Edmund’s Play

1

23/04/2016 by paulinebsc

‘Mr. Alleyn! Mr. Alleyn, Sir’

Edward Alleyn looked up from his accounts as his leading actor approached. He was a good actor but young Edmund had ambitions to do more.  Edward wished that he could act as well as Edmund, as the man approached waving a manuscript in front of him.  He didn’t want to upset his lead.

‘Lovely performance last night, Edmund.  You really caught the feel of Pluto’s grief.’

Edmund wasn’t going to be deflected.

‘Never mind that, look what I’ve written.  I’m sure this one will be good enough for the Fortune.’

The Fortune was Edward’s theatre and Edmund was convinced that he had written a play good enough to be presented there.  It was not the first.  All Edward could say was that Edmund was a far better actor than he was a writer.

‘Put it there and I’ll look at it later, when I’ve time.’ He patted the table beside him.

‘There isn’t room. What’s the rest of this rubbish?’

‘Accounts, censorship reports, complaints from the public, praise from the public.  You name it. Put it on top of the complaints.  It might be easier to read than those.’

He hoped, but wasn’t convinced.

‘How’s baby Edward?’ Edward was convinced they had named the new baby after him.

‘He’s as beautiful as his mum.  Dolly is a really good mother.’

‘He’s still a bastard though. Wouldn’t you be better planning a wedding than writing plays?’

‘You know I would, but she doesn’t want to.  She doesn’t think I earn enough as an actor, that’s why I want to write as well.  Extra income.’

‘Perhaps you should put a lady like her in your play.’ He chuckled ‘She’ll never know.’ It was well known that Dolly disapproved of her lover’s profession and had never watched him perform.

‘That would be the one she came to, if she knew I had written it.’

‘I’ll read it.’ Edward sighed ‘what’s this one about?’

‘It’s about a Scottish prince who fights his step-brother but is poisoned.  There’s an ass in it too.’

‘Isn’t it time you went to rehearsal?  Hal says you need to work on the fight scene’

‘Yes.  You’re right.  Jules wants it to look real, he’s insisting we work with real blades rather than blunted ones.’

‘Go practice then, you’re going to need it.  Fight scenes aren’t your finest work.’

 

Edmund had never been to the rival Globe theatre, on principal, but he had regularly sent spies to see what was being performed there. As soon as the man was out of sight he slipped the manuscript into the fire.  He liked Edmund and he was a great actor, but he would never make a playwright.  He settled down at his desk, only to be interrupted by shouting from the theatre.

‘Edward, quick!’ the voice sounded panicked.

He rushed there to find a scene from a horror play.  Blood was gushing from a wound Edward’s chest.  Orlando was still holding the bloody sword while everyone else stood around the dying man.

‘Stage swords are always blunted,’ Orlando protested, while Jules stood back.  He had forgotten to enlighten Orlando.

Edmund Shakespeare had written his last play.

‘The play was good, son,’ Edward whispered.  Edmund would never recognise the lie.

Edward turned away, tears in his eyes.  The lad was only 27, how was he going to break the news to his brother, William?  Even more important, how was he going to keep this accident secret from the public?

 

 

**************

Background:

Little is known about Edmund except that he had an illegitimate child and that he was 27 when he died, but the cause of death isn’t known (plague has been suspected).  He worked at the Fortune theatre which was in Shoreditch, not far from the Globe which was, at the time, run by Edward Alleyn. The rest of the story is my invention and not intended to represent any form of reality.

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