Authors: Ellen Wilson
IN THE SHADOW OF SHAKESPEARE
Copyright © 2013 Ellen Wilson
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters,
organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's
imagination or are used fictionally.
pen was sharp-pointed like a poignard. No leaf he wrote on, but was like a
burning-glass to set on fire all his readers.
Nashe – playwright
a man's verses cannot be understood...it strikes a man more dead than a great
reckoning in a little room.
You Like It - Shakespeare
was dark, except for a single soft spotlight in the middle of the stage.
Contained in the spotlight was a woman curled in a fetal position. She
was quiet and unmoving, simply dreaming of how everything had developed. She
had been a woman with child.
experience had left her drained, as birthing a new dream would. She
stirred, yawned, and stretched her arms and legs; unfolding in spread eagle
fashion like da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Alice had written the play
at night, after teaching. When it was done she had put her pencil down
and cried. It had been that much a part of her. Now it had to live
thought of how they had bonded like a family during the course of this
production. It had been closing night, and the theatre was still packed after a
continuous eight week run. They had all gotten standing ovations, and
holding hands onstage; bowing deeply, laughing, the audience finally had let
them go. Backstage Derrin had brought the champagne out, opened it, and
promptly dumped it over Sonia’s head. Alice was to say that her theatre
family was more real than her family of origin – certainly more genuine.
someone were to open the door to the theatre, they would see this image.
They would see Alice on the stage, as a sacrifice to her art. They would
wonder about this writer, director, actor – what was she thinking? Or
perhaps, given to the whims and eccentricities attributed to the artist, they
would think that this woman was giving herself over to some artistic method –
some sort of meditative muse.
door creaked open and a small sliver of light appeared on the dark red
carpet. Alice waited, expecting to hear the voice of Sonia or
Derrin. Nothing. Her irritation began to grow, and she felt the red
flush of blood rise from her neck to her face.
She sat up.
peered through the dimness to the crack of light and waited for her eyes to
adjust. The light illuminated a shadow of a man with dark, shoulder
length hair. Alice shielded her eyes with her hand. He had on a
doublet covered with little red slash marks. A costume, she thought, something
from the Renaissance. She worked her memory, running through the plays
that would be coming up, certainly nothing of that period, nothing
I help you?” she said.
a moment, she thought he was going to come through the door and down to her on
the stage, and she was afraid. He had hated the play – it was to
feminist, too radical…her mind trailed into the possibilities of what someone
could do with a knife and she scrambled to her knees.
gazing at her a moment, he silently turned and shut the door quietly behind
him. Alice sat back on her haunches, perplexed.
that? Somebody playing a t
She ran up the aisle, passing the hundreds of seats that just a few hours
before had been filled with people.
the door handle she flung it open. Passing into the hall she looked both
ways but noticed nothing. It was completely quiet. No one.
She went to the main doors and opened the door to the street, looking up and
down for the man in the doublet.
held his hand as they walked down the lane. He was only three, but his
legs were sturdy, and he was used to walking along with his sister. Kate
had shooed them out of the house when she had began sweeping. They were
getting underfoot and she was an exhausted five months pregnant.
patiently plodded along beside her, feeling safe and warm. The day was
sunny and the breeze was soft. A laugh escaped him, and he was overcome
with joy – eyes rolled back, head lolling. It was a laugh caught in
blissful merriment, and it would also be characteristic of him when he was
the Mermaid, playwrights Jonson and Kyd would turn their heads expectantly,
knowing there was only one owner to a laugh like that – Kit Marlowe.
what the cat drug in. Marlowe!” Jonson pulled a chair next to
motioned to the hostess. “A round for my fair play makers.” He
sat next to Jonson.
never for the likes of you guess who I’ve got for a patron.” Kit said.
know, “ Kyd said, taking a long drink of ale. “The young Walsingham,
cousin of Sir Francis, the spymaster. I have seen him making eyes at
smiled, stretching his hands before him. Hands dirty and stained with
ink. He took a shilling out of his pocket and pressed it into Kyd’s
hand. “Never Tom, never – do we need to go hungry again,” and
kissed him on the cheek.
dust clung to their clothes, to their hands. It got in their eyes.
It couldn’t be helped. All of the streets in Canterbury were like
this. A fly landed on Christopher’s face, tickling him. He rubbed
his eye and then immediately took Mary’s hand again.
He said, looking up at her face.
pointed towards the end of the lane where the road turned out of the city and headed
towards London. He strained his eyes looking. There was nothing but
pasture land and a few gardens the townspeople had planted. The air was
fresher here away from the stench of the city. Mary took a deep breath
then began to cough. Her face turned red as the spasm clutched her,
pressing her lungs to wheezing gasps.
trees stood out along the road and Christopher remembered when he saw
them. He ran ahead and picked up an apple, taking a bite. Mary came
along side him, examining his apple.
rotten.” She grabbed the apple from him and he began to cry.
He was hungry for fruit; something fresh, beyond day old bread and salted
circled the tree looking for a fresh fallen apple. Finding one she handed
it to him and began looking for another herself. A coughing spasm gripped
her and she covered her mouth. Lifting her hand away and she looked at
it. It was covered in blood and grime.
was some movement across the lane in the tall grass by some rocks. A
figure began stirring, and rose. It was a man dressed in dirty rags with
a filthy hood over his head. He stood rooted to the spot next to the
rocks, staring at them. Stretching, he put his arms over his head, then
on his hips, and continued staring at them. Mary watched him as she held
her skirt open as Christopher filled it with the apples.
man was a beggar, someone not to be trusted. The beggars sat outside the
taverns and inns, waiting for handouts or money. Her mother had warned
her about these kind of people, calling them hobgoblins and snary spites.
started walking towards them and she grabbed Christopher’s hand. The
apples tumbled to the ground.
She firmly gripped his hand and began briskly walking towards home.
beggar watched them leave as he stood next to the trees. He bent over and
picked up an apple, gnawing on it with the few teeth he had left.
lay against the pillows reading and the side lamp softly illuminated her side
of the bed. Next to her Albert lay sleeping. He began to snore
softly and then rolled over, grunting.
you turn that bloody light out and come to bed?” He propped himself up on
an elbow. “I can’t sleep with that thing on. I just had the most
Alice examined the newspaper clipping beside her. It was a picture
of Derrin in
All the Queen’s Men,
her play, her baby. He played
the part of a gay union leader, undecided if he wanted to come out of the
closet or not. Sonia played his wife and ardent feminist, not sure if she
wanted to leave him or not. They truly loved one another. The play
was about friendship, power, and politics. What people would do to get
ahead, and not. The characters were forced to draw a moral line in the
sand. Many of them did not want to do this, but they were forced
looked around at the newspaper and magazine clippings she was accumulating for
her scrap book. The idea of the union was flying in the face of the
rising pro-business sentiment climbing in the country. She had several
editorial comments rejecting the play out right because of its strong pro-union
sentiment. She was surprised she had not realized this before, but as the
clippings accumulated the evidence was unavoidable.
frowned, wondering what would become of it. Oh sure, she was used to back
lash from her plays, the content was controversial. But now people were
criticizing the board of directors, threatening to take their anti-union and
pro-business rhetoric to a higher power. Alice wondered who this higher
power would be.
lay back on the pillow. “Don’t you want to hear my dream? Horrid,
just horrid.” He covered his face with his hands, then rubbed his eyes.
He was beginning to grow a beard. Alice liked it.