By Amy Lane
The following conversation takes place in ye plain and ink stained bedchamber of His Royal Playwright, Wm. Shakespeare, between the Bard Himself and his faithful servant, Hod, shortly before he finished writing Macbeth.
Bard: Oh God. Oh no. I can’t do it, Hod, I can’t. You know what they’re saying out there, don’t you?
Hod: Right then—yer whorin’ yerself out there, milord. Tha’s what they’re sayin’. Don’ you pay’em no mind though.
Bard: But it’s true, don’t you see? Macbeth—one of the best kings Scotland ever had, do you know that? Ruled for seventeen years in peace when that old fool Duncan was one bloody war after another. But I’m writing this play for James, so he’s got to be the villain. What are people going to think of him now? You tell me that!
Hod: That ‘e was a bloody rotter, milord. But ‘e ‘ad some damned fine lines.
Bard, to himself: But I had to do it. I had to. The king comes to you, says, “Write to prompt!” and he owns the bloody theater, right? What’re you going to do?
Hod: Write the bleedin’ play, milord.
Bard: But the critics! They’re unmerciful! Oh my God—do you know what I heard on the street the other day?
Hod: “Duck! Pisspot coming!”?
Bard: Oh we wish people would warn us, don’t we? But no. Someone said, “Remember Romeo and Juliet? I wish he’d write more plays like that!” But I can’t write another R&J—I wrote that play. And you know what? It sucked. It sucked. Cause those two dumbshit kids, they should have been happy… they were going to be happy… shakes self Why couldn’t they just have been happy?
Hod: Cuz you got stuck behind a mule at the marketplace, milord.
Bard: Oh fucking lord yes. If that damned beast couldn’t move fast for me when I had the runs, one sure as hell wouldn’t go fast enough to save those two poor doomed kids, would he?
Hod (mournfully): Acres of soiled velvet, milord. Your best new suit.
Bard: Thank you, Hod. I remember that.
Hod (trying to be helpful): ‘ow ‘bout Falstaff, milord! Why can’t you write wot ‘bout ‘im?
Bard: Oh no. Not this…
Hod: We liked Falstaff, milord! Wot’s wrong wi’ ‘at?
Bard: I did, now didn’t I? I wrote Merry Wives of Windsor, just so that fat bastard could have his say. Cause it wasn’t enough that I wrote the action adventure piece of the century, was it? Everyone’s all Falstaff, Falstaff--we love this guy! But Henry couldn’t keep that fool around, could he?
Hod: Warn’t right wot ‘e did, milord. Tha’ Henry, couldn’t stomach’im after that.
Bard: But I brought Falstaff back. I brought him back--
Hod: Th’ fans loved it, y’ken they loved it, right milord?
Bard: The critics, though—you remember that, Hod? The critics, were all, “A wandering excuse for Sir John to chew scenery and deliver pomposity!” They didn’t get it--
Hod: Was a fan piece, milord, tha’s all. Ye ought ta write fer them folks as love ye, ye ken?
Bard: Yes, yes… but you never know, do you? You think you know what they want. I wrote histories, thought they liked histories, but Henry V, oh there was a flop.
Hod: Too close to home, milord. We’re English, we remember!
Bard: Good point, Hod. You’re very wise.
Hod: Maybe s’more Romans, milord. We like them Romans!
Bard (wincing): Yes, but Troilus and Cressida didn’t have much to say—Sorry you’ve got to sail off and all that, but hey, we each have a country to run!
Hod: But Julius Caesar milord--
Bard: Well yes, but I’ve already done that! What am I going to do next? Anthony and Cleopatra Get Old? And THEN they die? Wait… that’s not a bad idea, really…
Hod: But why death, milord? Why so much damned death? Hamlet, milord—why’d the girl ‘ave to go--
Bard (hurt): Because sometimes life is just like that, Hod! Wasn’t right for my Hamnet to die, was it? Poor little blighter… was just a baby…
Hod: But… but ‘e wasn’t the prince, milord. Why’d you ‘aveta kill tha’ prince?
Bard: Because pain is pain, isn’t it Hod? When you’re feeling pain, that’s what’s going to come out of the pen, isn’t it? You set out to write Ethyl and the Pirates and you end up with Romeo and Juliet, because your heart is broken, and all you want to do is show the world that being young and in love sucks moldy mule mush, you know?
Hod (pats shoulder): ‘ere ‘ere, milord. Aye, we know. We know.
Bard: And it’s like all people see is the flash, right? Titus Andronicus cuts his hand off, everybody’s all “Oooh! Aahh! That’s stagecraft!” I get brilliantly meta with the play within a play, and people think I’m all full of myself. What do they expect? I don’t have a day job—the theater is what I know.
Hod: ‘at ‘n’ politics, sir. You do know yer politics, sir.
Bard: Well, it’s cause I’ve had to whore myself to the higher ups, now isn’t it? Who knows better than an artist how to bend over and take it hard in order to get what you want? Sighs Wasn’t always like that, right? There were moments when… oh, there was nothing like being in love with the world, was there? In love with language. Of writing poems that were strictly for love of writing and had nothing to do with making a living.
Hod: Them sonnets were pretty things, milord.
Bard: I miss those people in my head. Almost worse than missing the lovers who inspired them.
Hod: But they don’t pay the bills, sir.
Bard: No. No. At the moment, sucking King James’s hard-on with Macbeth, THAT’S what’s going to pay the bills.
Hod: Speaking of sucking dick, milord…
Shakespeare (surprised): Yes, Hod?
Hod: Was there summat ye wanted me to do?
Shakespeare (blushing): Why, uhm, yes, Hod. If you don’t mind.
Hod: Ye’d best drop yer stockings and yer doublet then, right milord? And yer vest and yer…
Shakespeare: You do make a persuasive case here.
Hod: Well, you can’t write what you don’t know, innt that right milord?
Shakespeare: Hmm… yes… oh, drop your own trews while you’re at it, and, oh God, codpiece off, oh please… you’re right… but wait? What does, uhm… uhm…
Hod: Gettng rimmed, rogered, and rubbed?
Shakespeare (blushing and naked): Right. Getting rimmed, roggered, and rubbed—what does that have to do with writing?
Hod: Cause there’s some fuckery ye do to get wha’ you wan’, like yer Macbeth, right? And there’s some fuckery ye do cause it feels good, like yer sonnets. And there’s some fuckery ye do cause ye need to do, like wi’ Hamlet, right?
Shakespeare: Right… uhm, yes… to the… oh God, Hod, harder…
Hod: But it’s all fuckery, right? An’ it all feels good in the end… like this end right here… (grunts)
Shakespeare: That’s right, Hod! Write me harder! Harder! Write my fucking brains out! It’s all in the name of art Hod! Bugger me harder, ye rogering sod! Yes!
-- Exeunt Shakespeare, pursued by bear.