SHAKESPEARE’S VISION FOR ENGLAND

William Shakespeare, as a nine year old boy, looks out of a small window from his school classroom and has a mystic vision for the English nation..

A vision he would write about years later as he sat under the mulberry tree at his Stratford upon Avon home directly opposite.

A collection of dramas which would re-write the history of the English monarchy from the time of King John to Henry VIII.

It was a vision for every man and woman in England to be respected according to the law of the land with civil rights and for a sovereign divinity of power to be replaced by democracy.

One day but not necessarily in his own lifetime.

The Grammar School in Stratford upon Avon was the last to receive the status for such from the young and unfortunate Edward VI.

It was still a fledgling Grammar School in the time that William Shakespeare attended between the years 1570 to 1576.

His attendance was one of privilege because his father had aspired to become the town mayor.

He had no real appetite for either Latin or Greek but was passionate about history and he learned quickly from the chronicled literature of Raphael Holinshed, Edward Halle and John Foxe amongst others.

Where the school library may have been modest, the one kept by town benefactor Hugh Clopton at nearby Clopton Manor more than made up for it.

Thanks to the printing press invention of William Caxton and the promotion of the English language by King Henry V during his short reign a century and half before, the history of England was published in English and most fortuitiously available at William’s fingertips.

William’s parents came from farming stock within the environs of Stratford.

Although his father was the son of a tenant farmer, his Mother was a heiress to a sizeable farmstead on her own father’s death, a heritage pre-dating the Norman conquest of 1066.

Mary Arden (William’s mother) once remarked that she was glad she was not born a ‘Frenchie’ as otherwise her inheritance would have been denied to her by the Salique laws and her husband John might not have married her.

This infers that John Shakespeare only married Mary Arden for her inheritance.  In other words, her money!.

The young William Shakespeare was ever acutely aware of the impact disease, flood, fire and famine had on the daily life of the ordinary commoner in a provincial market town like Stratford where the aristocrats spoke for the voice of the people.

It was also a well known family tale that it was a Shakespeare (no pun intended) who fired a fatal arrow from his crossbow to a French duke in the course of the battle of Agincourt fought during the One Hundred Years War

Henry V was King of England at the time of the battle

In spite of the legislature of the Magna Carta, the fact could not seem to escape Shakespeare that Henry V represented what previous monarchs before and since did not to the English people.

Nevertheless, Henry had abused his executive powers of authority by killing prisoners and tarnishing an otherwise glowing reputation.

His trusted advisers had encouraged his military expedition across the English Channel but neither they nor Henry looked for the inevitable conflict that came at Agincourt.

The battle itself was unavoidable and the conflict had to be dealt with. So many soldiers were weak, sick, hungry and exhausted but there could be no retreat.

An English victory was certainly unexpected and ocurred perhaps more by accident and luck than good judgement.

.Shakespeare had himself once visited the site of the battle where he believed Henry spoke the famous words that a man was not a man at all if he did not fight for King and Country.

Henry, perceived Shakespeare, used war as a glorious and patriotic endeavour as a means to an end.

He proved himself to be a shrewd and powerful politician and tactician with the help of his trusted advisers, of which, at least in fiction if not in reality, Sir John Falstaff could have been one.

Shakespeare was surely aware of the historical connection to be drawn between the name of Falstaff and that of Cobham, Oldcastle and Lollard.

He was not shy to use both jest and satire to make a point, political or otherwise, in his literary dramas through the mouthpiece of one of his leading characters.

No character typified this more than the fat, boastful, cowardly knight who supposedly lost a battle to Joan of Arc and yet had traits of any number of unsavoury characters encountered in dimlit taverns.

The buffoon, having served his dramatic purpose, was put to death by both Shakespeare and Henry V before his debaucherous nature could distill the glowing reputation of the King itself.

While living relatives could  recall the events under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary, Shakespeare hismelf would live under the rule of two sovereigns, Elizabeth I and James I.

And so this is the story of one man’s vision for England.

A Stratfordian who interpreted history as only he saw it.

In his dying days, his was a mirror vision for England from classroom to the mulberry tree under which he so frequently sat and back to the classroom.

William Shakespeare was in essence not only the writer of the plays but the actor who filled the boots of a great King and a mischievous knight and has survived to tell the tale more than four hundred years later

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