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The following is an imagined account from the life of Richard Field, William Shakespeare's Stratford schoolfriend, publisher, and printer.


Isaac Jaggard has just slipped me a copy of his latest book – Master William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies! How extraordinary to think that little Will, who used to swim with me in the Avon when he wasn’t swotting away at his Latin all those years ago, should be author of the first-ever collected book of plays by an English dramatist! And what a shame he didn’t live to see it! By the time he came to London I was already out of my apprenticeship as a printer, and had married Jacqueline, my master’s widow. I was glad when Will gave me the job of publishing his first poem Venus and Adonis and then of printing Lucrece – runaway successes they were, too, especially Venus. When word got round about how sexy it is all the chaps at the Inns of Court were queuing up for copies, and so were their girl friends. We stayed friendly, and I gave him the run of my shop so that he could look over my latest publications. He was a great reader, always looking for stories he could use for his plays.

We had a bit of an upset when the Lord Chamberlain’s Men took over the Blackfriars – I couldn’t get out of the signing of the petition against it, all the comings and goings and noise of coaches every afternoon – but we soon made it up – as it happens I was asked to print a book that included one of his poems, a strange piece about a phoenix and a turtle dove, a few years later. We used to meet up for a drink from time to time and he’d tell me the latest news about our old friends in Stratford – he went back more often than I could. And I was really touched when I went to see his play Cymbeline – a pretty weird piece that is, too – at the Blackfriars to hear the boy player calling himself Richard du Champ – my name in French – appropriate enough considering all my French connections! After that he started spending more time in Stratford and we lost touch till I heard he’d died and that his colleagues were putting together this great book that’s just come into my hands - what a tribute to my old school pal!

Cast: Nick Walton, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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