You and I decide to wander around Cambridge in 1609, the year that George Herbert entered Trinity College and came to the attention of King James.
Indy Beagle, upon hearing of our journey, decides to go with us.
We wander first into The Eagle and the Child, a pub in Cambridge that William Shakespeare was known to haunt. The locals call it The Bird and Baby. It stands opposite the oldest building in Cambridgeshire, the Saxon church tower of St Bene’t’s church which dates from around 1025. A tavern has stood here since 1353, famous for selling beer “for three gallons a penny”.
I ask the bartender if he knows a young man by the name of George Herbert. Without looking up, he shakes his head “no.”
Behind me, I hear Indy say, “Can we buy you a pint?”
Shakespeare is sitting alone at a table scattered with ink-stained papers.
“Sit,” says Shakespeare, as he pours wine from a jug into three wooden cups. The cups slosh a little as he slides them across the table. He looks down at the papers. “This new play I am writing is shit.”
Indy leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Cymbeline.”
“It began as a tragedy but a comedy now emerges. Coming hard on the heels of Julius Caesar, Hamlet and King Lear, the audience won’t know what to think.” He takes the pile of papers off the table and drops them onto the floor beside him. Holding high the empty jug, he shouts, “We’ll have no more of this rancid red! My friends insist on the good Italian!”
The Italian red was definitely better; so good in fact that Indy and I do not remember leaving the pub.
Do you remember what happened?
Each week, we feature a new end-of-the-story written by a member of the Rabbit Hole Tribe. Today, Michael G. Stanton tells us what happened next.
As the papers hit the floor and scattered slightly, Indy let out a small yelp as you, Roy, looked down at them in disbelief.
Eyes fixed on the discarded play, now laying near dead on the floor, the voluptuous waitress brings the new carafe of wine and puts it down with purpose.
“Mistress, I thank you. Sirrah, to a new start!” Shakespeare shouts. Pouring the skillfully aged vintage into the beautifully carved walnut cups, splashing over the well-used table, Shakespeare once again raises his voice and cup “Cousins, join me in laying to rest the most vile piece of literature I have every produced (chuckling)….Me thinks together with this wine we will create something deserving of celebrating! Drink.”
Indy, myself and the bard raised our cups in the first of many, many, many toasts to rejoice him again putting pen to paper in the hopes of giving birth to wondrous words worthy of worship the world over. The pub crowd cheered with us, “To something new!” and we drank again.
The “rancid red” was used as the dirt on the grave of the discarded manuscript, as Shakespeare slowly soaked his deceased work with wine poured from as high as his arm could stretch. Splashing the pages, and the floor, the corpse looked as if it had bled to death. “To something cunning and honest! ” he shouted. And we drank again.
“You’re a writer, do you have a pure bone in your body?” a patron asked from across the room. Laughter again erupted. More wine into the cups, arms again raised, “To writers writing,” howled Indy .
“To writers writing” the pub chanted and we drank again.
Conversation about Shakespeare’s 7 brothers and sisters turned then to his wife, 8 years his senior, and then to his twins and other child. The fact that he was apart from his wife for much of his writing years led to tales of romantic escapades and affairs with locals.
The wine flowed and the topics blurred. The night, though mind-foggy, remains as the most memorable in my lifetime. Now where are the aspirins?
These are the accounts as I remember them. The tales were tall and the wine flowed freely. Laughter and friends make the hours like seconds. God speed.