(*Author’s note: the following is a paper for a “Chaucer, Milton, and Shakespeare” class. While it’s far from my finest work, April 23rd was Shakespeare’s birthday so it’s timely if nothing else. Enjoy.)
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Bill woke up on the couch again.  It was the third straight day he had awoken in his office and the gnawing cramp in his neck seemed to be growing with each passing day.  He rubbed his eyes and sat up slowly. 

A little too much ale last night, he thought to himself blearily.  His head had promptly begun pounding the moment he got his body into an upright position and he placed his hands on his temples wishing the throbbing
would go away. 

Sometimes Bill wasn’t sure why he even bothered drinking. 

It’s almost like ale is an enemy of my mind, that I repeatedly put into my mouth.  Hmmm, he fumbled around on his desk for his quill and ink, I really should write that down.  His hand had just landed on his stack of parchment when his headache was blown up into a full-on migraine. 

“Heyyyy-oooooo!”  The door to Bill’s study opened and in stormed his roommate John.  John, who had drank at least as much as Bill at last night’s after-show party seemed to have none of the post-bacchanalia blues and, in fact, he seemed happy to be awake on this morning. 

“What up, B-Shake?  You hungover or what man?  I am dragging this morning.  Pretty wild party last night, huh?  I was really drunk, like almost-blind drunk.”

Bill laughed along with his garrulous friend as he carried on. It had been a pretty wild party last night, Bill thought, still massaging his temples.  His latest play had just debuted last night down at The Globe and the ensuing party to celebrate was massive. 

Bill focused his attention back to John, who was still carrying on excitedly.  “. . .And the play last night: awesome, man.  You, Mr. Shakespeare, are a genius.  Who knew that
people would like a story where everyone dies?  And dies hard.”

“Yeah, dude,” Bill reached for his nearest flagon of water to start the long, slow rehydration process.  “I had no idea that people would think that a love story where both
characters end up dying terribly would be so romantic.  But, I gotta be honest with you: the chicks loved it.”

“Oh, man, you have no idea,” said John, a sly grin playing across his face. 

“Try writing about heaven and hell.  You have no idea what that does to the ladies.  They all wanna know why I’m writing about that stuff.  You know,” he continued, talking in a ridiculous high pitch imitation of a female voice, “ ‘oh John, you poor tortured soul, writing about such horrible things.  You simply must be a work in progress.  We should

Bill laughed heartily at his friend.  “Wow, man, that’s a pretty good woman voice you got going there.  I’m working on a few new scripts.  Any interest in being the leading lady?”

“Up thine, Billy.  That’s my only comment.  You hungry?  Because I think Chaucer left some of his famous meat pies here last night after he bailed.”

“Famished,” said Bill as he unsteadily rose to his feet.  “Let’s go see what we can find in the kitchen.  Geoffrey was pretty smashed last night, wasn’t he?  Tell me he didn’t go home with that chick from Bath.  Please?”

“Ah, you know him,” said John with a shrug. The two left the study and headed to see what food they could round up in the kitchen.  John lead, stepping delicately over empty ale mugs, pieces of half-eaten bread and an occasional party-goer that had been too boozed up to ride home. 

Bill followed closely behind, still a bit wobbly and having
trouble getting his groggy legs to work properly.  The two friends had a strict policy against letting their friends ride home drunk unless they had a designated coachmen and
Bill glanced with pride at the bowl full of reigns that sat on top of the fireplace.

As the two shambled into the kitchen they saw that there was, indeed, plenty of leftover food from the night before.  Bill settled into his favorite chair and found himself hoping that some bread from the night before might help settle his semi-queasy stomach. 

John, for his part, didn’t seemed to feel ill at all and promptly dove into a meat pie that he found stashed up along the countertop.

“Oh,” said Bill surveying the damage from the previous night.  “What a mess.  This is going to take at least a couple hours to take care of.”

“C’mon, Billy,” said John with his mouth still full of meat pie.“Everything’s a tragedy with you these days.  What happened to the funny William Shakespeare we all used to know and love?”

“I honestly don’t know anymore, man.”  Bill sighed, nibbling at his bread.  “I’ve just been having trouble with Anne, my work’s been struggling.  I’ve just been writing some bleak shit lately, man.  But hey, sad sells, John.  It really sells.  Besides, you’re not exactly one to talk Mr. ‘Satan and Heaven and Earth struggling for eternal power’.”

“Well look, dude, you have to understand where I’m coming from right?” Said John, leaning back in his chair.  “It’s not like I’m writing this stuff just to kill time.  I’ve got a message in my stuff.  I write about God V.S. Satan and politics.  Not a bunch of rich kings and queens getting freaky in the forest while some pervert of a fairy gets his jollies from watching.”

“Please,” said Bill laughing in spite of himself.  They had this conversation often, debating whose works were more important or more relevant. 

“You know as well as I do that ‘Mid-July Evening Fantasy’ will be a great story someday.  It’s still a work in progress.”

“Well let’s hope you at least get the title fixed.  It sounds like the title for a bad porno movie, son.”  He laughed heartily at his own wit.

Bill laughed along, not taking any offense.  The two friends often ribbed each other.  “Yeah, well with hair like yours, you look like you would star in a movie like that.  And for the record, the title is a work in progress.  What about you and your story, ‘Forget About Eden’?”

“Oh, no,” said John.  “I know you’re not going to go after my masterpiece.  I already told you, that one’s my meal ticket.  It’s gonna be twice as famous as anything else I’ve written.”  He smiled at Bill and took a bite of meat pie for a dramatic effect. 

“Someday, there’s gonna be some kids studying that story, wondering what I was thinking when I wrote that piece.”

“Oh, yeah?”  Bill laughed.  “Well I can promise you, guys are going use quotes from my plays to get laid for years to come.  I mean, I saw Chaucer doing that last night.  You should’ve seen him with that girl from Bath.  He was telling her all sorts of tales, trying to get her to go home with him.”

The two friends continued laughing and joking with one another.  As things often did with the two men, they eventually came around to talking seriously about their work. 

Bill’s hangover was beginning to dissipate and John was always up for a good discussion about his work.  He was the more political of the two and this affinity for debate often lead him to try to challenge others in their line of thinking.

“So you’re telling me,” John said.  “That when you wrote ‘Julius Caesar’ that you weren’t trying to go political?  No way, man.  I’m not buying it.”

“It’s true, I swear.  I just always wanted to write a story about him.  I mean, how badass was Caesar?”  Bill laughed softly and continued.  “He was a total freaking tyrant,
but people loved him.  He ended up getting stabbed, in the back no less, by like 12 guys.  I mean, the story practically wrote itself.  Yours on the other hand, there’s something to
be proud of.  How do you do that; make Satan himself seem so damn appealing?”

“That wasn’t even the hard part.  The hard part was making God seem like the good guy.” He laughed at this statement as though it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.  After a moment he composed himself.  “You know better than anyone, Billy, just how hard this game is.  I mean, I’m trying to make a social statement, but I am also trying to pay the bills.  Shoot, my optometry bills alone. . .” he trailed off quietly.

Bill knew his friend’s failing eyesight was a point of sadness and he quickly tried to change the subject.  “Well listen, pal.  Nobody, but nobody makes a political statement better than you while still writing a damn good story.” 

They slapped five across the table and Bill was heartened to see that his compliment had lifted John’s mood.  He knew what would really get his friend’s mind off the depressing subject of losing his eyesight. 

“Besides, how do you decide exactly what makes a hero?  That’s my question.  Like I said, Satan?  How’s he so damned appealing in your ‘Masterpiece.’”

To be continued…

  1. madhat says:

    Your modern slang with the times portrayed is somewhat unsettling, but sure adds to the humor of the piece. Loved the “bowl full of reigns that sat on top of the fireplace”, and the titles in progress. Plus I learned somethings (i.e. Milton’s failing eye-sight) and it was fun to laugh at plot lines and “good guys”, etc.
    I will await Part II.

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