A Statement from The Shakespeare Code’s Chief Agent….


Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

Seconds before Trixie the Cat……


……and I gave our talk……

‘The Southampton Family ‘Tomb’ Decoded’

 ……before the Southampton Memorial in St. Peter’s, Titchfield, on Sunday 23rd October, 2016….

wriothesley tomb - colour

……Trixie made an amazing discovery!!!

The three arches in the memorial are covered in roses….

Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

This is in honour of the famous Southampton rose….

southampton rose crest 2.

But it is also a reference to the way in which the aristocratic branch of the Wriothesley family sometimes pronounced it’s name….


……the form in which it is recorded in the Titchfield Parish Register….

William Shakespeare……

Chandos portrait

…. referred to his Patron and Lover, Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton…..

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

…. as….

Beauty’s Rose…


my Rose….

…in Sonnets 1 and 109….

The Southampton memorial was funded by the Third Earl’s father……

…..the Second Earl, also called Henry.

Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

He had wanted two tombs – one for his father and mother and one for himself….

His motive was to humiliate his wife – the beautiful Mary Browne……

Mary Browne…because he believed she had been unfaithful to him…..

When the Second Earl died in 1581 Mary overturned his will…..

….. and ‘forgot’ about his request for two separate tombs….

However, in 1594, the year her son the Third Earl was to come of age, she ordered a SINGLE memorial from Garett Johnson of Southwark….

This depicted her mother-in-law Jane Southampton….

Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

…….her father-in-law, Thomas Wriothesley, the First Earl of Southampton…..

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

……and her husband, Henry, the Second Earl, resplendent in armour, curly hair and moustache…

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

The inscription to him on the memorial states that he died….

….in the 36 year of his age…..

When Henry had died, Mary had claimed to hate her husband…..

….but it seems that by 1594 she had started to soften towards him…..

She has certainly instructed Garrett Johnson to depict him on the memorial as a dashing and handsome man…..

And there is another sign of love and affection…..

Trixie the Cat noticed – just before our talk began – that there were twelve roses in each of the three arches in the memorial…..

Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

…..making thirty-six roses altogether…..


To read the First Part of the Talk, click: HERE!

To read the Second Part of the Talk, click:HERE



The Second Part of the talk Stewart Trotter and Karen Little gave in front of the Southampton Family Memorial in St. Peter’s Church, Titchfield, to a packed house Saturday 22nd October and Sunday 23rd October.

(It’s best to read Part One first.)

Lady Mary married an old family friend, Sir Thomas Heneage……

Sir Thomas Heneage funeral effigy

…….with extensive property in London……

savoy palace

……. and Essex……

copped hall

……..on 2nd May, 1594.

Four days later she ordered, via the executors of her husband’s will, a SINGLE monument…..

….the one you see before you…….



…..from Garrett Johnson of Southwark – for £300.[£150,000]

The executors made no provision for the ‘new alteration’ of the Chapel that Henry had ordered in his will. So this means that £700 [£350,000] of the £1,000 pounds Henry left never made it to St. Peter’s….

Well, Mary did have a massive £5,000 fine to pay Burghley in October…

Harry had become interested in girls by then – but NOT Elizabeth de Vere….

The decorated chapel might have looked wonderful with its plaster coats of arms and pendants and marble-slabbed floor: but the killer direction was for the chapel to be….

….divided with iron grate from the church

…….to keep peasants like us out!

The design of this Titchfield memorial was very similar to the memorial to Sir Anthony Browne, Lord Montague, Lady Mary’s father, at Midhurst in Sussex. Montague had died of a long and lingering illness at the end of 1592 and experts are convinced that the same builders and sculptors – Garret Johnson and his son Nicholas – were employed for his memorial as well as the Southampton one.

Lord Montague was depicted in armour,  kneeling in prayer on a raised central slab – while either side of him, lower down, lie effigies of his wives. His first wife, Jane Ratcliffe, the daughter of Robert, Earl of Sussex, had died giving birth to Mary Browne and her twin brother Anthony – but his second wife, Magdalen Dacre, was still alive – so her effigy would have been added later when she died.

The Montague memorial also gives us yet another spelling of the Southampton family name…..


Originally there were four obelisks round the memorial, just like those we see in Titchfield: but in 1851 the tomb was mutilated, sliced, moved to another church, left out in the rain for six months, shoved against a wall and the obelisks removed….


Mary clearly asked Johnson to use the same basic design for St. Peter’s, but to shuffle the bodies – and the sexes – around.

Ironically this resulted in Lady Jane – who had done all she could to prevent Mary marrying her son – ending up as King of the Castle.

jane on top

Even Lady Mary wasn’t brazen enough to include herself as an effigy in the memorial: but she is mentioned bold as brass – or rather bold as marble – at the back of the tomb:

Here lyeth the body of the right honourable Henry Wryothesley, Baron of Titchfield and Earl of Southampton, who took to wife Mary Browne, daughter of Sir Anthony Browne Viscount Montague and of the Lady Jane Ratclyff his wife, one of the daughters of Robert Earl of Sussex. By which Mary he had issue the right honourable Henry Earl of Southampton now living, Mary married unto Thomas Arundell Esquire son and heir of Sir Matthew Arundell of Warder Castle in the county of Wiltshire: Knight. The Henry Earl of Southampton his life at his house at Itchell the Fourth day of October in the 36th year of his age and in the [blank] year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth in the year of our Lord God [Blank]

Johnson hasn’t chiselled in the dates. Perhaps no-one could remember the year….

The obelisks are made of red marble – from Sussex or Devonshire……

wriothesley tomb - colour

…..and though we don’t know what colour the Midhurst obelisks were, there is a good chance they were red as well.

Red obelisks were highly significant to Roman Catholics. Lord Montague’s memorial states….

This honourable man in the year 1553 was implored by Queen Mary in an honourable ambassage to Rome with Doctor Thirley Bishop of Ely which he performed to his great honour and commendation…

They remembered the year this time – but they got it wrong. It was 1555.

Lord Montague would have seen in person the famous red granite obelisk that originally stood in the centre of the Circus of Caligula……


– the only obelisk in the city that hadn’t collapsed….


It was said to be the last thing St. Peter saw before he was crucified by Nero……


…..so was an object of veneration to Catholics.

It had a bronze orb and spike at its top – rumoured, falsely, to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar – and had been peppered with bullets by Protestant soldiers during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

The Titchfield obelisks have marble balls and spikes at their summit – but the ones we see today are replacements…

In 1888 a photograph was taken that shows the obelisks cut short – and there is an old illustration of this as well…


We have a drawing by Grimm of the Montague Tomb in 1780 which shows the orbs and spikes complete….



…and they are thinner and longer than the Titchfield orbs and spikes…..


…..especially those  drawn from the north side of the tomb….


A monumental mason I consulted at Kensal Green Cemetery…..



….. told me that he would never attempt to carve these shapes in marble – but would use metal instead, particularly as it was an indoor monument.

So if the orbs and spikes on both monuments were originally made of brass or bronze, they would resemble the obelisk St. Peter saw even more…

Pope Sixtus V – famous for re-erecting fallen obelisks….


….had undertaken the perilous project of moving the St. Peter obelisk in 1585/6…….


……..the orb replaced with a cross containing portions of the True Cross……..

obelisk tudor

……..to stand in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral itself.

It was a tremendous tourist attraction: people actually ran from the harbour to see it when their ships docked.

So it would have been very much in the minds of English Catholics in the 1590’s.

It was certainly very much in Shakespeare’s mind.

There is growing evidence that Shakespeare visited Italy…..

…… and I believe, along with Prof. Roger Pryor, that he did so in 1593.

I also believe he went to Rome, in secret, with Harry.

He writes about its ruins……

The ruins of Rome

…. in his Sonnets….

When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced

The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;

….and about the fallen obelisks….

When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed….

 …..and about the desecrated orb…..

And brass eternal slave to mortal rage…

……on display in Rome to this day…..

orb on obelisk

Shakespeare was to return to this obelisk theme ten years later…..

Pasteboard obelisks – then called ‘pyramids’ – were erected for the Coronation Procession of King James in 1603…..

obelisk at coronation 2

– but the winds blew them away.

They reminded Shakespeare of the real obelisk he had seen in Rome….

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

Thy pyramids built up with newer might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;

They are but dressings of a former sight.

The contrast between the flimsiness of the ceremonial obelisks….

….. and the solidity of the Roman one…..

…. became for Shakespeare a symbol of the contrast between the fickle, feigned love of the Royal Court…..

……. and the deep, eternal love he felt for Harry, which….

…..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 showers.

So there is every possibility that Shakespeare and Harry recounted their experience in Rome to Lady Mary…..

…..and so influenced the design of both memorials.

I believe there are other coded Roman Catholic references in the Titchfield memorial…

Beneath the recumbent effigies of the First and Second Earls, on the north and south sides of the memorial, are the alabaster figures of their children, holding up their hands in prayer.

Mary and Harry beneath the figure of their father Henry, the Second Earl of Southampton.

Mary and Harry beneath the figure of their father Henry, the Second Earl of Southampton.

They have books on lecterns in front of them – so they COULD be reciting prayers from the Anglican prayer book.

But it is much more likely that they are praying for the souls of their dead parents lying directly above them……


After all, Henry had left thousands of pounds in his will for people to do just that…

The parallel praying figures in the Montague memorial had been smashed up by 1780 – probably by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers billeted in Midhurst – and probably because of these Catholic associations.

Henry lies in polished armour, sword by his side…..


……but unlike his father-in-law, Lord Montague, he had never fought a battle in his life.

I believe his armour represents his fight for the Roman Catholic faith.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

It is a replica of the famous, gilded armour worn by Henri of Navarre who converted to Catholicism in 1593.


So in 1594 his conversion would be fresh in everybody’s mind.

To Catholics – if not to Queen Elizabeth – he would have been a hero.

But are there any DIRECT links between the Southampton memorial and Shakespeare himself?

I believe there are four…

  1. The Writh, Risley,Wriothesley, Ryosely, Wrytheostley Coat of Arms.

On the front of the memorial, to the left, are Henry’s Family Arms shown impaled with his wife Mary’s Montague Arms….


The most ancient part of Henry’s Arms are four silver falcons – wings closed – with a cross of gold – in reference to a Writh ancestor who was appointed the Falcon Herald….


When the Shakespeare family were granted a coat of arms two years later in 1596, Shakespeare also chose a silver falcon – with its wings outstretched – holding a spear of gold.

garter crest of Shakespeare

This is clearly an acknowledgement of his closeness to Harry – who would have had to have given his consent for the use of a silver falcon  – and the silver and gold colours – for Shakespeare’s crest.

2. The Southampton Family Motto.

On the front of the memorial, in the centre, is shown Henry’s crest as a Peer of the Realm.

At the bottom is his family’s motto:

Une par tout….


 …though it was more often spelt in the Old French…

Ung par tout …..

All for One and One for All.


All is One and One is All.

Shakespeare plays with this motto time and time again in his Sonnets…..

…such as in Sonnet 8 where he writes about musical chords:

Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,

Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,

Resembling sire and child and happy mother

Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing….

[Also see Sonnets 39, 42, 62, 76, 105, 109 and 135]

He uses the motto even more directly in The Rape of Lucrece….

The aim of all is but to nurse the life

With honour, wealth, and ease, in waning age;

And in this aim there is such thwarting strife,

That one for all, or all for one we gage….

But perhaps Shakespeare’s most striking use of the Family Motto is a mystic one. The Phoenix and the Turtle is a poem Shakespeare wrote shortly after Harry was imprisoned in the Tower for his part in the Essex Rebellion.

The great Shakespearean….Prof. Wilson Knight……


….. thought that the fabulous Phoenix Bird represented Harry and the work-a-day Turtle Dove Shakespeare.

They are two separate birds but become magically united as one in a mutual flame of love:

So they lov’d, as love in twain

Had the essence but in one;

Two distincts, division none:

Number there in love was slain…

3. The whole idea of a Memorial itself….

The building of the Memorial was a direct challenge to Shakespeare’s status.

It made him acutely aware that, unlike Harry, he was not an aristocrat and that….

The earth can yield me but a common grave,

When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.

However, the year before the design and construction of the Memorial, he and Harry had been to Rome where they had seen the tombs of the famous and the powerful reduced to rubble.

Shakespeare boasts that his verse will give the immortality to Harry that a tomb could never do…..

His verse, unlike a tomb, will live for ever….

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.

By Victorian times this ‘gilded monument’ had become a vandalised ruin…..

…..just as Shakespeare predicted…

Even Lady Jane’s golden coronet had been broken…..


But as you can see it has been lovingly restored in the last century….

There is now no reason to doubt it will last as long as Shakespeare’s verse…..

And as we know, Shakespeare DID get his own memorial in the Parish Church of Stratford-upon-Avon…..

…..also designed by the Garrett family….

shakespeare church bust

…whereas the only memorial to Harry is this one on the north side of the tomb…..

tomb henry wriothesley


….which keeps him forever at the age of twenty one.

4. The Crypt to the Memorial.

1594  was also the year Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream – to celebrate the marriage of Lady Mary and Sir Thomas Heneage.

It was also the year when the summer was so appalling people sat by their fires in July.

Shakespeare refers to this in the play.

Titania says:

titania close up

The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain,

The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn

Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard;

The fold stands empty in the drowned field,

And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;

The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,

And the quaint mazes in the wanton green

For lack of tread are undistinguishable….

The major discord in the play comes from the fight between Oberon…..

Victor Jory as Oberon.

….. and Titania …..

titania confronts oberon

…..for possession of …..

….a little changeling boy…..

Anita Louise as Titania.

…..the son of a mortal friend of Titania who died giving birth to him…..

….as Mary Browne’s mother had died giving birth to her and her twin brother.

oberon and changeling boy on chariot

Shakespeare in the play was obliquely referring to the fight between Mary and Henry over possession of little Harry.

He shows, in the disturbance of nature, the spiritual repercussions on all concerned of such a bitter conflict.

Titania and Oberon are finally reconciled in the play….

oberon titania flying in

…..Shakespeare in the play is attempting to resolve the old marriage so that the new one can begin….

But did Shakespeare’s magic work in real life?

Mary was to go through yet one more marriage before her death – to a much younger man.

But when she finally wrote her will, on 22nd April 1607, she expressed a wish that she might be interred….

as near as may be to the body of my dearly loved husband Henry late Earl of Southampton in the Church at Titchfield.

It is my hope that if the crypt were ever to be re-opened we would see the two coffins side by side….

….the souls of the husband and wife healed by Shakespeare’s poetry.

© Stewart Trotter 20th October, 2016.

These beautiful photographs – by Ross Underwood – have been added to the talk.

They are:

1. Jane, Lady Southampton….

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

2. Thomas Wriothesley, First Earl of Southampton…..

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

3. Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton….

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.



Stewart Trotter and Karen Little gave this  talk to a packed audience in front of the Southampton Family ‘Tomb’ at St. Peter’s Church, Titchfield, on Saturday, 22nd October and Sunday 23rd October.

wriothesley tomb - colour

Beautiful as it is, there’s a lot that’s strange about this tomb.

For a start it is not a tomb – it’s a memorial. The bodies are in a sealed crypt below – preserved, it is said, in the purest honey.

It has a woman taking complete precedence above two men…..

jane wriothesley

– one of them to her right wearing the Order of the Garter – the highest honour a man could achieve at the time –

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

….and the other to her left, resplendent with curly hair, moustache……

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

…. and gilded, polished armour.

tomb 2nd earl southampton

Admittedly the woman wears a golden coronet and a scarlet robe of state lined with ermine.


Elizabethan women were notorious for the power they wielded – not least of all Queen Elizabeth herself….

elizabeth red

But most women were happy to exercise their influence under their husband’s name and title. Few – apart from the Queen – would expect this elevation over men in death….

Tomb of Queen Elizabeth

So what was going on? All three people, locked in eternal prayer, seem utterly at peace. But peace was the last thing they were at when they were alive.

This is one of the most dysfunctional, vindictive, spiteful, warring families that has ever lived.

So who were they?

The good thing about this memorial is that carved on it you get a potted life of each of the protagonists….

Let’s start with the gentleman on the lady’s right…..

Here lieth the body of the Rt. Honourable Sr. Thomas Wryothesley, son of William Wryothesley, Esquire…..

And we are immediately into problems.

How do you pronounce the surname?

Is it ‘Risley’ as one member of the family signed his name?

Is it ‘Wryothesly’ as on the memorial?

Or is it – as the Titchfield Parish Register has it – ‘Ryosely’?

I would suggest that it’s all three!

The Risley-Wriothesley-Ryoselies started off as plain old…


…..but one of them became Garter King of Arms and it went to his head.

As the family got richer, more powerful and more aristocratic their surname got longer, more elaborate and more preposterous…

But back to Sir Thomas….

…….who for his virtue and worthiness was created knight of the honourable order of the garter, Baron of Titchfield, Earl of Southampton: Chancellor of England and one of the honourable Privy Council unto King Henry the 8 and King Edward the 6 and one of the especially chosen and trusted executors of the Last Will and Testament of King Henry the 8……

What the memorial doesn’t tell you is that Thomas was a civilised brute with a taste for racking women. He was driven by a lust for power and became Henry VIII’s right hand man…..

henry viii drawing

– happy to smash up the sacred shrine of St. Swithin at a nod from the king.

The sculptor of the memorial has flattered him……

thomas wriothesley tomb

In real life he was so fat neither the Abbots of Titchfield or Beaulieu could find a horse strong enough to carry him.

But it was not always thus….he was once a handsome young undergraduate at Cambridge with a fondness for amateur theatricals. His friend John Leland described how….

Your beauty so shone upon your brow, your head of golden hair so glistened , the light of your keen mind was so effulgent, and your winning virtue so adorned you, that, one amongst many, you were seen to be a pattern for all.

As a reward for his services, Henry created Thomas Baron of Titchfield in 1544……

Phot by Ross Underwood.

Phot by Ross Underwood.

…. and gave him Titchfield Abbey – once a glorious gateway to Europe but by then completely run down with a handful of disillusioned monks and an Abott who was happy to be pensioned off.

Thomas turned it into…..

…a right stately house….

place house 1733

……and horrified his wife, Lady Jane, a devout Roman Catholic, when he told her he planned to convert the Abbey Chapel into a master bedroom.

She is the woman who lies on the upper, central slab of marble….

…….the right honourable Lady Jane, Countess of Southampton, Daughter of William Chenie of Chessamboyes in the County of Buckingham, Esq. wife unto the right honourable Sir Thomas Wryothesley Knight of the most honourable Order of the Garter, Baron of Titchfield, Earl of Southampton and Lord Chancellor of England….

Jane was placated when Thomas promised to turn the Chapter House of the Abbey into a private Chapel for her…

Jane was full of fun, highly literate and got on famously with the Titchfield farmers and their wives.

She had her own copy of the Works of Chaucer – in which she wrote her name ‘Jane Southampton’ several times – and was reported as being…

…….as merry as can be with Christmas plays and masques…..

But, like her husband, she had a will of iron…..

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

After the death of Henry VIII, Thomas carried the Sword of State at the coronation of the boy-King Edward VI……

edward vi

….semaphoring his intention to take over the running of England.

thomas wriothesley close-up

Other people had the same idea.

On the instructions of King Henry’s will, Thomas was created Earl of Southampton in 1647 – but in a coup he was sacked as Lord Chancellor a month later.

Bereft of power, he languished and died three years later at the age of 45 in 1550 – though the memorial puts the date at 1551.

Don’t believe all you read on tombstones…

Jane was left in charge of his estates, his five daughters and his five year old son, Henry, the new Second Earl of Southampton, who lies in armour to Jane’s left….



King Edward introduced compulsory Protestantism to England – but Jane defied him by bringing up her children as strict Roman Catholics.

Edward visited Jane at Titchfield in person in 1552 – so all the candles, rosaries and statues in her private chapel must have been hurriedly packed away.

But then Catholic Mary Tudor – ‘Bloody Mary’ – became Queen of England…..

Mary Tudor

….and out they came again.

Jane was one of the first people in England to ride in a carriage – introduced from Europe for the first time – in Mary’s Coronation Procession.

But five years later Protestant Elizabeth came to the throne…..

elizabeth as virgin

…..so they all went back into the cupboard.

Jane hid her teenage son Henry away from the Court but in 1564 the Privy Council ordered them both to attend the Queen’s Christmas celebrations at Richmond.

Henry wasn’t entirely under his mother’s thumb. He fell in love with the beautiful, vivacious, Mary Browne……

Mary Browne, 2nd Countess of Southampton.

…..daughter of Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague…….


…..one of the country’s leading Catholics.

When Henry was twenty and Mary was thirteen, he married her in her father’s house in London.

Mother Jane did not approve – and time was to prove her right.

On religion and politics, the couple were at one.

Both, like their families, were committed recusants who harboured Catholic priests and plotted to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.

Henry was even imprisoned in the Tower of London from October 1571 to May 1573.

Mary must have had visiting rights: her son Harry was born 6th October 1573…..

He and his older sister, Mary, were the only children the couple had.

It was their private life that was the problem. Three years after Lady Jane’s death in 1574, Mary was seen with a man called Donesome….

…a common person…

Henry went wild with jealousy and forbad his wife to see him.

However, three years later Mary was spotted again with Donsome at Dogmersfield – a new stately home that Henry was building – by Henry’s sinister Gentleman of the Bedchamber, one Thomas Dymmock…

Henry banished Mary from his presence and denied her all access to Harry. But before he could snatch the boy away from her, she gave her six year old son a letter for her husband to read….

But as she explained in a heart-breaking post-script in a letter to her father, Lord Montague….

….his heart was too great to bestow the reading of it, coming from me. Yet will I do my part so long as I am with him, but good my lord, procure so soon as conveniently you may, some end to this misery for I am tired with this life.

In the same letter to her father she predicted that Henry….

….will mix up old matters, repented and forgotten long since…..

….and declares:

….he may blame me of folly, but never justly condemn me of a fault….

Henry believed otherwise – and it led to war between the House of Southampton and the House of Montague: just like in Romeo and Juliet, their servants fought with each other in the streets….

street fight romeo and juliet

Henry, according to Mary, turned…

….his manservant into his wife….

…and, according to Gervase Markham, surrounded young Harry with…..

a whole troop of at least a hundred well-mounted gentlemen and yeomen and tall good fellows that kept a constant pace.

Mary observed grimly…..

This house is not for them who will not honour Dymmock as a God.

But soon an event was to take place that would eclipse all these domestic squabbles – the arrival in England of the Jesuit missionary priest, Edmund Campion….

St. Edmund Campion

Campion provides the first link between William Shakespeare and the Southampton family….

Many scholars now believe that the teenage Shakespeare was at Hoghton Hall in Lancashire when Campion visited the old Catholic family there.

Hoghton Tower, Lancashire

Henry – via Dymmock – also tried to arrange a meeting with Campion. But Campion was arrested and racked so violently he lost the use of his arm. In his agony he named names – and Henry’s was one of them.

The same day Henry was arrested and taken to the Tower.

The Privy Council resolved to ‘examine’ him…..

…..what Jesuits or Priests he had known, where they have been harboured, and by whom relieved, what letters or messages he hath received or sent unto them, and where they remain.

Whether they tortured Henry the way they had tortured Campion we do not know.

What we do know is that, two months later, he was dead at the age of 36.

He had written his will just before he arranged to meet Campion – so he must have known his life was in danger.

In it he leaves nothing to his wife, but £2,000 to his daughter Mary – the equivalent of £1million pounds today – on condition she is brought up by one of Henry’s sisters or aunts and is never ‘in house’ with her mother.

He gives Dymmock custody of his son Harry, charge of his stately home at Dogmersfield and income from rents of £1,000 [£500,000] a year.

But what is of particular interest to us is the clause in the will about St. Peter’s…

st. peter's titchfield

I bequest my body to be buried in the parish church of Titchell, county Southampton, where my mother lies interred; which chapel I will and direct to be new altered and finished by my executors within five years after my decease [i.e. 1586] in form and following, that is to say – New side windows of stone to be made, the roof plastered with pendants being set full of my arms and all the walls plastered like my house at Dogmersfield and the same fair paved and divided with iron grate from the church.

Also two fair monuments there to be made, the one for my lord my father (whose body I would have thither to be brought and there buried) and my lady my mother : the other for me, with portraitures of white alabaster or such like upon the said monuments; and I will to be bestowed thereupon one thousand pound[£500,000] alms by my foresaid executors. And I will such funeral charges and obsequies to be done and bestowed upon my said burial as shall seem meet and convenient to my executors for mine estate and degree, so that the same exceed not a thousand pounds. And I will to be given 100 marks [£30,000] at the time of my burial in charitable according to the executors’ discretion. Also to the needy poor within my several lordships the sum of £200 [£100,000] to pray for the good estate of my soul, the souls of my ancestors and all Christian souls. Also for the same purpose £3 [£1,500] to every Almshouse in the City of London and County of Southampton.

Henry is leaving an extraordinary amount of money for the poor to do something which by Queen Elizabeth’s reign was illegal – pray for the souls of the dead.

Calvinists believed that a soul was either in heaven or hell – and there was nothing people on earth could do about it.

Henry asks for a joint monument for his mother and father and a single one for himself.

This was to serve one purpose only: to humiliate his wife….

His solitary statue of white alabaster would be an eternal reminder to the world of Mary’s infidelity.

Mary was having none of it.

She pulled aristocratic strings and overturned her husband’s will.

Her eight year old son Harry – whom she had not seen for two years – and her daughter Mary were returned to her by order of Queen Elizabeth and her husband’s estate placed in her hands till Harry came of age…

As for the two monuments and chapel alterations…..

She quietly forgot about them…

Fast forward eight years to 1590…..

Harry has become a Ward of Court and his guardian Lord Burghley…..

burghley on donkey 001

…… wants sixteen year old Harry to marry his grand-daughter, Elizabeth de Vere….


……otherwise the Southampton family will have to pay an enormous £5,000 fine – the equivalent today of £2 and half million….

Harry however, has imbibed his father’s hatred and suspicion of women….

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

Enter William Shakespeare…..

shakespeare 1588

The Armada in 1588 had not been kind to the acting profession….

Performers and writers had been viewed as unpatriotic and unmanly – and their costumes had been ripped from their backs to provide clothing for soldiers and sailors – the ‘real men.’

Christopher Marlowe had gone to work for Bess of Hardwick, Thomas Kyd for the Earl of Sussex at Portsmouth and William Shakespeare – as I argued in my 2002 book, Love’s Labour’s Found…..

book cover

…….and subsequent blog The Shakespeare Code – for the Southampton family in Titchfield.

Not only was Shakespeare part of the recusant network – he came from a committed Catholic family on both sides – his mother Mary Arden was also distantly related to Lady Mary.

She commissioned Shakespeare to write seventeen sonnets for Harry’s seventeenth birthday – to convince him of the joys of heterosexual love and fatherhood….

Shakespeare in the poems refers to Harry’s dead father, Henry….

You had a father, let your son say so

….and to his living, beautiful mother, Mary….

Thou art thy mother’s glass and she is thee

Calls back the lovely April of her prime…

Shakespeare also refers to Harry as…

…beauty’s Rose….

…with the word ‘rose’ italicised and the ‘R’ made a capital.

…a reference both to the Southampton rose (which can be seen in abundance in the arches of the memorial)

southampton rose crest 2.

….and to the way Harry by then was pronouncing his surname…..


Cut now to 1594…..

That was the year Harry was to came of age – on October 6th…

Mary’s fear was that Harry – who had never liked her – would banish her to some remote dower house.

She also worried that Harry might activate his father’s desire for two memorials in the Church.

So Mary, as usual, took extraordinary action…..

(To read Part Two click: HERE )
























Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code…..

…below is a link to a piece broadcast on 22nd September by Solent Television…..

…. in which The Shakespeare Code’s Chief Agent….

….Stewart Trotter….

……talks about his play ‘The Seven Ages of Shakespeare’.

Paw-Print smallest‘Bye, now…

The Programme Note for ‘The Seven Ages of Shakespeare’ – which runs at St. Margaret’s Theatre, Titchfield, from 20th September to 25th – performances at 7.30 p.m. except for Saturday 24th September and Sunday 25th September when matinees only will be played at 2.30 p.m.

How ‘The Seven Ages of Shakespeare’ came to be written.

It is often said that we know nothing about William Shakespeare…….

The Chandos Portrait of William Shakespeare

……but the fact is we know more about him than any person who has ever lived.

He wrote 154 Sonnets which trace every emotion and every thought he had from the age of sixteen to the age of 45 – seven years before his death.

But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – he did not publish his Sonnets in chronological order. He published according to subject matter. Basically the Sonnets are in two piles: ‘his’ and ‘hers’.

‘His’ are basically about ‘the lovely boy’ – who the vast majority of scholars take to be Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton (Harry Southampton) Shakespeare’s patron and subsequent lover…..

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.


…..and ‘hers’……

……about the famous ‘Dark Lady of the Sonnets’ who A. L. Rowse named in 1976 as Amelia Bassano/Lanyer, a mixed race Jewish musician, courtesan, poet and teacher who converted to Christianity following a dream.

Apart that is, from one Sonnet written to Anne Hathaway, which plays upon her name……

anne hathaway

Even the two piles in themselves are not in chronological order – but we can trace certain dates. The first seventeen poems were written to celebrate Harry Southampton’s seventeenth birthday in 1590 – and were most likely commissioned Mary Browne, Second Countess of Southampton…….

Mary Browne

……in an attempt to get her gay teenage son interested in girls.

Sonnet 107 records the death of Queen Elizabeth, the accession of King James VI and I and Harry’s  release from the Tower of London in 1603.

Sonnet 126 – the final sonnet in the first ‘pile’ – is Shakespeare’s poisonous farewell to Harry and makes coded reference to the birth of Harry’s son in 1605.

As background research to ‘The Seven Ages of Shakespeare’ I put the Sonnets into what I believe is their order of composition – and for this I drew on history. We may not know exactly what Shakespeare was doing – but we know what Harry was doing, week by week!

As well as the Sonnets, we have the things that were written ABOUT Shakespeare in his lifetime – very little of it flattering – by the writers Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe and Ben Jonson. The theme they return to again and again is Shakespeare’s ‘plagiarism’ of other contemporary authors – meaning themselves.

The play addresses this issue head on: it is cast in the form of a confessional.  Shakespeare is allowed out of Purgatory for a single day to ‘fess up’.

It is my belief that all this information points to a clear, coherent story which the play itself will tell. It is up to you, the audience, to decide if I’ve got it right!

And indeed whether Shakespeare goes to Heaven…

Stewart Trotter

P.S. The aristocratic branch of the Wriothesley family pronounced their surname Ryosely. We know this from the Titchfield Parish Register. The un-aristocratic branch settled for Risley – and sometimes spelt it that way.



Seven Ages poster


The Authorities have released William Shakespeare from Purgatory for a single day to fess up about his scandalous life. You the audience will decide whether he goes to Heaven, returns to Purgatory or WORSE!


By Stewart Trotter

© 16th September, 2016.


A nearly bare stage, hung with blacks. Stark lighting pre-set. A lectern downstage right – with a modern small table and a chair beside it. Downstage left two modern small tables together – one a Prompt Table the other to be used in the action and liftable by one person. By the tables a bench without a back that three can sit on – also liftable by one – and a chair.  Five chairs in a line at the back.  Black bags set by each chair for the actors’ ‘add-ons’. Actors speak from both downstage right and left positions so they need to be well lit. Note: The feeling should be ‘Purgatorial’ – the colour being given by the language, music and lighting of the show.

The Spirit of William Shakespeare – looking very much like his bust in the Stratford Parish Church……

Bust of Shakespeare

 ……enters from up left wings in complete Jacobean dress but holding a modern folder.

He bows, places the folder on the lectern down right. He then returns to the middle of the stage.  As he speaks the verse the lighting becomes warm and theatrical and follows the mood of the speech.


All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth.

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. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE  snaps his fingers – and the lighting returns to its ‘reality’ state. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE returns to the lectern and addresses the audience directly.)

I didn’t make it to the seventh age. To be honest I didn’t even make it to the sixth. I died of drink at the age of fifty-two. I am the spirit of William Shakespeare, released from Purgatory for a single day…Yes, Purgatory! We Papists were right! I even wrote about it!

(GHOSTLY VOICE – played by ANGEL E offstage – intones through PA system all round the auditorium. Think Vincent Price. Echo effect. Lighting becomes red and hellish.)


I am thy father’s spirit,

Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,

And for the day confined to fast in fires,

Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature

Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid

To tell the secrets of my prison-house,

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word

Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,

Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,

Thy knotted and combined locks to part

And each particular hair to stand on end,

Like quills upon the fretful porcupine….

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and the reality state returns. He addresses the audience from centre stage position.)


To be honest, it’s not as bad as that…Except when they force me to watch productions of my own plays…in modern dress…But when they really want to torture me they run old episodes of East Enders…HOWEVER it’s kept me in touch with the world as it is now – and it means I speak the same English that you do…‘You do’. Ugh! THOU DOST!

But a word about Purgatory before we proceed….You are not SENTENCED to Purgatory – it’s very non-judgemental up there…..You choose it because you are not yet ready to be with God. And believe me, as I fell to the floor in a birthday piss up with Ben Jonson, I was by no means ready….

An added torment is that you have to decide what your sins are – and sins change fashion all the time….In Queen Elizabeth’s day you could be hanged, drawn and quartered for things you do every night of the week! (Peers at audience) Well perhaps not EVERY night…

Purgatory is more like a course of psychoanalysis….Except, of course, that Purgatory comes to an end….

Which brings me to The Seven Ages of Shakespeare…..

You are probably wondering – quite deeply in some cases – why the hell you are here. Well, you don’t realise it – but you have been chosen by the Authorities to be my jury….You didn’t give up your tenners of your own free will – your hands were forced by angelic powers. Explains a lot, doesn’t it? I will now ‘fess up’ (holds folder aloft) and it is you who will then decide if I am ready for Heaven. To help me tell my story the Authorities have lent me a band of angels who are hovering in the wings – and whom I shall now introduce to you…The fabulous ‘Shakespeare’s Angels’….

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE introduces the ANGELS who enter one by one from the left – using the real first names of the actors – Angel Thomasina, Angel Dickon, Angel Harry etc….)

[Angel A: Young Woman Angel B: Middle Woman Angel C: Young Man Angel D: Middle Aged Man Angel E: Older Man]

(Each ANGEL come forward to bow then turns and walks upstage and sits in his or her chair. They are dressed in black. All other props are mimed. ANGEL X enters with five folders.)

[ANGEL X: Middle/Older woman. Wears trousers rather a dress.]

[Full list of which characters each Angel plays are listed at end of script.]


And Angel X. She is the Stage Manager. (A quick nodded bow from AN GEL X) She is also my Recording Angel who has written down everything I’ve ever said or done. She will help me tell the story of my life – and make sure I tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…..

(A quick, nodded bow from ANGEL X. She has more important things to do. She gives the folders to ANGELS A, B, C, D and E then settlers herself at the Prompt Table down left.)

[Note: ANGEL X – SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE’s Recording Angel – loves Will – but because she loves him – and wants to rescue his soul – she can be very tough with him.]

The angels will play all the people I encountered in my life. They will read from scripts I have been working on all night – but which I have been thinking about for centuries. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Seven Ages of Shakespeare……


(Standing – speaking from the Prompt Table.) The First Age: The Infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms…..


Well I certainly mewled and puked – but I didn’t have a nurse. I had eight aunts instead! Now I know that to be a great artist you are meant to be born into great misery. I was born into great happiness…My parents had been trying to have me long and hard. So when I finally arrived my father organised the greatest street party Stratford-upon-Avon had ever known. Well, he was Taster of Ale to the whole county. My mother Mary – straight from labour but strong as an ox – insisted on being the hostess ….


(Standing and coming forward, remembering his wife. Rural accent.)

…….upon That day she was both pantler, butler, cook,

Both dame and servant; welcomed all, served all;

Would sing her song and dance her turn; now here,

At upper end o’ the table, now i’ the middle;

On his shoulder, and his; her face o’ fire

With labour and the thing she took to quench it,

She would to each one sip….

(ANGEL E as JOHN SHAKESPEARE returns to his seat and sits)


Dad was so rich he actually LENT money to the Stratford Council. He was the best glover in town – and the best butcher and the best wool dealer and the best property-developer and the best money-lender – all completely illegal of course. Queen Elizabeth wanted everyone to do only one job. We just ignored her. She also wanted everyone to be a Protestant. That was to prove more difficult to ignore.

When I was four, my father became Mayor of Stratford….not bad, eh, for a glover who couldn’t read or write? Mind you, gloves were big business then. A finely-stitched, flexible, leather glove was a first rate fashion accessory. It was also a first rate condom…..


But a year later everything changed for Young Will. The Catholic Lords in the North of England rebelled against the Queen – they wanted to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. The Pope excommunicated Elizabeth and ordered Catholics not to obey her.


So – to be loyal to Rome we had to be traitors to England. We said the Old Latin Mass in our own homes, but we had to attend the Protestant Parish Church by law. However, we had an arrangement with the vicar there. He would give us communion wafers consecrated by a Catholic priest. My father claimed he could TASTE the difference.


(Standing at Prompt Table) The Second Age: The whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school……

(ANGEL X takes a table to centre of stage. ANGEL D as WELSH SCHOOLMASTER takes his chair forward and sits stage left of the table.)


You’d have been unwilling as well….School started at 6 a.m. and finished at 5 p.m. SIX DAYS A WEEK. It was called a Grammar School – but they meant LATIN grammar….If you were caught speaking English, the schoolmaster birched you on Friday. I was to get my own back on him in The Merry Wives of Windsor. I turned him into a Welshman.

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. ANGEL B as MISTRESS SHAKESPEARE and ANGEL C as BOY SHAKESPEARE rise from their seats and approach ANGEL E as WELSH SCHOOLMASTER from stage right. BOY SHAKESPEARE – ANGEL C walking on his knees to look like 11- is terrified of his schoolmaster – but his mother is as strong-willed as the schoolmaster is.)

The Shakespeare Angels will now act out for you the scene where Mistress Page and her son William – in reality my mum and me – attend the Parents’ Evening from Hell….


(Strong Welsh accent) Come hither, William; hold up your head; come.


(Rustic accent) Come on, sirrah; hold up your head; answer your master, be not afraid.

(BOY SHAKESPEARE holds up his head at his mother’s command.)


What is ‘fair,’ William?



(BOY SHAKESPEARE quickly lowers his head again. His mother raises it.)


Polecats! there are fairer things than polecats, sure.


You are a very simplicity ‘oman: I pray you peace. What is ‘lapis,’ William? [Pronounced ‘larpis’]


A stone


And what is ‘a stone,’ William?


(Brightening at speaking English) A pebble.


No, it is ‘lapis:’ I pray you, remember in your prain.


(Miserable again) Lapis.


I pray you, have your remembrance, child, accusative, hung, hang, hog.


‘Hang-hog’ is Latin for bacon, I warrant you.


Leave your prabbles, ‘oman.

What is your genitive case plural, William?


Genitive,–horum, harum, horum.


Vengeance of Jenny’s case! Fie on her! Never name her, child, if she be a whore.


For shame, ‘oman.


You do ill to teach the child such words! (To audience) He teaches him to hick and to hack, which they’ll do fast enough of themselves, and to call ‘horum:’ (To SCHOOLMASTER). Fie upon you!


‘Oman, art thou lunatics? hast thou no understandings for thy cases and the numbers of the genders?


(Dominating the schoolmaster) Prithee, hold thy peace!!!


(Crushed by MRS SHAKESPEARE) Show me now, William, some declensions of your pronouns.


(Bursting into tears) Forsooth, I have forgot.


(Giving up on William as hopeless) Go your ways, and play; go.

(BOY SHAKESPEARE gets off his knees and runs back to his seat)


(Beaming with motherly pride) He is a much better scholar than I thought he was!

(ANGELS FREEZE. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers to show the scene has ended. ANGEL B then returns to her seat, ANGEL D takes his seat back into line and ANGEL X clears the table back to down left.)



My schoolmasters looked down on English. They said it was more of a throat-disease than a language. But I loved it! I used to declaim it when I was killing calves for my father. And though I hated Latin, I loved Ovid! I loved his stories of Gods transforming themselves into animals to chase the nymphs –and of nymphs transforming themselves into trees to escape the animals. I loved his writings about time. I loved his writings about immortality. I loved his writing about love. I also loved the fact he was so easy to translate…..But as I was losing myself in Ovid, my father was losing his livelihood…


The year before Will was born, the Queen had given Kenilworth Castle as a gift to her lover, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester – also known as ‘The Bear’ – as much for his savagery as his family crest. Kenilworth was half a day’s ride from Stratford. He turned it into a dream palace for the Queen….


….and a knocking shop for all his other tarts. And to pay for it he raised the rents of his tenants ten times over – and twenty times over if they were Catholics.


When Will was eleven the Queen visited Warwickshire. The Bear complained that the local ale was so strong no-one could drink it. And when the Queen fell ill, he blamed the ale. And then he blamed the Taster of Ale for the County. …


My father was a dead man walking. I was taken out of school to try to help his business – but there WAS no business. Catholics friends tried to rally round – but they’d all been ruined by the Bear as well….In the end we were going hungry at night – so I started to poach hare. And the grounds I chose were those of Sir Thomas Lucy – the Bear’s henchman – a sadistic psychopath licensed by the Queen to search the homes of Catholics. Of course I was found out – and Lucy took great delight in stripping me naked and flogging me with his horsewhip. I swore, as only a schoolboy can, that one day I would have my revenge on him. I would become the most famous man in England….


The underground Catholic Network came to Will’s aid. The new schoolmaster at Stratford was from Lancashire – and he knew the Hoghtons there – a grand old Catholic family. They took Will in as a likely lad and he kept their children amused with songs and games – and, of course, plays.….


Edmund Campion (ANGEL D as CAMPION stands, kisses his stole and puts it round his neck.) the great Catholic saint and martyr (SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE and  all the ANGELS – who are ardent Roman Catholics – cross themselves. William Byrd’s ‘Ave Verum Corpus plays. Lighting change – stained glass on floor) visited Hoghton Hall while I was there…He told us about the brave young Englishmen who had sailed to Europe to train as missionary priests – and read us his beautiful appeal to Queen Elizabeth….


Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students, whose fame shall never die, which beyond seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over but either to win you back to Rome or to die upon your pikes…

(Lighting state and music fade as ANGEL D returns to his chair.)


Father Campion urged me to become a missionary priest. But I couldn’t do it. (Looks guiltily at the ANGELS ) I loved the Old Faith – with its feasts and fasts and splendour – but not enough to die for it. Ovid had awoken the Pagan in me – and Pagans love life.


Elizabeth’s pogrom finally reached Lancashire. The Hoghtons were arrested and Will had to flee back to Stratford. By then he was old enough to notice girls…..


And my inner Ovid stirred….


(Standing at Prompt Table) The Third Age:

The lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow……


(ANGEL X sets the bench centre stage. ANGEL A as ANN HATHAWAY rises and sits on it) I fell desperately in love with an old family friend – the ravishing Anne Hathaway. She was eight years older than me – but that just added to her allure. I wrote a ‘woeful ballad’ to seduce her – playing on her surname….

(Underscoring music taken from ‘Music for Shakespeare’s Theatre’. Naxos. ‘Heartsease’ Track 33. Time[1.24] ANGEL C as YOUNG SHAKESPEARE rises from his seat and approaches ANGEL A as ANNE HATHAWAY. Lighting change to romance.)


Those lips that Love’s own hand did make,

Breath’d forth the sound that said


(Playfully, turning away from YOUNG SHAKESPEARE) I hate


To me that languisht for her sake:

But when she saw my woeful state,

(ANNE HATHAWAY sneaks a look at YOUNG SHAKESPEARE – sees he is suffering and turns away again. We see she is taking pity on him.)

Straight in her heart did mercy come,

Chiding that tongue that ever sweet,

Was us’d in giving gentle doom:

And taught it thus anew to greet:

‘I hate’ she alter’d with an end,

That follow’d it as gentle day,

Doth follow night who like a fiend

From heaven to hell is flown away.

‘I hate’, from hate away….




….she threw,

And sav’d my life, saying….


Not you.

(The Two ANGELS kiss passionately….and freeze. Underscoring fades.)


(Pause) Unfortunately I wasn’t wearing gloves at the time…..

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. Snap change of lights. ANGEL A and ANGEL C return to their seats and ANGEL X clears the bench to down left.)

So we had to get married. And I wasn’t going to skimp on the wedding feast. It was back to Lucy’s place – only this time for deer. Of course I got caught again – and faced a massive fine and years of imprisonment…..My mother, though, was having none of it! She sat outside the gates of Kenilworth Castle day and night till the Bear agreed to see her. What she said or what she did I will never know. But the Bear ordered Lucy to forgive me…The only act of kindness he performed in his entire life….So now you know where all those bossy women in my plays come from…But Lucy wanted his pound of flesh….Ooops! Sorry! It’s vulgar to quote yourself. But difficult not to when you’re William Shakespeare…I had to kneel before him in the streets of Stratford and beg his pardon publicly….I vowed to become the most famous man in the world.


Anne gave Will a daughter,  Susanna, and followed it up two years later with twins, Hamnet and Judith…

(ANGEL X sets up table in centre and bench to stage left of table.)


I started to drink a lot….and spent most nights in the Bear Tavern…

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE clicks his finger. Tavern lighting and smoke. Evening. FULL COMPANY OF ANGELS, A, B, D and E are singing, clapping and dancing to a tune that doesn’t, yet, have words. ANGEL C as YOUNG SHAKESPEARE enters. ANGEL E as JOHN SHAKESPEARE sees his son and shouts over the singing…)





(YOUNG SHAKESPEARE sits on bench and mimes writing. The dance finishes and everyone cheers.)


Will, make up words for that tune – EXTEMPORE – and I’ll buy you a pottle pot!

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. ANGELS freeze)


A pottle pot contained four pints of wine….

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. ANGELS unfreeze.)


(Rising happily to his father’s challenge) Let’s hear it again! (People hum through tune to him and YOUNG SHAKESPEARE drinks for inspiration…) Right! I’ll sing it and someone can write it down….(Silence…then)


You’re the only one who can write here, son. If you can sing it AND write it down, I’ll buy you TWO pottle pots!



You’re on!

(YOUNG SHAKESPEARE stands and sings…)


A Parliament member, a justice of peace,

At home a poor scarecrow in London an ass,

If Lucy is lousy as some volke miscall it

Sing Lousy Lucy whatever befall it…..


If Lucy is lousy as some volke miscall it

Sing Lousy Lucy whatever befall it…

(During the Chorus Repeat YOUNG SHAKESPEARE runs back to the table and mimes writing down the lyrics he has just composed, takes a sip of ale then sings again…He repeats this throughout the song, getting drunker and drunker and staggering more and more.)


He thinks himself great, yet an ass in his state,

We allow by his ears but with asses to mate….

If Lucy is lousy as some volke miscall it

Sing Lousy Lucy whatever befall it…..


If Lucy is lousy as some volke miscall it

Sing Lousy Lucy whatever befall it…


To the sessions he went and did sorely complain

His park had been robbed and his hares they were slain

If Lucy is lousy as some volke miscall it

Sing Lousy Lucy whatever befall it…..


If Lucy is lousy as some volke miscall it

Sing Lousy Lucy whatever befall it…


(by this time hardly able to stand or speak)

If a juvenile frolic he cannot forgive

We’ll sing Lousy Lucy as long as we live

And Lucy the Lousy a libel may call it

We’ll sing Lousy Lucy whatever befall it…


If Lucy is lousy as some volke miscall it

Sing Lousy Lucy whatever befall it…

(YOUNG SHAKESPEARE manages somehow to get back to the table and mimes writing the last verse down and finally holds aloft the completed ballad.)


Here it is!

(Crowd cheers)


(presenting YOUNG SHAKESPEARE with a mimed pottle pot) Pottle pot Number One!

(YOUNG SHAKESPEARE downs it one.  Cheers. Then JOHN SHAKESPEARE presents his son with a second.)


Pottle pot Number Two…


Dad, a challenge! You down it in one! 

(JOHN SHAKESPEARE takes up the challenge – and to everyone’s cheers, downs the tankard in one as well. The two men collapse, affectionately, into one another’s arms.)


And now I shall hang this ballad on the gates of Sir Thomas Lucy’s estate!

(The company roars with laughter and JOHN SHAKESPEARE turns away to share the joke with ANGEL X. YOUNG SHAKESPEARE exits unseen by anyone into upstage right wings. Doubled over with laughter, JOHN SHAKESPEARE turns back to speak to his son.)


Will…..(realising in terror that his son has gone ) WILL! (He rushes out.  All are aghast. He returns) Holy Mother of God. He meant it….

(ANGELS FREEZE. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and the scene ends. Snap change of lights. ANGEL X clears set table and bench. The other ANGELS return to their chairs.)


I HAD to get out of town. London was the best place to hide and the Network put me in touch with Tom Kyd – another Catholic Grammar School boy. For me it was Ovid’s poetry – for Tom it was Seneca’s plays – full of ghosts, suicides, murders and madness. Tom wrote English versions that were every bit as bloody…and the public loved them! The Spanish Tragedy was one of them. Hamlet was another. Yes. Hamlet….more of that later….

We 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 – Oxbridge men who thought Grammar School oiks like us had no business writing. Little Tom Nashe (ANGEL E as THOMAS NASHE rises) – with his buck teeth and staring hair – was the worst….He called us…


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


….go on a pub crawl….


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


…sleeping with French prostitutes. (TOM NASHE sits and takes off his wig). You’ll find out tonight that I’ve had a lot of sex in my life. I went through agonies of guilt about breaking my wedding vows. You see, we Catholics take them seriously. But I now think my REAL sin was this: I had a warm, caring, beautiful wife. But I found her goodness boring….

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE looks at ANGEL X who smiles. ANGEL D puts on a flamboyant silk scarf.)

It was impossible to go into the inner parts of the City without running into Kit Marlowe (ANGEL D as KIT MARLOWE rises) a man four hundred years ahead of his time. If you think London was swinging in the 1960’s you should have seen it in the 1580’s. The very first thing Kit said to me was….


(Coming forward. Out front) All they that love not tobacco and boys be fools….


Kit somehow managed to combine Atheism with Devil Worship. But he had a soft spot for Catholics…


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


He also said…..


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


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


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

(MARLOWE looks away from SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE with a mixture of pity and disdain.)

We became close friends, though…..


Be true, Will. Be yourself. And sing your own song.

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


Lucy chased me all the way to London – but I had a cunning ploy. I found out that when Lucy was in town he worshipped at 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 surplices….


(Rising) The devil’s conjuring robes….


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

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


Will, come here boy. Sir Thomas has sent me the ballad you wrote about him. Now I write ballads to communicate God’s word. But your ballad is devilish. ‘Lucy is lousy’ – how would you feel if you were Sir Thomas?


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


It’s your job as a writer to empathise with everyone. You have to imagine, for example, what it’s like to be very poor….


But I AM very poor!


(ignoring him)…And to imagine what it’s like to be very rich. If everyone did that, the rich would give everything they had to the poor…


Then the poor would give it back….


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


Of course (reaching into his pocket.)


I don’t want your money, Will. I want your soul! I want you to bring God to the great mass of the people….


But I’m not a priest!


No! You are a writer and an actor! And I believe you could become a very great one. I want you to tour England with Biblical stories! The people will benefit – and so will you.

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


So Will formed a company – mostly unemployed, alcoholic tradesmen – and started to tour the Midlands. All his 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. Then the Armada came….


(Standing at Prompt Table) The Fourth Age: Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the panther,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth.


I’ve told you I didn’t make it to the sixth and seventh age….well I didn’t make it to the fourth one either. A soldier? Moi? No way! Anyway, we Catholics were conflicted about the Armada. We wanted England to return to Rome – but we hated the Spaniards more than we hated the Queen. The good thing about the Armada year was that the Bear died – poisoned, it was said, by his second wife. My father’s business instantly picked up…


But show-biz didn’t. Actors were hated for their lack of patriotism. Marlowe, Kyd and Will could no longer find employment in the theatre – so they 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, prematurely aged by touring and with my hair falling out….(ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE stands. ANGEL B puts on a tiara.) Mary, the second Countess of Southampton, (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. Corridor effect with lighting. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE walks behind her down to the front and stands stage left of her.)


And this, Master Shakespeare, is my late husband, the second 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. So do SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE and all the ANGELS.) 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(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.)


(To himself, in horror, crossing down left) Sonnets! Aaah!

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


Master Shakespeare, (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE turns) my son, Henry Ryosely. (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE kneels with his head down as ANGEL C as HARRY enters from the upstage right wings, wearing a Velcro red rose.) Third Earl of Southampton and Baron of Titchfield….

(HARRY crosses down left to MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE and offers him his ring to kiss. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE does so, then looks up into HARRY’s face. A musical ‘ping’ from ANGEL X at a toy xylophone.)


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

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


I managed the seventeen sonnets. English is the hardest language in the world to rhyme in – and in one sonnet you have to do it fourteen times. It crunches your brain – but your heart rides on air. I was starting to sing my own song…..To a commission, mind you. How do you turn a gay man straight? Well, first I flattered Harry’s beauty –


(From seat at table.) From fairest creatures we desire increase,

That thereby beauty’s rose might never die….


‘Rose’ was a reference to the Southampton rose – and the preposterous way the Southampton family pronounced its name – ‘Ryosely’. Everyone else said ‘Risley’


But as the riper should by time decease,

His tender heir might bear his memory….


It was Harry’s duty to pass on his beauty. By keeping it to himself he was not only robbing the world – he was robbing himself of the gift of a baby boy – what I called his ‘sweet self.’


For having traffic with thy self alone,

Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive….


If Harry had a baby boy he would become like the moon – but a miraculous moon that waxed and waned at the same time. It would wane because Harry would get older and weaker – but it would wax in the figure of his son, who would get older and stronger.


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

In one of thine, from that which thou departests.

And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow’st

Thou may call thine, when thou from youth convertest.


But perhaps my strongest argument was a threat: if you don’t have a child, you’ll end up like that toothless old hag, Queen Elizabeth….


….harsh, feautureless, and rude….


….and then….


….. barrenly perish…..


I gave the sonnets to Harry on his birthday – and then waited for his reaction….


(Rising from his seat, miming brandishing a sheaf of papers.) Master Shakespeare, these Sonnets are an utter failure(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks crestfallen) I still don’t like girls!


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


Are you being offensive?


No. It’s the theme of this new sonnet I’m writing about you….But if you don’t like them…..(Goes to tear the sonnet up)


(Stopping him) I like BITS of them – especially the bits about my beauty. Let’s hear your new sonnet then! (HARRY pulls his upstage chair up to right of the table to listen.)


It’s not finished….


Perhaps I can give you some ideas….

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


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

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

(HARRY shows interest)

A woman’s gentle heart but not acquainted

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

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

(HARRY can contain himself no longer)


See! You don’t like girls either!


(Ploughing on) Gilding the object where-upon it gazeth,

A man in hue, all hues in his controlling

Which steals men’s eyes…


(Excited) Ha!


….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….


Go on….


That’s as far as I’ve got, sir….


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


(Appalled at the idea) The greatness of your words, sir, would utterly eclipse my own…I shall finish the sonnet in my own time.


(Banging his fist on the table) Finish it NOW! HERE! (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE rises and for a moment we think he is about to storm off. But HARRY, sensing this, immediately lightens his tone and starts to flirt.) As Master-Mistress of your passion, I command you! (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE sits. He mimes scribbling a few lines…then hands them to HARRY.)


‘Till Nature as she wrought thee fell-adoting….

And by addition me of thee defeated

By adding one THING to my purpose nothing….’

(HARRY looks down at his crutch.)

Master Shakespeare, does this mean what I think it means? Your conclusion, please…..

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


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

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

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


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

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




Dreadful, dreadful news. ….


The Armada’s re-grouped!


No – worse! Queen Elizabeth is coming to stay!

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


And stay she did. With all her court. And with all her soldiers. They ate and drank the Southamptons out of house and home. Then Elizabeth slaughtered all their deer, rounded up and run before her, with a cross-bow at point blank range. Music accompanied the  this carnage from Elizabeth’s Italian band – the Basanno family – who included the voluptuous mixed-race Amelia. (ANGEL A as AMELIA – stands and curtsies and sits again.) Elizabeth then returned to town and disembowelled Catholics in front of Countess Mary’s London house.


One of them was a young missionary priest – 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]’Romantic comedy’ lighting.)

She was mistress to the Queen’s randy old goat of cousin, Lord Hunsdon. He paid her £40 a year for her services. I wanted to find out if that gave him exclusive rights…


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


Did I not dance with you in London once?


I know you did.


How needless was it then to ask the question.!


You must not be so quick.


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


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


Not till it leave the rider in the mire.


What time of day?


The hour that fools should ask.

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


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


Fair fall the face it covers.


And send you many lovers.


Amen, so you be none….


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

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


Forsooth I was in love….


(‘Romantic comedy’ lighting fades. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE springs back from the wings walks into central downstage area – and addresses the audience directly and goes into the auditorium. House lights gently up. Behind MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE ANGEL 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…..


(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE turns upstage and sits stage left of the table and mimes writing. House lights fade. 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.)


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


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

Coral is far more red than his lips red,

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

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


(In a fury) Breasts? Black wires? (Mimes snatching sonnet from MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE) My MISTRESS eyes are nothing like the sun! HER breasts! HER head! (ANGEL A as AMELIA rises from her chair and stands stage right, behind HARRY) Will, you’re not writing to me – you’re writing to that dreadful….(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE coughs and indicates to HARRY that AMELIA has entered. HARRY turns to look at her.)


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

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


Amelia liked playing hard to get….


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

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

Dear heart, forbear to glance thy eye aside…

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

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

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

Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain,

Have put on black, and loving mourners be,

Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain…..

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE starts to hug AMELIA closely.)

Will’t thou, whose will is large and spacious

Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?

(He holds her even closer)

Shall will in others seem right gracious

And in my will no fair acceptance shine…..

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

He rises at thy name and points out thee

As his triumphant prize, proud of this pride:

He is contented thy poor drudge to be,

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

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


Get lost, baldy!

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


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

Then will I swear beauty herself is black

And all they foul that her complexion lack…..


I asked Harry to plead my love-suit with Amelia. What a mistake ! Amelia pounced. A young rich aristocrat – however gay – was more of a catch than a playwright with alopecia….

(The lighting transforms into a dream-like, nightmarish state.)


Two loves I have of comfort and despair

Which like two spirits do suggest me still:

The better angel is a man right fair…..

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

The worser spirit, a woman coloured ill.

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

To win me soon to hell my female evil

Tempteth my better angel from my side….

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

And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,

Wooing his purity with her foul pride…

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

And whether that my angel be turned fiend

Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;

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

But being both from me both to each friend….

I guess one angel in another’s hell…

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE crosses down left.)


I left Titchfield and went on tour again…..


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

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

And yet it may be said I loved her dearly…

That she hath thee is of my wailing chief

A loss in love that touches me more nearly….


I finally had to admit I was in love with Harry. So I wrote to him to tell him so…

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE sits and starts writing sonnet. Underscoring. ‘Bonny Sweet Robin’12.[1.20] After a bar or two he looks up at audience and shares his thoughts with them. The lighting changes to a bright sunlit state – suggesting summer.)

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….

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


Amelia fell pregnant – God knows by whom – and was married off to a musician. I returned to Titchfield and Harry….

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


(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. Lighting state fades back to normal.)


There was, of course, a problem in all this….(ANGEL B as COUNTESS MARY enters, wearing tiara, from wings left) Mother Mary. (TOM NASHE pulls up her chair for her. COUNTESS MARY sits and mimes doing needlework) I wasn’t exactly fulfilling my job description. Tom Nashe told the Countess what he had seen. (TOM NASHE whispers in COUNTESS MARY’s ear. She looks shocked. TOM NASHE whispers again) And one or two things that he hadn’t. (COUNTESSMARY looks even more shocked. ANGEL E returns to his seat and takes off his wig.) The Countess summoned me….

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


 Do you love my son?


(Feigning ignorance) Your pardon noble mistress?


Love you my son?


(Evading the issue) Do you not love him, madam?


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

Whereof the world takes note. Come, come, disclose

The state of your affection, for your passions

Have to the full been witnessed.


Then I confess

Here on my knees, before high heaven and you,

That before you, and next unto high heaven,

I love your son. My dearest madam,

Let not your hate encounter with my love,

For loving where you do….


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


…..but if yourself

Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth,

Did ever in so true a flame of liking,

Wish chastely and love dearly, that your Diane

Was both herself and love – o then give pity

To him whose state is such that cannot choose….

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


Cousin Will….

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


Harry and I celebrated our love with a secret holiday in Europe….Ostensibly as spies for Harry’s great friend, the Earl of Essex. We were probably the most incompetent spies in the whole of English history….


When King Philip II of Spain had been King of England, he had made Countess Mary’s father his Master of Horse and his Ambassador to Rome. So Harry and Will visited Philip in Madrid. He showed them something that was to change Will’s life for ever….


The paintings of Titian!….Painting in England was entirely political and hieratical. Every time Queen Elizabeth had her portrait painted, she got younger.

(Underscoring ‘Callino’ 8.[1.07]Play through this twice. Lights begin to transform to highly coloured states)

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

(ANGEL B and ANGEL C rise, and using the bench, take up the pose in ‘Venus and Adonis’ and freeze…The stage is flooded with colours – especially purple.)

Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis! Venus pleads with Adonis to make love to her in the purple dawn – and begs him not to join the boar-hunt. Adonis, torn between the two great giants, love and death, gazes at her with the ambiguity of life itself…

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers and ANGELS B and C break and return to their seats. The light transforms to the ‘Rape of Lucrece’ state.ANGEL C puts on his rose, cap and shoulder cape.) ANGEL A and ANGEL E take up the pose from ‘The Rape of Lucrece’ and freeze. The stage is flooded with colour again – with red predominant.)

rape of Lucrece

The Rape of Lucrece! Tarquin rapes Lucrece. His scarlet-hosed legs force her naked legs apart – and his exposed knee inches towards her groin. And Lucrece – threatened by Tarquin’s dagger which hovers like a falcon in the air, fixes 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. Coloured lighting state and music fades. ANGEL 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 – using the same colours and postures that Titian had used. But the wind of words got in the way. They were failures. I came to realise that the only way for me to touch the sublime – to touch life itself – was through the drama….

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

(ANGEL C as HARRY and ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE rise, come forward to the central downstage position and look into the audience as though they are looking at Rome in awe. Underscoring: Byrds ‘Ave Verum Corpus’. Stained glass lighting on floor.)

Ovid was right: Time IS ‘edax rerum’ – the eater of things…..


When I have seen by time’s fell hand defaced

The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks to his right – HARRY follows his gaze.)

When sometime lofty towers I see down razed

And brass eternal slave to mortal rage…..


Every obelisk – sacked from Egypt and borne in triumph to Rome – had collapsed except one – the obelisk St. Peter saw moments before he was crucified by Nero….

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks up in awe to his left. HARRY follows his gaze. They are looking at the Holy Obelisk.)

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 and prays. ANGEL X does the same, kneeling next to MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE. All the ANGELS rise and form a group behind the four, kneel, cross themselves and pray. After a moment of contemplation, HARRY rises and everyone follows him. ANGELS slowly go back to their chairs. Religious light and music gradually fade….)


But we had fun in Italy as well….

(Lights snap up to bright comic state.)


(Getting an idea) I have it full….

We have not yet been seen in any house,

Nor can we be distinguished by our faces

For man or master. Then it follows thus:

Thou shalt be master in my stead,

I will some other be, some Florentine,

Some Neapolitan, or meaner man of Pisa.

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

Uncase thee, take my coloured hat and cloak….

(HARRY and MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE exchange hats and cloaks.)


Sith it your pleasure is,

And I am tied to be obedient –

For so your mother charged me at our parting

‘Be serviceable to my son’ quoth she,

Although I think ’twas in another sense –

I am content to be Southampton

Because so well I love Southampton….



So, 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. Suddenly SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE looks guilty and sad.)


(Gently) Tell them what happened when you got back to England…


 I found Kit dead and Tom dying…

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE is reluctant to continue and sits. ANGEL X takes over…)


Marlowe and Kyd had moved back to London – and were living together in lodgings there. But riots had started. The government had encouraged immigrants to come to England because, as ever, it brought in money. But the locals didn’t like it. Someone had written an ‘immigrants go home’ poem and had posted it up on a wall. The authorities raided the rooms of every writer in London – including Marlowe’s and Kyd’s. They didn’t find the poem there, but they found something far more dangerous: papers denying that Christ was the son of God. Marlowe was off in the country with a new boyfriend at the time – but he was never in any real danger. He was too valuable to the State. He was actually good at spying. But Kyd was arrested and racked….

SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE (recovring and standing)

To end the agony he betrayed his friend…


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


Kit was killed in a brawl in a Deptford tavern . Over a bill. And over a boy. Tom was dropped by everyone. Including me. He wrote about his….


(Still sitting) Bitter times and broken passions….




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


I couldn’t forgive him for his betrayal. 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 – The Spanish Tragedy – a play that was far more popular than anything I ever wrote. When Titania says….


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


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


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

(ANGEL A and ANGEL E sit.)


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


(Stands. Rustic accent.) O wherefore, Nature, didst thou lions frame?

Since lion vile hath here deflower’d my dear:

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


….it is a send up of Hiernomo’s agony at finding the body of his son hanging from a tree…


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

Alas! It is Horatio, my sweet son!

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

(ANGEL D and ANGEL E sit.)


Tom did the decent thing and died……


Kyd was so much in debt that his parents refused to manage his literary estate. Harry had just come of age and had secretly given Will a gift of £1,000 – half a million in today’s money. So he bought the rights to Kyd’s plays – along with a share in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.


People at the time described Tom as….


(Stands) Famous Kyd!


(Stands) Industrious Kyd!


(Stands at Prompt Table) Sporting Kyd…

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


But you have hardly heard of him. I made sure of that. Tom wrote early versions of King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, King John, Henry IV, Henry V and 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 – exposed me at once.….


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

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

Whose works are just the cast-offs of our wit

From piracy is become so bold a thief,     

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

(To audience) At first he made low shifts, would pick and glean,     

Buy up the rights to plays, now grown

To a little wealth and credit in the scene,

(looking at SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE)     He takes up all, makes each man’s wit his own,

And told of this, he slights it.


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


(Looking directly at audience with a grunt of disgust and moving to downstage central position )

Tut, such crimes the sluggish, gaping audience devours;

They mark not whose ‘twas first, and after times (Pointing directly at the audience.)     

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

Fools! As if half eyes will not know a fleece     

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

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


So there you have it. I promised I would ‘fess-up’ and I have. I don’t know if you can forgive me for this. I don’t know if I can forgive myself. But Tom was to have a revenge on me far, far greater than I had on him. 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 ANGEL X who remains making notes at her desk. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE turns back and sees what is happening.)


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


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

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


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

(ANGEL 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. ANGEL 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…ANGEL X later announces to the audience….)


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


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


At least you’ve come back. Most of you… X is pouring coffee down the throats of the angels. (SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE looks off left into the wings to check he’s not being watched – then produces the tankard from under his coat. He puts his finger to his lips – asking the audience not to split on him then points at the tankard) It was all a bit too much for them….(He takes a sip from the tankard and places it on the small table next to his lectern.)

But while we’re waiting, can I tell you what really gets my goat? Movies about my life! I am NOT the Earl of Oxford….Do I look like the Earl of Oxford? 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. She was a Protestant – but you didn’t need to be a Papist to hate the Queen….Elizabeth had destroyed her brother, Sir Philip Sidney – a wannabe politician and soldier – by banishing him 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 rich ladies decided to stage the Wars of the Roses in the grounds of their estates –using real soldiers and real horses…The plays may seem to be about the Houses of York and Lancaster – but they’re really about the House of Tudor. And Richard III is really the Earl of Leicester….….the Boar is the Bear in disguise….

But why the Wars of the Roses? Every age worries itself sick about something that never actually happens. EVERYONE then was terrified that when Elizabeth died, Civil War would break out. But in the event, King James simply walked into the job….Well, rode. He was coming from Scotland…Now I needed help on a big project like the Wars of the Roses – so I did what all theatre men do. I employed my enemies. I’d better add that in the theatre, EVERYONE IS YOUR ENEMY….Little Tom Nashe, who’d insulted me in London, came down to Titchfield to write my jokes…And then insulted me all over again….


(Shouting drunkenly 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….


(Going to the wings and shouting) X, a little more coffee for Angel E.  (To audience) 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, despise and fear 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….

(ANGEL X re-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! ‘Winter’ lighting.)


(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?


(‘Summer lighting)

(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.


(Return to ‘Winter’ lighting.)

(Stands at Prompt Table) Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me

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

For Summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

And thou away, the very birds are mute.

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

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

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


Yes, I know. I should have been supporting my wife and playing with my children. And to be honest, the honeymoon period with Harry was over. He was serially promiscuous and, like his mother, had a penchant for lower class men. But he was about to enter the snake-pit of Elizabeth’s court. I warned him in sonnet after sonnet that he should keep himself very much to himself or his sex-life would be used against him….


(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…..


….rough trade….


The basest weed out-braves his dignity… (Sits)


Mind you I was no angel myself. Well, it gets lonely touring. ‘A friend’ – probably Tom Nashe – told him what I’d been up to…

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


Well? Did you or didn’t you?


My only recourse was to a sonnet….

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


(Turning round to face HARRY)

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

And made myself a motley to the view,

Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear

Made old offences of affections new.


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


Most true it is that I have looked on truth

Askance and strangely……


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


….but, by all above,

These blenches gave my heart another youth

And worse essays proved thee my best of love…


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


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


Then I went into attack mode….


(Following HARRY) That you were once unkind…..


…..that you once played away from home….


….befriends me now…


Befriends you?


For if you were by my unkindness shaken,

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


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


And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken

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


MY crime?


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


(Crossing right) Why should others false adulterate eyes

Give salutation to my sportive blood?

Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,

Which in their wills count bad what I think good?

I am that I am, and they that level

At my abuses reckon up their own…..



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

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


I nearly had my come-uppance, though. A raging old queen called Georgie Chapman – who claimed to be in spirit contact with the ghost of Homer no less – started to write love-poetry to Harry. I’d already attacked him as the mincing, lisping, big girl’s blouse, Boyet in Love’s Labour’s Lost….


(Standing – and affecting a masculine contempt for Chapman) 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:

This is the flower that smiles on every one,

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

(ANGEL D sits. ANGEL X sets table centre then returns to desk.)


I’d flattered Harry myself – but you can’t go on flattering somebody FOR EVER. Gorgeous George took up where I’d laid off – and all but replaced me. That 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…my greatest, most popular creation. But even he was nicked from someone else…It all started, once again, with politics.


Lord Cobham – 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.) Essex commissioned Will to write an attack on Cobham – so he summoned Tom Nashe back to Titchfield – and put him up in Posbrook Farm – a house of ill-repute just outside Titchfield – run by an old rogue called William Beeston . Nashe nick-named him….


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

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


Jokes like that ensured that Tom was destined for oblivion. In this scene I shall join the Shakespeare Angels and give you (SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE as BEESTON puts on cap) my William Beeston….

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


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


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


Harry’s cash. I only work for old money….


More sack?


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


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

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


Be quiet. I’m trying to think…..


More cheese? I’ve got loads of it in the loft….

(NASHE shakes his head.)


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

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


Sorry I’m late Tom. Trouble with a sonnet. (Sits stage right of table.) Got a rhyme for ‘impediment’?.




(To BEESTON) Speaking of which….


Right away, Master Will…

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE as BEESTON exits Wings Right to collect MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE’s imaginary tankard.)


So what was Cobham’s ancestor called again?


Sir John something or other….


And he was a friend of Prince Hal?


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


Mmmm….Not much comic mileage in that….

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


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



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


What would Cobham really hate….?


An attack on his family honour?


The Cobham family ain’t got none…




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

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


What did you say about sherry sack yesterday?


No idea….


Try to remember….

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


A good sherry 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, full of nimble, fiery and delectable shapes, which delivered o’er to the voice, the tongue, 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 sherry is the …


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

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



(NASHE mimes seizing a quill and writing. BEESTON opens his mouth. ALL freeze.)


And so the Fat Knight was born…


(Taking off his cap)

Ripped off rather, from Apis Lapis 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 ANGEL X clears the table down left.)

In the middle of all this knock-about though….

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE is suddenly overcome and sits. ANGEL X crosses to him and puts her arm round his shoulder.)


(Without script) Will’s little boy, Hamnet, died. He was only eleven – and Will had hardly known him. He was off touring in Kent at the time…..So he even missed his funeral….


(Recovering a bit and standing. ANGEL X returns to her table Stage Left.)

Of course I should have returned to mourn with my wife and (Pause) daughters…But the show must go on…I turned Harry into my surrogate son….

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


As a decrepit father takes delight

To see his active child do deeds of youth,

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

Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth…

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


I told you that Tom Kyd was to have his revenge on me…The Spanish Tragedy is 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, the truest thing I ever wrote….And no-one knew it was me…


(Stands and comes forward. He takes off the slippers he is wearing. This speech can be learnt.)

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

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

Within a pair of minutes, there-about;

A lump bred up in darkness, and doth serve

To balance those light creatures we call women,

And at nine months end creeps forth to light.

What is there yet in a son to make a father

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

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

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

Aye, and yet? Why might not a man love

A calf as well, or melt in passion over

A frisking kid, as for a son? Me thinks

The more he grows in stature and in years,

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

Reckons his parents among the rank of fools,

Strikes cares upon their heads with his mad riots,

Makes them look old before they meet with age.—

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

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

Grew out of reach of those insatiate humours:

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

And his mothers joy, the very arm that did

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


(Taking a swig from his tankard) I hit the bottle again big-time….I got into brawls with Southwark pond life and was up before the beak. 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 – 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…You might say I was a bit like Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet – or you might say Mercutio was a lot like me. You see, I AM all the characters in my plays, for better AND for worse. I finally accepted the marriage….I convinced myself that Harry and I had a spiritual union that nothing could destroy…

(Underscoring ‘Light o’ Love’ 26. [0.45] ‘Confident, romantic, optimistic’ lighting state.)


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

Admit impediments: love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.


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

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

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


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

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom:

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

(Underscoring concludes or fades)


But politics was about to take over our lives again…

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE snaps his fingers. Snap lighting cue. ANGELS sit.)


The Earl of Essex and Harry decided that Queen Elizabeth should be deposed – and King James should become King of  Britain. The two men were in Ireland at the time, engaging with rebels….


Harry was also engaging with his Corporal General of Horse…


The plan was for Essex and Harry to return to England with the English army, join up with James and his Scottish army and march on London…Will’s 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 whole coven of witches in the play prophesying that James would become King of England…


But James was having none of it….Elizabeth was pushing seventy. To get the English throne all he had to do was wait.

(ANGEL C puts on a cap as the Earl of Essex)


Ireland was a catastrophe for the Earl of Essex. (ANGEL C rises from his chair as the Earl of Essex) The Irish ran circles round him… (Earl of Essex mimes sword fighting  with the Irish – who attack him from everywhere)

He returned to England and barged into Elizabeth’s bed-chamber. (Essex prostrates himself in front of Elizabeth who is out front) She hadn’t done her make-up.  (Essex looks up at her and registers horror) She hadn’t put on her wig.  (Essex looks up further, screams and rushes off  stage left wings.) 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. But they went ahead – and landed me right in it by staging Richard II on the eve of the rebellion itself. Everyone knew the play was an attack on the Queen. Including the Queen.


Essex was beheaded – and Harry, under sentence of death, thrown into the Tower. All his gay romps in Ireland had been used against him at his trial. A letter from William Reynolds (Angel C emerges from wings left and goes to pick up his folder from the chair) – the brother of the Earl of Essex’s secretary – was passed round the court. Dated 13th February, 1601, it read….


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


I fled to Scotland – believing, along with everyone else, that Harry would die in the Tower. Before I left I wrote him one last poem. It’s called The Phoenix and the Turtle. I compare Harry to the exotic, fabulous Phoenix – and myself to the humble, work-a-day turtle dove…..


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

(Underscoring ‘The Sick Tune’28. [1.06] Lights become reddish – like a furnace.)


(Stands) Let the bird of loudest lay,

On the sole Arabian tree,

Herald sad and trumpet be,

To whose sound chaste wings obey.


(Stands) Here the anthem doth commence –

Love and constancy is dead;

Phoenix and the Turtle fled

In a mutual flame from hence….

 (The red lighting state turns into moving flames.)


(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…


(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….


(Stands) So between them love did shine

That the turtle saw his right

Flaming in the Phoenix sight;

Either was the other’s mine….


(Stands at Prompt Table) Beauty, truth and rarity,

Grace in all simplicity,

Here, enclos’d, in cinders lie.

Death is now the Phoenix nest….

And the turtle’s loyal breast

To eternity doth rest…..

(‘The Sick Tune’ either concludes or is faded. Red lighting fades. Silence – then single spot on 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…..

 (Single spot on SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE fades. In the darkness the ANGELS return to their seats. ANGEL D puts on his scarf and ANGEL A puts on a bright shawl. Lights snap up to bright)


But life was about to take another of its turns. (ANGEL 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. (ACTOR D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE crosses and sits on bench between DAVENANT and JENNET.)


(Rises and puts on red nose and crosses down stage right with an imaginary dog.) Come boy! Good boy! Sit! (He then plays to his audience on the bench. JENNET laughs away at the jokes – as do the other ANGELS – but DAVENANT doesn’t crack a smile. MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE – on his right – starts to notice this – and becomes concerned.)

I think that Crab my dog be the sourest natured dog that lives. My mother weeping, my father wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, the cat wringing her hands and all our house in a great perplexity, yet did not this cruel-hearted cur shed one tear. (Takes off right shoe) This shoe is my father. (Takes off left shoe.) No this left shoe is my father, nay that cannot be so either. Yes it is, So it is. (The big pay-off) It hath the worser sole…(COMIC bows – everyone laughs and applauds – except JOHN DAVENANT. COMIC returns to his seat removes his red nose and puts his shoes back on.)


Jennet, could you leave us a moment….

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


John. Can I make a confession? (Silence) I didn’t write all that crap about Crab the dog. Tom Nashe did…. (More silence)….


Can I make a confession?


Of course.


I thought it was funny. I just never laugh…..Never have done. Never will….(Silence) Trouble is, I like being with funny people. That’s why I run a tavern. I get them drunk so they don’t notice I’m not laughing…. (Silence) Can I make another confession? Jennet and I can’t have children…


Sorry to hear that…I had wondered…


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


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


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


But what about Jennet?


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


But how would you feel about….


(He pauses) Some loves run very deep… (Calling) Jennet….( JENNET returns shyly from stage right wings) Jennet, it’s a done deal.

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


Cousin Will….

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


Not only did I father a son. I fathered a whole surrogate family!….Queen Elizabeth died two years later – and everything turned round. To Queen Elizabeth, Harry had been a traitor – but to King James he was a hero. I wrote Harry a ‘Congratulations on getting out of jail’ sonnet.


James’s Coronation Day, though, was a wash-out. The procession route was lined with paste-board obelisks. The heavens opened and the winds blew them away…


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


(Stands and comes downstage central and peers into the audience – as though he is looking at the pasteboard obelisks. Byrd’s ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ plays in background.)

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

Thy obelisks built up with newer might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange,

They are but dressings of a former sight…


What a difference there was between pasteboard and granite! Just like the difference between the fickle world of the court and the unchanging love between Harry and myself….


If my dear love were but the child of state

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

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

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

No, it was builded far from accident;

It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls

Under the blow of thralled discontent,

Whereto th’ inviting time our fashion calls:

It fears not policy that Heretic,

Which works on leases of short number’d hours,

But all alone stands hugely politic,

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


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

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE and all the ANGELS cross themselves.)


To this I witness call the fools of time,

Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime.

(Music fades – and ANGEL D as MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE returns to his chair.)


King James made Will and his acting company Grooms of the Chamber and, dressed in red livery, Will held a canopy over King James during the Coronation Service…..


So I saw in close-up the handsome young Earl of Pembroke kiss the King full on the lips! Everyone had thought that Harry would become James’s new boyfriend – not least of all Harry. But James preferred younger men – and Harry’s time in the Tower had taken its toll.


Hurled from the centre of power, Harry started to grow bitterly homophobic. And then his wife produced a son. Harry wanted him to grow up to be a bold and manly soldier.  Unlike Shakespeare. The player had to go.


I  wrote Harry a poison-pen letter – in the form of a malformed sonnet, its final couplet ripped away like a head from a body – or foetus from a womb…


Will had told Harry that if he became a father he would become like a moon that could wax and wane at the same time. Now – fifteen years later – he developed this idea….. 


I admitted that Harry was still so beautiful he seemed to have power over Time itself. But I called him ‘my lovely Boy’ – an insult to an English Earl, now in his thirties and in the violent throes of gay denial…


(Stands – walks forward downstage centre 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….


(Standing upstage right of MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE)

You might be growing in the form of your baby son – but I your lover, am withering away, denied your love…


If Nature (sovereign mistress over wrack)

As thou goest onwards still will pluck thee back,

She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill

May Time disgrace, and wretched minute kill.


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


Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;

She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!


Be afraid, Harry! Be very afraid! You are a mere plaything of Nature. She can only slow down the process of aging, NOT reverse it.


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

And her Quietus is to render thee.

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


(Savagely) Dame Nature has got to pay off Old Father Time – 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 meat. I promised you immortality. Now I promise you death!

(Pause) I then went mad and wrote Lear.

(Lights snap off. In darkness SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE returns to his lectern. Lights slowly come up to bright.)

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. (ANGEL X  – and all the other ANGELS – look pained.) 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. (ANGEL X sets the table centre stage.) I took all one hundred and fifty four of them to Thomas Thorpe…(ANGEL E as THOMAS THORPE, stands)a printer friend of mine.

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


Tom, I want you to publish these.


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


Every sonnet I’ve ever written….


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


But they’re by ME!


(TOM becomes interested and stops correcting) And you’ll put your name to them?


(Pulling up his chair and sitting stage left of table) I certainly will….


(Looking them over with a quick, practised eye) Some of these are a bit hot.  You’ll be changing the ‘he’s’ to ‘she’s’….?




Narrows the market….


Not in Southwark it doesn’t….


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


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


Thank God for that…


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


Are you mad?


Well, Mr. H. W. then….


(Sarcastically) Impenetrable code….


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


How about Mr. W. H.….?


Would you publish if I agree?


(Not entirely sure) Y-e-s….


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.)


(Suspicious) What’s this one about?


Relax, Tom. It’s about a woman….She is seduced by a vain, psychotic, lover who abandons her….


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


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

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


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

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

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

O that sad breath his spongy lungs bestow’d,

O all that borrow’d motion seeming owed,

(Pause –looks out front – a complete change of tone to one of triumph). Would yet again betray the fore-betray’d,

And new pervert a reconciled Maid!


(Laughing and shaking MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE’s hand) O.K. Will. You’re on…..

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


My Sonnets were published and I waited for the explosion from Harry. Nothing happened. Out of sheer, bloody curiosity I rode down to Titchfield – and called on……

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

Apis Lapis…..

(MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE enters from stage left wings, wearing a cloak. Suggestion of candlelight and night-time.)


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 as BEESTON pulls up lectern chair and sits stage right of the table.)


Never thought we’d see you here again….


Never thought I’d be here.


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


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


Everyone’s reading them!


And Harry?


It’s his copy….


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


The spine cracked when I opened it….(A knife to MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE’S heart) Well, he’d read most of them before. And Baby James is taking up a lot of his time…(Another knife)


You think I’m a shit, don’t you?




And I should never have published them….


No. They are sublime. Sublime but toxic.


He deserves it….


Toxic for you. (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks startled. BEESTON mimes picking up the volume and looks through, quoting) ‘As a decrepit father takes delight’, ‘Like a deceived husband’, ‘Being your slave’….Will, you were none of these things. You were Will Shakespeare and he was Harry Southampton. Once you had something to give each other. Now you don’t…


(Rising to go and putting on his cloak) He took everything….


He gave you £1,000 pounds! (MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE looks shocked). Everyone knows, Will. Everyone. Without him and his mum you’d never have written a line….Look, I’m an old fart. But I do know this. Yesterday’s happiness is an old, worn out…. (pauses)….glove….(Both men smile) Get a new one, Will. Now I can’t give you a sonnet to take with you – but I can give you a nice lump of my cheese…..(Does so)


(Miming putting cheese into pocket in cloak) Bless you, Apis Lapis.


You still a Catholic?


Of course.


But you’re a bastard!


I’d be more of a bastard if I wasn’t one!

(BEESTON roars with laughter, rises and embraces MIDDLE SHAKESPEARE.)


Safe journey, Will….

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


Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds

Nor bends with the remover to remove…..

(Lights fade down. In the darkness SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE quickly moves back to the lectern and takes off his hat. Lights snap up.)


My next play was The Tempest. As I’m sure you all know, it’s about a megalomaniacal magician – who forces an abject group of spirits to enact his every whim….

(Snaps his fingers on BOTH hands.)


(Entering from wings left, tearing off his cloak and silk scarf and changing his voice to Cockney) Right. That’s it. We’ve all had enough! No more snapping fingers at us, Mr. Shakespeare. I’ll get you on bullying, harassment and threatening body language. One out – all out….

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


(Turning to ANGEL D) Can we get him on ageism?


Tricky one. But I’ll give it a go….

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


Angels! Come back! It’s only a play…..(to ANGEL X who has remained at her desk) At least you’re loyal, X…


Forget loyal. I’m here to make sure you don’t escape…I’m your Guardian Angel as well…


(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 and become a country gentleman.


(Standing at Prompt Table) The Fifth Age:

And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part…..


It didn’t work. I couldn’t be normal. 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….

(Crosses and picks up his tankard. Sits at the table)

True, I loved my daughter Susanna , her husband, Dr. John and my beautiful granddaughter, Elizabeth . 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. (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, tee-total, do-gooders who had ACTUALLY BANNED THE PERFORMANCE OF MY 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 property-dealing and money-lending like my dear old dad…

And from having invested heavily in his Post-Armada line of feather-lite 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, XXX months 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 ANGEL X who exits to the stage left wings and SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE clears his chair back to the lectern.)

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!!!

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

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


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


Now I got this idea from Hughie Greene. 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…

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


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


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

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


Look what you’ve done! I’ll never get in! You’ll all just have to clap harder. I’ve tried to tell you the truth about my life and I hope you will forgive me. I know I’ve been a bit of a scapegrace at times, but you still have my plays. And I’m not going to want them back…

(Moves to downstage central area. Addresses audience directly. Lights up gently on audience.)

‘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 stage set 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….

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

X – you are an ARCHANGEL!

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

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

(ANGEL X pushes on the reluctant ANGELS who form a group upstage left. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE welcomes them from down right.)

A! B! C! D! E! Can I ask you a great favour? Will you forgive me for my bullying, harassment and threatening body language?


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


(Aside to audience) They have to. Goes with the territory. (To ANGELS) And will you all cheer me? (ANGELS hesitate…)


Of course you will!!!! Now, positions please, either side of the Clapometer…

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

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

‘As you from sins would pardon’d be

Let your indulgence set me free!’

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

We did it, folks! We did it!

(Music begins. Gracie Fields singing ‘Wish Me Luck as you wave me Goodbye’– 1941 version. Take from beginning of orchestral interlude. SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE goes into the audience and shakes hands with audience as ANGEL X clears the Clapometer and the chair and table– then returns to join in the celebration. SPIRIT SHAKERSPEARE returns to the stage and shakes hands with Angels – kisses the women angels – and leads them forward for individual bows. Then he joins in with Gracie…The ANGELS start their dance their routine  behind him.)


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


ANGELS (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

(SPIRIT SHAKESPEARE mounts the stairs of the theatre…)


‘Till we meet once again, you and I

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

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


Curtain Calls.

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.

ANGEL X Woman – Middle age or older: must be able to lift a small table! 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/Banters with Shakespeare/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 12th August 2016.
































lewsi fiander
Lewis Fiander has died in his native Australia – one of the most talented actors it was my privilege to work with. (He played the Ivor Novello part in Perchance to Dream for me at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter, in the 1980s.)
Laurence Olivier, when he was running the National Theatre at the Old Vic, announced that Lewis was his natural successor – so from that moment onward the English knives were out.
He had come to Olivier’s attention by having the audacity to audition for him in the part of Hamlet – one of Olivier’s most celebrated rôles…….

Hamlet 1948 rŽal : Laurence Olivier Laurence Olivier Collection Christophel

Lewis entered reading a book – and then quoted from it…..
To be or not to be….
In a fit of excited discovery, he then threw the book across the stage with:
That is the question!
Olivier’s response? ‘
Baby, if I had seen that I would have stolen it!
Lewis was a perfectionist – and that could drive lesser mortals mad. At the technical for Perchance to Dream he suddenly announced – in the broadest Australian….
I’m the leading man! I’ve got to die centre stage!
The designer of the show was completely outraged – but I said….
Lewis is right, you know….
So we completely redesigned the setting of the scene – to the infinite improvement of the production.
Lewis was kindness itself to the singers in the show who had less acting experience than himself: he would nudge them to the right place on the stage – often upstage of himself. He had a horrendous change – from modern day to highwayman times – in a matter of seconds. He was in at the theatre at dawn, practising running down a flight of stairs as he changed his trousers…..
He had style in abundance…….
lewis darcy
…..but it was not the time for style.
A generous raconteur, he would seek out actors visiting Australia and take them out to dinner.
For me, he could no wrong – both as an artist and a man.
RIP, Lewis.
(12th January 1938 – 24th May, 2016)