Well over a year ago, nearer two maybe or even more, I’ve lost count, I finally finished writing a play I had wanted to write for more years than I can remember. Called THE MUSES DARLING it is about the supposed death of the Elizabethan poet/playwright Christopher Marlowe and how it is possible the death was faked, that he went into exile to Italy where he continued to write and the plays were produced under the name of William Shakespeare. Now I know it isn’t a original idea. It has been alleged for years together with the other contenders for Shakespeare’s plays, Francis Bacon, The Early of Oxford, and only recently I read an interesting novel titled THE SCHOOL OF NIGHT which has been on a shelf for ages and I am surprised, seeing the title, that I didn’t read it before writing the play. In the novel the author explores the theory of Marlowe’s alleged flight and authorship but ends rather lamely I think by saying more or less, “Well, okay, maybe Shakespeare, following in Marlowe’s footsteps, did write the plays after all.”
Elizabethan dramatists cooperated in the writing of plays. We know that Marlowe and Shakespeare worked at least once together and Marlowe wrote THE SPANISH TRAGEDY in conjunction with Kyd. I would imagine it was sometimes a collaborative effort by a number of writers such as half a dozen or more being credited with a modern sit-com. This brings us to the somewhat worrying point that we know very little about the man William Shakespeare. Every biography I’ve read, and I’ve read quite a few, is riddled with ‘we can presume,’ ‘we think,’ ‘maybe,’ ‘perhaps,’ ‘it could be that,’ ‘we believe,’ etcetera. It really is a very cloudy landscape. We don’t even know he went to school in Stratford as there is no record of it though some biographers insist without evidence that he must have done. All right, setting aside the lost years as they are known, setting aside his theatrical connections, among other things what worries me more than anything is the man’s behaviour after he retired and returned to Stratford. Here is the conundrum; for someone reputed to be the greatest poet playwright in the English language who produced such sublime works of art it seems very strange that he should spend his retirement collecting real estate and suing people left, right, and centre. No more poetry even? Not a single solitary piece of writing? No sitting down in front of the fire of an autumnal evening and penning another masterpiece? Another sonnet? How did he spend the evenings of his twilight years? Reading maybe. Ah, yes. But there is no mention in his will of a single solitary book and books were a valuable commodity at that time, and his own works seem to have been completely ignored. Perhaps we can make an excuse for him and suggest his eyesight was fading and reading had become too onerous. Well there was a possible answer to that; his daughter could have read for him - except for the fact she was illiterate!
Also rather strange, there is an early engraving of the Shakespeare memorial in Stratford which depicts him with hands folded on a woolsack, the symbol of a merchant. This was later changed to his hand holding a quill.
So back to THE MUSES DARLING. Having finished writing the play the next question is what to do with it? Big problem this as being a historical play of some proportion it is naturally full of characters and there is no commercial management who would think of producing it in the current financial climate. The only professional theatre I can see even considering it would be the National and the National unfortunately does not accept unsolicited material. So I decide to try university drama departments and societies, starting with personal contacts – firstly my old stomping ground James Madison in Virginia where I was for a while a faculty member. The result was an e-mail saying something like we’ll let you know. I doubt even now it has been read by anyone there. So on to David Harwell at the University of Alabama – highest praise for the play but no production, so on to Laurence Senelick at Tufts – the answer? No.
So what next? Cambridge obviously. Marlowe was Cambridge man, there is a Marlowe Society but, despite hammering away with half a dozen e-mails and actually sending them the play, there was no come back from Cambridge. Not a thank you, no thank you or kiss my arse. How many times a year does a university get the chance of producing a world premiere of what I consider to be a major play? So what next? Oxford followed by a round robin of a score of major universities both in the UK and the states? Result? Nothing, nix, niente, nada, tipota, excerpt for a possible interest from the University College of London but even that doesn’t seem to have come to anything.
Well, no one can accuse me of not trying. I have literary agent in London but he has done nothing for me for years so I don’t think I will be sending it to him, but the question is what next, if anything?