Hamlet and Interlude 4: Shakespeare’s Lost Years 

Sonnet 73.
That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

This just in. Scholars discovered a treasure trove of manuscripts. They verify that Will was a Writing Workshop Leader during his so-called Lost Years. Some even indicate he taught at the University of Iowa. Yes, he might possibly have been one of the instructors at that famous Writing School.  

According to some of these manuscripts, Will was a founding member of the Ink Blots along with J. R. R. Tolkien, also known as Shorty, and C. S. Lewis whom everybody called C. S.. Chris Marlowe wanted to join. He got a thumbs down from all the members except for Will. Will thought the group was way too weighted toward the twentieth century. He was overridden by the twentieth century guys. Downright unfair if you ask me.

They wouldn’t let Marlowe in. They said, “No way, José.” Of course, we know that Marlowe’s first name was not José. Or maybe it was.

There are letters revealing that Chaucer hated Shakespeare. He was the top banana of the literary set before Will came onto the scene. Geoff went and wrote one mighty fine poem. Too too bad it was in Middle English. That’s another name for Almost Anglo Saxon. When Will came along, Geoff got frazzled under the collar and called him an upstart.

Geoff should have listened to Shorty. Shorty advised, “Don’t call the first chapter of your book, ‘Prologue’. Jump right in with your story. Try something fancy like ‘The Hobbit’. But don’t use ‘The Hobbit’. That’s already taken.”

Anyway there is evidence that Will was a very good workshop leader. Seems many of the found manuscripts were exercises his students turned in. As we can see from this early work, he workshopped a slew of writers who went on to fame. Folks like Ben Jonson. (That’s Jonson without the h. That distinguishes him from the other Ben Johnson who wrote shoddy fiction for the pulps.) John Donne (who gave Hemingway a hard time for using a line of his poetry for a title). John Milton (who turned in a text called “Tobacco Road”. He later changed it to “Paradise Lost”. Much better story. In his Tobacco Road version, Milton had Satan as a Georgia sharecropper.) There was even a Jane Austen. (The text she turned in was “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”. The comment Will made on her manuscript, “Get rid of the sea monsters and I think you’ll have a winner.” As we know, Miss Austen did exactly that, and “Sense and Sensibility” became a winner.)

The scholars found letters between Will and Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife, not the actress). She kept begging Will to get a real job. She was having trouble making end’s meet on the stipend he was paid as a Workshop Leader. He wrote her back, “But, Anne, I know I can make it as a writer. Tommy Kyd says I have real potential. It’s just taking longer than I expected.”

It was during these Lost Years that Will tried his hand at short stories but tales like “The Pit and Pendulum” weren’t selling. He tried a novel. Turned out no publisher would take “Thomas Jones, A Foundling”. Too risque, the publishers wrote. Took almost two centuries for that one to catch on. Henry Fielding published it under his name and shortened Thomas to Tom.

Then Will finally hit upon his forte’. Phat Beats. One hundred and fifty-four of them to be exact. Shakespeare was an iambic pentameter man. He did phat beats better’n anybody. Iambic pentameter phat beats. That is five beats to a ten syllable line. And most of the time, they rhyme. Except when they don’t. Then they are blank verse. His phat beats became such a bestseller I think even Jay-Z and Kanye have recorded versions.

With that success, Will changed his name to William, and William Shakespeare was born. It was soon after when he had his first hit with the Globe Theater. Something called “Titus Andronicus, Or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”. Later it spent several years on Broadway with sell-out performances.

So now you know. Shakespeare’s Lost Years are not lost anymore. I’m sure Will is glad of that.

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