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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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Shakespeare's Mistakes

Did Shakespeare make mistakes in his plays?


In The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare wrote that the country of Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) had a coast-line, when there is none.

Do you see a coast-line?

In Coriolanus, Shakespeare wrote that Delphi an island, when it is a city.

Delphi is definitely not an island

In Henry VI, Part 3, Shakespeare referred to Machiavelli, whose book The Prince was not published until 1532, probably 50 years after the events in the play.

Hamlet is a university student at the beginning of the play, and thirty years old by the end, while nothing in the play suggests that that much time has passed.

In King John, whose rule lasted from 1199 - 1216, Shakespeare wrote of a cannon, which did not appear in battle in Europe until 1280.

Earliest picture of a European cannon, 1326

In Henry IV, Part 1, Shakespeare wrote about a turkey, which was not known in Henry IV's time (ruled 1399 - 1413). The turkey was first introduced in England in 1550, by William Strickland.

William Strickland's Coat of Arms, with Turkey

In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, the Duke says that he is in Verona, but he can only be speaking of Milan.

In Antony and Cleopatra, he wrote of billiards, which was invented in the 15th century.

In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare wrote of a clock, which was not invented for another 1400 years.

Why do all of the characters in Measure for Measure have Italian names, when the play is set in Vienna?

So, just in case you thought that Shakespeare was an absolute genius and never made mistakes on the job, now you know.

Yesterday, a very nice woman asked me a question on Facebook about the Earl of Oxford, and whether there was any evidence that he really wrote the plays of Shakespeare.

Part of my answer was that I could easily imagine that a man who was born and educated in Stratford, who never went to university, and who wrote plays to earn a living, could make mistakes like these.

But an Earl, who had the best education, who had every book he wanted in his library, who did not have to earn an income, and who could write at his leisure without several ambitious and impatient actors waiting for a new play, would not have made such mistakes.

Also, the Earl of Oxford was famous for his travels to Italy, and would have visited Padua, and Verona, and Milan. 

It is very doubtful that Shakespeare, from Stratford, ever left England.

So, while we can laugh at Shakespeare's forgivable ignorance of history, we can also get a glimpse of a very busy man, who had to satisfy his actors, and the thousands of people who came to see his plays, and didn't have the time to fact-check his plays.

If I missed any other mistakes, please let me know!


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