Shakespeare Must Die Act 1 scenes 2-3
Act 1 sc 2
A musty, candle-lit room. A man, James Burbage, sits at a desk surrounded by books of varying types. One ledger is open. He leans on it with his elbows, head in hands, quill uppermost.
A knock at the door
Burbage J - Annoyed Yes!
The door opens and the young Bacon enters. The man looks up and rolls his eyes.
Burbage J - Curtly Oh, it's you.
Bacon - Good day, master Burbage
Burbage J - Master Bacon. how may I assist thee? I am monstrous busy with the ledger, for I meet with the Lord Chamberlain this Elizabeth'en.
Bacon - And what do you have to report?
Burbage J - Nothing excepting rumours and gossip, that and the disappearance of my writer-in-residence ...
Bacon - Ah, Will ...
Burbage J - What do you know of Will?
Bacon - Of free will?
Burbage J - Of Shakespeare
Bacon - An you like it, John.
Burbage J - Master Burbage to you, Bacon. And it's James.
Bacon - What's in a name?
Burbage J - When the name's Shakespeare, cash. Cash is what's in a name. Have you seen the drunken wastrel?
Bacon - Yes, and no.
Burbage J - An you speak in riddles
Bacon - But I come with news.
Burbage J - New news?
Bacon - New news
Burbage J - Newer than the sad death of poor Kit? I never met the fellow, but his Tamurlane ... his Faustus ... for his sake I do hope hell's a fable indeed. I heard he was a lover of the high life
Bacon - Kit was indeed the life and soul ...
Burbage J - But no longer in this life.
Bacon - Now just the soul. Like Will.
Burbage J - Will? Now there's an old goose. Don't tell me ...
Bacon - No, no. Will's, well ... Will and Kit were cut from the same cloth, you know.
Burbage J - Will? Sodomite?
Bacon - No, John, no. [he leans forward] intelligencer!
Burbage J - Will? Intelligencer? May god help those who rely on that boy's intelligence.
Bacon - Not just small Latin.
Burbage J - So. Will. intelligencer. But he can still write plays, can he not? He can still act ...
Bacon - Yes ... and no.
Burbage J – No?
Bacon – Yes he can still write plays, but no, while he'll be acting a new part, it will not be as thou will't.
Burbage J – He has a new play?
Bacon - No. Nor will he be acting for you a while yet.
Burbage J - Outraged He has a new company? A new patron?
Bacon - Of sorts ... though to speak truth you'll not be seeing him in the next few weeks ... he has rather more pressing business. He is currently residing in the Tower.
Burbage J - No, no, no! You cannot just lock up my greatest asset!
Bacon – We are talking about the same drunken wastrel?
Burbage J – He has his moments, that's for certain …
Bacon – He wasn't born to it.
Burbage J – Born to what?
Bacon – Greatness.
Burbage J – I mentioned no such thing, merely that he has his moments.
Bacon – He may have greatness thrust upon him, however.
Burbage J – Sometimes I wonder about you, Bacon. But great or not, the thrust of the matter is, with Will, that you can't just lock him up.
Bacon - Well, John. We can and we have.
Burbage J - Who's we, Francis? And for what misdemeanour do 'we' hold him?
Bacon - Never you mind. Just know that we can, that we are, and that we are happy to provide recompense, not least if you should assist more fully.
Burbage J - More fully? I'm not assisting at all. You're simply acting at me. This is a one-way transaction, Francis, and the Lord Chamberlain will have something to say about this, I'm sure.
Bacon - Oh, yes, that reminds me, he did have something to say, yes. He told me to remind you of your place, and of how your tenure is brief and may end at any time. And how grateful he'll be if you just do as you're told ...
Burbage J - You upstart, unctious weasel.
Bacon - You flatter me. The deal is simple. You will continue to put Will's plays onstage, with much fanfare, and we ...
Burbage J - What plays?
Bacon - What god does not provide, we will.
Burbage J - What plays?
Bacon - Will is working on a pair
Burbage J - Will needs to work on growing a pair, but in the absence of such a miraculous happening, I'll take a brace of plays … Two is good ... What are they about?
Bacon - Love Burbage, love. In one it all ends happily, in the other unhappily.
Burbage J - The good happily, the bad unhappily?
Bacon - Haply we shall find out presently.
Bacon walks to the door, but turns before he reaches it.
Bacon – Master Burbage. You ought find yourself a winter hall. Forget the tours, stay in the city. I hear there is one in Blackfriars could be had … at the right price.
Burbage J – Blackfriars, eh? Within the city walls yet without. A liberty … a better class of patron. A better take than tuppence. Very tempting indeed ...
Act 1 scene 3
Bacon, Jonson and Donne drink in the tavern, with Edward Alleyn. Dr Faustus is being played at the nearby Fortune Theatre
Bacon – Does Faustus do good business at the Fortune, Edward?
Alleyne – Business? Takings are good, but we take the devil's coin ...
Jonson – Come Edward, you cannot tell me these words of [he hesitates, looks to his companions] our dear, departed Kit have this power over you?
Alleyne – Ben, Ben … I have seen things while performing this play … felt things while being this man … ... his words ... they come alive!
He rises, begins to declaim:
begin thine incantations,
And try if any devils will obey they hest,
Seeing thou hast pray’d and sacrificed to them.
Within this circle is Jehovah’s name,
Forward and backward anagrammatiz’d,
The breviated names of holy saints,
Figures of every adjunct to the heavens,
And characters of signs and erring stars
By which the spirits are enforced to rise
Mistress Quickly comes over to the table
Quickly – Mr Alleyne, if you please … Edward. [sharply] EDWARD! [slaps him] … we'll none 'o that here, Edward. I keep an orderly tavern. No politics, no religion … absolutely no necromancy.
Alleyne – [shaken, stuttering] Y, You see? These metaphysics of magicians and necromantic books are heavenly! Lines, circles, seals, letters and characters: Ay, these are those that we most desire.
Jonson – It is a world of profit and delight, indeed, but no power, honour, or omnipotence is promis’d to the studious artisan!
Bacon – When we call things by their right names we will control them.
Donne – Is it not through books that we let our spirits fetch what we please, resolve all ambiguities?
Alleyne – That is the power of Kit's words, indeed. opens his tunic, revealing undershirt covered in crucifixes I put my faith in divinity …
Jonson – Of all the harsh, contemptible, and vile forces …
Alleyne – The other night, I swear the bones of the old Fortune crack'd, as if under the weight of our damnation.
Jonson – Come, Hell's a fable …
Alleyne – And the night before, there was one too many divills onstage …
Bacon – But Edward … you are a player!
Alleyne – But no necromancer, and Kit's words, Kit's words … they can summon up ghosts ... but soft, I must take my leave, good sirs, I have a performance to attend to …
Bacon - Only this, gentleman: we perform the form of Faustus’ fortunes, good or bad
Donne – Francis?
Bacon – Think to Will. He was swoll’n with cunning, self-conceit, and his waxen wings did mount above his reach, and melting heavens conspir’d his overthrow.
Jonson – I am Kit Marlowe
Donne – This is a devilish exercise.
Bacon – And we are glutted upon learning’s golden gifts
Jonson – But is this necromancy?
Bacon – We less commune with the dead
Donne – Than create life where once was there none.
Bacon - A sound writer is as a mighty god
Jonson – Do we reach to get a deity?
Donne – Do we seek a book wherein we might behold all spells and incantations, that we might raise up spirits when we please?
Bacon – We do not seek such a book.
Jonson – We do not?
Bacon – We write such a book.
Donne – No, Francis.
Bacon – Look to Will.
Jonson – His name ever grows in renown
Bacon – And not from his own labours.
Donne – Truly, we write his life.
Silence. They drink. Donne holds up his tankard.
Donne – Curse ourselves, curse Will, that hath depriv’d us the joys of heaven!
Alleyne returns in the cruciformed surplus, but arrayed as a ghost:
Regard their hellish fall,
Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise
Only to wonder at unlawful things,
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practice more than heavenly power permits
Quickly – to herself Bloody actors. Shouting EDWARD!
Alleyne looks shocked to find himself back in the tavern.
Bacon – But Edward, Edward. Poor Edward has quite lost his wits.
Alleyne exits, shaking his head. Fade to black.