Anonymous (2011) Script



MAN 1: Yeah, hold on a second. MAN 2: What were you saying?

Taxi! Taxi! MAN 1: All right, what are you saying?

WOMAN 1: l'm asking why you thought you didn't have to be on time.



WOMAN 2: Finally. God, come on.


[PANTlNG] Sorry.

Yeah. At last.

Good. Great.

Alex, cue three. Sound, cue four and tabs, go.

Soul of the age The applause, delight The wonder of our stage Our Shakespeare, rise!

Our Shakespeare.

For he is all of ours, is he not?

The most performed playwright of all time.

The author of 37 plays, a hundred and fifty-four sonnets, and several narrative poems that are collectively known as the ultimate expressions of humanity in the English language.


And yet...

And yet, not a single manuscript of any kind has ever been found written in Shakespeare's own hand. ln 400 years, not one document.

He was born the son of a glove maker, and at some unknown time, armed

[THUNDER CRASHlNG OVER SPEAKERS] but with a grammar-school education, he went to London, where, the story goes, he became an actor, and, eventually, a playwright.

He died at the age of 52.

And he was survived by his wife and two daughters, who, like Shakespeare's own father, were irrefutably illiterate.

His will famously left his second-best bed to his widow.

But it made no mention of a single book or manuscript.

Our Shakespeare is a cipher. A ghost.

So let me offer you a different story.

A darker story, of quills and swords.

Of power and betrayal.

Of a stage conquered and a throne lost.


MAN: After him!

GUARD 1: There he is!

POLE: Get him!

GUARD 2: Over there!

GUARD 3: Hurry!


Break it down! GUARD 2: Go, lads!

POLE: Put your back into it!


POLE: Search the place!


Jonson! GUARD 4: That way!

POLE: l know you're in here!

Jonson, show yourself!

GUARD 5: Come out!

POLE: Out with you, Jonson! l'll smoke you out like a rat!

Torch it! GUARD 6: Give it up!

Torch it!

GUARD 7: Burn everything!

POLE: Do you smell that, Jonson?

That's the smell of your theater going up in flames!



Arrest him!

GUARD 8: Shall we to the Tower?

POLE: Make way! This is none of your concern!



Chain him here, then leave us.

He was carrying nothing but a quill and some empty pages.

You are Benjamin Jonson, playwright.

Son of William Jonson, glassblower.

JONSON: Yeah. lNTERROGATOR: And have you ever been arrested before, Mr. Jonson? l'm a writer, aren't l? Of course l've bloody well been arrested.


Ask him about the plays.


Oh, which would you prefer, Sir Robert Cecil? A pastoral?

An historical? An historical pastoral? An hysterical historical pastoral?


We are not interested in your plays, Mr. Jonson.

We're interested in the plays given to you by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.

Um... l am sorry, sir. l am not sure l know whereof you speak.



Where are the plays?


What plays?



SOUTHAMPTON: Wonderful, isn't it?

Well, it's certainly big. l promise you, Edward, you've seen nothing like it!

Mm. There won't be puppets, will there?

USHER: Step aside, step aside! Make way for my Lords of Oxford and Southampton!


And here come the fool and the jester again, methinks.

The stagecraft is quite spectacular.

Far more elaborate than anything l've seen at court.

SPENCER [AS FASTlDlOUS]: Sheart, what a damn'd witty rogue's this!

How he confounds with his similes!

SHAKESPEARE [AS CARLO]: Better with similes than smiles.

And whither were you riding now, signior?


Whither should l ride but to the court?

[lN HlGH-PlTCHED VOlCE] Oh! Pardon me, sir.

SPENCER: Thou never saw'st my gray hobby yet.

SHAKESPEARE: Have you such a one?




Ha-ha-ha. WOMAN: Ale!

Marlowe, spot me a few pence, will you?

Henslowe owes me for Shoemaker's Holiday.

That's because no one saw Shoemaker's Holiday.


Kit, isn't that one of your unrequited loves in the box?

The Earl of Southampton? But with whom?

NASHE: By the beard, that's Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford.

Had his own acting troupe for private court performances. l wonder if he needs any material. Certainly not yours.

What, the noble, there? Ha-ha. Why, he's a gull! He's a fool! Aah!

[lN NORMAL VOlCE] The poor man's brain is lighter than his feather!

CROWD: Ha-ha-ha. Enough!



Jonson, wonderful dialogue. lt's absolutely wonderful. Shh.

Oh. Ow!

Sorry, sire. Will.

Will Shakespeare. That is not ale in that goblet, is it?



Drink during a performance? l am a professional, Mr. Henslowe.

POLE: Make way! SHAKESPEARE: Utter professional.


POLE: Stand aside!

WOMAN 1: You stand aside! WOMAN 2: Watch yourself!

This play has been declared seditious

[CROWD GASPS THEN BOOS] by Lord William Cecil!

Why don't you disperse William Cecil's arse?

Arrest that man!


This play is seditious and will not continue! Seditious? lt's a comedy! There's nothing seditious about it! ls that right? And you know this because...?

Because l wrote the bloody thing.

Arrest this man as well! What? No, wait--

Please! l'm a poet, for God's sake! l'm not a criminal!

Thus endeth the brief career of one Ben Jonson.

POLE: Disperse!

MAN: William Cecil, you're an arsehole!

Well, off to Essex House, then.

WOMAN 3: l'd like to see his arse dispersed!

POLE: Disperse!


Out. Henry, how many people were at that play? l'm not sure.

Two thousand? Maybe more.

How many performances are there of a play like that?

Five or six, l suppose.

New service. By the beard.

Ten thousand souls, all listening to the writings, the ideas of one man.

That's power, Essex.

And if there's one thing the Cecils understand, it's power.

New service!

And since when did words ever win a kingdom? l'll keep my sword, thank you very much.


Henry, some of my men have intercepted some of William Cecil's correspondence with King James of Scotland.

Cecil's all but promising him the throne.

To James? Elizabeth would never--

Elizabeth is old. lll.

And yet she refuses to name an heir.

SOUTHAMPTON: But a Scotsman? On the Tudor throne?

ESSEX: That is why we must do everything in our power to ensure the right man succeeds Elizabeth.

A man deserving of the Tudor crown.

[♪♪♪] l ask you for the support of you and your men, Henry, if it comes to a fight, for me to seize the throne.

You know you need not ask. l stand with you, as l always have.

OXFORD: Be careful, Henry.

Always concerned for me. What would you have me do?

Deny him. The son of the queen?

That is rumor alone, Henry.


All you have to do is look at Essex to see the queen's reflection.

Everyone thinks he's her son. My lords.

And l, for one, would rather bow to a Tudor, bastard though he may be, than a Scotsman.

My only desire is to see the next king be the rightful king.

But what Essex contemplates will lead to civil war. No. lf this is to be done, it must be done carefully.


MAN: Tie her off there.

WOMAN 1: l agree, my lord. My Lord of Southampton.

Sir Robert Cecil.

Have you seen Lord Essex?

He is in the viewing chamber with Her Majesty.

ROBERT: Alone?

SOUTHAMPTON: With your father in London dealing with troubles in lreland, who else should the queen turn to but Essex?


By the grace of God, Her Majesty, Elizabeth, Queen of England Wales and lreland.


WOMAN 2: Your Majesty. WOMAN 3: Your Majesty.

MAN 1: Your Majesty. MAN 2: Your Majesty.

MAN 3: Your Majesty. MAN 4: Your Majesty.

MAN 5: Your Majesty. MAN 6: God bless Your Majesty.

MAN 7: God bless Your Majesty.

Ah. Your Majesty, my Lord of Southampton has a gift for you.

A gift?

Yes, Your Grace. Though not from me.





ELlZABETH: Are you the gift, my gracious little man?

No, no, my most majestic Majesty. l am a free man. My gift is a play.

A play?

Plays are the work of the devil, born from a cesspool of plague, whoredom, thievery, fornication and heresy.

Tell your master that Her Majesty-- Will gladly accept.

That is, of course, if Your Majesty so desires.

Comedy or tragedy?

DWARF: Comedy, Majesty. Comedy. By whom?

By Anonymous, Your Majesty.



l so admire his verse.

Lead us to this play.



BOTTOM: ♪ The woosel cock so black of hue ♪

♪ With orange-tawny bill ♪

♪ The throstle-- ♪

♪ The throstle with his note so true ♪

♪ The wren with little quill ♪


What angel wakes me from my flow'ry bed?

BOTTOM: ♪ The finch, the sparrow and the lark ♪

♪ The plain-song cuckoo gray ♪ lf we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended.

That you have but slumber'd here while these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream.

Gentles, do not reprehend. lf you pardon, we will mend.

So good night unto you all.

Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends.


Wonderful, wonderful.

Most wonderful.


[ELlZABETH CHUCKLES] lt was so funny. She really loved the donkey.

Edward, Edward, when can we do it again?

Ah. There he is.

Your father tells me you wrote this evening's play yourself. l did indeed, Your Majesty.

ELlZABETH: You sport with me.

Compose something.

Now? Yes, now.

On what subject, Your Grace?

On truth.

For truth, is truth, though never so old, and time cannot make that false which once was true.

My Lord of Oxford, it seems you have added a poet to your family's line of warriors. l am as accomplished with sword and musket as l am in verse.

Are you indeed? lt is my only desire to be Your Majesty's most trusted servant in matters both of war and state, if you will but have me.

Why, Lord Cecil, we may very well have found your replacement.

We hope not too soon, Your Majesty.

And what thought you of our young lord's play, William?


ELlZABETH [WHlSPERlNG]: lf plays are indeed such a sin, l pray that l do not find my salvation until very late in life.


MAN: Jonson!

Benjamin Jonson!

You have been released.

Got powerful friends now, don't you?


MAN: Ship oars!

Ahem. My lord.

The Tudor rose.

The most beautiful of flowers, do you not think? l assume l owe my freedom to you. That is true.

And it was hard to come by.

One does not cross my father-in-law lightly.

Lord William Cecil. l have the questionable distinction to be married to his only daughter.

lt was helpful when l wrote to your jailers to release you in my father-in-law's name.

My release was not officially sanctioned?

Don't be an idiot. Of course it wasn't. But you are free, are you not?

l enjoyed your little comedy, Jonson. You have great potential.

Thank you, my lord.

But its politics did have quite an effect on the Tower.

My father-in-law's men felt it quite seditious.

Politics. My play has nothing to do with politics. lt's just a simple comedy.

That showed your betters as fools who would barely get food from plate to mouth without the cleverness of their servants.

All art is political, Jonson. Otherwise, it would just be decoration.

And all artists have something to say. Otherwise, they'd make shoes.

And you are not a cobbler, are you, Jonson?


A play, my lord.

One you shall stage Bankside.

JONSON: Stage?

Under your name.

My name, my lord? l can't very well use my name, can l? l'm the 17th Earl of Oxford.

The Lord Great Chamberlain of England, Viscount Bolebec, Lord of Escales, Sanford and Badlesmere, etc. No. l have a reputation to protect. ln my world, one does not write plays, Jonson.

People like you do.

Yes, my lord.

My lord, you wrote an entire play. l know how difficult that is.

Not a play, Jonson. l've written many.

No doubt many more than you yourself.

A good number performed years ago, others never seen by a living soul.

And you want me to put my name to this play?

No, l mean you to put your name to all of them.

All of them? Don't look at me like l just gutted your pet dog. l mean to make you the most popular, and therefore most monetarily successful playwright in London. l wish you Godspeed and good morrow.

My lord, l really--

This is for your trouble, Signor Jonson.

And for your silence. lf you break that silence, mm, not so good for Signor Jonson.

WlLLlAM: Tell me about this play. lt was an anonymous gift.

Essex insisted it be performed just to spite me in front of court.

Of course he did. What was it about?

Some nonsense about fairies and cherubs.

And dancing asses.

Edward, our poet earl, has returned to court.

Father, it was just a play.

Know how long it took to banish them from her presence?

She adores them! And Edward knows it!

Mark my words, he has done this to spite us.


Edward wishes to choose the next king.

Haven't you convinced the Privy Council to crown James of Scotland the next king?

Nobody has a better claim.

Except one of Elizabeth's bastards.

You mean Essex.

He despises us.

We shall lose all of our royal licenses, our property! l shall convince her to send Essex to lreland to quell the Catholic rebellion.

Southampton will follow.

And if God is watching, neither will return alive. And if he is not...


WlLLlAM: Robert!

Robert, come here!

l am sorry, my Lord of Oxford.

My son prefers the company of himself.

May l present to you my wife, Lady Cecil, and my daughter, Anne? l am sorry for your loss, my lord.

The realm lost a great man with your father's death.

We hope you will be happy in our house.

Are you going to live here forever?

No. Only until l reach my maturity.

Why? Because the queen has bade it so.

My lord, when we first met, you said you wished to become a great man of state.

The queen and l hope to make that so.

To that end, l have the honor of introducing you to your tutors.

From 7 to 8, you will be tutored in French by Mr. Crane.

CRANE: My Lord of Oxford.


Nine to 10 is Greek with Mr. Simmons.

[OXFORD SPEAKlNG lN GREEK] ls that Homer? No. Plato.


Then cosmography with Dr. Richards. RlCHARDS: My lord.

Two to 3 is geography and history.

And 4 to 5, fencing.

And, uh, composition? Poetry?

This is a Puritan home, my lord.

We believe such activities to be the worship of false idols, and therefore a sin before the eyes of God.

A sin?

Surely there must be room for beauty and art in life, my lord?

Not in this household.




You were losing anyway. l was also winning.

Unh. Really?


OXFORD: l think we can assume l've mastered the Punta Riversa.

Now l think we should move on to the Punta Sopramano.

Perchance with that, you will best me.

TUTOR: Yes, my lord.






Apple for you, sir? There we are.

Was it any good? How should l know?

You haven't read it? l promised l'd finish Eastward Ho.

He's a nobleman, you say? Well, is he powerful, rich?

Ooh. Then you have to do it then, don't you?

JONSON: Will, l came to London to be a great and soaring poet.

To be the conscience of our times. The soul of the age.

To ch-change the world, not--

Ch-change the world? What, with rhyme?

Yes. Why not? Why can't a man change the world with words?

"l'll make you the richest and most popular playwright in London."

Bollocks. l can do that myself, thank you very much.

JONSON: He's an amateur.

A complete and utter amateur.

Last week, gardening. This week, writing. Next, hawking.

No. No, l won't do it. lt would be an affront against the Muses.


How much money did you say he gave you?

You think my name can be bought?

No, no, no, not at all. No. l think we should keep your good name quite intact.

WlLLlAM: King Philip of Spain sees the current Catholic revolt in lreland as a weakness of ours.

A weakness to be exploited.

ELlZABETH: lreland?

There are reports of his sending financial aid, even troops.

We must act quickly. We must replace the Lord Lieutenant of lreland, and send additional troops-- Replace?

With whom? l would recommend his lordship, the Earl of Essex.

No, that's impossible. He cannot be spared.

We value his counsel greatly.

WlLLlAM: Essex's martial abilities are, in my opinion, the only antidote to the plague of Spain.

Essex could not, unfortunately, remain in the Privy Council while he is in lreland.

And who would you advise to replace him?

Sir Robert Cecil.

ELlZABETH: Your son?


Though he is my own advisor first, Your Majesty, my son second.

Yes. Yes, yes.

Ah. Very well. Send Essex to lreland.

And we will place Robert on our Privy Council.

l saw a play this last weekend, William.

lt made me think of... many things long past. l'd like to see more of them.

Has Edward been happy, William... with your daughter?

WlLLlAM: Murdered?!

By your own hand. He was stealing my poems.

He was doing my bidding! Yours?

Of course! As soon as Robert told me you were ignoring my express orders--

Robert? Robert told? Enough!

Thou shalt not worship false idols in my household.

Your everlasting soul hangs in the balance, not poems.

My poems are my soul.


You have placed me in a grave position, Edward. l cannot have my reputation soiled by this regrettable lack of control on your part.

We can claim self-defense.

He drew sword first.

But there is something l wish in return.

My daughter is young and impressionable.

She has feelings for you, Edward.

lt is to be expected, living in such close quarters.

Sir, for the last three years, you have seized much of my inheritance.

Hold your tongue, lest you make a claim you cannot retract. l was legally reimbursed for your education and living expenses.

You suggest you be reimbursed the rest of my estate through your daughter's bed.


This is how l suggest we keep your noble head from the executioner's block.

BlSHOP: --duly considering the causes for which matrimony was ordained.

One was the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord and faith of God.

Secondly, for the mutual society, health and comfort that the one ought to have of the other in prosperity, into the which holiest state these two persons here present come now to be joined.


NASHE: Henry the Fifth, by...

[MUSlClANS PLAYlNG] no one? Why would any of you admit to trying to better me in historical drama?

Comedy, yes. Tragedy, perhaps.

Ben, waiting to see how it's received before you lay claim?


O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention, a kingdom for a stage, princes to act, and monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

Then should the warlike Harry, like himself, assume the port of Mars, and at his heels should famine, sword, and fire crouch for employment.

The flat unraised spirits that have dared on this unworthy scaffold to bring forth so great an object:

Can this cockpit hold the vasty fields of France?

Or may we cram within this wooden O, the very casques that:



CONDELL [AS CHORUS]: Suppose within the girdle of these walls are now confined two mighty monarchies whose high, upreared and abutting fronts, the perilous narrow ocean parts asunder.

SOLDlER: Hyah! Make way!

CONDELL: Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts. lnto a thousand parts divide one man and make imaginary puissance. Think when we talk of horses--



--that you see them, printing their proud hoofs in the receiving earth.

For 'tis your thoughts, your thoughts that now must deck our kings.

SOLDlER: Make way!

SPENCER [AS HENRY V]: This story shall the good man teach his son.

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

For he today that sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother, be he ne'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition.


And gentlemen in England now a-bed, shall think themselves accursed they were not here!

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks, that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's Day!


My sovereign lord, bestow yourself with speed.

The French are bravely in their battles set and will with all expedience charge on us!

All things are ready, if our minds be so!

Perish the man whose mind is backward now!

You know your places.

God be with you all!




Francesco, do you see?!

Do you see?! Si, signor.


MAN: Kill the Frenchmen!

Death to the French!


Down with the French! Down with the French!

Your sword!

WOMAN: We'll follow you!





William Cecil convinced the queen that only Essex can save lreland from revolt. l've pledged to go with him. l, for one, wish to see this anonymous colleague of ours.


NASHE: Playwright!

CROWD [CHANTlNG]: Playwright! Playwright!

Playwright! Playwright! Playwright!

l ask for your blessing, Edward. l cannot give it. lf he is to be my king, it is my duty to be with him in battle.




Sorry to disturb your entertainment.


Thank you. And it's all written in verse. Thank you.

Got it, got it, got it.

[STAMMERlNG] lt's just-- lt's just been...

Phew. Only-- l-- l want to thank my actors, whose great, great acting has brought my words to life due to their most wonderful acting.

Um... And, uh, thank you!


OXFORD: An actor!

An actor, for God's sake!

My lord, l thought that-- You presume to think on my behalf?

My lord, your voice is completely different from mine.

Voice? You have no voice! That's why l chose you!

You, um...

You at least kept my name from him?

And will continue to do so?



A romantic tragedy. ln iambic pentameter.

All of it? ls that possible?

Of course it is.

My lord.

Will Shakespeare.




My lady.

Who was that man? l've seen him here before.


We must discuss our daughter's dowry.

Dowry? She cannot marry without a dowry becoming to the daughter of the Earl of Oxford. l can give her Brooke House and 100 pounds.

A hundred pounds, Father? Mother?

That is all we have to give at the moment.

Leave us, Bridget.

Edward, our family is in financial ruins, and you--

You... play the flute while Rome burns.

Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned.

My God.

You're... writing again.

After you promised.

Anne, you should have seen them, the mob.

They didn't sit there like the reptilia of court, faces motionless, fangs momentarily retracted.

No! They climbed the stage! They fought the French!

Stop it! Stop this at once!

Why must you write?

Why must you continue to humiliate my family?


The voices, Anne.


The voices, l can't stop them. They come to me.

When l sleep, when l wake, when l sup. When l walk down the hall.

The sweet longings of a maiden, the surging ambitions of a courtier, the designs of a murderer, the pleas of his victims.

Only when l put their words, their voices, to parchment are they cast loose, freed.

Only then is my mind quieted.

At peace.

l would go mad if l didn't write down the voices.

Are you possessed?

Maybe l am.

SHAKESPEARE: This is incredible, Ben.

The whole bloody thing in verse. lt's really not that difficult if you try.

Oh, and have you ever tried?

Ahh. But soft!

What light through yonder window breaks? lt is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

l'll have little trouble parting the legs of barmaids.

You cannot play Romeo.

What? Why not? l'm perfect for the role. l will not let that oaf Spencer have another go at one of my roles.

Only Will Shakespeare can pump the life into Romeo's veins.

And his codpiece. No, Ben.

Ben, l'm an actor. Every inch of me, right down to my very toes. l want to...

No, l crave to act.

So bloody well act like a writer.

And, for God's sake, keep off the stage.

Writers do not have time to act.



SPENCER [AS ROMEO]: What lady's that, which doth enrich the hand of yonder knight? l know not, sir.

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright. lt seems she hangs upon the cheek of night, like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear.


Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.

So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows, as yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.

The measure done, l'll watch her place of stand, and, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.


Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!

For l ne'er saw true beauty till this night.


My Lord of Oxford.

WOMAN 1: That's the Earl of Oxford. OXFORD: Majesty.

WOMAN 2: Yes, and doesn't he look handsome?

WOMAN 1: Most definitely.

We very much liked your play tonight.

Your young King Henry reminded us of you.

Did he?

ELlZABETH: Brash, yet brave.

A boy and yet a man.

Fair on the eyes.

Fairer to the ear.

We are glad of your return from the continent.

Two years is too long without such excellent amusements.

Had l known my absence would have caused Your Grace so much longing, l would have returned much, much sooner.

Your wife must be pleased to have you once more present at her side. lt is but a small comfort to me. l am returned only under my father-in-law's insistence.

Cecil told me your match was one of love.

So he would wish.

But how could one love the moon after having seen the sun?


ELlZABETH: Which country did you like the best on your travels, my lord? ltaly, Your Grace.

Hmm. ltaly. And why is that?

The weather? Or the food?

No, no. Their theater, which they call la commedia dell'arte.

And, of course, the women.

The women?

They were more, uh, clear...

with their desires. When they want something, they take it.

They do not wait to be taken.



ELlZABETH: l can't decide.

Are you Prince Hal?

Or Romeo?


You're Puck.

Puck? Yes, Puck.


Puck would never fight for you in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands?

Well, why not? lt's an open secret you support the rebels against Spain.

You are commissioning Englishmen to help fight their cause.

Spain's loss is England's gain. ls this why you bedded me? For a commission?

No, no, it's just-- Leave me.

How dare you? How dare you? l command you to leave my presence!

O mistress mine,

where are you roaming?

O, stay, and hear, your true love's coming.

That can kiss, both high, and low.

No further, pretty sweeting.

Journeys end in lovers' meeting, every wise man's son doth know.


What is love?

'Tis not hereafter.

Present mirth hath present laughter.

What's to come is still unsure: ln delay there lies no plenty.

Then come, kiss me, sweet and twenty.

Youth's a stuff will not endure.


You will stay in England, and in my chambers.

NASHE: l could do it if l wanted to.

MARLOWE: Do what?

A play in bic-- ln bia-- ln iambic pentameter. lt's not that hard.

Think so? Have you ever tried?

Of course not. But l could if l wanted.

Well, it wasn't all in verse.

Ah. You see? Even easier.

Henslowe wants Romeo to run for a fortnight. A fortnight! lnnkeeper! Drinks for everybody!

[CROWD CHEERS] lnnkeeper! Billy!

A fortnight?

The maids love the romantic tragedies.

Precisely why l avoid them.

Oh, well, worry not. A one-trick pony. He'll never do it again.


HEMlNGE [AS ANTONlO]: How have you made division of yourself?

An apple, cleft in twain is not more twin than these two creatures. Which is Sebastian?

Most wonderful!



DEClUS BRUTUS: Great Caesar--

CAESAR: Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?

CASCA: Speak, hands for me!



Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar.

ClNNA: Tyranny is dead!

Freedom, liberty, and enfranchisement!

WOMAN 1: Death to tyranny! WOMAN 2: Freedom!

Yes! Freedom! Freedom!


MAN: Liberty!


MAN 1: He was Scottish, wasn't he? MAN 2: Yeah.

Round about the cauldron go. ln the poison'd entrails throw.


Toad, that under cold stone, days and nights has thirty-one.

WlTCHES: Double, double, toil and trouble.

Fire burn!



Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.


Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice.

Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, but not express'd in fancy:

Rich, not gaudy.

For the apparel oft proclaims the man.

Come, come, and sit you down. You shall not budge!


SPENCER [AS HAMLET]: You go not till l set you up a glass where you may see the inmost part of you.

What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me?

Help, help, ho! What, ho! Help!

How now! A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!

Ah! CROWD: Oh!




O me, what hast thou done?

SPENCER: Nay, l know not. ls it the king?


Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!

Not a day too soon for Cecil!





To be, or not to be, that is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.


To die: to sleep, no more, and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

'Tis a consummation, devoutly to be wished.

To die, to sleep, to sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub.

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.

There's the respect that makes calamity of so long life.





MAN 1: Give it good heat. MAN 2: This hot enough?


You're certain of this? William Cecil was murdered.

Not literally, of course.

He was a character.

Fictional character.

But the metaphor was clear for anyone to see. And see, they did.

Will you shut it down?

Your service to his lordship is once again greatly appreciated.

He butchered you! Not only in front of court but the entire city as well!

We must arrest this Shakespeare and--

No, Robert. lf he really is as popular as you say, we would only anger the mob.

We cannot maintain authority if we are laughingstocks!

Our authority comes from Elizabeth and from God.

You must think more deeply, Robert.

You must compensate for your malformations.

You must compensate with the gifts God did give you.

With cunning. With ruthlessness.

[♪♪♪] lt's from King James of Scotland.

James is aware of the queen's affections for Essex and of the rumors of his birth, and he is justly concerned.

You will write to James.

You will tell him that l am gravely ill, but that all is in hand.


And then tell him, Essex will not return from lreland alive.

God does indeed require our help in this matter.

This is how kings are made, my son.

So it was with Elizabeth, so it shall ever be.

James will expect you to do the same for him and he will reward you for it.


But we must do one thing more.

Like Essex, Edward must be removed.

Edward? You must bribe someone.

His fencing master, perhaps.

Promise him a fortune if he kills him. l am with child.

Are you certain?

Two cycles have passed, my lord.

And l wish to marry him. Marry him?

Your Grace, he is already married. l can do what l want.

Can you?

Most of the Catholic princes of Europe seek to topple you and end your Protestant reign. All that stop them are the Channel and the hope they marry you and end your realm by other means. l love him!


Would you risk your throne for him? Hm?

Would you risk England for him?


We must do as we have done before. You must go on progress, somewhere isolated, accompanied by only those whom you most trust.

After the birth, l shall find a suitable house for the child to be reared in.

And Edward?

He must never know.


What have you done? l am praying.

She will not see me! l've gone to her, she will not receive me, and now she's gone!

She is on progress.


Where did she go?

What did you say to her?

She does not ask my advice on matters of the heart. lf she did, she would not have chosen you.

You must've known she would go elsewhere.

You're neither the first nor the last of her lovers!

Go back to my daughter, Edward.


She will accept you with open arms.

Behave as your great title demands you behave.

Tend to your estates, your investments.

And make me a grandson.

An heir.

lt's difficult to write, is it not?

After something like Hamlet? lt eats at you.

At your soul.

Why do you think Will hasn't been arrested?

He murders a caricature of old William Cecil himself, and still whores it all the way to Westminster and back.

Ahem. Perhaps they haven't noticed. l made sure they did.

You informed on one of your own? To the Tower?

Watch who you judge, Ben.

We do what we have to to survive and survive well in this life. All of us.

And Will is definitely not one of us.

You know he's illiterate, don't you?

Oh, he can read well enough. How else could he learn his lines?

But the man never actually learned to form his letters.

So who did write Hamlet?

A nobleman.

Yes, but which? You know, don't you, Ben?

Careful, Kit.

You sound like one of your plays.

MARLOWE: Ben! Tell me. We can go to him together.

Guarantee his anonymity.

For a price.

You reported on me as well, didn't you, Kit?

Last year. For Every Man.

That's why l was arrested. Wasn't it? l had nothing to do with that.

Ben. l'll just go to Will.

And he'll tell me because he has so much more to lose than you.


And you'll profit nothing from it.




ESSEX: Rebels have stripped the northern borders.

Then we must march south and take Cahir Castle.

My lord, it is a well-defended fortress.

Holy Mary, mother of God.

GENERAL: A thousand men, maybe more. We cannot attack such a force.

So, what would you have me do? Spend the entire spring encamped?

[ESSEX SCOFFS] l am sent to lreland to end this infernal rebellion, not to idle--




Must have been a cutpurse.

Nowhere is bloody safe anymore, l'll tell you that.

What's happened?

Dead body.


Now my tooth hurts.

The stench. He's done.


WOMAN: lt's that playwright. MAN: Kit Marlowe. lt's not right. No, it's not.




What's going on, Beaulieu?



OXFORD: Stop it!

Beaulieu! Aah!









Francesco. He tried to kill me.


MAN: The mighty Sampson!

What a beast! Have you seen his claws? l need more money.

You already make more than any playwright Bankside. l want to build my own theater. One that properly, um, fits the scale of my work.

A theater? For your work? l've found someone who will make me a coat of arms, and change the Stratford lists. lmpossible.

Eight shillings on six dogs! l'll take that bet. Eight shillings on the bear.

That's a terrible bet, Ben!

Make do with what you've got, Will. l won't be your beggar.

Oh, no. This isn't a request, Ben. l'll have more money.

Or what? You'll slit my throat, like you did Kit's? l know he went to you last night and was planning to expose you if you didn't agree to his terms. You're mad.

So terrifying!

Be careful, Will.

Kill me off, you won't have any good plays to act in after this is done. l'll have my guineas, Ben.

One way or another, l will have my guineas. Unleash the dogs!


Go on, bear!


WOMAN: Thank you. Drink up, Francesco. Another one where that came from.


JONSON: Francesco?

FRANCESCO: Two this time.

JONSON: When shall l return? FRANCESCO: ln a fortnight.

SHAKESPEARE: Over there.

Just pull in there.

FRANCESCO: Listen. SERVANT: Yes, master.

FRANCESCO: When you cut my roses, be gentle. SERVANT: Yes, master.


Yes, master.


My lord.

So you are the famous William Shakespeare whose labors l have so enjoyed.

l am at your service, sir. l need more money. l beg your pardon?

My lord, my expenses have enlarged.

Aggrandized. Since all this began.

Aggrandized? Yeah, aggrandized. And, um, if your lordship does not agree to an increase in my fee, then l shall be forced to make certain facts public.

Hey. Have you any idea to whom you are speaking? l am addressing the writer of Hamlet.


And of Juliet and her Romeo. Am l not?

Out. Get out.

SHAKESPEARE: As you wish.

My lord.


How much?

Four hundred pounds.

A year.


No, pay him.




[FRANCESCO SPEAKlNG lN lTALlAN] ls this wise?

They have already tried to kill you once.

Wisdom, Francesco, is a quality l have unfortunately never possessed.


Edward? You know l will have to leave court soon.

She will be furious if she finds out about this.

She abandoned me.

She still loves you.

No, she doesn't.

You don't know, do you?

The queen, she had your child.


SERVANT: My Lady of Oxford, welcome home.


WlLLlAM: I cannot be certain, Your Majesty, when the relationship began.

But sometime soon after your return to court.

You are sure?

They have not been very discreet.

There is more, Your Majesty.

The lady is pregnant.


Arrest them.

Arrest them both.

OXFORD: What is the meaning of this?

BESSlE: Edward! Unhand me! Bessie!

Edward! Bessie!

BESSlE: Edward!


WlLLlAM: Your whore gave birth last week.


The queen has decided to release you.

Time does indeed, it seems, heal all wounds.

Here are the conditions for your release.

One, you will not acknowledge the child.

Two, you will never see the mother again.

Three, you will avoid court at all costs.

Her Majesty would prefer never to be reminded of you, in any way ever again.


No, you have the freedom of the kingdom, just not of the court.

Those are her terms. Here are mine.

Go back to my daughter. Make some effort to make her happy.

Finally act according to your station in life and accept the responsibilities of your great title.

My lord? l, too, have a condition.

l will go back to your daughter, if you tell me the name of the child.

[LAUGHS] l do not think the whore has named the bastard.


The other one.


The other one?

Who told you? l will go back to your daughter. l will give you as many grandchildren as she can bear, or l can remain here.

There is no record of the true birth nor any trail that leads back to you or the queen. The foster parents never knew the truth and both now are dead.

The name.

Make even a hint of this to the child or anyone else, and this agreement is void, and l will see your head and the head of the boy on the block!

So it's a boy.



Good. Sword up. Again.


Keep it high. Mind your knee. Straight.

OXFORD: Hello.


TUTOR: My lord. l'm Edward, the Earl of Oxford.

My lord.

They say you're an earl as well. l am the Earl of Southampton.

Well, then. We shall be earls together, shall we not?


ARCHBlSHOP: ln the sweat of thy face, shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, for from it wast thou taken, because thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.

ELlZABETH: We wish to recall Essex.

We feel a terrible void without your father.

A wise decision, Your Majesty. lt will give him an opportunity to respond to these reports.

They say Essex is in peace negotiations with Philip of Spain.

Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

ROBERT: And that Essex has promised Philip, all of Catholic lreland in return. ln return for what?

Spain's support of Essex's claim to the throne of England.

[♪♪♪] lt is, as of yet, just rumor.

Bring Essex back to London, William.

Robert, Majesty.

My father's death has been a great loss for us all, Your Majesty.

WOMAN: A curse on you, Robert Cecil!

MAN 1: Leave the people alone! MAN 2: Down with the hunchback!

GENERAL: See that it's done.


My lord. From the queen. Mm.


lt's Robert Cecil. He failed to kill you, now he tries to kill your name. l must speak to her. Myself.

We leave with the tide.

Boys! My boys! l've got it. Oh.

The herald just finished it about an hour ago.

What do you think? lt's quite colorful?

Well, heh, what in God's name is it?

My coat of arms. Ha. lt cost a fortune, but you can call me a gentleman now! l can't quite make out the motto.




SHAKESPEARE: "Not Without..." Right.

Oh. Heh.

JONSON: "Not without right"?


You went to him, didn't you?

You lying knave. You went to him. Can l get you a drink? Billy!

Will isn't even a writer.

He can't even-- Yeah, all right.

No, get-- Unhand me!


A quill?

Write something for us.

Amaze us with your verse.

Your wit.

No? Well...

Try astounding us with the letter E.

Or an l? lt's just a straight line.


Well, you haven't got any ink.




My lords--

Wait for me! SERVANT: Please, my lords!


Your Majesty.

Are you--? Uh--

Get out. Get out.

Get out! Get out!

He burst in! Armed.

ls it an uprising? ls it a revolt?

Shall l order his arrest, Majesty? Yes, yes. No, no. l don't know. l don't know.

What does he want?

Has he gone mad?


Unfortunately for us, Your Majesty, he is quite sane.

He simply believes he is your royal equal.



SOUTHAMPTON: Edward! Halt!

Edward, thank God you're here.

Elizabeth has revoked all of his royal licenses.

Confiscated his property. She believes every lie Cecil tells about him.

Fight him in London and you prove true every rumor and every lie Cecil has ever told.

Then what do you suggest l do?!

Let myself be arrested? No.

No. l will visit Elizabeth myself.



Cecil will not let her see a letter without reading it first. l will not send a letter.

[♪♪♪] l will send a book.

She will call for me.

While l am with her, you will come not with an army or swords, but with her loyal subjects.

The tinkers, the cobblers, the bricklayers of London.

A mob. All of them, all of them, calling for Robert Cecil to be banished from the court.


Words will prevail with Elizabeth.

Not swords.

And how do you suggest l raise this mob?

Leave that to me.


WOMAN: Oh, Will, Will!



Hey! Aah!

Hold your tongue, putana, and get out.


Who's gonna pay me, then?

SHAKESPEARE: What's all this about?

Begin rehearsals immediately. lt must not be performed until l tell you, and you may only have a day's notice.

Well, that will be expensive, keeping all the actors ready, and having props made cheaply. All right.

Oh, and congratulations.

You've had a poem published today.

Uh-- Pub-- Published?

What, do you mean like in a book?


SHAKESPEARE: She trembles at his tale And on his neck Her yoking arms she throws:

She sinketh down Still hanging by his neck He on her belly falls She on her back.

Ooh. l like this.

'Fondling,' she saith, 'l'll be a park And thou shalt be my deer Feed where thou wilt...' Aww.

LADY-lN-WAlTlNG: Seeds spring from seeds And beauty breedeth beauty Thou wast begot To beget is thy duty.

By law of nature Thou art bound to breed--



ROBERT: Majesty.

How do you find me?


You are the sun, Majesty.


The glory-- Liar.

[LAUGHS] lt is hard to believe that once l was young. l was beautiful.

Your father knew me as such.

Have you read the book?

He writes to me.

To remind me of that beauty. That love.

How l took him. How l adored him.

Did your father tell you of the child?

Which one, Your Majesty?

Edward's and mine.

He still lives?

ls he well placed? A nobleman?

Yes, Your Majesty.

Who? l am your queen. Who is my son?

The Earl of Southampton, Your Majesty.

Majesty, you are not having doubts about James of Scotland--

Ah. James.

The son of Mary.

She tried to take my throne.

No son of hers will ever rule. l'll decide what is best for my people. Not you. l have bid Edward to come to me when l return to London on Monday next. lt is decided.


ELlZABETH: And so, in spite of death l shall survive In that my likeness Still is left alive.

CONDELL [AS GLOUCESTER]: --love's majesty to strut before a wanton ambling nymph. l, that am curtailed of this fair proportion, cheated of feature by dissembling nature, deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time into this breathing world, and that so lamely and unfashionable, that dogs bark at me--

Aw. Come on, Burbage.

l'll be arrested.

Arrested? Ha. lt's just the one performance. l need a drink. l'll be at the Mermaid. l'll be back in a minute.

You left the hump on.

Burbage. Ah.

Wonderful theater. Wonderful.

So only one performance, then? That bad, is it?

Hardly. That's Will's new play.

Richard the Third. We've been hired to perform it free to the public.

Free? Aye.

Some anonymous nobleman's paid for everything.

Been rehearsing all week.

Uh... So, uh...

My best so far.

[SlGHS] l'm sorry, Ben.

Will, he's part owner, and, uh... l'm sorry, Ben, but l had to agree.

No Jonson plays at the Globe.



Mm. BARMAlD: Drink.

SPENCER: Best villain in theater history, Richard lll.

HEMlNGE: Better than Mephistopheles?

SPENCER: No doubt. Jonson's not bad for everyday scalawags, but Shakespeare...

My God, the main knows his villains. Not even the Greeks compare.

To Shakespeare!

And villainy.

ALL: To Shakespeare and villainy!


PROSTlTUTE 1: Try your luck. PROSTlTUTE 2: Thanks.

Fancy a tumble? Only tuppence.

PROSTlTUTE 1: Wet in all the wrong places.

[PROSTlTUTES LAUGHlNG] l haven't got all night, Jonson. JONSON: l...

There is a...


There is a play to be performed on Monday.

All Bankside is talking of it.

The Tragedy of King Richard the Third by William Shakespeare.

He kills the king and half the royal family to get the throne. l know who Richard lll was.


But in William Shakespeare's version, he is played as a hunchback.

As a what?




Shall l close the theater?



MAN: Pray, stand back!

The theater is full! There is no more room!

The theater is full!


You can't get through the crowds. We've turned hundreds away.

Never seen anything like it.

And you said l was mad for building a bigger theater.



Has Francesco left? Yes, my lord.

CONDELL [AS GLOUCESTER]: Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York.

MAN 1 [WHlSPERlNG]: He's got a hunchback.

And all the clouds that loured upon our house in the deep bosom of the ocean.

MAN 2: lt's Cecil, isn't it?


CONDELL: Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths, our bruised arms hung up for monuments, our stern alarums changed to merry meetings, [CROWD BOOlNG] our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

Grim-visaged war hath smoothed his wrinkled front.


But l, that am not shaped for sportive tricks, nor made to court an amorous looking glass.

I, that am rudely stamped, and want love's majesty to strut before a wanton ambling nymph. l, that am curtailed of this fair proportion, cheated of feature by dissembling nature, deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time into this breathing world, scarce half made up, and that so lamely and unfashionable that dogs bark at me--


MAN: Hear this! Hear this!

By order of the Privy Council, the bridge must be cleared immediately!

Anyone resisting will be taken to the Tower!

Clear the bridge! Clear the bridge!

SOUTHAMPTON: Nothing rash. No man is to draw sword or fire musket without direct order. Yes, my lord.

And the mob? When does it arrive?

By the stroke of 4.

The streets are quiet.

SOUTHAMPTON: They are all at the theater.

Edward promised us a mob, and a mob we will have. l am determined to prove a villain--

A pox on you!

A pox on Cecil!

Why is Oxford's man with the groundlings?

Where? There.

CONDELL [AS GLOUCESTER]: --and hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Plots have l laid, inductions dangerous, [CROWD CLAMORlNG] by drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams, to set the--

To set my brother Clarence and the king...

What's going on?






♪ To see a fine lady Ride on a white horse ♪

♪ Rings on her fingers Bells on her toes ♪

♪ She shall have music Wherever she goes ♪♪

LADY-lN-WAlTlNG: Me lord?


Her Majesty will be with you shortly.

Young, valiant and wise and no doubt right--


MAN 1: Down with Cecil!

Richard! Get over here!

Off to Stratford, then.

To Essex House!

MAN 2: To Essex House! MAN 3: We want Essex!

Oh, my God.

CROWD: Essex! Essex! Francesco!

FRANCESCO: To Essex House! l have to warn him!


The Tower!



Francesco! The Tower knows!

How do you think it ends?

No doubt, tragically.


FRANCESCO: Join us! JONSON: Francesco!

MOB [CHANTlNG]: Essex! Essex! Essex!

MAN: For Essex! And England!

Francesco! l went to the Tower!


OFFlCER: To your positions!

Make ready!


OFFlCER: Open fire!



MAN: Go back! Aah!



Francesco! FRANCESCO: Signor Jonson!

We are betrayed! Unh!



Robert, wait.

No more waiting.

We go as we are now.

Mount your horses.

Mount your horses!

On your horses, everyone!

To the queen! Hyah!

SOLDlER: To the queen!




lt's a trap!

Spread out!



SOLDlER 1: Freedom!

SOLDlER 2: Fire at will!

Fireworks? Huh.


Majesty! We must away. Essex is in armed revolt.

He's come to overthrow you. But, Edward--

You must flee quickly, Majesty. He means to kill you and take the throne for himself.

Please, Majesty.

LADY-lN-WAlTlNG: Your Majesty.



Aah! Robert!

The men!

We must yield!

We yield!

Hold your fire!

SOLDlER 1: Hold your fire! SOLDlER 2: Hold your fire!

Deliver up your arms!

SOLDlER 3: Put down your arms.

SOLDlER 4: Keep still!

SOLDlER 5: Lay down your muskets.

ESSEX: We yield.

SOLDlER 6: Yield, sir!


She will not forgive him this, Edward.

Essex will be convicted, and executed for treason.


As will your son.


Didn't you think l knew?

My father told me all his secrets. All of them.

Though the most fascinating was not made known to me until after his death.

He hated you, Edward.

But still, he married his only daughter to you.

He wanted his grandson to be an earl.

No, Edward. He wanted his grandson to be a king.

Elizabeth had several bastard children, Edward.

Not just Essex and Southampton.

She was 16 for the first.

Bloody Mary was still queen and our future Gloriana was out of favor.

No one thought her very important at all, except my father, of course.

And when her first child was born... a male, my father took it and hid it.

The grandson of Henry Vlll.

The foundling, of course, had to be reared a nobleman.

John de Vere, the previous Earl of Oxford, agreed to accept the task.

You lie!

Do l?

Why did he work so hard to become your guardian after your father died?

He had it all planned. Years in advance.

He would teach you everything he knew about statecraft, marry you to his daughter, and after Elizabeth's death, proclaim you... heir.

His own grandchild to follow you on the throne.

But he could not possibly predict what kind of failure you would become!

How you would fail in politics! lgnore your estates to the point of bankruptcy.

All to write...


Nor could he have predicted that you would commit incest.


Delicious, isn't it?

Right out of a Greek... tragedy.


would never have-- What?

Slept with her son?

l don't think she ever knew, to tell you the truth.

Though you never know with the Tudors.

They all have had such strange tastes in bedfellows.


You could have been a king, Edward.

And your son after you.

Except for the fact... that you... were you.



Sentence has been passed.

They are to be beheaded.

Essex tomorrow. Southampton in a week.

Your son is going to be killed...

by his own mother.

Put that in one of your plays.


COURT OFFlClAL: Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, is hereby executed for treason by Her Gracious Majesty, Queen Elizabeth on the 25th day of February in the year of our Lord, 1601.

Strike true.

God save the queen!


Leave us.

All of you.

Sir Robert, you as well.


You look old. l thank Your Majesty for seeing me.

You cannot have him.

He is our son.

He is a traitor, like Essex.

They only wished for a voice equal to their birth.

You caused this. Your play, your words. l know what you've done.

Your head should be cut off, not his.

Then take it, in our son's stead.

Neither they nor l conspired against you.

Cecil alone was our aim.

The King of Spain, Mary, four French kings, eight popes, they all wanted me dead, but here l am, because of the Cecils, my commoners.

We would have protected you.

You? My loyal earls? Hm. l could only ever trust the Cecils because their wealth, their power, their survival, all depended on me.


Let... our son live.


Does he know?

And if l give him to you...?


He will never learn of it from me.

But, Edward?

None of your poems, or your plays will ever carry your name.



ls she still refusing to sleep? For three days now.

And her physicians?

They say she's dying.



Majesty? l have brought you a document to sign.


The Act of Succession.

l beseech you, sign.



ARCHBlSHOP: O God, bless this crown, and sanctify King James of Scotland, now and forevermore as King James the First of England, Scotland, Wales and lreland.

God save the king!

ALL: God save the king!


No, no, no, stop! lt's supposed to be a bloody comedy.

You lot are about as funny as the plague.


Will Shakespeare! Hello, Ben.

JONSON: A command performance for our new king.

Fraud! Charlatan!

A counterfeiter of wit!

You came to me, Ben.


You came to me.

JONSON: Will! You're nothing but a puppet!

MAN: Get out!

Stay out!

Master Jonson?

His lordship is asking for you.

Excuse me, my lady.


Thank you, doctor.


Come closer.

Did you know my family can trace its peerage back further than any other family in the kingdom?

We fought at Crecy, at Bosworth Field, at Agincourt.

When l inherited my earldom, l was one of the richest men ever to breathe English air.

And at last breath, l shall be one of the poorest.

Never a voice in government.

Never a sword raised in glorious battle.


Merely words shall be my sole legacy.

You alone watch my plays and know them as mine.

When l hear the applause, the cheering of the audience, the hands clapping, l know they are celebrating another man.

But in that cacophony of sounds, l strained to hear two hands only.


But hear them, l never did.

You have never told me...

Never... told me what you thought of my work.

l find your words the most wondrous heard on our stage.

On any stage.


You are the soul of the age.




Promise me, Jonson.

Promise you'll keep our secret safe, that you won't expose Shakespeare.

My lord-- l've seen it in your face.

He vexes you.

How could he not? But he is not your burden.

He is mine.

All my writings...

my plays, my sonnets...

keep them safe. Keep them from my family.

The Cecils.

Wait a few years and then publish them.

My lord, l... l am not worthy of this charge.

l betrayed you. l told them of your-- l have made it my life's work to know the character of men, Jonson.

l know you.

You may have betrayed me...

but you will never betray my words.


What are those?

These are my...

My lady, your husband was-- Get out.

You, your friends, your blasphemous theater have brought ruin and dishonor to this family.



My lady, you, your family, even l, even Queen Elizabeth herself, will be remembered solely because we had the honor to live whilst your husband put ink to paper.


OXFORD: "To the Earl of Southampton:

The love l dedicate to your lordship is without end, whereof this pamphlet, without a superfluous moiety.

What l have done is yours, what l have to do is yours.

Being part in all l have, devoted yours."


l can make all this go away, Jonson.

Or l can bring you so much pain.


l know you have them.

All his manuscripts.

My sister saw you leave Oxford Stone with them under your arm.

They were destroyed.



By your men.

Every word went up in flames when you torched the theater.

He's lying.

My lord, why would l lie?

He was something l could never be.

An undeniable perfection that plagued my soul.

And to him, l was nothing.

A messenger.

He tells the truth.

Let him go. lNTERROGATOR: Guard!

Release him.

ROBERT: And, Jonson? Better him, won't you?

Wipe his memory for all time. l'm afraid that is not possible, my lord.


MAN 1: Your Majesty.

WOMAN: Your Majesty. MAN 2: Your Majesty.



Marvelous, marvelous.

ls it not marvelous?



CONDELL [AS CHORUS]: O for a Muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold the swelling scene.

We had seen some of this Shakespeare's plays in Edinburgh, Sir Robert. l must tell you, we enjoyed them immensely and look forward to seeing many more, now that we're in London. l assume you're as avid a theater man as myself.

Of course, Your Majesty.

CONDELL: --that have dared on this unworthy scaffold to bring forth so great an object.

PROLOGUE: Robert Cecil remained the most powerful man in the court of King James, though he couldn't prevent the public theaters from becoming ever more popular.

William Shakespeare, however, spent the remainder of his days, not in the playhouses of London, but in the small town of his birth, Stratford-upon-Avon, as a businessman and grain merchant.

Ben Jonson succeeded in his desire to be the most celebrated playwright of his time, becoming England's first poet laureate.

And in 1623, he wrote the dedication to the collected works of the man we call William Shakespeare.

And so, though our story is finished, our poet's is not.

For his monument is ever-living, made not of stone, but of verse.

And it shall be remembered as long as words are made of breath and breath of life.