for the Queen. I think his success was due to the fact that he challenged the state as far as he could without being stopped by the royal censor.

He did criticize and satirize the Queen personally -- as Portia in The Merchant of Venice for example -- but he knew how to get it past the authorities. I think Elizabeth even liked being roasted like this.

So, when James became King of England, would Shakespeare really have wanted to create propaganda for James?

I think he was terrified of being a King’s Man, and selling his soul to James.

As far as Shakespeare knew, he could lose most if not all of his audience if they thought he was working for the King, and was a spy for the crown.

If we look at the plays he wrote after James became king, like Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Coriolanus and Othello -- it is clear that he is not writing propaganda.

Which begs the question -- how did he get away with writing what he wanted to write?

How was he able to secure the freedom to write what he wanted?

What did King James think of these plays? Could he really have been pleased at Shakespeare’s disobedience?

I think I have found the answer to this mystery.

But that’s a story for another day...

I hope you join me in remembering King James today -- he is a remarkable man who lived an incredible life -- which is even more remarkable and incredible for having inspired Shakespeare to write many of his greatest masterpieces!


David B. Schajer

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