Saga Of The Spook Duke
Outline of a fantasy historical play in 3 acts
Act One. Enter Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. He is cultured, well-travelled, well-spoken and imaginative. His Queen summons him to her secret service. Intrigue follows; espionage, secrets, lies, exposures, reversals, betrayals, swordfights and the knife in the back. In the end Elizabeth the First deprives him of title, lands, name, identity… but not life. He becomes a genuine ‘spook’; not merely a spy, but truly a restless spirit, neither alive nor dead. And what made the Virgin Queen grant so grim a reward, and the Earl accept it? I propose illicit love. His clever tongue got him into trouble, and then halfway out.
Act Two. The Spook Duke (yes, he’s an Earl, but Spook Duke rhymes) takes to dreaming, having nought else to while away the tedious days and year of his half-life. He dreams of the life he used to have; and what a tale he tells! But he cannot speak in forthright journalistic prose, for the ever-watchful Queen would punish indiscretion with true death. Instead he retreats to poetic drama. And even so, what use unpublished playwrighting? Enter Wm. Shakespeare, impresario, manager of the Globe Theater. He offers a deal; “I provide actors, sets, costumes, audience and my signature; you, O Spook Duke, provide the one thing I lack; Genius.” And why does the forlorn Spook Duke accept the humble role of ghostwriter? What but illicit love? The genius is bisexual and grateful, the impresario opportunistic; such liasons are not unknown in the theater world.
Act Three. Time passes, as does life. Eventually the Bard dies, both his body (Wm. Shakespeare) and his soul (the Spook Duke). The Bard is laid to rest, a tombstone erected at the gravesite; and on the headstone are the words, “curs’d be he who moves these bones.” Does the grave have something to hide? Could it be that the coffin holds not one skeleton, but two? But who would dare defy the Bard’s curse, just to check a literary theory?
The curse is on “he who moves these bones.” I propose this ending, fit for a Queen; the gravediggers and forensic scientists who unearth the coffin are women!