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Fourteen salutes from the royal artillery in honor of Frederick and Elizabeth and St. Valentine's Day, echoed from the heights of Whitehall, and carrier pigeons with love notes were sent flying over the temples, churches and towers of London to notify all loyal subjects that the throne of old Albion had been strengthened by an infusion of Germanic blood.
Promptly at seven o'clock St. Valentine's evening, Richard Burbage, Ben Jonson, Shakspere and myself drove up in our festooned carriage to the palace portals of Whitehall, and were ushered into the presence of the great assembly doing honor to the royal bride and groom, Frederick and Elizabeth.
The King sat on a throne chair at the head of the banquet board, with his daughter and son-in-law on his left, while the Queen sat on his right.
The other royal guests were seated according to their ancestral rank, while our dramatic quartette occupied a special table, William at the head on the right of the King and Queen, elevated as an improvised stage, with Shakspere, the most intellectual man of the world, "the observed of all observers !"
The play of knife and fork, laugh and jest, toast and talk lasted for two hours, and then as the foam on the brim of the beakers began to sparkle, the King, in his royal robes arose, and said:
"My loyal subjects, health and prosperity to Great Britain and Germany, and love and truth for Frederick and Elizabeth."
The three thousand guests standing responded with a storm of cheers, and then the King remarked:
"We are honored to-night by the presence of William Shakspere, our most loyal and intellectual subject, who will now address you in logic and philosophy from his own matchless plays."
(Lord Bacon looked as if he wanted to crawl under the table at the King's compliment to the Bard of Avon.)
Shakspere arose, dressed in a dark purple suit, knee breeches and short sword by his side, bowed majestically, and for two hours entranced the royal assembly with these eloquent pen pictures of humanity:
My good friends;
I'll skip across the fields of thought
Immortal o'er the voiceless tomb!
Othello thus defends himself against the charge of bewitching Desdemona:
"Most potent, grave and reverend signiors,
The very head and front of my offending
And little of this great world can I speak,
I will a round unvarnished tale deliver
Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms,
What conjuration, and what mighty magic, (For such proceeding I am charged withal) I won his daughter with!"
"Her father loved me, oft invited me;
Still questioned me the story of my life,
I ran it through, even from my boyish days,
Of hair-breadth 'scapes, the imminent deadly breach;
Of being taken by the insolent foe,
And sold to slavery; of my redemption thence And demeanor in my travel's history;
Wherein of caverns vast and deserts idle, Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven,
It was my hint to speak, such was the process
Would Desdemona seriously incline;
But still the house affairs would draw her thence;
And often did beguile her of her tears,
'Twas pitiful; 'twas wondrous pitiful;
She wished she had not heard it; yet she wished, That heaven had made her such a man, she thanked me,
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her, I should but teach him how to tell my story,
And that would woo her. Upon this hint, I spake;
She loved me for the dangers I had passed;
Timon of Athens, a wealthy, spendthrift lord, becomes bankrupt by his generous entertainment of friends, but maddened by their ingratitude, retires to a forest cave by the sea, giving this parting curse to the people of Athens, and later scattering gold among a band of thieves. Hear the self-ruined epicure:
"Let me look back upon thee, O thou wall
That girdlest in those wolves! Dive in the earth, And fence not Athens! Matrons turn incontinent!
Obedience fail in children! Slaves and fools, Pluck the grave, wrinkled senate from the bench And minister in their steads! To general filths Convert of the instant, green virginity!
Do it in your parent's yes! Bankrupts, hold fast;
Large-handed robbers your grave masters are;
With it beat out his brains! piety, and fear
Your potent and infectious fevers heap