I have a keyword alert on Reddit for references to Shakespeare across all subreddits because you never know where he’s going to turn up. (I don’t want to tell you how many personal ads I see 🙁 ). This time /r/WritingPrompts is the winner:
It is the year 1636. A young William Shakespeare finds a secret compartment in his house. He opens it up, and finds a massive collection of written plays and poems.
Anybody else troubled by something in that premise? It’s probably an honest mistake, or the person who came up with it doesn’t think it’s relevant, but let’s just play it through because it’s bugging me. And because I haven’t put up much new content recently.
Shakespeare died in 1616. So we’ve got a young William Shakespeare 20 years after he died.
The most logical interpretation here, albeit the most conservative, is that William is, in fact, one of Judith and Thomas Quiney’s boys. They had three children – Shakespeare Quiney, who died young, but Richard and Thomas both lived until 1639. So maybe we pretend that one of them finds Shakespeare’s documents and does something underhanded with them because their dad and their granddad had a falling out shortly before ol’ Will died. This story totally makes sense to me – one of the grandsons basically seeks vengeance on his famous family’s name by burying all the original evidence connecting William as the true author of the stories. Of course, the First Folio would have come out in 1623 and I don’t think the conspiracy theories about authorship had really had time to cook yet, but who knows. Maybe they just decided to hide them in case they were worth money some day, and then forgot where they hid them. I could make it work.
But let’s say that’s not true and we’re talking about a “real” Shakespeare who lived a literal lifetime after his actual self. That means that somebody else wrote the plays, thirty years previously? During the reign of Elizabeth and/or James, both of whom are no longer around? Will audiences still care? The Puritans are about to close the theatres in less than a decade, so if he’s going to get started putting on thirty eight plays he’s got to crank them out at a rate of more than four per year. Better hurry!
Maybe our question poser mistyped and meant 1536, which would be closer to Shakespeare’s actual lifespan. But now we’re in a world where there’s no Queen Elizabeth or James I at all, so do we still get the plays that are directly tied to their reigns? Where are Marlowe, Middleton and the others during all of this to help the mysterious author collaborate, are they also unstuck in time?
I’m so confused. I think I’ll mark that post and come back to it to see what kind of stories people come up with.
EDIT : I couldn’t help myself, I wrote to the original poster and asked if he did that on purpose. He “messed up 1616 as his birthdate.”