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Richard III’s DNA

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.485  Monday, 8 December 2014


From:        Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         Monday, December 8, 2014

Subject:    Richard III’s DNA


This is from the BBC News.


2 December 2014 Last updated at 11:11 ET

Richard III’s DNA throws up infidelity surprise

By Paul Rincon

Science editor, BBC News website


Analysis of DNA from Richard III has thrown up a surprise: evidence of infidelity in his family tree.


Scientists who studied genetic material from remains found in a Leicester car park say the finding might have profound historical implications.


Depending on where in the family tree it occurred, it could cast doubt on the Tudor claim to the English throne or, indeed, on Richard's.


The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.


But it remains unknown when the break, or breaks, in the family lineage occurred.


In 2012, scientists extracted genetic material from the remains discovered on the former site of Greyfriars Abbey, where Richard was interred after his death in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.


'Overwhelming evidence' 

Their analysis shows that DNA passed down on the maternal side matches that of living relatives, but genetic information passed down on the male side does not.


However, given the wealth of other details linking the body to Richard III, the scientists conclude that infidelity is the most likely explanation.


[ . . . ]


The instance of female infidelity, or cuckolding, could have occurred anywhere in the numerous generations that separate Richard III from the 5th Duke of Beaufort (1744-1803), whose living descendants provided samples of male-line DNA to be compared against that of the Plantagenet king.


"We may have solved one historical puzzle, but in so doing, we opened up a whole new one," Prof Kevin Schurer, who was the genealogy specialist on the paper, told BBC News.


Investigation of the male genealogy focused on the Y chromosome, a package of DNA that is passed down from father to son, much like a surname. Most living male heirs of the 5th Duke of Beaufort were found to carry a relatively common Y chromosome type, which is different from the rare lineage found in the car park remains.


Richard III and his royal rival, Henry Tudor (later Henry VII), were both descendants of King Edward III. The infidelity could, in theory, have occurred either on the branch leading back from Henry to Edward or on the branch leading from Richard to Edward.


Henry's ancestor John of Gaunt was plagued by rumours of illegitimacy throughout his life, apparently prompted by the absence of Edward III at his birth. He was reportedly enraged by gossip suggesting he was the son of a Flemish butcher.


"Hypothetically speaking, if John of Gaunt wasn't Edward III's son, it would have meant that (his son) Henry IV had no legitimate claim to the throne, nor Henry V, nor Henry VI," said Prof Schurer.


Asked whether a break in the branch of the tree leading to the Tudors could have implications for the legitimacy of the present-day royal family, Prof Schurer replied: "Royal succession isn't straightforward inheritance from fathers to sons, and/or daughters. History has taken a series of twists and turns."


The breakage was statistically more likely to have occurred in the part of the family tree which does not affect Royal succession - the most recent stretch - simply because more links in the chain exist there.


And Dr Anna Whitelock, a reader in early modern history at Royal Holloway - University of London, told BBC News: "It's important to note that Henry VII claimed the throne "by right of conquest" not blood or marriage - his claim was extremely tenuous.


"Henry VII was descended from Edward III from the Beaufort line - the Beauforts were legitimised by half-brother Henry IV but not in succession. Royal succession has been based on many things in the past: ability to lead troops, religion, connections - not always seniority by royal blood."


[ . . . ]

Propelling Edward III

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.484  Monday, 8 December 2014


From:        Caro MacKay < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 8, 2014 at 9:27:22 AM EST

Subject:    Propelling Edward III


Dear Hardy,


As we have just had a  ‘yes’ from our last speaker I wanted to let you know more about the Symposium on Shakespeare’s Edward III on January 30th and 31st 2015 in conjunction with UAL at Wimbledon College of Arts. 


The event is a part of our preparation for presenting Total Rose Rage and I have attached the press release.


The speakers are Paul Allen (Night Waves presenter), James Brabazon (war reporter, film maker & author), Lucy Cullingford (early / modern movement, Warwick University), Professor Jean Howard (English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University), Dr Peter Kirwan (poetic renaissance texts, Nottingham University), Professor David Lindley (Renaissance Literature, Leeds University) 


The strap line for ourselves for these two days is “why do Edward III?”


We will open with Edward Hall (our director) rehearsing the first scene of the play with the actors, Michael Pavelka (our designer) and Roger Warren (our text editor).


Then we will intersperse speakers with scene rehearsals with Edward taking points from a speaker’s paper that he thinks pertinent and useful.


I gather from the academics that they are tremendously excited to see live rehearsals and to enjoy the interplay. I think it is going to be a really interesting marriage.


The last session on Saturday afternoon will largely concentrate on a debate between the delegates, Edward, the actors et al. Professor Carol Rutter and Dr Andy Kesson will lead this.


The sessions last from 10am to 7.30 on the Friday and from 10am to 4.15 on the Saturday. The Dean will be hosting Drinks for the delegates, speakers and the company. The tickets are £200 each which includes lunches, coffees and teas. 


If you have any queries, or would like to book to come along, please do not hesitate to contact me.


With best wishes,



Caro MacKay

Executive Producer, Propeller

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Highfield, Manor Barns, Snowshill, Broadway, Worcs., WR12 7JR

+44 (0)1386 853206


November 2014

Press Release


Propeller Theatre Company and Wimbledon College of Arts announce Edward III Symposium


‘Propelling Edward III’: Research in Action will take place across two days in January 2015 at the Wimbledon College of Arts Sessions will be led by Artistic Director Edward Hall, with Propeller designers Michael Pavelka and Ben Omerod, text editor Roger Warren and Professor Carol Rutter with further guest speakers Propeller will offer Edward III workshops, rehearsed reading and masterclasses following the symposium


Propeller Theatre Company have today announced plans for a unique two-day symposium in collaboration with Wimbledon College of Arts, exploring the text of Edward III through theatre practice and debate. The event will bring these two internationally-renowned organisations together for the first time through their common pursuit of interrogating Shakespeare in performance, and their commitment to the integration of professional practice, research and education.


This one-off research and development event will involve ten Propeller actors, artistic director Edward Hall, designer Michael Pavelka, lighting designer Ben Omerod and text editor Roger Warren who will, along with leading scholars and invited delegates, investigate the text through rehearsal and discussion. Additional speakers will include Professor Jean Howard (Columbia University, NY), Peter Kirwan (Nottingham University), Lucy Cullingford (University of Warwick), David Lindley (Leeds University) and Paul Allen (presenter of “Night Waves”).


Following the symposium, Propeller will be offering workshops, masterclasses and rehearsed readings of the text to schools, colleges and universities.


For further information, ticketing enquiries or to book a workshop for your institution please contact Executive Producer Caro MacKay on 01386 853206 or email   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




In 2013/14 the company toured worldwide with a double bill of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Comedy of Errors. This was followed by a tour of Pocket Dream, a sixty-minute version of their full-length production which has toured to schools and theatres around the country. Pocket Comedy follows in January 2015.


For more information please visit


PROPELLER seeks to find a more engaging way of expressing Shakespeare and to more completely explore the relationship between text and performance. Mixing a rigorous approach to the text with a modern physical aesthetic, they have been influenced by mask work, animation and classic and modern film and music from all ages. Productions are directed by Edward Hall and designed  by Michael Pavelka. Propeller has toured internationally to Australia, Bangladesh, China, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the USA.


WIMBLEDON COLLEGE OF ARTS is a constituent college of the University of the Arts London, along with Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London College of Communication and London College of Fashion. It has the largest theatre design department in Europe.


For more information please visit




Propeller Theatre Company and Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL


‘Propelling Edward III’: Research in Action


Friday 30th and Saturday 31st January 2015 WCA Theatre Space

Limited delegate tickets available to purchase. Please contact Caro MacKay   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it





Edward Hall – Artistic Director


Edward is Artistic Director of Propeller Theatre Company and Hampstead Theatre.


Theatre  includes  Sunny  Afternoon,  Chariots  Of  Fire,  No  Naughty  Bits,  Loyalty,  Enlightenment (Hampstead Theatre); The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Propeller, UK and international tour), Two Men of Florence with Edward Herrmann (Huntington Theatre, Boston), The Deep BlueSea with Greta Scaatchi (Vaudeville Theatre), For Services Rendered (Watermill Theatre Newbury), The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night (Propeller, RSC, Old Vic & world tour – Drama Desk Award nomination in New York), Mark Ravenhill’s Dick Whittington (Barbican), Once In A Lifetime with David Suchet (National Theatre), A Streetcar Named Desire with Natasha Richardson & John C Reilly (Roundabout Theatre, New York), The Winter’s Tale (Propeller, National & World Tour), A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (National Theatre – Olivier Award Nomination for Outstanding Musical Production), Calico (Duke of York’s), Edmond with Kenneth Branagh (National Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Propeller, Comedy Theatre; Watermill Theatre Newbury; UK Tour - TMA Award for Best Touring Production), The Hinge of the World (Guildford), Macbeth with Sean Bean & Samantha Bond (Albery Theatre), Rose Rage adapted with Roger Warren from Henry VI parts I, II and III (Propeller, Haymarket Theatre, Watermill Theatre, UK/International Tour and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre; Duke’s Theatre, New York – Olivier Award Nomination for Best Director and TMA Award for Best Touring Production), The Constant Wife (Apollo), Putting It Together (Chichester), Julius Caesar (RSC), Tantalus (Denver Centre and UK Tour), Henry V (RSC – The South Bank Show Award for Theatre  for The Histories), Twelfth Night (Propeller, Watermill Theatre Newbury– Winner of the TMA/Barclays Theatre Best Director Award), Sacred Heart (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs), Celaine (Hampstead Theatre), The Two Gentleman of Verona (RSC), The Comedy of Errors and Henry V (Propeller, Watermill Theatre, Newbury; Pleasance Theatre London; RSC - The Other Place, Stratford and International Tour), That Good Night (Yvonne Arnaud Tour), Othello (Propeller, Watermill Theatre Newbury and the Tokyo Globe), Richard III (Tokyo Globe), Cain (Minerva  Studio, Chichester).


His production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Propeller which played in London at the Comedy Theatre in 2003, went on to play at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York in early 2004, where both he and the production were nominated for Drama Desk Awards.


His American production of Rose Rage, which he directed for the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre in 2003, transferred to the Duke’s Theatre in New York in September 2004, where it won four Jeff Awards including Best Play, Best Director and Best Ensemble Cast.


Television: Downton Abbey, Restless by William Boyd, Strike Back, Spooks,(US title MI5) was nominated for the BAFTA Best Drama Series award in 2009. Kingdom, Trial and Retribution XI, Miss Marple – Sleeping Murder starring Geraldine McEwan, Cutting Edge: Safari Strife, and Richard III (NHK in Japan).


In January 2010, Edward was made Artistic Director of Hampstead Theatre. He is also an Associate at the National Theatre, the Old Vic and the Watermill Theatre.


Ben Omerod – Lighting Designer


Previous productions for Propeller include Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew, Henry V, The Winter’s Tale, Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Rose Rage (also New York/Chicago).


Theatre credits include The Tempest (Dundee Rep); Titus (Macrobert/Tour); The Girl in the Yellow Dress (Theatre 503); The Heresy of Love (RSC); Fit and Proper People (Soho Theatre); Loyalty  (Hampstead); The  Crucible  (Lyric Belfast);  The  Welsh  Boy,  Deadkidsongs,  The  Double, The Phoenix of Madrid, Iphigenia (Theatre Royal Bath/Ustinov Season); Onassis (West End/Derby); Zorro! (West End/UK tour/Paris/Japan/Holland); Serious Money, Last Easter (Birmingham Rep); Dimetos (Donmar); Two Men of Florence (Boston); Treasure Island (Rose Theatre); The  Sanctuary  Lamp  (B*spoke); Macbeth, Legal  Fictions  (West End); Translations,  The Last Days of the Reluctant Tyrant (Abbey, Dublin – nominated for ‘Best Lighting’, Irish Times Theatre  Awards);  The  Changeling,  Hedda  Gabler,  The  Doll’s  House,  John  Gabriel  Borkmann,  The Masterbuilder,  The  Seagull,  Macbeth,  Hamlet,  A  Midsummer  Night’s  Dream  (ETT); Carmen  –  The Musical (Pimlico); The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Druid, Galway/Royal Court/Broadway); Macbeth,  The  Revenger’s  Tragedy,  Henry  V,  Julius  Caesar,  The  Spanish  Golden  Age  Season(RSC); Bent, Uncle Vanya,  The Winter’s Tale,  In Remembrance of  Things Past  (National).


Recent Opera credits include Götterdämmerung for Longborough Festival Opera and La Traviata for Danish National Opera. Other Opera and Ballet credits include work for Scottish Opera, ENO, Buxton Opera Festival, Academia Santa Cecilia Rome, Ceder Lake Contemporary Ballet and Ballet Gulbenkian.


Ben also designed the lighting for the Calico Museum of Textiles’ Ahmedabad, directed Athol Fugard’s Dimetos (Gate, London) and adapted four films from Kieslowski’s Dekalog for E15.



Michael Pavelka – Designer and Symposium Director


Michael trained at Wimbledon College of Art, where he now leads the MA Theatre Design ( He is one of the founder members of Propeller and has designed all but one of their productions. He also designed Rose Rage (based on Propeller’s 2001 production) at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater that transferred to 42nd Street, New York, for which he was nominated Best Costume Design at Chicago’s Jeff Awards.


His other designs, among over 150 productions, include two plays with Lindsey Anderson: The Fishing Trip and Holiday (Old Vic Theatre). At the Library Theatre, Manchester, his designs for Brecht and Shakespeare include; The Life of Galileo (Best Design Manchester Evening News Theatre  Awards),  The  Resistible  Rise  of  Arturo  Ui,  The  Caucasian  Chalk  Circle,  Measure  for Measure, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Best Production MEN Awards), Oliver Twist, Great Expectations  and, more recently, The  Good  Soul  of  Szechuan.


Michael co-produced a Young People’s Shakespeare Festival in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, and designed the first African language Mother Courage and Her Children in Kampala, the Kennedy Center, Washington, DC and Grahamstown Festival, RSA.


He designed Revelations and Off the Wall with Liam Steel and Stan Won’t Dance at the QEH on London’s South Bank. His designs represented the UK at the Prague Quadrennial 2011 and designs for Propeller's Richard III at World Stage Design 2013.


Michael’s many West End productions include: Twelve Angry Men, Absurd Person Singular, The Constant   Wife, How  the  Other  Half   Loves,  Leonardo  the  Musical,   Other  People’s  Money,   Blues   in the Night (also Dublin, New York, Tokyo), Macbeth,   A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Rose Rage (both Propeller); and A Few Good Men (Theatre Royal Haymarket), directed by David Esbjornson. Other productions with David include; Twelfth Night (Seattle Repertory Theater) and Death of a Salesman (Gate, Dublin).

He recently designed Frank McGuinness' new play The Hanging Gardens for the National Theatre in Dublin, the acclaimed chamber opera, The Go Between (nominated for TMA Best Musical) and Hay Fever (Gate, Dublin and Charleston NC).


Designs for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and at the Barbican include: The   Odyssey, The  Two  Gentlemen  of  Verona,  Henry  V  and Julius  Caesar; and for the National Theatre in the Olivier, Edmond, starring Kenneth Branagh.


Michael won the TMA’s Best Set Design 2009 for Propeller’s The Merchant of Venice.Professor Carol Rutter – Academic Coordinator


Carol Chillington Rutter is Professor of Shakespeare and Performance Studies at the University of Warwick.   Her most recent books are Enter the Body: Women and Representation on   Shakespeare's  Stage  and  Shakespeare  and  Child's  Play:  Performing  Lost  Boys  on  Stage  and  Screen. She reviews the annual work of Shakespeare performed in England for Shakespeare Survey and regularly records with Digital Theatre. Her current project is a biography of Henry Wotton, England's ambassador to the Venetian Republic 1604-1610. She is a National Teaching Fellow.


Roger Warren – Text Editor


Roger Warren’s numerous publications include five editions for the Oxford Shakespeare series; he has also prepared many performing editions, especially for Propeller and the Peter Hall Company. He has collaborated with Edward Hall on eleven Shakespeare productions in the last decade, and is also collaborating with him in preparing a series of Propeller Shakespeare texts published by Oberon Books.


New REED Prepublication Website

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.483  Monday, 8 December 2014


From:        Peter H Greenfield < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 6, 2014 at 11:31:19 AM EST

Subject:    New REED Prepublication Website


Records of Early English Drama would like to announce a new outlet for its work, The Records of Early English Drama Pre-Publication Collections website, at This website makes the work of individual field editors available to scholars and students in draft form, in advance of their official publication as part of a fully searchable, online Records of Early English Drama database that is currently in development. For now, these materials are presented in a form resembling that found in the printed REED volumes. The transcribed records have not yet received editorial attention from REED’s staff paleographers and Latinists, nor have the notes and other editorial apparatus been checked for completeness and accuracy. 


Although none of the records so far posted on the site deal directly with Shakespeare, there is a good deal of evidence about touring minstrels and players in records of Southampton, Winchester and Winchester College from the late fourteenth century to the seventeenth.  E.g., Southampton copied into its own records several of the licenses from the Master of the Revels presented by visiting companies, some of which aren't known from other sources.  The college records also tell of the boys' own dramatic efforts. Other highlights of the website so far include the extensive records of the parish of St Laurence, Reading, including biblical plays and Robin Hood games. Several smaller Hampshire parishes offer records of kingales and other festive customs, and of the efforts to suppress those activities by civic and ecclesiastical authorities. We will be adding records from other parts of England—and Scotland as well—over the coming months. 


We encourage interested scholars to make use of these materials, with the understanding that they represent the work of the individual editors and are works in progress that will be checked by the REED editorial team before final publication. We also urge users to contact us with comments, suggestions or corrections that the editors may find helpful in preparing the final versions of their work.

Gay Bard

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.482  Friday, 5 December 2014


[1] From:       Jim Carroll < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 3, 2014 at 11:34:42 AM EST

     Subject:    Re: Gay Bard


[2] From:        Ian Steere < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 4, 2014 at 6:44:53 AM EST

     Subject:    Gay Bard 


[3] From:        Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         Friday, December 5, 2014

     Subject:    Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Some Random Thoughts on the “Gay Bard” 




From:        Jim Carroll < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 3, 2014 at 11:34:42 AM EST

Subject:    Re: Gay Bard


There is a kind of scholarship that occupies the eventual dustbin of intellectual endeavor.


This scholarship is more concerned with garnering attention of some kind, either for a person or an organization, and sometimes to promote a political preference, than with any concern for the truth. Sometimes it hangs around longer than any thinking person would expect simply because it has enough adherents who don’t want to give it up because they have profited in some way from the idea (think: publish or perish), and besides, what professional scholar wants to be associated with an incorrect idea, or worse, folly? The easiest way to create this kind of scholarship is to take some idea out of context and then make claims for it that, if the context were present, would render it incorrect. A current example in chemistry is the “RNA World” theory of the origin of life. The language of organic chemistry is molecular structure and the diagrams used to represent it. Discussing organic chemistry in words alone is like trying to explain a melody to someone who has never heard it with words alone without singing pitches. The arguments in favor of the “RNA world” can be couched in words alone, thus leaving out the essential context. For example, claiming that RNA can “replicate itself”. What has actually been shown is that if a team of humans, with the machines that can synthesize RNA from nucleotide building blocks obtained from living things, is present, a system of RNA can be made that can serve as a template for free-floating nucleotides, and which can then catalyze the ligation of the nucleotides onto another strand of RNA, provided that the pH and salt concentrations, of course provided by the humans, are exactly right. This is much easier to explain with structures, but if you do that and use structures to show how RNA is actually made in living things, you will see that no RNA is going to “replicate itself” from the elements in nature. To get an idea of what is actually required, go to, type in “prpp amidotransferase” into the search box, scroll down to the first entry that comes up in the list (labeled 1AO0 on the left), click on the title and on the top right box in the page that comes up, click “3D view”, under “Select Display Mode” click on “Custom View” and select “ball and stick”, and then view the molecular structure of this enzyme. The amidotransferase enzyme has a molecular weight of about 230,000 (for comparison, aspirin has a molecular weight of 180) and it carries out only one of the reactions necessary to synthesize a nucleotide; there are 9 more reactions (starting with 5-phosphoribosyl-1-pyrophosphate; many more if you begin at the the point where CO2 enters the system) involving 7 more large enzymes. This is also excluding the synthesis of the amino acids and co-factors involved in the reactions. Yet no “RNA World” paper ever mentions these facts. Reading the “RNA World” literature, you would think we were at the doorstep of understanding the origin of life, yet the idea was bankrupt from the beginning, because if RNA could do all the things the “RNA World” promoters think it could, living things now would not use proteins at all because of their enormous metabolic cost. The beginning of life will be a simpler version of what exists now, not some other thing entirely.


In Shakespeare studies, the area of authorship attribution is a perfect breeding ground for this kind of thinking. All one has to do is take a word out of context and just like that, one has an alternative author for [Titus Andronicus(TA), Hamlet, Measure for Measure, whatever you like]. For example, consider the word “palliament”, found in TA 1.1. This word has been found (so far) in only TA and one of Peele’s early poems, and it is considered one of the pieces of strong evidence for Peele’s authorship of TA 1.1. Yet, a strange thing happens if we place “palliament” back in its context of TA 1.1: the line appears to be 100% Shakespearean! Look!



This palliament of white and spotless hue; 1.1.184


("white", "spot", "hue")

Doth make your honour of his body's hue,

Spotted, detested, and abominable.

Why are you sequest'red from all your train,

Dismounted from your snow-white goodly steed, 2.3.76


("white", "hue")

...Ye white-lim'd walls! ye alehouse painted signs!

Coal-black is better than another hue

In that it scorns to bear another hue;

For all the water in the ocean

Can never turn the swan's black legs to white, 4.2.102


...Did not thy hue bewray whose brat thou art,

Had nature lent thee but thy mother's look,

Villain, thou mightst have been an emperor;

But where the bull and cow are both milk-white, 5.1.31



Most radiant Pyramus, most lily-white of hue.... 3.1.93



...Teaching the sheets a whiter hue than white, 398


...To note the fighting conflict of her hue,

How white and red each other did destroy!  346


("white", "spot")


...that you cannot see a white spot about her. 4.5.113



...That spots and stains love's modest snow-white weed. 196



...The purity and whiteness of my sheets-

Which to preserve is sleep, which being spotted....1.2.328



There my white stole of chastity I daffed, 297

[an example of putting on something white (pure)]



"spotless" is used 5 times elsewhere, including later in Titus, and it is always used metaphorically to refer to someone's reputation:



To force a spotless virgin's chastity, 5.1.186



Is spotless repuration; that away, 1.1.178



there is no king, be his cause never so spotless, if it....4.1.159



Than hands or tongue, her spotless chastity, 5.2.176



Please you t'accept it — that the Queen is spotless....2.1.131



Immaculate and spotless is my mind; 1656


(Peele does not associate "hue" with the word "white", he implies it once by using it with "snowy" ("staves of snowy hue" in Polyhymnia) but elsewhere most often associates it with "black". Peele does have: ".....thy weeds of spotless white/Like those that stood for Rome's great offices...." in the same poem with "palliament" ("Order of the Garter", 1593).


I would say that Peele was imitating Shakespeare, not that Peele wrote some of Shakespeare.


This latest argument concerning Shakespeare’s sexuality and the sonnets likewise can only be made if certain sonnets are taken out of context and made to appear more important than they are, but also, the entire sequence must be placed in the proper context of its time. The sonnets were the product of a fad for making sonnets that began with Philip Sidney’s sonnets in 1590. Sonnets, and even the conceits that they used, were imitated with sincerity but also with parody, “Zepharia” and “Gullinge Sonnets” being the two prime examples. Both of these parodic sequences were products of the 1590’s, well before Shakespeare published his own sonnets. They are still quite funny today, and by reading them one can gain an appreciation for just how silly the sonnet sequence could be. Before making any certain pronouncements regarding the sincerity of Shakespeare’s sonnets, it would be wise for anyone interested in the subject to read as much of the earlier literature as possible. They may be amazed at how many sonneteers had such similar lovers:


Barnabe Barnes Sonnet 45

Sweet beauties rose in whose fair purple leaves

Love's Queen in richest ornament doth lye,


Shakespeare Sonnet 1

From fairest creatures we desire increase,

That thereby beauty's rose might never die,


Jim Carroll



From:        Ian Steere < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 4, 2014 at 6:44:53 AM EST

Subject:    Gay Bard


The recent exchange of views on this subject (SHAKSPER, December 2) was interesting. However, if we are to assess the author's sexuality (or any other characteristic) from portrayals in individual Sonnets, we should, I suggest, take account of a factor common to all, which was not recognized by any of the commentators.


That factor is the high probability that the original poems were a form of communication over several years from Shakespeare to his patron, Henry Wriothesley, reflecting developments in an intimate relationship. Incidentally, it perfectly explains the curiosity observed by Brian Vickers: that the poems “use, to an extent that has never been recognized, the first-person pronouns (890 instances) and the second person, mostly “thou” (960 instances)”.


Those interested in, or skeptical of, the biographic assertion may find a brief overview of its rationale at the following link - presented in the form of a short series of Questions and answers (which opens with the question “Why should we entertain the probability that Shakespeare’s Sonnets are autobiography?”). A key feature of the argument is the correlation of the content of Sonnets 1-126, and the order in which they were printed, with abnormal features of, and developments in, Shakespeare-Wriothesley history (some of which only recently uncovered). The argument, as reinforced by several other factors, allows us to recognize or interpret (with reasonable confidence) internal links between the content of individual sonnets as well as their chronology. 


Consequently, we may with confidence date the writing of Sonnets 1-85 to before the publication in 1593 of Venus & Adonis. During 1592-94 we may reasonably presume that Shakespeare was in dire financial straits (largely due to enforced closures of the London playhouses). Sonnets 1-20 show his early relationship with Wriothesley developing into the homoerotic dimension of Sonnet 20. Thereafter, however, he is generally not up to the demands of his addressee and muse. Sonnet 23 looks like the eloquent excuses of someone who is showing insufficient affection to a complaining lover. Sonnets 25-51 depict separations, both emotional and physical. Sonnet 52 extols the pleasure to be obtained from the poet’s phallic-looking “key” - but in almost the same breath suggests that the pleasure is better for its infrequency. Sonnets 56-85 tell the story of a Rival who outperforms the poet. Sonnet 80 suggests that the poet is impotent in what has become a triangular relationship; he is “wracked” while the well endowed Rival “spends all his might”, riding upon their mutual friend’s “soundless deep”. Subsequent sonnets suggest no successful resumption of a physical relationship between Shakespeare and his patron. Contrary to an assertion by one of the earlier commentators, there is no homosexuality suggested by the content of Sonnet 116: only references to a deep intellectual and emotional attachment.


By contrast, other sonnets (40-42, 127-128, 130-145, 147-152) depict a Shakespeare besotted with a woman for whom he aches emotionally and sexually. He is moved by their intercourse. He is frustrated that he cannot get enough of her. He becomes indignant with her infidelities. He is tormented by their separations. Everything in these poems points to a writer with powerful heterosexual urges.


Let me now summarize the above comments in relation to the topic of this thread. 


The Sonnets as a whole (inferred with high probability to be biographic) suggest that, at a time when he was in desperate need (and when there were few welfare benefits), Shakespeare had a complex relationship with Wriothesley, the physical aspect of which was infrequent and ultimately unsatisfying. They also suggest that Shakespeare was strongly drawn to sex with women. On these bases, the poet appears to have been essentially heterosexual in his tastes, though (with the need to survive and the drive to prosper) prepared to do what he thought to be necessary to secure Wriothesley’s patronage.



From:        Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         Friday, December 5, 2014

Subject:    Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Some Random Thoughts on the “Gay Bard”


I have given much thought to Shake-speares Sonnets over the years since Ian Lancashire and I e-published SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS 1609.


These are just a few of those thoughts related to the subject of “the gay Bard”.


Shakespeare’s Sonnets may or may not have been intended for the pleasure of “his private friends” only.


The witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous & honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugared sonnets among his private friends, &c. (Palladis Tamia: Wit’s Treasury)


Thomas Thorpe, who described as “a publishing understrapper of piratical habits,” may or may not have obtained the Sonnets in an underhanded manner and published them without permission of the author. 


Thorpe may or may not have obtained them from the mysterious “Master W.H.: “To the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets, Master W.H.”


The Sonnets may or may not as Wordsworth says “express Shakespeare’s own feelings in his own person,” and with them Shakespeare may or may not have  “unlocked his heart.” 


The “Procreation Sonnets” may or may not have been commissioned or written upon the entreaties of an aristocratic mother concerned about her son’s not marrying.


The developing relationship between “the poet” and “the young man” may or may not have been homo-social and-or homosexual.


Shakespeare may or may not have had specific multiple or individual people in mind for the identities of “the young man,” “the dark lady,” and “the rival poet.”


The sonnets in which the gender of the addressed is not evident may or may not have been written to a man, but does gender matter as much as the expression of the affection and the love between the addresser and the addressed.


The problem it seems to me is the obvious lack of empirical evidence.


To paraphrase Stephen Booth you are not going to prove any of the above by the sonnets themselves.


I’m waiting for the so-called “smoking gun.”



Henry IV, Donmar Warehouse

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.481  Friday, 5 December 2014


From:        Hardy Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 4, 2014 at 2:44:25 PM EST

Subject:    Henry IV, Donmar Warehouse


From The Telegraph


Henry IV, Donmar Warehouse, review: ‘unforgettable’

Dominic Cavendish


Two years after her radical all-female Julius Caesar at the Donmar, director Phyllida Lloyd is at it again. The women-only casting policy is back for this hacked-down version of the two parts of Henry IV, which whisks us from the low-life antics of Prince Hal to his Falstaff-banishing ascension to the throne in just a couple of hours.


The conceit, as with Julius Caesar, is that the plays are presented by inmates at a women’s prison. As we file in via a side-entrance, warders issuing stern instructions and looks, a chill atmosphere descends: the lighting is harsh, the walls whitened and austere, the seating plastic and punitive. The whole environment insists that these cosily familiar history plays are being taken out of their comfort-zone.


For a while, as I adjusted to actresses pretending to be criminals playing at being noblemen and so on, I assumed that we might be in for more pain than gain. Well, more chauvinistically minded fool me. I’m not being chivalrous here – if I hated it, I’d say so. But as so often with theatre’s gender-switching games, fresh insights are shed; so much so that I would have preferred Lloyd to give us more, and take longer about it.


The show gives the lie to the idea that the Henries are essentially “masculine” plays. The trajectory of events can appear testosterone-fuelled: ego-driven rebels, a despairing monarch and father, a recalcitrant son who learns to be his rightful heir. That parting-shot to Falstaff, “I know thee not, old man”, crowns a succession of references to “man” and “men” that run across the plays – some 250 instances by my reckoning. Women are sidelined, derided. This is a bloke-fest, right?


Not necessarily. This production is about more than just giving the sisters more work, better parts. If it’s empowering for a woman to play a man then it’s also liberating for a man to watch a woman do so: the emphasis shifts to the similarities between the sexes, and the ubiquity of power struggles.


Sure, the cast adopt macho mannerisms. Harriet Walter’s shaken and wan, slick-haired Henry sits for instance with her legs apart. But much of the unlady-like behaviour feels authentic to the prison surroundings. In most lives, whether you’re in 15th-century England or 21st-century Holloway, you’ve got to be tough to survive.


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