Let me question more in particular. What have you,
my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune,
that she sends you to prison hither?
Prison, my lord!
Denmark's a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one, in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.
We think not so, my lord.
Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me
it is a prison.
Why then, your ambition makes it one - 'tis too
narrow for your mind.
O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
have bad dreams.
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
A dream itself is but a shadow.
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a
quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.
Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and
outstretched heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall we
to the court? For, by my fay, I cannot reason.
We'll wait upon you.
No such matter. I will not sort you with the rest
of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest
man, I am most dreadfully attended.
Queen Anne of Denmark
(12 December 1574 - 2 March 1619)
Anne was born on 12 December 1574 at the castle of Skanderborg on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark. She spent her earliest years in Germany, but grew up mostly in Denmark. She was married to James VI of Scotland at the age of fourteen. En route to Scotland, her ship was stranded in Norway, and the king himself sailed to Norway, where their marriage was celebrated on 23 November 1589.
Anne was rather tall - taller than her husband, indeed - and was a fan of dancing and performing. She went on to appear in numerous masques by Ben Johnson, among them The Masque of Beauty. Several of her children with James did not survive into adulthood, and eventually the royal couple grew apart. Anne lived in Somerset House - which she renamed Denmark House - and was a great patroness of the arts. She died in 1619. She was buried in Westminster Abbey, but the catafalque covering her resting place was destroyed during the upheavals against her son, Charles I.
Shakespeare’s descriptions of the magical are always alluring and enticing, perhaps nowhere moreso than in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However it is in Romeo and Juliet that we get one of the most beautiful evocations of things in miniature - and I must confess that Hamlet’s “king of infinite space” within a nutshell always makes me think of it. Mercutio, gently mocking Romeo, gives this magnificent description of the fairies’ midwife, Queen Mab, as follows:
O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spiders' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider's web,
The collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coach-makers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies straight,
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O'er ladies ' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as a' lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plaits the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she…