Why did William Shakespeare write Love’s Labour’s Lost?

by Stewart Trotter.

The Background.

It is my belief that Love’s Labour’s Lost was first performed, in private performance, in the grounds of Place House, Titchfield, at Whitsun in 1592.

place house recon.

The beautiful Mary Browne, Second Countess of Southampton……

Mary Browne

……was the host….

…… and the dashing guest of honour was Robert Devereux, the Second Earl of Essex…..

essex young beardeless

……fresh from his ‘triumph’ at the Siege of Rouen…..

……(which in reality had been a military disaster).

The play was performed to the background of the Titchfield Whitsun Fair……

……first instituted as a four-day Corpus Christi Fair by King Henry VI in 1447…..


….and which seems to burst into the play itself….

(There are references to a dancing horse, the Morris Men’s hobby-horse…..


…..silk ribbons, jousting and gifts bought at fairs…


In fact the word ‘fair’ is mentioned over forty times in the play.)

Topographical features of Titchfield itself are mentioned in the pay…..

……many of which can be seen to this day.

The remains of the…..

curious knotted garden

…. in the Abbey Grounds…..


the steep up-rising of the hill…..

…opposite the Abbey Gates.

There is even the mill Berowne mentions when he hides in a tree…..

….more sacks to the mill….

……now a pub at the foot of Mill Lane.

The Mill Pub Titchfield

The Mill Pub Titchfield

The outlines of…..

The Parke

….which is mentioned in the play…..

…..and features in this old c. 1610 map of the area…..


A 1610 Map of Titchfield, showing the 'The Place' and 'The Parke' - both mentioned in 'Love's Labour's Lost'.

….can still be seen….

…..as can the ruins of…..

The Place

…the alternative name for ‘Place House’…..

place house 2


…….the converted Titchfield Abbey….

…… which Henry VIII gave as a gift to Thomas Wriothesley, the First Earl of Southampton…

Thomas Wriothesley 1st Earl Southampton


Titchfield also provides the answer to linguistic puzzles in the play.

Holofernes, the garrulous pedant, is said to…

…..educate youth in a Charge-house…..

What is a ‘Charge-house’?

In Mill Lane is a building known as The Schoolhouse….

old schoolhouse

In its upper storey it has the remains of a secure room or safe….

Clearly the school, which is on a road, doubled as a toll house. 

But it is a Titchfield feature which no longer exists – though remembered by older local people – which holds the answer to the play’s most difficult puzzle.

Why is the dark-skinned coquette, Rosaline, described by Berowne as….

a whitely wanton?

It’s a reference to Whitely Lodge…..

…..a property owned by the Southampton family for their shadier goings on…

In the play the fantastical Spaniard Don Armado, desperately in love with the loose-living country wench, Jaquenetta, plans to visit her at….

The Lodge

But why did William Shakespeare write the play in the first place?


REASON ONE: For money….

It was a commission from Countess Mary…..

She had commissioned Shakespeare two years previously, in 1590, to write seventeen sonnets for the seventeenth birthday of her son, Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton (a.k.a. ‘Harry Southampton’) to convince him to get married.

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.


The ploy hadn’t worked – gay young Harry wasn’t interested in women…..

….so Mother Mary tried again, this time with a play…

Countess Mary was under financial pressure herself. She was a widow and her son’s guardian, Lord Burghley……

Burghley with wand of office

……wanted Harry to marry his granddaughter, Elizabeth de Vere.


If he refused, the Southampton family would face a massive £5,000 fine when Harry came of age – in two years’ time.

REASON TWO: To ‘heterosexualise’ Harry.

Harry’s father, the Second Earl of Southampton……

Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton

……..had accused his wife Mary of infidelity with…..

a common person

…..and thrown her out of the house.

According to Mary, he then proceeded to make his Gentleman of the Bedchamber, Thomas Dymmock….

….his wife…

…..and surrounded his son with an all-male culture……

….a whole troupe of at least a hundred well-mounted gentlemen and yeomen….


…tall goodly fellows that kept a constant pace.

Harry had grown up suspicious of women and preferring male companionship…..

…..especially that of the Second Earl of Essex, also a ward of Burghley, whom he worshipped.

Shakespeare echoes this situation in the play.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is about the King of Navarre and three of his aristocratic friends who swear to avoid all contact with women for three years….

…and devote themselves to study….

There are even bits of gay banter in the text….

The King claims he will


…Don Armado for his…..


Minstrels, in Shakespeare’s day, were notorious for their homosexuality.

Berowne refers to minstrels later in the play when he mockingly quotes the King (who has just written a sonnet)

Tush! none but minstrels like of sonneting….

….and Don Armado describes how…..

……it will please his grace [the King] by the world, sometime to lean upon my poor shoulder, and with his royal finger, thus, dally with my excrement, with my mustachio…

But the play goes on to expose the folly of men trying to live without women.

The beautiful Princess of France and her Ladies-in-Waiting arrive on diplomatic business…..

….and one by one the men fall in love with them.

 Shakespeare wrote the part of  the King  of Navarre…..

king of navarre

…..for the nineteen year old Harry….

….in the desperate hope that some of the King’s heterosexuality might rub off on him….

(Boyet even gives a coded description of the King’s erection on first seeing the Princess of France……

His heart like an agate with your print impressed,

Proud with his form in his eye pride expressed…..)

The love sonnet the King writes to the Princess also has a reference to a rose…..

So sweet a kiss the golden Sun gives not

To those fresh morning drops upon the Rose

This is a reference both to the Southampton rose….

southampton rose crest 2.

…and to Harry himself, whom Shakespeare refers to as…

…my Rose…

…in the Sonnets.

(The Southampton familyas we know from the Titchfield Parish Register – pronounced their family name…..




And the….

…..fresh morning drops upon the Rose…..

…..are a coded reference to teenage Harry’s early morning seminal emissions!

Shakespeare had great fun with this subject in the Birthday Sonnets…

Unthrifty loveliness why dost thou spend

Upon thyself thy beauty’s legacy….

Money was often a coded word for semen.)

Shakespeare wrote the parts of Lord Longaville and Lord Dumaine for two of Harry’s aristocratic friends….

….Charles Blount (later Lord Mountjoy)…

Charles Blount Lord Mountjoyu

…and Roger Manners, Fifth Earl of Rutland….

Manners, Roger 5th Earl of Rutland

Both were in Titchfield for the Whitsun/Essex celebrations…..

….and a plague was raging in London….

Lord Longaville in the play – as his name suggests – is tall…

Maria says to him….

The liker you; few taller are so young.

Blount was tall in real life….

Fynes Morison describes him as……….

….of stature tall and of very comely proportion.

Shakespeare also makes joking reference to the family name ‘Blount’ (pronounced ‘Blunt’)

Maria describes Longaville as having…..

….a sharp wit matched with too blunt a will….

(Shakespeare can never resist sexual innuendo!)

In the play Lord Dumaine is beardless….

He says to Katharine….

But what to me, my love? But what to me? A wife…

And she replies…

A beard, fair health and happiness…..

Roger Manners, Harry’s Cambridge friend, who played Dumaine, was sixteen at the time.

We have seen, he acquired a beard later in life.

He also acquired a wife – but never consummated the marriage.

Shakespeare also refers to the family name ‘Manners’ in the text…

Dumaine talks about……

…..the grosser manner of the world’s delights…..

…. and in a three-line exchange between Costard and Berowne, the word ‘manner/manor’ is mentioned EIGHT times….


The matter is to me, sir, as concerning Jaquenetta. The manner of it is, I was taken with the manner.


In what manner?


In manner and form following, sir; all those three: I was seen with her in the manor-house, sitting with
her upon the form, and taken following her into the Park; which, put together, is in manner and form
following. Now, sir, for the manner,–it is the manner of a man to speak to a woman: for the form,–in some form.

But who was to play the Princess of France with whom Navarre falls in love?

A young actor in drag would have proved counter-productive….

Harry himself loved dressing up in women’s clothes…


…..a habit Shakespeare refers to in Sonnet 53:

On Helen’s cheek all art of beauty set

And you in Grecian tires are painted new…..

The answer was to cast a real woman…..

….the Earl of Essex’s sister….

……the ravishing Penelope Rich….

penelope rich lambeth 2

…famous for her black eyes and red hair…

….who, though married to Robert, Third Baron Rich, was the open mistress of Charles Blount.

(Women often performed in private entertainments – especially on Queen Elizabeth’s Progresses – and Penelope was to later act openly at Court in the reign of King James VI and I.)

The King of Navarre compares the Princess/Penelope’s hair to the sun…..

……flaming in the heavens….

And beauty’s crest becomes the heavens well…

But Berowne prefers his dark-skinned, dark-haired Rosaline….

…..and suggests that the Princess should dye her red hair black to resemble her…

O if in black my lady’s brows be deck’d,

It mourns that painting and usurping hair

Should ravish doters with;

And therefore is she born to make black fair.

Her favour turns the fashion of the days

For native blood is counted painting now;

And therefore red that would avoid dispraise,

Paints itself black, to imitate her brow.

Again Shakespeare plays on…


Penelope’s married name…..

The Princess herself says:

Sweet hearts we shall be rich ere we depart…..

….and the word ‘rich’ is used seven times in the final scene.

This is the pun Sir Philip Sidney…..

sidney philip

…….who was in love with Penelope……..

……..had also used in his Sonnet Sequence, Astrophil and Stella…

Toward Aurora’s court a nymph doth dwell,

Rich in all beauties which man’s eye can see:

Beauties so far from reach of words, that we

Abase her praise, saying she doth excel:

Rich in the treasure of deserv’d renown,

Rich in the riches of a royal heart,

Rich in those gifts which give th’eternal crown;

Who though most rich in these and every part,

Which make the patents of true worldly bliss,

Hath no misfortune, but that Rich she is.

In his Sonnets Shakespeare also couples the names of ‘Manners’, ‘Rich’ and  ‘Blount/Blunt’

Sonnet 52

So am I as the rich, whose blessed key,

Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,

The which he will not every hour survey,

For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.

Sonnet 85

My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still,

While comments of your praise richly compiled.

The Princess’s Ladies-in-Waiting in the play were played by Penelope’s closest female friends.

Dorothy Devereux, her sister….

penelope and dorothy devereux

…… played Maria – beloved of Longaville….

She is described in the play as wearing white…..

This was a characteristic of the whole Devereux family…..

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.

….who often wore white to show their allegiance to Queen Elizabeth.

Frances Walsingham – the wife of Essex and widow of Sir Philp Sidney…..

frances walsingham 3


…….played Katharine, beloved of Dumaine….

We are told in the play that Katharine’s sister had died….

The same thing had happened to Frances in real life….

Dumaine says of Katharine…

Her amber hairs for foul hath amber quoted…

In the painting we can see that not only does she have amber hair – she has an amber dress as well!

Antonio Perez who became part of the Essex entourage……

…..described Penelope, Dorothy and Frances as….

Three sisters and goddesses….

They were clearly an inseperable trio.

REASON THREE: To seduce the Dark Lady.

Rosaline – the dark-skinned coquette in the Princess’s entourage – was played by Amelia Bassano…..

…. the mixed-race singer, clavichord player…..

…..and young mistress to the Queen’s randy old cousin, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon……

Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon..

……who later became the Lord Chamberlain…..

…….and ‘patron’ of Shakespeare’s company – the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

Amelia and her musical family of Sephardic Jews – originally from Venice – had been part of Queen Elizabeth’s progress to Cowdray and Titchfield in August and September of the previous year, 1591.

Hunsdon had attended a Privy Council meeting at Place House – and he could well have been lodged with Amelia in Whitely Lodge – another resonance to ‘whitely wanton’.

Amelia had stayed on at Titchfield to entertain Countess Mary, avoid the plague in London and have a crack at young Harry…

Shakespeare fell desperately in love with her…..

…..and wrote Love’s Labour’s Lost partly to seduce her.

He cast himself as  Lord Berowne and wrote teasing, bantering love scenes they could play together….

berowne rosaline 1

Art and life began to imitate each other:

Berowne sends love-sonnets to Rosaline……

Shakespeare was sending love-sonnets to Amelia in real life…..

Shakespeare writes to Amelia in Sonnet 130

My mistress when she walks treads on the ground….

Rosaline reports that in Berowne’s sonnet to her he has written, rather more flatteringly….

I were the fairest Goddess on the ground…..

Berowne claims…

Black is Beautiful

….in the play…

And Shakespeare claims…

Black is Beautiful in the Sonnets….

(That is, till he has an argument with Amelia….

….then it’s a very different matter.)

Amelia Bassano/Lanyer is the famous Dark Lady of the Sonnets……

……as A.L. Rowse brilliantly discovered in 1976…..

A. L. Rowse

…..to howls of derision from Academe…

REASON FOUR: To promote himself.

Vigorous, ruthless, self-promotion was essential for actors and writers in Elizabeth’s reign.

All the Roman Catholic charities had been suspended – and the Protestants were slow to take up their work.

If you had no money, you starved to death – as many of Shakespeare’s contemporaries did.

By casting himself as Lord Berowne……


…..Shakespeare was making himself the equal of the ‘real’ lords, Harry, Blount and Manners…..

……rather in the way the South London boy, Noel Coward…..

coward poster

…..turned himself into a pretend aristocrat.

In fact Berowne proves himself superior to the other Lords.

He takes the moral lead by predicting the men will not stick to their vows because…

every man with his affects [passions] is born

Not by might mastered, but by special grace [from God]…

He then proceeds to educate them into the overwhelming powers of heterosexual love…


…to make the text work must be pronounced….


The phrase

brown studies


…. gloomy meditations

….had come into use c.1555.

Rosaline says:

Berowne they call him, but a merrier man,

Within the limit of becoming mirth,

I never spent an hour’s talk withal…

And at the end of the play Berowne says to Rosaline….

Studies my lady?

Berowne is a compliment to Shakespeare’s patron, Mary Brown.

It suggests that Shakespeare is now part of the Southampton family.

As indeed he was….

When Shakespeare’s family later acquired a crest, it incorporated the four silver falcons of the Southampton Coat of Arms….

southampton crest coloured

garter crest of Shakespeare

(After the publication of the First Folio, the name ‘Berowne’ was changed to ‘Biron’.)

REASON FIVE: To flatter the audience…

The Earl of Essex – a compulsive jouster……..

Essex in gold armour marigold

…….would have taken an active part in the fair…..

But he was a member of the audience for the performance of Love’s labour’s Lost – watching his sisters, his wife and his friends perform – so he had to be acknowledged as well.

At Rouen he had fought alongside Henri, King of Navarre……

henri of navarre

……and Armand de Gontaut, maréchal de Biron……


…….against Henri d’Orlèans, duc de Longueville……..

longueville 2

….. and Charles de Lorraine, duc de Mayenne….


Navarre, Biron, Longaville and Dumaine……

……a quarter of the cast had been named after Essex’s campaign a few months earlier!

Also the King of Navarre is named ‘Ferdinand’ – though his name is never mentioned in the play….

This is in compliment to Ferdinando, Lord Strange (pronounced ‘Strang’)….

strange, ferdinando

…..whose Men Shakespeare had written and acted for in the Midlands….

….and who earlier in the year had put on Harey VI at the Rose Theatre in London.

REASON SIX: To satirise his enemies….

Shakespeare had become a member of the Southampton/Essex entourage – so their enemies were his enemies.

Part of the play’s function is satire……

…..directed notably at the group of scientists, mathematicians, radical thinkers and atheists who gathered round Henry Percy, the Ninth Earl of Northumberland, the Wizard Earl, at nearby Petworth……

percy, henry ninth northumberland

They were people like Sir Walter Raleigh…..

raleigh with pearls

……Essex’s main rival at Court….

…….a man who came from an ancient family but had no money other than what he could get from Queen Elizabeth as one of her favourites….

……He is is sent up in the play as the penniless Armado……

don armado and moth

…..so poor he can’t even afford to buy a shirt……

….a fantastical Spaniard who sometimes breaks into Raleigh’s broad Devonshire accent.

As Holofernes the pedant observes, Armado says…


….instead of…..


Raleigh had fallen in love with Bess Throckmorton…..


…..one of Elizabeth’s Ladies-in-Waiting…

…..to the Queen’s fury…..

…..and had started to write love poetry to her….

…just as Armado writes sonnets to the….

…..base wench….


……who carried a fan just as Bess Throckmorton did….

(Costard the swain says…

Armado o’th’one side – O, a most dainty man!

To see him walk before a lady and to bear her fan…)

Word reached Titchfield during preparations for Love’s Labour’s Lost that Raleigh had impregnated Bess – which called for a rapid – and impossible – change of plot.

Armado – who we first see besotted with Jaquenetta but rejected by her – turns out to be the father of her child. …..

…and OVERNIGHT she has become….

……two months on her way….

The text we have is a revision of the 1592 text, probably played at Elizabeth’s Court at Christmas in 1597.

By then Raleigh was back in favour. So the Braggart, Don Armado, may have been turned into a Spaniard to disguise the satire from the Queen….

By then the object of attack was most likely to have been Antonio Perez…….

Antonio Perez

Antonio Perez

…….a fantastical Spaniard in real life….

…….the meddling, homosexual, Catholic friend of Essex whom Elizabeth loathed….

As William Camden, the contemporary historian noted:

Verily she [Elizabeth] detested the man [Perez] who had contrary to his allegiance, divulged his King’s secrets; and Burghley, Lord Treasurer, scarce vouchsafed him a conference or speaking to. Indeed Essex entertained him at his house, and supplied him largely with money, using him as his counsellor, yea as an oracle, as one much versed in the secrets of the Spanish court, and a subtle politician…

Armado in the play is also referred to by Berowne as…..

…an oracle…

Also amongst the Wizard Earl’s entourage was the mystic and poet, George Chapman….

Chapman, George

…….who becomes the lisping, flattering, effeminate Boyet who urges the Princess of France to…

…..summon up [her] dearest spirits

…..as Chapman claimed to have summoned up the spirit of Homer…..

…….and, later when he died, the spirit of Christopher Marlowe.

Marlowe, Christopher

Again, Shakespeare works in a play on Chapman’s surname….

The Princess’s response to Boyet’s gross flattery is to say….

Good Lord Boyet, my beauty though but mean

Needs not the painted flourish of your praise:

Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye,

Not utter’d by base sale of chapmen’s tongues…

Chapman was later to turn up in Shakespeare’s life as the Rival Poet of the Sonnets….

But perhaps Shakespeare’s most withering satire is reserved for someone who was part of the Southampton household….

….John Florio…..

John Florio

….an Englishman in Italian

He was Harry’s Italian tutor and had ousted Shakespeare from his position as schoolmaster to the boys of Titchfield.

Dame Frances Yates…..

frances yates

– the great Florio scholar – argues convincingly that Florio was placed in the Catholic Southampton household as a Protestant spy by Lord Burghley.

Bishop Warburton – writing in the eighteenth century – first records the tradition that the pedant, Holofernes, in the play is a satire against Florio.

At the time Florio was translating Montaigne – that’s why Holofernes is described by Armado as educating youth….

….on the top of a Mountaine….

He was also compiling an Italian/English dictionary, A World of Words….

……so Shakespeare makes him talk like a dictionary, never using one word when six will do.

Holofernes describes the deer that Princess shots as being……

…..ripe as the pomewater [whitish apple] who now hangeth like a jewel in the ear of coelo, the sky, the welkin, the heaven.

Florio in his dictionary defines ‘caelo’ as

……heaven, the sky, the firmament or welkin…

When Holofernes improvises a poem to celebrate the Princess’s shooting of the deer, he uses exaggerated alliteration: ‘

The preyful Princess pierc’d and prick’d a pretty pleasing pricket

So does Florio:

Proverbs are the pith, the properties, the proofs, the purities of language….

Holofernes writes the abominable pageant entertainment for the Princess: it could well be that Florio penned the equally abominable Progress Entertainment for Queen Elizabeth…..

Queen Elizabeth.

…..played at nearby Cowdray the previous year.

The Pilgrim in this entertainment declares that he has….

…..travelled many countries….

….and Florio’s habit was to cast himself as a Traveller, refined and cultivated in the ways of the world.

Holoferenes, in Love’s Labour’s Lost says:

I may speak of thee as the Traveller speaks of Venice….

Sir William Vaughan, in The Spirit of Detraction, certainly leaps to Florio’s defence.

He writes that if….

….an ingenuous scholar [Florio] but broach forth the barrel of his wit, which God hath given him; they cry out his brain is an empty barrel, his wit but barren, his matter borrowed out of other men’s books….

Florio could well have broached forth the barrel of his wit by writing the Cowdray Progress…..

And Shakespeare certainly cried out that Florio’s brain was empty by creating Holoferenes!

REASON  SEVEN: To examine the state of mind of Queen Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth had special ‘standings’ erected at Cowdray and Titchfield from which she shot rounded up deer with a crossbow….

…. at point blank range……

….a habit she adopted from her father, Henry VIII….

henry VIII 2.

 …….when he grew too fat to mount a horse.

This unsporting carnage disgusted country folk.

After the Titchfield visit, Elizabeth repaid her host, Countess Mary, by hanging one of her best friends, Swithin Wells…….

wells swithin

……now a Catholic Saint……

……on a scaffold erected outside the Countess’s London home.

The play alludes to Elizabeth’s slaughter of deer…….

……and deer/dear can mean three things…..

(1) Literal deer….

(2) The men who fall in love with the Princess and are slain by her beauty…

(‘spilling blood’ can also be Elizabethan code for seminal emission.)

(3) Catholic martyrs…

Robert Persons…..

robert persons

……the Jesuit Missionary – wrote in 1581:

It is the custom of the Catholics themselves to take to the woods and thickets, to ditches and holes even, for concealment, when their houses are broken into at night.

Sometimes when we are sitting at table quite cheerfully, conversing familiarly about matters of faith or piety…it happens that someone rings at the front door a little more insistently than usual, so he can be put down as an official.

Immediately, like deer that have heard the voice of hunters and prick their ears and become alert, all stand to attention and stop eating and command themselves to God in the briefest of prayers; no word or sound of any sort is heard  until the servants report what is the matter….

Shakespeare, in a speech he gives the Princess, speculates what can drive the Princess/Elizabeth – a woman of taste and discrimination – to indulge in such atrocities.

He concludes that she is pushed by outside forces – a need for fame – which turn her from her otherwise kindly nature.

Edmund Campion……..

St. Edmund Campion

…….the great Catholic Saint and Martyr…..

……always maintained that it was Elizabeth’s advisors who were evil – not the Queen herself.

In Love’s Labour’s Lost Shakespeare was prepared to give Elizabeth the benefit of the doubt.

But by the end of her reign he regarded her as a bloody tyrant….

REASON 8: To acknowledge death and sickness in the Southampton family.

Not to spoil it for people coming fresh to the play, it does not resolve in happiness…..

…..which adds a depth and dimension to it.

It also mirrors echoes the state of mind of the Southampton family.

As well as the shock of the execution of Swithin Wells, Mary’s twin brother, Anthony Browne, was very ill during the production of Love’s Labour’s Lost…..

And had been ill since Christmas…..

 Her father, Viscount Montague…..

Montague, Lord

…was also suffering from….

…..a tedious, troublesome and lingering kind of infirmity….

Mary’s brother died in the month following the production…

….and her father in October…..

Added to this, the Earl of Essex’s brother, Walter, had been killed a few months earlier at the siege of Rouen….

So an upbeat conclusion to the play would have been entirely inappropriate.

REASON NINE: To Prove he was a better writer than Thomas Nashe!

It is my belief that the beardless, tiny, ‘gat-toothed’ Thomas Nashe…


– the essayist and satirist –

……was also resident in Titchfield at the time……

….and often collaborated with Shakespeare….

(as he did with Ben Jonson…….

ben jonson colour…on The Isle of Dogs….

……and Christopher Marlowe…..

…..on Dido and Aeneas….)

dido frontispiece small

It is also my belief that he played the part of ‘the well-educated infant’ Moth…..

(an anagram of ‘Thom’)

…..and wrote the scenes between him and Don Armado.

Commenting upon Moth’s speech about Armado in love…..

……with [his] hat penthouse-like o’er the shop of your eyes; with [his] arms crossed on [his] thin-belly doublet like a rabbit on a spit……

……the Editor of new Cambridge University Press edition of the play says that…

The syntax and and satiric images in Moth’s speech here bring it closer than anything else in the play to the satiric prose style of Thomas Nashe….

It is ‘close’ to ‘the satiric prose style of Thomas Nashe’ because…….


He has Armado call Moth….

…tender juvenal


……most acute juvenal.

Later in the year, Robert Greene……

robert greene

….the writer and notorious hedonist……

….who had also been part of the Titchfield writing team……

……described Nashe as…

….young Juvenal…

……in his posthumously-published A Groatsworth of Witte.

(Greene’s name is also sent up in the play. Don Armado says……

Greene indeed is the colour of lovers.)

But many people at the time thought that the pamphlet – which contains the famous

upstart crow

……attack on Shakespeare – was really written by Nashe himself.

Six years later, Francis Meeres in Palladis Tamia, Wit’s Treasury was also to describe Nashe as ‘young Juvenal’ – so the ‘young Juvenal’ trademark was Nashe’s own invention – his ‘trade-mark’….

Nashe also had every reason himself to be critical of Raleigh: he had worked for him and never been given a penny….

….hence the satire of Armado’s poverty and meanness.

Nashe writes in Pierce Penniless, published in the same year as the play…..

…..for what reason have I to bestow any of my wit upon him that will bestow none of his wealth upon me? Alas it is easy for a goodly tall fellow that shineth in his silks [Raleigh]  to come and outface a poor simple pedant in a threadbare cloak., and tell him his book is pretty.

He also refers to Raleigh as….

……an inamorata poeta…..

……who, just like Don Armado, will…..

….sonnet a whole quire of paper in praise of Lady Swine-Snout [Jaquenetta/Bess Throckmorton] his yellow-faced Mistress, and wear a feather of her rain-beaten fan for a favour, like a fore-horse…

The Southampton family had baled Nashe out of his money difficulties….

So Shakespeare had a talented rival in Nashe – just as he was later to have one in Chapman.

But Nashe was really only Shakespeare’s gag-man – up to his death in 1601.

Shakespeare was the poet…..

….and he makes sure he soars way above Nashe in the sublimity of the verse he writes for himself as Berowne…

Love’s feeling is more soft and sensible

Than are the tender horns of cock’ld snails;

Love’s tongue proves dainty Bacchus gross in taste:

For valour, is not Love a Hercules,

Still climbing trees in the Hesperides?

Subtle as Sphinx; as sweet and musical

As bright Apollo’s lute, strung with his hair:

And when Love speaks, the voice of all the Gods

Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.

FOOTNOTE: Love in the Time of Plague….

The erotic subtext of the play took over the lives of Shakespeare, Harry and Amelia…

…..and a complicated, twisted, painful love-triangle ensued…….

……in which Shakespeare finally came to realise he was more in love with Harry than Amelia….

Shakespeare left Titchfield for a bit and Amelia got pregnant and was married off to a


… for


But Nashe stayed on with….

…..my Lord…..


…..the plague’s prisoner in the country…..

Later in the year Queen Elizabeth came to visit the dying Lord Montague at West Horsley…..

Ever enigmatic, she gently fed the old Roman Catholic soup….

Nashe, alone, wrote Sommer’s Last Will and Testament  to entertain her….

….and it was played at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Summer Palace at Croydon….

But like Love’s Labour’s Lost the tone of the interlude is muted.

It moves from gentle mirth to gentle melancholy….

…..treating death as a natural progress from Summer to Winter…..

…..like the two wonderful, bitter-sweet, songs……

…..at the end of Shakespeare’s wonderful play….

© Stewart Trotter June 2016.

















We don’t know for certain when William Shakespeare’s Birthday was…..

shakespeare 1588

…..though 23rd April – St. George’s Day – is the day traditionally thought of as the day he was born…

….and it’s probably right…..


bust of shakespeare

……we know for certain that Shakespeare was buried…..

….in a shroud….

….just a few feet under the chancel….

shakespeare's grave

…..in Holy Trinity Church….

holy trinity church stratford

The Parish Church of Stratford-upon-Avon….

…..on the 25th February, 1616…

It is the Shakespeare’s Code belief that the tradition is true …..

He overdid the Birthday celebrations with Ben Jonson….

ben jonson colour

…..and Michael Drayton….


Today, 25th April 2016…..


…at 3 p.m. precisely…

…the Shakespeare Code recorded its

…..225,000th VIEW!!!

Synchronicity or what????

It is even more extraordinary that on 23rd April, 2013….

….the anniversary of Shakespeare’s Birthday….

The Shakespeare Code recorded its….

100,000 VIEW!!!

The Force is with us….

(To read ‘Seven Ages of Shakespeare’ please click: HERE.)

Seven Ages poster

(It’s best to read Parts One, Two , Three , Four , Five and Six first.)

Seven Ages poster


But revenge, again, came to my rescue. (Pause)

You will have noticed by now that revenge has played a large part in my life…..

…and I still can’t, quite, believe it is a sin.

It’s hard-wired into all of us.

Perhaps I do need some more time in Purgatory. It’s up to you to decide.

Anyway I took the decision to publish my Sonnets. (ARCHANGEL X sets the table centre stage.) I took all one hundred and fifty four of them to Thomas Thorpe…(ANGEL E as THOMAS THORPE, stands)a printer friend of mine.

(ANGEL E as THOMAS THORPE takes his chair and sits stage right of the table, miming proof-reading and correcting.  ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE rises from his chair and crosses to left of the table miming carrying a pile of sonnets which he plonks down.)


Tom, I want you to publish these.


(Continuing to proof-read and correct) Are you selling by the pound?


Every sonnet I’ve ever written….


Not for me, Will.  Sonnets don’t sell. People don’t like them….


But they’re by ME!


(Tom becomes interested and stops correcting)

And you’ll put your name to them?


(Pulling up his chair and sitting stage left of table)

I certainly will….


(Looking them over with a quick, practised eye)

Some of these are a bit hot. 

You’ll be changing the ‘he’s’ to ‘she’s’….?




Narrows the market….


Not in Southwark it doesn’t….


And what about libel?  I don’t want Southampton’s thugs smashing up my press…


I won’t dedicate the book to the Earl of Southampton….


Thank God for that…


No. I’ll dedicate it to Mr. Henry Risley – remind him of his days in the Tower…

When they stripped him of his title…


Are you mad?


Well, Mr. H. W. then….


(Sarcastically) Impenetrable code….


Look Tom, I want everyone to know it’s him….


How about Mr. W. H.….?


Would you publish if I agree?


(Not entirely sure)



There’s another poem I’ve just written. I’d like it to go at the end – A Lover’s Complaint…

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE mimes handing over a manuscript to TOM THORPE.)



What’s this one about?


Relax, Tom. It’s about a woman….

She is seduced by a vain, psychotic, lover who abandons her….


Will Shakespeare in drag….

Spare me tragedy, Will.  We can’t give tragedy away….


But it’s got a triumphant, optimistic ending…..

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE mimes indicating the place in the poem. TOM THORPE reads it. ANGEL A rises from her seat, comes forward and directs her focus on the book from behind the table.)


(Hurt and vengeful) O that infected moisture of his eye,

O that false fire which in his cheek so glow’d:

O that forc’d thunder from his heart did fly,

O that sad breath his spongy lungs bestow’d,

O all that borrow’d motion seeming owed,

(Pause –looks out front – a complete change of tone to one of triumph).

Would yet again betray the fore-betray’d,

And new pervert a reconciled Maid!


(Laughing and shaking MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE’s hand)

O.K. Will. You’re on…..

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. ANGEL A sits back in her chair, ANGEL E takes his chair back into line and sits on it. ANGEL D exits to wings left and puts on a cloak – which should be pre-set.)


My Sonnets were published and I waited for the explosion from Harry.

Nothing happened.

And continued to happen for some time…..

Out of sheer, bloody curiosity I rode down to Titchfield….

…..and called on……

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE puts on his BEESTON hat – rustic accent)

….Apis Lapis…..

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE as BEESTON pulls his chair to stage right of the table and sits in it. He reads. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE enters from stage left wings, wearing a cloak.)



Look what the cat’s brought in! Sit down. Get yourself warm.

(BEESTON indicates chair stage left of the table – left from the previous scene – and invites MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE to sit. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE takes off his cloak and does so.)

Never thought we’d see you here again….


Never thought I’d be here.


Cheese? Sack? (Looking upwards) Molly’s a bit past it now….


No thanks, Will. Can’t stay long. (Looking down at an imagined volume of sonnets on the table) I see you’re reading them….


Everyone’s reading them!


And Harry?


It’s his copy….


He used to mark the lines he liked best…..


The spine cracked when I opened it….

(A knife to MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE’S heart)

Well, he’d read most of them before.

And Baby James is taking up a lot of his time

(Another knife)


You think I’m a bastard, don’t you?




And I should never have published them….


No. They are magnificent. Magnificent, but toxic….


He deserves it….


Toxic for you.

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks startled. BEESTON mimes picking up the volume and looks through, quoting)

As a decrepit father takes delight….

Like a deceived husband…..

Being your slave….

….Will, you were none of these things.

You were Will Shakespeare and he was Harry Southampton.

Once you had something to give each other.

Now you don’t…


(Rising to go and putting on his cloak)

He took everything….


He gave you £1,000 pounds!

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks shocked).

Everyone knows, Will. Everyone. Without him and his mum you’d never have written a line….

Look, I’m an old fart, but I do know this….

Yesterday’s happiness is an old, worn out…. (pauses)….glove….(Both men smile)

Get a new one, Will.

Now I can’t give you a sonnet to take with you…..

….but I can give you a nice lump of my cheese…..

Does so)


(Miming putting cheese into pocket in cloak)

Bless you, Apis Lapis.


You still a Papist?


Of course.




Think what I’d be like if I wasn’t!

(BEESTON smiles, rises and embraces MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE.)


Safe journey, Will….

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE exits into wings stage left. BEESTON returns to table and picks up book of sonnets.)


Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds

Nor bends with the remover to remove…..

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and removes his hat. He moves his chair back to the lectern. ANGEL D – still in cloak, returns from wings left and takes his chair back to the line upstage. ARCHANGEL X strikes the table to down left.)


My next play was The Tempest.

As you know, it’s about a megalomaniacal magician…..

…..who forces an abject group of spirits to enact his every whim….

prospero as magus

(Snaps his fingers on BOTH hands.)


(Standing, tearing off his cloak and silk scarf and changing his voice to Cockney)

Right. That’s it. We’ve all had enough! I’ll get you on bullying, harassment and threatening body language.

One out – all out….

(ANGEL D ushers the ANGELS A, B, and C off stage left. Last off is ANGEL E)…..


(Turning to ANGEL D)

Can we get him on ageism?


Tricky one, as Angels. But I’ll give it a go….

(ANGEL E leaves left – followed by ANGEL D. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE calls after them…)


Angels! Come back! It’s only a play…..

to ARCHANGEL X who has remained at her desk)

At least you’re loyal, X…


Forget loyal. I’m here to make sure you don’t escape…


(Looking hopelessly around….)

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep….

It was when I wrote those lines that the penny finally dropped.

Ovid and I were wrong.

Life on earth is transient. We were trying to make it eternal.

Life flows. We were trying to fix it.

The problem wasn’t just me.

It was art itself!

I decided to retire from the stage, live full time in the country and immerse myself in community activities……


(Standing at Prompt Table)

The Fifth Age:

And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part…..


It didn’t work. I wasn’t made for straight life. So I didn’t make it to the Fifth Age either.

I stayed in the Third Age – a lover – all my life….

The Peter Pan of Stratford-upon-Avon….

True, I loved my daughter Susanna , her Doctor Husband John and my beautiful granddaughter Elizabeth .

Also my wife Anne and I had arrived at a modus vivendi….

She said nothing to me and I said nothing to her.

My second daughter, Judith, was a bit of a handful, it’s true. (Indignantly)

She was determined to marry a drunk! (Takes an angry swig from his tankard.)

But it was the Council who were the killers….

….a bunch of pompous do-gooders who had ACTUALLY BANNED THE PERFORMANCE OF PLAYS IN STRATFORD!!!

(Takes another swig from his tankard)

I went to their committee meetings but they bored me to death…

I preferred spending my time with the old Catholic lags and villains in in the Bear…

And I started to drift back to London….

….doing a bit of re-writing here, a bit of collaborating there.

I didn’t need the money…..

I was the richest man in Stratford!

But not from writing plays, I can tell you.

From money-lending like my dear old dad…

And having invested heavily in his Post-Armada line of ribbed gloves….

I tried to give up theatre in London……

….but found I was addicted to it.

I tried to give up drinking in Stratford……

….but found I was addicted to that as well…

(Takes another sip)

I was addicted to everything!

It couldn’t go on. And it didn’t. It’s now four hundred years and XXXX days since I dropped down dead in the Bear! Cheers!

(Drains tankard)

So we’re back where we were at the beginning of the show…..

…..sorry, confession….

….and it’s make your mind up time!

(Quiz show chords on the Hammond Organ – SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE gives the nod to ARCHANGEL X who sets the table centre and then exits to the stage left wings.)

Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, in a moment I shall perform the end speech from The Tempest…

…re-written specially for you.

The volume of your applause will determine whether I stay in Purgatory or enter Heaven….

….and this will be measured by….

(Fanfare on organ)

The Clapometer!!!

(ARCHANGEL X enters with the Clapometer and places it on the central table. She flicks a switch and it lights up. She puts on a pair of large headphones – which are hanging on the side of the Clapometer and are connected to the back by a cable. She goes behind the Clapometer to operate it.)

[The Clapometer is a box with a dial in front….looking a bit like this…


But instead of numbers there is writing: ‘Hell’ where O is, Purgatory where 50 is and Heaven where 100 is. When it is brought on it is set at ‘Purgatory’. It should give the appearance of being electrically operated – hence the lights at the top (battery operated) – but it is in fact secretly worked by hand by Archangel X at the back. It must be light enough for X to carry by herself and able to fit on the table.]


Now I got this idea from Hughie Greene.

hughie green


He’s due for release soon, too….

You will observe there is an indicator – currently set at ‘Purgatory’.

You will also observe there is another setting ‘Heaven’.

If you applaud enough, the indicator will move to the right, a bell will ring and I will go to Heaven…

If you don’t, I will stay in Purgatory…

(ARCHANGEL X – wearing headphones – pokes her head out from behind the Clapometer)


Tell them about ‘Hell’. (ARCHANGEL X disappears again)


(Reluctantly) In the very unlikely event that anyone boos, I will be sent to…

(AUDIENCE ‘plant’ boos. The Clapometer lurches down towards ‘Hell’ Setting…)


Look what you’ve done! I’ll never get in! You’ll all just have to clap harder.

I’ve tried to tell you the truth about my life and I hope you will forgive me.

However much of a shit I’ve been at times, you still have my plays.

And I’m not going to want them back…

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,

I must be here confin’d by you,

Or sent to Heaven. Let me not,

Since I have my remission got

And fess’d up to my sins now dwell

In this bare tithe barn by your spell;

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands:

Gentle breath of yours my sails

Must fill, or else my project fails –

To get to Heaven. Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.

As you from sins would pardon’d be,

Let your indulgence set me free.’

(Audience claps encouraged to by SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE. Clapometer moves towards Heaven setting, but stops short of it.)

Good. But not enough….Let’s try again…

As you from sins would pardon’d be

Let your indulgence set me free…

(Audience claps again – Clapometer inches a tiny bit further towards Heaven)

Still not enough….

(ARCHANGEL X comes from behind the Clapometer without headphones and whispers in SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE’s ear.)


X you are an ARCHANGEL!!!

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE kisses ARCHANGEL X who exits into the wings.)

X has saved my bacon! And I’m not Francis Bacon either!

(ARCHANGEL X pushes on the reluctant ANGELS one by one in front of the Clapometer. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE welcomes them effusively, shaking their hands.)

A! B! C! D! E! Can I ask you a great favour?

Will you forgive me for my bullying, harassment and threatening body language?


(beaming smiles, in UNISON) Of course we will!


(Aside to audience) They have to. Goes with the territory.(To ANGELS)

And will you cheer me? (ANGELS hesitate…)


Of course you will!!!!

Now, positions please, either side of the Clapometer…

(ANGELS form into two bunches, down right and down left of the Clapometer)

So here goes – for the last time, I hope….

As you from sins would pardon’d be

Let your indulgence set me free!

(Applause and cheers from the Audience and Angels. The indicator moves to Heaven, a bell rings and a loud fanfare from the organ rings out)

We did it, folks! We did it!

[Music begins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EUytEX_XkE) This is Gracie Fields as ‘Shipyard Sally’

gracie fields

singing ‘Wish me luck as you wave me good-bye’. Take it from the beginning of the orchestral break and play through to the end.]

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE sings and dances. ARCHANGEL X clears the Clapometer and the table to the stage right wings – then returns to join in the celebration.)


Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

Cheerio, here I go, on my way

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

Not a tear, but a cheer, make it gay

Give me a smile I can keep all the while

In my heart while I’m away

‘Till we meet once again, you and I

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE then shakes hands with the ANGELS then dances with ARCHANGEL X )


(joining in with Gracie. These lyrics should be learnt by everyone.)

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

Cheerio, here I go on my way

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

Not a tear, but a cheer, make it gay

Give me a smile I can keep all the while

In my heart while I’m away

‘Till we meet once again, you and I

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye


(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE goes into the audience, shakes hands with them and ascends the barns stairs. ANGELS break into a dance routine.)

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

Cheerio, here I go, on my way

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

Not a tear, but a cheer, make it gay

Give me a smile I can keep all the while

In my heart while I’m away

‘Till we meet once again, you and I

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye


(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE turns and waves goodbye to the ANGELS who wave back at him…He then enters Heaven…)

Curtain Calls.

Distribution of Parts.

ANGEL A: Young Woman. Plays Anne Hathaway/Chorus Tavern [‘Lucy is Lousy’.]/Amelia Bassano/Lucrece/Titania/Sonnet/Phoenix &Turtle/Lover’s Complaint/Wish me luck.

ANGEL B: Woman – glamorous middle age. Plays Mrs Shakespeare/Chorus Tavern/Countess Mary/Venus/Sonnets/P&T/Wish me Luck

ANGEL C: Young Man. Plays Boy Shakespeare, Young Shakespeare/Harry Southampton/Adonis/P&T/Comic/Wish me Luck

ANGEL D: Man – Middle Age. Plays Welsh Schoolmaster/Campion/Chorus Tavern/Kit Marlowe/Middle Shakespeare/Pyramus/P&T/Trade Union Rep/Wish me luck.

ANGEL E: Older Man. Plays John Shakespeare/Tom Nashe/Robert Crowley/Tarquin/Thomas Kyd/Hieronimo/Ben Jonson/Falstaff/William Reynolds/P&T/John Davenant/Tom Thorpe/Wish me Luck.

ARCHANGEL X Woman – Young, Middle age or Older!  Shifts chairs and benches – announces Each of the Seven Ages in Shakespeare’s language. Joins in Tavern Scene Chorus/Sonnets/P&T/Banters with Shakespeare/Announces Intervals©/Operates the Clapometer/Dances with Shakespeare – and tries to stop him and the Angels from drinking too much!

SPIRIT of Shakespeare. Middle Age. Stocky, looks like the Bust in Stratford Parish Church. Also plays William Beeston.

© Stewart Trotter. 23rd April, 2016.


(It’s best to read Parts One, Two , Three , Four  and Five first.)

Seven Ages poster


But politics was about to take over our lives…

The Earl of Essex and Harry decided that Queen Elizabeth should go…..

And James become King of Scotland AND England…

Essex and Harry were in Ireland at the time, engaging with rebels.

Essex in gold armour marigold

Harry was also engaging with his Corporal General of Horse…

Southampton in armour

The plan was for Essex and Harry to return to England with their army, join up with James’s army and march on London…

My job was to get King James on side.

I tried to do this by writing Macbeth

…and playing it before him in Scotland.

Yes, Scotland!

All the Shakespeare scholars are wrong about this, except one.

And he’s dead…..

The play argues that it is right to overthrow tyrants – even to march into a foreign country to do so. For ‘Scotland’ read ‘England’ – and for ‘England’ read ‘Scotland’.

I even had a coven of witches prophesying that James would become King of England…

witches coven Macbeth

But James was having none of it….

He knew that Elizabeth would die soon.

To get the English throne, all he had to do was wait.

Ireland was a catastrophe: the Irish outwitted Essex at every turn.

He returned to England and barged into Elizabeth’s bed-chamber….

….before she’d had time to do her make-up or put on her wig…


Still from Benjamin Britten's opera 'Gloriana'.

Still from Benjamin Britten’s opera ‘Gloriana’.

That was the end of him…

Half of Essex’s supporters – including Harry – wanted the rebellion to continue.

The other half wanted appeasement with the Queen.

I was definitely an appeaser…

I wrote Julius Caesar to show them all just how wrong rebellions could go…..

julius caesar

But they went ahead……

….and landed me right in it by staging Richard II the day before.

Everyone knew the play was really about the Queen….

Including the Queen.

Essex was beheaded……

essex execution

 ……and Harry, under sentence of death, thrown into the Tower.

All his gay cavortings in Ireland had been used against him at his trial.

A letter from William Reynolds – the brother of the Earl of Essex’s secretary – was passed round the court.

Dated 13th February, 1601, it read:



I marvel what has become of Piers Edmonds, the Earl of Essex’s man, born in the Strand near me, who had many preferements by the Earl. His villainy I have often complained of. He was Corporal General of the Horse in Ireland under the Earl of Southampton. He ate and drank at his table and lay in his tent. The Earl of Southampton gave him a horse which Edmunds refused a hundred marks for. The Earl of Southampton would embrace and hug him in his arms and play wantonly with him….(Sits)


I fled to Scotland – believing, along with everyone else, that Harry would die in the Tower.

Before I left I wrote him one last poem.

It’s called The Phoenix and the Turtle.

I compare Harry to the exotic, fabulous Phoenix…..

…..and myself to the humble, work-a-day turtle dove.

But the birds achieve union – parity even – in the purifying flames of love and death.


(Underscoring ‘The Sick Tune’28. [1.06])

28 The Sick Tune 1



Let the bird of loudest lay,

On the sole Arabian tree,

Herald sad and trumpet be,

To whose sound chaste wings obey.



Here the anthem doth commence –

Love and constancy is dead;

Phoenix and the Turtle fled

In a mutual flame from hence….




So they lov’d, as love in twain

Had the essence but in one

Two distincts, division none;

Number there in love was slain…



Hearts remote, yet not asunder;

Distance, and no space was seen

‘Twixt this turtle and his queen;

But in them it were a wonder….



So between them love did shine

That the turtle saw his right

Flaming in the Phoenix sight;

Either was the other’s mine….


(Stands at Prompt Table)

Beauty, truth and rarity,

Grace in all simplicity,

Here, enclos’d, in cinders lie.

Death is now the Phoenix nest….

And the turtle’s loyal breast

To eternity doth rest…..

(‘The Sick Tune’ either concludes or is faded. Silence – then)


Truth may seem but cannot be;

Beauty brag, but ‘tis not she

Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair

That are either true or fair:

For these dead birds sigh a prayer…..

 (SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE motions with his hands for ANGELS to sit. ANGEL D puts on his scarf and ANGEL A puts on a bright shawl.)


But life was about to take another of its turns. (ARCHANGEL X sets bench down stage left at a slight angle.) Two friends of mine had just moved to Oxford – John Davenant , a vintner and lover of literature, (ANGEL E as JOHN DAVENANT stands) and his beautiful, vivacious wife Jennet. (ANGEL A as JENNET stands. Her husband leads her to the bench. She sits stage right end of bench and he sits stage left.)

I stayed with them on the way to Scotland.

By chance they were playing one of my comedies there – so I went to see it with my hosts.

(ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE crosses and sits on bench between DAVENANT and JENNET.)


(Rises and puts on red nose and crosses down stage right with an imaginary dog.)

Come boy! Good boy! Sit!

(He then plays to his audience on the bench. JENNET laughs away at the jokes – as do the other ANGELS – but DAVENANT doesn’t crack a smile. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE – on his right – starts to notice this – and becomes concerned.)

Launce with dog from 'Two Gentlemen of Verona'.

Launce with dog from ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’.

I think that Crab my dog be the sourest natured dog that lives. My mother weeping, my father wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, the cat wringing her hands and all our house in a great perplexity, yet did not this cruel-hearted cur shed one tear. (Takes off right shoe)

This shoe is my father. (Takes off left shoe.)

No this left shoe is my father, nay that cannot be so either.

Yes it is, So it is. (The big pay-off) It hath the worser sole

(COMIC bows – everyone laughs and applauds – except JOHN DAVENANT. COMIC returns to his seat removes his red nose and puts his shoes back on.)


Jennet, could you leave us a moment….

(ANGEL B as JENNET bobs to her husband and leaves the two men and exits into stage right wings – an awkward pause.)


John. Can I make a confession? (Silence)

I didn’t write all that crap about Crab the dog.

Tom Nashe did…. (More silence)….


Can I make a confession?


Of course.


I thought it was funny. I just never laugh…..

Never have done. Never will….(Silence)

Trouble is, I like being with funny people. That’s why I run a tavern. I get them drunk so they don’t notice I’m not laughing…. (Silence)

Can I make another confession? Jennet and I can’t have children…


Sorry to hear that…I had wondered…


But the doctor says she could have children with someone else. Would you like another son?


Of course I would but…(It gradually dawns on MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE what DAVENANT means)


I love your plays. I’d love my son to have just a smidgeon of your talent. I’d call him ‘Will’ so everyone would know….


But what about Jennet?


She’s in agreement. She adores you, Will. Like me.


But how would you feel about….


(He pauses) Some loves run very deep… (Calling) Jennet….

( JENNET returns shyly from stage right wings) Jennet, it’s a done deal.

(JENNET approaches MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE, sits next to him on the bench and kisses him gently on the cheek. DAVENANT shakes him by the hand)


Cousin Will….

(ANGELS freeze. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers – the ANGELS return to their seats and ARCHANGEL X clears the bench down left. ANGEL A removes her shawl.)


Not only did I father a son. I fathered a whole new family!….

King James was right. Elizabeth died two years later – and everything turned round.

I wrote Harry a sonnet in celebration, admitting we’d all got it wrong!

We thought he would never come out of the Tower…..

…..but he emerged a hero….



Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul

Of the wide world, dreaming on things to come,

Can yet the lease of my true love control,

Suppos’d as forfeit to a confin’d doom.


Everyone was also wrong in expecting war when the Queen died.

The opposite had resulted….the hope of eternal peace…

elizabeth's funeral



The mortal Moon hath her eclipse indur’d,

And the sad Augurs mock their own presage;

Incertainties now crown them-selves assur’d,

And peace proclaims Olives of endless age.


James was about to ascend the throne……

….and the oils that would anoint him as King would give health to Harry and immortality to me….



Now with the drops of this most balmy time,

My love looks fresh and death to me subscribes,

Since spite of him I’ll live in this poor rime,

While he insults ore dull and speechless tribes….


And Harry himself will find immortality through my verse….verse which will outlast the crest and tomb of the dead Queen…


And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

tomb of Elizabeth

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers – and the ANGELS sit.)


There’s a coded joke in the last line…Elizabeth had famously said….


(Standing) Had I been crested and not cloven, my lords, you had not treated me thus…(Sits)


Meaning, ‘Were I a man and not a woman’.

I awarded her a ‘crest’ on her death….

…..giving rise to the rumour that she had in fact been a man….

James’s Coronation Day was a wash-out. The procession route was lined with paste-board obelisks –

obelisk at coronation 2

……but the heavens opened and the winds blew them away…

They reminded me, though, of the real obelisk Harry and I had seen in Rome ten years before.…

obelisk tudor


(Stands and comes downstage.)

No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:

Thy obelisks built up with newer might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange,

They are but dressings of a former sight…


What a difference there was between pasteboard and granite!

Just like the difference between the fickle world of the court and the constant world of Harry and myself….


If my dear love were but the child of state

It might for fortune’s bastard be unfather’d,

As subject to time’s love, or to time’s hate,

Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gather’d.

No, it was builded far from accident;

It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls

Under the blow of thralled discontent,

Whereto th’ inviting time our fashion calls:

It fears not policy that Heretic,

Which works on leases of short number’d hours,

But all alone stands hugely politic,

That it nor grows with heat, nor drowns with show’rs….


I even called on the Catholic Martyrs – like Edmund Jennings slaughtered in his jester’s outfit – to endorse our love…


To this I witness call the fools of time,

Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime.


It had been a crime in Elizabeth’s reign for a Roman Catholic simply to be alive…

(ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE returns to his chair and sits.)


King James made my acting company and myself Grooms of the Chamber and, dressed in screaming red livery, we held a canopy over King James during the Coronation Service.

So we saw in close-up the young Earl of Pembroke kissing the King full on the lips.

Everyone had thought that Harry would become James’s new favourite– not least of all Harry.

But James preferred younger men – and Harry’s time in the Tower had taken its toll.

southampton in tower

Thrown from the centre of power, Harry started to grow homophobic.

And then his wife produced a son.

Harry hoped he would turn into a manly soldier.

Unlike yours truly.

My services were no longer needed.

Shakespeare, the Player, had to go……

I responded by sending Harry one of the most poisonous letters ever written…..

….in the form of a malformed sonnet…..

…..its final couplet ripped away like a foetus from a womb…

I had told Harry that if he became a father he would become a moon that could wax and wane at the same time.

Now – fifteen years later – I developed this idea…..

I started the poem by admitting that Harry was still so beautiful he seemed to be denying the aging process…

But I also addressed him as ‘my lovely Boy’….

…. an insult to an English Earl, now in his thirties….

…. and in the violent throes of gay denial…


(Stands – walks forward and addresses HARRY out front with complete hatred and contempt.)

O thou my lovely Boy who in thy power

Dost hold time’s fickle glass, his sickle hour:

Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st

Thy lover’s withering, as thy sweet self grow’st….


You might be growing in the form of your baby son…..

…but I your lover, am withering away, denied your love…


If Nature (sovereign mistress over wrack)

As thou goest onwards still will pluck thee back,

She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill

May Time disgrace, and wretched minute kill.


Dame Nature has kept you young-looking so she can show off in front of Old Father Time….


Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;

She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!


Be afraid, Harry! Be very afraid! You are a mere plaything of Nature….

…..and she can only slow down the process of aging NOT reverse it.


(With savage triumph) Her Audit (though delayed) answer’d must be,

And her Quietus is to render thee.

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE turns sharply and walks briskly to his seat. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE stands in the central place he has occupied)


(Savagely) Dame Nature has got to pay off Old Father Time in the end – and she will settle the bill with you!

She will ‘render’ you by giving you up…

And ‘render’ you by breaking down your body in the grave….

….like a lump of fatty meat.

Before I promised you immortality.

Now I promise you death!

(Pause) I then went mad and wrote Lear….

lear codelia scofield

(Now read the final episode – Episode Seven)

(It’s best to read Parts One, Two , Three and Four first.)

Seven Ages poster


(talking about the ‘creation’ of the Fat Knight)

It all started, once again, with politics.

….Lord Cobham….

Cobham Lord

– known as ‘The Sycophant’- was the great enemy of the Earl of Essex.

His claim to fame was that one of his ancestors was the Protestant martyr and saint, Sir John Oldcastle.

(ANGEL E puts on his staring wig as THOMAS NASHE. ARCHANGEL X sets the table mid-stage)

Essex commissioned me to write an attack on Cobham…..

….so I summoned Tom Nashe back to Titchfield……

…..and put him up in Posbrook Farm…..

great posbrook farm

– a house of ill-repute just outside Titchfield…..

….run by an old rogue called William Beeston.

Nashe nick-named him….


(Rising) Apis Lapis’. [Pronounced ‘Arpis Larpis]‘Apis’ is Latin for bee. ‘Lapis’ is Latin for stone. ‘Apis Lapis’ translates as ‘Bee- Stone’ – Beeston – William Beeston – William Apis Lapis!!! –

(NASHE convulses with laughter – which he tries to hide as he pulls his chair to sit stage left of the table.)


Jokes like that ensured that Tom was destined for oblivion…..

In this scene I shall join the Shakespeare Angels and give you my William Beeston….

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE as BEESTON puts on cap. NASHE mimes reading and writing. We are to imagine he has a tankard and a plate of cheese in front of him. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE as BEESTON enters, miming carrying a jug of sack.)


Where is Shakebag? (Silence) And why am I back in Titchfield?


(Deep rustic) The answer to the first is, ‘I dunno’. The answer to the second is ‘you needs the cash’. Willy’s cash.


Harry’s cash….

I only work for old money….


More sack?


(Pulling his tankard away) I’m working….


(Mimes pouring NASHE a drink anyway) Never stopped you before! Learning is a mere hoard of gold kept by a devil, till sack commences it and sets it in act and use…

(BEESTON mimes putting down the jug of sack on the table.)


Be quiet. I’m trying to think…..


More cheese? I’ve got rings of the stuff in the loft….

(NASHE shakes his head.)


What about Molly then?  She’s in the loft as well….

(ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE stands and brings his chair forward.)


Sorry I’m late Tom. Trouble with a sonnet. Got a rhyme for ‘impediment’?.




(To BEESTON) Speaking of which….


I’ll get your morning pottle pot, Master Will…

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE sits stage right of the table. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE as BEESTON goes back to lectern.)  


So what was Cobham’s ancestor called again?


Sir John something or other….


And he was a friend of Prince Hal?


Yes.  And a Protestant martyr who was slowly burnt to death…


Mmmm….Not much comic mileage in that….

(Both sit brooding, trying to get an idea. They keep writing things and crossing them out.)


(Mimes carrying two empty tankards in one hand – and carrying his lectern chair in the other. He puts his chair down behind the table and the mimed tankards on the table. He mimes pouring the sack from the jug into a tankard and gives it to MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE) More sack, Tom? (NASHE shakes his head.) More cheese, anyone? (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and NASHE shake their heads. There is complete, gloomy silence. BEESTON sits, unasked, and pours the sack into his own tankard. More silence.) More Molly?



(NASHE almost chokes with laughter. BESSTON and MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE exchange looks. NASHE realises that no-one is laughing – so stops.)


What would Cobham really hate….?


An attack on his family honour?


The Cobhams ain’t got none…




(Ignoring them as he always does) Can honour set to a leg? No: or an arm? No: or take away the grief of a wound? No. (Sips) What is honour? A word. What is in that word, honour?  Air. (Sips again…NASHE is still sunk in gloom but MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE begins to stare at BEESTON) Who hath it? He that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. Honour is a mere ’scutcheon: and so ends my catechism…..(BEESTON stands up and shouts off) Molly! I’m a-comin hup! I loves it when you smells of cheese!

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE jumps up and pulls BEESTON back to the table…)


What did you say about sherry sack yesterday?


No idea….


Try to remember….

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE slamming down an imaginary coin on the table. BEESTON’S memory immediately recovers…)


A good-sherris sack hath a two-fold operation in it…. (During the following speech, MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE, standing behind BEESTON, does everything to gain NASHE’s attention. In sign language, he tries to indicate to him that they could base the character of Sir John on BEESTON. But NASHE is slow on the up-take and doesn’t know what on earth MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE is doing) It ascends me into the brain, dries me there all the foolish, dull and crudy vapours which environ it, makes it apprehensive and quick, forgetive, full of nimble, fiery and delectable shapes, which delivered o’er to the voice, the tongue, which is the birth, becomes excellent wit. (BEESTON has become aware of something behind him and looks round. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE puts his hands behind his back, looks up into the air and whistles. BEESTON continues…) The second property of your excellent sherries is the …


(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE gags BEESTON’s mouth with his hands.) Now say it all over again, Apis Lapis. SLOWLY….

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE removes his hands from BEESTON’s mouth. He mimes ‘writing’ to NASHE. The penny finally drops…)



(NASHE mimes seizing a quill and starting to write. ALL freeze.)


(Taking off his cap) And so the Fat Knight was born…

Ripped off, rather, from William Beeston of Titchfield….

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. All unfreeze. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE takes his chair back to his lectern. ANGEL D and ANGEL E take their chairs back to the back line – and ARCHANGEL X clears the table down left.)


(As he crosses to lectern)

Oldcastle the Protestant and Saint became Oldcastle the Boozer and Thief .

The Cobhams kicked up such a stink Elizabeth forced us to change the name.

We chose Sir John Falstaff.

falstaff 1

I used Falstaff to get my own revenge as well.

Justice Shallow…..

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image


– the weak-minded liar, blockhead and rogue in Merry Wives – is a send-up of Sir Thomas Lucy.

They even have the same coat of arms, luces – pikes – which allowed me a reprise of my ‘Lucy is lousy’ gag.

Falstaff (ANGEL E as FALSTAFF rises) poaches Shallow’s deer – just as I’d poached Lucy’s – and Shallow says he must answer the charge…


I will answer it straight. (Pause as ANGEL D as FALSTAFF lumbers down stage and looks out front)

I have done all this. That is now answered.

(ANGEL E as FALSTAFF does a V-sign in derision at Lucy out front – and returns to his seat.)


I wish I had been able to do that in Stratford-upo-Avon.

It had taken me TWENTY YEARS to get my revenge.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold.

Well, this was deep-frozen…..

In the middle of all this knock-about, though, my little boy, Hamnet, died.

He was only eleven – and I’d hardly known him.

I was off touring in Kent at the time…..So I even missed his funeral….

Of course I should have returned to mourn with my wife and daughters…

But the show must go on…

I turned Harry into my surrogate son….

(ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE turns to ANGEL C as HARRY who is sitting next to him and puts his right arm round him.)


As a decrepit father takes delight

To see his active child do deeds of youth,

So I, made lame by fortune’s dearest spite,

Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth…

(HARRY touches MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE’s left arm…then SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and the two men release their hold. ANGEL C removes his rose and ANGEL D removes his silk scarf.)


I told you that Tom Kyd was to have his revenge on me…

Not only was The Spanish Tragedy more successful than any play I ever wrote…..

….it’s about a father who goes mad with grief at the death of his son….

I owned the play – and, indeed, made money from it…

I now added to it a speech of my own, one of the most heartfelt things I ever wrote….

And no-one knew it was me…..


(Stands and comes forward. He takes off the slippers he is wearing)

These slippers are not mine, they were my son Horatio’s.

My son? And what’s a son? (Feigning bravura) A thing begot

Within a pair of minutes, there-about;

A lump bred up in darkness, and doth serve

To balance those light creatures we call women,

And at nine months end creeps forth to light.

What is there yet in a son to make a father

Dote, rave or run mad? Being born, it pouts,

Cries, and breeds teeth. What is there yet in a son?

He must be fed, be taught to go and speak.

Aye, and yet? Why might not a man love

A calf as well, or melt in passion over

A frisking kid, as for a son? Me thinks

The more he grows in stature and in years,

The more unsquar’d, unlevell’d he appears,

Reckons his parents among the rank of fools,

Strikes cares upon their heads with his mad riots,

Makes them look old before they meet with age.—

This is a son! And what a loss were this,

Considered truly! (Breaking down) Oh, but my Horatio

Grew out of reach of those insatiate humours:

He lov’d his loving parents, he was my comfort

And his mothers joy, the very arm that did

Hold up our house, our hopes were stored in him…. (ANGEL E as HIERONIMO wanders slowly back to his seat and puts on his slippers.)


(Taking a swig from his tankard) I hit the bottle again big-time….

I got into brawls with Southwark pond life and was up before the beak…

He bound me over to keep the peace…

Harry dropped me for a bit – I don’t blame him.

But it did make me worry he might one day drop me for good….

Harry finally fell in love with a girl – Elizabeth Vernon….

vernon elizabeth comb

– one of Queen Elizabeth’s Ladies-in-Waiting.

I couldn’t complain: I’d written him seventeen sonnets urging him to do that very thing…

But I was, as you say, ambivalent….

I wanted him to get married and have children – as I had done….

….but I didn’t want to lose his love.

I dramatized the situation in Romeo and Juliet – with Harry as Romeo, Elizabeth as Juliet and me as the highly-strung, jealous spinner of words, Mercutio….

We did the play right here in the barn…

Great Barn in Titchfield: local legend has it that 'Romeo and Juliet' was first performed here.

Great Barn in Titchfield: local legend has it that ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was first performed here.

I finally accepted the marriage….

Harry and I had a spiritual union that nothing could destroy.

I would never withdraw my love from him…..

…..even if he withdrew it from me…..

(Underscoring ‘Light o’ Love’ 26. [0.45])

26 Light o’ Love 1


(Stands – brightly) Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments: love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.


(Stands) O no, it is an ever fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his higth be taken.


(Stands from Prompt Corner) Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom:

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

(Now read Episode Six.)


 (It’s best to read Parts One, Two  and Three first.)

Seven Ages poster

(ARCHANGEL X exits into the wings. Audience find SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE in the bar with a tankard in hand – pouring prop wine for the ANGELS. The ANGELS get more and more animated as the Interval progresses as they are completely unused to alcohol. ARCHANGEL X appears in the bar, takes the wine glasses out of the ANGELS’ hands and starts ushering the inebriated ANGELS backstage. She tries to take SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE’s tankard from him – but he runs away. She chases after him, snatches the tankard from him and pushes him to backstage…ARCHANGEL X later announces to the audience….)


Ladies and Gentlemen – the Second Half of ‘The Seven Ages of Shakespeare is about to begin….


(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE enters from stage left alone. He is hiding something under his coat)


At least you’ve come back. Most of you…

X is pouring coffee down the throats of the angels. (SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE looks off left into the wings to check he’s not being watched – then produces the tankard from under his coat. He puts his finger to his lips – asking the audience not to split on him – then points at the tankard)

It was all a bit too much for them….

(He takes a sip from the tankard and places it on the small table next to his lectern.)

But while we’re waiting, can I tell you what really gets my goat?

Movies about my life….

I am NOT the Earl of Oxford….

Do I look like the Earl of Oxford?

de vere oxford

If you’d MET the Earl of Oxford you’d know how deeply insulting the whole idea is!

No – I’m William Shakespeare. Now I DID collaborate with others, but NEVER WITH HIM.

Everyone collaborated back then.

But believe me, everything that SOUNDS like me in the plays IS me.

Get it? Of course you do…

But why did I need collaborators in the first place?

When I came down to Titchfield things started to get very political…

The Countess of Southampton teamed up with the Countess of Pembroke at Wilton.

mary herbert countess of pembroke face

She was a Protestant – but you didn’t need to be a Papist to hate the Queen….

Elizabeth had destroyed the career of her brother, Sir Philip Sidney……

sidney philip

– a wannabe politician and soldier-boy.

Banished from the Court, he had eked out his days in the most degrading way known to an English aristocrat…

He had become a poet.

The two Countesses decided to stage the Wars of the Roses in the grounds of their estates.

The plays may seem to be about the Houses of York and Lancaster….

…….but with their boy kings, vacillating monarchs and tyrannical favourites, they are really about the House of Tudor.

And Richard III is really the Earl of Leicester……

……the Boar ….

olivier richard III


……is the Bear…..


….in disguise….

But why the Wars of the Roses?

Every age worries itself sick about something that never actually happens….

EVERYONE then was terrified that when Elizabeth died Civil War would break out. They forgot it was England.

Elizabeth’s death was greeted by a wave of massive indifference.

King James simply walked into the job….

James with orb and sceptre

Well, rode. He was coming from Scotland…

Now I needed help on a big project like the Wars of the Roses – so I did what all theatre men do. I employed my enemies…

I’d better add that in the theatre, EVERYONE IS YOUR ENEMY….

Little Tom Nashe, who’d insulted me in London, came down to Titchfield to write my jokes…

And then insulted me all over again….


(Shouting from offstage left) For there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide, supposes he is well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you….


(Shouting offstage left) X! – more coffee please for Angel E….

Nashe stayed with me as my gag writer till he died in 1601. I can tell you I feel NO GUILT WHATSOEVER that I didn’t credit him….

His jokes were truly terrible…

Now the Shakespeare movie I loathe and despise beyond all others……

…..the one that demeans not only me but the whole of humanity…..

…..the one that I would willing destroy, frame by frame, with my own bare hands is….

(ARCHANGEL X appears from wings left and coughs. THE SPIRIT OF SHAKESPEARE looks at her and she nods.)

That’ll have to wait for another incarnation.

Ladies and Gentlemen – I give you, for the second time, and a little the worse for wear, the fabulous Shakespeare’s Angels…

(The ANGELS enter from stage left wings, indeed a little worse for wear, then bow in unison and sit. ANGEL C. puts on his rose. ANGEL C also needs to be wearing shoes he can slip off as ‘COMIC’. ANGEL D puts on his silk scarf. ANGEL E wears slippers for the Second Half.)

Every summer I visited my wife and children at Stratford . There I could settle down to serious writing.

But my mind kept returning to Harry….

Without him the summer seemed like winter….

(Underscoring. ‘Tarleton’s Ressurection. 16. [1.06]THE ANGELS make a miraculous recovery from their inebriation and recite beautifully!)

16 Tarleton’s Resurrection, P. 59 1



How like a Winter hath my absence been

From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen?

What old December’s bareness everywhere?



And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,

The teeming Autumn big with rich increase,

Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,

Like widowed wombs after their Lords’ decease.


(Stands at Prompt Table)

Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me

But hope of Orphans, and un-father’d fruit;

For Summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

And thou away, the very birds are mute.

Or, if they sing, ‘tis with so dull a cheer,

That leaves look pale, dreading the Winter’s near.

(Underscoring concludes or fades. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and the three ANGELS sit down.)


Yes, I know. I should have been supporting my wife and playing with my children.

And to be honest, the honeymoon period with Harry was over.

He was serially promiscuous and, like his mother, had a penchant for lower class men.

But he was about to enter the snake-pit of Elizabeth’s court.

I warned him in sonnet after sonnet that he should keep himself to himself or his sex-life would be used against him….



The summer’s flow’r is to the summer sweet,

Though to itself it only live and die;

But if that flow’r with base infection meet…..


….rough trade….


The basest weed out-braves his dignity…



Mind you I was no angel myself. Well, it gets lonely touring…..

‘A friend’ – probably Tom Nashe – told him what I’d been up to…

(ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE rises and crosses down right trying to escape from ANGEL C as HARRY who rises and chases him in a fury.)


Well? Did you or didn’t you?


My only recourse was to a sonnet….

(Throughout the scene HARRY and MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE ignore SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE – and keep their focus on each other.)


(Turning round to face HARRY)

Alas, ‘tis true, I have gone here and there

And made myself a motley to the view,

Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear

Made old offences of affections new.


Yes. I have had sex with young men while on tour.


Most true it is that I have looked on truth

Askance and strangely……


I have, in fact, been lying in my teeth….


….but, by all above,

These blenches gave my heart another youth

And worse essays proved thee my best of love…


But it made me feel young again. And proved to me just how wonderful you are…


(Crossing left, laughing sarcastically) Ha! Ha! Ha!


Then I went into attack mode….


(Following HARRY)

That you were once unkind…..


That you once played away from home….


….befriends me now…


Befriends you?


For if you were by my unkindness shaken,

As I by yours, you’ve passed a hell of time….


For if I have hurt you as much as YOU ONCE HURT ME, then you’ve been to Hell and back in a handcart…


And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken

To weigh how once I suffered in your crime…..


MY crime?


I then stormed the moral high ground with a bit of Tudor Gay Liberation…


(Crossing right)

Why should others false adulterate eyes

Give salutation to my sportive blood?

Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,

Which in their wills count bad what I think good?

I am that I am, and they that level

At my abuses reckon up their own…..



(Caving in with a smile) Will, you could argue your way out of anything!

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and HARRY freeze. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and ANGEL C and ANGEL D return to their seats.)


I nearly had my come-uppance, though. A raging old queen called Georgie Chapman…..

Chapman, George

– who claimed to be in spirit contact with the ghost of Homer no less – started to write unctuous love-poetry to Harry.

I’d already attacked him as the mincing, lisping Boyet in Love’s Labour’s Lost….

boyet camp



This fellow pecks up wit as pigeons pease,

And utters it again when God doth please:

He is wit’s pedlar, and retails his wares

At wakes and wassails, meetings, markets, fairs;

And we that sell by gross, the Lord doth know,

Have not the grace to grace it with such show.

This gallant pins the wenches on his sleeve;

Had he been Adam, he had tempted Eve;

A’ can carve too, and lisp: (lisping) why, this is he

That kiss’d his hand away in courtesy;

……the ladies call him sweet;

The stairs, as he treads on them, kiss his feet: T

his is the flower that smiles on every one,

To show his teeth as white as whale’s bone….



Now as you know, I’d done my own fair share of flattering Harry – but you can’t go on flattering somebody FOR EVER…..

Gorgeous George took up where I’d laid off – and all but replaced me. T

hat would have been a disaster….

Harry was my meal-ticket at the time – and for some time after.

But the success of The Dream was enough to see Chapman off.

This was followed by another big hit…..

…..the Henry the Fourth Plays starring the Fat Knight…

falstaff 5

…..my greatest, most popular creation.

But even he was stolen from another man…

 ( Now read Episode Five. )

(It’s best to read Parts One and Two first.)

Seven Ages poster

(‘Bonny Sweet Robin’ fades. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. RAPID ACTION. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE exits down stage left wings. ARCHANGEL X clears the table while ANGEL A enters from the stage right wings without her mask and puts ANGEL C’s chair – which is right of table – back in place and sits in her own seat. ANGEL E puts ANGEL D’s chair left of table back in place and sits back in his own seat and puts on his ‘staring wig’.)


Amelia fell pregnant – God knows by whom – and was married off to a musician.

I returned to Titchfield and Harry….

(Underscoring ‘Light o’ Love’ 26.[0.45] ANGEL C as HARRY enters from upper stage right waiting for MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE’S arrival. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE enters from down stage left wings.)

26 Light o’ Love 1


(Smiling.) Will!

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE crosses right, kneels to HARRY and kisses his ring. HARRY raises him, embraces him and kisses him. ANGEL E as THOMAS NASHE stands and clocks this. The two men exit, arm in arm, wings stage right without noticing TOM NASHE. ‘Light o’ Love’ fades.)


There was, of course, a problem in all this….(ANGEL B as COUNTESS MARY enters, wearing tiara, from wings left)

Mother Mary!

Mary Browne, 2nd Countess of Southampton.

Mary Browne, 2nd Countess of Southampton.

(TOM NASHE pulls up her chair for her. COUNTESS MARY sits and mimes doing needlework)

I wasn’t exactly fulfilling my job description.

Tom Nashe told the Countess what he had seen.

(TOM NASHE whispers in COUNTESS MARY’s ear. She looks shocked. TOM NASHE whispers again)

And one or two things that he hadn’t.

(COUNTESSMARY looks even more shocked. ANGEL E returns to his seat and takes off his wig.)

The Countess summoned me….

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE enters and kneels in front of COUNTESS MARY. )


 Do you love my son?


(Feigning ignorance)

Your pardon noble mistress?


Love you my son?


(Evading the issue)

Do you not love him, madam?


Go not about. My love hath in’t a bond,

Whereof the world takes note. Come, come, disclose

The state of your affection, for your passions

Have to the full been witnessed.


Then I confess

Here on my knees, before high heaven and you,

That before you, and next unto high heaven,

I love your son. My dearest madam,

Let not your hate encounter with my love,

For loving where you do….


I reminded her that when she was young, SHE had loved in a way that defied convention…


…..but if yourself

Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth,

Did ever in so true a flame of liking,

Wish chastely and love dearly, that your Diane

Was both herself and love – o then give pity

To him whose state is such that cannot choose….

(A pause. Then COUNTESS MARY stands and raises MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE to his feet. She kisses him on the cheek. She is accepting him into the family.)


Cousin Will….

(The two ANGELS freeze. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and ANGEL B picks up her chair, sits upstage and takes off her tiara. ANGEL D sits upstage and removes his scarf. ARCHANGEL X sets the bench centre stage.)


Harry and I celebrated Mary’s acceptance of our love with a holiday in Europe.

King Philip of Spain had appointed Countess Mary’s father his Master of Horse when he was King of England – so we were invited to visit him – in utmost secrecy – in Madrid.

He showed us something that was to change my life for ever – his collection of paintings by Titian….

Painting in England was entirely political.

Every time Queen Elizabeth had her portrait painted, she got younger.

(Underscoring ‘Callino’ 8.[1.07]Play through this twice.)

08 Callino

But Titian seemed to enter the very souls of his subjects through the twists and turns of their bodies…

Venus and Adonis

(ANGEL B and ANGEL C rise, and using the bench, take up the pose in ‘Venus and Adonis’….)

Venus begging Adonis to make love to her in the purple dawn…..

….pleading with him not to join the boar-hunt.

And Adonis, torn between the two great giants, love and death……

…..gazing at her with the ambiguity of life itself…

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and ANGELS B and C break and return to their seats. ANGEL C puts on his rose, cap and shoulder cape.) ANGEL A and ANGEL E take up the pose from ‘The Rape of Lucrece’)

rape of Lucrece

Tarquin raping Lucrece…..

……his scarlet clad legs forcing her naked legs apart…..

……and his exposed knee inching towards her groin.

And Lucrece….

….threatened by Tarquin’s dagger, hovering like a falcon in the air….

…fixing her eyes on something far more terrifying……

….Tarquin’s twisted face.

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. ANGELS A and E unfreeze and return to their seats. ARCHANGEL X clears bench to down left. ANGEL C as HARRY and ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE put on bonnets and shoulder capes)

I tried to recreate these two great paintings in two long poems – even using the same colours and postures that Titian had used.

But the wind of words got in the way.

I came to realise that the only way for me to touch the sublime was through the drama….

Harry and I then travelled on to Rome, the Eternal City…

08 Callino

(ANGEL C as HARRY and ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE rise, come forward and look into the audience as though they are looking at Rome.)

Ovid was right: Time IS the eater of things…..

The ruins of Rome

The ruins of Rome


When I have seen by time’s fell hand defaced

The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks downwards – HARRY follows his gaze.)

When sometime lofty towers I see down razed

And brass eternal slave to mortal rage…..


Every obelisk in Rome had collapsed except one…..

….the obelisk St. Peter saw moments before he was crucified by Nero in the Circus of Caligula.

It now stood before St. Peter’s…..

obelisk tudor

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks up in awe at the imagined obelisk in the stage left area of the audience – HARRY follows his gaze.)

…..and its red granite was an object of veneration to Catholics from all over the world….

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and HARRY take off their bonnets, kneel together and cross themselves. Then bow their heads in prayer. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE moves from his lectern and stands behind MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and HARRY. Like them, he kneels and crosses himself then bows his head in prayer. Then he snaps his gingers and all the ANGELS rise…’Callino’ stops.)


But we had fun in Italy as well….


(Getting an idea)

I have it full….

We have not yet been seen in any house,

Nor can we be distinguished by our faces

For man or master. Then it follows thus:

Thou shalt be master in my stead,

I will some other be, some Florentine,

Some Neapolitan, or meaner man of Pisa.

‘Tis hatch’d, and shall be so. Will, at once

Uncase thee, take my coloured hat and cloak….

(HARRY and MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE exchange hats and cloaks.)




Sith it your pleasure is,

And I am tied to be obedient –

For so your mother charged me at our parting

‘Be serviceable to my son’ quoth she,

Although I think ’twas in another sense –

I am content to be Southampton

Because so well I love Southampton….



This meant that BOTH of us could get up to no good…..


(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. HARRY and MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE unfreeze and return to their seats and take of their bonnets and capes.)

I later recycled this escapade as  a plot device….

And Italy itself – with its sunshine, colour and passion – was to inspire SIXTEEN of my plays.

Some know-alls claim that I never visited Italy.

They say I got its geography all wrong.

They quote The Two Gentlemen of Verona where Valentine SAILS from Verona to Milan….

….something impossible to do.

Well, it was perfectly possible in my day….

Italy was studded with canals!

When we got back to England, though, the fun stopped.

We found Kit Marlowe dead and Tom Kyd dying…

They had moved into lodgings together in London and riots had started there.

The government had encouraged immigrants to come to England – it made them a lot of money….

….but the locals didn’t want them…..

They put up the price of housing….

Someone had written an ‘immigrants go home’ poem and had posted it up on a wall.

The authorities had searched the rooms of every writer in London – including Tom and Kit’s.

They didn’t find the poem there, but they found something worse: papers denying the divinity of Christ.

Kit was off in the country with a new boyfriend at the time…..

….but Tom was arrested and racked….

To end the agony he betrayed his friend…


(Sitting –as though tortured). The papers were Marlowe’s – shuffled with some of my own….


Kit was never in any real danger from the state.

He was too valuable to them as a spy.

But he was killed in a brawl in a Deptford .

Over a bill. And over a boy.

Tom was dropped by everyone.

Including me.

He wrote about his….


(Still sitting) Bitter times and broken passions….




Afflictions of the mind than which the world affords no greater misery….


I couldn’t forgive him for his betrayal.

In fact I put the boot in.

His huge success was The Spanish Tragedy – so I sent it up.

You might think A Midsummer Night’s Dream is full of magic and fun. And it is.

But it’s also a savage piss-take of Tom’s best play.

When Titania says….


(Stands) What angel wakes me from my flowery bed….

bottom and titania


It’s a parody of Hieronimo when he says….


(Stands) What outcries pluck me from my naked bed….

(ANGEL A and ANGEL E sit.)


And when Pyramus, mourning the dead Thisbe, says….



(Stands. Rustic accent.)

O wherefore, Nature, didst thou lions frame?

Since lion vile hath here deflower’d my dear:

Which is–no, no–which was the fairest dame….


….it is a send up of Hiernomo’s grief at finding the body of his dead son….



(Stands) Those garments that he wears I oft have seen,

Alas! It is Horatio, my sweet son!

O, no; but he that whilom was my son!

(ANGEL D and ANGEL E sit.)


Tom did the decent thing and died. ….

He was so much in debt that his parents refused to manage his literary state.

Harry had just come of age and had secretly given me a gift of £1,000 – half a million in today’s money.

So I bought the Kyd estate – along with a share in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

People at the time described Tom as….


(Stands) Famous Kyd!


(Stands) Industrious Kyd!


(Stands at Prompt Table) Sporting Kyd…

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE clicks his fingers and all three ANGELS sit simultaneously. ANGEL E puts on a flamboyant silk scarf – but different from MARLOWE’S or MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE’s.)


But you have hardly heard of him.

I made sure of that….

Tom wrote early versions of King Lear…..

lear codelia scofield

…..The Taming of the Shrew……

taming of the shrew


…..King John……

king john

…..Henry IV……

falstaff 2

…..Henry V …..

olivier henry v

….and Hamlet…..

anthony may hamlet

…..yes Hamlet.

I re-wrote them and took all the credit. I knew that the drama was my only path to greatness.

But I couldn’t think up a plot to save my life…..

…so I stole them.

Ben Jonson (ANGEL E as BEN JONSON stands) – with whom I enjoyed a hate-hate relationship all my life – was onto me at once.….

ben jonson colour


(Standing, crossing downstage right and confronting SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE directl in accusing tones.)

Poor Poet-Ape, that would be thought our chief,     

Whose works are just the cast-offs of our wit

From piracy is become so bold a thief,     

As we, the robb’d, leave rage, and pity it.

(To audience)

At first he made low shifts, would pick and glean,     

Buy up the rights to plays, now grown

To a little wealth and credit in the scene,

(looking at SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE)     

He takes up all, makes each man’s wit his own,

And told of this, he slights it.


But Ben had a strong suspicion I’d get away with it…


(Looking directly at audience with a grunt of disgust)

Tut, such crimes

The sluggish, gaping audience devours;

(Pointing at audience)

They mark not whose ‘twas first, and after times     

May judge it to be his (pointing at SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE) as well as ours.

Fools! As if half eyes will not know a fleece     

From locks of wool, or shreds from the whole piece.

(ANGEL E returns to his seat. He takes off his scarf.)


So there you have it. I promised I would ‘fess-up’ and I have.

I don’t know if you can forgive me for this.

I find it hard to forgive myself.

But Tom was to have a revenge on me far greater than the ghosts did in his plays.

But before we go into all that, I hope you’ll join me for a drink in the bar – the first one I’ve had in four hundred years.

Angels! The drinks are on me!

(ANGELS look alarmed. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE strides off towards the Bar. The ANGELS form into a nervous huddle, discussing under their breath whether they should go to the bar – all except ARCHANGEL X who remains making notes at her desk. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE turns back and sees what is happening.)


(Shouting) ANGELS! (The ANGELS turn to look at SPIRITSHAKESPEARE.) To the Bar! (SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers – and the ANGELS transform into zombies – obeying his every command. They file out to the bar – and when they have gone SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE says to his audience…)


Angels are all very well – but you’ve got to keep them in their place…

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE exits to the Bar. ARCHANGEL X gets up from her desk and comes forward with her clip board.)


We’ll see about THAT Mr. Shakespeare! Twenty minutes intermission please. Twenty minutes….

(Now read Episode Four)


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