10 Back to Stratford

10 Back to Stratford
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10 Back to Stratford
‘You're losing your hair,Will,’I said to him one day.
‘We're both getting old,Toby,’he said.‘There's no escape from it.Old and tired.’
‘Don't talk like that,’I said.‘You're only forty-seven.There's still some life in you yet.And another twenty plays!’
‘No,’he said slowly.‘No,I think the poetry is nearly finished.I'm getting tired,Toby.I need a rest.I think The Tempest is going to be my last play.I'm saying goodbye to the stage.Times are changing,and people want a different kind of play now.There are lots of new,younger writers,who know how to please the playgoer.I'm not modern any more.
He never usually talked like this,and I didn't like it.
‘There's only one Will Shakespeare,’I said,‘and he'll always be modern.Now,I must get on.I've got to go out and buy all the cloth for the new costumes in The Tempest.Why did you have to put it on an island?When the ship goes down,the actors all have to come on stage in wet clothes.It takes a day to dry the costumes,so that means two lots of clothes for everyone—wet and dry!’
That brought him back to life.‘Can't you read?’he said crossly.‘If you look at Gonzalo's words in Act 2,Toby,you'll see that it's a magic island 一 and their clothes stay dry all the time.So they'll only need one lot.’
I laughed,and then he laughed too.
But it was true,he was tried.I could see it,and others could see it too.But the company was always wanting new plays,and we had two theatres now.There was the Globe,and now we had the Blackfriars theatre.Plays in the Globe were in the open air and always had to be in daylight,but the Blackfriars was a building with a roof.We could put on plays in the evenings and in any weather.It also made more money,because every playgoer had a seat and paid a shilling for it.In the Globe they paid a penny to stand.
In February 1612 Will's brother Gilbert died in London,and just a year later his brother Richard died in Stratford.That was in February,too.Will was the oldest brother,and he was the only one still alive.We spent most of our time in Stratford these days.Will didn't act in plays now.He went to rehearsals for his new plays,of course,but he was always happy to hurry home again.
We were riding back to Stratford in the spring of 1613 and Stopped for the night at the Crown Inn in Oxford.Will was very friendly with the landlord John Davenant and his wife Jane.The next morning,when we left,their little son,William,came running out to say goodbye to his good friend Mr Shakespeare.He was a bright boy,about seven years old,with much the same colour hair and eyes as Will.Will talked with him for a few minutes,then gave him a penny.
Later,when we were riding along the road,I said,‘The last time we were in Oxford,I heard some talk in the town.Someone said that you were the father of Jane Davenant's son.
Will laughed,‘Well,well,’he said,‘People say that,do they?What will they say next?’
‘Jane's a nice-looking woman.’I looked at him out of the corner of my eye.‘Isn't she?’
‘Come on,Toby.You know that Jane is a good wife to John.’He was still smiling.‘You mustn't listen to stories like that.’
I never believed that story myself.But many years after Will died,William Davenant told a lot of people that he was Shakespeare's son.But how did he know?His mother wouldn't tell him!
Will was happy to get home,to see his daughters and John Hall,and little Elizabeth,who was just five then.He was happy to see Anne,I think.He never said much to her,nor she to him.But after more than thirty years together,you've already said everything,haven't you?
I think Judith was Will's favourite daughter.Susanna was brighter and cleverer,but Judith was Hamnet's twin,and Will still remembered his son.He wanted a son,or a grandson,so much.Judith was twenty-eight now,and still no husband.But Will told her not to hurry.She must find the right man first.
Will worked hard all his life,and I think it was all for his family.I remember some lines from his play The Tempest,when Prospero is talking to his daughter Miranda.
I have done nothing but in care of thee, Of thee,my dear one,thee my daughter…