I am so worried about Will. Such a disappointment. When I married John Shakespeare, we agreed that we wanted a large family. By the time Will was born in 1564 we had already had two daughters die in infancy. When it was clear that Will was going to survive, we were so relieved, and John used to say that Will became a symbol of love’s labour not being lost.
When, at three-years-old, he disappeared into the woods, we were distraught, but thankfully, we found him unharmed. He was on a grassy knoll, trying to make friends with a small rodent. All the way home he was eager to tell of his efforts in taming of the shrew. Really, he was a sweet young child, who loved hearing stories before he slept, and on chill frosty nights he would thrill to a winter’s tale.
As the weather became warmer, we found better stories, about fairies and elves, until he had that midsummer night’s dream, and woke up screaming about a man with an ass’s head. We did worry about his state of mind after that, and John insisted on finding a good school for him, to secure a good future for him, maybe in law. But when he came home in the evenings, his talk was all of history, of Julius Caesar, and of kings, for heaven’s sake. He was full of Richards, especially the second and third ones.
And Henrys, oh, God, all the damned Henrys, the fourth, the fifth, all of them. When Will began talking about poetry, well, John was horrified. We took him to the town market and found him watching the travelling players performing. John chided him to come away from that rubbish. Will’s silly response was that all the world was a stage. Honestly!
One time, John bought two beautiful hounds and allowed Will to name them. What did he come up with? Romeo for the dog, and for the bitch, Ophelia. No wonder they wouldn’t breed, those names were just not compatible. I felt really stupid sometimes when the dog ran off and I had to go searching down busy lanes calling, “Romeo, Romeo! Where the hell are you, Romeo?” Will was really beginning to worry us.
More and more he had a pen in his hand, scribbling down silly words. I tried to reassure John, “It’s much ado about nothing.” As alderman, John met many important visitors to our shores. Once Will accompanied him to meet three men who had come across from Italy. Two gentlemen from Verona, together with a merchant, from Venice, wasn’t it?
These visitors filled Will’s head with how their ship had been caught in a tempest. For days Will talked about nothing but that damned tempest. Once we visited a nearby hamlet, full of interesting shops. One, selling artwork, intrigued Will. He stood holding two pictures and said, “Fancy finding two prints of Denmark in a hamlet like this.” Oh, he was developing such strange tastes.
Then at sixteen, trouble. He started mixing with that Marlowe lad, Christopher, was it? We feared he was frequenting taverns and places of ill-repute. One night, John tracked them down an alley. Found them sprawled against a wall with that awful Dronicus woman, who was definitely born on the wrong side of the stables.
Will pointed at her and giggled, “Ann is drunk.” But John warned him, “You are just as tight as Ann Dronicus.” Boastfully, he told his father about their encounter with two merry wives from Windsor. It was their twelfth night in town, but their last. So, they wanted a farewell kiss
“And what did you say to that,” John had asked him.
Will was far enough in his cups to tell his father, “I said to them, ‘We will kiss you,’” And he chuckled lewdly, “’just as you like it.’ And we did. And they liked it.”
I feared everything would fall apart for him from that point. He wanted to go on the stage and wouldn’t give up that writing stuff. What future would there be in that?
I was so grateful when he met that Ann Hathaway, even though she was much older. They were married when he was just eighteen, and I fear they may have been rather naughty before then, as she gave birth to a daughter within six months of being wed.
Still, we had to be thankful, and as I said to John, as we looked at our granddaughter, “All’s Well That Ends Well.”