Part Two: “I swear to study so, to know the thing I am forbid to know”13 March 2018
It was 1578. William Shakespeare was 14 years old when he left school. Then he disappeared. Between 1578 and 1582, there is no documented evidence linking the bard to any job or location. Nobody knows what Shakespeare did in those four years. Until now.
He was sitting in the Laby theatre. Puzzled, he observed the strange seats that all lined up before his sight. Backs of heads and scruffs of hair, a murmur in the air. Two denizens sat in front of him. One had hair all green at the tips and a strange diamond on the back of her neck, like someone had drawn it on with a quill. She’d mastered some art unknown to the bard and was deep in confabulation. He turned to his neighbour, deciding to improve his own talking skills. A boy sat near, his eyes were in another place.
“Speak thy name, anon.”
“Did you just call me anon? Like, short for anonymous?”
“Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows.”
“Oh, sorry. Um, I’m George, how ya going?”
“Marry, how overjoyed I was, my wont to beguile at the theatre! Alas, my joy was soon snatched as I learnt we would not be watching a play.”
George nodded nervously, “Well we’re learning about a play. Othello, I think.”
“Ha! What a fatuous name to crepe a play.”
“So are you, um, local?”
“Tis a foreign place these seats and room, and foreign creatures roam this earth. What green haired monster sits before us?”
“Are you talking about me, mate?”
“Hark, she speaks like us too!”
“Fuck off, you prick.”
Our bard understood only half of these words, but burrowed his head in shame at the hurt he detected he caused. But an older woman strode onto the stage and he promptly forgot all his woes, smiling with paroxysmal glee as he learnt of his brilliance and legacy in the lecture she gave. Alas, her sweet-sounding words had the sinister sting of an asphodel plant.
“Now when Shakespeare died…” He drowned out the rest with his thoughts of impending genius, diverting his attention instead to George scrolling through photos, a blue bar up the top. He didn’t particularly want to know his future. It slightly bothered him that his fate was now so set, the fixity of his life.
Shakespeare huffed, arms crossed, watching a young man called Dan stroll across the room. Calling himself the tutor, he reeked of a certain miasma, masked in a thick perfume. Dan claimed to be writing some form of academic literature, enjoying his own stench as he rolled his fingers through his hair and spoke of his research.
“My PhD is basically focusing on the use of symbolism in one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays called The Hogwash Abode. It’s quite a sophisticated play, so it isn’t appreciated in popular culture, but if you’re intelligent enough to appreciate it it’s a beautiful work of literature.” An approving nod came from those about the room, except for our bard who rolled his eyes and groaned, perhaps a little too loud. Dan smirked. “So where’s William?”
“That is the name I’ve been creped.”
“You’re the one who thinks he’s Shakespeare, aren’t you?”
“That is indeed my name.”
“Well I’m not going to go about kissing your arse just because you share a name with a genius.”
“Wherefore doth thou want to plant thy lips on his buttocks?”
“Please mate, don’t do this. This job is hard enough as it is. We might not know what Shakespeare did for those four years, but that doesn’t mean he disappeared off the face of the fucking planet.”
“I left home to study, but no place of learning back home is expecting my presence, perhaps nobody questioned my absence.”
“Don’t get clever with me, alright. I’m the Shakespeare expert here, not you.”
The bard fell silent, his chest tightened. It was then that he plotted never to write a play called The Hogwash Abode.
“So what do you think of Melbourne?”
Shakespeare and Chloe were ambling down some alley.
“When I was at home I was in a better place; but travellers must be content.”
“How was your lecture?”
“‘Twas a strange thing, I learnt of myself; my brain fed off its own fruits.”
“Yeah, that’s trippy!”
“I cannot fathom it; my wont is not worthy of such praise. All happiness ebbs as I think of those studying and lambasting my life’s work to be.”
“Speaking of, did you hear about that PhD student? It’s really weird, some play he’s been writing about for two years now has just vanished. Nobody has any memory the play even existed, not even the student. But he’s just got this thesis all written up about some made-up play.”
Shakespeare quietly smiled to himself.