I actually kind of liked this episode, which starts with Shakespeare’s wife and kids showing up for a surprise visit in London. This of course throws a real monkey wrench in his plans to swive Burbage’s daughter. But he makes it work, taking them for a tour of town that includes meeting all daddy’s friends from work.
I like this bit. It’s exactly like you’d expect. The kids are young and excited and wild and in the middle of things one of them says they have to pee. Poor Anne Hathaway spends most of her time chasing them around, trying to get them to behave, not losing them in the crowd, all while still trying to be a wife to her husband and not just mother to his kids.
Of course she also learns that her husband is cheating on her in about the first ten seconds, so most of the episode is them fighting over what to do. Of course he says he’ll break it off, but then what? Will the family stay in London with him, or return to Stratford? Will he give up writing and come back with them to be a glove maker?
I particularly like the kids. There’s a scene where Hamnet has written a story about dragons, and tells Shakespeare that it’s for him to use in his work. He reminds me greatly of my son. They’re kids. They’re oblivious to the problems of the grownups. When Shakespeare enters a room they all yell “Daddy!” and hurl themselves at him in their excitement. It’s exactly what kids do.
As a juxtaposition in this family episode, our head torture guy – Topcliffe, right? – also has a “take your kids to work day.” His does not end so well. He catches his daughter singing a “Mary, Mary” rhyme and explains to her exactly how horrible Mary is. But the teenage son actually gets to see daddy beat some guy half to death, until he (the son) has to yell for him to stop. Which of course humiliates dad, and son is off to boarding school.
I still hate the street urchin. I hate everything about the story. On the one side, the woman in charge of the prostitutes has seen him in the dress and tells the sister that she’s going to put him to work because there’s customers that like boys dressed as girls. Great, so we start with the threat of pedophiles. But then he’s caught by the theatre folk for stealing a dress, and immediately declares, “Shakespeare give it to me!” making it clear that he’ll blackmail Shakespeare for the whole secret Catholic thing. So now we have to pretend that he’s Shakespeare’s distant cousin, and they give him a job at the theatre -a job he promptly quits because he can’t read. So we’re left with him cutting himself again. I so don’t care about any of that, it’s all just awkward and uncomfortable and has nothing to do with Shakespeare.
Marlowe’s got this weird obsession with death going on, that ends with him hiring people to bury him alive so he can experience death. Huh? I so don’t get what’s going on with him. There’s an appearance by a character that’s obviously very close to him, but I have no idea who it is.
Is there any actual Shakespeare in this episode? Yes – sonnet 116 is recited throughout, which is an interesting choice if we were otherwise following a reasonably accurate timeline. But we’re to believe that the “two minds” are actually Shakespeare and Alice Burbage, who, whether they’re sleeping together are not, are going to keep the theatre alive.