Richard II (act III scene iii)

King Richard II [To Northumberland.]

‘Yet know, my master, God omnipotent, Is mustering in his clouds on our behalf Armies of pestilence; and they shall strike Your children yet unborn and unbegot, That lift your vassal hands against my head And threat the glory of my precious crown. Tell Bolingbroke – for yond methinks he stands – That every stride he makes upon my land Is dangerous treason: he is come to open The purple testament of bleeding war; But ere the crown he looks for live in peace, Ten thousand bloody crowns of mothers’ sons Shall ill become the flower of England’s face, Change the complexion of her maid-pale peace To scarlet indignation and bedew Her pastures’ grass with faithful English blood.’

– Reed International Books Ltd. 1992. The Illustrated Stratford Shakespeare London, Great Britain: Chancellor Press (1996) p. 377


The Eleven Cities Tour, in Dutch: Elfstedentocht or, in Frisian: Alvestêdetocht is at a distance of 200 km, the world’s largest and longest speed skating race.

It is held in the province of Friesland, one of the northern provinces of the Netherlands. The tour is only held when the ice along the entire course is at least 15 cm thick. If the event does go through it is only organised once a year. However, since the venue is entirely dependent on the winter elements the race has only been run fifteen times since 1909 – at the time of writing, the last race was held in 1997.

Elfstedentocht in 1985

The tour connects the twelve towns in Friesland that have ever been allowed to call themselves a city in a clockwise direction. Until 2005 it was thought that there were only eleven cities and a number of villages along the route, but it has been proven that the town of Berlikum was dubbed a city 1355. Thankfully, Berlikum or Berltsum in Frisian, was already on the route so the original course could be retained. Nowadays, the town is no longer an officially recognised as a city but as a village. So name of the race has remained the same.

The track of the racecourse is divided up into eleven sections, with every city at its centre. In every section, a steward known as a Rayonhoofd is in charge of the race administration, organisation and the quality of the ice. These stewards form the governing body of the race organisation. A majority of the Rayonhoofden has to vote in favour of a race if it is going to take place at all.

Not every frozen stream or canal on the racecourse is entirely suitable for skating. To avoid accidents these parts of the track are avoided by a practise known as klunen. This involves the skaters stepping on the land and speed-walking along the unusable parts of the frozen track on their skates.

All participating skaters must be a member of the Association of the Eleven Frisian Cities. To become a member one must be over eighteen and have the endorsements of two members who state that the proposed member is fit enough to finish the gruelling race. At the start a starting permit is required. Further more, in each city the skater must collect a stamp, as well as a stamp from the three secret check points. The skater must finish the 200 km course before the next midnight.

The first official race in 1909 was the longest to date to declare a winner. Minne Hoekstra skated 13:50 hours to finish first.

In 1933, Abe de Vries and Sipke Castelein and in 1940, Piet Keijzer, Auke Adema, Cor Jongert, Durk van der Duim and Sjouke Westra respectively decided not to compete in the final leg and crossed the finish line in unison.

After shared wins in 1933 and 1940, this practice was forbidden by the organisation. Nevertheless, in 1956 Jan van der Hoorn, Aad de Koning, Jeen Nauta, Maus Wijnhout and Anton Verhoeven ignored this rule when they also crossed the finish line in unison. They were not disqualified, but no official winner was declared.

In 1947, Jan van der Hoorn finished fifth but was later declared winner when the first four competitors were disqualified for receiving illegal help from the audience along the route.

The race held in 1963 was dubbed the worst race ever. Due to the extreme temperatures and the incredibly fierce winds only 69 contestants out of the starting 9294 finished the race. Today it is still known as ‘the hell of 63’.

The fastest winner to date is Evert van Benthem who in 1985 finished first in a record 6:47 hours.

Until 1933 the course had been raced in a counter-clockwise direction. This was reversed in the race of 1941. Nowadays, the racecourse outline is as follows:

– Leeuwarden (Start) (Frisian: Ljouwert) (-) km
– Sneek (Snits) 22km
– IJlst (Drylts) 26 km
– Sloten (Sleat) 40 km
– Stavoren (Starum) 66 km
– Hindeloopen (Hylpen) 77 km
– Workum (Warkum) 86 km
– Bolsward (Boalsert) 99 km
– Harlingen (Harns) 116 km
– Franeker (Frjentsjer) 129 km
– Dokkum (Dokkum) 174 km
– Leeuwarden (Finish) (Ljouwert) 199 km

The finishing point of the Elfstedentocht is a canal near Leeuwarden, called the Bonkevaart. Close to the Bonkevaart is the famous landmark windmill, De Bullemolen.

English: Lekkum: Bullemolen with flags Nederla...

The mill called De Bullemolen next to the stream De Bonkevaart, the finishing point of the race

Since the Elfstedentocht is such a rare event, its declaration creates excitement all over the country. As soon as a few days pass with sub-zero temperatures, the media start speculating about the chances for an Elfstedentocht.

The longer the freezing temperatures stay, the more intense this Elfstedenkoorts, Eleven City Tour fever gets – culminating in a national near-frenzy when the announcement is spoken that the tour is actually taking place. The day before the race many Dutch flock to Leeuwarden to enjoy the party atmosphere that surrounds the event. The evening before the race called the Nacht van Leeuwarden, the Night of Leeuwarden becomes a giant city-wide street party. Frisians, who have a reputation of surliness, are said to thaw when it freezes.

The announcement: it giet troch, in Dutch het gaat door, literally translated as it is on, meaning ‘the race is on’ has become one the most famous Frisian expressions in the Netherlands.

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Female Sperm

Female sperm is a term that refers to a sperm that contains an X chromosome, produced in the usual way by a male, referring to the fact that, when such a sperm fertilizes an egg, a female child is born.

English: A false-colour image of human spermat...

A false colour image of human spermatozoa

However, for over 20 years, dating back to the late 1980s, scientists have explored how to produce sperm whereby all of the chromosomes come from an adult woman. In the late 1990s, the theory became a partial reality when scientists developed chicken female sperm, by injecting bone marrow stem cells from a female chicken into a rooster’s testicles. This technique proved to fall below expectations, however, and has not yet been successfully adapted for use on humans.

Creating female sperm was first raised as a possibility in a patent filed in 1991 by injecting a woman’s cells into a man’s testicles, though the patent focused mostly on injecting altered male cells into a man’s testicles to correct genetic diseases.

One potential roadblock to injecting a woman’s cells into a man’s testicles is that the man’s immune system might attack and destroy the woman’s cells. In usual circumstances, when foreign cells – such as cells or organs from other people, or infectious bacteria – are injected into the human body, the immune system will reject such cells. However, a special property of a man’s testicles is that they are immune-privileged, that is, a man’s immune system will not attack foreign cells – such as a woman’s cells – injected into the sperm-producing part of the testicles. Thus, a woman’s cells will remain in the man’s testicles long enough to be converted into sperm.

Scientists have discovered a method of creating partly developed sperm cells, otherwise known as spermatogonial stem cells, from the bone marrow of both sexes, entirely in-vitro, and is seeking funding to see whether such techniques can be used to make female sperm.

If created, a female sperm cell could fertilize an egg cell, a procedure that, among other potential applications, might enable female same-sex couples to produce a child that would be the biological offspring of its two mothers. It is also claimed that production of female sperm may stimulate a female to be both the mother as well father – similar to asexual reproduction – of an offspring produced by her own sperm even though many queries both ethical as well as moral may arise on these arguments.

Given the importance of procreation to critics of same-sex marriage, the development of human female sperm and children so born may alter the debate.


In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus or Hermaphroditos was the child of Aphrodite and Hermes. He was a minor deity of bisexuality and effeminacy. According to Ovid, born a remarkably handsome boy, he was transformed into an androgynous being by union with the water nymph Salmacis. His name is the basis for the word hermaphrodite.

English: Hermaphroditus


Hermaphroditus, the two-sexed son of Aphrodite and Hermes – Venus and Mercury – had long been a symbol of bisexuality or effeminacy, and was portrayed in Greco-Roman art as a female figure with male genitals.

Theophrastus’s account also suggests a link between Hermaphroditus and the institution of marriage. Hermaphroditus’s association with marriage seems to have been that, by embodying both masculine and feminine qualities, he symbolized the coming together of men and women in sacred union. Another factor linking Hermaphroditus to weddings was his parents’ role in protecting and blessing brides.

Hermaphroditus’s name is derived from those of his parents Hermes and Aphrodite. All three of these gods figure largely among erotic and fertility figures, and all possess distinctly sexual overtones. Ironically, even though Hermaphroditus is commonly portrayed as a female with male genitals, he is referred to as a he, not a she. The same is found in the name; Hermaphroditus, which ends with the Latin male ending -us. Sometimes, Hermaphroditus is referred to as Aphroditus. The phallic god Priapus was the son of Hermes in some accounts, and the youthful god of desire Eros of Hermes and Aphrodite.

Characteristics of a Sect

Most of the following characteristics (to an extent) are common in a sect:

I. Indoctrination and Manipulation
The most common characteristics of a sect are indoctrination and manipulation. Indoctrination is a manipulative device that occurs automatically; it is usually used on children and young adults who are growing up within the sectarian community. Furthermore, it is always in the interest of the sect to use manipulation towards all its members in order to increase the plausibility of its message.

“Does the group use education (formal or informal) to get its message across?”

“Does the group use manipulative techniques (rhetorical devices, small group meetings, wondrous stories, myths, et cetera) to increase the plausibility of its message?”

English: Kerkzaal gereformeerde gemeente in ne...

Inside of a fundamentalist calvinist church in the Netherlands; many reformed Christian societies in the Netherlands like GGiN and OGGiN have a large number of different sectarian characteristics.

II. Authority
The leaders of the sect have a certain authority – to such a degree that they are (almost) beyond reproach. The leaders are in the position to make efficient use of their power, which is usually exalted over the members of the sect.

“Are the leaders in the group in possession of a certain unquestioned power (over people)?”

III. Social control
A common characteristic of a sect is social control. The group will try to influence the private life of its members to quite an extent.

“Does the group try to influence the private life of its members?”

IV. Only the leaders are in possession of the truth
The members of the sect (are forced to) believe that the leaders of the sect are the only, or at the very least, virtually the only people who are in possession of the truth. Everything what is being done, said, or believed by people outside the sect is judged to be wrong if those beliefs or actions are not sect policy.

“Are (virtually) only the leaders of the group in possession of the truth?”

V. Destructive control methods
The sect uses ‘forcing manipulative techniques’, also known as brainwashing, or ‘destructive control techniques’. The sect is constantly trying to keep its members close to the group. This is achieved by:
– driving members into feelings guilt; whether they are rebellious or not.
– threatening exclusion.
– assuring members are socially and emotionally dependant of the sect.

“Does the group try to keep its members close to its core with one or different techniques?”

VI. Financial demands
The sect can expect or demand a regular financial contribution of its members. In extreme cases, the sect can confiscate personal property, savings, or claim a percentage of each member’s regular income. Motives mostly include making the members financially reliant on the sect – trying to ensure its members are financially tied to the community. This can also be done by refusing outside help such as: refusing insurance payouts, benefits, pension, et cetera. Expecting a regular contribution however, is more prevalent.

“Does the group try to make its members financially reliant to some extent, or claim personal belongings – financial or otherwise?”

VII. Loyalty
Loyalty is in almost all cases demanded of everyone. The life of each member must revolve around the sect. Members must be an example of the group at large, both in appearance as in personality. These physical and emotional demands can be quite draining; nevertheless, members are judged if they do not appear to be absolutely loyal to the community and its standards and beliefs. These demands can be quite severe: anything from a forced dress style to the death of a non-vaccinated infant.

“Does the group make any physical and emotional demands – and judgemental of every dissenter?”

VIII. Loaded language
A specific type of language is often a characteristic of a sect. Although one will rarely find a sect with its own unique language, a distinctive dialect or jargon however, is quite common. This variety of language can involve anything from persuasive and manipulative phraseology to a mystic or religious language. The specific language variety is also known as a loaded language; its primary function is to make the policy of the group sound more weighty and plausible. The loaded language can also produce problems for group members who have grown accustomed to the language of the sect.

“Does the group have a specific language variety (jargon, phraseology, et cetera) to talk about its policies and beliefs?”

IX. No criticism
Doubting any of the policies or beliefs of the sect is seen as rebellious behaviour and will be crushed. Group members receive appreciation from other members only by portraying unquestioned loyalty and submission.

“Does the group not allow any criticism on its policies or beliefs?”

X. Lying and intimidation
Inside the sect it is usual to lie about reality. First of all, the belief system of the sect must remain an absolute truth at all times. This means any criticism must be crushed. Second, critics and dissenters are often lied about to discredit their name to the remaining members of the group. Chronic lying, psychological-, and perhaps even physical intimidation may be used to smother the person who walks out of step.

“Does the group use lies, psychological-, or physical intimidation to contradict and/or smother a critic or dissenter?”

XI. Threats and blackmail
Members who do not submit to the group or even attempt to leave can be reproached or even threatened with all sorts of consequences.

“Does the group try to prevent its members from leaving?”

“Does the group reproach or even threaten any dissenter?”

English: Taraxacum sect. Ruderalia Deutsch: Ge...

A common dandelion known as – in this case, ironically – Taraxacum Sect

XII. Infliction of rights and privacy
i. Infractions on own identity
Every member must conform to the group identity. It is not allowed to do research outside of the group, every member must accept and believe what the leaders say. The group may also try to drive the member into submission; this may involve constant contradiction, intimidation, or manipulation, even withholding information, financial means, food, or sleep.

“Does the group infringe on the personal identity of its members?”

ii. Personal infractions
Friendships and relationships with partners, children, and parents can be severely inhibited or damaged.

“Are any friendships or relationships with partners, children, or parents severely inhibited or damaged by members of the group?”

iii. Financial infractions
The group can pressure people into making donations to the sect. Methods of acquiring funds vary from implanting a certain understood obligation to donate money to using severe measures like manipulative pressure or threats.

“Are the members of the group in any way obliged to donate money to the group?”

iv. Infractions on contact with the outside world
Almost everybody outside a sect is usually portrayed as bad, unworthy, underdeveloped, or dangerous. In doing so, every member is isolated from the outside world. Everyone in the world outside the sect is – to a certain extent – portrayed as an enemy of the group, or its policies, or both.

“Is everyone outside the group in question portrayed as bad, unworthy, underdeveloped, or even dangerous?”

v. Infractions on time and privacy
The sect regularly checks up on its members to see if all members are sound and loyal; it also uses a lot of its time and energy for regular group activities.

“Does the group regularly check up on its members to review their loyalty and attitude?”

“Does the group regularly come together for regular group activities?”

XIII. Possible consequences for the sect member
i. Personality change
Virtually all the people in the outside world (especially friends and family outside the sect) can say they do not recognise the person who has been consumed by the sect. They often find the member irritable, critical, and reproachful when he is contradicted on doctrinal, dogmatic, ideological, or religious matters.

“Do group members seem irritable, critical, and reproachful when contradicted on doctrinal, dogmatic, ideological, or religious matters?”

ii. Loss of identity
The group member cannot (or at least with some difficulty) see him/herself as an individual.

“Do group members experience difficulty or even fail to see themselves as an individual?”

iii. Paranoia
The critical outsider is seen as a threat. If someone says anything negative about the group, whether this critic may be right or not, this person is seen as someone who persecutes the group. This is an obvious reaction since criticism in any form is not easily accepted – if it is accepted at all.

“Does the group experience criticism (founded or unfounded) as persecution and therefore a threat?”

iv. Social alienation
Members of a sect can lose contact with the outside world. This happens because members are manipulated into believing the outside world is fundamentally wrong as well as wicked and bad. Nevertheless, members who acquire contacts or even relations outside the group are reprimanded, rebuked, and shamed into breaking off these contacts. It can therefore seem as if people who are living in a sect display a certain amount of naivety – social alienation is one of the major factors what causes this.

“Do group members believe that the ‘outside world’ is fundamentally wrong as well as wicked and bad?”

“Do group members display a certain naivety in their contact with the outside world?”

“Do group members have a lot of contact with the outside world? – are they criticised for this?”

XIV. Severe feelings of guilt
All activities which are not in accordance with the teachings of the sect – activities which are not allowed for all sorts of reasons – are considered shortcomings in its members and judged accordingly. It is in the interest of the group to exaggerate any former breach of uniformity; the sect will repeatedly remind members of their previous offences, causing feelings of guilt and remorse. It is also common for the sect to remind its members that they are never doing enough – no effort is too great. In doing so, the sect entraps its members into a web of guilt, and constantly tries to make its members more obedient. This uniformity is often only achieved at the cost of rational thought, which causes all sorts of problems for the members of the group.

“Does the group try to remind its members that they are never doing enough for the benefit of the group?”

“Does the group try to remind its members of past actions or present practices in order to cause feelings of guilt and remorse?”

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