11 The last years

11 The last years
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11 The last years
Will did write another play,of course.That was Henry VIII and he wrote it because the King's daughter,Princess Elizabeth,was getting married.The King's Men had to have a new play for a special day like that.
We were in London for rehearsals at the Globe,and the actors put on the new play for the first time on the 29th of June,1613.I remember the date well.
It happened soon after the play began.Richard Burbage was on stage and he suddenly looked up and stopped in the middle of a word.
‘Fire!’he shouted.‘The theatre's on fire!’
Wooden buildings burn fast,and Henry Condell shouted,‘Everybody out! Quickly!’
The crowd of playgoers began to hurry to the doors,and I ran round to open them.We could all see the smoke now,and John Heminges shouted to Will,‘The playbooks!We must get the playbooks out!’
Everybody got out and no one was hurt.One man's coat caught fire and his friend put the fire out with a bottle of beer.But the Globe burnt right down to the ground in an hour.Poor old John Heminges just stood there and cried.
But you can't kill a theatre that easily.A year later there was a new blobe in the same place.Bigger and better than the old one.People said it was the finest playhouse in England.
We didn't often go to London in those last years.Will was happy at home in Stratford with his family.He had time for his garden,time to talk to his Stratford friends,time to play with his granddaughter Elizabeth.He read his plays again,and he and I talked and laughed about the old days.
Judith got married at last in February 1616.She was thirty-one then,and married a man called Thomas Quiney,who was twenty-six.Will wasn't too happy about it.
‘Judith loves him very much,’he said quietly to me.‘But I'm not sure about him.I think she's making a mistake.’
He was right,of course.Will was usually right about people.Thomas Quiney was lazy,drank too much,and went with other women.
But Will didn't live to find that out.In March he went to London for a party at the Mermaid Tavern.Ben Jonson was now the play wright for the court of King James.The King was paying him some money every year,and Ben wanted to give a party for his
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friends.
It was a good party,I heard.But Will caught a fever and then rode home through the cold spring rain.When he got back to New Place,he was not a well man.
He died on the 23rd of April,in the year 1616.
They put his body in Holy Trinity Church,down by the river Avon.It was a bright,windy day,I remember.Ben Jonson came down from London,and cried in the church.He was a wild man,was Ben,always fighting and arguing about plays and poetry.But he loved his friend.He came up to me outside the church.
‘Toby,’he said.‘Will was a good,true man,and I loved him.We'll never see another poet like him in England.’