This semester, I took a break from my Shakespearean studies and just completed a class entitled: “The Beatles and Their World” at The College of New Jersey.
I’ve never had more fun reading, researching, and writing than I had while taking this course.
For my final paper, I chose to research the Beatle I had become fascinated with: John Lennon.
John’s persona grew to mythical proportions during his lifetime. After his murder, his image morphed into that of a martyred hero – at least for awhile.
Then the ugly stories began pouring out, page after page.
I wanted to play armchair psychologist and investigate a hunch that had nagged at me while reading about John’s volatile nature, which resonated with “Jeckyl and Hyde” overtones:
Could John Lennon have suffered from mental illness?
If you were ever curious to learn a little more about John Lennon, or wondered about this yourself, please take the time to read my paper which has recently been published in The College of New Jersey’s Journal of Student Scholarship,Volume XVIII, April 2016 edition. (click on link below)
John was known for cutting through the bull—- and emphatically rejected the public’s idolatry of the Beatles; just feel the sarcasm in his ballad, “Working Class Hero.”
So, OK, this post has NOTHING to do with Shakespeare. But consider this,
both Shakespeare and the Beatles are British “institutions” AND both have developed into revered myths of the Modern World.
With that in mind, I think John would have forgiven me for stripping away his facade in order to get to the truth.
On February 9, 1601, at 3:00 AM, Essex, Southampton, and their chief supporters were arrested and taken to the Tower.
Indictments were produced on the 17th of February at Westminster Hall “charging Essex with an attempt to usurp the crown, and Essex, Southampton, Rutland and Sandys with having conspired to depose and slay the Queen and to subvert the government” (Akrigg 121).
After a trial before their peers, the Lord High Steward passed the following brutal sentence:
…you both shall be led from hence to the place from whence you came, and there remain during her Majesty’s pleasure; from thence to be drawn upon a hurdle through the midst of the City, and so to the place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck and taken down alive, –your bodies to be opened, and your bowels taken out and burned before your face; your bodies to be quartered, –your heads and quarter to be disposed of at her Majesty’s pleasure, and so God have mercy on your souls. (Jardine, Criminal Trials, I, 363-5)
Two days after his conviction, Essex requested to meet with Sir Robert Cecil and other officials. According to records, Essex admitted that he and his followers had planned to force their way into the Queen’s presence, “and use her authority to change the government and call a Parliament, condemning their opponents for misgoverning the state” (as per a letter from Cecil to Mountjoy dated February 26, 1601).
Right up to the day of his death, Essex insisted he “never intended violence of death for the Queen” (Akrigg).
During this meeting, Essex also pleaded that his execution be made private, and his request was granted.
In the early morning hours of February 25, 1601, in the presence of about a hundred gentlemen and nobles,
Robert Devereaux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, was the last person executed by beheading on Tower Green. His final words were reportedly:
…this my last sin, this great, this bloody, this crying, this infectious sin, whereby so many have for love of me been drawn to offend God, to offend their Sovereign, to offend the world. (Jardine, Criminal Trials, I, 378)
As the semester nears the finish line, deadlines are stressing me out. English majors are inundated with books to read, critical essays to evaluate (and in some cases decipher like cryptic code), and paper after paper to write. But I’m experiencing a bit of writer’s block. Even for this blog, which is a class assignment that I’ve come to enjoy.
These past two weeks have been emotionally trying. Last week, one of my TCNJ classmates went missing: Please read the linked story: Paige Aiello. Monday, two explosions turned a Boston tradition into a tragedy. Today, a Texas town was obliterated in an unintentional explosion at a fertilizer plant. Too much grief to process in such a short time.
So, while this blog post has nothing to do with Shakespeare, it does have to do with writing from the heart.
When I can return my focus to “all things Shakespeare,” I will blog about a wonderful experience I had this past weekend in Philadelphia.
But for now, the tears are clouding my screen, so I’ll close with a quote from a lesser known play, Henry VI:
“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.”
May tomorrow bring us respite from the tears.