Biographische Bezüge: Warwickshire, Stratford

Shaksperes geliebtes Stratford kommt im Werk überhaupt nicht vor: Dabei investiert der erfolgreiche Geschäftsmann fast allen Profit in Stratford, kauft sich fünf Häuser dort (das Haus am Blackfriars, London, das er auch kauft, gibt er gleich wieder weiter), seit 1604 lebt er wohl vorwiegend in Stratford, und seinen Lebensabend verbringt er ganz dort – aber trotzdem widmet er seiner lieben Kleinstadt nicht eine einzige Szene, nicht eine einzige unmissverständliche Erwähnung. Was für eine Enttäuschung!

Gelegentlich weist ein Biograph oder Bardologe auf The Merry Wives of Windsor hin. Das sei doch ein Abbild von Stratford und seinen Bürgern, nicht wahr? – Gibt es eine Stelle in diesem Windsor, die erkennbar auf Stratford anspielt?

Der Autor Shakespeare ist an Stratford nicht interessiert, hat keinen oder kaum einen Bezug zu dieser Kleinstadt. Das ist der naheliegende Schluss.

Und zur Gegend von Stratford, Warwickhire?

Anklänge an den Dialekt von Warwickshire finden sich kaum – obwohl Shakespeare gern einmal Dialektfärbungen in die Sprache seiner Theaterfiguren mischt. (Darüber später einmal mehr.)

Einmal in den 40 Werken und auf den 4000 Seiten des Werks kommt es doch eindeutig zu etwas, das zu Warwickshire gehört: in The Taming of the Shrew. Da tritt am Anfang ein Christopher Sly auf – ein Tölpel und ein Säufer, der noch dazu herumstreunt … Und der wird uns als Warwickshire-Mann vorgestellt, nämlich inmitten von Orten, die in der Nähe von Stratford-upon-Avon liegen: Sein Vater stammt aus Burton-Heath (ist wohl Barton-Heath), wo auch Mary Ardens Schwester (Shaksperes Tante) lebt. Sly erwähnt auch Marian Hacket, „die fette Ale-Frau aus Wincot“ (ist wohl Wilmcote).

Dieser dumme, angeberische Sly wird zu Beginn der Komödie von einem Adeligen dazu gebracht, sich selbst für einen Adeligen zu halten … Blamage und Gelächter sind die Folge.

Was halten WIR davon? Was hätten die Bürger von Stratford davon gehalten, auf solche Weise repräsentiert zu werden, wenn sie denn angenommen hätten, ihr Shakspere hätte das Stratford verächtlich machende Theaterstück verbrochen?

Dabei kann sich Sly durchaus auf Shakspere beziehen – der sich ja auch selbst für einen gehalten hat, der eigentlich adelig ist. Schon in den 70er Jahren hat sein Vater den Versuch gemacht, dies offiziell anerkennen zu lassen.


Die hierher kopierte Argumentation von Lucinda Foulke werde ich noch bei Gelegenheit auf Deutsch zusammenfassen.

Why Is There no Stratford in Shakespeare?

Bate continues:

But there is still work to be done. I mean there are plays around the fringe of the canon that we don’t know to what extent they have a little bit of Shakespeare as well as someone else. . . So, I just want to leave you with, to remind you that, of the six hundred surviving plays from the period, the only ones to mention the counties of Warwickshire and Gloucestershire; of course Stratford is on the border of Gloucestershire, and if you read the scene in Justice Shallow’s orchard you have to know that’s written by a Cotswold man. . . . So, as much as I love the debate, I have no doubt that William of Stratford was the man.

Constrained as he was by the allotted time, Alexander Waugh was able to address only a few of Bate’s bogus arguments. He briefly rebutted Bate’s ‘Cotswold man’ argument. But, since Bate chose to ‘remind’ us in his summation about the importance of the “counties of Warwickshire and Gloucestershire”, it will be profitable to give those “counties” additional attention.

Shakespeare refers to “Gloucestershire” or “Gloucester” as a ‘place’ a total of 9 times.[31] Three of those occur in The Merry Wives of Windsor (MWW).[32] The other 6 ‘place’ references (all “Gloucestershire”) occur in R2, 1H4, and 2H4. Why is Gloucestershire mentioned in MWW?[33] Gloucestershire is not the setting of MWW. The setting is ‘Windsor’ (the Town of Windsor in Berkshire). Line 1.01 5 of MWW tells us that ‘Robert Shallow Esquire’ is ‘Justice of the Peace’ and ‘keeper of the records’ in ‘the county of Gloucester’.

Shallow is introduced at the very beginning of Act 1 and the playwright wastes no time in making it apparent that Justice Shallow (as his name suggests), is a ‘shallow’ self-important fool, fromGloucestershire.  Accompanying Shallow is his equally foolish sycophantic cousin, Abraham Slender (a man of ‘slender wit’), also from Gloucestershire. [34]

All three mentions of Gloucestershire in MWW are linked to the foolishness of these two characters and, since Shallow occupies a position of distinction in Gloucestershire, the implication is that Gloucestershire is characterized by foolishness. Shakspere was from the neighboring county of Warwickshire. The playwright, evidently, was poking fun at Gloucestershire. Does poking fun at Gloucestershire necessarily inform us that Shakspere was the author of MWW? Not necessarily. Bate makes a special point of ‘Gloucestershire’ again in his closing comments, wherein he says:

. . . and if you read the scene in Justice Shallow’s orchard you have to know that’s written by a Cotswold man.

He is now speaking of 2H4, Act 5, Scene 3. I have read it. I just went back and read it again. It seems reasonable to claim that Justice Shallow was a “Cotswold man”. But, it is not evident that the author was. Here is the opening of the scene:

Gloucestershire. Shallow’s orchard.
(Sir John Falstaff; Shallow; Silence; Davy; Bardolph; Page; Pistol)
Enter Sir John Falstaff, Shallow, Silence, Davy, Bardolph, Page.

Shallow: Nay, you shall see my orchard, where, in an arbor, we will eat a last year’s pippin of mine own graffing, with a dish of caraways, and so forth. Come, cousin Silence—and then to bed.

Sir John Falstaff: ’Fore God, you have here goodly dwelling and rich.

Shallow: Barren, barren, barren, beggars all, beggars all, Sir John! Marry, good air. Spread, Davy, spread, Davy. Well said, Davy.

The Cotswold region is made up “mainly of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire.”[35] In the map below the Cotswold’s region is outlined in red:

Examining the scene for language that might be unique to Cotswold, there is, for example, mention of “pippin”, “caraways”, and “leathercoats”.  A pippin is a common variety of apple. That they are “last year’s pippin”, tells us they were preserved.  ‘Leathercoats’ are another variety of apple. The word ‘caraways’ refers to the seeds of the caraway plant, often eaten with apples. From the context, we know that “graffing” refers to ‘grafting’. We understand, therefore, that Justice Shallow was a bit of a gardener himself. Later we find the word “leman”, which means ‘sweetheart’. Are these words, or anything mentioned in that scene, unique to Cotswold? Waugh disputed the claim of Shakespeare using words unique to the Warwickshire region and cited Rosalind Barber’s work on the subject.[36] To resolve the matter we would need more specifics from Bate and additional discussion. However, Bate would also need to show that an author from outside of Warwickshire could not have been aware of Warwickshire idioms and simple Warwickshire traditions and that the author didn’t throw those in to add ‘local color’, as Stratfordians claim he did with his references to locations in Italy.

As for Shakespeare’s mentions of ‘Warwickshire’, which Bate finds so important, alas, it almost pains me to point out that (according to the Harvard Concordance) the place Warwickshire is mentioned a grand total of 2 times in all of Shakespeare. It shows up once in 1H4 and once in 3H6, where again, it is relevant to the historical action. In any case, regarding ‘Warwickshire’ showing up exclusively in Shakespeare, one might say, ‘much ado about nothing!’

What baffles me is that Shakspere, being a ‘Cotswold man’ (according to Bate), didn’t find many more occasions to mention his beloved Stratford. Let’s see. How many times did Shakespeare mention Stratford? Searching carefully through the canon (again I use the Harvard Concordance to Shakespeare), the grand total is: zero times! How very strange! However, he mentions Verona 19 times, Padua 29 times, and Venice 46 times! Ergo, following the logic of Professor Bate, Shakespeare must have been a man from De Regio Veneto!

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