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IMGP2715In a recent examination of William Shakespeare’s career I showed that he and some others of the company were so concerned by something they had encountered at the Rose and then in Ireland that they felt they must mutiny.  Will himself resorted to ancient midsummer rituals, seeking otherworldly guidance for this precipitous move. The vision he was granted, of a celestial woman, gave him the courage to seek to defect without fear of a loss of prestige (i.e. income).  The plan to defect was set in motion and Will was chosen to pitch their services to a wealthy woman, a mover and shaker who might consider acting as their benefactress.  Will was stunned when the woman he met appeared to be a double for the woman in his vision. That boded well and the defection was a fait accompli. Their defection preceded a war of words, much of it among the poets and playwrights themselves.  Will Shakespeare, however, had to withstand slings and arrows from a more personal quarter – a distant cousin among his Arden relations, one Robert Southwell, Jesuit priest.  Previously, I touched upon some of the criticism he endured from other playwrights.  I now turn to the criticism leveled against him by that Jesuit. “To My Worthy Good Cousin, Master  W. S. Worthy Cousin, Poets, by abusing their talent, and making the follies, and feignings of love the customary subject of their base endeavors, have so discredited this faculty, that a Poet, a Lover, and a Liar, are by many reckoned but three words of one signification.  But the vanity of men cannot counterpoise the authority of God …”  (Wood, p. 153) Why would a Jesuit engaged in treasonous activities and considered ‘public enemy Number One’ risk exposure by leveling a public criticism of a distant cousin’s work? The answer lies, I believe in a closer examination of a certain sequence of events and some of the characters involved in them.  These events, during the time frame of Will’s sojourn in Ireland, would have been significant events in recent memory, events of treason and murder, with Spain in the background. Spain had been fighting the threat of the Reformation, of Protestantism, since the 1540s.  The decade from the mid-60s to the mid-70s had been particularly bloody as the “iron” Duke of Alba, Fernando Alvarez de Toledo y Pimentel, chaired the Council of Troubles, known as the ‘Council of Blood’, without legal authority.  This council tried over twelve thousand Netherlanders suspected of heresy or rebellion, of which 1,105 were executed or banished. It seems that in this fight, with instability in both the Netherlands and France, Philip II felt he had reason to consider as allies “the numerically significant Catholic nobles and population of England, Scotland and Ireland.” (Kamen, p. 132)  Whatever opportunity Spain and the papacy thought they could use to manipulate England into turning back to Catholicism they seized, even the possibility of setting up Pope Gregory’s  illegitimate son, Giacomo Boncompagni, as King of Ireland should the Catholics be victorious in the Second Desmond Rebellion (1579-83). The tactics used to subdue or turn rebellious states were not always by military invasions or extra-legal tribunals, however.  Spain exerted economic pressure as well, ruling the seas, claiming all assets in the New World, issuing trade embargoes.  As Philip II was married to Elisabeth Valois, daughter of Catherine de Medici, I suspect the  papacy may have been amenable to helping him economically.  The Medici had been the papal bankers in the previous century and, as all Christendom was required to pay its tribute to the Church in cold hard cash, it seems logical the papacy had considerable reserves of said cash. As the years and the rebellion wore on, however, Elizabeth I’s hold on the throne withstood everything, even excommunication.  It was in the fight against the economic stranglehold Spain maintained that England began to have an impact in the fight. And thereby hangs a tale. The tale is that of a daring plan to conquer a New World and claim it and its wealth for the Virgin Queen, a plan whose architect was the high profile courtier Sir Walter Raleigh.  Raleigh and others had enjoyed success on the Atlantic Ocean, harassing and appropriating gold and goods from Spanish convoys sailing back to Spain from South America.  To make these operations more efficient and to establish a foothold in the Americas, Raleigh proposed a military fort on Roanoke Island (at the present-day Outer Banks of North Carolina) and a settlement of English colonists in the Chesapeake Bay area. He planned carefully and provided for as many contingencies as possible except, I believe, the subtle interference of the Spanish, aided by double-dealing English persons. The plan comprised three expeditions: a reconnaissance mission to Roanoke Island in 1584; an expedition back to Roanoke Island in 1585 to set up a military fort, with some of the members returning to England; an expedition in 1587 to land 116 colonists in the Chesapeake Bay area. The reconnaissance mission of 1584 was uneventful, pleasant even.  The natives of the Secotan nation greeted them openly with friendship.  This promised a good beginning for the proposed fort and eventual settlement.  But Spanish eyes had noted the approach of this expedition as it passed Puerto Rico and those eyes passed on the information to those who might make use of it. It is important to note that as Raleigh planned and outfitted the expedition of 1585, Spain was building its Armada in preparation for an invasion of England.  Spain was alert to any chances to cross the English.  Crossing Raleigh’s activities would benefit Spain in that, at the least, his reputation, prestige, and standing with Queen Elizabeth would be eroded and possibly sideline him from the future naval battle.  Of course, the possibility Raleigh would lose backing for his ventures also meant less harassment of Spanish shipping. I believe, given that the Spanish ambassador had a dockworker in the pay of Spain, and likely other eyes in other quarters, it is possible someone connected with the 1585 expedition was ‘turned’ to become at least an observer for Spain, if not a saboteur.  Based on some lines of Shakespeare’s in later years, I believe it was the pilot, Simon Fernandez. As Yeats noted over 300 years later, “Things fall apart.”  Fall apart they did with the 1585 expedition, the chief cause the ruin of food stores when the Tiger ran aground and was damaged.  That was the opening act of a horribly tragic sequence of events that unfolded when the men landed at Roanoke Island.  The tragedy escalated when, rather than abort the mission because of depleted food stores and the wholesale destruction of a Secotan village by fire, a contingent of men was chosen to remain on the island.  Ralph Lane, a seasoned veteran of the wars in Ireland was their leader. barbara2Lane pursued a strategy of terror and destruction to get the food and information he required.  If he knew he did not credit the knowledge that the area was in the midst of a severe drought, “the worst drought to hit the coast in eight hundred years.” (Miller, p. 100)  Nor did Lane’s demands of the Secotan to provide food to his people account for the fact that the English had burnt all the crops at one town, Aquascogoc, in revenge for a silver cup they believed the natives had stolen! To ascertain the quality and probable quantity of the region’s commodities Lane sent out surveyors who went from town to town, unknowingly “trailing virulent epidemic in their wake.”  (Miller, p. 102)  In a further attempt to discover more riches, Lane later held one chieftain’s son hostage.  That chieftain was executed, beheaded, after one too many futile attempts to rescue his son. Ralph Lane departed Roanoke Island in 1586.  He left behind a nation of natives staring into a chasm of misery and destruction.  None of this, however, was reported and plans went forward for the colonization of the Chesapeake Bay in 1587.  The pilot for that expedition was the veteran Simon Fernandez. At least two other men in the 1587 expedition were veterans of previous expeditions.  John White, the man appointed to be governor of the Chesapeake Bay Colony, and Captain Edward Stafford had accompanied the 1585 expedition.  White had also sailed with the 1584 reconnaissance expedition. John White figures most prominently, and tragically, in this tale, but I believe there is something in Captain Edward Stafford’s history that must be considered in this as well.  It is an appearance of a double name, two Edward Staffords, and I think Shakespeare had them in mind in later years.  Lee Miller did not pursue the appearance of two Edward Staffords in her book, but I thought it worth a look. One Edward Stafford is shown to be a brother to the Sir Edward Stafford who served as English ambassador to France.  It appears that while one Edward Stafford was sailing back and forth between England and Roanoke Island in 1585, the other one, Sir Edward Stafford, was in Paris as ambassador.  While there, before the 1587 expedition, through the mediation of his wife’s cousin Charles Arundell, who was also Philip II’s godson, Stafford offered his services to Spain.  Two thousand crowns was the going rate for those services.  (Charles Arundell was also a distant cousin of Edward de Vere.)  It seems possible that the two Edwards could, would, and did coordinate their efforts at sabotage. Also noteworthy is the appearance of a Stafford in a plot to neutralize the French ambassador to England as the Queen deliberated what action to take against Mary Queen of Scots for the Babington plot.  William Stafford, Sir Edward’s brother, owed Walsingham a favor, and he delivered.  The Babington plot was uncovered in 1586 and Mary Stuart was beheaded in February 1587. (Miller, p. 178) Months after Mary Stuart’s execution the colonists set sail.  John White, artist, was no sailor so he had to defer to his pilot’s expertise.  Again, Simon Fernandez’s actions compromised the colonists food supply.  He tarried enough at different points that their landing took place in July, long after planting season.  He had also broken promises to stop for animals and fresh water and salt.  Seeds were gone, too. The treachery became explicit when the expedition reached Roanoke Island.  The colonists were meant simply to stop and take on supplies before sailing further north to the Chesapeake Bay.  When the men left the boats for the island, however, Fernandez ordered his crew to leave them and return to the boats.  He refused to allow the colonists back aboard. IMGP3803White was devastated to discover the fort deserted with no sign of either people or supplies.  He knew the supply ships Raleigh would send would sail to the Chesapeake Bay, not to Roanoke Island.  The only shred of hope he had was the previous goodwill he’d encountered from the Secotan.  He had to make every effort to see the colonists safe and healthy.  One of the colonists was John White’s daughter Eleanor, married to Ananias Dare.  Shortly after their arrival on the island their infant daughter was born.  Virginia Dare was the first English person born in America. Captain Edward Stafford, however, was not of a mind to want to deal with the Secotan.    When White realized a serious estrangement had developed among these former allies, born of the previous expedition’s destructive dealings, he and a party of men, including Stafford, proposed negotiations.  Before those negotiations were allowed to bear fruit one colonist, George Howe, was murdered.  Someone ordered a retaliatory attack on a Secotan village.  Both White and Stafford were members of that party. Understandably, the colonists were shaken to the core.  Despite his protests they forced John White to return to England to plead their case.  They insisted he was the only one who could do so.  He returned reluctantly, but the tide of politics and events, most especially the sailing of the Armada, worked against him.  He entreated for help for three years, in futility. When he was able to return to Roanoke Island in 1590 all he found was a chest of his ruined belongings and the letters “CRO” carved into a tree. With White’s subsequent return to the British Isles his story and Will Shakespeare’s career began to intersect.  For White retreated to Kilmore, Ireland in 1590 – Ireland, where our playwright sojourned one midsummer about 1590.  It is difficult to pinpoint the location of this 16th century Kilmore, Ireland, but there is now a place known as Kilmore Quay in County Wexford, south of Dublin.  Will could have heard this tale as he and the company toured in or around Dublin.  There was also, in the 19th century, a barony of Kilmore in County Cork, the province of Munster. White’s chosen area of refuge takes on a deeper meaning perhaps when his ancestry and the list of colonists are considered side-by-side.  Miller reports that White was distantly related to the Butlers and one Thomas Butler was among those of the Lost Colony.  (Miller, p. 27)  Butlers, as earls of Ormond, held a castle northwest of Kilmore Quay.  Recall also my proposal that Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady” was of the lineage of the House of Ormond and that the province of Munster was the area disputed by the Butlers and the Fitzgeralds in the 1560s and 1570s. It is easy to imagine that learning of such a story would be a profound moment for anyone, most especially someone with the talent and intellect of William Shakespeare. Given the timing, however, I think this tragic story of treachery precipitated Will’s and his colleagues’ decision to part company with the Rose, the Admiral’s Men and Lord Strange’s Men. I also think that Will may have been under increasing pressure from that distant relative, the Jesuit Robert Southwell, to bring his talents to the cause.  Southwell had landed in England in 1586, during the Second Roanoke expedition,  As he travelled about the countryside from one sympathetic Catholic home to another I suspect he heard about this bright young tutor who could devise good, very good, stories. Southwell would have known that in the not-so-distant past dramatic productions were the province of the Church, religious topics aligned to the religious calendar, backed by guild money.  Why wouldn’t he presume upon kinship to offer a young cousin with four mouths to feed a chance to write, in the pay of Spain? The proposal was treasonous, of course, and very, very dangerous.  The Babington plot was a vivid memory.  How was he – how were they – to handle this?  Hoping for guidance Will turned to the Old Ways, not the ways of a Church whose priests were agents of treason. A ‘most rare vision’ of a divine woman dressed in men’s clothing appears to him.  She counsels him in a riddle of sorts: “That which we call a rose/By any other word would smell as sweet.”  Further, She asserts he will “Retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title.”  I believe She also counseled him with respect to John White’s tragic tale, “Then let us teach our trial patience/Because it is a customary cross.” He held patient for nearly fifteen years. For more than half of his career he waited.  Through personal tragedy, woven into the superior existential drama “Hamlet,” he waited.  Through growing acclaim and fortune, he waited.  Through the death of the only monarch he had ever known, he waited. The Spanish, however, were just as persistent in plotting to set a Catholic on the throne of England.  Jesuits were still among the agents Spain deployed to its ends.  As late as 1596-7 Philip II was still seeking a way to subdue England for good and initiate, on Spanish terms, a “Happy and Golden Century.” (Kamen, p. 308)  One Jesuit, Robert Persons, proposed an invasion staged from Ireland. In 1605 new monarchs occupied the thrones of both Spain and England, but dissatisfaction continued to reign among England’s Catholics.  They made a plan, the Gunpowder Plot.  Had it succeeded the King and all attending him at Parliament on a date in early November 1605 would have been killed in an explosion. This was a defining moment of James I’s reign.  Executions followed within months.  Playwrights channeled the zeitgeist into numerous plays.  Will Shakespeare certainly did as well, with the masterpiece “Macbeth,” but he added a deeper layer from history – the tragic Roanoke expeditions. Very early in the first act (I.iii.8, 25-30) Shakespeare mentions those events specifically when the First Witch hatches a plot against the “master o’ th’ Tiger.”  Before she shows her sisters “a pilot’s thumb” she describes what she will do, and do, and do.  In short, “He shall live a man forbid./Weary sev’nnights, nine times nine,/ Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine./Though his bark cannot be lost,/Yet it shall be tempest-tossed.” Simon Fernandez, master and pilot of the Tiger, had disappeared in 1590 during an expedition to the Azores.  He was gone, yes, but not forgotten. In the second act Lady Macbeth has lines that also refer directly to the Roanoke tragedy (II.ii.82-3): “My hands are of your color, but I shame/To wear a heart so white.”  Later in the same act, II.iv.6-12, a description of darkness entombing the living light of day is, I believe, a reference to the eclipse that frightened the 1585 expedition ten days out from England. (Ronald, p. 272) Even Macbeth himself gives voice to the tragedy in a reference to John White’s baby granddaughter, Virginia Dare, abandoned and disappeared (III.iv.127-8): “If trembling I inhabit then, protest me/The baby of a girl.” Shakespeare also employed, I believe, a subtle, pervasive symbolism to provide a constant emphasis on the tragedy.  He noted the parallel names of John White and the Duke of Alba, Philip II’s military commander in the Low Countries until roughly 1580.  ‘Alba’ is Latin for ‘white.’  “Alba” was also the name of the ancient kingdom over which the historic Macbeth reigned as king.  Macbeth had also held the title Earl of Orkney, the very area of Scotland where the Armada ships had been spotted in 1588. There is also, I think, a specific reference to the Duke of Alba and his infamous ‘Council of Blood’ (officially the ‘Council of Troubles’) which tried, likely tortured, over 12,000 heretics and rebels (V.i.39-42): “What need we fear/who knows it, when none can call our power to/account?  Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?” Will Shakespeare also let his slow-burning anger toward his ‘cousin’ Robert Southwell ignite when Macbeth says (III.i.33-6), “We hear our bloody cousins are bestowed/In England and in Ireland, not confessing/Their cruel parricide, filling their hearers/With strange invention.”  Macbeth learned too late, however, to “Pull in resolution and begin/To doubt th’ equivocation of the fiend,/That lies like truth.” The play is, overall, William Shakespeare’s statement of rejection of both his ‘bloody cousin’s’ rebuke of his work and claim to possess “the authority of God.”  Will used words in the service of Love, and he put forth this wish in “Macbeth” with regard to priests like Southwell (V.viii.23-26): “And be these jumbling fiends no more believed/That palter with us in a double sense,/that keep the word of promise to our ear/And break it to our hope.” Just as he lived by the Johannine verse (1 John 4:16, NKJV), “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us.  God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him,” I believe he also lived by John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” For all the toil and trouble, the fear and terror, the blood and violence of “Macbeth,” the play also holds some stunning clues to the identity of Will Shakespeare’s  celestial woman, the woman of his vision. I found a subtle clue in those lines just quoted.  The word ‘palter’ could easily be mistaken for ‘psalter,’ a book of psalms.  My mind then entertained various other types of holy books such as illuminated manuscripts and books of hours.  It is obvious his family had ties to Catholicism at some time, so it is possible he could have seen, perhaps even owned, an illuminated ‘Book of Hours.’  Familiarity with such a book could be what influenced Macbeth’s line (V.v.22), “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.”  This construction is similar to lines in “As You Like It” (II.vii.27-9): “And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,/And then from hour to hour we rot and rot,/And thereby hangs a tale.” St BarbaraSo, what celestial woman stepped from the pages of a holy devotional book into William Shakespeare’s vision?  There are subtle clues in another play, one with mention of a book.  The exchange between Romeo and Juliet about holy palmers and pilgrims points to a martyr, as palm fronds are the symbol of a martyr.  There is also mention of lightning in Juliet’s balcony appearance, and lightning figures in “Macbeth” – “When shall we three meet again?/In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” (I.i.1-2) The celestial woman begins to take shape with those subtle clues – a feminine martyr associated with lightning – but it flashes into fullness when the inspiration to write “Macbeth” is considered – the Gunpowder Plot. Saint Barbara was a fourth century woman murdered by her father (parricide) for her Christian beliefs.  Her father was then struck dead by lightning.  Although She was removed from the Roman Catholic calendar in the late 1960s many around the world still celebrate her December 4 feast day.  She is the patron saint of thunder, lightning, explosives (gunpowder) and artillery. I wonder what Will Shakespeare would have felt or said had he lived until 1626 and learned of a Jesuit college built adjacent to the Church of Saint Barbara in Kutna Hora, in present-day Czech Republic? Barbara Butler McCoy, c. 2014 [[Bibliography: Kamen, Henry. “Philip of Spain.” New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997;  Miller Lee. “Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony.” New York:Penguin, 2000; Parks, Tim. “Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence.” New York:W. W. Norton & Co., 2005; Ronald, Susan. “The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire.” New York:Harper Perennial, 2008; Shakespeare, William. “Macbeth.” New York: Washington Square Press, 1992; Wills, Garry. “Witches and Jesuits: Shakespeare’s Macbeth.” New York: Oxford University Press, 1995; Wood, Michael. “Shakespeare.” New York: Basic Books, 2003.]] [[Photos  (artillery) and Illustration: Barbara Butler McCoy]]