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Tyrant January 7, 2021

Posted by goddessesblog in Uncategorized.
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Shakespeare inserted the story of Jack Cade’s rebellion into his play Henry the VI – Part Two.

By Dean Adams Curtis

Will Shakespeare wrote about mob rule and how tyrants rise. In fact, tyrants were one of his chief concerns. Because there were plenty of tyrants during his day, including on occasion tyrannical acts by his queen, who ran what has been termed a police state, he wrote about tyrannical characters who were Roman emperors in millennia long past and old Scottish and English kings.

In one instance, however, he revealed a populist commoner who had behaved tyrannically during events just a century-and-a-half before his time, to illustrate his concerns.

Into one of his English History plays, Shakespeare inserted the story of a people’s insurrection, the 1450 Jack Cade Rebellion. He dramatically showed the mob takeover of London and Cade’s proclaiming himself the mayor. Though he had promised no looting and that his army of the common people would act in accordance with the law, he and his followers broke this pledge, committing enough egregious acts to cause the people of London to turn against them, after being exhorted to do so by one of the king’s military commanders.

England 1450 Lord High Treasurer of King Henry VI brought before Jack Cade for a sham trial. After it he was beheaded.

World-acclaimed Harvard Shakespeare scholar, Stephen Greenblatt, wrote his book Tyrant after the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, whose name he did not mention, but who was clearly on his mind. In the book, Greenblatt discussed Shakespeare’s focus on the Jack Cade Rebellion in detail.

I had originally come to know of Greenblatt during a trip to my local library. I had plucked from a shelf his book about Shakespeare’s life.

Will in the World illuminated Will and his time, Elizabethan England, through a variety of fact-framed windows. The window that bathed me with its light was the section where the author discussed every clue regarding where the bard-to-be might have been during ten years missing from history about his young life, between the age of 15-years-old when he no longer attended the Kings School of Stratford-Upon-Avon and the age of 24-years-old when he first arrived in London. My brain came alive, framing scaffoldings-of-thoughts built upon slippery-stepping-stones, the clues Greenblatt laid out. I began to create sketch drawings about, and write about, what I was envisioning. More on that in a moment.

The info on Amazon about Tyrant states its case well and bears sharing. “World-renowned Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt explores the playwright’s insight into bad (and often mad) rulers…Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the disasters visited upon the societies over which these characters rule.”

Since reading Will in the World, I have conducted over a decade of research into the subject matter and have written a novel, within which 15-year-old Will is the protagonist, a spy, an intelligencer on her majesty Queen Elizabeth’s secret service. I have also written a season of television episodes for the Intelligencers series. I am currently engaged in finding an agent, publisher, other producers, and television distributor to move the Intelligencers book and series forward. Email Goddesses if you or someone you know is interested in reviewing Intelligencers for one of these purposes.

Why did Shakespeare grapple his entire career with what Greenblatt calls a deeply unsettling question, that being, “How is it possible for a whole country to fall into the hands of a tyrant?”

Intelligencers provides a fun, sometimes thrilling answer through historical fiction.

The antagonists who Will and other teen agent protagonists encounter in Intelligencers act tyrannically, from Will’s local sheriff to the King of Spain.

Put succinctly, the novel and series are about teen Shakespeare and his team members, Chris Marlowe, and Anne Hathaway, on missions for Queen Elizabeth, confronting tyrants.