|This article has been submitted to the Shakespeare's Wiki Wit and Gifts at academia.wikia.com.|
Note: for copies of this article or derivative works based on all or part of this article, the GNU Free Documentation License applies. Offline copies of this article and any offline derived works must include copies of the wiki history information associated with this article. Online copies of this article and online derivative works should either include the wiki history information associated with this article or a direct hypertext link back to this web page: http://academia.wikia.com/wiki/Shakebag,_Falstaff,_and_Woodcock
Warning: My speculations are in italics. The rest is accepted historical fact.
Shake the bags of the monks.
Shall I strike at it with my partisan? Do, if it will not stand"
Young men will do it if they come to it. By cock they are to blame.
Playing with words can be dangerous There can be stiff penalties and punishments for penile puns. Sometimes the woodcock is caught in his own springe.
Mermaid Tavern, St. Patrick’s Day, 1593:
What do you call the play?
Arden of Feversham. Old Kit Kat hath set a mousetrap -- a springe it is, to catch a Woodcock. ‘Tis a tale of a murder most foul. The murderer’s name is George Shakebag, his accomplice Black Will.
(Will chokes on his beer and bolts out of the tavern.)
These two young men, Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, had much in common. Shakespeare was born on St George’s Day, 1564, Marlowe a couple months earlier in St George’s parish.. Shakespeare was the son of a glover, Marlowe of a cobbler. Shakespeare was reputed to be the second best playwright in England, Marlowe the best. Shakespeare was a secret agent for the Catholics; Marlowe against.
Shakespeare knew that Marlowe was a spy -- now he feared that Marlowe knew that he was one too. He thought Arden of Feversham was a trap for him.
...I have heard,
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaimed their malefactions.
Marlowe had been employed by the English government to spy on William Allen’s seminary at Rheims shortly after Shakespeare himself had secretly studied there. Just ten years earlier Shakespeare’s relative, Edward Arden, the head of the Arden family had been executed for treason. Now Shakespeare feared that, while at Rheims, Marlow had heard of William Allen’s phallic-punning Papal prophecy about his secret godson.
Arden was Shakespeare’s mother’s maiden name. Arden of Feversham was based on an actual murder of a distant relative of Shakespeare. Two of the actual murderers were named Black Will and George Loosebag. Marlowe changed Loosebag to Shakebag to make fun of Shakespeare. But Shakespeare didn’t know that it was all in fun. William Allen’s prophecy for William Shakespeare was based on phallic puns on his last name -- Breakspear, Shakespeare, Pole. Now Marlowe seemed to be using a pair of phallic puns, woodcock and Shakebag (shake scrotum) to hint that he had discovered Shakespeare’s dark secret.
But Shakespeare’s fears were groundless -- he had misunderstood Marlowe’s pun. The actual murder of Arden had occurred a couple miles from the village of Ospringe, where, at the time of the murder, Marlowe’s father was growing up. Woodcock was the name of the printer who would print Marlowe’s translation of Hero and Leander after Marlowe’s death. Woodcock had written a play about Arden of Feversham, but it was so crudely written that no one would perform it. Marlowe was nearing completion of his Hero and Leander, but no printer would print it. So they made a deal. Marlow polished up Woodcock’s Arden of Feversham and Woodcock promised to publish Hero and Leander. So the play (set near Ospringe) was a springe to catch a Woodcock (the printer).
But, at that time, Shakespeare didn’t know that Marlowe’s father was raised in Ospringe or that Woodcock would publish Marlowe’s Hero and Leander. He thought Marlowe was on to him and was about to expose him. In a panic, he reported his fears to his underground Catholic contacts. A couple months later Marlowe was murdered by double agents, ostensibly (if that’s the right word for a spy) working for England but really working for the Catholics.
"When a man’s verses cannot be understood...it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a small room."
The Catholic spymasters had decided that Marlowe had to die, but not to protect Shakespeare. They had stronger reasons to fear Marlowe. For years, the Catholics had been wooing King James VI of Scotland. Marlowe was about to woo James solidly back to the Protestant cause.
When James was thirteen he had been seduced by Esme Stuart, an adult cousin, who Catholic plotters hoped would convert James to Catholicism. James became deeply enamored with Esme, which might have been the cause of James subsequent homosexuality. However, unfortunately for the Catholic plotters, Esme found it more expeditious to change his own religion than to covert James to Catholicism in the midst of a violently Protestant power structure. Even so, James developed and maintained a weakness for the Old Faith. For several years before Elizabeth’s death, James had been secretly corresponding with Catholics, hinting that he might convert to Catholicism after acquiring the English crown. (His wife converted to Catholicism sometime during the 1590’s,)
At the time of his death Christopher Marlowe had been planning a trip to Scotland. Marlowe was the ideal agent to woo James solidly to the Protestant side. James was fond of plays; Marlowe was the preeminent playwright of his time. James liked boys; so did Marlowe. James was interested in the occult. He had written a book on identification of witches. Marlowe had written a play about Faust, the famous magician. Marlowe was nearing completion of his masterful translation of the epic "Hero and Leander". James had likened himself to Leander because he had crossed the dangerous North Sea to fetch his Danish bride, just as Leander had made swum across the Hellespont to be with his lover, Hero.
The Catholics had to prevent Marlowe from reaching King James. But if James ever found out that Catholics had murdered England’s best playwright just because he might become James’ friend, then James would turn against the Catholics forever. So the Catholics decided to trick the English government into killing Marlowe. And just in case that plot fell through, they had a cover story to hide their real motive. If James discovered that the Catholics were responsible for Marlowe’s death, hopefully he would still be deceived by their backup story: that their motive was not to kill a potential friend of James, but rather to save another potential friend, Willaim Shakespeare.
One of the three men involved in Marlowe’s murder was Robert Poley, who had once been employed as a messenger between Queen Elizabeth and the King of Denmark. Poley was a double agent who was actually working for the Catholics. He had just returned from the Hague with a supposedly intercepted letter which falsely implicated Christopher Marlowe as an agent for the Catholics. This letter was a forgery, written by Poley’s mistress, Joan Yeoman.
Poley had a mistress named Joan Yeoman. (I think I read somewhere that she was adept at forgery.)
Hamlet [forging new note to trick Rosencrantz & Guildenstern) ...I sat me down, Devised a new commission, wrote it fair: I once did hold it, as our statists do, A baseness to write fair and labour'd much How to forget that learning, but, sir, now It did me yeoman's service: wilt thou know The effect of what I wrote?
Seven years later William Vaughn, having heard the false cover story, wrote in The Golden Grove:
...at Detford, a little village about three miles distant from London, as he meant to stab him with his ponyard one named Ingram, that had invited him thither to a feast, and was then playing at tables [backgammon} he quickly perceyving it, so avoyded the thrust, that withall drawing out his dagger for his defence, hee stabd this Marlow into the eye, in such sort, that his braines coming out at the daggers point, hee shorlie after dyed...
"Playing at tables" means backgammon. Just as Arden of Feversham was murdered while playing backgammon.
Woodcock to mine own springe
When a man’s verses cannot be understood...great reckoning in a small room
Jew of Malta reckoning, small room, large denominations ,
poetry - much meaning in few words,
Poley was a loan-shark,
Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For lending oft loses a friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry
And for my means, I’ll husband them so well,
They shall go far with little.
It shall as level to your judgment pierce
As day does to your eye.
Marlowe was stabbed in the eye.
The Strange Baker's Daughter - The Drama Ophelia (previous article in biography)
How Henry's Divorce Led to Global Warming - The Dog Has His Day (next article in biography)
Where Truth Is Hid - A Speculative Biography of Shakespeare (main article)
--Ray Eston Smith Jr 00:05, 8 March 2007 (UTC)