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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Articles Written For:

The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Shakespeare in July 1603


410 years ago, in 1603, two plots against King James were developing at the same time.

He had only become King in March 1603, and already there were those who wanted to force a regime change.

King James

The Bye Plot was a conspiracy of Catholic priests who wanted more religious freedom, who wanted the fines for recusancy abolished or at least relaxed, and who wanted to install Arbella Stuart as a new queen.

Arbella Stuart

When Queen Elizabeth died, there were many who had very good claims to inherit the throne. 

Arbella Stuart had as good a claim as her cousin King James. Both were great-great-grandchildren of King Henry VII.

In fact, Arbella Stuart was taken into custody immediately after Elizabeth died, in order to prevent any Catholic conspirators from taking her and using her to create a new government.

The Main Plot was a similar plot to kidnap King James and install Arbella Stuart on the throne.

Some of the most powerful men in England were implicated in these plots -- such as Sir Walter Raleigh, and Henry Brooke, Lord Cobham.




It wouldn’t take long for the plots to be discovered and of course King James was never hurt, nor did Arbella Stuart gain any power. 

But it is interesting to see how troubled the country was as soon as James became king. The religious turmoil that had been simmering for decades was ready to explode. Of course, there would be other plots against James, most notably the Gunpowder Plot two and half years later.

For William Shakespeare, it must have been a very exciting and frightening time. 

He must have been excited because he and his company had just become a King’s Men, the official royal playing company to the King.

But it must have been frightening too, since now Shakespeare was part of the government. He was an instrument of the state, and as such he may have felt some danger from religious fanatics. 

If they were mad enough to do the King harm, then it would be nothing to get at Shakespeare himself, regularly at the Globe day in day out.

Simply put, if there are people who want to kill depose the King, then what would stop them from killing a King's Man?

Just because we don’t know that Shakespeare was never in any danger because of his association to the King, does not mean that Shakespeare was not worried about such a threat.

He had lost too many friends, like Ferdinando Stanley, and fellow playwrights, like Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd, to feel any real security in London.

Also, while Shakespeare may have known nothing of the Main and Bye Plots, he would have been well aware that the country was far from peaceful, especially in matters of religion.

He would write about this in the first plays he wrote for King James, like Measure For Measure and Othello.

In my forthcoming version of Othello, you will be able to see what it was like for Shakespeare in London in July 1603, as the country is trying to mend itself with a new king, at the same time that there are those who would tear it apart violently.

Cheers,

David B. Schajer

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