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A: Edward Bond Pf: 1973, Exeter Pb: 1974 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Garden and bedroom of Shakespeare's home; inn and countryside nearby, Warwickshire, 1615–16 C: 7m, 5fThe 51-year-old Shakespeare, living with his invalid wife and his daughter Judith, is visited in his garden by William Combe, a wealthy landowner. Combe is planning to enclose common land in the parish and to introduce sheep-farming, even though this will drive several families to destitution. Fearing local opposition, he guarantees the return on Shakespeare's land, provided the famous poet does not oppose the enclosures. Combe deals harshly with a young itinerant beggar-woman, ordering her to be whipped. Six months later, although Shakespeare would like to offer her shelter, the young woman is caught and hanged for burning down local farms. Shakespeare can no longer make sense of this violent world: ‘You hear bears in the pit while my characters talk.’ Shakespeare meets Ben Jonson in an inn and admits that he has nothing more to write about, while Jonson proudly recalls that he has experienced actual suffering, especially in prison. Young Puritan men organize opposition to Combe's enclosures. Shakespeare returns home drunk in the snow. He takes to his bed, but refuses to see his wife, succeeding in keeping her away by passing on his will, which pledges her ‘her legal share. And the bed.’ His old servant is killed in the confrontation between Combe's men and those opposing the enclosures. Shakespeare takes poison and dies.

A: Edward Bond Pf: 1973, Exeter Pb: 1974 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Garden and bedroom of Shakespeare's home; inn and countryside nearby, Warwickshire, 1615–16 C: 7m, 5f

Like Shaw before him, Bond is in awe of Shakespeare but determined to undermine the adulation of an uncritical public and the parasitic behaviour of academic critics. Here Shakespeare is shown to be a burnt-out writer, unwilling to be involved with the political upheavals around him, exemplifying what Bond calls ‘the fascism of lazy men’. Although containing beautiful language, the play is devoid of onstage action, and is more contemplative than theatrical.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Edward Bond (b. 1934) English dramatist


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