mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Shakespeare's Rebel

Finished Shakespeare's Rebel, and once again, thank god. Not enough Shakespeare, for one, and author over-identification for another. John Lawley the hero is introduced as an alcoholic waking from a month-long binge in a cheap hostelry full of fleas, thieves, rats and piss, to muse on his glory days with the Earl of Essex at the siege of Cadiz, which Essex won with Lawley's indispensable aid. As befits a Mary Sue, Lawley has been everywhere and known everyone in the late 16th century world: has the whole Widsith thing down pat, in fact:
With Franks I was
And Frisians and Frumtings; with the Rugs,
And with the Gloms, and with the Rumwealhs;
So was I with Albuin in Italy;
He of all men was readiest of hand
In shaping praise, most liberal of heart
In sharing rings, bright collars, Eadwin’s son...
In throwaway lines we learn that Lawley ran off at thirteen to be a player with Shakespeare, travelled round the world with Drake, kept Philip Sidney warm the night before the battle of Zutphen, fought against the Armada, was imprisoned by the Inquisition and hired as a spy, returned to England and revealed it all to Lord Burghley, for which he was imprisoned for several months while Burghley tried to figure out the rights and wrongs of the case. Oh, and Lawley's father was an Algonquin Indian or some such, and Burbage and Cecil are always asking him to get Shakespeare to write this or not write that because of course Shakespeare will only listen to one person.

In the end Essex knights him for his loyalty and gives him the motto 'semper fidelis'. It should have been 'On me you shouldn't depend', given Lawley's habit of saying 'I am with you to the end, my lord, I will follow you to Ireland/ the palace/ wherever' and then disappearing into Southwark and lying low until until Essex is safely out of the way. One can't blame him for wanting to be shut of Essex, who always manages to get him into trouble (see: Inquisition, above) but it irritated me that neither Lawley nor Essex seemed at all aware that the former's loyalty is a little unreliable. Nope, whenever Lawley pops up after an unexplained absence, Essex is delighted to see BFF again. Possibly he assumes that Lawley has been out drinking again, good ol', poor ol', Lawley.

But at least that's three down for the Shakespeare challenge.
Tags: reading_16, shakespeare, verse

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