Here are eight events in Shakespeare’s life and afterlife of which many readers of this article will be unaware:
(1) At the Kenilworth entertainments Leicester introduced to Queen Elizabeth ‘a lad / From Stratford-upon-Avon near this place / Beyond his years precocious’. Elizabeth quizzed young Shakespeare and her own protégé Francis Bacon about poetry and philosophy at length and both the boys were carried high in triumph.
(2) Arriving in London from Stratford, Shakespeare saved Southampton from serious injury or death by grabbing the bridle of the aristocrat’s horse as it was about to throw its mount into the river. Southampton rewarded him with a ring and his patronage, announcing ‘What nobler exercise for wealth than this – . . . to foster Genius.’
(3) But Shakespeare also applied to Raleigh for a place on the Virginia expedition that established the Roanoke colony in 1587. Raleigh had heard Shakespeare praised by Sir Philip Sidney as someone who had ‘the gift of words’ when he had listened to Shakespeare ‘reciting ballads’ at the Mermaid Tavern. Raleigh advised the young man to ‘cherish that gift’ rather than travel to America.
(4) Shakespeare and Marlowe fought in Deptford over Mary Fitton with whom both were in love. By accident, as Marlowe lunged at Shakespeare, ‘his arm [was] knocked up, striking his own forehead’ and Marlowe fell dead.
(5) John Manningham’s account of the occasion when Shakespeare had sex with a citizen in Burbage’s place with the retort ‘that William the Conqueror was before Richard the Third’ was inaccurate. Shakespeare had actually forestalled Lord Wilson from wooing the actress Clarence with the line ‘Richard III comes too late. William the Conqueror commands the fortress.’
(6) ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ was written in response to Burbage’s demand for a soliloquy for Macbeth mourning Lady Macbeth. Burbage had proposed that it should begin ‘O dearest chuck, it is unkind indeed / To leave me in the midst of my sore need.’
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