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Reaching Lifelong Goals

Nontraditional Grad Student's Journey in Public History

Today, I continue to add one of my older Shakespeare research papers from my first term in Mr. Jensen’s class.  By the end of the term, I was feeling quite good about my success in the course.   This paper was a little indulgent on my part, but it still received another A+.  This paper was the first one that came in at the required 2 pages/double spaced (most of my papers have been in the 5-6 page range). Now that I have completed the entire ENG201-203 series, I still feel the same as my first term paper reflected.   I will be spending this weekend writing my last research paper for this instructor.   I have every confidence that I will end up with a perfect record of all 12 papers for this class earning A+ grades.  I’ll be posting the last couple of papers later this week (after final exams!  I have 3 this term…)   This journey as a Non Traditional Student returning to college after 35 years is really becoming one of the big successes of my life!

Reflections on Early Shakespeare  “The Bard through New Eyes”

I feel compelled to look back on my studies of the early works of William Shakespeare with a new-found understanding and appreciation of his plays for what they truly are, literary genius.  As a “theater person”, mostly in the technical realm, I was never able to read a play for pure pleasure.   How would I get my actors to exit stage left?    How will the sound effect be cued?   How many flats would I need to build an Elizabethan tavern for The Merry Wives of Windsor? Every script was more of an exercise in logistics and design versus the wonderful stories and dialogue.

What I have learned over the past ten weeks has allowed me to see the Bard’s plays through new eyes.   As a History Major, I was drawn to the historical tidbits in lectures about 16th century England.   The study of these works became more than reading a play.   Richard III led me down a path of discovery about two young princes, lost in the Tower of London.   Shakespeare’s histories came to life in the study of how King Richard manipulates and schemes his way into the crown.   Having the background of how Shakespeare was able to fit history onto the stage was a highlight in my enjoyment of the play.

Information about Shakespeare’s poems involving his dedications to Henry Wriothesley sparked my interest as I read the words.   Who was the Bard referring to here?    How does this possibly relate to the “dark lady”?   I was reading a poem for both pleasure and clues at the same time.   This is what is so exhilarating about seeing this literature through my new eyes.    The theories about the symbols of Venus and Adonis and various codes that were popular in Renaissance England will be a theme I will follow throughout my study of Shakespeare.

I cannot possibly convey how wonderful it is to enjoy Shakespeare’s comedies on a literary and historical basis.    It really helps when you get the jokes!   The use of various mythological characters mixed into one story is fascinating when you learn how they were weaved together so artfully.   Again, my love of all things Historical allowed me to learn about medieval herbalists and the use of many botanical references all through Shakespeare’s works.    Further study of these references and Will’s country upbringing will be forthcoming.

Love and Hate, romance and war, the juxtaposition in the Tragedy Romeo and Juliet is another joy to behold.   And to think, only a few years ago, all I could think of was how to build that crazy balcony!    I originally planned to write this paper comparing West Side Story with this play.   As I watched, furiously taking notes, I finally realized that I was seeing something through this wonderful filter of literary awareness.    It did give me pause.   Where will these “new eyes” of mine lead me next? I hope that you will allow me this one indulgent paper.   I liken it to the catharsis of the climax of a Greek tragedy.   Not since I played the role of Banquo in the 4th grade (with rave revenues on the playground I should add) have I been able to really enjoy my studies of William Shakespeare.   For this gift, I must thank you.

As an effort to catch up with posting all of my research papers for my Shakespeare English Literature class, here is one more for you today.   While studying Mid Summer Nights Dream, I noticed the use of botanical references to flowers and their medicinal properties.   This led to a wonderful research journey into Shakespeare’s early life in rural England and his exposure to flora and fauna.   I found references to many different flowers and animals throughout his works.   In MSND, (Shakespeare speak for the play)  there is reference to “Love in Idleness” flowers having magical properties.   This flower is what we consider as a Viola now, but as you can see in the research paper, many other names have been associated with this plant.   This was another Non Traditional Student effort, going way out of the box for a topic.   Truly a unique paper in the class, and it received an A+ grade.  I hope you enjoy it.

Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound, and maidens call it “Love in Idleness”     (Oberon, Mid Summers Night Dream, Act II, Scene 1)

It is evident that William Shakespeare was fluent in the folklore and history of the flora and fauna of his homeland.   You can find references to different species of plants and their related superstitions and histories in all of his published works.   Many Shakespearean scholars have devoted entire works to his botanical and folklore references.   Here we will deal with only one species, Heartsease (Viola tricolor) otherwise known as the Love in Idleness Pansy.  A common wild flower of the day, it was well-known to the Elizabethan herbalists.

Research of the name “love in Idleness” yields a treasure trove of information based on science as well as folklore.   M. Grieve, in The Modern Herbal, lists some of the many names this plant has been known as over the past 400 years: Wild Pansy, Love-Lies-Bleeding, Love-in-Idleness, Live-in-Idleness, Loving Idol, Love Idol, Cull Me, Cuddle Me, Call-me-to-you, Jackjump-up-and-kiss-me, Meet-me-in-the-Entry, Kiss-her-in-the-Buttery, Three-Faces-under-a-Hood, Kit-run-in-the-Fields, Pink-o’-the-Eye, Kit-run-about, Stepmother, Herb Trinitatis, Herb Constancy, Pink-eyed-John, Bouncing Bet, Flower o’luce, Bird’s Eye and Bullweed.[i] Many of these synonyms come from the plant being introduced into the new world by English settlers in the early 17th century.     This wild flower is common all over the British Isles and was long associated with love potions or love philtres for casting spells over people.     Love in Idleness is also mentioned by Shakespeare in the Taming of the Shrew, where in Act I, Scene I, Luciento claims he feels the effects of Love in Idleness, alluding to its qualities to stimulate love.  The theme of “love at first sight” is associated with this flower again in this later play.

Shakespeare was probably aware of one of the well-known herbalists of the period, John Gerard (1545-1612).

In his The Herbal or Generall  Historie of Plantes [ii],  which was published in 1596, he listed the medicinal properties of many of the plants and herbs known at the time.   Elizabethan herbalists relied on a number of herbs and flowers to cure all kinds of ailments and conditions.   There was a strong relationship between physicians and herbalists in Elizabethan England.    Another famous herbalist, Nicholas Culpepper published The Complete Herbal in 1653.     He specifically lists the qualities of the Heartsease (Love in Idleness).   “Government and virtues: The herb is really saturnine, something cold, viscous, and slimy. A strong decoction of the herbs and flowers (if you will, you may make it into syrup) is an excellent cure for the French pox, the herb being a gallant antivenereal: and that antivenereals are the best cure for that disease, far better and safer than to torment them with the flux, divers foreign physicians have confessed. The spirit of it is excellently good for the convulsions in children, as also for the falling sickness, and a gallant remedy for the inflammation of the lungs and breasts, pleurisy, scabs, itch, &c. It is under the celestial sign Cancer.” [iii] As an aside, it was entertaining to note the use of Heartsease for “an excellent cure of the French Pox”, a rather pointed English term for Syphilis.

In his book, Folk-Lore of Shakespeare, Rev. T. F. Dyer states: “Midsummer Eve appears to have been regarded as a period when the imagination ran riot, and many a curious superstition was associated with this season.  Thus people gathered on this night the rose, St. John’s Wort, vervian, trefoil and rue, all of which were supposed to have magical properties.” [iv] Shakespeare could not have selected a better night to set his mystical and comedic characters in.    Folk-lore had a major influence on the plot of the story.

Herbal medicine was also strongly linked with astrology and was an art taken up by many herbalists.  Culpepper made special note of the astrological signs that ruled each species of plant.   This was to insure that the plants could be harvested at their peak of potency.    This concept of astrology leads to Shakespeare’s folklore reference to midsummer’s eve, or the summer solstice.

The juices of the Love in Idleness flower alone were all that was needed for the desired effect in the play.  However, modern-day scientists feel that the love potion was more of a metaphor than an effective aphrodisiac.  Dr Charles Sell, the head of organic chemistry at Quest and a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “Wild pansies were noted in herbal folklore medicine. It was attributed with many properties but falling in love was probably the invention of Shakespeare.” [v] Dr Sell described the potion as having “a nice fragrance”, but said it had not triggered any amorous behavior.

Shakespeare uses references to many species of plants throughout his works.   His rural upbringing led to an advanced knowledge of the plants used in herbal medicine of the era.  He made more than one reference to the pansy, “Love in Idleness” in his plays.  What the significance of this particular plant was to him one can only ponder.


[i] M. Grieve, A modern Herbal, New York, Harcourt, Brace & Company,  1931, www.botanical.com

[ii]Gerard, John, The Herbal or The General History of Plants, c. 1596, web, http://dewey.library.upenn.edu

[iii]Culpepper, Nicholas, The Complete Herbal, c.1653, web, http://www.bibliomania.com

[iv] Rev. Dyer, T.F, Folk-Lore of Shakespeare, New York, Dover Pub,  1966, Reprinted from c. 1883

[v] Derbyshire,David, Midsummer Nights Love Potion Proves a Work of Fiction, London Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk, 14 Feb 2002

Shakespeare’s Richard III and the Two Princes in the Tower

Posted by Redfokker On May - 29 - 2010

As a Non Traditional Student and a History Major, I have been enjoying my assignments for research papers in my Shakespeare series of classes.  I have been posting my papers on the Reaching Lifelong Goals blog as a archive online of my Non Trad journey.   I have created a special category on my blog to post these papers, and this is one of my first efforts that I had missed posting.   An interesting comparison to my latest works as I have been learning about how to present these papers in proper formats, citations and content.   So far, my instructor, Peter Jensen seems to like what I have to say as I have a perfect record of A+ papers over the past three terms in ENG201-203.   I post these papers for the fun of it, but if they provide any ideas for my fellow Non Traditional Students on their research papers, I am OK with it.  I’ll be posting a couple more that are missing from this category over the next few days.   Please feel free to comment or post any rebuttals you may have, I have a thick skin!   Thank you for your time.

The Two Princes in the Tower of London:  What Could Today’s Forensic Anthropology tell us About the Mystery?

The story of the two princes in the tower is one of the great mysteries of the English monarchy.   The historical background of the two princes and their fates closely follows Shakespeare’s portrayal in Richard III.   Shakespeare uses Sir James Tyrrel’s soliloquy in Act IV, Scene 3 to illustrate the murders of Edward V and his brother Richard, 1st Duke of York, in great detail.   He further places guilt on Richard with him saying “Kind Tyrrell am I happy in thy news?”   Historical records do show that the princes were never seen again after the summer of 1483. Their fate remains unknown, and it is presumed that they either died or were killed there. There is no record of a funeral.

.   The remains of the two princes were left untouched from 1674 until being studied in 1933.   With the Permission of King George V, the bones were opened and studied.   This investigation, conducted by Drs. Wright and Tanner in 1933, was done under constraints that could have affected the accuracy of their findings. There is a possibility of bias on their part because they knew in advance the ages of Edward and Richard in 1483. Since 1933, there have been those who have made credible challenges to their findings.  Finally, even without the constraints, Wright and Tanner did not have the technology at their disposal to end speculation. They could not DNA-test the remains and thus end all arguments. Through the dental remains there appeared to be some kind of blood relation between the two skeletons, but this could not be proved. [2] At the time, the dental problems with the two skulls only linked them circumstantially to the written records.   A later archeological find 30 years later of another skeleton of the same period could have offered some comparisons.

In January of 1965, the London Museum announced that the remains of Anne Mowbray, the child wife of Richard, 1st Duke of York had been discovered.   Her skeletal remains were found by workers in a lead coffin.   The condition of the skull and teeth was very good, lending them to possible DNA testing at some point.    An observation from the Richard III Society website about the scientific information and its usefulness is noteworthy: “Further, scientific methods of dating bones have advanced much since 1933 and the differences in development between mediaeval and modern children may, in principle, be addressed because of the discovery in 1964 of the coffin and remains of Anne Mowbray, child wife of Richard of York, whose age and date of death are known. This gives a direct contemporary parallel by which to judge the age and development of the controversial skeletons.”[3]

This brings us to the question at hand. With the advances in forensic anthropology since the original investigation in 1933, will it be possible to identify the bones as belonging to Edward V and Richard 1st Duke of York?

Through the use of radio carbon dating of the bones, the age of the bones could only determined within a window of years.   There is a great deal of controversy around the accuracy of C-14 carbon dating[4].   The accuracy of this type of dating is not exact.  Radio Carbon dating of the bones through this method might not yield a definitive identification to the exact date in 1483.   It could however, show that the bones are from the correct general time period and not “leftovers” from a Roman burial centuries before.  Also, as noted above, there could be comparisons made with the remains of Anne Mowbray where the actual dates are known.

Perhaps the most promising new scientific tool that could be used is Mitochondrial DNA testing.   The science here is far more reliably accurate.   It was noted in the 1933 investigation that one of the skulls had teeth that viable DNA could be extracted from.   If this DNA could be tested against bloodlines existing today through a matriarchal connection, an accurate determination one way or the other could be made.   Also, the DNA from Anne Mowbray could also be utilized, as she was a cousin to the Princes.

The use of new scientific methods and forensics on the two skeletons might offer the cause of death.   The 1933 study made mention of blood stains around the mouth of the older skull, but no definitive findings could be made at that time.   Today’s forensic science and the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging could give us a more accurate picture of the damage to the skull.

King Richard III

Even if the two skeletons were identified as Henry V and his younger brother Richard 1st Duke of York, would this put an end to the controversy?   It only would solve one part of the mystery, identification of the remains.   Would this prove Richard III’s guilt or innocence?    I think not.   The battle between the current day “Ricardians” and the “Yorkists” seems to be one of the most heated debates in historical circles.   Until more definitive evidence about the motives and actions of Richard III can be found, I feel no resolution is possible.

However, at the present time all of this is moot, as the remains are not available for study.   Queen Elizabeth has not given her permission for the study of the Princes’ remains.   They remain in the urn in Westminster Abbey.   The last request for study was rejected by the queen in 2002.  For the use of the current forensic science, it would be necessary to have access to the remains.   Prince Charles, next in line to the throne, has indicated interest in reopening this study. Until he becomes King, he does not have any power in this matter.  Will this change open up opportunities for further study of the princes’ bones?   This is a scenario that only time will reveal.    I am often reminded that Winston Churchill was right, “history is written by the victor.”


[1] Bones in the Tower: A Discussion of Time, Place and Circumstance

Maurer, Helen The Ricardian Vol. 8, No. 111 December 1990

[2] www.fifteenthcentury.net/skeletons

[3] To Prove a Villain, The real Richard III, Exhibition at the Royal National Theater, London, 1991
http://www.r3.org/rnt1991/deadbones.html

Racism in Othello, Was Shakespeare a Racist?

Posted by Redfokker On May - 24 - 2010

The second play that we studied this term in ENG203 Late Shakespeare was Othello.  My research into the topic of racism in Elizabethan England yielded a treasure of sources.   As a Non Traditional Student, I always place a high standard for my papers in this class.   The requirement was for a short 2 page essay about the play.   As per all of my other papers submitted, this one received another A+.   This has become somewhat of a series on this blog, so I decided to continue by posting my paper here.   I’m open to any critical comments from my readers.

The Racism of Othello – Historical Perspectives

When we look at the racial overtones of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello, the Moore of Venice, one must recognize the historical context of Elizabethan England.  To truly evaluate the treatment of Othello as a “Moor”, his position in Venetian society, and his marriage to Desdemona, the play must be judged on the societal norms and current events that William Shakespeare had to draw from.

The English encounter with Africans began from about the mid-sixteenth century. Native West Africans had probably first appeared in London in 1554.  Certainly, as Martin Orkin points out in an article for The Shakespeare Quarterly, “by 1601 there were enough black men in London to prompt Elizabeth to express her discontent ‘at the great number of ‘Negars and blackamoors’ which are crept into the realm since the troubles between her highness and the King of Spain’ (Orkin).    Elizabethan adventurers John Hawkins, John Lok, and Martin Frobisher were among the first raiding African coastal villages, kidnapping inhabitants and bringing them back to England in the mid-1550s. Although initially a small population, these involuntary exiles were the forerunners of much larger numbers, who would eventually be enslaved in the Caribbean and the American colonies.   Blacks were a very visible minority in Shakespeare’s London.  Only recently have historians documented the proof of Africans in 17th century London.  Initially brought in as slaves or as “human curiosities,” some blacks soon assimilated themselves into Elizabethan life as laborers and domestic servants.   Author James Shultz noted; “We now have documented proof of the residences of black people, which must be reckoned into the colors of Shakespeare’s world, in a very literal sense. Shakespeare knew people of color. He walked through their neighborhoods every day” (Shultz).  This author goes on to propose that the “dark lady” of the Sonnets was a black prostitute that William Shakespeare formed a relationship with.   Although an almost plausible solution to the issue, too many other pieces to this puzzle do not fit.

Shakespeare most certainly had contact with Africans living in London, but was this interaction tempered by the prevailing prejudices of his English countrymen? English ethnocentrism fastened upon differences in color, religion, and style of life. Orkin has assembled material that shows that Englishmen saw Sub Saharan Africans as barbarous.  He includes an excerpt from Richard Eden’s account of John Lok’s voyages, published first in 1554-55 and reprinted in 1589.  “An account of the inhabitants of ‘coast of Guinea and the middye partes of Africa’…were in olde tyme called Etheiopes and Nigrite wich we nowe caule moores, morren or Negroes.  A people of beastly lyvynge, without a god, lawe, religion or common welth, and so scorched and vexed with the heate of the sonne, that in many places they curse it when it ryseth” (Orkin).  In the OED the meaning of the word “black” includes, before the sixteenth century and were subject to the prejudices of the day.   Othello, being a General and of higher status than other blacks in both Venetian and English societies is Shakespeare’s way of breaking down these stereotypes.

The racial slurs and insults by Iago, as he says “…an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” (O.I.1.88-89). Roderigo also makes racist comments referring to Othello as “the thick lips”(O.I.1.66).  There is racist sentiment within the play, but it is to a large degree it is confined to Iago, Roderigo, and Brabantio.   The character of Othello does not lower himself to respond to these insults.   This highlighting of the injury of words by the “white” characters only strengthens Othello against the stereotypes of the day.  Looking at the character of Othello through the color prejudices of early 17th century England further shows how Shakespeare was very progressive for his time period.

Research yields volumes of works about racism in Othello.  Evaluating the theme of racism by 20th century thinking is valid only when the comparisons are tempered with an understanding of Elizabethan and Jacobean social norms.  Only then can one really see the true brilliance of Shakespeare’s portrayal of the Tragedy of Othello, the Moore of Venice.

Works Cited

Orkin, Martin.” Othello and the “plain face” Of Racism” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Summer, 1987), pp. 166-188. 5 May 2010.web

Shultz, James.Shakespeare’s Colors: Race And Culture In Elizabethan England“. Old Dominion University’s Quest. January 2002, Volume 5 Issue 1.8 May 2010.web.

Bartels, Emily C. “Making more of the Moor: Aaron, Othello, and Renaissance Refashioning of Race”. Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Winter, 1990), pp. 433-454. 8 May 2010.web

Bartels, Emily C. “Othello and Africa: Postcolonialism Reconsidered”. The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 54, No. 1 (Jan., 1997), pp. 45-64. 8 May 2010.web

Neill, Michael. “Mulattos,” “Blacks,” and “Indian Moors”: Othello and Early Modern Constructions of Human Difference”. Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 361-374. 9 May 2010.web

As a Non Traditional Student, I place high goals for myself in classes.   I just received my latest ENG 203 Shakespeare research paper back from my instructor.   It was again an A+ grade, a goal that I have reached on all of my papers for this instructor!   I try to challenge his vast knowledge of Shakespeare in all of my work by finding new references and twists on my topics…kind of a badge of courage for me!   On this paper I took on the idea that Shakespeare’s plays are full of wonderful topical references to current events in Elizabethan England.   Through Peter Jensen’s (my prof.) lectures, he opens up all sorts of new research avenues for me with explanations of these topical references (most seem to be “one-liners”, meant to entertain the Groundlings and Penny Stinkards!)  One new annotation that I found for the play Twelfth Night involved a possible new topical meaning to one of Malvolio’s lines.   Mr. Jensen’s comments on my paper opens up a new line of research for me on this one reference.   It seems that the author that I cited may have his Monarchs mixed up!    I’ll have to do some more delightful research on this reference to verify the dating of the events and their use as a “one-liner” joke by Shakespeare.   I’ll keep you all posted on what I find out.   I now submit for your enjoyment, my research paper on Shakespeare’s One Liners:

Shakespeare’s “One-Liners” – Unappreciated by Modern Audiences?

There are many levels of appreciation for the plays of William Shakespeare.   They should always be enjoyed for their literary artfulness at face value.  Theatrical productions are sensory experiences of the Bard’s works through costume, acting, and stage business.  The study of his plays for their historically topical references to Elizabethan England takes Shakespeare to a new level of understanding.   How many of these topical “one-liners” go totally unappreciated by the average theater patron?  Throughout my study of William Shakespeare this year, I have learned of several historical nuggets woven into each script.

Just by taking some of the topical references out of Twelfth Night offers hours of delightful research.  Sir Toby Belch’s line in Act I, scene 3, is a topical one-liner; “Wherefore have these gifts a curtain before ‘em?  Are they to take dust, like Mistress Mall’s Picture?” (12thN, I.3.102-103).   This is a reference to Mary Fitton, where Mall, like Moll, is a nickname for Mary.  Roger Warren’s notes in his edition of Twelfth Night single out this reference with “…various Malls have been suggested for this allusion (if it is one).  The likeliest is Mary Fitton, one of Elizabeth I’s maids of honor, disgraced for bearing the Earl of Pembroke’s child in 1601″ (Warren).  Here is a prime example of a reference that would go totally unnoticed as it passes by in lively dialogue.

Perhaps the most target-rich environment for historical research is the character of Malvolio.  Shakespearean scholars have expended gallons of ink trying to get a handle on Malvolio’s quirky nature.   The gulling of the steward in Act II, scene 5 is a treasure trove of topical Elizabethan references and comic one-liners to research.  The yellow stockings proved to be a belly laugh for the groundlings in the audience.  In a critical essay, Loreen Giese discusses a number of historical ties to their relevance, she states; “The wearing of yellow stockings had particular resonance, as two well-known usages suggest. The wearing of yellow stockings may be most commonly associated with two contexts: the children at Christ’s Hospital, which opened in 21 November 1552 and was officially founded on 26 June 1553, and the dramatic figure Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the first performance of which was 6 January 1601/2. Indeed, evidence of this sartorial practice from other literary and legal texts supplements and refines our understanding of their meaning by indicating the sexual symbolism of wearing yellow stockings in early modern London. Specifically, this evidence indicates that some early modern Londoners understood the wearing of yellow stockings to signal illicit sexuality and marital betrayal”(Giese).

Further, she also notes that the color of yellow was not only disfavored by Olivia, but also “Queen Elizabeth I (whose own personal colors were white and black) abhorred yellow. For six years yellow had been the color of danger in her Court–being flaunted by the faction of the Duke of Norfolk until his attainder

and execution in 1572. And the flag of her arch-enemy, Spain, was yellow”(Giese).   The Yellow stockings become a significant plot component in Twelfth Night, and stand alone comically to today’s audience, but to Shakespeare’s contemporaries, their meanings took on a larger context.

“There is example for’t: the Lady of the Strachy married the yeoman of the wardrobe”, Malvolio (12thN.II.5.34-35).  Here, with an explanation during lecture in class, I set out on a new journey of research into a topical reference which would sail over the heads of a modern audience.   William Strachy (or Strachey -1572-1621) is best referenced for his connection to The Tempest from a letter about the shipwreck of the colonial ship Sea Venture off Bermuda in 1609.  Digging for some “Elizabethan scandal” about him was unproductive, but again, Shakespearean studies often yield many interpretations of topical references within Will’s plays.

My research led me to a scholarly work posted online which was available as a book excerpt.   One other possible annotation of this seemingly obscure historical one-liner is proposed by David Frydrychowski.  The abstract for the paper immediately got my attention; “a new solution for the textual cruces of Malvolio’s “Lady of the Strachy,” (TN 2.5.35) a longstanding puzzle of Shakespearean textual annotation. Following George Stevens suggestion that the word might be read as “Starchy,” the author suggests that the reference was to Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset, and a politically significant contemporary Of Shakespeare, whose household was linked in the popular mind with a certain fashion of yellow starch”( Frydrychowski).

If there is indeed a misspelling in the text of this line, this proposed explanation is but one more plausible topical reference to Elizabethan current events that would entertain and educate Shakespeare’s audience at the Globe Theater in 1601/2.   Again, to a modern day audience watching Twelfth Night on stage in the 21st century, the line makes a whizzing sound as it shoots over their heads.

Frydrychowski states; “the reference was an interpolation which alluded to a matter which had shaken the Crown itself and consumed the popular imagination of the capital – the death of Thomas Overbury and the subsequent popular vilification of Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset and Robert Carr, arriviste courtier”(Frydrychowski).  Which annotation to this reference is correct?  Like many of the obscure historical references in Shakespeare’s works, there can be numerous references, all depending on the Historian’s interpretation and frame of reference.

There is a lifetime of historical research that can be obtained through just the study of Shakespeare’s one-liners.  This small sample is just the tip of the ice berg in only one of the Bard’s masterpieces.   Shakespearean scholars will continue to find new historical nuggets in the cannon, building on the new research into the Elizabethan era today.   How does this affect the audiences of today?  Most patrons of the dramatic arts are not in theaters for a history lesson, they are there to see the plays of William Shakespeare for the enjoyment of the production and entertainment.   Just as they have for the past four hundred years.

Works cited

Warren, Roger Ed. Shakespeare, William, Twelfth night, or What you Will. Ed. Warren, Roger, Stanley Wells .Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.17 April 2010.web

Giese, Loreen. Malvolio’s Yellow Stockings: Coding Illicit Sexuality in Early Modern London. AccessMyLibrary.com. 2006. Promoting Library Advocacy Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England.17 April 2010.web

Frydrychowski, David. “Some old story”: A new conjecture on Malvolio’s “Lady of the
Strachy”.  2010. PL Ballaney Book Online.com. 17 April 2010. Web

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