Reporting live from the scene.
It’s chaotic, exciting and nerve tingling; also nauseating, uncomfortable and bawdy. Add to that, the Black Death, syphilis, smallpox, and various other diseases.
Anything to lift the spirit of 16th century England, is welcome, with shouts and applause, and Stratford Upon Avon is especially proud of their own homegrown playwright, recently returned from London. There had been rumours of retirement, but with his popularity showing now signs of diminishing, and his royal patronage, the Bard is kept busy.
I'm here to find out more.
Me: (Stage left) Thank you for your time, Mr Shakespeare.
Shakespeare: That's quite alright, but don't sit there ... oh, too late, sorry. It's only sheep's blood, oh now you've flicked it at me. Out damn'd spot - oh, I like that, I'll write it down.
Me: (Stage left a little further) Yes, it must be quite difficult jotting down all those useful lines that pop into your head. Do you have a supply of quills, ink, and reams of paper ready to grab when inspiration strikes?
Shakespeare: Perhaps so, but I am indebted to my dear father for ensuring I had a fine education.
Me: Well as you have mentioned your parents, could we talk about them? Your mother inherited a fortune from her parents, and some would say your father saw this as an opportunity to expand his business ideas. But then it all went pear shaped around 1570 when he became a little too greedy, charging exorbitant interest rates on his loans. Was your dad a bit of a loan shark?
(Back stage left, trap door opens, should have been stage right; injuries sustained by stagehand)
Shakespeare: (Turns to see who was injured) Lucky that wasn't Burbage, (shouts at another stagehand) I've told you a hundred times, 'stage left' is not your left you fool. And you, whoever you are, stop moaning and come back when it's healed.
Sorry, where were we? My father, not at all, after all, nothing can come of nothing it was simply a case of supply and demand. It's the damn Protestants that blighted our lives; (looks around furtively) who did you say you worked for?
Me: I didn't or rather, I don't. I'm freelance. So feel free to express yourself.
(Witch rushes by with cloak billowing behind, slips on slimy orange skins)
Shakespeare: Now look at it! You fool; you'll have to wash that before tonight's performance, and don't bleed on it. Tell Gilbert to get the pigs in, we need this lot cleared before noon. Sorry, what were you saying?
Me: Perhaps we could move on to your marriage. Anything you want to tell me about a shot gun wedding?
Shakespeare: (Slaps thigh in theatrical style) Aha! You're talking about our Elizabethan lust. Nothing wrong with that - you're not a prude, are you? Need a bit of life in the old codpiece (jumps up on stage to gyrate, winks at the same time, raucous laugh heard from backstage; sits down again). Taught me one thing though, can't trust that damn pig intestine! (Another slap on the thigh).
(I smile politely; have to raise voice above sound of pigs that have arrived to eat the scraps of food left be previous audience)
Me: Can you tell me what happened to the roof of The Globe? I heard there was a loose cannon flying during a performance.
Shakespeare: Yes, we needed to fire the cannon during a Henry VIII scene, but someone (kicks passing stagehand) aimed it too low, and it set the thatched roof alight and the whole theatre went up in smoke. But we rebuilt it within the year and instead of thatch, we went for the latest in modern roof tiles.
(Rancid smell envelops theatre)
Me: What is that awful smell?
Shakespeare: (Seems not to notice) Well it can't be me, I had a bath six months ago; it must be the sheep guts and lungs, props for tonight's performance of Macbeth. Have to make it look as real as possible.
Me: Yes, I understand one of the troupes suffered a fatal injury recently during a Romeo and Juliet performance; the dagger did actually stab him.
Shakespeare: (Waves his hand with cavalier indifference) Yes, but he died from the plague a week later, so all's well that ends well, eh? (Scribbles down sentence on paper).
Me: When James I came to the throne, Lord Hudson stepped down so King James could become your patron. Was that why you changed your name from the Chamberlain's Men to the King's Men?
Shakespeare: (Looks at me suspiciously) You don't know much about Jimmy, do you? He's a lover of the arts, bit of a stage door Johnny; not so keen on female company. He married Anne, but nothing to show for it yet! (More laughs from backstage).
Me: You are said to be the greatest playwright the world has known, what do you put that down to - your characters, the plots or something else?
Shakespeare: (Suddenly draws knife out of nowhere and holds it aloft) Is this a dagger which I see before me? If anyone doubts my ability, they may well have a taste of my sword! Sorry, did that scare you? (Puts knife on stage). My two very good friends Ben Johnson and Christopher Marlowe are known to everyone, and they occasionally help out with the odd bit of spelling. But it's all mine, be not afraid of greatness!
Me: Great. Moving right away from that; any intention of retiring? You've written 38 plays and 154 sonnets, some would say it was time to hang up your hat.
Shakespeare: My dear girl, I've only just begun. You know what they, or rather, I say; all the world's a stage. Now if you've finished I really must away.
Me: Of course, just one last question before you go; do you expect your children to follow in your footsteps and become great writers?
Shakespeare: Don't be daft, frailty thy name is woman, what possible reason would girls have to write anything down?