It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

So have I heard and do in part believe it.
But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill:
Break we our watch up; and by my advice,
Let us impart what we have seen to-night
Unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life,
This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it,
As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?

Let's do't, I pray; and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most conveniently.



Elizabeth I had her own court astrologer, and interest in the field obviously trickled down throughout her kingdom. Some have argued that Shakespeare even based the character of Prospero in The Tempest on this astrologer, John Dee. There are astrological references throughout the plays. The signs of the Zodiac crop up quite frequently, and the Planets are often said to wield influence over certain characters. Mars governs Monsieur Parolles in All's Well That Ends Well, and Jupiter is very favourably disposed to Posthumous in Cymbeline. The world was moving from a geocentric to a heliocentric view of the universe at the time Shakespeare was writing, and a shift was happening, naturally, in the way that people studied the heavenly bodies. 

There are libraries already filled with books about Shakespeare and King James and Macbeth and witchcraft. The topic is endlessly fascinating - as much today as it seems to have been in 16th and 17th century England. 

Red Skies
It's been a standard phrase for people in the northern hemisphere for millennia - red sky at night, shepherd's delight, red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning. A red glow in the sky indicates an area of high pressure, because the dust in the atmosphere catches the sun's rays in a particular way and causes the glow. The inference is that there's an area of low pressure coming afterwards, so it's bad news to see a red sky in the morning. 

Venus and Adonis
Written while the theatres were closed due to an outbreak of plague, this narrative poem was published in 1593. It is based on a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses, and was extremely popular during Shakespeare's lifetime. 

As promised, here is the text of my favourite Christmas poem, written by UA Fanthorpe. Seemingly she writes Christmas poems every year as gifts for her friends - this one is particuarly beautiful. 

BC:AD by UA Fanthorpe

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect.
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.