Thursday, March 24, 2011

Much Ado About Everything

I am a very simple man. I write plays, they are performed, people throw tomatoes at my actors and I. Predictably, I save all the good roles for myself. I can do that you know, being the playwright. Day after day I arrive at the theater. I do the same thing for the same amount of time until I get to go home. Then the play is performed. I write another play and everything happens again. What a boring life! I have no spirit. The only feeling I have is when I am on stage. There I can be someone else. There, I don’t have to worry about a thing except for what my character is worrying about. It is so refreshing to be someone other than myself. Who would want to be me? I have an ugly wife who I hate. I had three children until my son died and I make a mere pittance for the plays that I write. I wish I could do something, be something more. Have more fun with my life. Maybe it wasn’t worth it anymore. Why should I do something that gets me nowhere? Playwrights are condemned, ridiculed and did I mention the money was shit? I think it might be better for me to be a shoemaker. Everyone needs shoes. Shoes are absolutely necessary. I’d be able to make money for my own purposes and send the rest off to my children. I’ve decided! I’m tired of this playwrighting. I give up as of tonight.

Well, as they say (I’m not really sure who….), be careful what you wish for.

After rehearsal (my last rehearsal), I went to the pub. I had a few tankards, ate some food and was sitting there, minding my own business when a man arrived and came to sit next to me. He seemed vaguely familiar but he was wearing the oddest of clothes. I’d never seen clothes like that. The slacks were long, the man had no stockings and the shirt had the oddest things keeping it together. He was wearing a heavier version of his shirt and had the shiniest shoes on (just think! I could have made them). The strangely dressed man ordered ale and glanced at me periodically. Eventually he said, “Hello there, friend.”

I responded, “I’m not quite sure who you are, therefore I do not believe we are friends.”

The man said, “My name is William and I have come from far away to meet you. You see, you may not know me, but I know you. You are William Shakespeare. The greatest playwright the world has ever known. I am teaching Much Ado About Nothing to my students right now actually.” His eyes looked huge, almost as though he could not believe he was sitting next to me, a playwright turned shoemaker.

I replied, “I don’t believe you have the right man. Yes, my name is William Shakespeare but I have only written three plays as of now. And I do not play to write anymore. The pay is horrible, the prestige is nonexistent and it is so monotonous. I have decided to become a shoemaker. I like your shoes by the way. Maybe you can teach me to make them. I’d like to learn. They would be very popular. “ Well, the look on his face can only be described as shock and horror mixed together. He looked down to his shoes then up to my face, repeated this motion and then started laughing. He laughed so hard, I though ale was going to come out of his nose. Then he said, “You are joking, you must be. It is not possible for you to be anyone else. You are William Shakespeare. I programmed the machine to take me here. You are supposed to be in the middle of writing The Taming of the Shrew. What year is it?”

“It is the year of our lord one thousand five hundred ninety two.”

“Truly? And you believe are going to give up? You haven’t even thought of King Lear. Oh! Oh no! This just won’t do. You absolutely need to continue writing. Did you not hear me when I said that you are going to be one of the most famous playwrights the world has ever seen? You will be. I know it.”

“Well, I can take you to my theater. You can tell my group and see how it goes. I bet you last no more than ten minutes in there. They will laugh you out of the building. And how, pray tell, can you know that I will even be remotely famous? I can barely pay for my house.”

“I, Mr. Shakespeare, am from the future. 2011 to be exact. I am a professor of Shakespearean literature at the Oxford University. I have devoted my life to your works, as have many of my friends and colleagues. I am teaching one of your plays to my students right now, Much Ado About Nothing. I suppose you have no idea what I am talking about since that play was written after this. How else would I know that Richard III and Henry VI Parts 1,2,3 were your most successful plays to date and after those you wrote Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.”

“I supposed you attend the theatre often.” I responded offhandedly.

“No, I know all of your plays inside out. “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York, and all the clouds that loured upon our house in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”(I.i.1-4) That is the opening line to Richard III. How would I know that line, word for word, if I did not teach it countless times before? You are THE William Shakespeare. The world loves and adores your stories brought forth in plays because they are timeless.”

Then I woke up. I supposed that was one of the oddest dreams I have ever had but it has helped me. I do not want to be a shoemaker. I am a playwright. I doubt I will be world famous but I love to do it. I am William Shakespeare, and I have a new idea for a play. It shall be called A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


  1. I really like how it transitions from his sort of boring monotonous lifestyle to him writing his most famous play. The inspirational angle with a back to the future really plays well. The only thing I would really change is maybe connect "future man" with Borges, perhaps even make them the same person.

  2. I think Casey's advice to connect the future man with Borges is good, but let me generalize from it.

    You're writing a story about one author, in a way which is, at least theoretically, inspired by another author. As in an essay about a real person, if you're writing a story about a real person, you should aspire to change the way we think about that person.

    Borges, when writing about Homer, makes us want to think of him in terms of suffering (especially the suffering related to blindness); when he portrays Shakespeare, he wants us to think of him as a kind of divine nothingness.

    How do *you* want us to think of Shakespeare, or one of his plays, or of Borges, or of one of his plays? You need an argument, in other words. Call it a vision instead of an argument, if you like, but you need *something* here which drives the action. I'm not opposed to a story about meeting a famous person in a time machine (despite the cliches), but time travel stories can't just be gimmicky ways of letting us into the past - they need to be transformative in some way (H.G. Wells' *The Time Machine* is supposed to make people rethink the social structure of Great Britain, for instance).

    Very possibly, you want us to think of a Midsummer Nights' Dream differently - perhaps in some Borgesian way - but in that case, it needs spelled out a little; probably some of the material of A Midsummer Nigths' dream needs to be drawn in.