Friday, January 4, 2019
Christmas -12th Night - A bit of English Literature
William Shakespeare wrote a play called Twelfth Night, Or What You Will, but it did not deal with the traditional religious holiday. Steve Sohmertells us that Shakespeare wrote Twelth Night for two performances: (1) on Twelfth Night 1602 Gregorian, and (2) on Candlemas 2 February Julian. The title 'Or What You Will' refers to Queen Elizabeth's decision to retain England's Old Julian calendar (27 Dec Julian = 6 Jan Gregorian).
Those interested in Elizabethan Christmas - Twelfth Night customs in literature might be interested in the details imparted in Steve Roth's “Hamlet as The Christmas Prince: Certain Speculations on Hamlet, the Calendar, Revels, and Misrule” inEarly Modern Literary Studies 7.3 (January, 2002). Among cited sources of this article, one might read, Popular and Popish Superstitions and Customs On Saints’-Days and Holy-Days in Germany and Other Papist Lands A. D. 1553, Being the Fourth Booke of “The Popish Kingdome, or reigne of Anitchrist, written in Latine verse by Thomas Naogeorgus (or Kirchmaier), and englyshed by Barnabe Googe. . . Anno 1570.
Ben Jonson's The Masque of Blackness was performed on 6 January 1605 at the Banqueting House in Whitehall. It was originally entitled The Twelvth Nights Revells. The accompanying Masque, The Masque of Beauty was performed in the same court the Sunday night after the Twelfth Night in 1608.
Robert Herrick's(1591-1674)poem Twelfe-Night, or King and Queene, published in 1648, describes the election of king and queen by bean and pea in a plum cake, and the homage done to them by the draining of wassail bowls of "lamb's-wool", a drink of sugar, nutmeg, ginger and ale.
Twelfth Night: or, King and Queen
NOW, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where bean's the king of the sport here ;
Beside we must know,
The pea also
Must revel, as queen, in the court here.
Begin then to choose,
This night as ye use,
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a king by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day queen for the night here.
Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake ;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg'd will not drink
To the base from the brink
A health to the king and queen here.
Next crown a bowl full
With gentle lamb's wool :
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too ;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.
Give then to the king
And queen wassailing :
And though with ale ye be whet here,
Yet part from hence
As free from offence
As when ye innocent met here.