Sunday, October 7, 2012

Berowne's 138

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "M" is for Mary Arden)
The prompt this week is of a sick woman.
I began sifting through my rather limited cranial capacity, trying to think of a historical character who would be appropriate for such a topic.
Then I thought of Will Shakespeare’s mother. In the year 1583 she was miserable because she was sick, but she was sick with worry, with fear.
And she had good reason.
It seemed quite possible that she was going to be charged as an accessory to an attempted assassination of Queen Elizabeth.
Let’s go back a bit.
As a teenager, it would have seemed that Mary Arden could have had her pick of the young fellows of her town for marriage; she came from a respected home, her father was a prosperous land-owner and she had an impressive dowry.
Yet many of that time were puzzled that the person she chose was not much more than a peasant. His background had been that he was barely (if at all) literate; he had had no money, no education, and a job of working in her father’s fields. His name was John Shakespeare.
But you see, Mary Arden was one of eight daughters, the youngest of the eight. For eight daughters there weren’t all that many eligible bachelors available in that area. She settled for John.
John S.’s story is amazing – from illiterate sharecropper he had a brisk rise to mayor of the town of Stratford – but that’s for a different post. We’ll concentrate on his wife, Mary.
But first let’s do a smooth segue to the story of another woman of that era, Queen Elizabeth I.
She was in mortal danger. When? Every day of her life, from the moment she was born. Every day that she was alive there were thousands of people who were dedicated to her assassination. She was Protestantism personified; Catholics in various parts of the world believed that England should return to the old religion and they were told they would be blessed if they killed her.
By the year 1583 the Queen had built up a remarkable collection of organizations that existed to prevent that assassination; she had spies and her own Secret Service, CIA and FBI.
Another smooth segue and we come to the story of Margaret Arden, a dear cousin of Will Shakespeare’s mom.
Encouraged by a local priest, Margaret Arden and her husband had made the mistake of becoming involved with him in a plot to shoot Queen Elizabeth. They were all arrested and taken to London.
Anyone who planned such an act, or even knew about it, was punished. The punishment was severe. The men were hanged, drawn and quartered and Margaret was burned at the stake.
Suspicion shifted to Stratford and a key part of the investigation had to do with Mary Arden Shakespeare; had she known about this plot? For quite a while she, and her family, were in extreme peril.
The Queen’s chief investigator, her J Edgar Hoover, was Francis Walsingham. He sent word to his subordinates up in Stratford that more guilty folks must be found and the way to determine if they were guilty was through torture.
Well, ultimately, things more or less blew over. Mary stayed alive, as did her family. However, Stratford was a dangerous place for a young guy whose family was under suspicion; Will Shakespeare detached himsself from the whole situation. He set up a strategic retreat, leaving town and heading for London.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

54 comments:

kaykuala said...

Very interesting Berowne! Very rarely we get insights of historical figures the way you do here! Great write!

Hank

Berowne said...

Thanks so much, kayk. Good to hear from you.

DCW said...

It was the Beth of times; it was the worth of times.

Stafford Ray said...

Well well! So religious assassinations are nothing new?
An enlightening trip through a little known slice of history. No wonder Will was careful what he wrote about religion. There are some who believe he was an Atheist and if true, he would have been closely watched!

Berowne said...

DCW: "It was the Beth of times..."
Ouch.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

haven't looked here for awhile and glad I did today...interesting readings, never thought of the espionage involved back then.

Irish Gumbo said...

Fascinating! A bit of history I did not know. Illness and intrigue launched the career of young Will, perhaps? :)

naturgesetz said...

This provides a bit of collateral evidence for some people's hypothesis that Will was a Catholic (assuming that he wrote the works of Shakespeare), as well as a bit of insight into the Tudor reign of terror.

Berowne said...

naturgesetz: "...some people's hypothesis that Will was a Catholic."
Yes, there is such evidence. There is also strong evidence that he was a Protestant. And equally strong evidence that he was neither. You pays your money and you makes your choice.

Karen S. said...

Oh yes she was sick with much worry and much, very much fear! I like how you wove in these delightful historical notes to round out the lovely times this painting arrived from! Amazing, 1665!

Rinkly Rimes said...

And we think life's dangerous TODAY!

Audrey Howitt aka Divalounger said...

I loved this post! I am unfamiliar with your work, but found this to be fascinating!

rallentanda said...

I think Will was Catholic although most of England would prefer he was not.Interesting poem.

rallentanda said...

I think Will was Catholic although most of England would prefer he was not.Interesting poem.

zanzinece said...

Superb choice, Will’s mum. And as always you made fascinating the facts around your topic. If only more of my teachers had done so!

izzy said...

My, how convoluted! (-love 'segue'
haven't heard that in a while!) Thanks for the story :)

Kutamun said...

Ha ha, well done , Berowne, six degrees of separation, my grannies family came from the avon valley in Dorset, came to Australia rather late in the piece and married into a family of ex cons, and came across some rather different spear shakers who saved my gr gr gr grandfathers life at one point. Miraculous how your yarn is seguing into mine, it is a watery shape shifter, you have constructed, for sure. thanks

Berowne said...

Thanks, Kutamun. Glad to learn of the segue.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

it has been said in the past that torture will always find a guilty confession eventually

Interesting post and a bit of Shakespeare info that was new to me.

Helen said...

So nice visiting your blog, always come away with a new tidbit of knowledge. Must confess to looking at the prompt this week ... wondering 'would would Berowne do'

Berowne said...

That's exactly what I was wondering too. :-)

Other Mary said...

Haha - the Beth of times... I can't top that. Or your little side trip into history - excellent, thanks!

flipside records said...

This is fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing this.

I hate history, but you mentioned Shakespeare and I was all in. :)

Lyn said...

How odd....viewing a Dutch painting and coming up with a Shakespearean romp...you own it!!

Roger Owen Green said...

It's intriguing that Elizabeth's would-be assassins were filled with the same fool-minded religious zeal that modern day terrorists are filled with.

manicddaily said...

Such an interesting story - I'd not heard any of this. k.

daydreamerdreams said...

Wow! This is an exciting read! Thank you for the history lesson!

Berowne said...

Thanks so much, ddd, for a fine comment.

Berowne said...

Roger O G: "...filled with the same fool-minded religious zeal that modern day terrorists are filled with."
Yes, religion has a lot to answer for. :-)

Linda said...

I enjoyed the way you pieced together this historical insight, Berowne. The 17th century was certainly an interesting time! The theatrical connection to Steen has to bring Shakespeare to mind for sure. Thank you for sharing this rich tapestry.

Little Nell said...

A very enjoyable read Berowne and, as usual, you have increased my knowledge of WS and his world. I'd never heard of that particular family connection. Tricky times indeed.

Doctor FTSE said...

Has anyone made an historical novel out of this story? How about yourself, Mr.B, before Hilary Mantel gets to it?

Berowne said...

Or J K Rowling? :-)

Harvee Lau said...

Fascinating, Berowne. I'm reading the Kate Emerson series of historical novels on the Tudors, but this story does sound as if it could be a separate novel. Has anyone written about it as historical fiction?

Berowne said...

If so, I haven't read it. My source is the historical record.

Laurie Kolp said...

As always, a wonderful story. I enjoy reading your masterpieces!

Sheilagh Lee said...

thank you for telling this tale Berowne it's very interesting and I love to hear about historical figures and intrigue.

gautami tripathy said...

I loved your take. Very good writing....

healing power of the soul

Grandma`s Goulash said...

Kipling was correct that history taught in the form of stories would not be forgotten. Thanks for these memorable and entertaining bits of history.

Nico said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nico said...

Great job retelling a seldom-considered aspect of W. S.'s life. I enjoyed, very much!

(Sorry about the previous deleted comment--keyboard or fingers misbehaving, I guess.)

Kate said...

You are a true historian, par excellence! Kate, ABC Team

hyperCRYPTICal said...

A wonderful history lesson! Thanks Berowne.

Anna :o]

dandeliongirl01 said...

I love reading your blog. So much to learn and to think about

~T~ said...

Intriguing!

oldegg said...

The Reformation and after was not the easiest era to live in. Probably it would be best to live a simple life as a peasant working on a farm, living in squalid conditions, not having any money and with the risk of the lord of the manor or his kin raping your wife and or children and possibly being sent off to war with a pikestaff if you were lucky. And then there is the smell!

Margaret said...

Fascinating. I have read about Shakespeare's life but never remember this. Thanks.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Berowne, loved this history. You help me fulfill my dad's edict: "Learn a new thing every day and you'll never grow old."

I had no idea that Will was every involved in any of this. Makes me think about "Shakespeare in Love" and Queen Liz's appearance at the Globe... thanks, Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/10/11/manly-men-real-toads-abc-wednesday/

Sharp Little Pencil said...

"Get thee to a mummery!"

Berowne said...

What a wonderful collection of comments, from; Amy, Margaret, oldegg, -T-, dandeliongirl, hyperCRYPTICal, Kate, nico, Grandma's Goulash, gautami tripathy, Sheilagh L, Laurie K and everyone else who showed up this week. My thanks indeed.

Raven said...

Very fine. And I learned from you. I did not make the jump from John Shakespeare to William Shakespeare though.

Tumblewords: said...

Amazing piece of history!

Berowne said...

Thanks so much, Tumble.

mywordwall said...

I love this take. I appreciate the insight and research that you put in this post and the new things I learned because of your work.
~imelda
:-)

 
Blog designed by Blogger Boutique using Christy Skagg's "A Little Bit of That" kit.