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

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shakespeare and the Dark Moon

410 years ago, in early October 1605, there was a partial lunar eclipse.

The Moon would have been full that night as it aligned with the Earth and the Sun, and the shadow of the Earth would have darkened the light of the Moon.
This is a rather normal astronomical occurence, and Shakespeare would have seen many in his lifetime.
Nowadays, there is not much said or written about such an celestial event. 
But to the Elizabethans, a lunar eclipse could have meant more. It might be a bad omen or a good omen, depending on the events of the day, or the cultural mood.

Shakespeare may not have thought much of it that night as the Moon darkened, but if he was like his fellow Elizabethan Englishmen, he might have stopped and considered the significance of the darkening Moon.
By October 1605, Shakespeare was a very busy man.
King James had made him a King’s Man, the official royal playing company to the court of King James, in 1603 and Shakespeare and his fellow actors were arguably more popular than ever -- playing for the King and playing at the Globe theatre.
But it was also a frightening time for Shakespeare.
Not long before, his fellow and rival playwrights Ben Jonson, George Chapman and John Marston had performed a play at court that upset King James.

The play was Eastward Ho and there were some lines that were very offensive to King James and his fellow Scottish countrymen who were in attendance.
King James ordered Jonson, Chapman and Marston to be arrested and sent to jail!
It seems that Marston escaped and went into hiding, while Jonson and Chapman were locked up.
There is every reason to believe that Shakespeare was there when the play was performed. Even though he was not in trouble with King James, he must have been scared at the thought of being punished for writing a play.
Whatever security Shakespeare believed that he had as a King’s Man, whatever protection he believed that such a privileged position afforded him, he must have seen the arrest of Jonson and the others -- friends of Shakespeare’s -- as a rude awakening.
If Jonson was not safe, then Shakespeare could not truly think himself safe.
Did Shakespeare visit Jonson and Chapman in jail? Perhaps.
Perhaps he was on his way to visit them on the same night that the shadow of the Earth darkened the Moon.

Even if Shakespeare was not a superstitious man, and did not believe in portents and omens, he might have considered the eclipse of the Moon as a bad sign during bad times.
Little did he know that the bad times would get worse in early November 1605, only a month away.
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