It hath come to my attention that you 21st-century humans are slowly emerging from the “COVID-19 pandemic.” I too survived a great pestilence during my brief hour upon life’s stage, so I understand the horrors of living, year after year, decade after decade, in the shadow of… wait, what? Only a year?

Still, I humbly beseech thee not to despair. It is distressing indeed to witness pus-filled buboes erupting from your loved ones’ groins in their flea-and-rat-infested dwellings while surgeons attach leeches to their necrotic skin. I too have mourned the many souls whose average life spans — 35 years — have been tragically cut short. And I too have suffered the indignity of wearing face coverings… huh? Yours are neither soaked in vinegar nor shaped like ridiculous bird beaks? ’Sblood. Why dost thou lament them so?

My playhouses were shuttered five times due to the pestilence, so I know how devastating shutdowns are to one’s livelihood. Embarrassingly, I have only 154 sonnets, two narrative poems, King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra to show for these fallow periods. Given the relative luxury of your dwellings and the wizardry of your “internet,” I’m sure there was a flourishing of ideas, art, and philosophy during your months of isolation. What? Sourdough starters and Tiger King? Take heed, dear reader: the time of life is short! To spend that shortness basely were too long… but I will forbear to judge…

During outbreaks, I longed to hear the sound of my family’s laughter, to see the face of my beloved, to connect in some small way with cherished friends. If only there had been some way to… what’s that? What is this “Zoom?” Really? How dost thou become fatigued by such God-like magic?

I share your outrage at monarchs who fail to act in their subjects’ best interests during crises. In the visitation of 1563, Queen Elizabeth retreated to Windsor Castle and erected a gallows to execute any plague-infested Londoner who dared approach her. For his coronation in 1603, King James incited supporters to swarm the capitol in the midst of an outbreak… huh? Your king did what? ’Zounds! The past really is prologue.

Like other parents, I too agonized over disruptions to my son Hamnet’s education — until the plague killed him at age eleven. By’r Lady, I’m sure that your children’s year of remote learning was also piteous.

I pray you pardon the barbarity of our 400-year-old pandemic practices. Alas, we allowed the disease to prey upon our oldest and most vulnerable. Often only the noblest received medicine, and doctors of physic were undervalued and infected. The kingdom’s poorest laborers worked in ghastly conditions and thus perished in greater numbers. Reckless subjects heeded their own selfish desires, and foreigners were unjustly blamed for the pestilence. How savage we must appear to you inhabitants of the 21st century!

Perchance someday, many ages hence, alchemists will discover a potion to deliver us from this suffering… come again? A “vaccine,” you say? God be praised! My heart is replete with thankfulness! Joy, gentle friends! By medicine, life may be prolonged!

Surely I understand thee not… some refuse to receive this wondrous cure?

Lord, what fools these mortals be!