The Remonstrance of Shakespeare

Supposed to have been spoken at the Theatre-Royale, while the French Comedians were acting by Subscription 1749
Mark Akenside
In The Poems of Mark Akenside, M.D.
London: Printed by W. Bowyer and J. Nichols: and sold by J. Dodsley, in Pall Mall, 1772

A critical and somewhat pompous ghost of Shakespeare offers a director’s critique of visiting French actors. He derides their manners and accents in a rambling patriotic speech, proclaiming them unable to “refine / The copious ore of Albion’s native mine.”

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Returne from Pernassus

or The scourge of simony : publiquely acted by the students in Saint Johns Colledge in Cambridge
Anonymous
London: Printed by G. Eld, for Iohn Wright, and are to bee sold at his shop at Christ church gate, 1606

One of three related satires performed at Cambridge around 1599/1600. The plays follow two students trying to find a job after college. Recent scholars have argued that one of the characters, Studioso, may be a parody of Shakespeare himself. Be that as it may, it is certainly true that another character, the poetry-loving patron Gullio, is a great admirer of “sweet Mr. Shakespeare,” asking for a picture to “worship” and put “under my pillow.” In this, the third satire, Shakespeare is mentioned again as a pacifier of Ben Jonson in the War of the Theatres. —VH

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Garrick in the Shades

or A Peep into Elysium, a Farce never offered to the managers of the Theatres-Royal
Anonymous
London: Printed for J. Southern in St James’s Street, 1779

The ghost of David Garrick is in Elysium discussing his career on earth with other poets and actors. Garrick wishes to know what the ghost of Shakespeare, “a poet whose works have made him immortal,” thinks of his (Garrick’s) career devoted to promoting the Bard’s plays. He is told that Shakespeare’s ghost has declared that Garrick had exploited him and his fame in order to satisfy his own monstrous avarice. Though extensively quoted, the ghost of Shakespeare does not actually appear in the farce. ―FCR

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The Visitation

or, an interview between the ghost of Shakespear and D-v-d G-rr–k, Esq.
Anonymous
London: printed for the author, and sold at C. Corbett’s State-Lottery-Office, opposite St. Dunstan’s Church, Fleet-Street, and by the pamphlet shops in London and Westminster, 1755

This brief poem indicates that the famous Shakespearean actor David Garrick had accrued some detractors by 1755. Indeed, he cuts a cowardly figure when the spirit of Shakespeare appears to him in this visitation (“the little hero” is “struck with Fear … mad like Lear”). The Bard chastises Garrick for his “haughty Spirit” and the introduction of dances, music, and other distractions into performances of his plays. Garrick forswears dance, pantomime, and airs, promising to perform Shakespeare’s plays as Shakespeare wrote them. —VH

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The Immortal Bard

Isaac Asimov
First published in Universe Science Fiction, 5 (May 1954). Republished in several collections and anthologies, including Earth Is Room Enough (1957) and The Best Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov (1986)

What would the Bard make of the Shakespeare industry that his work has engendered? Does the universality of thinking, exhibited in his plays, mean that Shakespeare could operate as successfully in any age? Would he understand what academics write about his work? These are the kind of questions that are raised in Asimov’s clever science fiction short story, which involves raising Shakespeare and other notables from the dead and time travel. Based on Asimov’s own experience of the academic response to his work, Asimov’s opinion is concentrated in the humorous punch line to the story. –VL

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The Rehearsal

Maurice Baring
In Diminutive Dramas
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1911

This play depicts a 1595 rehearsal of Macbeth, using a light comic touch to theorize about the art of playmaking and the role of collaborative input in theater work. Shakespeare himself is the much put-upon AUTHOR, asked to rewrite, cut, and give them something they can ham up. As the AUTHOR, the PRODUCER and the STAGE MANAGER farcically attempt to rehearse Act V of Macbeth, Mr Hughes, playing Lady Macbeth, falls over and argues about his lines; Burbage then enters as Macbeth and asks the AUTHOR for a soliloquy to make his character seem more sympathetic. While Burbage and Macduff practice the fight, Shakespeare writes the ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech, which Burbage then refuses to speak because “It’s a third too short. There’s not a single rhyme in it. It’s got nothing to do with the situation.” –SJJ

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Poet’s Corner

Max Beerbohm
London: William Heinemann, 1904

English caricaturist and master of parody Max Beerbohm portrays Shakespeare sneaking past Francis Bacon, who slips the manuscript of Hamlet to him behind his back. But Beerbohm did not condone this view, once writing that Shakespeare-deniers had “made themselves very ridiculous.”

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Master Skylark: A Story of Shakspere’s Time

John Bennett
New York: The Century Co., 1897

Nick Attwood, the son of a tanner and of Anne Hathaway’s cousin, runs away from his home in Stratford-on-Avon. Because of his beautiful singing voice, (hence the book’s title), he is kidnapped by the Admiral’s men. After Attwood’s master is imprisoned for stabbing a man, kindly Will Shakespeare helps his kinsman return to his family. Jonson, Heywood, Burbage and others make brief appearances. It was this classic American children’s book that inspired Susan Cooper to write The King of Shadows.—SJJ

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The Shakespeare Stealer series

Gary Blackwood
The Shakespeare Stealer (1998), Shakespeare’s Scribe (2000), and Shakespeare’s Spy (2003)
New York: E.P.Dutton

In these three historical novels written to hold the attention of 7-13 year olds (not to mention most grown-ups), Blackwood offers an engaging and historically grounded introduction to many of the major themes in Shakespeare studies. We see Elizabethan London through the eyes of Widge, an orphan who first meets Shakespeare while using shorthand to steal Hamlet. The plot brings to life such topics as playhouse rivalries, boy actors, religious tensions in Elizabethan England, the frozen Thames, plague outbreaks, traveling troupes, and Elizabethan politics and intrigue. Shakespeare himself is presented as both genius and sympathetic avuncular figure with a warm sense of humor. –VH

Read more about the series at goodreads.com