The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0364 Saturday, 18 April 1998.
From: Laura Fargas <
Date: Friday, 17 Apr 1998 13:57:23 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Shakespeare as Character/"These Our Revels"
Two quick notes and one longer one:
There is a late story by Borges called "Shakespeare's Memory" in this
week's issue of the New Yorker.
There is a novel called "Sphere" which has at least some passing scenes
in Elizabethan England-I haven't seen it yet, just read a bit about it
on the Amazon books website. I'm not positive Shakespeare appears as a
character, but it sounded like it.
And lastly, there is a novel called "Forever Knight: These Our Revels,"
by Anne Hathaway-Nayne, released on April 1 as a paperback original, in
which Shakespeare, Burbage, Jonson, Pope, Condell, Will Sly, Ned Alleyn,
and Philip Henslowe all appear as characters.
This last I know about because, along with a friend, I wrote it.
"Forever Knight" was a Canadian TV show about a vampire who is currently
refusing to kill human beings because he wants to become mortal again
and recover his soul and his salvation. The show's writers frequently
poked fun at the pieties of the vampire genre.
The lead role was played by a Stratford-trained actor, Geraint Wyn
Davies, who had toured for six months as Hamlet immediately prior to
taking the part. (My sister came to live with me when she graduated
from college; in the following months, I became intimately acquainted
with every science-fictiony thing then on television. I liked this one,
I think because it played its story both straight and ironically in
different episodes. I also thought I could see qualities the actor had
brought from Hamlet into this character.)
The novel is set in summer 1599 and February 1600, when we have assumed
Shakespeare was beginning to write _Hamlet_. We have him finishing it
and giving a private premiere at Lord Hunsdon's manse simply because we
needed to have a performance at night so our vampire could be there.
This gave our vampire (who, in the series, met nearly everyone in
history, was on the Titanic, etc.) an opportunity to mix with
Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Shakespeare meets Dracula
We have Shakespeare coming to like him enough to lend him the "sugar'd
sonnets circulating privately," and conversing with him a little about
the issue of killing-which was amazingly close to home, since Ben Jonson
himself bore the thumb-brand of having killed a man and successfully
claimed benefit of clergy. At this period in his life, our vampire is
only just beginning to grapple with the issue of not-killing. after
about 350 years of being perfectly contented with what he was. (No, we
do *not* have our vampire inspiring any part of Shakespeare's play.)
This was also a wonderful opportunity to play with issues of masks,
playing, gender roles, and whatnot. And with language-we wanted this
book, like the series, to be full of humor.
Jayel Wylie, my co-author, is a novelist who trained as a
post-modernist, and who also has a background as a working actress. As
I've said before, I'm a working poet (I studied with Stephen Greenblatt
back in the dawn of time, and am trying to screw up my courage to send
"Revels" to him <g>).
The book was a lot of fun to write, and we even got paid for it -- a big
thrill for me, since my royalties as a poet in any given year tend to be
in the high two figures.
We tried to be accurate-the only errors I remember us tolerating are the
appearance of what sounds like a hired coach, a reference to the Golden
Hind actually sitting in the water at Deptford (she was up on blocks),
and a joke in a sailor's mouth about a wench having a "coppered bottom"
(the Royal Navy didn't start coppering the bottoms of its ships until
much later). Of course, our dating of bits of _Hamlet_ is purely
conjectural, but we stuck to what was not impossible- we assumed
performances in 1600, with a later revision adding "the little eyases"
topical reference, for example.
If any SHAKSPERians read it, we would be delighted to hear your opinion
of it, good or ill.