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PYR by Larry Nehring
First Draft L. Nehring, February 2011
Larry Nehring 1342 Beach Pkwy. Apt. #1 Lakewood, OH 44107 LNehring@aol.com 216.965.8409
SCENE 1 ANNE’S CHAM BERS AUGUST 1623 HER FINAL NIGHT ALIVE The bedchamber of a large house in Stratford. Two men, Heminges and Condell enter the room. HEM INGES Why are we here? We have everything we need. CONDELL But she still has more. She must have all of his notes, drafts. M ore than we have, surely. HEM INGES But we have enough. Its ready for printing. CONDELL And out of respect we have given her the opportunity to look it over and advise us. HEM INGES What could she possibly know about his writing? She was only his wife! CONDELL Only? HEM INGES Well he spent all of his time in London. She couldn’t have been much to him or he would have been here. CONDELL Did you actually know Will at all? HEM INGES Very well. Yes. As much as anyone. Better than you, no doubt. CONDELL Where do you think he disappeared to all those times? HEM INGES All those times when? CONDELL When he disappeared.
HEM INGES Well, we all disappear, especially the married members of the company. CONDELL He came here and always returned with new pages, new inspiration, new roles for us all. HEM INGES He visited his wife? CONDELL Yes. HEM INGES Well, that’s a disappointment. An aged Anne enters. Her body might be weak but her mind is still sharp. ANNE It certainly wasn’t for me. HEM INGES I meant no disrespect. ANNE And none was taken. That was precisely the reason why so few people knew when he would visit me. A domesticated artist is rather like a gelding. CONDELL And the upstart crow is more attractive than a swan of Avon? ANNE Who wants to read a play by a Puritan? Bad boys bring in the groundlings. CONDELL M rs. Shakespeare-ANNE Please, dear, I never really got on with her so I would prefer to be called just Anne.
CONDELL Never “just.” Will would never accept “just” before your name. ANNE You have done him a great service with your book. HEM INGES We are ready to begin printing it tomorrow. CONDELL Or whenever you feel it is ready. HEM INGES You do think it is ready, don’t you? ANNE It is organized well. Comedies, Histories, Tragedies, but why are there no Romances? HEM INGES Romances? ANNE Cymbeline, his Winter’s Tale, even Love’s Labour’s Lost? Hardly either Comedies or Tragedies. CONDELL We though simplicity preferable. HEM INGES And when a King dies its generally considered Tragic. The ghost of the young Will Shakespeare enters the scene, unseen by the men. ANNE Some of his titles.... I never did understand why you chose to name Cymbeline after the father. And a standalone play, M ercutio, would have been an outstanding story. WILL Without those troublesome lovers? CONDELL Very true. Perhaps you should write that script for us.
ANNE Heavens no. A woman writing plays? Would even you give it any consideration? HEM INGES What a ridiculous thought! A woman playwright? Ha! WILL Prick. CONDELL If it were the widow of the Bard of Avon I am sure it would merit consideration. HEM INGES Right. That is what I meant to say. WILL Ever the toady. At his age he should have some sense. ANNE You would assume it was my husband’s work. As you should. WILL As they always did. CONDELL You have suggestions for us? ANNE I do. WILL They are not going to like this. ANNE They will not. CONDELL Not what? ANNE They will not be simple. There are passages which are incorrect, many repeated from other plays, and you are missing whole scenes--
HEM INGES Impossible. We are working from the prompt scripts we have used for years. ANNE And, of course, if it has been done for years it couldn’t possibly be wrong. CONDELL Can you tell us what is missing. We shall add it if we have the lines readily available. ANNE In Hamlet the Norwegian captain scene. Its as absent as Ophelia’s mother. WILL I knew you would bring her up again. HEM INGES We never had a mother for her. ANNE I know, and I said it was a mistake. WILL It was too long as it is! We just kept adding speeches for the damned Prince to mutter. ANNE But there is an obvious hole in the play. WILL What could she possibly add that Polonius could not? ANNE Imagine the willow speech coming from her own mother. WILL And you were right, but what could I do? Signora Leonata was brilliant and heart wrenching but so hard to find a boy who could pull it off without giggling. Girls? I had boys to play them. Old crones? I had boys for those too. Wenches, villainesses, foolish milkmaids? Boys. But honest ladies and virtuous mothers? Nearly impossible.
ANNE But he knew the stage and his actors. He was in London with the audiences. He knew what worked better than I ever could. Would you agree? CONDELL Sadly, I would not know. Whatever words you whispered in his ear seemed to invigorate him. His pages were always brilliant. HEM INGES And never anything scratched out. WILL You made me waste half my life copying pages so they would never see any of your handwriting. ANNE It was the best way. WILL You and your pride. ANNE An air of mystique. CONDELL Still makes Ben Jonson rant like madman. “How the hell did he do it?! I can’t write a bloody stanza without crossing out--” Begging your pardon. ANNE Please, never edit yourself on my behalf. I was married to William, if you remember. CONDELL Yes, he did relish the colorful words and phrases. HEM INGES We left those out as well. WILL Bastards! Don’t remind me! ANNE A wise decision.
WILL Fine, side with the Puritans. ANNE You did leave my favorite in, which pleased me. CONDELL Did we? WILL I didn’t see any! Where? ANNE Twelfth Night. M alvolio’s letter? HEM INGES We can’t print profanity. CONDELL I need to make sure. WILL Find the damn page, Henry! CONDELL Here. ANNE I placed a mark beside it. CONDELL Her C’s, her U’s, and her T’s? WILL Fantastic! HEM INGES I don’t get it. WILL No surprise there.
CONDELL And neither will anyone else. ANNE You were worried? CONDELL If this is not done correctly William Shakespeare might be as forgotten as M enander. HEM INGES Who? ANNE “Whom the gods love die young.” WILL Still on the tip of your tongue. CONDELL You know his works? ANNE William read me some fragments he had found. WILL M e? It was you who showed them to me! ANNE There was one favorite term, which he could never use on stage. WILL Don’t say it! ANNE Skatophagos. He loved that word. WILL No no no! Now you’ll have to explain. HEM INGES I don’t understand.
ANNE That’s okay, it suits you well. Here are my notes so far. But I shall need a few more days, I’m afraid. HEM INGES We need to get back to London tonight. CONDELL Take as much time as you need. We want this to be the way Will would have wanted it. WILL I would have wanted it done while I was alive and we could make use of the profits. ANNE I shall be as expedient as I am able. HEM INGES Henry! CONDELL John! ANNE You have your reasons. I understand. I need to give a closer read to a few pages, but on the whole I am sure my husband is proud. WILL Her C’s, her U’s, and her T’s. We were a good team. ANNE Of something, at least. Now if you will excuse me, I will have my evening meal and get right to work. CONDELL Of course. We will call on you tomorrow. HEM INGES When the cock crows expect us. WILL I’ll crow his cock! (to Heminges) You skatophagos!
ANNE Will! CONDELL M a’am? ANNE Will you join me for lunch? I rarely receive guests for my morning meal. CONDELL Of course. Good night. HEM INGES Night. Heminges and Condell exit. WILL I should have punched him in the mouth. ANNE You could have done no such thing. You are such stuff as dreams are made on, are you not? WILL Was I what your dreams were made on? ANNE And a few nightmares. Now help me get these pages done so that your friends can get your volume printed and then you shall be immortal. WILL All my life and what will I have to show for it? A book of plays and a T added to my description. ANNE You were not “immoral”, no matter how hard you tried. WILL I was a bit.
ANNE So was I. A spinster seducing a teenager? It was just not done. WILL Scandalous! You ruined my virtue. ANNE It was your own fault. You sent me poems first. WILL One or two, mostly stolen from Ovid. And you never responded. ANNE M y father found them before I could determine the author! M other spirited them away before he could burn them but it took time do figure out who they were from. WILL Well i had given up on you. ANNE And yet you criticize Gertrude for being inconstant. WILL A year is a lifetime to a sixteen year old boy. ANNE It is a bit difficult to be the aggressor when you wear a dress and are caring for a farm and younger siblings WILL Excuses, excuses. ANNE Boys, more ficle than girls, i warrant. WILL All boys pine for some older woman.An older sister of a friend, even someone’s mother. James longed for my mother, for some reason. “Yes, M rs Shakespeare. M y you look lovely today, M rs Shakespeare.”
ANNE And I was your M rs Shakespeare? WILL Eventually. ANNE Then it all worked out for the best. I was certainly not the first to take a younger husband. Behind closed doors even the parish widows would pat my shoulder and say “well done”. WILL They wouldn’t if they knew how you did it. ANNE No matter the course so long as the destination is reached. WILL M ade me think i was in love with a man. I should neve have forgiven you for that. ANNE You loved that first kiss, boy, and don’t you forget it. WILL When you remind me every chance you get? Impossible. But it was those poems. They were so moving and so passionate. Just reading them moved me so much. The lights change and we are now in the Stratford Pub.
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