Updated: Feb 19, 2021
Previously blogged on Richard's blog here
My guest tonight is one of the world’s best selling playwrights and a man whose plays are performed in most countries and poems are read in schools wherever English is spoken..... much to the regret of most school kids!
Few men have made a greater impression on English literature, or ever will again, and yet for all that he remains an enigma, dipped in a quandary and wrapped up in a sticky toffee puzzle. Tonight he has agreed to fill in some of the gaps and provide us with answers to some of questions that have puzzled scholars for many years. So without more ado please welcome my guest William Shakespeare.
Mr Shakespeare, or if I may call you Will, it’s a real honour and a pleasure talking to you tonight. I know you haven't given many interviews and you cultivate the man of mystery persona, even to the extent I notice of shaving off your moustache and wearing dark glasses. What convinced you to break your silence after all these years?
Well, man, it’s not like I need the bread, or nuffin’. But like after 450 years and that, I reckon it’s time to raise the profile of the old bard, innit! Get into the modern culture and get some street cred and much respeck! Know what I mean? Sure, I know, turn around an’ there’s another Shakespeare show goin’ on an’ I reckon I got nearly as many gigs live now as the famous sir Lord Lloyd Andrew Rice-Webber, but the punters come to see the play ‘cos of the name, as well as because it’s a Shakespeare job. But if I’m not around no more punters may not turn up. Well, I suppose technically I’m not around any more, but I’m gonna change that.
That’s interesting. So without explaining how it is you and I are talking 450 years after you supposedly died, how are you going to do that?
Well, man, firstly I is updating the names of some of the plays, innit. Like Hamlet is gonna be Danish Blue Blood and I'll bung a bit of 'ows your farver in to spice it up, Macbeth is now Carry On Scotty wiv Barbara Windsor as the Lady M and Romeo and Juliet is Neighbours, though I fink that might already be done by someone. I also fought I’d make a surprise stage entrance, or three. Then I might even scribe a new piece of genius and get Cameron Macintosh to bung it on. Face it, man, all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. Hey,that's not bad, I’ll use it!
I'm sure you will. Will, ou wrote 38 plays and numerous sonnets. How did you keep up that phenomenal output?
Monkeys, man, monkeys. Well, that’s what we called them, innit. Bung a load of wannabes in a room with some keyboards, man, and you’re gonna get Midsomer Night Murders one day. We just got more monkeys than any other scribbler factory, man! Chris Marlowe had over 60 guys chained to desks, but you don't see many Chris Marlowe gigs in the West End! Ha! Anyway, what do you mean 38 plays? I only get royalties on 12! I’m gonna kill that agent and sue ‘is bum off! What’s a sonnet anyway?
It's a poem of 14 lines, Will, with a very strict iambic pentameter rhyme scheme and specific structure. You're supposed to have written 154 of the things! Not me, Man. Must 'ave been that guy Bacon. You'd 'ave fought inventin' the frozen chicken would 'ave been enough, but he keeps trying to swipe my credit sort of fing! Ok, well you wrote a number of history plays about the Kings of England. Why no queens?
Man, you ever meet those royal wimmin? Boy, they could break a swan’s wing with a blow of the nose. Say the wrong fing and you end up losing a good few inches in height... and that’s if you is lucky! Liz One, she took the cake and a barrel load of bickies, I’m telling you. Put your cloak on the wrong puddle and people get to call you Shorty in pretty darn quick time, innit! Look at Sir Raleigh. ‘e goes and invents the potato, fags and the bike and even then ‘e gets the chop! I ask you! Anyway, man, some of those kings was definitely queens, if you get my drift! Look at that Spencer guy. He pens this thing called The Faerie Queen, all ‘bout Liz One and wot a grovelling piece of stuff. ‘e got nuffing. Not even a knighthood to keep his ears warm. I tell you, I’m finkin’ of doing a load more Henry IV parts and selling ‘em to TV to replace Corrie. It's gettin' a bit stale!
An interesting concept, Will. Your contemporaries were all popular playwrights. Why do you think you’ve lasted longer than any of them?
You is talking ‘bout Ben Jonson and that Philip Marlowe guy (or was that the detective?). Yeh, they was ok, but not wicked, man. I mean they could wield a quill, but could they scribe a joke? I fink not. I mean, look at dat Faustus play. All the “Doctor, doctor” jokes de man Marlowe could ‘ave put in... not one. Ok “The face that sank a Fousand Ships”, that wasn’t bad and the crowds was rollin’ in the aisles at most nights. But I got more funnies in Macbeth and King Lear than de rest of ‘em put together! Ok, so why is I still around. Easy, man, ‘cos I is the Bard, and what’s more I is a dead Bad Bard. Well, a dead Bard.
How’s your wife, Will?
The famous Annie? That was all PR! I met her in the lights and she did a bit of average actin’ at the Globe. She ‘ad to dress as a boy, ‘cos girls ain't allowed on the stage, which is a bit ironical ‘cos she ain't that bad looking. But no one took any notice until she cut her hair and sung a few weepies. Then she got that bit part in Les Mis and she ain't looked over ‘er shoulders since, or mine come to that. One smooth lady. The PR guys put the word round she lived in Stratford-on-Avon, but the fools forgot to change ‘er name to Anne Shakespeare. So they gave ‘er three kids to keep her amused. Bit of a bodge up there, Man! You hear what I’m sayin’? Yeh, she was a nice kid, good hair, but she wasn’t my old lady!
Tell me about your childhood in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Will.
Avon? Sorry, man, I never ever been there. The whole thing was a PR stunt like I said and I ain’t been North of... of the most northern place I’ve been to. I was in Stratford, near Ilford in north London and the management thought it would look better if I came from somewhere in the sticks and became a local boy made good, so they chose Stratford-on-Avon. Could have been Pinner, then they’d ‘ave been screwed!
But, you’re buried in Stratford-on-Avon, Will. How do you explain that?
Look, I’m not sayin’ there wasn’t some guy called Shakespeare that lived there, son of a corn merchant an’ all that. May ‘ave even had a old lady called Annie Hathaway for all I know, but whoever’s in that tomb, it sure ain’t me! The PR guys even put a curse on the tomb in case anyone tried to 'ave a peek inside the thing and found a donkey instead of the Bard of wherever! Your accent, Will. How come you're speaking a sort of cross between Cockney, Estuary English and Gangsta?
Hey, Man. I ain't changed my accent. This is pure 17th century street talk and all respect to the main rapper John Donne for being true to his roots. We all speak like this, and ok we may write a bit flowery, but only 'cos the punters like that sort of thing, innit! I mean "Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate". I mean, Man, who is gonna thrill a top woman with that, 'specially if it's pissing down and foggy! Hmm.... I've heard that the purest English is now spoken by people in Boston. How do you feel about that? I Don't, Man! Never heard of the place. Up by Romford way is it? Well, what's your next project, Will? Tricky one that, Man. Now that Larry Oliver is gone and kicked the bucket and Kenny Brannigan is too busy bein' a Swedish detective the historical stuff is dead, I'm turnin' to music big time and I've become a music blogger. I'm givin' prizes for the best comment and lookin' at the time now is the winner of my discotheque. Hey, that's not a bad line to start Dicky 3! Bit of work needed, but not bad! Will, as one of the world's most successful writers what advice would you give to an aspiring author? Keep the day job! Don't write on de Queens and get a good PR operation behind you, man! Will, it's been a pleasure talking to you and a real eye-opener. Good luck with your next project. Thanks, Man. My agent will send the bill. Will Shakespeare doesn't have his own website yet, nor does he blog, but you can find out all about World Book Night on http://www.worldbooknight.org/what-is-world-book-night