Hell week was such a lot of fun I decided to linger. Here’s an interview with William Shakespeare, the greatest playwrite of them all.
Welcome to the Hell Interview Channel, brought to you infernally hour after hour.
Name (s): William Shakespeare; Bard of Avon.
Age (before death and after you ended up in HSM’s domain): Born in April, 1564, I died at age 52 on April 23, 1616, at Stratford-upon-Avon, and woke here, where I languish, ‘not of an age,’ as Ben Johnson said of my work, ‘but for all time’.
Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m a poet, a playwright, sometimes an actor, oft a lover; less oft a villain; always a fool for love and a dupe for words.
Who were you in life? I became an actor in 1585, married Anne Hathaway when I was eighteen; two days after I died I was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church, so ’tis said. I don’t know the truth of this; I’d left earthly life behind before then: the body is not the man; in the soul is where the quintessence of a man doth reside, not in his dust. I learned that the hard way.
How do you think you ended up in Hell? How did I end in hell? The infernal bailiff came and battered down my soul’s flimsy doors, brought me here. For my crimes, my excesses, my lies and conceits; for my pride, for strutting and fretting my hour upon that stage – for all those quirks which make a man be me and not thee. For ’twere I thee, I’d not be damned, nor be in Hell. But I am damned, and in Hell. Since Satan loves the devilish man, all those geniuses like me are here. My sins of overweening creativity and guile lay without number on the path that brought me to perdition, where feuds never end and hatreds grow like weeds upon eternity’s boggy riverbank. Pray, why think you that I’m in hell? For Kit Marlowe’s sake? For my earthly debts of connivance and inaction? For leaving Anne Hathaway my “second best bed”? That bed lay cold too much; until Marley died, and too long after. ‘Cold comfort,’ Kit would say of that. How, you want to know? Why, is the more burning question, speeding on a sword’s point toward my pigeon-breasted soul. For loving Christopher Marlowe better than any woman? Could be, since Satan so tries to turn my pretty head until I’m daft as a loon at midday. For purchasing the gatehouse of the Blackfriars priory? For becoming a rich man when riches so corrupt? For constructing the Globe Theatre, home to every sort of player and much jollity and debauch? Or for playing Hamlet’s father every time we staged it? Being a ghost did suit me in life, and so now it suits me well in afterlife: what ye sow, ye reap in measures fit to your crimes. Here in Hell I have infernity to answer for my evildoing. Or not.
Describe your appearance in 10 words or less. Receding forehead, spade-nosed, chin mostly beard, earring’d and round-shouldered.
Where do you live in Hell? Tell us about your residence and area. Live in Hell, you say? None lives in hell. Rather we do languish. Kit Marlowe and I have a dozen beds now – I’d have left him my best one, but he preceded me here and set up our house and all the horrors in it. Since Satan, fair-fledged fiend of my acquaintance, became the patron of my art, we divide our time between New Hell’s Old Rogue Theatre and the Pandemonium Theatre, where the Great Deceiver doth keep a box. Now there’s a talent in that devil to put a plot together so you squirm, and weep, and beg for mercy, be you in the audience or among the doomed players. I die nightly in one of Satan’s plays, and wrote the part myself, and fell into the trap he set for me, of writing it as he’d like it… So, wherever Kit is, I make a home; wherever that is, Satan is, and he invades it and inveigles what he will from us lowly playwrights.
Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? Is your moral code the same as it was in life? A moral code? Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, tell ’em truth and by the by commit this literature or that tragedy, while the comedy of afterlife underscores it all. Hold your loved ones to your breast: only love outlasts eternity.
Would you kill for those you love? After all, sending someone to the Undertaker is not very nice! I’m a lover, a plotter, a deviser. Kit’s the fighter. I can wield a stage sword; push a poisoned cup into an actor’s hand – but to kill? For real? I’d thought to be the villain in our play, Hell Bent, but when I stab the breast I love the best and watch Marley die again, I am unmanned. Of all things, I fear that dagger which reappears whenever death comes to take Kit from me. In the manifold hells of creation, we two could lose each other, wander solitary for eons. Death, be not so cruel as to leave us, alone upon your farthest shore. Would I kill, you ask, to preserve a loved one, protect a smile? Of course. Why else would a man take up arms but against outrageous fortune?
Would you die for those you love? Die, being a relative term….I have died for those I love… how many times? I’ve lost count. I die for Kit Marlowe, at his hands, six nights a week and twice on Sadderdays whenever Hell Bent plays at a theatre near you. Dying for any reason but love is the oldest sin, and sinners deserve to be here. And are: I see an audience full o’ them, nightly.
Do you have any phobias? Are you plagued by anything particular in Hell? My phobias in Hell are a poor poet’s tragedy: Satan toys with my foolish heart, but how to resist? One look at this Fallen Angel once God’s greatest creation, and all sense leaves a mortal, whilst infatuation nearly drowns me: a smell like sunshine in a meadow; a voice like water coursing; a touch like every good thing ever felt: how to resist winged temptation, smiling, beckoning? Meanwhile, Kit will stand before me, take a spear in the chest to protect me, risk ending on the Undertaker’s Table to save me from it, again and again. If I’m plagued in Hell, it’s by adoration’s bite.
What do you think Satan’s most creative punishment is here? Me. I write the plays of hell with truth to make these idiot sons of human bellies quake and quaver; I show them their wastrel selves, frittering bit by bit, their own souls away. ’Tis as I’ve always writ, but here … the results are not poetry, but prose. Deaf ears can’t keep out honest words, as Hamlet’s father couldn’t keep poison from seeping from ear to brain, death in every drop.
Who are your friends here?
Discounting lovers? None. The two, too often, are the same.
You propose to count my lovers, do you? Those who use me to their ends? Take you down more paper, for this list will reach to Tartaros and back. There’s Kit, and Burbage, Bacon, DeVere, and … so forth. As I said at least once before, our indiscretions serve us well. I’ve had collaborators in this bed or that, but none to rival Kit, who writes as well as I, or better.
What friends have I? My friends are those who bring a Muse with them when they come. All others are cocks on the walk or hens a-brooding.
Who are your enemies? Now there’s a list to wrap the world in colored paper. All too blunt of wit to read me; all compared as dim lights against me; those who try to be me — and those to whom I owed a toss in the hay or a roll in the mud, or even a farthing or two left unpaid. Not only demons do hate me, but they hate what I’ve written, what effect it’s had. Satan’s daughter called my work ‘humanizing drivel.’ So enemies abound: as on earth, so in hell, the same.
If I recall relationships are… difficult; is this the side of humanity you miss the most? Where fools be, relationships abound. Dupes under a man’s control are those he doth miss: to send one here, to call one there, and be sure the bidden do exactly as you meant – even when it’s the opposite of what you’ve said. All the hells are full of dreamers and schemers and all their tiny hearts are full of plots and schemes and stories. If you’re talking about relationships among the souls who ended here, that is. If you’re alluding to my affair with His Satanic Majesty, leave off.
I commit my heart to none, and this doth save me. Shriveled and whimpering, I keep it in a box, stage right, where it thumps and thuds and beats. And there I bid it stay, until none seek to pierce or rip my soul asunder using it as their prop, as I once used poor Yorick’s skull.
Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. An interesting fact? Here’s a fact: no man can enclose his universe if he cannot come to terms with himself.
Author name: Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Book(s) in which this character appears plus links
Website/Blog/Author pages etc.