SHAKESPEARE AND THE PIRATE’S FIRE
Some Notes From Behind The Scenes
POACHING There is a legend that Will
poached deer on Lucy’s land at the age of 17. It seems reasonable to
suppose he might have started sooner with smaller game. For Will’s life
I first went to Michael Wood’s excellent book ‘In Search of
Shakespeare,’ based upon his TV series. I also gained a lot from
‘Shakespeare’ by Anthony Holden.
HAMNET Hamnet Sadler was a lifelong
friend of Will’s. He and his wife Judith were godparents to Will’s
twins who were named after them.
BROGGER A ‘brogger’ was someone who
traded in wool without a license. John Shakespeare was accused of this
crime twice in 1572.
SHAKESPEARE Will himself spelled his own name in a variety of
different ways in the documents we have. In Elizabethan times spelling
was not standardised and many words had several different versions.
BEESTON An early record of Lord
Strange’s men refers to them as ‘Beeston’s men.’ This Beeston is
thought to be the father of Christopher (Kit) Beeston who would later
act on stage alongside Will and eventually run his own company of boy
WOMEN On the Continent women performed
on stage, but in England this was considered to be immoral and was
against the law. Therefore women’s roles were played by boys.
KEMP Will Kemp was the greatest clown of
his age, and performed in the same company as Will for many years,
playing many of his most famous fools. He was famed for his dancing and
in 1600 he performed a morris dance from London to Norwich, celebrating
the feat in a book called ‘Kemp’s Nine Days Wonder.’
CAMBYSES This play was entered for
publication in 1569. It tells the tale of a Persian king who after many
acts of murderous brutality gets his just desserts when he accidentally
stabs himself to death with his sword while getting on his horse. It is
typical of the very simplistic dramas Will would have seen performed in
JOHN DEE In fact Dee’s mother, his wife
and his newly born son all lived in the house with him. I locked them
all in the cellar so as not to clutter the story with too many
characters. For more on Dee see ‘The Queen’s Conjurer, The Life And
Magic Of Dr. Dee’ by Benjamin Woolley.
SHAKESHAFT The 1581 will of Sir Thomas
Hoghton of Lancashire bequeaths money to a player in his service named
William Shakeshaft. Some believe that this was Shakespeare, who had
taken refuge with this northern Catholic family to escape persecution
by Sir Thomas Lucy.
TOMASINA was a dwarf in the Queen’s service. She was well
known for her remarkable memory and was a visitor to Dee’s house.
RALEIGH became one of the foremost explorers of America and
from there introduced the potato and tobacco into England.
MERMAID The term was sometimes used to
refer to a prostitute, so Walter is making a joke of this here.
SPIRITS It was about this time that Dr.
Dee began his experiments in cummunicating with spirits. Over the next
few years he believed he was receiving messages from a spirit named
MADDIE’S SONG The song is in Gaelic and
the words say:
‘Welcome, O woman who was sorrowful,
We were desolate while you were imprisoned.
Oro – and welcome home,
Would that the Summer is here.’
WILL’S FIRST POEM
In an earlier draft of the novel this chapter was followed by Will’s
first poem, a feverish ode to Maddie. I removed it for the sake of
pace, but if anyone is interested, here it is (and the reason why it
never saw the light of day):
Thou art inconstant as a weathercock
That to and fro doth spin with everie shock
Of Boreas' breath or gustie breeze,
Now north, now south, now west. No rest nor ease
Will pacifie thy wild, dishevelled locks
Nor sweet that bitter tongue that sourly mocks.
Words hot then cold can flush the strongest Will
And make it Mad, unsettled, never still.
And what if Will be Mad? Will Mad be Will?
If bad be good, will all be good or ill?
(I should throw this on the fire before somebody sees it. I don't think
it's very good - Will)
CATHOLICS At this time, Mary, the
deposed Catholic Queen of Scotland, was being held prisoner in England.
She had a legitimate claim to the English throne, and Elizabeth and her
ministers were very much afraid that she would become the figurehead
for a Catholic rebellion.
MURDEROUS MICHAEL All we know of this play is that it was
performed in 1579. From the title we can assume it was a tragedy.
GRACE O’MALLEY For more on Grace see
‘Granuaile, Ireland’s Pirate Queen,’ by Anne Chambers or ‘Pirate Queen,
The Life of Grace O’Malley,’ by Judith Cook.
BERNARDINO DE MENDOZA was a renowned soldier who fought for
15 years in the Low Countries. He was appointed ambassador to England
in 1578 and acted both as a diplomat and a spy. In 1584 he was expelled
from England because of his involvement in a plot to overthrow Queen
Elizabeth. For the next six years he was ambassador to France until ill
health forced him to retire. He was also a writer, publishing an
account of the war in the Low Countries and a book on the art of
SEA BATTLE This is a painting of the Battle of Lepanto where
the combined fleets of Spain and Venice won a famous victory over the
Turkish navy in 1571.
WALSINGHAM Sir Francis Walsingham is credited with creating
the English Secret Service, spreading his intelligence network across
Europe. He said, “Knowledge is never too dear.”
In 1580 Walter Raleigh was given a military command in Ireland.
Walsingham was compelled to leave the royal court for a while, having
incurred the queen’s displeasure by opposing the marriage to Anjou.
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