William Shakespeare did not write the plays as Mark Twain explains here.
He could not even sign his name.
was a real scoundrel and thief but he was really a good guy at heart. He just
got off the trail every time you put him on it and he did that faster than you could turn around.
He was such an
effective liar that we put that skill to good use and had him work as a
spy for England. For years he ran messages back and forth to the
continent and counted guns on Spanish ships. He could remember the number of guns on up to 60 ships at a time. He could remember their names and a lot more too. I could never figure out how he could remember that stuff in order and never get any of it mixed up. He had an incredible memory. Messengers needed to lie effectively and often. He could lie very well so he made an excellent spy. That was a very dangerous mission since only one
mistake like getting caught in a lie would have meant his death. That
was the most dangerous job there was. Most messengers lasted no more than a year
before getting caught.
William also worked for the government in other capacities. Later he was essentially what would now be a Secret Service agent protecting Queen Elizabeth and later King James. Proof of this does exist. He guarded King James during his dangerous entrance to London for his crowning as King of England.
Yet another document lists the issue of 'scarlet red cloth' to William and colleagues for the 'royal entry' of 1604, when James showed himself to his subjects in an ostentatious procession through London. Here
Since the cloth was issued by the government it attests to the fact that William Shakespeare was working directly for the government. The cloth was essentially part of his government issued uniform.
After he left the spy service he got into a lot of trouble which involved a swindle.
(A swindle meant not being able to pay money that you owe. Bankruptcy did not exist.) I
don't remember what all the details were but I made
him an offer
Since we had reinforced his deceptive lifestyle for years we felt
that we had to
make some kind of arrangement that would actually benefit both him and
his family. So we made him a deal. He was facing ten
years in debtors prison but we paid off all his debts and I provided
him with quite a bit of land as well so that he and his family could at least make an honest living working the land.
All he had to do was take credit for writing
the plays and thereby take the 'heat' off of me.
Something had to be done before my family and I were
(See this page.)
William Shakespeare took in stride the possibly of
having assassins chasing
him since he was already looking over his shoulder and had been for years. So he took
and the heat. His children hated having to farm or do any kind of honest work though. *
did not want William to get hurt so we did not use his real likeness. He
was a better looking man that the one which everyone has seen at the
right and he had a full head of hair. Whose
picture is it?
It is of a young Cardinal Richelieu, the prime minister of France and the worst enemy the theater has ever had. His control over the theater in France was complete and unparalleled in history. His oppression of the theater was so complete that arguably it has never recovered. So of course we had to use his picture for that of 'Shakespeare'.
the left is a painting of Cardinal Richelieu when he was older.
Unfortunately I have not been able to locate a painting of him
when he was young like on the cover of the folio of Shakespeare plays. (Larger version)
I will tell you simply that I don't recall ever seeing a collar like the one on the cover of
the book of plays. That is a shield shaped coat of arms. You can easily see
the design on it which collars did not have at the time. I've never seen one that was not a single solid color, usually white. Have you? And shaped like a shield? I don't think so.
I know this is going to come as a shock to you overly serious people
but the whole thing was
a joke. Come on, don't be so serious. Anyone who has seen one of the
plays knows that the Bard was never serious or the plays would not have
been fiction. Besides look at how many comedies I wrote. Other
evidence of my sense of humor can be seen on my page about how I invented the political cartoon.
*For some reason I felt like helping William's family in spite of what they
had put me through.
Not long after William Shakespeare arrived in London I got a
letter from the rector of Stratford-upon-Avon.
It was written by the vicar (who took care of the needs of the
parishioner directly) on behalf of the daughter of William Shakespeare.
She wanted an advance on her fathers earnings to buy food and clothes.
He had told them he was prominent in the theater at a
time when frankly he was in women
boudoirs more than he was around the stage.
I was too strapped for money too send them any even though I was known
for being a soft
heart. I made her a proposition. Since the beginning of London (in
Roman times) we had always just had to go a mile or two out into the
pick our mushrooms for eating. Suddenly there were none for 20 miles in
any direction. If you wanted a single mushroom you had to travel far
but nobody did. I thought bringing in mushrooms from far away would be
a great business for someone like her.
I told her to send large bags of mushrooms with the rector who came to
London every two weeks. I would simply sell them to the first vender in
the market that I came to. Since doing it that way took no effort on my
part I could then send her all the money.
She dutifully sent me drawings of many different mushrooms which took
hours for her to draw since she had to make the colors by squeezing
out various flowers (except for the dark red or brown which I
thought was blood but was really clay). There
were several colors like blue (and at times pink) she could not make so
she had the vicar spell 'blue' or 'pink' next to the mushroom. Then she
draw a line from 'blue' or 'pink' to that part of the mushroom.
I sent her a return letter telling her which ones to send with
the rector who said he would bring
them for free. Nearly every time my return letter confirmed a species
that people wanted but then she would send another letter wanting to know how much she would get
for a bag of them. Then she would ask which kind she could get the most money for.
When the mushrooms never came I decided that she was a daughter in her fathers mold and would rather
spend hours making pictures than ten minutes picking mushrooms to earn an honest
Back and forth the letters went. Months would elapse. By the time
she was ready to send the mushrooms I would get a letter from her
telling me that those mushrooms were now out of season.
For three years we went on like this until I found out that her brother and
uncle were bringing mushrooms in to north London and selling them in
another market while using me and the vicar for information. It was the
misuse of the Vicar's time which is what made me the most angry.
I sent her a nasty letter when I found out.
The vicar brought me some money right afterwards. It paid for my time
but not my frustration. Apparently both the vicar and the rector got together
and tried to figure out what to do about the con job. Apparently the
Shakespeare family had skirted the law by not promising anyone anything
so the vicar said 'we can skirt the law too'. They threatened to
castigate the family into a purgatory but threats of hell did nothing to
that family. They held firm and William stayed out of it. Then the clergy threatened them with worse and
planned to declare from the pulpit every week that they were secretly Catholics
and that did it. By the way that is surprisingly confirmed by Wikipedia
which points out:
Richard Davies (d. 1708), an Anglican cleric, allegedly wrote of
Shakespeare: "He dyed a Papyst"
I did not hold it against them. I felt as though the town of Stratford had
they were just acting the role of 'bad person' and been made the town scape goat.
were slaves to what they had been taught and
they did not mean to harm me personally. The mushroom incident
because they were thought of as being evil by
the Stratford-upon-Avon mob and were never trusted. Nobody ever
treated them fairly so they in turn felt they could not trust anyone and that included a
strange woman in London who could write (which meant she could make
trouble for them if she wanted to). They knew little else
about me and automatically assumed like everyone else that I
advantage of them. The family had been in trouble with the law often. Read about William's father criminal prosecution here.
The land that I put into the deal to take the heat off of me was 20 acres
of farm land. It was to force his family into actually producing instead of
swindling. They could grow crops that they could eat and also sell in the London market, which
was an irony that the bard purposely created so they would have to face
what they had done to me previously with those mushrooms.
As I recall they never farmed the
land but rented it out to others who grazed sheep on it. That too got
him in trouble with the law.
retired in about 1611.
His retirement was not entirely without controversy. He was drawn into
a legal quarrel regarding the enclosure of common lands. (Enclosure
enabled land to be converted to pasture for sheep, but removed it as a
resource for the poor.) Shakespeare had a financial interest in the
land, and to the chagrin of some, he took a neutral position, making
sure only that his own income from the land was protected. Wiki
There was much more to these court appearances than is
talked about in that one brief article.
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