Will Shakspere is a small town guy with a bit of education. (Little Latin, less Greek.) He gets stuck in a marriage with an older woman. There’s a baby. He needs to make a fucking buck. He escapes, by tortuous and unknown paths, to the city. Having loved the plays that came to Stratford, he makes his way to the theatre. Gets a job looking after the punters horses. Parking attendant. And, when he can, he sneaks in and watches the plays. Watches the rich guys in their seats on the stage. Watches the drunk who pissed himself at the back in the cheap seats.
And he watches the actors and he thinks: I could do that. So one day someone gets sick and Will fills in. He knows the lines. He’s got a great memory for an overheard line. And he does well and becomes part of the troupe. He’s doing props and Murderer 3. That kind of stuff. And he hears the talk from the main guys. Where to find a writer who can understand what actors need? So he reworks a couple of scenes that aren’t happening and gives it to the actors. The actors like it. It’s not arty. People talk like they do in real life. The actors think it rocks.
And so he writes a play, and the next thing he knows, Willie Shakpere is a main guy himself. He is so successful that other writers are taking time out to write about what an uneducated, populist, upstart little shit he is. And it even gets to a time when he can actually write about what he wants. Which is quite cool as he’s pretty sick of stealing plots and grinding out romantic comedies with twins in disguise for production next week.
And, by then, he’s lived through some stuff, like the death of his son. He’s seen the gutter, and the King’s bedroom, and he knows how tenuous the whole thing is, how easy it is to slip from one to the other. He’s starting to think about just going back to Stratford and taking it easy, quite frankly. But somewhere along the line he knows he’s got to give it his best shot.
So he gives us Lear.
He knows it’s bleak. That’s why the Mad King says:
Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination.
Causes James Whyle Supports
Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa.