THE SHAKESPEARE CHIMNEYPIECE, Circa 1880.
A truly delightful and richly carved Oak chimneypiece and overmantel depicting scenes & characters from the plays of William Shakespeare for whom the drama held far greater importance than historical fact. Two carved images of him can be seen to left & right at the top of the overmantel. Beneath the circular inset brass working clock by Barry of Edinburgh, the overmantel is dominated by a scene from Richard III, one of Shakespeare's earliest plays written between 1591-1593 & argued by some to be his masterpiece.
1. The Overmantel
Central Panel: 'Richard III' Act 1 Scene II
A messenger arrives with orders from the Regent, later to be crowned Richard III, that the young Prince Richard is to leave his mother Queen Elizabeth, widow of deceased Edward IV, and for his safety join his brother Prince Edward, the as yet uncrowned heir to the throne, in sanctuary in The Tower of London. Queen Elizabeth & the Archbishop of York knowing that the Regent wants the throne for himself are greatly dismayed & fear for all their lives.
Archbishop: "Here comes a messenger. What news ?"
Messenger: "Such news, my lord, as grieves me to unfold."
Queen Eliz: "Ay me, I see the downfall of our house."
The brothers became known as 'The Princes in The Tower' and their ultimate fate is unknown though it is strongly held that Richard, their uncle and appointed Protector after the death of their father Edward IV, had them murdered to secure his own place on the throne of England. He was crowned on 6th July 1483 after Parliament, through the act Titulus Regius, had their parents marriage declared null & void on the grounds that Edward had been engaged to another at the time of the marriage, a legally binding contract, & that therefore the two Princes were illegitimate.The small cameo on the frieze below could well represent Prince Edward, very briefly King Edward V of England in 1483
2. The righthand panel depicts a scene from 'King Lear' and to the left
3. A scene from the play ' Two Gentlemen of Verona' .
4. The panel beneath them to the right of the frieze depicts Shylock in a scene from
'The Merchant of Venice.'
Act 1 - Scene 3
Shylock: "You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine, And all for use of that which is mine own. Well then, it now appears you need my help; Go to, then; you come to me, and you say ' Shylock, we would have moneys ' . You say so - You that did void your rheum upon my beard "
5. The lefthand panel depicts Sir John Falstaff & The Prince of Wales in a scene from
' Henry IV ' ( Pt 1)
Act 2 - Scene 4
Prince: "Do thou stand for my father, and examine me upon the particulars of my life ?"
Falstaff: " Shall I ? Content ! This chair shall be my state, this dagger my sceptre, and this cushion my crown."
Prince: " Thy state is taken for a join'd stool, thy golden sceptre for a leaden dagger, and thy precious rich crown for a pitful bald crown !"
6. The central frieze on the chimneypiece depicts a scene from
' The Taming of the Shrew ' Act 2 Scene 1
Baptista, a rich man of Padua, with two daughters, Katherine (The Shrew) & Bianca, is petitioned by two suitors for Bianca's hand but tells them Bianca will not be allowed to marry before Katherine, they replied that no one would ever marry a devil like her & they leave. They meet up with Lucentio, secretly in love with Bianca, & later with Petruchio who is hoping to marry a rich man’s daughter & together they pursade him to court Katherine leaving them free to woo Bianca.
The panel depicts Gremio, Petruchio, & Tanio (standing in for Lucentio who doesn't want to reveal himself ) petitioning Baptista.
Petruchio: " And you, good sir! Pray, have you not a daughter
Call'd Katharina, fair and virtuous? "
Baptista tells Petruchio that he must be crazy to want to woo Katherine but Petruchio after confirming that she will have a substantial dowry assures him:
Petruchio: " Why, that is nothing ; for I tell you father, I am as peremptory as she proud-minded; And where two raging fires meet together They do consume the thing that feeds their fury:"
Baptista: " Well mayst thou woo, and happy be thy speed!
But be thou arm'd for some unhappy words."
After much verbal battle between the pair they fall in love and Katherine is tamed
Petruchio: " Father, 'tis thus ; yourself and all the world, That talk'd of her, have talk'd amiss of her:... For she's not froward, but modest as the dove; ....And to conclude, we have 'greed so well together, That upon Sunday is the wedding-day."
Katherine: " ..Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee, ... To watch the night in storms, the day in cold, Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe; And craves no other tribute at thy hands But love, fair looks and true obedience; "
Petruchio: " Why, there's a wench ! Come on, and kiss me, Kate."
.... and all ends well.
Link to: Antique Renaissance, Gothic Tudor Fireplace mantels and Chimneypieces: 1260 - 1600