Approximate running time 50 minutes.
Teenage poacher, wannabe poet, actor and dramatist, young Will has dreams and ambition. His friends counsel caution and restraint, recognising risk in the precarious life in the theatre, whether actor or playwright. But young Shakespeare’s ambition is made of sterner stuff and he will not be deterred.
The play starts in the schoolroom, where the young men are about to finish their schooldays. The next scene is some years later, when the friends gather together in Stratford, at the Dirty Duck public house, and Will Shakespeare discusses some of his plays with his friends. Excerpts from the plays are acted out and the friends discuss the plots and audience reactions.
36 speaking parts (plus CHORUS – at least 6). Some parts can be doubled.
As with all our plays, there are full production notes that give advice on scenery, costumes and props.
NO ROYALTIES. PHOTOCOPYING LICENCE INCLUDED.
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A table outside the ‘Dirty Duck’ a river side public house in Stratford.
(Stagehand places inn sign on easel which reads ‘The Dirty Duck.’)
(Benson, Condell, Coombe and Sadler sit drinking)
(Enter WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE)
My friends! What a surprise! You’ve been waiting for me?
We most certainly have! Here, pick up your ale before Sadler drinks it. He’s the only one not pleased to see you.
That’s not true. You malign my intentions.
He laid claim to your ale if you did not show.
I would not see your ale go to waste, that’s all.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (drinks)
Sorry, Sadler, but this ale has my name on it and is most welcome. The coach was hot and airless, so much so that I spent the last part of the journey outside, where I was plagued with flies and dust in my eyes.
How was London? How is life treating you? Have you found a woman yet?
Woah! Steady on. All these questions. London was good, life is fine, and no, I haven’t found a woman, nor was I looking.
Brevity is the soul of wit, and that’s as maybe, but we deserve a fuller account than has been offered. Do not disappoint us Will.
All in good time my friends. With regards my acting, there are many theatres and many companies of actors, and opportunity never knocks twice at any man’s door.
London is everything I imagined, and more too. Exciting yes, but in a way scary too. There are the finest of streets and the vilest of alleys. Thieves, footpads, rogues and villains lurk in the darkest corners, so wary has been my watchword.
It is an illusion that the streets of London are paved with gold?
London is a city of contrasts. Yes, there is great wealth, but also there is abject poverty. Poverty breeds envy, which can lead to crime. London is whatever you want it to be.
And your writing Will? Tell us how that is progressing.
It’s not been easy, but there again that which comes easy may not be worthwhile. The theatres are crying out for playscripts, such is the demand from the public for entertainment. I have been intrigued with Richard III for some time, and I have part of the script I would like to share with you.
What is the attraction of this man who by reputation was both a deformed and horrible man?
But that’s it! Can’t you see? He plotted and schemed in order to be king.
Ah, Will, I see where you’re going. Murder, cruelty and violence, a villain the crowds will love to hate.
Here’s the first few lines to set the scene…
(STAGEHAND changes sign to ‘London’.)
(The friends sit in a group and watch as RICHARD DUKE OF GLOUCESTER enters, sneering)
May I present to you an evil man, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. When Edward VI succeeded to the throne, he was 12 years old. Our dastardly friend here became the Lord Protector, but he was riven with jealousy and schemed to take the throne for himself. Listen!
RICHARD, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER
Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that loured upon our house in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths; our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Is this a sly reference to the end of the Wars of the Roses, unless I’m much mistaken?
Correct! But he will not take kindly to interruption. Let him speak!
RICHARD DUKE OF GLOUCESTER (glaring at schoolfriends)
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings, our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smoothed his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds to fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber to the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
The end of the conflict was celebrated. Misery replaced by happiness.
But not for our disgruntled Lord Protector? Now shush John, you interrupt again!
RICHARD DUKE OF GLOUCESTER (Glaring again)
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks, nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamped, and want love’s majesty to strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion, cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable that dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
You portray him as disabled and deformed, presumably this drives his evil mind – even dogs barked at him! I like that! You always had a way with words, Will. I like this a lot.
Gloucester’s deformity makes him bitter. Motivated by malice he plots to rid himself of enemies who might thwart his wicked intentions.