LET ME SAY THIS FROM THE START: I do not believe you cannot predict the future.  Astrology, palm reading, whatever - you can't foretell what will happen to you.  So why this page on the Tarot?

I got interested in the Tarot years ago - at first it was the images that fascinated me, with their obscure names and bizarre artwork, and the multiplicity of different themes for deck designs.  Some Tarot decks are beautiful, miniature works of art; others, quite frankly, look like they have been illustrated by a four year old child.  Later, I became intrigued by the different facets of the history of the Tarot.  Every age seems to hang different meanings on the Tarot - find in it resonances with Hermeticism, humanism, feminism, ethnic awareness, Freudian dream analysis, and so on, and so on.  How could such a simple device - 78 cards - mean so many different things to different people?

While at college, I did a couple of tarot readings for friends, and was amazed to find how my simple generalisations seemed to have them nodding in agreement.  It seemed that whatever I said, it was what they wanted to hear.  That was my first clue to my understanding of the Tarot.  The second clue came at work - we were discussing how we made difficult decisions, and a colleague said that he always tossed a coin.  When we expressed some scepticism, his response was that when he couldn't choose between options because the consequences were too great or the issues too complicated, he tossed a coin, and, inevitably, as the coin was in the air, he found himself hoping for one or other outcome.  Subconsciously, he already knew the answer to his dilemma - he just needed a mechanism to drag it out into the light.

And that, really is my conception of the Tarot: it's a decision-making aid.  Ask a question, an issue which has puzzled or baffled you, and it will help you to find the answer you already know.  That's why the meanings of the cards are so general and so vague - your mind will filter the meanings to find those that correspond to what you are worried about and discard the rest.

THE CARD IMAGES ARE MNEMONIC DEVICES to help the reader remember the meanings behind them.  This is the reason for the many and varied deck themes - each is an attempt to find the right images to evoke those meanings, and each is correct in its time and place.  What I felt I wanted was a set of images that I could relate to: the best I discovered was the Mythic Tarot of Juliet Sharman-Burke, based on Greek mythology, but even that didn't feel quite right.  Casting around for an idea, I thought of Shakespeare, a passion of mine, and realised a Tarot based on his plays could be perfect.  I found details of a Shakespeare tarot on the WWW, but it was out of print, and, from descriptions, I felt many of the choices made for card images were incorrect.  So I would have to design my own!

My first rules were simple: all of the accepted plays in the canon would be included, and, borrowing an idea from the Mythic Tarot, each suit (excluding court cards) would correspond to a single play, with the number sequence based on the narrative sequence of the play.  Four suits, sixteen court cards and twenty-two major arcana added up to forty-two correspondences. There are thirty-nine plays in the canon currently; adding the sonnets made forty; so two plays would feature twice.  As it turned, when I came to make the assignments there were two that could be completely justified and which I was perfectly happy with.  But more of that later.

Assigning plays or characters to cards was an interesting process.  I assigned the four suits to plays at the start, as I felt I needed to choose some of the classics in order to have enough material to work with to generate ten cards.  This meant that some important characters missed out on having their own 'name' card, but I felt that the suit-play correspondence was, in some ways, of greater importance.  When assigning individual cards, some correspondences leaped out as obvious, others required a lot of thinking.  My first trawl through left me with, for some cards, two or three possible characters.  The next stage was to go through and check that each of the plays had one card, and no more; this meant I had to occasionally choose a character other than the most obvious because the 'best' was from a play which had another, better, correspondence with another card.  I was then left with a handful of plays with no card, and a handful of plays with more than one card: reassigning these was the most difficult part of the task, but I eventually felt I had achieved a good 'fit'.

SO, HERE IS MY SHAKESPEARE TAROT DECK, as it currently stands.  The next task is to assign quotations to each card, before I begin thinking about how I may find or choose images for the cards.

Major Arcana
The Fool Viola Twelfth Night
I. The Magician Prospero The Tempest
II. The High Priestess The Dark Lady The Sonnets
III. The Empress Hermione The Winter's Tale
IV. The Emperor Angelo Measure for Measure
V. The High Priest Timon Timon of Athens
VI. The Lovers Adriana, Antipholus and Antipholus The Comedy of Errors
VII. The Chariot Queen Margaret Henry VI, Part 3
VIII. Justice Portia The Merchant of Venice
IX. The Hermit Belisarius Cymbeline
X. The Wheel of Fortune Caius Martius Coriolanus
XI. Strength Queen Katherine Henry VIII
XII. The Hanged Man Richard II Richard II
XIII. Death Lear King Lear
XIV. Temperance George Page The Merry Wives of Windsor
XV. The Devil Titus Titus Andronicus
XVI. The Tower Palamon and Arcite The Two Noble Kinsmen
XVII. The Star Marina Pericles
XVIII. The Moon Hecate and the Witches Macbeth
XIX. The Sun Octavius Julius Caesar
XX. Judgement Othello Othello
XXI. The World Viola, Orsino, Olivia and Sebastian Twelfth Night

Minor Arcana
Cups Much Ado About Nothing
Ace Folio Title Page
Two Claudio (Act I, Scene 1) 'In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on.'
Three Claudio (Act II, Scene 1) 'Silence is the perfectest herald of joy; I were but little happy, if I could say how much'
Four Benedick (Act II, Scene 3) 'May I be so converted and see with these eyes? I cannot tell; I think not'
Five Leonato (Act IV, Scene I) 'But mine and mine I loved and mine I praised
And mine that I was proud on'
Six Friar (Act IV Scene I) 'Th'idea of her life shall sweetly creep
Into his study of imagination'
Seven Beatrice (Act IV, Scene 1) 'O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place'
Eight Benedick (Act IV Scene I) 'I will kiss your hand, and so I leave you. By this hand, Claudio shall render me a dear account.'
Nine Claudio, Hero (Act V, Scene 4) 'I am your husband, if you like of me
'And when I lived, I was your other wife.'
Ten Beatrice and Benedick reflect each other's words (Act V, Scene 4) Do not you love me? Troth no, no more than reason'
Page Valentine Two Gentlemen of Verona
Knight Rosalind As You Like It
Queen Cleopatra Antony and Cleopatra
King King of France All's Well that Ends Well
Wands The Tempest
Ace Folio Title Page
Two Miranda (Act I, Scene 2) 'And left me to a bootless inquisition,
Concluding, 'Stay: not yet.'
Three Ariel (Act I, Scene 2) 'Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange'
Four Caliban (Act II, Scene 2) 'Ban, Ban, Ca-Caliban
Has a new master - get a new man!'
Five Ferdinand (Act III, Scene 1) 'The sun will set before I shall discharge
What I must strive to do.'
Six Stephano (Act III, Scene 2) 'This will prove a brave kingdom to me, where I shall have my music for nothing.'
Seven Prospero (Act III, Scene 3) '...let them be hunted soundly.'
Eight Ariel (Act V, Scene 1) 'Merrily, merrily, shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.'
Nine Prospero (Act V, Scene 1) 'Bravely, my diligence. Thou shalt be free.'
Ten Prospero (Act V, Scene 1) '...where
Every third thought shall be my grave.'
Page Jack Cade Henry VI, Part 2
Knight Mercutio Romeo and Juliet
Queen Titania A Midsummer Night's Dream
King Richard III Richard III
Swords Hamlet
Ace Folio Title Page
Two Hamlet (Act I, Scene 2) 'O! That this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.'
Three Hamlet (Act I, Scene 5) 'The time is out of joint; O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right.'
Four Hamlet (Act II, Scene 2) 'O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space...'
Five Hamlet (Act III, Scene 1) 'Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.'
Six Hamlet (Act III, Scene 1) 'To a nunnery, go, and quickly too.'
Seven Hamlet (Act III, Scene 2) 'Let me be cruel, not unnatural.
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.'
Eight Hamlet (Act III, Scene 3) 'Now might I do it pat, now he is praying.'
Nine Hamlet (Act IV, Scene 2) '...let her paint an inch thick, to this favour must she come.'
Ten Hamlet (Act V, Scene 2) 'The rest is silence.'
Page Moth Love's Labours Lost
Knight Bastard King John
Queen Kate The Taming of the Shrew
King Ulysses Troilus and Cressida
Coins Henry V
Ace Folio Title Page
Two Canterbury (Act I, Scene 2) 'Take you one quarter into France,
And you withal shall make all Gallia shake.'
Three Chorus (Act II) 'Now all the youth of England are on fire,
And silken dalliance in the wardrobe lies.'
Four Pistol (Act II, Scene 3) 'Look to my chattels and my movables.
Let senses rule. The word is 'Pitch and pay!'
Five King (Act II, Scene 4) 'It fits us then to be as provident
as fear may teach us'
Six Chorus (Act IV) 'Every wretch, pining and pale before,
Beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks.'
Seven Henry (Act IV, Scene 3) 'For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.'
Eight Henry (Act V, Scene 2) 'I would have her learn, my fair cousin, how perfectly I love her, and that is good English.'
Nine Westmorland (Act V, Scene 2) 'The King hath granted every article:
His daughter first, and then, in sequel, all'
Ten Chorus (Epilogue) 'Fortune made his sword,
By which the world's best garden he achieved,
And of it left his son imperial lord'
Page Talbot Henry VI, Part 1
Knight Hotspur Henry IV, Part 1
Queen Countess of Salisbury Edward III
King Sir John Falstaff Henry IV, Part 2