So, Walter Mondale shows up in heaven the other day, and I’m all eager to talk to him because I’m kind of a political junkie — see Richard III — but before I can say anything, he’s like, “So?” And I’m like, “So, what?” And then he goes, “So, did you really write them?” And I’m like, “Write what?” And he goes, “Your plays.” And I’m like, “What is this, some kind of Grant’s Tomb trick question? Of course I wrote my plays. Who did you think wrote them? Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford?” I say that as a joke because Edward de Vere is a moron — I once asked him to borrow a codpiece, and he gave me an actual piece of cod. But then Mondale is all, “Yes, I actually heard Edward de Vere did write them.” Mondale then fills me in on this whole crazy theory that I didn’t write my own plays.
You guys weren’t going to tell me this? How has nobody ever mentioned this to me?
I look over, and Christopher Marlowe is giving Mondale that “stop talking” throat slash gesture thingy, but it’s too late. Apparently, whenever anyone shows up in heaven, someone pulls them aside and is like, “Don’t mention the Shakespeare authorship thing to you-know-you.” But no one caught Mondale slipping in ’cause they all thought he was already dead. Fair enough. I thought he was dead too.
So the theory goes something like this: my plays display a worldliness and sophistication more becoming a noble than a simple actor with limited education. Gee, thanks? I mean, is this an insult or a compliment? I’m can’t even tell. And then Mondale’s like, because of that, people think Sir Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth herself, or — and this hurts — Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, are more likely candidates.
So first of all, fuck that. Do you think it takes a long time to watch Hamlet? Try writing it. In verse. Also, when has this insane theory ever been applied anywhere else? “Gee, Hamilton was great. I bet Prince Charles really wrote that, not Lin-Manuel Miranda.” Or, “Fleabag was fun. I bet Sir Ringo Starr was behind that.” I mean, my name was on the marquee! Macbeth by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE!
His only rebuttal is, “I couldn’t get tickets to Hamilton. And live theater isn’t a thing anymore. Long story.” Mondale now tries to back out of the conversation, but I won’t let him off the hook. Turns out he’s not even a big Shakespeare guy. I press him.
Mondale’s all, “Playwriting was an embarrassing profession in the 16th century. That’s why these nobles hid behind you…”
First of all, Fritz, you’re going to mansplain the 16th century to me? Because I was there, and I was pretty cool. And what exactly was the conversation Edward de Vere feared having with his parents again? “Mother, Father, I’m the greatest writer in the history of English literature.” And then Doug and Sheila de Vere would be like, “Where did we go wrong?!!!” Does that sound plausible? Oh, and even if this crazy theory were true — WHICH IT TOTALLY IS NOT — why would you out him like that? That just makes you an a-hole.
“But we don’t have any manuscripts or poems or letters in your handwriting!” Yeah, well, that’s a “you” problem. I wrote ‘em. Not my fault you can’t find‘em.
“But we don’t know that much about your life for someone so prominent!” Again, a “you” problem. I don’t know shit about Rameses II, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t pharaoh.
And then it gets really dumb. He starts saying how the only surviving writing samples in my own hand are signatures on legal documents, written in an illegible childlike scrawl. And I’m all, “Homer was illiterate! Are you Philistines seriously judging writers by handwriting now?’
And then Mondale is all, “You misspelled YOUR OWN NAME on the documents,” and I’m like, “It was a JOKE! Doesn’t anyone appreciate a good joke anymore?”
I won’t even bore you with the rest. It was basically, “Shakespeare’s plays are full of complex, educated women, but your wife seemed to be illiterate! You left no books in your will! Your son’s name was Hamnet!” And I’m like, “Anne Hathaway could read fine; she just preferred vampire romances to capital L literature.” And he’s like, “Fantine from the Les Mis movie?” And I’m like, “No, my wife’s name was Anne Hathaway. True story. And Hamnet is an awesome name. Why does everyone give me a hard time about that?” I could hear Anne and Hamnet snicker in the distance.
Mondale’s really eager to get away at this point, so he says wants to go say hi to his old pal Jimmy Carter. And I’m like, “Jimmy Carter’s still alive, you moron.” And he was like, “Really?”
Then I tell him I’m going to write a tragedy about his 1984 presidential campaign, and he says I should get my pal Edward de Vere to write a tragedy about naming a child Hamnet, and that kind of breaks the tension, and we start laughing.
I’m still mad about the authorship thing, though.