On 4 July 1607, the third session of King James’s first Parliament ended.
|King James and his Parliament|
King James was having great difficulty with his Parliament in realizing the dream he had in uniting the country.
|King James in 1606|
He was so frustrated with his Parliament that he did most of his governing without them.
In the course of his 22 year reign, which lasted until 1625, he summoned his Parliament only 4 times, with a total of 9 sessions.
For Shakespeare, he must have found it fascinating to watch as the King fought with his Parliament and struggled to realize his dream.
|Patrick Page in a recent production of Coriolanus|
The fact that he and his Parliament were such rivals was not good for the country as a whole.
He was sowing seeds of discord, and teaching his son Charles a very bad lesson in statecraft. When Charles succeeded his father, he would further inflame the tensions with Parliament, which would resulted in civil war.
Shakespeare knew something of this, when he paraphrased the Bible when he wrote “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.”
|Queen Anne, King James and their son Charles|
by Simon de Passe, circa 1612
I often wonder to what degree Shakespeare could predict the English Civil War.
Not only do I think he could see it coming, I think he was acutely aware of the fact that it could happen at any moment.
Shakespeare lived and worked in the theatre. He was not insulated from the world around him. He was exposed to the highest class of people and the lowest class, and very often both at the same time.
For a playwright who wrote about Jack Cade's Rebellion, and the Gunpowder Plot, and the assassination of Julius Caesar -- Shakespeare was very aware of the mind of the common man.
I think it is impossible to think that he was not aware that the country was heading in the wrong direction with King James.
When he died in 1616, I think he was very grateful that a Civil War was not fought during his life. But he knew it could come one day, and like a tempest, it would blow over the whole country.
David B. Schajer
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