THE TRAGIC SUBLIME
All blest secrets,
All you unpublished virtues of the earth,
Spring with my tears
( Cordelia, King Lear)
Ein alter Mann ist stets ein König Lear
(An aged man is always a King Lear)
I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do.
(First Witch, Macbeth)
In King James's reign, Shakespeare was acquainted with a plucky, intelligent, and reputedly beautiful woman known to her family as 'Jennet', who was four years younger than himself. Since the seventeenth century she has been seen in a haze of gossip, but there is no need to romanticize her.
Jennet was baptized at St Margaret's Westminster, on 1 November 1568, as Jane Sheppard. Three Sheppard brothers served the late Tudor Queen before being employed by the Stuart monarch. Her brothers Thomas and Richard were skilled court embroiderers, glovers, and perfumers who served Queen Anna even as the milliner Marie Mountjoy -- in whose house Shakespeare lived -- pleased Anna by supplying her with hats and headdresses. A third brother, William Sheppard, held an office in the Catery, which procured foodstuffs in bulk for the royal household.
Jennet had married John Davenant who, as a worldly, practical,