Romeo and Juliet, true love?
Are Romeo and Juliet really the most romantic of all lovers? Or is their love more folly, infatuation and teenage angst?
The Shakespeare Code - Revisited
THE SHAKESPEARE CODE - REVISITED
Hi I am Ruth and I have written this short story dedicated to the delightful comic partnership of David Tennant and Catherine Tate - first posted on Live Journal in 2009. It took reality a little while to catch up with me!
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Shakespeare was younger than Donna had been expecting. Because, apparently, Queen Elizabeth I had some unfinished business with him, the Doctor materialised the TARDIS within the Bard's lodgings - which, in Donna's opinion, explained a lot about Macbeth.
By the time Shakespeare had stopped babbling about 'horrid visages' and 'azure cabinets', Donna had also reached the conclusion that he was every bit as sexy as Martha had claimed. In fact, she was rather put out when his first coherent question concerned the whereabouts of that Dark Lady.
'Married, Will,' replied the Doctor with a shrug. 'You know how it is.'
Shakespeare nodded knowingly. 'Maids were deceivers ever. One foot on sea and the other on shore, to one thing constant never.'
'Speak for yourself!' Donna snapped, indignantly. 'Sounds more like the blokes to me.' She was gratified by the playwright's startled expression, and the way he shrank momentarily from her. 'And don't you start trying to hey nonny nonny me,' she added. 'I know your type. Never a good word to say about women. If they aren't being false, they're being falsely accused of it. You'll never get away with that in four hundred years' time.'
' ‘Sblood, she's a very Katerina!' gasped Shakespeare, torn between fear and fascination.
The Doctor leaned casually against the TARDIS, folding his arms and nodding. 'Intolerable curs'd and shrewd,' he agreed.
'Oi!' Donna poked him in the ribs with her elbow.
'Interesting, though, isn't it?' the Doctor continued. 'Words do change, over time, you know, and shrewd was something of a compliment by the twentieth century.'
'Is't so?' Shakespeare's ears pricked up and he moved towards his desk. 'I must make a note on't.'
'So how's the writing going, Will?' The Doctor settled into one of the wooden chairs around the table and motioned to Donna to join them. Shakespeare called for a tray to be brought up and wisely specified that it should be left outside.
'Serving wenches,' he said. 'Gossips, all.'
'Quite right too,' the Doctor agreed. He reached into his pocket. 'Brought you a present, Will. Paper,' he added, as Shakespeare looked suspiciously at the WH Smith block in front of him. 'It gets a lot cheaper. Let yourself go. Blot as many lines as you like now.'
'Me! Blot a line?' Shakespeare said indignantly. 'Would that I had the time. And won't my scriveners think it strange?'
'Oh, you'll think of something. You always do....And, no, no, no, of course you don't blot lines. The very idea. Mind you, that's nothing to some of the things they'll say about you after you've gone. Deer poaching doesn't begin to cover it.' He coughed and changed the subject, a sharp glance from Donna reminding him of Time Lord protocol. 'I see you went with the idea of a family play. Did pretty well out of it, too. Neat twist on the revenge plot.'
'Yes, it's been quite a hit,' Shakespeare agreed. 'Awful lot of good stuff I had to leave out, though. I wouldn't mind doing a Folio copy sometime.'
Donna glanced at the Doctor, raising her eyebrows in enquiry.
'It's like a director's cut,' the Doctor whispered to her. 'You know, a DVD with all the extras.'
'Well, I hope it's not as long as The Return of the King," Donna hissed back. 'I thought my bum would go to sleep, watching that.'
'You do that, Will,' agreed the Doctor, turning back to the table. 'It'll always be popular, you know. Family dramas don't date. Get the right bloke to play Hamlet - someone like me, with a bit of charisma - and you'll be laughing. So what next? Another tragedy?'
Shakespeare grimaced. 'No, the Court would have a merry comedy for the Christmas revels. I thought to do an old tale of Hero falsely accused on the eve of her wedding - bit of cuckoldry always goes down well. Used to be able to write that sort of stuff standing on my head, but now...'
'Been done to death, that one,' the Doctor remarked through a mouthful of cheese. 'Come on, you can do better than that.'
'I'd love to see you play at Court,' Donna said, looking pointedly from one to the other of them.
The Doctor shook his head vigorously. 'More than my life's worth, Donna. I told you, last time we only got away by the skin of our teeth. Had to pull an arrow out of the TARDIS door.'
'I am sorry for it,' Shakespeare sighed. ''Twould be a merry jape to see you and this fair maid play Petruchio and Kate. If we could dress you up as a boy...'
'You have got to be kidding!' bellowed Donna. 'That play's a disgrace! He destroys that poor girl! Breaks her spirit! And then you had to go and rub it in. That final scene - she just comes to him like a puppy dog, goes on about how women should always let men boss them around and lets him stamp on her cap.'
'Come, come, ‘twas but a young man's play,' protested Shakespeare. 'Before you can break the rules, you need to know them. And if you mislike my poor Shrew, heavens forfend that you should see some of the shrew plays my mates were writing. It's but a froth, a jest, nothing more...'
'Not if you're a woman, it isn't!' Donna flashed back. 'You know what's wrong with your plays? You don't write any decent parts for women. You write them as tomboys who dress up as blokes the first chance they get, or you make them doormats like Ophelia! Talk about going with the flow...'
'Come on, Donna,' the Doctor interjected. 'What about Rosalind?'
'Dressed up as a bloke.'
'Crumpled soon as Hamlet had a go at her. Ended up dead. How about a woman who gets her husband to do the killing? Or even does it herself?'
'Tamora was pretty bloodthirsty,' Shakespeare pointed out. 'Tell me, fair maid, if thou lacks't not wit how would'st thou write this play, this comedy that troubles me so sorely?'
He likes strong women, Donna thought, gratified by his amused but sincere expression. I'll bet Anne wears the trousers back in Stratford.
'Well, for a strart you should ditch the creaky old adultery plot,' she replied. 'Look at some real lovers. Real relationships. More prose. A couple who love each other to bits but would die before they'd admit it.'
'There's little entertainment in that.'
'You'd be surprised. You know, like Pride and Prejudice.'
'Um, Donna...' the Doctor interrupted awkwardly. 'You're getting a bit ahead of yourself there.'
'Okay, so I'm not allowed to tell you about Jane Austen,' Donna backtracked. 'But what you want is a couple who seem to hate each other but don't, a couple who won't admit how they feel about each other, only everybody else can see it a mile away. And that includes the audience, of course.'
'Foh, 'tis naught but much ado about nothing!' protested Shakespeare. 'It wouldn't work. People want spectacle. Tension. Fights. Alarums. Excursions. I've been in this business long enough to know that.'
'Weleeeell, I think Donna's on to something, you know,' said the Doctor. 'You know why this comedy of yours isn't gelling? You're bored with the old formulaic stuff, that's why. Look at Hamlet. How much actually happens in Hamlet? It's about a bloke who can't make up his mind. But write it well enough, and people are riveted. Anyone can do the setpiece stuff, Will. Leave that kind of thing to Ben Jonson. You're ready to push yourself harder, and you know it.'
Shakespeare took a long draught of ale and stroked his beard thoughtfully. 'I'll think on't,' he agreed. 'It's good to see you again, Doctor. You and your...friend here.' Donna felt uncomfortable as the writer's eyes pierced into her and, apparently, stripped bare her soul. In that moment, she had no trouble at all seeing him as the creator of Othello and Hamlet. 'There's a kind of merry war between you two,' he concluded at last. 'Ah, if I could but capture it...'
'Go for it, Will!' the Doctor urged him. 'Believe me, you're only just getting into your stride. There's far more depth and complexity to human relationships....oh, but you know that! You wrote the Sonnets! Love's a merry war indeed, it's a game, it's an adventure....' He looked at Donna and his face broke into a smile, the kind of smile she'd never forget. 'But there's no real love without friendship, Will. And journeys end with lovers' meetings. If there's no play in that, you might as well give up.'
'And what of the fox-hued Donna?' Shakespeare probed. 'Is she but a friend, Doctor, or something more?'
'Oh, friend.' The Doctor and Donna nodded fiercely at each other, then turned and did the same for Shakespeare's benefit. 'Definitely friend,' they chorused.
'We are so not a couple,' Donna insisted.
'You never saw a couple that were so....'
'...not a couple,' Donna finished. And they nodded again.
Shakespeare looked unconvinced. 'Ah, methinks the lady - and you too, Doctor - doth protest too much.'
There was a moment of charged silence. The Doctor stuck his hands in his coat pockets and toed the rushes on the floor.
'Unfold yourself, sir and I'll go to my play with a will,' Shakespeare challenged him. 'Must I throw down the gauntlet to you, Doctor? The world must be peopled, you know.'
'Don't you even think about it! Don't go there, Spaceman!' ordered Donna.
The Doctor scratched behind his ear, and then he relaxed with a shrug, laughed and stretched his hand out towards her. 'There's no point in looking up a genius if you aren't going to listen to him,' he conceded.
'Come, Doctor - the day is already well spent and I have a rehearsal to get to,' urged Shakespeare. 'My players stay upon the hour. Leave me a pretty speech of love, and I'll be contented.'
Donna and the Doctor stood facing each other. Shakespeare, ever alert to the potential of a dramatic moment, took one of the Doctor's hands in his, and one of hers in his other. Slowly, he moved them together. They did not resist him.
'So, d'you love me, then?' Donna asked. 'Don't mess about, now, this is Shakespeare asking. He hasn't got all day, you know.'
The Doctor sighed, but not sadly. He raised her hand to his lips in a courtly kiss. 'I suppose I do,' he replied. 'Sorry, I really ought to do better than that, shouldn't I? Let's try again.' He cleared his throat. 'I love nothing in this world as much as you, Donna. Funny, isn't it?'
'Well said!' cried Shakespeare. 'Might need a little editing...it doesn't quite flow....I don't like the ‘funny'.... a strong word's better at the end of the line, something monosyllabic...oh, now that's given me an idea....'
He was fingering his 21st Century paper, his rehearsal forgotten and his eyes bright, as they slipped into the TARDIS and left Elizabethan London far behind them.