8 A Scottish King for England

8 A Scottish King for England
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8 A Scottish King for England
Will's father died in September 1601.In his last years John Shakespeare was a happy man.His son was famous,and the Shakespeare family was important again in Stratford.But there weren't many children in the family.Will's sister Joan was married and had a little boy,but Will's brothers didn't have any children.
Susanna,Will's older daughter,was now eighteen,and Will said to her one day: ‘We must find you a husband soon,Susanna.’
But Susanna shook her head.‘Oh,I don't want to be married,Father,thank you.’
We all smiled at that,because there was already a young man who was often a visitor at New Place.That was John Hall,a clever young doctor.Will liked him.
Back in London,the theatres were always full,and actors were now important people in the city.Will and I were now living in very fine lodgings in Silver Street,with the Mountjoy family.The Globe and the Lord Chamberlain's Men were doing very well,and the older actors in the company were making money,and buying houses and land.But some people still thought that actors were dangerous,wicked people.
Then Queen Elizabeth died,on the 24th of March 1603,at Richmond.I remember the day well.The theatres were closed —you can't have plays when a queen is dying— and we were all at Henry Condell's house.He and John Heminges lived verg near our lodgings in Cripplegate.
We were all very worried.The new King of England was James the First.He was already King of Scotland,and he had a young wife,Queen Anne of Denmark,and three young children.But what was he like?Would he be a good king?And,most importantly,did he like plays?
‘If King James doesn't like plays,’said Henry Condell,‘we're finished.There are already a lot of Puritans on the London City Council,and they'd love to close the theatres down.’
Henry always looked at the black side of everything.
‘Well,he's written a lot of books himself,’said Will ‘Perhaps he'll be interested in plays,too We'll just have to wait and see.’
We didn't have to wait long.On the 19th of May I was underneath the stage in the Globe.I was trying to mend a bro-ken door in the floor of the stage.We used this door when a ghost came on or went off in a cloud of smoke.Suddenly,I heard feet running across the stage.I looked up through the hole,and saw Will and John Heminges and Richard Burbage.They were all very excited.
‘Listen to this,Toby,’said Will.He was holding a piece of paper in his hand.‘It's a letter from King James!From today,we are the King's Men!We're working for the King himself,and he wants to see all the plays.’
‘We're going to have new red coats to wear when we go to court,’Richard said.
‘And,’John said,‘he's going to pay us 20 for every play at court.What do you think about that,Toby?’
We were all laughing and smiling now.‘Well,John,’I said.‘If we're so rich,can I have a new door?I can't mend this one again—it's too old.’
That summer the plague came back.By July a thousand people were dying every week in London.One of them was the little son of Will's friend,Ben Jonson.By the end of the year there were 33,000 dead in England.The theatres closed,and the King's Men went on tour.
Will and I spent the summer at Stratford.When Christmas came,the King's Men put on a lot of plays at court.The King was at Hampton Court Palace that year,which was outside London,well away from the plague.I couldn't go because I fell off my horse one day and broke my leg.Stupid thing to do!I had to stay at home,but Will told me all about it when he came back.
‘The new King and Queen like to enjoy themselves,Toby,’he said.‘They're a happy family.Prince Henry,Who's nine,is very a nice little boy,and his sister Elizabeth is beautiful.Little Prince Charles is only two.’He was silent for a minute.Perhaps he was thinking about Hamnet.Then he went on,‘Qieen Anne likes plays very much.She likes music and dancing,too—she showed her legs in one dance!’
‘My word!’I said.‘Things like that never happened at court in Queen,Elizabeth's days.’
‘We live in different times,Toby.A lot of things are going to change.’
But change only comes slowly.The King's Men went from one success to another.At the King's court at Christmas 1604,there were twenty-two plays,and eight of them were Will's.In 1605 there were thirteen plays at court—and ten of them were Will's.
We always did the plays at the Globe first,before we took them to court.Will was writing more slowly now,but during these years he wrote some of his best plays: Othello,Macbeth,and King Lear.That was a sad,dark play.When King Lear carried his dead daughter Cordelia on to the stage…Well,every man,woman,and child in the Globe was crying.It's true.Richard Burbage played Lear,of course.What an actor he was!