The Hatch and Brood of Time is a weekly column on the place of William Shakespeare in history, his works, and their interpretations. Along with providing insight into the cultures of Elizabethan and Jacobean England, Shakespeare’s works have inspired innovation throughout four centuries and countless fields, from the shaping of modern cryptography to the naming of Uranus’s moons. The Hatch and Brood of Time examines ways in which Shakespeare’s life and writings have influenced and reflected history, revealing his multifaceted impact on the present day.

Volume 5: October 25, 2020                                           The Weird Sisters' Beards                   By London Johns

“What are these,/So withered, and so wild in their attire,/That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ Earth/And yet are on ’t? . . . You should be women,/And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/That you are so.” (Macbeth 17) This is how Banquo introduced the three Weird Sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The Witches were disturbing, otherworldly, and wild figures, but apart from their strangeness, Shakespeare did not describe their physical appearances in detail. However, they had one particularly curious feature: their beards. The Witches, who in every other way looked like women, had beards. In Early Modern England, beards on men indicated power and status, but beards on women were deemed unusual and disturbing. In literature, women’s beards were still sometimes seen as signs of power, and bearded women powerful figures; however, their power was supernatural rather than economic or political, and for the most part existed only in fiction.

In order to examine the cultural place of women’s beards, it is necessary to first describe the place of men’s beards. Will Fisher’s “The Renaissance Beard: Masculinity in Early Modern England” pointed out the prevalence of bearded men in Elizabethan and Jacobean portraits: out of sixty portraits in an exhibition, fifty-five included some kind of facial hair. The frequency with which they appeared suggested that beards were fashionable, at least among the elite. This trend was reflected in literature; according to Fisher, all but four of Shakespeare’s plays explicitly mentioned beards. The others, “Richard III, Henry IV, Titus Andronicus, and Pericles,” may have required bearded actors or prosthetic beards (Fisher 159). Several books were written specifically on the significance of beards. According to Thomas Hall’s The Loathsomeness of Long Hair, “A decent growth of the Beard is a signe of Manhood, and given by God to distinguish the Male from the Female sex, this is a badge of Virility, [long hair] of Vanity” (Hall 48). According to Hall, the beard was not only a symbol of status, but a sign of masculinity granted by God. John Valerian’s 1533 work on beards claimed that beards set the “vigorous strength” of men apart from the “tenderness of women” (qtd. in Fisher 167). It is fitting, therefore, that young, beardless theater apprentices were tasked with playing women onstage -- a role that they may have resented, as Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream insisted that he should not play a woman because he “has a beard coming” (27). Beards functioned as a status symbol in other occupations as well. As Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It, different stages of life wore different kinds of beards. The soldier was “bearded like the pard” and the justice had a “beard of formal cut” (As You Like It 83).  These vague archetypes should not be considered evidence of the appearance of any particular people, but they do establish that archetypes existed for different kinds of work, and that beards set one archetype apart from the other.

Barbara Urslerin as depicted in The Book of Wonderful Characters, 1869; likely a copy of a 1658 etching by Gaywood (Wilson 387).)

One of the most well-known bearded women from this time was Barbara Urslerin, a German woman married to a man called Michael Vanbeck, who according to a description of her life written in 1869, only married her to “carry her about for a show” (Wilson 386). The passivity of this phrase suggested that Urslerin was treated like an object or an animal, and that she had no real power over her own fate. This was confirmed by most of Wilson’s brief account of her life: he described her as “a remarkable monstrosity,” a “frightful creature,” and “a monkey” (386). The only note that revealed anything about Urslerin’s personality was the fact that she played the organ and the harpsichord. According to an audience member’s diary, Urlerin had travelled as part of a show since childhood, first with her parents and then with her husband; at some point, she had a child with Vanbeck (qtd. in Johnston 6). Other bearded women were able to form lives and families without being shipped around Europe. Magdalena Ventura was the subject of a 1631 portrait by Jusepe de Ribera. When she grew a beard at 37, she was already married with three children; she was 52 when the portrait was made, and no indication has been found that her life changed significantly after the painting was finished. Behind Ventura in the painting, Ribera wrote that she was “a great wonder of nature” and that her beard “seems more like that of any bearded master than that of a woman who has borne three sons” (Johnston 7-8). This phrase fits alongside Shakespeare’s descriptions of the beards belonging to different stages of life: a “bearded master”, bearded soldier, and bearded justice. It also demonstrates the same sense of curiosity that Urslerin’s audiences felt, though Ventura was not subjected to the same constant examination.

It was possible for some bearded women to live normal lives. However, even they attracted much attention. The last known mention of Barbara Urslerin during her lifetime was in a 1668 book claiming that she was the offspring of a human and an ape (Bondeson 4), and the summary of a conference published in 1664 included a debate about whether she could be considered a “monster”. The argument presented in her defense seemed to be that her beard was the her parents’ faults instead of Urslerin’s; it was caused by “internal heat” that manifested as excess hair and the “Imagination of the Mother,” whom the unnamed speaker in the conference blamed for “having too wistly consider’d the Image of Saint John Baptist clothed in Camel’s hair” (Renaudot et. al. 64). The argument for considering Urslerin a monster was that her hair existed against the “Intention” of “Universal Nature” (64) -- a similar explanation to that used by Thomas Hall when he wrote that the beard was given by God to men and not to women. For men, beards were natural; for women they were unnatural, which meant that those that grew them were monsters. If beards were gifted by nature, it followed that if a woman were to have a beard, it was a sign that the woman was unnatural or ungodly -- or even that the woman was a witch.

Henry Fuseli’s 1793 painting, Macbeth Consulting the Vision of the Armed Head, depicts the Weird Sisters as bearded, genderless figures. (Blake, 2017))

The best examples of bearded women as witches were Macbeth’s three Witches. The Witches’ beards were mentioned only once, but their implications were scattered throughout the play. The Witches’ age was hinted at several times. When Banquo and Macbeth first saw them, Banquo remarked that the Witches were “withered”; later, Hecate described them as “beldams” (Macbeth 17, 111). Their age suggests that their beards may have been caused by low estrogen levels due to menopause. If so, neither the Witches nor Lady Macbeth could have children. Lady Macbeth traded her ability to have children for mercilessness: “Come to my woman’s breasts/And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers” (Macbeth 33). Perhaps the Witches did the same, and their beards were a symbol of the power that they gained in sacrificing their humanity. In any case, both the Witches and Lady Macbeth were willing to be cruel to children to achieve their objective; Lady Macbeth famously declared that she would have “dashed the brains out” of her own baby rather than fail to follow through, and one of the Witches’ ingredients was “Finger of birth-strangled babe/Ditch-delivered by a drab” (Macbeth 43, 121). There were other bearded female characters -- and mentions of bearded women -- in literature from the time, but their beards often brought them mockery rather than power. In Act IV of The Merry Wives of Windsor, for example, Sir Hugh Evans called Falstaff (who was disguised as an old woman) a witch because he saw “a great peard under [her] muffler,” and he did not like “when a ‘oman has a great peard” (Merry Wives… 155). That was meant as ridicule, and not as an expression of fear like Banquo’s description of the Weird Sisters; Falstaff had already been beaten and chased offstage. As Johnston pointed out, the difference between Macbeth’s Witches and other bearded female characters -- and for that matter, most real bearded women of the time -- was that the Witches were neither forced to hide their beards nor exploited because of them.

For Renaissance men, beards were representations of station, authority, and masculinity. For women, they were symbols of supernatural power and strangeness. Men’s beards were thought to be granted by God; in the case of bearded witches, their beards were granted by a pact with demons. The irony of bearded women’s situations is that their beards, which set them apart as dangerous supernatural beings in Macbeth, allowed them to be mistreated and their existence questioned in the real world. Maybe this is what was so horrifying to Banquo and Macbeth about the Witches’ beards: the aspect of their appearance that should have made them into harmless curiosities instead gave them otherworldly power.

Works Cited

Blake, Erin. “Henry Fuseli: Macbeth Consulting the Vision of the Armed Head.” Folger Shakespeare Library, Folger Shakespeare Library, 27 July 2017,

Bondeson, Jan. The Two-Headed Boy, and Other Medical Marvels. Cornell University Press, 2000. Fisher, Will. “The Renaissance Beard: Masculinity in Early Modern England.” Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 54, no. 1, 2001, pp. 155–187. JSTOR, Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

Hall, Thomas. Comarum akosmia the loathsomnesse of long haire, or, A treatise wherein you have the question stated, many arguments against it produc'd, and the most materiall arguguments [sic] for it refell'd and answer'd : with the concurrent judgement of divines both old and new against it : with an appendix against painting, spots, naked breasts, &c. London: Printed by J.G. for Nathanael Webb and William Grantham, 1654. Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011, Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

Mark Albert Johnston. “Bearded Women in Early Modern England.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 47, no. 1, 2007, pp. 1–28. JSTOR, Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.

Renaudot, Théophraste et. al. A general collection of discourses of the virtuosi of France, upon questions of all sorts of philosophy, and other natural knowledg made in the assembly of the Beaux Esprits at Paris, by the most ingenious persons of that nation. London: Printed for Thomas Dring and John Starkey, 1664. Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011, Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare,

Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare,

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare,

Wilson, Henry. The Book of Wonderful Characters: Memoirs and Anecdotes of Remarkable and Eccentric Persons in All Ages and Countries. London: J. C. Hotten, 1869.

Volume 4: October 19, 2020                                           The Baconian Cipher in Shakespeare and the Military                       By London Johns

In the early 20th century, in a recently-built laboratory in Geneva, Illinois, a team of researchers were working to identify and interpret ciphers in the works of Renaissance authors. At the head of this team was Elizabeth Wells Gallup, author of several books on Francis Bacon’s ciphers and proponent of the Baconian theory of Shakespeare authorship, which held that Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s works. Gallup was convinced that the 1623 Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays contained a code proving that Bacon wrote not only Shakespeare’s works, but the works of many other Renaissance authors as well. Though Shakespeare scholars now believe that Shakespeare wrote his own plays, Gallup’s work proved invaluable in an unexpected way: it indirectly inspired the transformation of military cryptography during the Second World War.

In The Bi-literal Cypher of Sir Francis Bacon (1901), Gallup claimed that she had discovered a cipher within Shakespeare’s works that translated each letter of the alphabet into a sequence of two values. The key to this cipher was represented in Bacon’s Of the Advancement and Proficience of Learning… using the letters A and B: “A” was translated into “aaaaa”, “B” into “aaaab”, “C” into “aaaba”, and so on (Bacon 171). Because this cipher needed only two values, it could be used to secretly communicate information in countless forms, from an image depicting two kinds of objects to a block of text using two different fonts. Bacon referred to this cipher as “the highest degree of Cypher, which is to signifie omnia per omnia” (170), or, to signify anything with anything. Gallup seemed to take the phrase “omnia per omnia” to heart, as she began to notice the cipher in works claimed by “Spenser, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Greene, Peele and Robert Burton” (22), as well as several plays by Ben Jonson. She identified the cipher as an attempt by Bacon to reveal the true author of the works in some future time, as well as to bring to light the circumstances of his birth and his supposed relation to Queen Elizabeth I.
The key and description of Francis Bacon’s biliteral cipher from the 1674 edition of Of the Advancement and Proficience of Learning… (171).

Gallup used the biliteral cipher to explain the presence of more than one italic font in Shakespeare’s First Folio, a feature common in Renaissance texts but still a popular talking point among anti-Stratfordians who believed that his plays contained hidden messages (Friedman 190). She asserted that Bacon’s cipher was written into the texts in the form of two different italic fonts, representing “a” and “b” in the cipher’s key. Gallup interpreted these codes as telling the story of Francis Bacon, who was supposedly the son of Queen Elizabeth I and kept from inheriting the throne by the downfall of his brother Robert, Earl of Essex (38). Bacon’s life story, told throughout various works, is interspersed with passages explicitly stating his own authorship:

“See or read. In th’ stage-plaies, two, the oldest or earliest devices prove these twentie plays to have been put upon our stage by the actor that is suppos’d to sell dramas of value, yet ‘tis rightlie mine owne labor.” (Gallup 15)

This particular confession was decoded from the J. Roberts 1600 editions of Sir John Old-Castle and The Merchant of Venice. Ironically, “J. Roberts” was a fake name, and while the play Sir John Old-Castle was published anonymously in 1600, it was not misattributed to Shakespeare until another edition was published in 1619 (Kirwan, 2020). If Francis Bacon did write those works under a false identity, he must have created several layers of misdirection. According to Gallup, Bacon directed the decoder of his cipher through the plays with “each subtile signe, that silentlie like fingers, shewes your waye” (Gallup 167). But, as written in a review of Gallup’s book from the Francis Bacon Society, “our friend Francis would not make things too easy” (qtd. in Gallup 75). Though Gallup was never particularly forthcoming about her process of telling apart the “a” from the “b” fonts, she described a toilsome procedure that involved not only the ability to recognize “minute differences” in the appearance of ink on the page, but also a vague sense of “inspiration” (qtd. in Friedman 198).

The prologue to Troilus and Cressida, the first page deciphered by Elizabeth Wells Gallup (Friedman 190, Shakespeare 587)
A page from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2, with notes by another scholar seeking a Baconian cipher in the text (Friedman 48).)

It is generally understood that Shakespeare was the true author of his own works. The lack of records from his “lost years” was likely due to a natural pause in the documentation of his life, and Gallup’s work amounted to nothing more than a lifetime’s obsession with a theory inspired by her own desire to see certain works as written by someone -- in her own words -- “greater than” Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, and other writers of their time (3). But Gallup’s work would have unintended consequences beyond the study of Shakespeare. Fifteen years after Gallup published her first book, two of her assistants in the study of cryptography at Riverbank Laboratories grew doubtful of her methods. Their names were William and Elizebeth Friedman, and they revealed their misgivings in The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined (1957). They wrote that Riverbank assigned William Friedman to magnify the letters belonging to “a” and “b” type fonts, and the differences were often due to “ink-spread” (ink bleeding into the paper around the letter), “imperfections in the surface of the paper, or to damaged type” (Friedman 209), rather than to actual changes in font. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Friedman was part of a team of students who identified the “a” and “b” letters with the naked eye, attempted to interpret the cipher, and then gave them to Gallup to interpret a second time. While Gallup seemed to routinely decode coherent messages, Friedman and her peers found nothing:

“I can state categorically  that neither I nor any other one of the industrious research workers at Riverbank ever succeeded in extracting a single long sentence of a hidden message; nor did one of us so much as reproduce, independently, a single complete sentence which Mrs. Gallup had already deciphered and published.” (Friedman 211)

Gallup attributed this discrepancy to the students failing to notice tiny marks near certain letters, but the Friedmans gradually lost faith in her theory, and by 1918 they had stopped working at Riverbank Laboratories.

The photograph that hung in William Friedman’s home study. Elizebeth Friedman is seated in the middle, William Friedman to the right (Friedman, 1918).)

While at Riverbank, William Friedman began teaching cryptography courses to World War I soldiers. He and Elizebeth Friedman continued to contribute to military cryptography through the Second World War, and became increasingly essential to the United States army. William Friedman introduced scientific and mathematical principles to cryptography that would act as “the foundation for modern codebreaking,” and both he and Elizebeth worked to break codes sent by Nazi Enigma machines (“Marshall Legacy”). The Friedmans remained inspired by Renaissance ciphers, as demonstrated by a photograph that William Friedman kept on both his desk and the wall of his home study throughout the entirety of his career. The photograph depicted a group of military officers trained by Friedman at Riverbank. Some officers looked towards the camera, while others looked away; if the officers looking towards the camera represented “a” and those looking away represented “b”, the photograph spelled out “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER” in a Baconian cipher (“Decoding the Renaissance...”). (Lacking the 80 officers required to finish the phrase, it actually only succeeded in spelling “KNOWLEDGE IS POWE”.) This photograph likely served as a constant reminder of the Friedmans’ early interest in Francis Bacon, and in a phrase which Friedman often quoted: “omnia per omnia” (“Decoding the Renaissance...”).

What Elizabeth Wells Gallup provided in attempting to decode works of Renaissance literature was a convenient story, and perhaps a compelling one. She painted a picture of a genius betrayed by fate, attempting to share the woes of what she called his “outraged soul” and “his inmost heart” through a combination of codes and false identities (Gallup 24). However, her work, as dedicated to it as she surely was, had little to offer Shakespeare scholars, and much more to offer the Friedmans. It is impossible to know what William and Elizebeth Friedman could have achieved without their passion for Renaissance ciphers, or the extent to which their time working with Gallup at Riverbank Laboratories formed that passion. But the image that inspired William Friedman, the one that he carried with him for the rest of his life, was of the Baconian cipher he studied at Riverbank -- and that, at least, was the result of Elizabeth Wells Gallup’s investigations.  

Hidden somewhere in this article is the title of one of Shakespeare’s plays, written in the Baconian cipher.

Works Cited

Bacon, Francis. Of the Advancement and Proficience of Learning: or, The Partitions of Sciences, Nine Books. Translated by Gilbert Watts, London: T. Williams, 1674. Internet Archive. Web. 18 Nov. 2020.

“Decoding the Renaissance Exhibition Material.” Folgerpedia, Folger Shakespeare Library, 15 July 2015,

Friedman, William F, and Elizebeth S Friedman. The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined. Cambridge University Press, 1957. Marshall Foundation. Web. 18 Nov. 2020.

Friedman, William. “Knowledge Is Power.” 1918. The Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare Library,

Gallup, Elizabeth Wells. Concerning the Bi-Literal Cypher of Francis Bacon Discovered in His Works. Detroit, Mich., Howard Publishing Co.; London, Gay & Bird, 1910.

Gallup, Elizabeth Wells. The Bi-Literal Cypher of Sir Francis Bacon. Gay & Bird, 1901. Internet Archive. Web. 18 Nov. 2020.

Kirwan, Peter. “ The First Part of the True and Honorable Historie, of the Life of Sir Iohn Old-Castle, the Good Lord Cobham.” Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library, 25 Jan. 2020,

“Marshall Legacy Series: Codebreaking.” George C. Marshall Foundation, VMI,

Shakespeare, William. Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies, Published According to the True Originall Copies. London, Printed by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount, 1623. London: William Jaggard, Edward Blount, L. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley.,1623. Internet Shakespeare Editions. Web. 18 Nov. 2020.


Volume 3: October 12, 2020                   Examining the Wooden O                                         By London Johns

The prologue of William Shakespeare’s Henry V questioned how a single theater could contain stories from around the world. “May we cram/Within this wooden O the very casques/That did affright the air at Agincourt?” (Henry V 7) The “wooden O” to which the chorus referred was probably the newly-built Globe Theater, the London theater where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. Henry V was possibly the first play performed at the Globe, and if so, this prologue would have been the theater’s introduction. But what kind of building was the chorus introducing? Though a single, uniform image of the Globe Theater has emerged over centuries, it is impossible to know exactly what the interior of the theater looked like. One may form a very minimal idea of the features of Shakespeare’s stage from his plays, but most of the modern idea of the Globe’s appearance is built from details pieced together from records of other Elizabethan theaters, rather than from the Globe itself.

The plays themselves reveal some information about Shakespeare’s theater space through stage directions. Several plays written after the construction of the Globe Theater mention the existence of at least two doors for entrances and exits. For example, this note in Measure for Measure confirms that there must be more than one door: “Enter Duke, Varrius … Officers, and Citizens at several doors” (Shakespeare, Measure for Measure 173). The Globe must have had groundlings, or audience members who stood in a crowd on the ground floor of the theater, as they are cheekily mentioned in Hamlet: “O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious, periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings” (Shakespeare, Hamlet 137). The Chorus in Henry V asks if the theater’s “cockpit [could] hold/The vasty fields of France” (Shakespeare, Henry V 7), so the groundlings must have stood in the “cockpit” of the theater, or the space surrounding the stage on the first floor. A “window above” is mentioned in a few plays; in Henry VIII, Henry VIII and Doctor Butts enter “at a window above” (Shakespeare, Henry VIII 207). However, Elizabethan theaters may not have contained a permanent window, and may have instead used fake windows only for those plays that required them (qtd. in Thomson 226). In any case, these stage directions are vague enough to be of little use in piecing together the actual appearance of the theater. While the Globe certainly had several doors and a stage that protruded into a central open area, there is no mention in the plays of the placement of the doors or style of the theater itself.

Copy of the De Witt sketch of the Swan Playhouse. Van Buchel et al., 1596
Reconstruction of the Globe Theater, Sherlock, 2020.

Elizabethan maps and images provide valuable information about typical characteristics of theaters of the time, if not about the Globe theater itself. Perhaps the most famous of these is a copy of a 1596 drawing of another London theater, the Swan, which was built only four years before the Globe (Goff, 2004). It is the only surviving Elizabethan drawing of the interior of a playhouse, and as such has been used heavily as a source for modern reconstructions of the Globe, despite its lack of detail and probable inaccuracy. Given its ability to uphold Shakespeare’s stage directions and similarity to what is known about the Globe, it is a particularly tempting model. The exterior appearance of the Globe is more definitive. It appeared in various panoramic images of London between the construction of the first Globe in 1599 and the destruction of the second Globe in 1644, and all but one depicted it as an octagon (the final panorama showed the Globe as a circle) (Adams 1). It certainly had three floors and no roof; its open ceiling is confirmed by Historia Histrionica, a 1699 book on 17th century English theatre:

“The ‘Globe’, ‘Fortune’, and ‘Bull’ were large houses, and lay partly open to the weather: and there they always acted by daylight.” (qtd. in Chambers 372)

Though this mention of the Globe also offers no specific information about its interior appearance, it does name two other theaters that were likely built in a similar way to the Globe, particularly the Fortune Playhouse.

The Globe Theater as drawn by Claes Visscher in his panorama of London in 1616 (Visscher, 1616).

The Fortune playhouse was built by the same carpenter as the Globe theater, soon after the Globe itself opened (Orrell 15). Though the Globe’s building contract has not been found, the Fortune’s survived. It described the Fortune’s dimensions, materials, and rooms. Most importantly, it noted that the theater should be “effected finished and doen accordinge to the manner and fashion of the saide howse Called the Globe” (Street et al. 2). According to the contract, the Globe was smaller than the Fortune and had “convenient windows and lightes glazed to the… Tyreinge howse” (Street et al. 2), or the backstage area used as a dressing room. The contract described a thrust stage extending to the center of the playhouse, a cover over the stage but an open ceiling over the yard, and tiled staircases. The contract also specified the ways in which the Fortune theater differed from the Globe. The carpenter Peeter Streete was asked not to paint the stage or its frame (Street et al. 3). From this one can gather that the Globe’s stage must have been painted. However, despite these details, most of the references to the Globe theater in the building contract of the Fortune said simply that the Fortune should be built -- in some unspecified way -- along the guidelines of the Globe’s construction, rather than elaborating on how the Globe itself was built, or which aspects of the Fortune should be similar.

An engraving of a stage in Robert Fludd’s Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet…, possibly that of the Globe Theater.

A third and rather more obscure source of information about the appearance of the Globe Theater was outlined in Francis A. Yates’s Theatre of the World. Robert Fludd, a British philosopher and physician, described in his 1617 text Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet… his method of memorization involving assigning words to aspects of a stage, inspired by the classical concept of memorizing words by applying them to parts of imagined places. One of the engravings in Fludd’s work displayed a stage with five doors, three on the first level and two on the second. One is meant to use the five doors to memorize five words; one does this by imagining that Medea the sorceress is performing five actions, one to represent each word, while standing in front of each of the stage doors (Yates 145). Yates argued that the stage shown in this engraving was that of the second Globe Theater. Fludd’s technique required that the theater used for memorization must be a real building rather than an imagined one, and thus Yates argued that the theater in the engraving must have been an existing Elizabethan theater, or at least a slightly altered version with the same placement of doors upon the stage (147). Yates believed that this theater must have been round and held “strong astral and cosmic associations” to suit Fludd’s astral system of memorization, and that the Globe had a unique association with the stars (159). Perhaps the strongest evidence of the connection between this image and the Globe is the title “Theatrum Orbi” on the back wall, or “theater of the world”/“Globe Theater” (159). Not only is the Fludd engraving much more detailed than the Swan Theater sketch, but also strikingly different in appearance, from the number of doors to the presence of a bay window. If the Fludd engraving did in fact portray the Globe’s stage, it would be the only surviving depiction of its interior, and would thus be essential in building a more accurate image of what the Globe actually looked like.

It is possible, though unlikely, that this engraving does show the placement of doors and windows in the Globe theater. Yates’s argument relies on several shaky conclusions: that Fludd’s illustrations depicted real theaters, that the Globe’s association with the cosmos drew Fludd’s attention, and that there is substantial enough detail to name a specific theater from an illustration of a stage purposefully altered and simplified to act as a memory device. It would take much luck for these assertions to be true, and for the image to indeed be an accurate likeness of the stage. However, though the engraving likely does not depict the Globe, it does provide a valuable illustration of the structure of Elizabethan stages as a whole. In fact, so do each of the sources used to construct modern reconstructions of the Globe’s appearance, whether related or unrelated to the theater itself. Given how little it is possible to know about the Globe, no reconstruction could possibly match the original interior. Instead, the few surviving depictions of Elizabethan theaters have resulted in a modern idea of the Globe as a fusion of many Elizabethan playhouses, from the Swan to the Fortune. In other words, the Globe has expanded beyond itself to become the theater of Elizabethan London, if not the “theater of the world.”

Works Cited

Adams, John Cranford. The Globe Playhouse: Its Design and Equipment. Barnes & Noble, 1964.

Fludd, Robert. “A Memory Theater.” 1617. Memory: Remembering the Reformation, University of Cambridge, 2020,

Goff, Moira. Playhouses - Shakespeare in Quarto, The British Library, 9 Sept. 2004,

Orrell, John. "The Architecture of the Fortune Playhouse." Shakespeare Survey. Ed. Stanley Wells. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994. 15-28. Print. Shakespeare Survey.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, P. 137.

Shakespeare, William. Henry V. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, P. 87.

Shakespeare, William. Henry VIII. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, P. 207.

Shakespeare, William. Measure for Measure. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, P. 173.

Sherlock, Clive. “Freelance Task Force Shakespeare's Globe.” Shakespeare's Globe, The Shakespeare Globe Trust, 21 May 2020,

Street, Peter, and Philip Henslowe. “The Contract for the Fortune Playhouse.” 8 Jan. 1660. The Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project.

Thomson, Leslie. “Window Scenes in Renaissance Plays: A Survey and Some Conclusions.” Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England, vol. 5, 1991, pp. 225–243. JSTOR, Accessed 13 Oct. 2020.

Van Buchel, Aernout, and Johannes De Witt. “ Aernout Van Buchel's Copy of Johannes De Witt's Drawing of the Swan Playhouse.” British Library, British Library, 1596,

Visscher, C.J. “Londinum Florentissima Britanniae Urbs; Toto Orbe Celeberrimum Emporiumque.” British Library, British Library, 1616,

Yates, Frances A. Theatre of the World. University of Chicago Press, 1969.

Volume 2: September 28, 2020                   Shakespeare in the Restoration                                         By London Johns

In 1660, King Charles II returned from France, reestablishing the Stuart monarchy in England and bringing with him a wave of new ideas and practices with the beginning of the Restoration. Along with reopening the theaters that closed after the English Civil War, this era introduced the first professional actresses to the English stage. From the very first play to include a female actress, Thomas Killigrew’s Vere Street Theatre production of Othello in 1660, Shakespeare’s works provided opportunities for women to take up the new position of professional actress. In return, Restoration audiences’ obsession with actresses’ sexuality resulted in new and increasingly indecent adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays.

The first English actresses came to the stage in 1660, the year of the restoration of the monarchy. Charles II had several reasons to permit women to perform. First, Restoration audiences were concerned about inappropriate content in plays, and assumed that the inclusion of women in drama would force its content to become more tame. In Charles’s letter granting two theaters the right to employ female actresses in 1662, he wrote that “passages offensive to piety and good manners” should not be performed, and that women could act onstage only as long as their plays portrayed “useful and instructive representations of humane life” (qtd. in Dodsley clxxv). Second, Charles was likely inspired by actresses he encountered while in exile in France. Unlike English actresses, there are records of professional French actresses dating back to the early 17th century. Thomas Jordan’s 1660 “Prologue to introduce the first Woman that came to Act on the Stage…” asked why England must “count that a crime France calls an honour?/In other Kingdoms Husbands safely trust 'm,/The difference lies onely in the custom” (22). Jordan’s primary concern seemed to be introducing actresses to scandalized audiences, and French theatre acted as useful precedent. Lastly, Charles wrote that some audiences had “taken offence” at women’s parts being “acted by men in the habits of women” (qtd. in Dodsley clxxv); this suggests a fear that male actors playing women were portraying homosexuality onstage.

A 1672 portrait of Margaret Hughes, possibly the first English professional actress

The first known professional English actress played Desdemona in the Vere Street Theatre’s production of Othello in 1660. Her name is not known for certain, though there have been several candidates; until recently, the leading theory of her identity was successful actress Margaret Hughes, though it now seems more plausible that it was instead Ann Marshall, who according to John Downes’s Roscius Anglicanus was a member of Thomas Killigrew’s company at the time (48). These new English actresses became the subjects of much public attention, quickly rising to a level of stardom not experienced by most actors in the Elizabethan or Jacobean eras. Male audiences were particularly fixated on their sexuality. Actresses were commonly linked to prostitutes, and theaters to brothels. Robert Gould complained in his Satyr on Players that an actress would “prostitute with any,/Rather than wave the getting of a penny” (181). If an actress was thought of as particularly chaste, her sexuality would be equally examined; Mrs. Bracegirdle, an actress described (perhaps ironically) as the “celebrated virgin,” is described in A Comparison Between the Two Stages (qtd. in Highfill) as “a haughty conceited Woman, that has got more Money by dissembling her Lewdness, than others by professing it” (Highfill 278). The actions of actresses were inconsequential; whether they conformed to or resisted the expectations placed on them by their audiences, they remained constantly criticized for their appearances and personal lives as much as their performances.

An illustration of Desdemona and Othello in The first illustrated works of Shakespeare demonstrates the presence of actresses in Shakespeare plays.

The hypersexualization of professional actresses during the Restoration twisted a potentially liberating development -- the ability of women to perform onstage -- into an opportunity to objectify and sexualize women’s bodies. The same happened to another aspect of 17th century theatre: “breeches roles”. Breeches roles were roles in which women wore male clothing. They were particularly common in the form of characters like Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, where a woman temporarily disguised herself as a man until her true identity was revealed at the end of the play (Howe 59). These roles not only required women to wear revealing clothing that would not be deemed acceptable in the rest of their lives, but also resulted in gratuitous scenes of nudity wherein an actress would bare her chest to prove her gender (Howe 59). One example of this kind of scene can be found in Aphra Behn’s 1696 play The Younger Brother, in which a woman dressing as a male page has her chest revealed not once, but twice in a single scene:

The Prince helding Olivia by the Bosom of her Coat, her Breast appears to Mirtilla.


Ha! what do I see?— Two Female rising Breasts. By Heav'n a Woman.— Oh fortunate Mischance.



Talk on, false Woman! till thou hast perswaded my Eyes and Ears out of their native Faculties, I scorn to credit other Evidences.


Try 'em once more, and then repent, and dye.

Opens Olivia's Bosom, shews her Breasts.


Ha— by Heav'n a Woman!” (Behn 48)

Scenes like this were incredibly common. In fact, breeches roles appeared in nearly a quarter of London’s plays between 1660 and 1700, and some pre-Restoration plays that did not originally have breeches roles were adapted to include them (Howe 57).

Many of the plays adapted to include breeches roles or female nudity were Shakespeare’s. Scenes centered around the bodies of female characters were originally unfeasible in Shakespeare’s plays. It would be difficult to convince an audience to believe, for instance, that the body of the young male apprentice playing Rosalind in an Elizabethan theater would be sufficient to convince Orlando of her identity. However, the introduction of women to the stage created the possibility of visible female bodies, and Restoration playwrights exploited that possibility to the fullest extent. They sometimes forced entirely new roles into plays that had no need for them, as was the case in John Crowne’s adaptation of Henry VI, Parts II and III (Howe 57). The added character, Lady Elianor, dresses as a male soldier and is killed by Edward:

“Enter Lady Elianor in mans habit [...] La. El. and Ed. Fight, La. El. falls.


VVhat bold young man is this?

Thou art dispatch'd, I wonder who thou art.

La. El.

Look on me well—see if thou dost not know me.


May I believe my eyes!” (Crowne 63)

The popularity of scenes including naked and cross-dressing women resulted in the addition of various forms of these scenes to Restoration plays and pre-Restoration adaptations alike.  One particularly distinctive aspect of this trend was the introduction of new rape scenes to Shakespeare’s plays.

Rape was a common theme in Restoration theater, enough that the term “she-tragedy” was coined to refer to the fashionable plays of this period about the downfall of defenseless women (Tumir 411). According to Elizabeth Howe, rape scenes were added in Restoration adaptations of both Coriolanus and King Lear (46). Thomas D’Urfey added a rape subplot to his adaptation of Cymbeline; Clarina, Eugina (Imogen)’s confidant, is accused of helping Eugina and is sentenced to be raped and hanged (Howe 46). Before she is sentenced, Clarina insists her own innocence:

“Oh do not fright me with the name of Death!

But look with pity, Madam, on my tears,

And see a wretched Virgin beg for Life:

So may your Raign be prosp'rous, so your Beauty

Still fresh and heavenly, as your mercy flows

In showers of tender pity on my youth.” (D’Urfey 33)

Clarina is portrayed as young, naive, and utterly powerless. This seems to draw in her tormentor, Iachimo, who mocks her by saying, “Weep soundly; it makes the flame of Love more/Vigorous” (Durfey 38). The addition of this scene adds little to the plot of the play, but utilizes several of the tropes used in scenes of sexual assault in plays of this era: a powerless woman, a predatory man, and, strangely enough, the presence of another close friend or family member in the scene. As Howe pointed out about a similar scene in a 1696 play, the rape subplot functions more as a “pornographic painting brought to life” than a functional part of the play. (46)

The initial reasons to allow women to act onstage in England were rooted in the desire to cleanse Restoration theatre of the perceived moral offenses of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. However, instead of causing playwrights to be cautious in the subject matter explored in their works, the introduction of the first actresses prompted a new cultural fixation with the very traits in theatre that the change was meant to eliminate in the first place: sexuality, prostitution, and cross-dressing. The new theatre culture provoked new kinds of adaptations of Shakespeare plays, drawing in audiences and public attention to his work. Though Restoration interpretations of Shakespeare’s works were perhaps not as faithful to his original plays as future interpretations, the attention that they brought to his work strengthened his reputation as a poet and extended his influence into the 18th century.

Works Cited

Behn, Aphra.  The younger brother, or, The amorous jilt a comedy : acted at the Theatre Royal by His Majesty's servants / written by the late ingenious Mrs. A. Behn ; with some account of her life. Printed for J. Harris ... and sold by R. Baldwin ..., 1696. Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011,, accessed 4 October 2020.

Crown, John. The misery of civil-war a tragedy, as it is acted at the Duke's theatre, by His Royal Highnesses servants / Mr. Crown. London: Printed for R. Bentley and M. Magnes, 1680. Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011,, accessed 4 October 2020.

Dodsley, Robert. A Select Collection of Old Plays. Vol. 1, S. Prowett, 1825.

Downes, John. Roscius Anglicanus: Or, An Historical Review of the Stage From 1660 to 1706. London: J.W. Jarvis & son, 1886.

D'Urfey, Thomas. The injured princess, or, The fatal vvager. London: Printed for R. Bentley and M. Magnes. Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011,, accessed 4 October 2020.

Gould, Robert.  Poems, chiefly consisting of satyrs and satyrical epistles by Robert Gould. London: Printed, and are to be sold by most booksellers in London and Westminster, 1689. Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011,, accessed 5 October 2020.

Highfill, Philip, et al. A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800. Vol. 1-2, SIU Press, 1973.

Howe, Elizabeth. The First English Actresses: Women and Drama, 1660-1700. Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Jordan, Thomas.  A royal arbor of loyal poesie consisting of poems and songs digested into triumph, elegy, satyr, love & drollery. Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011,, accessed 4 October 2020.

Lely, Peter. “Portrait of Margaret Hughes.” Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2020,

Shakespeare, William. The Works of Mr. William Shakespear; in Six Volumes. Adorn'd with Cuts. Revis'd and Corrected, with an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author. Edited by N. Rowe, 1709.

Tumir, Vaska. “She-Tragedy and Its Men: Conflict and Form in The Orphan and The Fair Penitent.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 30, no. 3, 1990, pp. 411–428. JSTOR, Accessed 5 Oct. 2020.

Volume I: September 28, 2020

Shakespeare’s Dogs

By London Johns

Mark Antony calls to “let slip the dogs of war”; Richard II curses “dogs easily won to fawn on any man”; Celia insists that Rosalind’s words are “too precious to be cast away upon curs.” The similarity between almost every mention of dogs in Shakespeare’s plays is their distaste for the creatures. When dogs are not mercilessly violent, they are lazy; when not skirting their jobs, they feign loyalty for their own benefit. Shakespeare seems to dwell on dogs’ worst traits, and there are enough scornful mentions in his plays that it is tempting to assume that Shakespeare himself disliked them. Shakespeare’s apparent distaste for dogs is deeply rooted in the way that working dogs were perceived in Elizabethan culture. Each rank of dogs in society, from kitchen dogs to nobles’ hunting dogs, is portrayed in Shakespeare’s plays in a different way, and the traits they represent are as varied as the breeds of dogs themselves.

The first kind of working dog that Shakespeare mentions in his plays is a “curtal” or “curtail” dog, or a dog whose tail has been docked. This phrase is mentioned briefly in Act II Scene I of The Merry Wives of Windsor: Pistol tells Ford that “hope is a curtal dog in some affairs” in response to Ford’s hope that Falstaff has not pursued his wife. This line likely refers to a kitchen dog rather than a hunting dog, as hunting dogs’ tails were needed for running and would not typically be docked. “Curtal” may carry the connotation of a common man’s rather than a nobleman’s animal; thus hope is not only a dog, but a particularly ordinary one. This cynical view of hope is solidified by Pistol’s reference to the myth of Actaeon, who was transformed into a stag by Artemis and torn apart by his own hounds.

A turnspit dog at work in a 19th-century Welsh kitchen.

Shakespeare also uses the phrase “curtal dog” in The Comedy of Errors. Dromio of Syracuse complains to Antipholus that Luce could have “transformed [him] to a curtal dog and made [him] turn i' th' wheel.” As a servant working in the kitchen, Luce would have been familiar with curtail dogs, and would likely have set several to work as turnspit dogs. Turnspits were small working dogs commonly found in kitchens beginning in the 16th century. Their role was to run in a suspended wheel connected to a spit, and their motion would keep the spit turning in order to cook meals over a fire. As Of Englishe Dogges, the earliest known  English work on dog breeds, described their role in 1576:

“There is comprehended, vnder the curres of the coursest kinde, a certaine dogge in kytchen seruice excellent. For whe any meate is to bee roasted they go into a wheele which they turning rounde about with the waight of their bodies, so diligently looke to their businesse, that no drudge nor skullion can doe the feate more cunningly.”

Of Englishe Dogges praises turnspit dogs for their abilities. However, these animals were not always described in such complimentary terms. Kitchen workers would often throw hot coals into the turnspit’s wheel to force them to continue moving or suffer painful burns, and though the dogs were able to work in shifts, each was made to run for several hours at a time. Grueling work and constant abuse resulted in turnspit dogs being known for their bad temper. John Cordy Jeaffreson, a 19th-century novelist, called them “distorted… and graceless,” hated by everyone in the kitchen and aggressive towards every creature, including other turnspit dogs:

“Of all living creatures, your true turnspit dog detested none more ferociously and implacably than his fellow turnspit. Abused by men of all degrees, and scorned by every other ‘dog of the house,’ a pair of turnspits were continually snarling at and fighting each other… and in their mutual rage they would sometimes fight to the death. Buffon tells the story of a turnspit dog that, on escaping from the wheel in the Duc de Lianfort’s kitchen in Paris, ran in upon his fellow turnspit and killed him, because the latter had, by skulking, compelled him to perform an additional spell of work.”

This is likely the image that Shakespeare intends to convey through Dromio’s complaint. Instead of the tireless worker recorded in Of English Dogges, Shakespeare sees Jeaffreson’s violent mutt; Dromio could be trapped by Luce’s affection in a torturous existence, and Pistol tries to convince Ford that hope is an unpredictable and paranoid animal.

Though more favorable mentions of dogs are rare in Shakespeare’s plays, they do exist. In The Taming of the Shrew, the Lord and a Huntsman engage in a conversation that makes it clear that they are familiar and affectionate with the Lord’s hunting dogs. The Lord commands the huntsman to take care of his hounds, and then praises them each by name:

“Brach Merriman, the poor cur is emboss’d;

And couple Clowder with the deep-mouth’d brach.

Saw’st thou not, boy, how Silver made it good

At the hedge-corner, in the coldest fault?

I would not lose the dog for twenty pound.”

Not only does the Lord know the names of all of his dogs, but he is able to identify their specific strengths and values them greatly. His dogs are, in fact, just as valuable to him as his servants; servants’ wages at that time were unlikely to break sixty pounds a year. This kind of respect for hunting dogs and for the sport of hunting was common in this period. George Turberville’s 1576 Booke of Hunting documents hunting practices of the time, and spends several pages on the identification of “good and fayre” hounds. As well as typical physical characteristics, Turberville recommends ensuring that the dog “feareth neither water nor colde,” with large nostrils that suggest “a dogge of perfect sent.” The book outlines the relationship between hunter and hunting dog and recommends ways for hunters to guide their dogs. It paints a picture of animal-human cooperation much deeper than the use of turnspit dogs.

A chief huntsman presenting Queen Elizabeth I with a knife to cut open a slayed deer, as was the custom according to the Booke of Hunting, 1576.

The veneration shown toward hunting dogs in Shakespeare’s plays could not be more different from the disdainful way in which Shakespeare writes about “curtal dogs” in The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Comedy of Errors. This disparity in the way that Shakespeare writes about dogs conveys a similar disparity in the Elizabethan view of different types of dogs. Turnspit dogs were worth very little; some hunting dogs achieved a rank close to human nobility. Their status is used as encouragement in Shakespeare’s Henry V:

“Let us swear

That you are worth your breeding, which I doubt not,

For there is none of you so mean and base

That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game's afoot.”

Henry’s soldiers endeavor to be as swift and determined as their dogs, who carry the same “noble lustre.” In Shakespeare’s plays, these animals are not only the nobility of dogs, but the physical embodiment of desirable traits -- haste, agility, strength, focus. As greyhounds embody certain ideal traits, turnspit dogs embody undesirable ones.

It is tempting to assume, from the wealth of derisive dog-related metaphors in Shakespeare’s plays, that he personally disliked them. However, to the extent that one can extrapolate any details of Shakespeare’s own opinions from his plays, one finds the opposite to be true. His curtail dogs are chaotic and violent, his greyhounds swift and precise; one can find no standard distaste for all dogs in his plays, rather a distaste for the traits that curtail dogs represent. Shakespeare’s dogs are as varied as the dogs that Macbeth described to the two murderers: “The valued file/Distinguishes the swift, the slow, the subtle,/The housekeeper, the hunter, every one/According to the gift which bounteous nature/Hath in him closed.”

Works Cited

Caius, John. Of Englishe Dogges. Translated by Abraham Fleming, A. Bradley, 1576. pp. 34-35

Harper, Charles. The Old Inns of Old England: A Picturesque Account of the Ancient and

Storied Hostelries of Our Own Country, Volume 1. Chapman & Hall, 1906. p. 49.

Jeaffreson, John. A Book About the Table. Internet Archive. Retrieved 26 September 2020. Pp. 251-252.

Nares, Robert. A Glossary: Or, Collection of Words, Phrases, Names and Allusions to Customs,

Proverbs, Etc. Which Have Been Thought to Require Illustration, in the Works of English

Authors. Cambridge University Press, 2011. p. 115.

Ovid. Metamorphoses. Translated by Arthur Golding. William Seres, 1567. P. 60.

Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger

Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, p. 35

Shakespeare, William. Henry V. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger

Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, P. 87.

Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger

Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, p. 113

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger

Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, P. 87.

Shakespeare, William. Richard II. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger

Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, p. 119

Shakespeare, William. The Comedy of Errors. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine,

Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, p. 81.

Shakespeare, William. The Merry Wives of Windsor. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul

Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, p. 53

Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine,

Folger Shakespeare Library, The Folger Shakespeare, p. 8.

Turberville, George. Booke of Hunting. Internet Archive. Retrieved 26 September 2020. p. 15.

Wigstead, Henry. Remarks on a Tour to North and South Wales: In the Year 1797.

Internet Archive. Retrieved 26 September 2020. p. 53.