The influence of Hermetic philosophy on Shakespeare’s work, particularly the later plays, is a subject of growing interest. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) wrote approximately thirty-eight plays between 1590 and 1612, dates that coincide with a period of considerable activity in the history of English alchemy. Three important texts were published: The Mirror of Alchemy (1597) which included the Tabula Smaragdina, The Compound of Alchemy (1591) by Sir George Ripley (1415-1490), and the alchemical anthology Theatrum Chemicum (1602), which included John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica, originally published in Latin in 1564, and printed in its first English translation in the Theatrum.  Given this overlap, and the apparent alchemical influence in the plays, questions arise concerning what were, if any, the alchemical texts consulted by Shakespeare, and whether he had any personal contact with the alchemists practicing at the time. John Dee (1527-1608) is himself enough to link Shakespeare with alchemy. This leading intellectual of the English Renaissance – mathematician, astronomer, occult philosopher – who arguably combined Cabala with alchemical experiments, Dee is believed by many to be the person on whom Shakespeare modeled the character of Prospero, the magus magician who was the central character of Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest (c. 1611/12). In his early career Dee was court astrologer and consultant to Queen Elizabeth 1, but his reputation fell into disrepute during his later years when he was branded a wicked conjurer of devils.  Written at a time when there was growing suspicion of magicians, Shakespeare may have taken a personal risk in portraying Prospero as a benevolent white magician, a characterization that is considered by some to be Shakespeare’s vindication of John Dee as well as his last word on Hermetic philosophy and alchemy.

The ideas expressed in King Lear (c. 1605-6) suggests that Shakespeare had considerable knowledge of alchemical philosophy. Charles Nicoll describes the play as “deeply and intentionally alchemical”. The language is rich in alchemical imagery. Words such as ‘womb’, ‘tomb’, ‘pelican’, ‘dragon’, ‘bastard’, ‘vulture’, ‘crow’, ‘dog’, ‘toad’, ‘egg’, ‘lion’, ‘wolf’, ‘green mantle’, ‘tree’, ‘grave’, ‘shadow’, ‘storm’, ‘mortification’, and ‘ring’ suggest an alchemical theme. Phrases such as “fortune, turn thy wheel”, “to make vile things precious”, “bound upon a wheel of fire”, and “sulphurous and thought executing fires”, make more compelling the possibility that Shakespeare had the alchemical opus in mind as he wrote King Lear. The central theme of the play is alchemical, where an ailing King in need of renewal is melted down in order to be transformed.  At the end of Act II, with Lear abandoned on the heath and a violent storm imminent, the Fool says “When priests are more in word than matter”, and goes on to describe a world in chaos and concludes, “then shall the realm of Albion come to great confusion”, ‘confusion’ being a word suggestive of the alchemical term ‘massa confusa’, itself synonymous with the prima materia.

The prima materia is the original substance upon which the individual character of things were imprinted in the process of creation and the essence into which matter must be dissolved prior to its renovation into a new form. In his Alchemical Lexicon (1612), Ruland listed fifty names for the prima materia, including the definition “the soul of the elements”. A psychological understanding of the alchemical process locates the prima materia within man himself, and the “first matter” corresponds to the soul in its essential pure form.

The alchemical process begins with the alchemist dissolving the metal into the prima materia in order to obtain the double seed of metals.  Generally speaking the alchemists believed that all metals were created from two subtle principles: male sulphur – solar, hot, dry, fixed, combustible, and female argent vive or mercury – lunar, receptive, moist, volatile. These two principles of ‘body’ and ‘soul’ are initially in a state of fusion and must be separated before they can each undergo further operations: fixed (sulphurous) matter must be sublimated in order to release the fertile, male active seed, Our Sulphur; and the volatile spirit must be fixed to release the receptive lunar aspect, Argent Vive, also known as Our Mercury. Once the two substances have been refined and purified, they are ready to be reunited at the chemical wedding. The couple then pass through death, dissolution and putrefaction at the bottom of the alembic, when the vital seed or ‘soul’ is released and ascends to the top of the vessel. The blackened matter that remains at the bottom of the vessel is further refined and eventually reunited with the soul.

The play begins with relationships in a state of fusion, which corresponds to the prima materia in its initial, undifferentiated state.  Fusion is evident in several ways, notable in the failure by Lear and Gloucester to differentiate between good and evil in their children. Lear banishes his most prized daughter Cordelia, and is flattered by false proclamations of love by his other daughters Goneril and Regan.  Edmund, Gloucester’s bastard son, tricks his father to believe that Gloucester’s legitimate son Edgar is conspiring to commit patricide when in fact it is Edmund who will betray his father.  With the conclusion of Act 1 the ‘separating out’ has been dramatic: Cordelia has been banished and taken down to France, and Edgar has been ordered on pain of death to leave the kingdom.  Instead Edgar decides to remain as a fugitive disguised as Mad Tom the bedlam beggar.

The undifferentiated prima materia is further evident in Lear’s symbolically incestuous relationship to his daughters, where he expects them to function as daughter, mother and lover. The Fool berates Lear saying, “thou has’t madest thy daughters thy mothers:… for […] thou gavest them the rod, and put’st down thine own breeches…”. In order to assign portions of the kingdom, Lear orders his daughters to answer the question “Which of you shall we say doth love us most?”, whereby the greatest testament of love will be rewarded with the largest portion of land.

What is behind this dependency on his daughters’ love, one that compels him to demand their public proclamations of love set up as a competition to win the largest share of the kingdom? The prevailing circumstances at the beginning of the play may point to the psychology at the root of Lear’s need to be adored.  Lear is without a male heir, and in the failure to reproduce his own seed, the King’s spiritual impotence is inferred. And Lear is without a Queen.  Similarly Gloucester is without a wife, and as the text makes no mention of these women, the absence of the feminine seems to be a problem far removed from consciousness.  This combination of weakness in the masculine and the missing feminine can make the anima vulnerable to contamination by an impotent shadow, a problem that seems to be behind Lear’s unhealthy identification with his daughters.

In seeking confirmation of their devoted ‘mother-love’, Lear unwittingly embarks on an incestuous entry into his mother’s womb, an experience where he will encounter and be dissolved in the prima materia.  Jung says, “… the king must transform himself into the prima materia in the body of his mother, and return to the dark initial state of chaos”. As the ‘mother’, Lear’s daughters will become the alchemical bath itself, the ‘womb’ in which he will be wounded and fed on his own blood. Jung refers to this undifferentiated substance, at once containing the mother, bride and whore, as both the source and catalyst of the prima materia:

… the figure of the mother-beloved… is the chaste bride and whore who symbolizes the prima materia, which ‘nature’ left imperfected… She is that piece of chaos which is everywhere yet hidden, she is that vessel of contradictions and many colors – a totality in the form of a massa confuse…

To Lear’s question, “Which of you shall we say doth love us most…”, Cordelia replied, “Nothing my Lord.” Lear countered, “Nothing will come of nothing…”, his impatience masking a sense of rejection so profound that his anger escalates to an unmanageable intensity where he banishes Cordelia, to whom he had referred only moments before as “our joy”. Psychologically, the prima materia is usually found in the areas that are most feared and rejected, and it appears that behind Lear’s regal persona lies a wound that Cordelia’s rejection has touched. Arguably the most wounded of Shakespeare’s characters, Lear’s reaction points to an existential and spiritual problem, and indicates an ignorance of anything outside his ego. The experience of his own ‘nothingness’ is exactly what he must enter into and the action of the play will insist this upon him, forcing him to ‘die to himself’. Alchemy is described as an ‘opus contra naturum’, whereby development is not exclusively forward moving and progressive, but requires a backward turning of fortune’s wheel – destructive, undoing, removing – in order to return to an original state of being.  With his “train disquantitied”, and stripped of “all the additions of a king”, Lear will effectively be reduced to ‘nothing’. Abandoned by his mother-daughters, left alone on the heath to endure the night storm, he will be forced to suffer his inner emptiness, and through that ordeal experience himself as he is.  Jung says, “… your own inner emptiness conceals just as great a fullness if only you will allow it to penetrate into you”.

Kent attempts to calm Lear’s rage but the king is inconsolable: “Come not between the dragon and his wrath”, says Lear. ‘Dragon’ is one of the many words used to refer to the prima materia, along with ‘worm’, ‘serpent’, and ‘toad’, other references to the prima materia to be found in the play.  The alchemists say that in the initial stage of the process, the toad drowns in its own venom. Lear’s identification with the dragon is all consuming, and in the speech below, where his attack on Cordelia continues, Lear’s inseparability from the dragon’s wrath is expressed as a compulsive alliance with the barbarous Scythian who gorges on the generations. Through the action of the play Lear’s devouring frenzy will be turned back on him, and he himself will become the poisonous matter on which he chokes:

The barbarous Scythian,

Or he that makes his generation messes

To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom

Be as well neighbour’d, pitied, and relieved,

As thou my sometime daughter.

Abrahams refers to the ‘dragon’ as Mercurius in his first dark chthonic phase when that dual natured substance is undifferentiated. Lear’s banishment of Cordelia corresponds to the two natures of Mercury, Sol and Luna, being separated out. In the alchemical texts this pairing is expressed in various ways: ‘dog and bitch’, ‘the winged and wingless dragon’, ‘two eagles’, ‘cock and hen’. Many alchemical emblems show the lion in dual form and the furious battle between them (Fig. 1). Jung’s view is that persistent one-sidedness will result in the two lions tearing each other to pieces. This accords with the nature of the prima materia, where it seeks its own disclosure, and has the power to bring itself into the open, and corresponds to the psychological dynamic where complexes that remain hidden accumulate energy in the unconscious, and increase the likelihood that they will be exposed and tripped over.

(fig. 1)Untitled1

The prima materia, residing in the rejected elements of the personality, is usually unconscious until it is projected onto others. In his dispute with Cordelia, Lear acts out an inner problem, and it’s that unconscious, internal conflict that initiates his fall from grace. The psychological alchemist seeks out the projection and works to withdraw it, attempting to seal the problem securely within, making himself the ‘vessel’ where the matter is ‘processed’. This procedure is symbolised by the uroborus, the image of the snake biting its tail.  The tail is furthest from its head, the least seen part of the snake’s anatomy.  Symbolically, in biting its tail, the snake ‘consumes’, circulates and processes unfamiliar, previously ‘unseen’ aspects of himself.  Lear eventually realises the value, necessity and potential transformation of what was previously thought worthless when he says:

The art of our necessities is strange,

That can make vile things precious.

Equivalent to the alchemist projecting onto matter is, in the alchemy of the psychological process, the unconscious orchestrating the outer circumstances of an individual’s life such that they mirror the internal psychological state of that individual. An alchemical reading of King Lear might consider Lear’s ordeal as a reflection of his unconscious psychological state, which must be projected out if it is to be reflected back and work upon him. Outer life has become a portrait of his unconscious, now a ‘reality’ to be lived with, one that will operate upon him and eventually transform him. Lear is unconscious of the inner problem that is behind his cruel treatment of Cordelia, one he will suffer at the hands of his other daughters Goneril and Regan.  Lear will describe their eyes as “fierce” and “scornful”, but it is the face of his own dragon that is reflected back and suffered through their cruel treatment.  As Goneril will say, “Tis his own blame; hath put himself from rest and must needs taste his folly”, a claim reiterated by Regan’s “O, sir, to wilful men/The injuries that they themselves procure/Must be their schoolmasters.”  In this alchemical operations are metaphors for internal psychological processes and relate to the objective psyche and the means whereby it orchestrates the individuation process.


Once separated out the two sets of metals need to be worked on separately, a stage when continuous and arduous work is required. Zoroaster’s Cave states, “… that you work not on anything but Sol and Luna, reducing them to their first matter, that is Our Sulphur and Argent Vive”. Here we might consider the daughters as double mercury, with Goneril as the ‘elusive’, and Cordelia as the ‘faithful’ servant.   Cordelia’s banishment separates her from the black matter of her sisters, equivalent to the soul being extracted when it descends to the bottom of the vessel. The two lions doing battle are now Lear and Goneril. Lear refers to Goneril variously as ‘sea-monster’, ‘serpent’s tooth’, ‘wolfish visage’, ‘vulture’, ‘carbuncle’, and ‘plague sore’, suggesting that she has become the mirror through which he encounters the dark corrosive side of Mercurius. Regan indicated her allegiance to her older sister when in the first scene of the play she said, “I am of the self-same metal as my sister”.

Calcination is the process where heat is applied in order to reduce metal to its first matter.  Lear’s ordeal is long and drawn out, and in many ways obeys the alchemists recommendation that the calcifying heat be kept low and administered gradually: Lear is teased by his Fool who both loves him and insults him: “I am a Fool, thou art nothing”; Lear is insulted by Goneril’s servant; Lear arrives at the Duke of Cornwall’s castle to discover his serving man Kent “put” in the stocks; Goneril charges Lear and his men with rowdiness, epicurism and lust and withdraws the benefits of the house; ferried back and forth between the castles of Goneril and Regan, he is greeted by his daughters’ increasing indifference and the gradual stripping of his retinue, from 100 down to 50, then to 25, culminating in Regan’s, “what needs one.”  With this removal of “all the additions of a king” Lear has been, metaphorically speaking, stripped down to nothing.

The negative aspect of Mercurius is an essential agent in Lear’s transformation and in this Shakespeare recognises an important idea in alchemical philosophy.  As the dragon bites his tail and partakes of his fiery nature, similarly Lear “gorges” on himself, leading to a suffering that generates the calcifying heat that melts him down. The poisonous dragon is the negative sulphur analogous to the dark aspect of Mercurius and corresponds to man’s evil nature.  Rather than rising above moral darkness, the alchemical prescription requires recognition and confrontation with the negative aspects of psyche which in themselves generate the energy required for their transmutation.  Jung refers to the encounter with nature as the “left hand path”, not one leading upwards “… to the kingdom of the gods and eternal ideas, but down into natural history, into the bestial instinctive foundations of human existence”.

Alchemy is known as the art of fire, and psychologically, the fire of affect is often seen to be the calcining factor.  Lear’s feelings escalate and virtually suffocate him.  “O, how this mother swells up toward my heart”, he says, again drawing our attention to the complex behind his relationship to his daughters.  The quoted text relates to a medical condition of the time known as Suffocatio, or the ‘Suffocation of the Mother’.  In the following speech, we hear Lear’s attack on his daughter, and suspect that rather than Goneril’s womb being in need of sterilisation, instead it’s Lear’s wild and blackened thoughts that are the source of his distress, and his violent state is the emotional fire emitting the required heat to reduce that anger down to the point where the male seed can be extracted:

Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hear!

Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend

To make this creature fruitful!

Into her womb convey sterility!

Dry up in her the organs of increase;

And from her derogate body never spring

A babe to honour her!

Once Lear is shut out of doors there will be no further contact with Goneril and Regan. Alone on the heath to endure the night storm, it is a time of isolation and despair. ‘Night’ and ‘storm’ correspond to the nigredo, the state that often accompanies the initial stage of dissolving matter into the prima materia, when the contents of the vase go darker and darker. Psychologically, it is a state of suffering during which the most humiliating parts of the personality are endured. It is a ‘dark night of the soul’, when the hero is abandoned and goes into the wilderness on his own. In the following speech delivered on the storm swept heath, Lear’s language is dense with images of fire and flooding.  It is a time of chaos, consistent with the nigredo, a stage where the container is in danger of breaking, and the adept threatened by possible madness:

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!

Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,

That make ingrateful man!

It is said that the prima materia is found in a topsy-turvy place. Lear is battered by the warring elements where everything is being turned upside down. His words seem to say: ‘flatten the round world, crack the mould, and spill the seed’. Earlier in the scene it was reported that Lear was “Contending with the fretful element:/Bids the winds blow the earth into the sea.” The sea is a symbol of the prima materia, where water is both the dissolving element and the solution to be arrived at. This water is not the water of regeneration, but in its sulphurous form is the water that burns.  Lear’s words can be interpreted to infer that he recognises himself as the “ingrateful man” and it’s that ungratefulness that cracks his “mould”.

As one substance is calcined, represented by the King in a state of continued chaos, the other fluid substance is congealed, represented by Cordelia, who leading a reformed army (corresponds alchemically to the fixation of the fluid substance), rises up from France. This extraordinary counterpoint happens at what is effectively the midpoint of the play.  At the beginning of Act III, the moment when Lear is being ‘melted down on the heath’, Cordelia’s return to England is anticipated by Kent who says, “from France there comes a power/Into this scatter’d kingdom…”. Alchemically the process of inversion, where the states of matter are reversed, is at work: hard matter is dissolved, and the soft flowing substance is fixed.  It relates to the process of circulation, where as one aspect descends, the other ascends. The alchemical emblem of the Green Lion (fig. 2) relates to the dual movement happening. Locked in battle, King Lear is in a violent rage. His earlier cry “singe my white head”, relates to the stone turning white, and the completion of the first operation of the opus (nigredo) at which point the heat is increased until the Stone is calcined.. Equally ‘green’ signals growth, which in the emblem below (fig. 2) is suggested by the gazing out of the lunar aspect as it appears just above the surface of the water, a presence that corresponds to Cordelia’s rising up from France. At this point Kent sends a ring via the Gentlemen to Cordelia as a sign of his watchful presence in the warring kingdom.  The ring is a symbol of the four elements that have been separated out and synthesized to produce the fifth element, in itself symbolic of a new order which Kent, in attending to Cordelia’s return to England, awaits in hopeful anticipation.

fig. 2dragon

While the storm continues to rage, Lear takes refuge with the Fool and Kent in a hovel, where they meet Edgar, disguised as Poor Tom. Entering the hovel, where it is dry, can be likened to the drying out phase that follows the nigredo. Psychologically, it suggests the sealing of the vessel, where Lear’s compulsive projections are relaxed and his attention now shifts from outward blame to inner reflection. To this end Lear puts his daughters on trial, and commands an imaginary servant to “Bring in their evidence”. There isn’t any actual evidence; what seems to be presented is psychological ‘material’, where Lear puts his complexes on trial and interrogates them.  Later in the scene Lear imagines that he sees “Goneril with a white beard” and we in the audience might wonder whether he is, albeit unknowingly, cross-examining himself.

The tendency to project is virtually ungovernable, and persistent attention is required to withdraw projections and identify their source within. It makes sense of the alchemists’ instruction that repeated operations are required to extract the prima materia.  In the hovel, Lear shifts back and forth, one moment projecting, in the next moment withdrawing those projections.  At one moment he recognises the common suffering of humanity and his role and responsibility in that drama: “O! I have ta’en/Too little care of this”, he says.  In the next moment he reiterates his attack on his daughters, and blames his suffering on them:  “…nothing could have subdued nature/To such lowness but his unkind daughters.”  The tension is resolved at the end of the speech, when Lear finally accepts that not only is he responsible for what injures him, but those very injuries actually feed him:

“Judicious punishment! ‘twas this flesh begot

Those pelican daughters.”

The term ‘pelican’ refers to the mother who pierces her own breast in order to feed her chicks with the blood of her wound.  The point where the flesh is pierced is the very point where nourishment flows forth. Lear effectively says that his daughters are a disease that he has begotten, one stemming from his own flesh, a wound that has been opened through his struggle with them, and through the circulation of that which is really his own he has been nourished.  For the first time Lear acknowledges that the problem resides in him, recognition that relates to alchemical understanding where man is his own prima materia.   He is both the substance to be transformed and the transforming substance. This accords with the nature of the prima materia where it is at once the matter, process and agent of transformation. “He (Mercurius) is simultaneously the matter of the work, the process of the work, and the agent by way it is effected”.

In the final scene of the play there is a reunion between Lear and Cordelia. Lear describes himself as “bound/Upon a wheel of fire”. In the alchemical opus, fire is the chief agent of transformation, and the mastery of it brings the ability to express divine love. The relationship between father and daughter and their mutual love has been rejuvenated.  With everything burnt away – Lear’s anger, his rage and his power mania – the calcined substance that remains is renewed feeling leading to restored relationship.  Lear says to Cordelia:

You do me wrong to take me out o’ the grave:

Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound

Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears

Do scald like moulten lead.

CORDELIA Sir, do you know me?

KING LEAR You are a spirit, I know: when did you die?

The ‘grave’ from which Lear has risen could be considered a symbolic reference to the vessel during the nigredo. And those “tears that scald” seem reminiscent of the mercurial water that burns and transforms, that “mercurial water of grace which seemingly drown[s] the body but in reality wash[es] away the impurities and make it ready to receive the enlivening soul”.  And “moulten lead” suggests the once heavy metal of the prima materia. Having been heated and returned to its primal state, the prima materia is now, in its molten ‘redness’, the Stone in its ruby red colour.  This is characteristic of the Stone at the rubedo, a substance now ready to reunite with the ‘spirit/soul’, and from this union the Philosopher’s Stone is born. Lear has referred to Cordelia as both ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’, and he is the refined prima materia now ready to be reunited with the spirit/soul at the chemical wedding.

Just as the stone that the builders rejected became the corner stone, similarly the rejection of what is thought to be worthless eventually comes to be seen as precious.  For this reason the prima materia is often referred to as ‘gold’.  The stone, in Jungian terms, is the ‘Self’, and the prima materia is also called the stone because what is presented at the beginning in a primitive form is worked on, and through the process is transmuted and becomes the foundation stone of the renewed individual. Jung refers to the massa confuse as “a substance endowed with every quality in which the splendor of the hidden deity can be revealed”.

The final battle takes place between Edgar and his brother Edmund and the stage directions indicate that Edgar is disguised. Edmund is unaware that his brother, who he presumes to be dead, has emerged from the wilderness to challenge his intention to be king. They have not seen each other since Act 1, and the alchemical inference is that the two substances have been worked on separately.  Cornwall, Goneril and Regan have recently died, leaving Edmund as the remaining black substance at the bottom of the vessel.

Edgar’s journey has paralleled Lear’s in two ways: they were both shut out of doors and abandoned to face the elements, and Lear goes mad while Edgar feigns madness. Where they differ is that Lear resists his fate while Edgar accepts his.  Following his banishment, Edgar willingly ‘took on’ his mortification as, “…the basest and poorest shape that ever penury, in contempt of man, brought near to beast”, and concluded his voluntary ‘self-reduction’ by saying, “Edgar I nothing am.”  He then pretended to be mad, eventually to emerge from his prolonged humiliation as a refined substance. In the concluding scene of the play Edgar kills his brother Edmund, Lear then enters carrying Cordelia who has been murdered on Edmund’s instruction, and finally Lear dies embracing Cordelia as they lie together at the feet of Albany, Kent and Edgar.  Following their death Edgar announces the new ruling principle that will henceforth govern the kingdom.

The dual nature of Mercurius has been critical in the transformation of the King, and plays an equally significant role in Edgar’s process. During the storm Gloucester had a vision. He said, “I’ the last night’s storm I such a fellow saw;\which made me think a man a worm.” The fellow to whom Gloucester referred was his son Edgar who in his disguise as Mad Tom Gloucester failed to recognise. ‘Worm’ is a reference to the transforming substance, which devours the old corrupt body and reduces it to its prima materia, and then nourishes it back to life. “The mercurial worm, like the serpent, is both the devouring worm of death consuming all corruption and the nourishing worm of life which feeds the alchemical chick, the infant Stone with its nourishing substance”.  Edgar is the ‘worm’, who now, in the final act has emerged as the essential man liberated through the operation of the play.

The play concludes with the crowning of Edgar who describes the new ruling principle with the words, “Speak what we feel, not what we aught to say”. This manner of conducting relationships was not possible in the beginning.  In fact it was a problem of feeling that catalyzed the initial separation: Cordelia’s feelings were rejected, while the posturing of Goneril and Regan were accepted as true testaments of affection.   Now the situation has transformed, and an essential ‘substance’, previously hidden in the soul of man, has been extracted and forms the basis of a new way of being.  Reading King Lear as a process in the redemption of feeling, feeling was the poison that initiated the conflict, the balm that reconciled the warring elements, and in the final moment of the play is celebrated as the purified substance capable of preserving future relationships.

In Ingmar Bergman’s 1985 production of King Lear at the Dramaten Theatre in Stockholm, two explosive devices were detonated in the backstage service elevators, timed to explode at the final moment when Edgar and Albany shake hands to seal their commitment to the new principle.  This ending, albeit a controversial one, serves as a reminder that the work is continuous and must be ongoing, and apparent unity may be temporary, forming the basis for a further stage of differentiation and refinement.  The Kingdom faces an unknown future, as there is no way of predicting the resilience of the new ruling principle and how close to the heart it will be held by the new leaders.


Abraham, L., (2008) A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Edinger, E. F., (1985) Anatomy of the Psyche. Chicago: Open Court.

(1995) The Mysterium Lectures: A Journey through C. G. Jung’s ‘Mysterium Coniunctionis’. Toronto: Inner City Books.

French, P., (1989) John Dee: The World of an Elizabethan Magus.  Dorset Press: New York

Jung, C. G., (1989) Vol 14: Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

(1993) Vol 12: Psychology and Alchemy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

(2001) Vol 13: Alchemical Studies. Hove: Routledge.

Nicholl, C., (1980) The Chemical Theatre, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Ruland, M., (1612)

The Pelican Shakespeare., (1970) The Tempest. Ed. Northrop Frye. New York:

The Arden Shakespeare. (1982) King Lear. Ed. Kenneth Muir. London and New York: Methuen.

von Franz, M. L., (1980) Alchemy: An Introduction to the Symbolism and Psychology.

Toronto: Inner City Books

Yates, F. (1975) Shakespeare’s Last Plays. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

(2001) The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, London: Routledge.