Arthur C. Clarke
First published in King’s College Review, 1947
Collected in Reach for Tomorrow (1956) as “The Curse”

Clarke wrote this story while stationed near Stratford-upon-Avon, training RAF radio mechanics after the war. Shakespeare himself does not appear, though the warning on his gravestone and mankind’s destruction are strangely connected in this short, grim story of the end of the world.

Shakespeare’s End

Norreys Connell
In Shakespeare’s End and other Irish Plays
London: Stephen Swift and Company Limited, 1912

Hiding behind the name Norreys Connell, the Irish playwright Conal O’Riordan uses Shakespeare as a mouthpiece for his political views about the role of art in society, touching upon Anglo-Irish relations and the duty of playwrights to speak truth to power. He draws upon the story, told by John Ward, (1629–1681) that Shakespeare died after a night of drinking with Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton. O’Riordan introduces two visitors to this party, an English sailor and a Jesuit priest. The sailor causes Shakespeare to doubt the harsh imperialism of his beloved England, while the priest inspires an epiphany as Shakespeare questions the value of his art, and then seems to expire as a Catholic. Shakespeare’s wife also makes an appearance, as does his daughter Judith, who presents the prologue and promises a play in “barbarous blank verse and jingling rhyme.” —VH

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King of Shadows

Susan Cooper
New York: Penguin, 1999

Twentieth-century Nathan Field, who also shares a name with an actor from the First Folio’s list of “Principall Actors,” travels through time to find himself a boy actor directed by the Bard himself. Elizabethan theater culture bubbles forth with all its chaotic disorder and flashes of brilliance. Shakespeare wins our hearts as a wise and caring father figure to the orphaned Nat. In return, Nat unwittingly protects Shakespeare from the bubonic plague. Nat sadly returns to his own times, enabling Shakespeare to live and to continue writing.

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Shakespeare and Nicholas Cooke

Stephanie Cowell
Nicholas Cooke: Actor, Soldier, Physician, Priest (1993) and The Players: A Novel of the Young Shakespeare (1997)
New York: Norton

In these works of historical fiction, Stephanie Cowell focuses on two extraordinary men: one real, one fictional, both tormented by the attempt to discover their true place in life. The real man is William Shakespeare: in The Players, Cowell covers Shakespeare’s life up to 1595, with the majority of the novel dedicated to his early years in London. Readers follow Shakespeare through events that form the foundation of his later success and fame: meeting John Heminges, taking his first roles on stage, writing history plays and sonnets. The fictional man is young Nicholas Cooke, star of the eponymous novel. After running away from his hometown, Nick finds his way to the London theater scene, where he acts with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men as Heminges’ apprentice. Continue reading

Shakespeare Converted into Bacon

Samuel Cox
Dublin: Sealy, Bryers, and Walker, 1899

Set in 1601, this “extravaganza in two acts” opens with William Shakespeare relating a dream to fellow playwrights Jonson, Chapman, Peele, Heywood, and Nash in which Shakespeare is told to give up poetry and plays and become a lawyer. Specifically, he is to switch places with Francis Bacon. When a fairy visits Bacon, he feels a desire to become Shakespeare. The two are ready to make the switch when Queen Elizabeth boxes Bacon’s ear and tells him to get back to the courts, then send Shakespeare “back to his playing.” Both Bacon and Shakespeare seem only to serve as foils for a bit of fun with the Shakespeare/Bacon debate.

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This House To Be Sold

J. Stirling Coyne
London: National Acting Drama Office, 1847?

Written in the 1840s, during the controversy over the sale of Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford, this play imagines the ghost of the playwright haunting the new owner, a nouveau riche fishmonger who, like the English public, no longer appreciates him and his works. This is an example of the use of Shakespeare as a mouthpiece for a cause, in this case, the preservation of historic buildings in Stratford-upon-Avon. —VH

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The Apotheosis of Shakespeare and Other Poems

Frank Fether Dally
With Illustrations by G. F. Sargent.
London: Published by J. Brown, Week Street. Whittaker and Co. Ave Maria Lane, 1848

In the mid-1800’s, P.T. Barnum proposed to purchase the neglected house where Shakespeare was born and move it to America, motivating the British government to buy it first, restore it and open it to the public. This poem, written for the occasion, praises Britain for coming to its senses. Lauding the home as “the very throne of thought,” Dally envisions the house inhabited by a panoply of Shakespeare’s characters, and visited by poets and other “children of Song.” These spirits’ paeans invoke Shakespeare’s spirit from the tomb and deify him as the source of poetic inspiration. -CP

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Marvel 1602: New World / Fantastick Four

Peter David, Greg Pak, Pascal Alixe, and Greg Tocchini
New York: Marvel, 2007

The Fantastick Four, who literally embody the four elements, use their superpowers to undermine Count Otto von Doom’s kidnapping of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare himself appears only infrequently as he is tossed around the airship that carries him toward a new world (not America). He is often seen reacting wide-eyed to a nice turn of phrase (quotes from his plays, actually) by another hostage, Mistress Doris Evans. Saved by the Fantastick Four, Doris and Will go off together. We later learn that she is ghostwriting Shakespeare’s plays because “the man’s damned near illiterate.”

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Kill Shakespeare

Anthony Del Col, Anthony and Conor McCreery
Volume 1: A Sea of Troubles (2010) and Volume 2: The Blast of War (2011)
San Diego, Calif: IDW Publishing

A twelve issue comic book series that has since been extended and expanded, Kill Shakespeare is more about Shakespeare’s characters than Shakespeare as a character. Hamlet, Iago, Falstaff, and many others are seeking Shakespeare’s Quill, which gives its owner the ability to create and alter reality. There is also a magic dagger that moves about like Macbeth’s vision. When they finally find Shakespeare himself, he is rather indifferent to all the sound and fury and, in the end, his characters’ great quest signifies not much at all to him. -VH

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Prologue to the Subscribers for Julius Caesar

Spoken by Mr. Betterton. Written by Mr. John Dennis
John Dennis
Muses Mercury, January 1707

In his prologue, the ghost of Shakespeare serves as a patriotic force, welcoming English audiences to a performance of Julius Caesar, which he suggests might provide the English with inspiration to prevail over hostile contemporary nations. John Dennis puts his political statement in the mouth of Shakespeare, who compares Caesar to Philip II of Spain. ―FCR

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