To Be or Not To Be Shakespeare

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on..."The purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation.

         –Richard II

It was a cold, rainy night. I was sitting at my desk sipping my third bourbon when I heard a knock on the door.

A man, a strange man dressed in what I assumed was a costume, slipped in and sat down.

"I've got a problem, a big problem," he said before I could offer a drink or find a clean glass to pour it in. "Do you recognize me?"

"Not really. Are you related to Wayne Newton?"

"Of course not. I'm William Shakespeare."

"I should have guessed. Did I offer you a drink?"

"I suppose you've seen the new movie, Anonymous?”

"No, I avoid the movies. Can't stand the smell of stale popcorn."

"Too bad. Well, in this movie, I appear as a fraud, an impostor, a shill for some rich aristocrat who purportedly wrote all my plays and sonnets. Can you believe that? Some people actually believe this movie is true."

"Actually, I read an article that said a woman from Italy who married an English big-shot actually wrote all your stuff."

"You see what I mean?! I want to hire you to salvage my reputation before it's too late?"

"Too late for what?"

"Too late for people to still love and revere me and put a plaster bust of my head on their pianos."

"That reminds me, I did see a movie about you as a young guy, strapped for cash, who fell in love. How did that work out?"

"Forget that, will you help me?"

"Let me ask a couple of questions, first. Why couldn't you spell your name right all the time? How could you write something as great as The Tempest and something as sappy as Romeo and Juliet?"

"Are you speaking technically or literally?"

"I mean did you write all those plays or not?"

"It would be better if we could avoid specifics. My personal view is that the suspense of whether I wrote all this stuff or not keeps the audience guessing and buying tickets."

"But we're discussing your reputation, not ticket sales."

"I know, but my business manager is always on my neck about hawking tickets."

"Hey, it just occurred to me that you've adapted pretty well to how we speak today."

"I am an actor, you know. I can still rattle off lines like, 'I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swears he love me.’"

"Impressive."

"So, will you help me? I already asked Guy Noir for help and he turned me down."

"All I can say is: 'Greatness knows itself.'"

"What does that mean?"

"You should know, you wrote it."