When I asked my cousin what he thought of Shakespeare, he said he preferred Harry Potter. I pointed out to him that there is wizardry and witches in Shakespeare. I decided to take him to one of the Bard’s plays. We went to see Romeo and Juliet, a romantic tragedy, and he liked it.
He confided in me that he once played Romeo in a school play. But, sadly, the teacher replaced him, saying he didn’t suit the part. So he harboured bad feelings about Shakespeare all these years.
He said he always wanted to be an actor, but people kept putting his acting down. And then Christmas time came, the time for magic, and a strange event happened.
It was a mild December evening, which conflicted with all the yuletide decorations, fake snow on the store windows and tinsel everywhere.
Even though it was unseasonably warm, my cousin felt a chill go up his spine. He shivered as he stood listening to the Sally Army band. A crowd had gathered to sing along with the band. My cousin shuffled his feet, he felt that chill again.
The band was playing the “Twelve Days of Christmas”, the by-standers were singing, and when they came to the Twelfth Day, a voice whispered behind my cousin.
“ Have we no wine, here?”
My cousin turned around to see a small man, bald on top but with a fringe of long straggly white hair and a grey short pointed beard. The man’s deep set, dark eyes seemed to penetrate my cousin’s very soul. He felt colder than ever.
“ No wine here, mate, off-license across the street.”
All of a sudden, George, one of my cousin’s workmates, nudged him.
“ Hey, are you going to act in the Work’s play before Christmas break? There’s an audition Monday night at the Actor’s Guild Hall.”
George was loaded down with brightly wrapped Christmas presents.
“ I’m not sure,” mumbled my cousin.
George hurried off down the street.
“ Why don’t you audition, acting is the window to the soul.”
The little man was still there!
“ Hey, who are you? What do you want?”
“ My name is Will Shakespeare! I want you to be the actor you always wanted to be.”
“ You’re pulling my leg, you don’t even look like Shakespeare. And anyway, he’s dead.”
“ No one really knows for certain what I look like. There were no photographs in my day. There were only likenesses from paintings. Three likenesses in particular, two of which were by artists working after my death and one rather good one, but maybe of someone else altogether!”
“ Come on, everyone knows what Shakespeare looks like. Everyone knows all about you, you wrote plays.”
“ Yes, I acted and wrote plays but people really don’t know much about me. I was born in Stratford, got married, produced a family, went to London to ply my trade, then returned to Stratford, made a will and died. That’s what people know.”
“ But you are a well known figure in history.”
“And also one of the least known figures in history,” whispered the man.
My cousin was dumb-struck!
“ To get back to my question. Why don’t you audition for the play?”
“ I was rebuked once, doing one of your plays and it soured me. But I’ve always wanted to act.”
“ Then you should act, and I will guarantee you will get a part in the Work’s play.”
“ How do you know, you Shakespeare impostor!”
My cousin turned around but Will Shakespeare was gone. As he walked home, he wondered if the man was a figment of his imagination. It started to snow.
Monday came and he decided he would audition after work. He turned a corner near his factory and there was Will.
“ I’m going to audition for the play. Will you come with me for encouragement?”
“ My boy, I’ll be there in spirit.”
And then Shakespeare slowly disappeared before my cousin’s eyes. Was it all a dream? Was the man a ghost? Maybe, but my cousin was determined to audition. He felt he had some new found confidence.
He got the part of Romeo in the Work’s play. It was magic!
Walking out of the Guild Hall, he noticed a picture, on the wall, among many pictures of past members. It was Will!
The caption read:
Will Shakespeare, Director, Actor, Writer and Member Recruitment Officer.
From 1960 to 1980. Died, April 23rd, 1980,on his 52nd birthday.
This Christmas was truly magical for my cousin.