(1) for the Page of Cups, I think Hamlet himself qualifies, prior to the opening of the play—before the announcement of his mother’s remarriage and Claudius’s appointment as king. We know about this from Ophelia’s reports to her father Polonius. First,
OPHELIA. My lord, he hath importun’d me with love
In honourable fashion.
POLONIUS. Ay, fashion you may call it. Go to, go to.
OPHELIA. And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord
With almost all the holy vows of heaven. (1.3.110ff)
The second time is when she gives her father a poem Hamlet wrote her:
Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love. (2.2.242ff)
So he is the one who writes “sonnets to his mistress’ eyebrow,” as the “Seven Ages of Man’ speech has it. Then Ophelia took her father’s advice to avoid Hamlet, and Hamlet’s strange behavior followed, as the father says (2.2.139ff).
(2) For the Queen of Swords, Julius Caesar's wife Calpurnia also fits the role of the lady dismayed by her husband's going into danger. The night before his murder, she dreams of the event. As Caesar reports:
CAESAR. Nor heaven nor earth have been at peace tonight.
Thrice hath Calpurnia in her sleep cried out,
"Help! ho! they murder Caesar!" (Julius Caesar2.2.1ff)
And Calpurnia herself says:
CALPURNIA. What mean you, Caesar? Think you to walk forth?
You shall not stir out of your house today. (2.2.8f
She then lists a host of other unfavorable omens. But Caesar goes anyway. The source is Plutarch's Life of Caesar.
(3) For the King of Coins, I forgot about the title character of Timon of Athens. At the beginning of the play Timon is rich and also generous with his money, helping his friends as needed. Then he runs out of money,and his friends won't help him. He renounces humanity and calls himself "Misanthropos," the hater of man. He lives on roots that he digs from the hard soil. But in doing so, he discovers a buried treasure in gold. He looks upon it as a kind of poison. He gives some to the Athenian exile Alcibiades, to pay for the troops with which he plans to attack Athens. His "friends" return; he reviles them and chases them away. He offers it to some thieves, but they run away in horror. In that frame of mind he dies. In such a state might our King of Coins be regarding his money, as the root of evil. In the play, Alcibiades turns out to be more generous, accepting the Athenians' apologies. So we can also ask, in judicious hands might this coin do some good? Timon received no known performances in the 17th century and could have only been known from the expensive Folio edition of Shakespeare's works. (The same was true for Troilus and Cressida.) However it was based on a popular 2nd century Greek satire by Lucian, which by the late 16th century had been translated into Latin, French, Italian, and other languages. There was also a brief mention of Timon in Plutarch's Life of Antony. In addition, Lucian's dialogue had been turned into a play by Mateo Boiardo, performed in Ferrara c. 1487. It has much in common with Shakespeare's play; R. W. Bond ("Lucian and Boiardo in 'Timon of Athens,'" Modern Language Review) 26 (1931):1, pp. 52-68) has argued that Shakespeare had a copy. Two of Moliere's plays, 1660s, "The Misanthrope" and "The Miser" are on the same theme. (A translation of Lucian appears in Geoffrey Bullough's Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. VI, pp. 263-277. All but the first two pages are in Google Books. Portions of Boiardo's play are on pp, 277-293. Bullough's discussion of Boiardo is pp. 229-231.)
(4), I have found a more direct source for the tale of Apollonius of Tyre (the basis for Shakespeare's Pericles Prince of Tyre). It was included by Belleforest in vol. 7 of his Histoires Tragiques, according to Bullough (vol. 6 p. 353). Belleforest (in vol. 5 of the series) is also a major Shakespeare source for Hamlet.
Now, by way of summary, I will list the correspondences I have proposed, along with sources that would have been known to a French audience, where applicable, as well as other considerations that might have influenced a particular Noblet design.
Page of Swords: Hamlet, in Hamlet. Source: Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques, but without the self-castigation in Shakespeare. But revulsion against the new gunpowder-based warfare did not need Shakespeare to inspire.
Page of Batons: Fortinbras’s foot-soldiers in Hamlet, Falstaff’s in I Henry IV. No French source. Again, revulsion against the new type of war did not need Shakespeare. For venereal disease, Pericles Prince of Tyre; but the theme is not in the medieval source. For sexuality generally, Bottom, in Midsummer Night's Dream. Source for this reference: Apuleius, Golden Ass, well known in France.
Page of Cups: Ophelia in Hamlet. Source:Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques. Hamlet in Hamlet before the play opens. Not in source. Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Source: Boiasteau’s Histoires Tragiques.
Page of Coins: Prince Hal in I Henry IV. No French source. But the use of one’s talents, as opposed to idleness, was a theme of the times.
Knight of Swords: Octavius Caesar, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra. Source: Plutarch’s Life of Caesar, Life of Antony. Fortinbras, Hamlet, not in source.
Knight of Cups: Antony in Antony and Cleopatra. Source: Plutarch’s Lives. Claudius before the play Hamlet begins. Source: Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques. The theme was also in many medieval romances.
Knight of Coins: Pericles in Pericles Prince of Tyre. Source: Belleforest, Histoires Tragiques. Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey.
Knight of Batons: Fortinbras (and Hamlet) in early part of Hamlet. No source for Fortinbras; Histoires Tragiques for Hamlet. Pericles in Pericles Prince of Tyre, source: Belleforest, Histoires Tragiques..
Queen of Swords: Lady Hotspur in I Henry IV. Source in English only. Calpurnia in Julius Caesar. Source, Plutarch's Life of Caesar. In the Sola-Busca, Olympia, Alexander's mother.
Queen of Batons: Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Source: Boiasteau’s Histoires Tragiques. Hecuba, known from Homer, Euripides, and Seneca, also fits the card but not the words in the Etteilla list.
Queen of Cups: Ophelia in Hamlet. Episode not in source. Cassandra in Troilus and Cressida. Source: Homer, Euripides and Seneca, Margaret in Richard III. No French source. In the Sola-Busca, Polyxena, another daughter of Priam.
Queen of Coins: Gertrude in Hamlet. Source: Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques. In the Sola-Busca, Helen of Troy.
King of Swords: Henry IV in II Henry IV. No French source. Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great: Plutarch, Life of Caesar and Life of Alexander. In the Sola-Busca. Alexander the Great.
King of Batons: Polonius in Hamlet. Source: Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques.
King of Cups: Claudius in Hamlet. Falstaff in I Henry IV and II Henry IV. No French source.
King of Coins: Shylock and Antonio, Merchant of Venice. Source: Gesta Romanorum (medieval), Silvayne’s Histoires Tragiques. Timon, in Timon of Athens. Sources: Lucian's " Dialogue of Timon"; a mention in Plutarch's Life of Antony; possibly Mateo Boiardo's Timone. Prospero, [The Tempest. No source, but the magus/alchemist was a common image. In the Sola-Busca, Philip of Macedon.
AN ALTERNATIVE HYPOTHESIS
Shakespeare's sources divide mainly into two groups. One is the Histoires Tragiques series in late 16th century France, mostly translations (with additions) from Italian-language tales of that century or earlier. The other is classical writings about events related to the Trojan War, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar.
The Histoires Tragiques was a series started by Boiasteau and continued by Belleforest (see Wikipedia). These in turn were translations, with some additions, from the Italian. I don’t know whether Silvayne’s tale was part of that series, but it also came from the Italian. I don’t know the series of tales at all; there might be other characters in them that correspond to the cards, besides the ones that Shakespeare used.
The second group suggests to me an alternative hypothesis, as far as an organizing principle for interpretations of the cards. I am imagining that at some point the courts of a proto-Noblet are formed on the foundation of the Sola-Busca of 1491. The Sola-Busca court cards, it is known (from the names written on the cards) used personalities from the Trojan War and the life of Alexander the Great. What connects the two is that Alexander was said to have descended from Achilles. Plutarch's Lives pairs the life of prominent Greeks with those of Romans of similar character. He pairs the life of Alexander with that of Julius Caesar. Extending the times from the two time-periods of the SB to three (including the time of Caesar), while deleting the references to gods and the more obscure humans, would have been a natural move, So perhaps we need to look further at these three periods to find the models for cards in the Noblet not already identified. In this case the source would not be Shakespeare, but rather the classical sources he used.
Along these lines several other correspondences suggest themselves. Most of these are at least mentioned by Shakespeare. Here is a list, by its very nature tentative; I give it to show the reasonableness of my hypothesis.
Queen of Batons. Hecuba, Queen of Troy. She does not appear in Shakespeare’s play Troilus and Cressida, but six of her eleven children do, as enumerated in various Greek and Roman sources. That qualifies her as “earth mother,” for fertility and nurturance,
Queen of Swords. Calpurnia, Julius Caesar's wife. In Plutarch's Life of Caesar she dreams of her husband's murder and urges him not to go to the Senate that day. Olympia in the Sola-Busca.
Queen of Coins: Cleopatra. Her wealth is part of what captivates Antony, as described in Plutarch's Life of Antony. Also Helen, as in the Sola-Busca.
Queen of Cups: Cassandra, prophetess daughter of King Priam of Troy.
King of Cups: Mark Antony (changed from Knight of Cups due to his age and position). Or King Priam of Troy, for his defense of Paris's love for Helen.
King of Coins: Timon of Athens, included in this list because he is mentioned in Plutarch's Life of Antony and because he was familiar at the time, due to Boiardo's play. There is also the SB's Philip of Macedon, but he didn't live to regret his riches There may be other Greco-Roman candidates. King Midas is possible; but he may have been classified as mythic rather than historical. The list is otherwise people who would have been considered historical.
King of Swords: Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, in Plutarch's Lives..
King of Batons. I am not sure. One possibility is Agamemnon. Like the Charioteer, he follows reason rather than sentiment when he sacrifices his daughter Iphegenia to secure a fair wind to Troy. This corresponds roughly to Polonius's treatment of Ophelia, sacrificing her feelings to protect her value as bridal merchandise. Also, Agamemnon was known for posturing, e.g. asserting his authority over Achilles by appropriating Achilles' favorite female captive, after which Achilles refuses to fight.
Knight of Swords. Octavius Caesar, Julius's nephew, who later became Augustus..
Knight of Batons: The Greeks, who after building the Trojan Horse appeared to leave Troy.
Knight of Cups: Paris, lover of Helen; or Troilus, lover of Cressida.
Knight of Coins: Odysseus, who after the Trojan War took another 10 years to return home, tossed around the Mediterranean by Poseidon. Or Apollonius of Tyre, in the well known legend.
As for the Pages, they remain nameless, as in the Sola-Busca. In the SB, they correspond to young people associated in some way with the temperament assigned to each suit. In a proto-Noblet, they might simply be young people starting out in a profession (armed noble, armed peasant, courtier, and merchant) corresponding to each suit.
However the portrayals on this proto-Noblet, to be like the Noblet, are not exactly those of their classical prototypes. In the Noblet there is a decided shift in the portrayal of the characters, especially the Pages, from the classical literature, or even in the Histoires Tragiques. Noblet's Page of Swords is lost in thought, as though ambivalent about even becoming a soldier. That is not in the classical models. The Page of Batons, once he sees what he is up against, is thinking about turning around. That only seems to happen in the classics, e.g. after the building of the Trojan Horse. And the King of Swords, unlike Julius Caesar and Alexander, does not dismiss his fears but becomes all the more anxious after his victory. (I am not including the Noblet's grim Knight of Swords in this list because Plutarch does portray Octavius as grim and even saddened by what he has to do; similarly, the dismayed Queen of Swords does correspond to Calpurnia as Plutarch portrays her on the morning of the Ides of March. But as classical soldiers and royal ladies go, these are exceptions. Most are models of unflinching courage.)
What caused this change to a less heroic perspective, I have hypothesized, was the advent of gunpowder-based weapons, which made warfare so much more destructive. Where does this type of warfare first appear in European art and literature? In literature, the first reference I find is in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, from early 16th century Ferrara. Edgar Wind writes (Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance, p. 108):
In clear allusion to the cannon foundry of Alfonso d'Este, he foretold in L'Orlando furioso That the "murderous engine" would destroy the virtues of chivalry. Orlando throws it to the botttom of the sea (IX, 88-91; also XI, 21-8). But however self-evident in retrospect, this idea that mechanical warfare must spell the end of the chivalrous tradition was bluntly discounted by the Platonic emblem writers.
In pictorial art, the cannon ball becomes a favorite device, adopted by Frederigo da Montefeltro and then Alfonso d'Este (Wind p.108). Wind gives us Alfonso's version, an exploding cannon-ball.
There is also the famous portrait of Alfonso I by Titian, now known only in a copy, with his hand on a cannon, c. 1529 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfonso_I_ ... of_Ferrara).
According to Wind (p. 108), this painting is a symbolic representation of the motto "festina lente," make haste slowly, implying that Alfonso will be slow to anger, but sudden and terrible once aroused. (Wind also finds this same shot and gunpowder metaphor in Shakespeare, in Love's Labour's Lost Act 3.Scene 1.) If so, that metaphor shows a marked shift in the way that motto was illustrated. The School of Mantegna, for example, had used a youth on a cube being restrained by Wisdom from chasing Opportunity on her globe (Wind p. 101 and fig. 53).
Wind (p. 103f) gives other examples of festina lente, from the Hypnerotomachia, Venice 1499, equally benign. One (below left), later adopted by the publisher Aldus as his device, has a dolphin cavorting around an anchor. Another is of a lady holding wings and a tortoise (fast and slow) while having the corresponding legs down (sitting)=slow) and up (running=fast).
Alfonso's cannon is a threatening departure from these playful examples. Ferrara knew the destructiveness of gunpowder first-hand. Although its princes usually managed to avoid war, Ercole managed to get into an unfortunate war with Venice 1482-1484, in which Venetian troops came to the very gates of the city. The result was much destruction and hardship: besides the loss of life and limb, many people were impoverished and there was much loss of property.
It is my thought that the card-designers of Ferrara took the point of view of the Ferrarese Ariosto, seeing the cannon as signaling a frightening change in the nature of warfare. This attitude intensifies in the Noblet, where, as I have said, we see the Page of Swords' ambivalence toward even becoming a soldier, the Knight of Batons' thought of retreat, and the King of Swords' anxiety at the top.
Some of this ambivalence is also present in the d'Este court cards of around this same time and place, compared to what came before. On the Knight of Swords, we see his victims lying on the ground below his horse, a sight we are not usually afforded. On the Knight of Batons, we see no victims, suggesting the impotence of his suit-weapon. These two cards are quite different from the corresponding PMB cards (which I add at right below).
The King and Queen of Swords in the two decks are more similar, but just as suggestive of the new warfare: the Queen, as we have seen, waves good-bye sadly, and her King is lost in thought.
Because of the change in the Knights, in this regard as in others, I see Ferrara as a possible poinr of departure for the type of characterizations made in the Noblet Courts. Let me sum up the reasons for choosing Ferrara. (1) Ferrara was most likely involved in some way, if only the engraving, with the Sola-Busca deck, whose courts embody a classical theme that can be extended to include a third time period, all three of which are in the Noblet. Another extension of the theme in Ferrara is the d'Este Sun card, which (alone among Sun cards) illustrates an anecdote concerning Alexander and the philosopher Diogenes (below left). (2) Ferrara was the home of Ariosto and a principal source for the attention paid to the cannon in pictorial art, an early reflection of the ambivalence toward warfare that seems to characterize the Noblet. (3) The d'Este Knights (as well as its Queens and Kings of Swords) show this same ambivalence toward their weaponly suit signs that seems to characterize the Noblet. And (4) Ferrara is where the Boiardo's Timone was written and performed in 1487. The d'Este King of Coins shows a somewhat similar ambivalence toward his wealth, compared to the PMB, while the Noblet is downright melancholy in his solitude (all below, from 2nd on left to right).
So my scenario is that the structure and tone for the Noblet courts was set first in Ferrara, sometime in the late 15th and early 16th century, based on well-known classical personalities in Homer, Euripides, Seneca, Plutarch, Lucian, etc. These figures combined in the artists' and public's imagination with similar figures in the tales that became the basis of the French Histoires Tragiques. Eventually a synthesis of ancient and Renaissance was achieved, expressed clearly in Shakespeare but also present in the Noblet courts. The designer of the Noblet, whoever he was, had a Shakespearean sense of which characters in the literature to include and how to portray them.
There are rough spots and empty spaces in this account; more research is needed. In any case, I think I have made a start in constructing a 17th century understanding of the Noblet Courts. From it we can see backwards to Renaissance Ferrara and forward to Etteilla's word-lists, stretching even to some of Jodorowsky's interpretations in the present day.