Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The cave at Milford Haven

People always ask me how things might change if it turns out to be proven that Mary Sidney wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare. I do believe we certainly won’t lose anything—and we will gain so much. It’s very satisfying to connect an author with the works.
Here’s a very simple example. Dorothy Parker wrote an epigram that goes like this: Guns aren't lawful; nooses give; gas smells awful; you might as well live. Now, that’s a odd little piece, but it becomes much more interesting when you learn that Dorothy Parker tried to commit suicide at least four times.
It’s always been sad that don’t have that opportunity with Shakespeare; we haven’t been able to connect anything in William Shakespeare’s life with this rich, emotional, powerful body of work. Here’s a minor example of how interesting it could be when linking Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, to the plays:
In the Shakespearean play Cymbeline, the heroine, Imogen, runs away to Wales, specifically to the town of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. Milford Haven is mentioned by name fifteen times. There is a cave in Milford Haven where two young men were raised (Imogen’s brothers, who were stolen at birth); the cave is mentioned almost a dozen times. This all becomes much more interesting when you realize that in the town of Milford Haven there really is a cave. Access to the cave is through Pembroke Castle, Mary Sidney's estate. From inside the castle, you climb down fifty steps into a cave that opens out to a view of the river.
What a delightful treat to go exploring the castle and cave knowing that she was there and that this spot inspired the play Cymbeline!