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John Fletcher

His colleague and collaborator

The following is an imagined account from the life of John Fletcher, who collaborated with William Shakespeare on many plays, including All is True (Henry VIII ) and The Two Noble Kinsmen. Their works inspired each other, and Fletcher went on to adapt several of Shakespeare's older works.


It came as a surprise to my family that I went into the theatre. My father was a bishop, a bold preacher, not afraid of rebuking even the Queen when he thought it right to do so. When I was only eight years old he had to be with her cousin, Queen Mary of Scotland, on the scaffold begging her to convert to the Protestant faith... He was able to tell me all about her execution. But my Uncle Giles was a poet, and so are my cousins, and my own brother writes verses in Latin from time to time. And of course my plays are mostly in verse. It was getting to know Francis Beaumont that made me a man of the theatre. We were very good friends, kept house together, it was a terrible blow to me when he got married. But, oh, I was dazzled by Master William. He took it in very good part when I wrote a sequel, The Tamer Tamed, to his early play The Taming of the Shrew. And when his inspiration was flagging a bit he asked me to work closely alongside him writing for the King’s Men.

I think he admired my energy and how I would tell him exactly what I thought of his own contributions to the play we were working on. My interest in Spain and my knowledge of Spanish literature came in handy when we decided to base a play on the Cardenio episodes of Don Quixote. It’s a good piece of work, which I still hope may get into print. And when we wrote The Two Noble Kinsmen, based partly on Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale (like my favourite of all his plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) we sat up all night together working out details of the plot and composing the dialogue. Then there was All is True, in which good Queen Elizabeth actually comes on stage as a baby to be baptised in the final scene. The words I wrote for Cranmer to speak brought back memories of how my father would talk. But that was an unlucky play for us all. If only we hadn’t decided to use cannon fire for a special effect! You know, Will never recovered from the burning of the Globe.

Cast: Paul Prescott, University of Warwick

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