Part Four: “Once more I’ll read the ode that I have writ”21 May 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 years. Until now.
Shakespeare looked at his laptop. He shifted uncomfortably and read once more the task he had to end: to write 15 lines of poetry for his creative writing subject. He hadn’t written much; he was sort of gazing at the wall and remarking how pale and white it was. He looked back at his screen to read what he’d writ. From. An excellent word for an hour of work. The bard dropped his head on the desk. So fruitful, so influential, so ingenious, he was told. It strained him to write a 15-line poem for his end-of-semester assignment. How will he ever write the plays that torpor might still snatch into nihility?
“Such pressure doth plague my brow. How I dream to resign to a slumber, to a dream within a dream, yet professors will beat my mind wherever it hides.”
“It’s alright, mate.” Chloe was studying quietly in the chair next to his. “Exams will be over soon.”
“That is not the cause of my woe.”
“Well I’m sure you’ll feel better once they’re done.”
Chloe wavered a bit, unsure how to transition back into study, slowly curling up into her formative state. She was rocking on her chair and staring fearfully at her essay, now just a smattering of assorted quotes and slabs of text in different fonts and sizes. Shakespeare looked back at his screen and added a word. He felt the full power of some magic spell in his finger as he dipped it on the letters of his laptop and they came into sight. He gasped a sort of bleat as the glowing paper obeyed his command. His poem now read: from fairest. He smiled and muttered “alliteration” to himself. Chloe muttered some profanity. Darkness clouded the windows of the library and white light splashed around the room as the two friends stared helplessly at their laptops.
Shakespeare stood up and marched around the desk to stretch his legs and briefly ease his mind. A paper cup of coffee was on the edge of the table gasping puffs of steam.
He watched the way the waves danced and curled through the room, such shapes of beauty hidden in the shadows of the vapour, a fading trance dissolving in the air. The bard sat back down, afresh with an idea. He carefully typed the word creatures, a dumbfounded utterance accompanied every tap of a letter.
“Mate, you don’t have to make that noise every time you type something.”
“Marry, ‘tis an involuntary cry.”
“Mate, ‘tis a fucking annoying cry.”
The bard shut his mouth and fixed his eyes to the screen, carefully plodding through the remaining lines of poetry. Slowly, after some moments of time, he gently massaged his face. It was finished.
Shakespeare tentatively accessed Turnitin. He knew what to do and how the system worked; this foreign world was no longer new to him. He pressed on squares of grey and blue and checked a box to confirm what he’d writ was his own original work. Then it was submitted. His essay soon shot back awash with red, like it had blood, injured after submission to the enemy, returning home disgraced and weakly.
“This is 100 per cent plagiarised. Source: The Sonnets of William Shakespeare”
Shakespeare chuckled. An academic joke, he assumed. Chloe, nearby, gasped.
“Oh no! Mate, that’s bad!”
“You are unfit to make such ill comments of my work before indulging thy mind to its music.”
“Mate, you’ve plagiarised that whole thing, the Uni is gonna fucking disown you.”
“Fool, I wrote this with my own mind.”
“It doesn’t matter what you did, the Uni will think you plagiarised it.”
Shakespeare smiled and smugly walked to a shelf and pulled out a book of his own poetry. He turned his fingers through the pages and opened it to the front. The poem he had just written, already printed and published in a book. The bard then understood he’d heard no joke. He went slightly pale.