This poem is a piece of recorded history…like a lot of histories it is one man’s opinion. It is an opinion that questions the legitimacy of Shakespeare’s work.
It is not my opinion.
I ask you to suspend your disbelief with regard to numerous items in this poem
The pencil was invented in 1564 when a huge graphite or black carbon mine was discovered in Borrowdale in the Lake District. Graphite was sawn into sheets and then cut into square rods. The rods were inserted into hand-carved wooden holders. Shakespeare could have used a pencil.
The pencil eraser or rubber was invented in 1779 by Edward Nairne who, by inadvertently picking up a piece of gum elastic instead of breadcrumbs, noticed its erasing properties…
The eraser is in the poem solely to get a laugh.
Hey, it’s my recording of history…get used to it.
The death of Christopher Marlowe was in 1587
Shakespeare’s first published play was believed to be around 1590
You do the mathssssssssssss
The year is 1587
A dark-haired, slightly- balding mature student is studying Creative Writing at Southwark Polytechnic.
The scene is the rented flat he shares with his wife Anne and their young twins Judith and Hamnet in Deptford while they rent out their family home in Stratford upon Avon.
What you are about to hear is a history…one of many.
It is a history that fills the gaps in metrical form…
You might call it…a sort of blankety-blank verse
SOLILOQUY (with stage instructions)
Aye, ‘tis here the very phrase…(points to page)
“Every dog has his day.”
This book a present from my dear wife Anne
Has come to my rescue once again.
Heywood’s “Proverbs in English Tongue” (holds up book)
Is a valued crutch to the writer’s arm.
Now let’s put the proverb to the test
And fit it in my masterpiece. (takes up pencil)
“Let Hercules himself do what he may
The cat will mew and every dog has his day.”
Alas the metre is all at odds
And sits not well upon the page.
I must amend it for my teacher
Mr Marlowe is damnably strict
And will think naught of picking
At the bones of my work
As if he were a ravenous dog.
And the rest of the class
Eager to please him
Will roar at my expense.
Then my Lord Marlowe will strut around
Delighting in my shame.
A curse on that man and his witty tongue!
Now let’s amend.
Where is my eraser,
I have not seen it ere a while.
Methinks I threw it at the dog
While shouting “Out damn Spot, out I say!”
And have not seen it since.
Ay, there’s the rub (bends to pick up eraser) -ber.
Now I’ll try again. (takes up tiny feather)
I have a fondness for this tiny quill
Which I picked up at a new shop in town;
An emporium much like a cornucopia
With such a variety of wares.
Argos and Son of Deptford Town
I think they will go far.
Back to my words…
“Let Hercules himself do what he may
The cat will mew and dog will have his day.”
All’s well and nearly done;
But soft I had forgot
I must complete the Prince’s speech
And give a name to this gloomy Dane.
What name shall I give you, my noble Lord?
I have oft thought of Toby
Toby, Prince of Denmark.
I will ponder on it with one of these cigars
Brought hence from the New World by Sir Walter.
A satisfying smoke while I think
Of a name for this Danish prince.
Toby, or not Toby…That is the question.
Alas I have written a surfeit of words
And must practice the surgeon’s art.
Marlowe said only fifteen score
But I care not. My play is good
And a curse on him.
With the help of Dame Fortune
My play might sell and perchance
I will become a prosperous man.
No more would I be forced to put
Our humble cottage in the wife’s name.
If it had not been so
I doubt we would have got the mortgage from the Abbey.
A goodly man, the Abbot.
Hark! What is that caterwauling without?
‘Tis my mistress Anne
(That woman hath a way with her!)
What is that confounded screaming, wife?
Be still my beating heart. What news?
Kit Marlowe dead, you say?
Killed in a tavern brawl in Deptford
And I, having recently borrowed
His unpublished plays for my instruction.
It seems that every dog does have his day
And where there’s a Will…there’s a play.
© gray lightfoot
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shottery, Stratford upon Avon
Hear Gray read the poem at…