The SHAKESPEARE TAROT

IV. TROPES

 

 All poets develop for themselves a highly defined language, a lexicon of ideas which resonate their world view, a personal mythopoeia. Most scholars, awed by the author's diffuse perspicacity and locked into the bogus notion he wrote for the public theater, overlook the ways Shakespeare, first and foremost a poet, fashioned an intimate and finely wrought system of semiotics. Some recurring themes impossible to miss have of course been singled out, including the falsehood of imposed gender identity, male mutability, jealousy, banishment, self-deception, inherent merit vs. external valuation, the inevitable hierarchical structure of the right universe, Art as an integral aspect and positive addition to Nature, and the triumph of Truth made manifest through a Neo-Platonic notion of Love. 

 Along side and in tandem with these tropes are poetic allegories larger in scope and more subterranean in execution. Ambiguous and protean, the ganglion of these allusions are by nature viscous, visceral, multifarious. A prime example involves the core relationship between Shakespeare's literary enterprise and the Virgin Queen's establishment of a British Empire. Elizabeth was publicly lauded as the return of Astraea, restoring justice from the clutches of Catholic Rome and returning the world to a cultural Golden Age through Imperial Divine Right. Mythological sanction underpinning her regency was the direct line of transmission from the goddess Athene's sacred city, Troy. Through possession of Pallas Athena's Palladium, Troy remained invincible; removed, Troy fell. The Palladium rested awhile at Carthage with Dido [Eliza] - also openly associated with Elizabeth - before being taken to Italy to establish Rome. Brutus then took the Palladium to Britain where with his wife Innogen he founded Troia Nova, New Troy, later London, and the imperial idea of Britain.

 

 Twinned with this myth is the invention of "William Shakespeare", from Pallas Athena's epithet "spear-shaker". Pallas wore a helmet; the -iam aspect of William is Old English for helm, meaning "helmet". The word will has multiple associations - a colloquial term for poet, a testis of inheritance, the libido; from the PIE root well, "to hope", and - when spoken by Doctor Caius - friendly cognate to "veal". The aegis Pallas carries is made from the hide of a Gorgon, whose teeth were bore tusks and whose look turned men to stone, from which "a hundred tassels of pure gold hang fluttering", in the words of Homer, "each the worth of a hundred oxen." Like Pericles, with his "In Hac Spe Vico" impresa, Shakespeare's jousting impressed his queen at her Accession Day tilts. The author's Bolbec coat of arms features a lion brandishing a broken lance. Dido and Pericles originate from Phoenicia, the birthplace of European language. Its capital Tyre was renown for the production of purple dye, unique in the world. Nearby, at the source of the river Leontes, stands the sacred site of Ba'albek, City of the Sun, with temples to Ba'al, Ashtart, and their son Adon. Ba'al literally means Lord and was used generally, even in the Hebrew Bible; Ba'al is associated with solar deities, hence Helios to the Greeks and the temple's Greek name, Heliopolis. Ba'al's consort Astarte parallels Venus. This is also the home of the Phoenix, as the name might suggest, as well as the land of the biblical Canaanites. The name of Ba'al and Astarte's son, Adonis, is a borrowing from the Canaanite word. The father of the Canaanites was the recipient of the Curse of Ham. In the Book of Genesis, Noah became drunk and his son Ham saw him naked. For this transgression, Ham's son Canaan and all his descendants were cursed. The exact nature of this transgression, whether euphemism for sexual relations or castration, is unclear; nonetheless, it stands as justification as to why Ham's descendants suffer in servitude while the descendants of his two brothers, Shem and Japheth, prosper. Ham and his descendants were black.

 

 Recalling Othello, one might also recall the strong suspicion concerning Queen Elizabeth's nickname for the author: The Turk. The Turkish empire of the 16th Century comprised a huge swath of territory, from Carthage and Egypt, through the Levant and Greece, to Ovid's place of exile, Tomis, on the Black Sea. At least 8 of Shakespeare's plays take place in the lands of the Turkish Empire, including Troilus & Cressida's Troy, locus originis of the Palladium. A "Turk" can be a beautiful youth or a rebel; the Irish word torc means boar. The Bosphoros, which divides Europe from the Middle East, is the Anglicization of the Greek for "ox-ford". The Turkish word for bull is ka, which, as it happens, is the printer's mark on the last page of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Ka is the Egyptian concept of spirit, the breath of life, often represented in Egyptian glyp as a monarch and his double. Thomas Nashe referred to the Earl of Oxford as "Will. Monox" and "Apis Lapis" - Apis is the sacred bull deity of Egypt which reincarnates as a swarm of bees; lapis is latin for "stone", suggesting castration (stone being slang for testis). At Ephesus, in modern day Turkey, where Pericles, Prince of Tyre and Comedy of Errors both end, in the temple of Diana, stands a statue to the virgin goddess. Her torso is adorned with sacrificial bull testicles, which symbolize the eggs of bees. Her devotees were known as bee-keepers. Her head-dress is a bee hive, symbolizing Diana, psychopomp of souls returning to the world in the form of bees, as Queen Bee. The sole adjective used with any frequency for Shakespeare is honeyed

Government, though high and low and lower,

Put into parts, doth keep in one consent,

Congreeing in a full and natural close,

Like music.

Therefore doth heaven divide

The state of man in diverse functions,

Setting endeavor in continual motion,

To which is fixèd as an aim or butt

Obedience; for so work the honeybees,

Creatures that by a rule in nature teach

The act of order to a peopled kingdom.

They have a king and officers of sorts,

Where some like magistrates correct at home,

Others like merchants venture trade abroad,

Others like soldiers armèd in their stings

Make boot upon the summer’s velvet buds,

Which pillage they with merry march bring home

To the tent royal of their emperor,

Who, busied in his majesty, surveys

The singing masons building roofs of gold,

The civil citizens kneading up the honey,

The poor mechanic porters crowding in

Their heavy burdens at his narrow gate,

The sad-eyed justice with his surly hum

Delivering o'er to executors pale

The lazy yawning drone. I this infer:

That many things, having full reference

To one consent, may work contrariously,

As many arrows loosèd several ways

Come to one mark, as many ways meet in one town,

As many fresh streams meet in one salt sea,

As many lines close in the dial’s center,

So may a thousand actions, once afoot,

End in one purpose, and be all well borne

Without defeat. Therefore to France, my liege!

Divide your happy England into four,

Whereof take you one quarter into France,

And you withal shall make all Gallia shake.

 To bee or not to bee is out of the question. Never the less, the well of tropes permeating Shakespeare's works are as myriad as the busy individual beings gathering pollen to make honey and fertilizing flora in the process; to reveal them all would be to impede their pollination and deprive of their discovery. In this sense is the tarot divinitory, showing what one has lost sight of. The catacombs of meaning and myth embedded within Shakespeare's oeuvre are mirrored in The Shakespeare Tarot, only to be conceived and freed from their cell by some happy begetter.