(It’s best to read Episode One first.)
I HAD to get out of town…..
London was the best place to hide.
The Network put me in touch with Tom Kyd – another Catholic Grammar School boy, a few years older.
For me it was Ovid’s poetry – for Tom it was Seneca’s plays – full of vengeful ghosts, suicides, murders and madness. Tom wrote English versions that were every bit as bloody…
…and the public loved them!
The Spanish Tragedy was one of them.
…..Hamlet was another.
Yes. Hamlet….more of that later….
We still had to work by day as lawyers’ clerks but wrote pamphlets, ballads and plays by candlelight at night.
(ANGEL E as THOMAS NASHE puts on a wig of wild ‘staring’ hair.)
We got right up the noses of the University Wits…….
…..men who thought Grammar School oiks had no business writing.
Little Tom Nashe (ANGEL E as THOMAS NASHE rises)…..
……..with his buck teeth and staring hair – was the worst….
He called us…
ANGEL E (as TOM NASHE)
(Sarcastically)….deep read Grammarians who have no learning in their skull, nor Art in their brain. Seneca read by candlelight yields them many good sentences, and he will afford whole Hamlets. For recreation after their candle stuff, having starched their beards most curiously, they make a peripatetical path into the inner parts of the City……
….Go on a pub crawl….
…..and spend two or three hours in turning over French ‘Dowdy’…..
…sleeping with French prostitutes. (TOM NASHE sits and takes off his wig).
You’ll find out tonight that I’ve had a lot of adulterous sex in my life.
I went through agonies of guilt, as a Catholic, about breaking my wedding vows….
But I now think my REAL sin was this…..
…..I had a warm, caring, beautiful wife.
But I found her goodness boring….
(ANGEL D puts on a flamboyant silk scarf.)
It was impossible to go into the inner parts of the City without running into Kit Marlowe (ANGEL D as KIT MARLOWE rises)
….a man four hundred years ahead of his time.
If you think London was swinging in the 1960’s you should have seen it in the 1580’s!
The very first thing Kit said to me was….
ANGEL D as KIT MARLOWE
(Coming forward. Out front)
All they that love not tobacco and boys be fools….
Kit somehow managed to combine Atheism with Devil Worship….
But he had a soft spot for Catholics…
If there be any God or good religion then it is the Papists, because the service of God is performed with more ceremonies, as elevation of the mass, organs, singing men and shaven crowns.
All Protestants are hypocritical asses….
He also said…..
(Out front) Whoever loved who loved not at first sight….
The trouble was he was looking at me at the time.
But he soon clocked I was a naïve country-boy Catholic….
We became close friends, though…..
(Turning to SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE) Be true. Be yourself. And sing your own song.
(ANGEL D as KIT MARLOWE turns and goes back to his seat He removes his silk scarf.)
Lucy chased me all the way to London…..
…..but I had a masterstroke….
I found out that when he was in town, he worshipped at St. Giles, Cripplegate.
St. Giles, Cripplegate.
So I went to see the Rector there, Robert Crowley.
He turned out to be an off-the-wall poet and radical who refused to wear liturgical garments….
ANGEL E as ROBERT CROWLEY
The devil’s conjuring robes….
….and got into fist fights with any priest that did….
(ANGEL C as YOUNG SHAKESPEARE enters from Stage Right. ROBERT CROWLEY calls him over.)
Will, come here boy. Sir Thomas has sent me the ballad you wrote about him.
Now I write ballads all the time as a way of communicating God’s word.
But your ballad is vicious.
‘Lucy is lousy’ – how would you feel if you were Sir Thomas?
ANGEL C (as YOUNG SHAKESPEARE)
But I’m not Sir Thomas. I don’t torture schoolboys.
It’s your job as a writer to empathise with everyone…..
You have to imagine, for example, what it’s like to be very poor….
But I AM very poor!
(ignoring him)…and to imagine what it’s like to be very rich.
If everyone did that, the rich would give everything they had to the poor…
Then the poor would give it back….
Look, Will, I’ll get Lucy off your back, but I’ll want something in return….
(Reaching into his pocket.)
I don’t want your money, Will. I want your soul!
I want you to bring God to the great mass of the people….
But I’m not a priest!
No! You are a writer and an actor! And I believe you will become a very great one.
I want you to tour England with Biblical stories!
The people will benefit – and so will you.
(ANGEL E as ROBERT CROWLEY and ANGEL C as YOUNG SHAKESPEARE freeze. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. ANGELS unfreeze. ANGEL E returns to his chair while ANGEL C exits to stage right wings. On his next entry he will be HARRY – so needs a velcro red rose set in the wings or backstage.)
So I formed a company – mostly unemployed tradesmen – and started to tour the Midlands.
All my plays had a high moral message, were packed with Biblical quotations and were aimed at the common man…
The common man didn’t want to know.
He much preferred Tom Kyd’s blood and thunder…
And then the Armada came….
Armada Sea Battle.
(Standing at Prompt Table)
The Fourth Age:
Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the panther,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth.
I’ve told you I didn’t make it to the sixth and seventh age….well I didn’t make it to the fourth one either….
A soldier? Moi? No way!
Anyway, we Catholics were conflicted about the Armada. We wanted England to return to Rome – but we hated the Spaniards more than we hated the Queen.
The good thing about the Armada year was that the Bear died…..
…..poisoned, it was said, by his second wife.
My father’s business instantly picked up.
But show-biz didn’t. Actors were hated for their lack of patriotism.
Kit, Tom and I could no longer hack it in the theatre….
…so we joined aristocratic families as tutors to their children.
(ANGEL D puts on a flamboyant silk scarf – but a different colour to MARLOWE’S)
The Network swung into action again….
I joined the Southampton family at Titchfield, aged by touring and with my hair falling out….
(ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE stands. ANGEL B puts on a tiara.)
Mary, the second Countess of Southampton…
Mary Browne, 2nd Countess of Southampton.
……(ANGEL B as COUNTESS MARY stands)
….showed me the family portraits in the gallery….
(COUNTESS MARY walks forward and looks out front – at what we take to be her portrait gallery. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE walks behind her down to the front and stands stage left of her.)
ANGEL B as COUNTESS MARY
And this, Master Shakespeare, is my late husband, the second Earl of Southampton….
Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton
If you are to become tutor to my son, you must be aware of the facts…..
The second Earl was a fine Catholic: he fought to bring the Blessed Mary Queen of Scots to the English throne. (COUNTESS MARY and MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE cross themselves.)
He was imprisoned in the Tower and nearly lost his head.
However, as a husband he was….unappreciative.
He accused me – quite insanely – of falling in love with a common person…
(Looking at MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE, discreetly, up and down)…
I can see you’ll be needing some new clothes….(Recovering herself – she is clearly taken with MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE).
And an allowance…
My husband snatched my young son, Harry, away. He turned his manservant into his wife and left him everything.
I overturned the will, of course, but could not overturn the damage done to poor Harry….
(COUNTESS MARY points to another painting that is out front, further to stage right.)
That is a portrait of him…
Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks startled.)
As you can see, he loves to dress up as a girl. Other than that, has no interest in women whatsoever.
This, Master Shakespeare, is where you come in.
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks startled again.)
You are a happily married man with children. I want you to get Harry excited by the idea of fatherhood.
Soon it will be his seventeenth birthday… I want you to write seventeen sonnets to show him the joys of the opposite sex.
I want you to ‘turn the vessel round’ as it were….
(COUNTESS MARY exits into the upstage right wings.)
ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE
(To himself, in horror, crossing down left)
(COUNTESS MARY enters from the stage right wings and announces….)
Master Shakespeare, (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE turns) my son, Henry Ryosely.
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE kneels with his head down as ANGEL C as HARRY enters from the upstage right wings, wearing a Velcro red rose.)
Third Earl of Southampton and Baron of Titchfield….
(HARRY crosses down left to MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and offers him his ring to kiss. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE does so, then looks up into HARRY’s face.)
I’m sure you two boys will get on like a house on fire…
(ANGELS freeze. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and ANGELS unfreeze. It should be clear that HARRY fancies MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE – but that MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE is confused. ANGEL C and ANGEL B return to their chairs. ARCHANGEL X sets a table centre. ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE takes his chair from upstage and sits left of the table, miming writing.)
I wrote the seventeen sonnets….
….and found the whole experience intoxicating!
English is the hardest language in the world to rhyme in….
….and to do it fourteen times in a single poem ties up your brain so completely that your heart is free to roam.
I was beginning to sing my own song…..
To a commission, mind you….
How do you turn a gay man straight?
Well, first I flattered Harry’s beauty –
(From seat at table.)
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die….
‘Rose’ was a reference to the Southampton rose –
……and the preposterous way the Southampton family pronounced its name – ‘Ryosely’.
Everyone else said ‘Risley’
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory….
It was Harry’s duty to pass on his beauty. By keeping it to himself he was not only robbing the world – he was robbing hmself of the gift of a baby boy…..
….what I called his ‘sweet self.’
For having traffic with thy self alone,
Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive….
If Harry had a baby boy he would become like a moon….
…..but a miraculous moon that waned and waxed at the same time……
It would wane because Harry would inevitably get older and weaker….
But it would wax in the figure of his son who would get older and stronger.
As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow’st
In one of thine, from that which thou departests.
And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow’st
Thou may call thine, when thou from youth convertest.
But perhaps my strongest argument was…..
If you don’t have a child you’ll end up like the toothless old hag, Queen Elizabeth….
….harsh, feautureless, and rude….
….. barrenly perish…..
I gave the sonnets to Harry on his birthday…..
….and then waited for his reaction….
ANGEL C as HARRY
(Rising from his seat, miming brandishing a sheaf of papers.) Master Shakespeare, these Sonnets are an utter failure… (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks crestfallen)
I still don’t like girls!
(On the attack) Even though you look like one?
Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.
Are you being offensive?
No. It’s the theme of this new sonnet I’m writing about you….
But if you don’t like them…..(Goes to tear the sonnet up)
(Stopping him) I like BITS of them – especially the bits about me. ..
Let’s hear your new sonnet then! (HARRY pulls his upstage chair up to right of the table to listen.)
It’s not finished….
Perhaps I can give you some ideas….
(HARRY touches MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE, suggestively on the arm – but MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE politely withdraws it.)
A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion….
Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.
(HARRY shows interest)
A woman’s gentle heart but not acquainted
With shifting change as is false women’s fashion….
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling….
(HARRY can contain himself no longer)
See! You don’t like girls either!
Gilding the object where-upon it gazeth,
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling
Which steals men’s eyes…
….and women’s souls amazeth……
( HARRY, disappointed, groans)
And for a woman wast thou first created
Till Nature as she wrought thee, fell a-doting….
That’s as far as I’ve got, sir….
Would you like me to finish the Sonnet for you, Master Will….
(Appalled at the idea)
The greatness of your words, sir, would utterly eclipse my own…
I shall finish the sonnet in my own time.
(Banging his fist on the table) Finish it NOW! HERE! (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE rises and for a moment we think he is about to storm off. But HARRY, sensing this, immediately lightens his tone and starts to flirt.)
As Master-Mistress of your passion, I command you!
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE sits. He mimes scribbling a few lines…then hands them to HARRY)
Till Nature as she wrought thee fell-adoting….
And by addition me of thee defeated
By adding one THING to my purpose nothing….
(HARRY looks down at his crutch)
Master Shakespeare, does this mean what I think it means?
Your conclusion, please…..
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE mimes scribbling again – and hands him the sheet)
But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure
Mine by thy love – AND THY LOVE’S USE THEIR TREASURE!!!’
Is this a poetic way of telling me to get stuffed?
No, sir. It’s a poetic way of telling you to stuff women…
(ANGEL B as COUNTESS MARY rises from her chair, looking white and shaken. She groans, walks to the table for support. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and HARRY both stand)
ANGEL B as COUNTESS MARY
Dreadful, dreadful news. ….
The Armada’s re-grouped!
No – worse! Queen Elizabeth is coming to stay!
(HARRY and MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE groan out front. ANGELS freeze. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and the ANGELS unfreeze. ANGEL B exits to stage left wings, ARCHANGEL X strikes the table down left and ANGEL D and ANGEL C take their chairs back to the line and sit in them. ARCHANGEL X places the bench centre stage.)
And stay she did. With all her court. And with all her soldiers.
She loved to slaughter deer with a cross-bow, at point blank range, from a specially constructed stand.
(ANGEL A puts on a Venetian mask which dangles on ties from her neck)
She brought Italian musicians with her to drown out their death cries.
Among them was the ravishing, mixed race Amelia Bassano
(ANGEL A as AMELIA – stands and curtsies and sits again.)
Elizabeth returned to town….
She repaid her hostess by disembowelling her Catholic friends in front of her London house.
One of them was a young missionary priest – Edmund Jennings…
Execution of Edmund Jennings.
– forced to wear a jester’s outfit on the scaffold.…
Amelia, though, stayed on at Titchfield…..
(ANGEL A as AMELIA rises crosses to the bench and mimes playing music – Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe 37. [1.22]
37 Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe, P. 54 – M 1
She was mistress to the Queen’s randy old cousin, Lord Hunsdon.
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon.
He paid her £40 a year for her services.
I wanted to find out if that gave him exclusive rights…
ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE
(Stands and approaches ANGEL A as AMELIA, who continues to play, from her right.) Did not I dance with you in London once?
ANGEL A as AMELIA
Did I not dance with you in London once?
I know you did.
How needless was it then to ask the question.!
You must not be so quick.
‘Tis long of you to spur me with such questions.
Your wit’s too hot, it speeds too fast, ‘twill tire.
Not till it leave the rider in the mire.
What time of day?
The hour that fools should ask.
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE turns away right. AMELIA mimes putting down her lute – music cuts out. She covers her face with her mask.)
Now fair befall your (He is about to say ‘face’ – but turns left to her and sees she is wearing a mask) mask!
Fair fall the face it covers.
And send you many lovers.
Amen, so you be none….
(After a pause, in which he can’t think of anything to say) Nay then will I be gone.
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE exits into the upstage right wings. AMELIA mimes ticking off another man to her list. She then returns to her chair and ARCHANGEL X strikes the bench to down left.)
Forsooth I was in love….
(Springing back from the upstage right wings. Behind him ARCHANGEL X sets the table – then sets ANGEL D’s upstage chair stage left of it.)
I, that have been love’s whip;
A very beadle to a humorous sigh;
A critic, nay, a night-watch constable;
A domineering pedant o’er the boy;
Than whom no mortal so magnificent!
This whimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy;
This senior-junior, giant-dwarf, Dan Cupid;
What, I! I love! I sue! I seek a wife!
A woman, that is like a German clock,
Still a-repairing, ever out of frame, And never going aright!
Nay, to be perjured, which is worst of all;
And, among three, to love the worst of all;
A wightly wanton with a velvet brow,
With two pitch-balls stuck in her face for eyes;
Ay, and by heaven, one that will do the deed
Though Argus were her eunuch and her guard:
And I to sigh for her! to watch for her!
To pray for her! Go to; it is a plague
That Cupid will impose for my neglect
Of his almighty dreadful little might.
Well, I will love, sigh, pray, sue ,groan…..
….AND WRITE SONNETS TO HER!!!
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE turns upstage and sits stage left of the table and mimes writing. ANGEL C as HARRY rises and approaches him quietly from behind and peers over his shoulder. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE senses he is there and looks round. He quickly turns the page over so that HARRY cannot read it.)
ANGEL C as HARRY
It’s another Sonnet, Will. I saw it. (He grabs his chair from the upstage line and sits stage right of the table with MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE) Read it to me. I don’t care if it isn’t finished….
(Reddening, reads) My (hesitates) master’s eyes are….nothing like the sun…. (HARRY looks startled)
Coral is far more red than his lips red,
If snow be white, why then his breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grown on his head…..
(In a fury) Breasts? Black wires? (Mimes snatching sonnet from MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE)
My MISTRESS eyes are nothing like the sun! HER breasts! HER head! (ANGEL A as AMELIA rises from her chair and stands stage right, behind HARRY)
Will, you’re not writing to me – you’re writing to that dreadful….(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE coughs and indicates to HARRY that AMELIA has entered. HARRY turns to look at her.)
ANGEL A (as AMELIA)
(Curtsying beautifully) Good day, m’Lord….
(HARRY bows stiffly and exits down right to the wings. AMELIA gazes rapturously after HARRY, glancing surreptitiously back at MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE to make sure he’s noticing)
Amelia liked playing hard to get….
(Rising and crossing right and turning AMELIA around to face him.)
Tell me thou lov’st elsewhere; but in my sight
Dear heart, forbear to glance thy eye aside…
What need’st thou wound with cunning, when thy might
Is more than my o’er press’d defence can hide….
(Looking into AMELIA’S eyes) Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain,
Have put on black, and loving mourners be,
Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain…..
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE starts to hug AMELIA closely.)
Will’t thou, whose will is large and spacious
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
(He holds her even closer)
Shall will in others seem right gracious
And in my will no fair acceptance shine…..
(AMELIA breaks away left. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE crosses left to pursue her.)
He rises at thy name and points out thee
As his triumphant prize, proud of this pride:
He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side…..
(He pulls ANGEL A as AMELIA to him and tries to make love to her. AMELIA pushes him away…)
Get lost, baldy!
(AMELIA exits to down left wings of stage. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE, recovering, muses to himself…)
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE sits on seat stage left of the table and muses)
Then will I swear beauty herself is black
And all they foul that her complexion lack…..
I asked Harry to plead my love-suit with Amelia. What a mistake ! Amelia pounced.
A young rich aristocrat – however gay – was more of a catch than an aging playwright….
Two loves I have of comfort and despair
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
The better angel is a man right fair…..
(HARRY enters from the upstage right wings and walks downstage right.)
The worser spirit, a woman coloured ill.
(AMELIA enters from the upstage left wings and walks downstage left.)
To win me soon to hell my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side….
(AMELIA crosses left across the front of the stage, in front of MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and approaches HARRY and kisses him.)
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride…
(AMELIA turns HARRY round so his back is to the audience and makes love to him.)
And whether that my angel be turned fiend
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;
(AMELIA leads HARRY into the wings right. She takes off her Add-On and mask in the wings. )
But being both from me both to each friend….
I guess one angel in another’s hell…
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE crosses down left.)
I left Titchfield and went on tour again…..
(Musing – realising that it is the loss of HARRY that upsets him most.)
That thou ha’st her it is not all my grief
And yet it may be said I loved her dearly…
That she hath thee is of my wailing chief
A loss in love that touches me more nearly….
I finally had to admit I was in love with Harry.
So I wrote to him to tell him so…
(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE sits and starts writing sonnet. Underscoring. ‘Bonny Sweet Robin’12.[1.20] After a bar or two he looks up at audience and shares his thoughts with them.)
12 Bonny Sweet Robin 1
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May
And winter’s lease hath all too short a date….
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines…
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d,
And every fair, from fair, sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimm’d….
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest….
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest….
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee….
(Now read Episode Three)