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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…..

HOWEVER…

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….

michael-drayton

Today, 25th April 2016…..

…..EXACTLY FOUR HUNDRED YEARS TO THE DAY….

…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.)

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

Bust of Shakespeare

 SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

ANGEL D (as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE)

Tom, I want you to publish these.

ANGEL E (as TOM THORPE)

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Every sonnet I’ve ever written….

TOM THORPE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

But they’re by ME!

TOM THORPE

(Tom becomes interested and stops correcting)

And you’ll put your name to them?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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

I certainly will….

TOM THORPE

(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’….?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

No…

TOM THORPE

Narrows the market….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Not in Southwark it doesn’t….

TOM THORPE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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

TOM THORPE

Thank God for that…

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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

When they stripped him of his title…

TOM THORPE

Are you mad?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Well, Mr. H. W. then….

TOM THORPE

(Sarcastically) Impenetrable code….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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

TOM THORPE

How about Mr. W. H.….?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Would you publish if I agree?

TOM THORPE

(Not entirely sure)

Y-e-s….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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.)

TOM THORPE

(Suspicious)

What’s this one about?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Relax, Tom. It’s about a woman….

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

TOM THORPE

Will Shakespeare in drag….

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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.)

ANGEL A (as THE LOVER)

(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!

TOM THORPE

(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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE as BEESTON

(Standing)

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….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Never thought I’d be here.

BEESTON

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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

BEESTON

Everyone’s reading them!

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

And Harry?

BEESTON

It’s his copy….

SHAKESPEARE

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

BEESTON

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)

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

You think I’m a bastard, don’t you?

BEESTON

Yes.

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

And I should never have published them….

BEESTON

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

He deserves it….

 BEESTON

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…

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Rising to go and putting on his cloak)

He took everything….

BEESTON

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)

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Miming putting cheese into pocket in cloak)

Bless you, Apis Lapis.

BEESTON

You still a Papist?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Of course.

BEESTON

Why?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Think what I’d be like if I wasn’t!

(BEESTON smiles, rises and embraces MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE.)

BEESTON

Safe journey, Will….

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

BEESTON

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

ANGEL D as TRADE UNION REPRESENTATIVE

(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)…..

ANGEL E

(Turning to ANGEL D)

Can we get him on ageism?

TRADE UNION REPRESENTATIVE

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

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

to ARCHANGEL X who has remained at her desk)

At least you’re loyal, X…

ARCHANGEL X

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

(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……

ARCHANGEL X

(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…..

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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…

 clapometer

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.]

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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)

ARCHANGEL X

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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?

ANGELS

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

And will you cheer me? (ANGELS hesitate…)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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 )

ANGELS

(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 AND ANGELS

(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…)
THE END

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.)

shakespeare church bust

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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:

ANGEL E as WILLIAM REYNOLDS

(Rising)

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)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.

Phoenix-bird-1-

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

28 The Sick Tune 1

ANGEL A

(Stands)

Let the bird of loudest lay,

On the sole Arabian tree,

Herald sad and trumpet be,

To whose sound chaste wings obey.

ANGEL B

(Stands)

Here the anthem doth commence –

Love and constancy is dead;

Phoenix and the Turtle fled

In a mutual flame from hence….

 

ANGEL C

(Stands)

So they lov’d, as love in twain

Had the essence but in one

Two distincts, division none;

Number there in love was slain…

ANGEL D

(Stands)

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;

Distance, and no space was seen

‘Twixt this turtle and his queen;

But in them it were a wonder….

ANGEL E

(Stands)

So between them love did shine

That the turtle saw his right

Flaming in the Phoenix sight;

Either was the other’s mine….

ARCHANGEL X

(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)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

ANGEL C (as COMIC)

(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.)

ANGEL E (as JOHN DAVENANT)

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.)

ANGEL D (as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE)

John. Can I make a confession? (Silence)

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

Tom Nashe did…. (More silence)….

JOHN DAVENANT

Can I make a confession?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Of course.

JOHN DAVENANT

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…

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Sorry to hear that…I had wondered…

JOHN DAVENANT

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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

JOHN DAVENANT

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….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

But what about Jennet?

JOHN DAVENANT

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

But how would you feel about….

JOHN DAVENANT

(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)

JOHN DAVENANT

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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….

ANGEL A

(Rising)

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.

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

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

elizabeth's funeral

ANGEL B

(Rising)

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.

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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….

ARCHANGEL X

(Rising)

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….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

ARCHANGEL X

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

ANGEL B as QUEEN ELIZABETH

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

ANGEL D (as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE)

(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…

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

To this I witness call the fools of time,

Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime.

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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…

ANGEL D (as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE)

(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….

SPIRIT OF SHAKESPEARE

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

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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.

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;

She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(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)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

(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.)

Bust of Shakespeare

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

(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….

ANGEL E as NASHE

(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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

NASHE

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE as BEESTON

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

NASHE

Harry’s cash….

I only work for old money….

BEESTON

More sack?

NASHE

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

BEESTON

(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.)

NASHE

Be quiet. I’m trying to think…..

BEESTON

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

(NASHE shakes his head.)

BEESTON

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

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

ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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

NASHE

Sediment….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(To BEESTON) Speaking of which….

BEESTON

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.)  

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

So what was Cobham’s ancestor called again?

NASHE

Sir John something or other….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

And he was a friend of Prince Hal?

NASHE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Mmmm….Not much comic mileage in that….

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

BEESTON

(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

SHUT UP – APIS LAPIS!!!

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

What would Cobham really hate….?

NASHE

An attack on his family honour?

BEESTON

The Cobhams ain’t got none…

NASHE AND SHAKESPEARE

SHUT UP APIS LAPIS!!!

BEESTON

(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…)

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

What did you say about sherry sack yesterday?

BEESTON

No idea….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Try to remember….

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

BEESTON

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

(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

Aaaah….

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

(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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

(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…

ANGEL E (as FALSTAFF)

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

ANGEL D (as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE)

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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…..

ANGEL E (as HIERONIMO)

(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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

(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

ANGEL A

(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.

ANGEL B

(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.

ARCHANGEL X

(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.)

Bust of Shakespeare

(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….)

ARCHANGEL X

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

PART TWO

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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…..

leicester-c-1575-npg

….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….

ANGEL E (as TOM NASHE)

(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….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

(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

ANGEL A

(Stands)

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?

ANGEL B

(Stands)

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.

ARCHANGEL X

(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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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….

ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Rising)

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…..

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

….rough trade….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

The basest weed out-braves his dignity…

(Sits)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

ANGEL C (as HARRY)

Well? Did you or didn’t you?

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

My only recourse was to a sonnet….

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(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.

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Most true it is that I have looked on truth

Askance and strangely……

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

….but, by all above,

These blenches gave my heart another youth

And worse essays proved thee my best of love…

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

HARRY

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

Then I went into attack mode….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Following HARRY)

That you were once unkind…..

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

That you once played away from home….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

….befriends me now…

HARRY

Befriends you?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

For if you were by my unkindness shaken,

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken

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

HARRY

MY crime?

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(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…..

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE stares HARRY out.)

ANGEL C as HARRY

(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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Standing)

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….

(Sits)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

Bust of Shakespeare

(‘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’.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

HARRY

(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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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. )

COUNTESS MARY

 Do you love my son?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Feigning ignorance)

Your pardon noble mistress?

COUNTESS MARY

Love you my son?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Evading the issue)

Do you not love him, madam?

COUNTESS MARY

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.

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

…..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.)

COUNTESS MARY

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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…..

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

But we had fun in Italy as well….

HARRY

(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.)

tranio

 

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

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….

(HARRY and MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE freeze.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

……AT THE SAME TIME!

(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…

ANGEL E (as THOMAS KYD)

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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….

THOMAS KYD

(Still sitting) Bitter times and broken passions….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

…and….

THOMAS KYD

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

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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….

ANGEL A as TITANIA

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

bottom and titania

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

ANGEL E as (HIERONIMO)

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

(ANGEL A and ANGEL E sit.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

ANGEL D (as PYRAMUS)

pyramus

(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….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

hieronimo

ANGEL E (as HIERONIMO)

(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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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….

ANGEL A

(Stands) Famous Kyd!

ANGEL B

(Stands) Industrious Kyd!

ARCHANGEL X

(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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

ANGEL E (as BEN JONSON)

(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.

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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

BEN JONSON

(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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

(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…)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

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.)

ARCHANGEL X

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

(Now read Episode Four)

(It’s best to read Episode One first.)

Bust of Shakespeare

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

I HAD to get out of town…..

London was the best place to hide.

The Network put me in touch with Tom Kyd – another Catholic Grammar School boy, a few years older.

For me it was Ovid’s poetry – for Tom it was Seneca’s plays – full of vengeful ghosts, suicides, murders and madness. Tom wrote English versions that were every bit as bloody…

…and the public loved them!

The Spanish Tragedy was one of them.

Spanish Tragedy

 

…..Hamlet was another.

Yes. Hamlet….more of that later….

We still had to work by day as lawyers’ clerks but wrote pamphlets, ballads and plays by candlelight at night.

(ANGEL E as THOMAS NASHE puts on a wig of wild ‘staring’ hair.)

We got right up the noses of the University Wits…….

…..men who thought Grammar School oiks had no business writing.

Little Tom Nashe  (ANGEL E as THOMAS NASHE rises)…..

Thomas Nashe

Thomas Nashe

……..with his buck teeth and staring hair – was the worst….

He called us…

ANGEL E (as TOM NASHE)

(Sarcastically)….deep read Grammarians who have no learning in their skull, nor Art in their brain. Seneca read by candlelight yields them many good sentences, and he will afford whole Hamlets. For recreation after their candle stuff, having starched their beards most curiously, they make a peripatetical path into the inner parts of the City……

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

….Go on a pub crawl….

TOM NASHE

…..and spend two or three hours in turning over French ‘Dowdy’…..

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

…sleeping with French prostitutes. (TOM NASHE sits and takes off his wig).

You’ll find out tonight that I’ve had a lot of adulterous sex in my life.

I went through agonies of guilt, as a Catholic, about breaking my wedding vows….

But I now think my REAL sin was this…..

…..I had a warm, caring, beautiful wife.

But I found her goodness boring….

(ANGEL D puts on a flamboyant silk scarf.)

It was impossible to go into the inner parts of the City without running into Kit Marlowe (ANGEL D as KIT MARLOWE rises)

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe

….a man four hundred years ahead of his time.

If you think London was swinging in the 1960’s you should have seen it in the 1580’s!

The very first thing Kit said to me was….

ANGEL D as KIT MARLOWE

(Coming forward. Out front)

All they that love not tobacco and boys be fools….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

Kit somehow managed to combine Atheism with Devil Worship….

But he had a soft spot for Catholics…

KIT MARLOWE

If there be any God or good religion then it is the Papists, because the service of God is performed with more ceremonies, as elevation of the mass, organs, singing men and shaven crowns.

All Protestants are hypocritical asses….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

He also said…..

KIT MARLOWE

(Out front) Whoever loved who loved not at first sight….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

The trouble was he was looking at me at the time.

But he soon clocked I was a naïve country-boy Catholic….

We became close friends, though…..

KIT MARLOWE

(Turning to SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE) Be true. Be yourself. And sing your own song.

(ANGEL D as KIT MARLOWE turns and goes back to his seat He removes his silk scarf.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

Lucy chased me all the way to London…..

…..but I had a masterstroke….

I found out that when he was in town, he worshipped at St. Giles, Cripplegate.

St. Giles, Cripplegate.

St. Giles, Cripplegate.

So I went to see the Rector there, Robert Crowley.

He turned out to be an off-the-wall poet and radical who refused to wear liturgical garments….

ANGEL E as ROBERT CROWLEY

(Rising)

The devil’s conjuring robes….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

….and got into fist fights with any priest that did….

(ANGEL C as YOUNG SHAKESPEARE enters from Stage Right. ROBERT CROWLEY calls him over.)

ROBERT CROWLEY

Will, come here boy. Sir Thomas has sent me the ballad you wrote about him.

Now I write ballads all the time as a way of communicating God’s word.

But your ballad is vicious.

‘Lucy is lousy’ – how would you feel if you were Sir Thomas?

ANGEL C (as YOUNG SHAKESPEARE)

But I’m not Sir Thomas. I don’t torture schoolboys.

ROBERT CROWLEY

It’s your job as a writer to empathise with everyone…..

You have to imagine, for example, what it’s like to be very poor….

YOUNG SHAKESPEARE

But I AM very poor!

ROBERT CROWLEY

(ignoring him)and to imagine what it’s like to be very rich.

If everyone did that, the rich would give everything they had to the poor…

YOUNG SHAKESPEARE

Then the poor would give it back….

ROBERT CROWLEY

Look, Will, I’ll get Lucy off your back, but I’ll want something in return….

YOUNG SHAKESPEARE

Of course

(Reaching into his pocket.)

ROBERT CROWLEY

I don’t want your money, Will. I want your soul!

I want you to bring God to the great mass of the people….

YOUNG SHAKESPEARE

But I’m not a priest!

ROBERT CROWLEY

No! You are a writer and an actor! And I believe you will become a very great one.

I want you to tour England with Biblical stories!

The people will benefit – and so will you.

(ANGEL E as ROBERT CROWLEY and ANGEL C as YOUNG SHAKESPEARE freeze. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. ANGELS unfreeze. ANGEL E returns to his chair while ANGEL C exits to stage right wings. On his next entry he will be HARRY – so needs a velcro red rose set in the wings or backstage.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

So I formed a company – mostly unemployed tradesmen – and started to tour the Midlands.

All my plays had a high moral message, were packed with Biblical quotations and were aimed at the common man…

The common man didn’t want to know.

He much preferred Tom Kyd’s blood and thunder…

And then the Armada came….

Armada Sea Battle.

Armada Sea Battle.

ARCHANGEL X

(Standing at Prompt Table)

The Fourth Age:

Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the panther,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth.

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE.

I’ve told you I didn’t make it to the sixth and seventh age….well I didn’t make it to the fourth one either….

A soldier? Moi? No way!

Anyway, we Catholics were conflicted about the Armada. We wanted England to return to Rome – but we hated the Spaniards more than we hated the Queen.

The good thing about the Armada year was that the Bear died…..

…..poisoned, it was said, by his second wife.

My father’s business instantly picked up.

But show-biz didn’t. Actors were hated for their lack of patriotism.

Kit, Tom and I could no longer hack it in the theatre….

…so we joined aristocratic families as tutors to their children.

(ANGEL D puts on a flamboyant silk scarf – but a different colour to MARLOWE’S)

The Network swung into action again….

I joined the Southampton family at Titchfield, aged by touring and with my hair falling out….

shakespeare bald

(ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE stands. ANGEL B puts on a tiara.)

Mary, the second Countess of Southampton…

Mary Browne, 2nd Countess of Southampton.

Mary Browne, 2nd Countess of Southampton.

 

……(ANGEL B as COUNTESS MARY stands)

….showed me the family portraits in the gallery….

(COUNTESS MARY walks forward and looks out front – at what we take to be her portrait gallery. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE walks behind her down to the front and stands stage left of her.)

ANGEL B as COUNTESS MARY

And this, Master Shakespeare, is my late husband, the second Earl of Southampton….

Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton

Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton

If you are to become tutor to my son, you must be aware of the facts…..

The second Earl was a fine Catholic: he fought to bring the Blessed Mary Queen of Scots to the English throne. (COUNTESS MARY and MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE cross themselves.)

He was imprisoned in the Tower and nearly lost his head.

However, as a husband he was….unappreciative.

He accused me – quite insanely – of falling in love with a common person

(Looking at MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE, discreetly, up and down)…

I can see you’ll be needing some new clothes….(Recovering herself – she is clearly taken with MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE).

And an allowance…

My husband snatched my young son, Harry, away. He turned his manservant into his wife and left him everything.

I overturned the will, of course, but could not overturn the damage done to poor Harry….

(COUNTESS MARY points to another painting that is out front, further to stage right.)

That is a portrait of him…

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks startled.)

As you can see, he loves to dress up as a girl. Other than that, has no interest in women whatsoever.

This, Master Shakespeare, is where you come in.

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks startled again.)

You are a happily married man with children. I want you to get Harry excited by the idea of fatherhood.

Soon it will be his seventeenth birthday… I want you to write seventeen sonnets to show him the joys of the opposite sex.

I want you to ‘turn the vessel round’ as it were….

Wait here….

(COUNTESS MARY exits into the upstage right wings.)

ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(To himself, in horror, crossing down left)

Sonnets! Aaah!

(COUNTESS MARY enters from the stage right wings and announces….)

COUNTESS MARY

Master Shakespeare, (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE turns) my son, Henry Ryosely.

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE kneels with his head down as ANGEL C as HARRY enters from the upstage right wings, wearing a Velcro red rose.)

Third Earl of Southampton and Baron of Titchfield….

(HARRY crosses down left to MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and offers him his ring to kiss. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE does so, then looks up into HARRY’s face.)

COUNTESS MARY

I’m sure you two boys will get on like a house on fire…

(ANGELS freeze. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and ANGELS unfreeze. It should be clear that HARRY fancies MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE – but that MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE is confused. ANGEL C and ANGEL B return to their chairs. ARCHANGEL X sets a table centre. ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE takes his chair from upstage and sits left of the table, miming writing.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

I wrote the seventeen sonnets….

….and found the whole experience intoxicating!

English is the hardest language in the world to rhyme in….

….and to do it fourteen times in a single poem ties up your brain so completely that your heart is free to roam.

I was beginning to sing my own song…..

To a commission, mind you….

How do you turn a gay man straight?

Well, first I flattered Harry’s beauty –

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(From seat at table.)

From fairest creatures we desire increase,

That thereby beauty’s rose might never die….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

‘Rose’ was a reference to the Southampton rose –

southampton rose crest 2.

……and the preposterous way the Southampton family pronounced its name – ‘Ryosely’.

Everyone else said ‘Risley’

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

But as the riper should by time decease,

His tender heir might bear his memory….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

It was Harry’s duty to pass on his beauty. By keeping it to himself he was not only robbing the world – he was robbing hmself of the gift of a baby boy…..

….what I called his ‘sweet self.’

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

For having traffic with thy self alone,

Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

If Harry had a baby boy he would become like a moon….

…..but a miraculous moon that waned and waxed at the same time……

It would wane because Harry would inevitably get older and weaker….

But it would wax in the figure of his son who would get older and stronger.

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow’st

In one of thine, from that which thou departests.

And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow’st

Thou may call thine, when thou from youth convertest.

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

But perhaps my strongest argument was…..

If you don’t have a child you’ll end up like the toothless old hag, Queen Elizabeth….

Queen Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth.

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

….harsh, feautureless, and rude….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

….and then….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

….. barrenly perish…..

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

I gave the sonnets to Harry on his birthday…..

….and then waited for his reaction….

ANGEL C as HARRY

(Rising from his seat, miming brandishing a sheaf of papers.) Master Shakespeare, these Sonnets are an utter failure… (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks crestfallen)

I still don’t like girls!

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(On the attack) Even though you look like one?

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

HARRY

Are you being offensive?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

No. It’s the theme of this new sonnet I’m writing about you….

But if you don’t like them…..(Goes to tear the sonnet up)

HARRY

(Stopping him) I like BITS of them – especially the bits about me. ..

Let’s hear your new sonnet then! (HARRY pulls his upstage chair up to right of the table to listen.)

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

It’s not finished….

HARRY

Perhaps I can give you some ideas….

(HARRY touches MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE, suggestively on the arm – but MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE politely withdraws it.)

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted

Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion….

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

(HARRY shows interest)

A woman’s gentle heart but not acquainted

With shifting change as is false women’s fashion….

An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling….

(HARRY can contain himself no longer)

HARRY

See! You don’t like girls either!

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Ploughing on)

Gilding the object where-upon it gazeth,

A man in hue, all hues in his controlling

Which steals men’s eyes…

HARRY

(Excited) Ha!

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

….and women’s souls amazeth……

( HARRY, disappointed, groans)

And for a woman wast thou first created

Till Nature as she wrought thee, fell a-doting….

HARRY

Go on….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

That’s as far as I’ve got, sir….

HARRY

Would you like me to finish the Sonnet for you, Master Will….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Appalled at the idea)

The greatness of your words, sir, would utterly eclipse my own…

I shall finish the sonnet in my own time.

HARRY

(Banging his fist on the table) Finish it NOW! HERE! (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE rises and for a moment we think he is about to storm off. But HARRY, sensing this, immediately lightens his tone and starts to flirt.)

As Master-Mistress of your passion, I command you!

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE sits. He mimes scribbling a few lines…then hands them to HARRY)

HARRY

Till Nature as she wrought thee fell-adoting….

And by addition me of thee defeated

By adding one THING to my purpose nothing….

(HARRY looks down at his crutch)

Master Shakespeare, does this mean what I think it means?

Your conclusion, please…..

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE mimes scribbling again – and hands him the sheet)

HARRY

But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure

Mine by thy love – AND THY LOVE’S USE THEIR TREASURE!!!’

Is this a poetic way of telling me to get stuffed?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

No, sir. It’s a poetic way of telling you to stuff women…

(ANGEL B as COUNTESS MARY rises from her chair, looking white and shaken. She groans, walks to the table for support. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and HARRY both stand)

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

M’Lady….

ANGEL B as COUNTESS MARY

Dreadful, dreadful news. ….

HARRY

The Armada’s re-grouped!

COUNTESS MARY

No – worse! Queen Elizabeth is coming to stay!

Queen Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth.

(HARRY and MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE groan out front. ANGELS freeze. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and the ANGELS unfreeze. ANGEL B exits to stage left wings, ARCHANGEL X strikes the table down left and ANGEL D and ANGEL C take their chairs back to the line and sit in them. ARCHANGEL X places the bench centre stage.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

And stay she did. With all her court. And with all her soldiers.

She loved to slaughter deer with a cross-bow, at point blank range, from a specially constructed stand.

(ANGEL A puts on a Venetian mask which dangles on ties from her neck)

She brought Italian musicians with her to drown out their death cries.

Among them was the ravishing, mixed race Amelia Bassano

(ANGEL A as AMELIA – stands and curtsies and sits again.)

Elizabeth returned to town….

She repaid her hostess by disembowelling her Catholic friends in front of her London house.

One of them was a young missionary priest – Edmund Jennings…

Execution of Edmund Jennings.

Execution of Edmund Jennings.

– forced to wear a jester’s outfit on the scaffold.…

Amelia, though, stayed on at Titchfield…..

(ANGEL A as AMELIA rises crosses to the bench and mimes playing music – Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe 37. [1.22]

37 Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe, P. 54 – M 1

She was mistress to the Queen’s randy old cousin, Lord Hunsdon.

Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon.

Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon.

 

He paid her £40 a year for her services.

I  wanted to find out if that gave him exclusive rights…

ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Stands and approaches ANGEL A as AMELIA, who continues to play, from her right.) Did not I dance with you in London once?

ANGEL A as AMELIA

Did I not dance with you in London once?

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

I know you did.

AMELIA

How needless was it then to ask the question.!

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

You must not be so quick.

AMELIA

‘Tis long of you to spur me with such questions.

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Your wit’s too hot, it speeds too fast, ‘twill tire.

AMELIA

Not till it leave the rider in the mire.

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

What time of day?

AMELIA

The hour that fools should ask.

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE turns away right. AMELIA mimes putting down her lute – music cuts out. She covers her face with her mask.)

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Now fair befall your (He is about to say ‘face’ – but turns left to her and sees she is wearing a mask) mask!

AMELIA

Fair fall the face it covers.

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

And send you many lovers.

AMELIA

Amen, so you be none….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(After a pause, in which he can’t think of anything to say) Nay then will I be gone.

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE exits into the upstage right wings. AMELIA mimes ticking off another man to her list. She then returns to her chair and ARCHANGEL X strikes the bench to down left.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

Forsooth I was in love….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Springing back from the upstage right wings. Behind him ARCHANGEL X sets the table – then sets ANGEL D’s upstage chair stage left of it.)

I, that have been love’s whip;

A very beadle to a humorous sigh;

A critic, nay, a night-watch constable;

A domineering pedant o’er the boy;

Than whom no mortal so magnificent!

This whimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy;

This senior-junior, giant-dwarf, Dan Cupid;

What, I! I love! I sue! I seek a wife!

A woman, that is like a German clock,

Still a-repairing, ever out of frame, And never going aright!

Nay, to be perjured, which is worst of all;

And, among three, to love the worst of all;

A wightly wanton with a velvet brow,

With two pitch-balls stuck in her face for eyes;

Ay, and by heaven, one that will do the deed

Though Argus were her eunuch and her guard:

And I to sigh for her! to watch for her!

To pray for her! Go to; it is a plague

That Cupid will impose for my neglect

Of his almighty dreadful little might.

Well, I will love, sigh, pray, sue ,groan…..

….AND WRITE SONNETS TO HER!!!

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE turns upstage and sits stage left of the table and mimes writing. ANGEL C as HARRY rises and approaches him quietly from behind and peers over his shoulder. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE senses he is there and looks round. He quickly turns the page over so that HARRY cannot read it.)

ANGEL C as HARRY

It’s another Sonnet, Will. I saw it. (He grabs his chair from the upstage line and sits stage right of the table with MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE) Read it to me. I don’t care if it isn’t finished….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Reddening, reads) My (hesitates) master’s eyes are….nothing like the sun…. (HARRY looks startled)

Coral is far more red than his lips red,

If snow be white, why then his breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grown on his head…..

HARRY

(In a fury) Breasts? Black wires? (Mimes snatching sonnet from MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE)

My MISTRESS eyes are nothing like the sun! HER breasts! HER head! (ANGEL A as AMELIA rises from her chair and stands stage right, behind HARRY)

Will, you’re not writing to me – you’re writing to that dreadful….(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE coughs and indicates to HARRY that AMELIA has entered. HARRY turns to look at her.)

ANGEL A (as AMELIA)

(Curtsying beautifully) Good day, m’Lord….

(HARRY bows stiffly and exits down right to the wings. AMELIA gazes rapturously after HARRY, glancing surreptitiously back at MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE to make sure he’s noticing)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

Amelia liked playing hard to get….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Rising and crossing right and turning AMELIA around to face him.)

Tell me thou lov’st elsewhere; but in my sight

Dear heart, forbear to glance thy eye aside…

What need’st thou wound with cunning, when thy might

Is more than my o’er press’d defence can hide….

(Looking into AMELIA’S eyes) Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,

Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain,

Have put on black, and loving mourners be,

Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain…..

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE starts to hug AMELIA closely.)

Will’t thou, whose will is large and spacious

Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?

(He holds her even closer)

Shall will in others seem right gracious

And in my will no fair acceptance shine…..

(AMELIA breaks away left. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE crosses left to pursue her.)

He rises at thy name and points out thee

As his triumphant prize, proud of this pride:

He is contented thy poor drudge to be,

To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side…..

(He pulls ANGEL A as AMELIA to him and tries to make love to her. AMELIA pushes him away…)

AMELIA

Get lost, baldy!

(AMELIA exits to down left wings of stage. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE, recovering, muses to himself…)

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE sits on seat stage left of the table and muses)

Then will I swear beauty herself is black

And all they foul that her complexion lack…..

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

I asked Harry to plead my love-suit with Amelia. What a mistake ! Amelia pounced.

A young rich aristocrat – however gay – was more of a catch than an aging playwright….

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

Two loves I have of comfort and despair

Which like two spirits do suggest me still:

The better angel is a man right fair…..

(HARRY enters from the upstage right wings and walks downstage right.)

The worser spirit, a woman coloured ill.

(AMELIA enters from the upstage left wings and walks downstage left.)

To win me soon to hell my female evil

Tempteth my better angel from my side….

(AMELIA crosses left across the front of the stage, in front of MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and approaches HARRY and kisses him.)

And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,

Wooing his purity with her foul pride…

(AMELIA turns HARRY round so his back is to the audience and makes love to him.)

And whether that my angel be turned fiend

Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;

(AMELIA leads HARRY into the wings right. She takes off her Add-On and mask in the wings. )

But being both from me both to each friend….

I guess one angel in another’s hell…

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE crosses down left.)

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

I left Titchfield and went on tour again…..

MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE

(Musing – realising that it is the loss of HARRY that upsets him most.)

That thou ha’st her it is not all my grief

And yet it may be said I loved her dearly…

That she hath thee is of my wailing chief

A loss in love that touches me more nearly….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE

I finally had to admit I was in love with Harry.

harry southampton hilliard large

So I wrote to him to tell him so…

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE sits and starts writing sonnet. Underscoring. ‘Bonny Sweet Robin’12.[1.20] After a bar or two he looks up at audience and shares his thoughts with them.)

12 Bonny Sweet Robin 1

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

And winter’s lease hath all too short a date….

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines…

And often is his gold complexion dimm’d,

And every fair, from fair, sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimm’d….

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest….

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest….

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee….

(Now read Episode Three)

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