William Shakespeare ( b. April 23, 1564 - d, April 23, 1616) was a English playwright, poet, and dramatist. Regarded as one of the greatest writers in history, Shakespeare's works are continuously performed today.
William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. He attended the King's New School in Stratford, which primarily taught Latin classics and literature. In 1582, William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, and had three children, Susanna, Hamnet, and Judith, in the following three years.
After the birth of his children, William Shakespeare began to act and write in London. He was part owner of the theatrical group, The Lord Chamberlain's Men, that performed his works. In 1599, The Lord Chamberlain's Men built the Globe Theater on the River Thames to accommodate the larger audiences that Shakespeare's work attracted. With the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, King James I granted Shakespeare's theatrical group a royal patent and was changed to The King's Men.
Though the following years, Shakespeare became well renowned for his comedies, tragedies, and romances. In 1613, at age 49, Shakespeare left London and returned to Stratford. He spent the remainder of his life writing plays in collaboration with John Fletcher, who became his playwright successor of The King's Men. Shakespeare passed away on April 23, 1616, and is buried in the Holy Trinity Church.
Many theories have arisen about the authorship of the Shakespeare plays, as scholars wondered how an actor who was not especially well-educated, well-traveled, or well-connected, could write works of such complexity and depth. A. P. Sinnett was among those who believed that Francis Bacon used the pseudonym "William Shakespeare" to publish the plays:
"A deeper truth than even he intended is involved in the words Lord Bacon used (playing a part himself, and disguised as Shakespeare) when he said, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."
I recall being present at one of these investigations when in some way Francis Bacon's work came to be examined. Knowing who Bacon is today, as one of the Adepts, Bishop Leadbeater felt that to investigate Bacon's affairs clairvoyantly was like a piece of impertinence. But he did note that Bacon wrote the plays that pass as Shakespeare's. However, what particularly drew my attention at the time was not that fact, which was fairly obvious to me upon the examination of the evidence, but rather something else which Bishop Leadbeater noted on higher planes. If Bacon is Shakespeare, and also if several other works passing under the names of other authors are also from Bacon' s brain, then, there must have been a terrific creative energy in Bacon at the time. Bishop Leadbeater said that, as he watched, it was as if some wonderful ray from a great creative centre on the inner planes had converged upon Bacon, so that he threw off one work after another in the way of plays, poems, philosophical theses, etc., without any particular effort. This little glimpse into the power of the creative consciousness behind everything was far more fascinating to me than the solution of the Bacon-Shakespeare problem.
Influence on H. P. BlavatskyH. P. Blavatsky held Shakespeare in highest regard. The Introduction of The Secret Doctrine begins with his words from Henry V, "Gently to hear, kindly to judge." She further states that "Shakespeare, was and will ever remain the intellectual "Sphinx" of the ages"
Blavatsky also makes numerous references to verses from Shakespeare's work in the Theosophical Magazine, Lucifer. In her article, "Genius" (Volume V, No. 27, November 1889), Blavatsky wrote:
Perchance, in their unsophisticated wisdom, the philosophers of old were nearer truth than are our modern wiseacres, when they endowed man with a tutelar deity, a Spirit whom they called genius. The substance of this entity, to say nothing of its essence—observe the distinction, reader,—and the presence of both manifests itself according to the organism of the person it informs. As Shakespeare says of the genius of great men—what we perceive of his substance “is not here”—“For what you see is but the smallest part And least proportion of humanity: I tell you, madam, were the whole frame here, It is of such a spacious lofty pitch, Your roof were not sufficient to contain it.”* This is precisely what the Esoteric philosophy teaches.
Shakespeare in the Mahatma Letters
As Shakespeare is also mentioned within the Mahatma letters. In one of his letters, Mahatma K. H. wrote, "My good friend — Shakespeare said truly that “our doubts are traitors.” Why should you doubt or create in your mind ever growing monsters?A little more knowledge in occult laws would have set your mind at rest long ago, avoided many a tear to your gentle lady and pang to yourself."
In another letter, Shakespeare is mentioned again within the context of the Shakespeare-Bacon mystery. K. H. uses the Shakespeare-Bacon mystery as an analogy to the Kiddle-K. H. controversy.
If fame is sweet to him why will he not be consoled with the thought that the case of the “Kiddle — K.H. parallel passages” has now become as much a cause célèbre in the department of “who is who,” and “which plagiarized from the other?” as the Bacon-Shakespeare mystery; that in intensity of scientific research if not of value, our case is on a par with that of our two great predecessors.
Understanding by C. Jinarājadāsa
But there is a different vision possible and every cultured man and woman knows something of it, for it is given to us by the great poets. For what makes a poet is a larger vision and especially is the larger vision of man a characteristic
of the great poets. The great poet stands apart from mankind; you find that Shakespeare, who looks at all men as if from a Mount Olympus, notes their foibles and foolishnesses, and yet smiles on them all. There is the spirit of the divine vision when he makes one of his characters say about another, " God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man." You will note that, wherever Shakespeare deals with a villain, he has no kind of antipathy to him, whether it is to Cassio or Iago; he makes his villain live his life and expound himself, for Shakespeare has no resentment of the evil in the villain. Even in the case of Falstaff, full of coarseness and trickery, Shakespeare sees the man as he is, and there is no condemnatory judgement. A poet observes men as they are; therefore we find in the poets a larger vision than that of which the ordinary man is capable.
Interpretations by William Q. Judge
The words of the immortal Shakespeare - "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones," receive a striking exemplification under this doctrine. For, as the evil thoughts and deeds are the more material and therefore more firmly impacted into the Astral Light, while the good, being spiritual, easily fade out, we are in effect at the mercy of the evil done. And the Adepts assert that Shakespeare was, unconsciously to himself, inspired by one of their own number.
Shakespeare was right in saying that life is a play, for the great life of the soul is a drama, and each new life and rebirth another act in which we assume another part and put on a new dress, but all through it we are the self-same person. So instead of its being unjust, it is perfect justice, and in no other manner could justice be preserved.
Division of Seven
Shakespeare also believed in the importance of seven in man and nature. H. P. Blavatsky recognizes that "It is not Shakespeare only who divided the ages of man into a series of seven, but Nature herself."
By what prophetic instinct Shakespeare pitched upon seven as the number which suited his fantastic classification of the ages of man, is a question with which we need not be much concerned; but certain it is that he could not have made a more felicitous choice. In periods of sevens the evolution of the races of man may be traced, and the actual number of the objective worlds which constitute our system, and of which the earth is one, is seven also.
The life of man he divided into seven ages (Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7, l. 143), for "As the moon changes her phases every seven days, this number influences all sublunary beings," and even the Earth, as we know. With the child, it is the teeth that appear in the seventh month and he sheds them at seven years; at twice seven puberty begins, at three times seven all our mental and vital powers are developed, at four times seven he is in his full strength, at five times seven his passions are most developed.
Theosophical literature on Shakespeare
The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 136 articles about Shakespeare, covering a wide range of topics about the playwright and his works, including symbolism, mythology, astrology, religion, and authorship.
- Tragedies: Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Hamlet, Julius Ceasar, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens, Titus Andronicus, Troilus and Cressida
- Comedies: All's Well that Ends Well, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, Cymbeline, Love's Labor's Lost, Measure for Measure, The Merchant of Venice, Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Pericles (Prince of Tyre), The Taming of the Shrew, The Temptest, Twelfth Night, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Two Noble Kinsmen, The Winter's Tale
- Histories: Henry IV (Part 1 and 2), Henry V, Henry VI (Part 1, 2, and 3), Henry VIII, King John, Richard II, Richard III
- Sinnett, Alfred Percy. Nature's Mysteries (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1918), 44.
- Jinarājadāsa, Curuppumullage. Occult Investigations (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1938), 40-41.
- Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. The Secret Doctrine Vol. I (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1978), xvii
- Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. The Secret Doctrine Vol. II (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1979), 419.
- Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. Collected Writings Vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 14.
- Chin, Vicente Hao, Jr. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett in Chronological Sequence (Quezon City, Philippines: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 116. See Mahatma Letter No. 129 page 1.
- Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in Chronological Sequence No. 130 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 433. See Mahatma Letter No. 130 page 13.
- Jinarājadāsa, Curuppumullage. Divine Vision (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 4-5.
- Judge, William Quan. Echoes of the Orient Vol. II (San Diego, CA: Point Loma Publications, 1987), 7.
- Judge, William Quan. The Ocean of Theosophy (Los Angeles, CA: The Theosophy Company, 1962), 74.
- Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. The Secret Doctrine Vol. II (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1979), 117.
- Sinnett, Alfred Percy. Esoteric Buddhism (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 43.
- Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. The Secret Doctrine Vol. II (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1979), fn. 312