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Shakespeare and Saturn

Accounting for Appearances


Peter D. Usher

In the mid-sixteenth century, Copernicus asserted that the Earth was not the center of the universe as was generally believed, but that the sun lay there instead. The relegation of the Earth to the rank of an orbiting planet meant that humankind lost its privileged position as well, thus prompting re-evaluation of all facets of human existence. This transformation in worldview gathered momentum throughout Shakespeare’s writing career, yet his canon appears to lack reference to it. Peter D. Usher has studied Hamlet and other Shakespearean plays and has uncovered a consistent pattern of reference to phenomena that prove the correctness of the new worldview, including reference to the infinite universe of stars. These data could not have been known without telescopic aid, which indicates that systematic telescopic study of celestial objects began before the generally accepted date of 1610. In Shakespeare and Saturn, Usher summarizes earlier results and shows that in All’s Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare takes account of the last supernova eruption of 1604 known to have occurred in the Milky Way galaxy. He shows further that in Much Ado About Nothing and The Comedy of Errors Shakespeare makes observations concerning Saturn’s spectacular ring system that are remarkably accurate.
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Chapter 2. All’s Well That Ends Well




Behold, we count them happy which endure. JAMES 5:11

Shakespeare’s source for All’s Well That Ends Well (herein All’s Well or AW) is the ninth story of the Third Day of Decameron (1351–53) by Giovanni Boccaccio, which was translated by the Kentishman William Painter (1540?–1595) and printed in his The Palace of Pleasure (1566–75). The play has defied generic classification, being neither a tragedy nor a comedy. Neither does it fit categories of folk tale, fairy tale, mystery, miracle play, morality play, medieval religious drama, nor any of several others (Snyder 41–4, Hunter p. xxx–xxxi; unattributed references in this chapter are to Snyder). Without a definitive framework by which to see the play as a whole, there is no context by which to apply the customary inductive process that helps elucidate the parts, and moreover, the more categories “that are found to contribute genuine insight, the less likely it is that any single generic key to the play will be discovered” (44). But the incidence of references to stars and planets in the early going invites examination to see whether All’s Well fits the cosmic mould. This chapter explores the play’s labyrinthine passages and describes their interconnectedness. What was hitherto an inchoate mélange of strained associations, uncoordinated impressions, and tortuous connections, is replaced by a ← 63 | 64 → coherent colligation that allegorizes the results of the application of scientific methodology and technical...

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