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, July 24, 2013

Shakespeare & The End of Mary and Beginning of James

446 years ago today, on 24 July 1567, Mary Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate her throne, and her 13-month-old son James became King James VI of Scotland.

Mary and her son James

Mary had led an eventful life, full of drama, and the two years before this moment were some of the most dramatic.

Mary, in 1559

She had been married to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Their relationship was not very good. He wanted more power, and there is also evidence that she abused her husband.

When she was pregnant with James, her personal secretary, the Italian David Rizzio, was suspected of fathering the child.

Darnley was so enraged that he and some of his men killed Rizzio in cold blood at a dinner party, stabbing him to death -- in front of Mary, and while she was pregnant!

Murder of Rizzio

There was also suspicions that the real father was James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. It would certainly make sense. Why would she name the child James and not Henry, after Lord Darnley?

Mary would have her revenge on Darnley when he came to visit his estranged wife in Edinburgh and stayed at Kirk o’ Field. While he was sleeping, gunpowder exploded in the room beneath his.

It seems that the explosion did not kill him, and as he struggled out of the house, he was strangled to death in the garden.

It was suspected that Bothwell had strangled Darnley himself.

Not long after that, Mary went to visit her son James at Stirling Castle, under the protection of the Earl of Mar and his wife. Little did she know perhaps that it was to be the last time she saw her son.

On her journey back, she was abducted by Bothwell and they were soon after married.

The marriage was a scandal at court, since Bothwell was hated by most of the Scottish lords, and especially since both Bothwell and Mary were suspected of her husband’s murder.

Also, Mary was pregnant again. It was clear that the children had to be Bothwell’s. This only increased the pressure on her to give up the throne.

26 Scottish lords challenged her authority, and summoned an army against her, which led to a confrontation at Carberry Hill

Bothwell ran from the fight and Mary was taken into custody and imprisoned.

Bothwell was exiled, and he travelled to Denmark, where he was imprisoned. He went insane and died 11 years later in 1578.

While Mary was in prison, pressure was put on her to give up the throne, and give it to her son.

Her pain must have been great, because she miscarried the twins she was carrying. James would never know his siblings, who were lost while his mother was in prison.

The miscarriage was between 20 and 23 July. On 24 July she abdicated.

Her son James became King of Scotland under very strange circumstances.

He was crowned in the Church of the Holy Rude, in Stirling.

Church of the Holy Rude

William Shakespeare was only 3 years old in 1567 when this was happening, and would probably would not have known anything about it.

But as the years went by, he must have learned every little rumor and conjecture about the strange events of Mary’s reign.

If he was like any young man in England at the time, he would have been fascinated by these highly dramatic stories, from a land not that far from his own.

When Shakespeare became a playwright, and wrote history plays, he would have investigated these stories about Mary even further, and it is very likely that they show up in his plays?

Was Shakespeare referring to Darnley, murdered in a garden by his wife’s lover, when he wrote about Hamlet’s father murdered in a garden by his wife’s lover?

Is the murder of Hamlet's father in the garden based on the murder of Darnley (top right)?
Is the character of Prince Hamlet, possibly driven mad by the ghost his parent that haunts him meant to suggest King James? 

Is King James the real Hamlet?

If Hamlet is a portrait of James, then is the play asking a question: will James possibly be driven mad by the ghost of his mother?

Is there something of Mary Queen of Scots in the story about another Scottish Queen, Lady Macbeth? Is the character of Macbeth meant to suggest Bothwell?

Are Mary and Bothwell the real Macbeths?

If Mary is Lady Macbeth and James is Hamlet, then it would suggest that Shakespeare saw with his own eyes how rotten the state of England was, when James became King of England in 1603.

I explore these questions in my version of Hamlet, and will explore them further in my upcoming version of Othello.


David B. Schajer

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