Shakespeare at the Lecture Theatre3 May 2018
Shakespeare gazed at his quill, it didn’t have feathers and he needn’t dip it in ink. It was an odd little thing. He tapped it on paper and spun it around, infinite ink bleeding out from the tip, a hypnotic device standing still on its stage of Stygian stains. He was seated in the Carrillo Theatre. Strange images hung up on the wall at the front, constantly changing, just magically floating in colour and light. Shakespeare wondered how the images transmogrified straight to the next. Such invisible creatures must lurk down the front and draw their creations with such promptness and speed.
A lecturer was gesticulating with vibrant motions, discussing a play he was yet to create: Romeo and Juliet. He wondered whether he should listen or not—these works weren’t destined to be on the stage, and any new information might diminish his skill. The lecturer’s traditional preface of biographical tales was not unfamiliar to him; he was now acutely aware of his life yet to come. It comforted him that his ostensible past was so riddled with errors that he’d still have the delight of surprise.
The invisible beasts drew a girl on the wall and her beauty shone into our bard’s pubescent eyes. He recognised her: she’d often walk through his village and pass his abode. Anne or Sally or someone. He’d pined over her, that pulchritudinous face. He wondered what she was doing painted up on the wall.
“Now this”, the lecturer began, “is a portrait of Anne Hathaway, who was obviously Shakespeare’s wife.”
Our bard’s eyes sparkled, her company spoke to him just through the sketch as a beautiful fate was set up for him. He struggled and failed to hide his excitement and joy, as he gazed up at the wall and his fine future wife. He threw his fist in the air, crying out “YES” through clenched teeth, fine saliva sizzling and hissing and spraying nearby students. The lecturer paused and slid down his glasses to stare at the bard with bare eyes. Shakespeare grinned and nodded, blushing slightly. The lecturer continued.
“Now there’s little to suggest the pair had a rough marriage—contrary to popular belief, however she lived mostly in Stratford while Shakespeare spent his married days in London writing plays.”
Such lies, Shakespeare thought to himself, I’ll adore this great wench till my quietus make. The thought of such separation drove his mind to torment.
“However, we have evidence to suggest he’d often visit her.”
“And they will be the happiest days of my life, I tell thee God, let those days feel like years, do not dare part us more. My heart will sing when I stroke her soft skin and those alabaster cheeks. So smooth they will be in my fortunate hands, then I’ll snatch her pink bosom and she’ll touch my fair hair. I tell thee now, I’ll love my wife more than the history books say.”
Our bard so possessed by his love had spoken aloud. Silence hung in the air and he was held by all eyes. He blinked. The lecturer didn’t know what to speak. After too long a pause, Shakespeare slowly sat down, forgetting these new foreign seats swing back up when one stands, and he piled like a corpse to the floor. And there he did lie for rest of the class, in a trance as he thought of his wonderful future with Anne.
As he filed out of the lecture theatre a few moments later a student approached him with a smug smile.
“You know that when you die, you’ll only leave Anne your second-best bed in your will.”
Shakespeare smiled to himself, “How romantic I am, leaving her the bed we’ll soon share, how reassuring it is that my love will not wane.”
“Wait, hang on! You’re planning to sleep in your second-best bed with her?”
“Of course, thou sodden-witted lord! Everyone sleeps in their second-best bed. No doubt all beds are costly, but wherefore would we distort the illusion of wealth to visitors by giving the guest-bedroom no less than the best?”
The student sputtered a bit, “I sleep in my best bed.”
Shakespeare just laughed, such a dim-witted fool. Then he spun around and walked off and he held in his hand, a portrait of Anne he’d so recently drawn with his endless love, with his magical quill, with its infinite ink.