Life of Shakespeare

by 

Oren Shafir

 

 

 

Birth and early childhood (the fish years) 

 

In April 1564, William is born at Stratford on Avon to Sheldon and Gladys Shakespeare. It is a long and grueling birth lasting three weeks, and he is born weighing 58 kilos and sporting a full beard. The birth of a bearded infant is a rare phenomenon; there are only three known cases in medical history (the other two being Fidel Castro and Rosie ODonnell). It is perceived as supernatural, and today some scholars believe that his mother was burned at the stake as a witch as a direct result. Others believe it was because she used to fly around town on her broomstick...

 

William is soon taken into the family business, the first known fish n chip shop in Britain. At the tender age of three, William's job is to gut and clean the fish in preparation for frying, as well as to purchase the little packets of salt and vinegar dressing.

 

The salt and vinegar supplier in the next village is none other than Mr. Milo Marlowe, father to the boy who will become Shakespeare's arch rival, playwright, Christopher Marlowe. In the beginning, the two boys are close friends. However, after an incident in which they are caught bathing nude in a vat of salt and vinegar, their long feud is started.

 

Teenage period (the restaurant-chain years)

In 1578, an incident occurs, which changes the teenage bard's life. One of the queen's hand maidens chokes to death on a fish bone in the fish and chip shop. Sheldon blames his young son, William, who flees in haste to London vowing to never speak to his father again. Later, the court surgeon determines that the maiden had not in fact choked at all, but rather, died of complications after undergoing an ad hoc liposuction at her local barber shop. But as the autopsy process is slow, word only gets to William on his 32nd birthday.

 

By then, his father, Sheldon, has passed away with no one to leave the family business to. The shop is closed, and tragically, the progress of the fish and chip industry must wait until the 1800s when Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy and Mary Shelley open a chain of restaurants.

 

Early adulthood (the organ donor years)

 

All alone in the capital city and desperate, Shakespeare is willing to take any opportunity to make money. At first, he considers donating sperm. However, as sperm banks haven't been invented yet, he donates several of his organs to the university instead. It is while at the university donating his liver that he hears you can make money selling poems of just 14 lines.

 

Shakespeare soon establishes a career as a sonneteer and, notoriously lazy, would probably have continued to support himself writing them. After running into his old rival, Christopher Marlowe, however, and learning of his success as a playwright, William feels he must prove himself in the theatre.

 

His first three plays Henry I, Henry II and Henry III are failures. Still, he is determined to succeed, and finally does so with Henry IV and Henry V, which are followed up by Henry VI and Henry VII. He can now support his wife Anne Hathaway, his 13 children, his lover, Gwynyth Paltrow , her lover, Chris Martin, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

 

His real breakthrough though comes in 1585 when actor Richard Burbage suggests that he change the direction of the manuscript he is working on and write Hamlet as a tragedy, rather than a comedy. Already 50 pages into the manuscript, Shakespeare breaks Burbage's nose. Nevertheless, he takes his advice, and Hamlet is a huge hit. 

 

Middle-age (the lost years)

This period is also known as Shakespeare's lost years because there are few facts about this part of his life. One theory has it that just as his career took off, he fell into a mid-life crisis and became deeply depressed wiling away the days playing darts and drinking at his local pub. This theory is supported by the fact that in this period, he wrote his lost plays. According to one source, Shakespeare was quoted as saying, "If only I could remember where I put those damn plays." 

 

Another hypothesis says he was sent by Queen Elizabeth as an ambassador to the Italian court where he put on 30 kilo eating excessive amounts of pasta. Finally, a third school of thought would have us believe that he literally got lost, taking a wrong turn somewhere in the highlands of Scotland, and that it took him 15 years to find his way back to London. It is in this period that he writes some of his lesser plays, amusing himself by working sophomoric puns into the titles, for example, CoriolANUS.

 

Twilight (the pyjamas years)

In the 1600s, it is a common site to see Shakespeare wandering the streets of London near the Globe theatre in his nightshirt. In Rowe's biography, Leonora Smith who was 12 years old in 1612, recalls an encounter with the great bard:

 

"Each day at dawn, my older brother Tom and I would run across Southwark to bring freshly churned butter to the pastor. One day, on the way, I saw this old man sitting on the steps near the Globe theatre. Tom told me that his name was William Shakespeare and that he was a great writer. As we passed him, I smiled, and he looked straight into my eyes and said, 'Give me some butter you little bitch.' I'll never forget that."

 

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