The Groundlings of Divine Will

Daniel Staniforth


From the author of Weaver in the Sluices and Diddle comes this controversial, self-reflexive, ironic and humorous response to the way that Shakespeare is so often taught in contemporary academia.  The works of ‘Divine Will,’ as he is referred to throughout, have been confined to a vacuum, and almost biblically so in how the scripts have become wilfully detached from their moorings of time and place. In this hybridised long ‘Proem,’ Staniforth goes to absurd lengths of reattachment, gladly playing havoc with the swirling dictums and counter-dictums of his time, gleefully seeking to subvert the tautological authority of the neck-frilled academicians over the historical groundlings of the pit. Elements of satire, parody and burlesque are interposed as hagiographical substitutions made for the purposes of irony and deconstruction.  The reader will be initiated into the amalgamated and timeless world of the Groundlings to see how their invective gospel simply illustrates how discourse, rhetoric and that grandiloquent power of oration serves as the strongest definition for our collective place in history.


Staniforth is not afraid to dip into the cosmic trough and find magical pearls among the swine; the flashing twists and barbs of his heretic wit had me going up and down for hours.

— Rev. Obadiah Horseworthy


The tension between the divine will and human self-will is a subject that pervades the book; to that subject the profoundest insights into the hidden activity of providence and into human nature are brought.

— Emanuel Swedenborg

Review from Tears in the Fence:


Daniel Staniforth’s The Groundlings of Divine Will sees Shakespeare’s first audience, ‘the groundlings of the pit’, as a secret society addressing the Master Of Revels in a glorious riposte to the ways in which Shakespeare studies have taken the playwright away from his historical context. The groundlings, with their ‘ears to hear and eyes to behold’, speak out as one voice in their defence of Divine Will against all manner of heresies. It is great fun, satirically astute and tightly written using quotations from the plays to reinstate the work in its historical time frame. … The groundlings stand in the pits facing the heavens, their apostolic gazes emboldening the players in their holy writs, clinging to their Divine Will and his sacred trinity of Seneca, Plutarch and Hollinshead, ingesting the pit-rolls and piss-ales of their transubstantiation. They speak out as ‘the human wick, the Temple candle, the alchymy of light’ against theological orthodoxies and their torturing and tortuous ways garnering their evidence and support from the Divine Will, the cauldrons of dark hags, Ralegh’s School of Night, Dr. John Dee, mystical and neo-Platonist writings.


Born in Edgbaston and brought up in Clapham and later Bolton, Daniel Staniforth writes poetry, fiction and literary analysis and is also a consummate musician. As a co-founder of Skylight Press, Daniel has edited several collections of work by other poets.


He currently lives in Colorado and teaches English at the Metropolitan State College of Denver. He also served for three years at the Jack Kerouac School for Disembodied Poetics’ Summer Writing Programme.  Following a childhood as a cello prodigy, he became an incredibly diverse all-round multi-instrumentalist and composer, working in collaboration with fellow Skylighter Rebsie Fairholm. In addition to several CD releases, their music has featured in stage productions at the Cheltenham Playhouse Theatre and the National Media Centre in Nathupur, India, as well as two feature films directed by John Hartman.