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

Most Popular Posts:

1. Shakespeare's Shylock Solved 2. Shakespeare's Othello Finally Identified 3. Shakespeare In Love Sequel Solved 4. The Real Romeo and Juliet 5. Shakespeare's Malvolio Solved 6. Shakespeare's Real Petruchio

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost

The first recorded performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost was for Queen Elizabeth for Christmas 1597.

It is a very funny comedy about the King of Navarre and three of his noblemen. They all take an oath to give up the company of women -- and quickly break that oath!
What I find fascinating about this play is that we don't know where Shakespeare got the story. It seems that this play and The Tempest are the only two of his plays whose source texts are unclear.
So, where did Shakespeare get this story, and why did he write this play?

David Tennant in a 2008 production by the Royal Shakespeare Company

By 1596-7 Shakespeare was the greatest and the most successful playwright in England. He was at the summit of his career.
The Earls of Essex and Southampton, two of the most popular and influential young Earls in Queen Elizabeth’s court, were Shakespeare's patrons.
Essex was the Queen’s favourite, which meant that she preferred him above anyone else, and gave him power and wealth in very unequal measure.

In the years after 1596-7 he would demand more and more from her, and by 1601 he had so fallen from favour that he led a Rebellion against her. He failed and was executed for this attempted coup d’├ętat.
But at the time Queen Elizabeth saw Love’s Labour’s Lost in 1597, her relationship with Essex was very strong.
In the play, the character of Navarre is based on Henri of Navarre, the future King of France. The other three noblemen in Shakespeare’s story are based on real historical figures.

Essex knew each of these men when he had supported Henri’s army, in 1591.
If Essex knew these men, then is it not reasonable to conclude that the characters and the indeed the story of Love’s Labour’s Lost came from Essex?

Is it not reasonable to conclude that Essex told the story to Shakespeare?
Perhaps the events of the play are not really fictitious. Perhaps they are based on some real event that Essex was witness to in 1591, or at least had heard about from one or all of these men.
Perhaps Essex was even involved in these events himself.
What if Essex told Shakespeare about these men, and Shakespeare crafted a play around them?
Did Essex hire Shakespeare to write it?
To what degree Essex supported Shakespeare, and how close he was to Shakespeare, is not very clear at all. When you read about Shakespeare, and then you read about Essex, it seems as if they hardly knew each other. 

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex

I recently asked a very prominent Shakespearean scholar to what degree Essex collaborated with Shakespeare on any of the plays. This scholar was reluctant to suggest that Essex was involved in the writing of the plays. He said that Essex only knew Shakespeare in a professional manner, as if Shakespeare was just one of many artists whom the Earl of Essex commissioned.
I couldn't disagree more.
In the process of writing my versions of Hamlet, Richard III, The Merchant of Venice, and the forthcoming Othello, I have concluded that the relationship between Shakespeare and Essex was very strong, and very close.
To put it bluntly, Shakespeare wrote propaganda for Essex.
For example, Shakespeare wrote Henry V in 1599 to bolster public support for Essex as he went off to fight in Ireland, and Essex's execution in 1601 moved Shakespeare to write his greatest masterpiece, Hamlet.
Therefore, in 1597, it is rather clear that Essex hired Shakespeare to write a very funny comedy for the Queen.
Also, there is a record from the French Ambassador, Andre Hurault, who met with Queen Elizabeth on 8 December, 1597.
Is it possible that he also saw the play later the same month? Is it possible that the play was written to coincide with the French Ambassador's visit?

Queen Elizabeth by Nicholas Hilliard, ca 1592-9

Since the play was written for a performance on or near Christmas, was this play a Christmas gift from Essex to his Queen? 
He would have probably bought her other gifts. She would have received many lovely gifts from people she knew, other courtiers.
But in giving her the gift of a new play written for her entertainment by William Shakespeare -- the greatest playwright of her reign -- Essex would have been giving her a gift that surpassed everyone else’s.
I hope I have persuaded you a little to consider the play in a new light. 

Far from being just another play that was written and performed during the Elizabethan Era, Love’s Labour’s Lost may have been Queen Elizabeth’s favourite gift from her favourite courtier.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ralph Fiennes Shakespeare Photos

Today is Ralph Fiennes' birthday.

So, I thought I would find some photos of his Shakespeare performances over the years.

Most recently he was in the fantastic film adaptation of Coriolanus, and he was on stage as Prospero in The Tempest in 2011.

I do hope that he doesn't wait too long to return to Shakespeare.

If I am not mistaken, this is a picture of him as Romeo, in 1986:

From Much Ado About Nothing, 1988:

As Troilus, directed by Sam Mendes, 1990:

with Amanda Root

This set of photos is from Hamlet, in 1995.

with Francesca Annis as Gertrude

This set is from Richard II, in 2000:

with Emilia Fox

As Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, 2005:

This set is from The Tempest, in 2011:

with Tom Byam Shaw as Ariel

with Elizabeth Hopper as Miranda

with Francesca Annis as Gertrude

From the Coriolanus film:

I hope you join me today in wishing him a very Happy Birthday!


David B. Schajer

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Tom Hiddleston As Shakespeare’s Coriolanus

Tom Hiddleston is doing Shakespeare again!
That is a very good thing.

He is an excellent actor, and even though he must be immensely busy with the publicity and production demands of the Thor and Avengers films, it is very exciting to see him return to Shakespeare again.
He is playing the title character Coriolanus in London at the Donmar Warehouse, under the direction of Josie Rourke.
If any of you see the play live, please do send in your thoughts and comments here, or on  facebook, twitter, etc. I would love to know what you think.
The reviews are good and it looks to be a great success.
I recently watched him in the Hollow Crown series again, and I was struck at how well he communicates the language of Shakespeare.

Tom Hiddleston as Henry V in the Hollow Crown series

Many actors have a tendency to rush the language. They don’t allow the language to breathe, as it were. 
Instead of speaking the lines as if they were coming into their heads for the first time, which is how real people think and speak, they recite the lines from memory, which robs them of the spontaneity. 
Mr. Hiddleston is wonderful at speaking the lines as if he were the first person to ever speak them. He makes them his own. It is quite remarkable, and very refreshing.
It is interesting that he is choosing to do one of the lesser known, and more challenging roles. Coriolanus is a very complex character -- a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. I have my own Shakespeare Solved ideas about why Shakespeare wrote this play, and what the play means, but that's for another time. Suffice to say that Mr. Hiddleston has a wonderful sense of adventure in performing this character.
I do hope that he continues to do Shakespeare on stage, and it becomes a lifelong endeavor. I can’t wait to see him as Macbeth, Hamlet, Benedick, Richard II and Richard III, and so on. I think he would be fantastic as Petruchio.
As much as he is famous for his Loki role, I think he will eventually become even more well known for his Shakespearean performances.
I will be seeing Coriolanus not on the stage but on a screen through National Theatre Live. I can’t wait.
For more information, and a location near you to see the play on the big screen, please follow this link:
In the meantime, here are as many pictures as I could find of the production:


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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Shakespeare's Romeo, Henry Condell

Henry Condell, one of Shakepeare’s fellow actors, died December 1627.
He is most famous for having been one of two men who edited the First Folio collection of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623.

The First Folio

But beyond that there is very little known about Condell.
He was probably working as an actor as early as 1590 in Lord Strange's Men where he would have worked with both John Heminges and Augustine Phillips.
Condell, Heminges and Phillips would all join Shakespeare in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in around 1593.

List of the main actors printed in the First Folio

Condell was married in 1596 to a London heiress, Elizabeth Smart.
This was right around the time that Shakespeare was already the single most famous and successful playwright in London.
So, Condell must have been very happy during the early years of his marriage. He had fame as an actor, and he had the wealth to enjoy himself.
He did so well for himself that he bought a very fine country home in Middlesex, and an estate in Gloucestershire.
But his happiness would not last long, as his wife and he suffered the loss of their first child in 1599. 
They would try to have children again, but most of their children would not survive. Only 3 of 9 children survived to adulthood.
In 1603, when Queen Elizabeth died, and King James succeded her to the throne, Condell, with the others in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men became the King’s Men -- the official royal court playing company.
Shakespeare retired from the stage around 1613, and died in 1616.
Condell retired from the stage in 1619, and at some point after that he and Heminges began to collect the plays that Shakespeare had written, and that they had performed so many times over so many years.
The world would be a darker place if they had not given us all the gift of the First Folio. We should be eternally grateful to them.
For his work together with Heminges, there is a memorial in their honor in the St Mary Aldermanbury Garden, in London.

Memorial to Heminges and Condell

Close-up of the plaque on the bottom of the memorial

We do not know which roles he performed in his long career. I have a theory that he was the most handsome of all of the actors like Burbage, Heminges, and William Sly. 
If there was one heart-throb in the cast it was Condell.

Was Condell the world's first Romeo?

He would have played the most romantic roles, and any character of young man. He may have been the world’s first Romeo, the world’s first Bassanio in Merchant of Venice, the world’s first Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing, and so on.
I can’t prove it, but it would seem logical, especially since he married such a wealthy young lady. Also, he must have been held in very high regard, if Heminges trusted him enough to work on the First Folio.

I hope you join with me today to take a moment to think of men like Henry Condell.

Shakespeare could not have written his plays if he did not have men like Condell to perform them.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shakespeare In Love Sequel Solved

Big news! 
Miramax Films has announced they will make a sequel to their 1996 film Shakespeare In Love.

Gwyneth and Joseph -- back together again?

I enjoy that film. The cast was excellent, especially Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes, it was very romantic and as far as I am concerned there is no such thing as too much Shakespeare in this world.
However, as I have written before, I want to see a film version of Shakespeare’s life that is more accurate. Shakespeare In Love is very very far from an accurate depiction of William Shakespeare’s life and work.
That is why I wrote my versions of the plays.
But I do look forward to seeing this sequel.
In fact, as soon as I heard the news, I started to wonder what might happen in the sequel.
I have solved Hamlet, Richard III, The Merchant of Venice, and in the process of writing a new version of Othello, I solved the meaning of the character Othello’s name.

So, let’s have some fun!
Here is my Shakespeare Solved version of Shakespeare In Love, the Sequel:

Shakespeare In Love used lines and moments from  Romeo and Juliet as the foundation of that film.
Of all the other Shakespeare plays, the one that would be most appropriate as the foundation for the Sequel would be Much Ado About Nothing.

Gwyneth as Viola as Beatrice

Briefly, Much Ado About Nothing is about “a merry war” of love between Beatrice and Benedick. Benedick despises love at first, and he argues about love with Beatrice. However, it is clear to everyone else that they love each other. 
The men scheme to make Benedick fall in love with Beatrice, while the women scheme to make Beatrice fall in love with Benedick.

Joseph as Shakespeare as Benedick

At the same time, Claudio loves Hero. He courts her and they want to get married.
The villain Don John plots to ruin their marriage.
By the end, Don John fails, Claudio marries Hero, and Beatrice and Benedick finally confess their love for each other. 

So, at the beginning of Shakespeare In Love, the Sequel, Gwyneth Paltrow, as Viola, returns from Virginia, where she has lived all these years married to her husband, Wessex.
Wessex is now dead, and she is not married. Queen Elizabeth brings Viola into her court.
It has been many years since Viola last saw Shakespeare, and she no longer has the idealistic view of love she once had.
Shakespeare is no longer a hungry and poor playwright. He is now famous and successful. His plays at The Theatre in Shoreditch sell out daily.
He is a shareholder in The Theatre. As the Sequel begins, he is re-negotiating the lease on The Theatre with his Landlord.
Shakespeare hears that Viola has returned. While he is excited to see her again, he has lost his idealistic view of love, too.
He is still married to Anne, who lives in Stratford-upon-Avon. The fact that they will never part, but they are not in love, also sours him on love.
Viola is Beatrice, and Shakespeare is Benedick.
Shakespeare hopes she will come to see him, but she does not. He waits day after day, but she doesn’t come.
He tells his actors to perform Romeo and Juliet, a play he wrote for Viola in the first film. The actors have not performed it in many years. 
He hopes that this play will lure her into The Theatre.
But she doesn’t come.
He then tells his actors to perform Twelfth Night, another play they have not performed in many years. Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night wrote for Viola.
But she doesn't come.
The actors see what Shakespeare is up to. No matter how much he denies that he still loves Viola, they know better.
Meanwhile, a young Earl has fallen in love with one of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting.

ElizabethVernon as Hero

The Earl of Southampton woos this young lady, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Vernon.
(Fun fact -- Southampton and Vernon were the real historical people who inspired Shakespeare to write Romeo and Juliet -- as I wrote here)

The Earl of Southampton as Claudio

Southampton is Claudio, and Lizzie is Hero. 
Southampton goes to The Theatre all the time. He’s friends with Shakespeare. He knows Shakespeare still loves Viola. He tells Lizzie about this.
Lizzie gossips with Queen Elizabeth and tells her what Southampton said.
In the first film, Queen Elizabeth was against Viola’s falling in love with Shakespeare.
In this Sequel, Queen Elizabeth is all for it. She invites Shakespeare to perform at court, and makes sure that Viola is there.
Viola and Shakespeare meet for the first time in nearly 20 years. 
Sparks fly!
But Viola argues with Shakespeare, and he argues back. Their love has turned to bitterness.
The “merry war” begins.
Shakespeare’s fellow actors, Southampton and other Earls scheme to make Shakespeare fall in love with Viola.
Viola’s friends, ladies-in-waiting, and the Queen herself scheme to make Viola fall in love with Shakespeare.
At the same time, Shakespeare is trying to help Southampton court Lizzie, who in turn is being helped by Viola.
To borrow a device from Cyrano de Bergerac -- Shakespeare writes sonnets for Southampton to recite to her. But Southampton is so bad at remembering them, Shakespeare has to stand behind him and feed him the poems.
(Fun fact -- it is commonly believed that the real historical Shakespeare did write the sonnets for the real historical Earl of Southampton.)
At the same time that Lizzie hears Southampton recite the sonnets, Viola stands behind her and helps her reply to such beautiful poetry.
Of course, Viola will become very suspicious, and detect Shakespeare’s style in the sonnets.
Over the course of the film, it is through the sonnets that Viola falls in love with Shakespeare.
The villain in this Sequel is Queen Elizabeth’s infamous right hand man, Robert Cecil, who has a hunch-back. 

Robert Cecil as Don John

Cecil does not like Southampton, Lizzie, nor Viola. 
He especially hates Shakespeare, and the feeling is mutual. 
Shakespeare regularly makes fun of Cecil in his plays -- depicting him as a villian. Malvolio, Richard III, and Polonius are all caricatures of Cecil.
Cecil plots to ruin Southampton’s affair with Lizzie, embarrass Viola in front of the Queen, and destroy Shakespeare.
Cecil makes Queen Elizabeth so upset at Lizzie, that she throws her into Fleet Prison. Shakespeare helps Southampton sneak into the prison to visit her.
Viola discovers that Shakespeare is helping Southampton, and that Shakespeare wrote the sonnets. She falls in love with him.
Viola plans to tell the Queen about Cecil’s evil plot.
But then, Cecil forces Shakespeare’s Landlord NOT to renew the lease on The Theatre. 

The Theatre in Shoreditch

The Landlord throws Shakespeare and his playing company out of The Theatre and shuts them down.
But Shakespeare and his company surprise everyone. 
The Landlord owns the land on which The Theatre is located, but he doesn’t own the actual building itself -- all the wood and nails, etc.
Based on true historical events, which I wrote about here (The Great Theatre Heist), late one night Shakespeare and his company take The Theatre completely apart -- piece by piece.
They carry all the pieces across the Thames River to Southwark, and rebuild the pieces of The Theatre into a new theatre --and they name it The Globe!

The Globe

Shakespeare even gets his friend and rival playwright, the hard-drinking and violent Ben Jonson to help out.
Shakespeare and his company celebrate their victory, at the same time that Queen Elizabeth sees through Cecil’s plots -- and punishes him.
But most importantly, Shakespeare and Viola finally confess their love for each other.
Southampton marries Lizzie. Queen Elizabeth gives her away at the wedding.
As a wedding present, Shakespeare invites everyone back to The Globe to watch a new play he has just written -- Much Ado About Nothing.
Southampton and Lizzie sit in the audience, hand in hand as they laugh at the play which depicts them as Claudio and Hero. 
At the end of the play, when Claudio and Hero get married, Southampton kisses his new bride.
Shakespeare also sits in the audience, with Viola, and when the play ends, they are hand in hand.

They may never marry, but they are finally in love together after many long years apart.
The End.

What do you think? 
Do you have any ideas about the Sequel?

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