Stories Grandpa Falstaff tells the young William Shakespeare
“Wi-iiill… where are you, you young rascal? Get me a glass of wine and come and scratch my back… No, not there! I’ve told you thousands of times that that’s where I was wounded by the sword of that filthy soldier of Richard the Third… yes, when that frog king said ‘my kingdom for a horse,’ remember? What? You want me to tell you his story again? All of it? Are you crazy my boy? Don’t you feel sorry for your old grandpa? Oh, fine, will you bring me some sausage to throw into this huge empty stomach of mine? Ok then… A long, long time ago there was an ugly, lame, hunch-backed and bad, very bad, man who happened to be the brother of the king, but no-one wanted to spend time with him and one day he said: ‘So it’s like that is it? You’ll see what will happen to you when I become king’… Oh, but Will, this story has so many murders. Let me tell you instead about the Danish prince who saw the ghost of his father, the king, who told him that he was killed by his brother – just you wait and see what kind of a ratbag his brother was – and his wife, Prince Hamlet’s mother that is… Actually, maybe not. How about I tell you a story about a forest near Athens where I saw a midsummer night in my dream? You know that one inside out? Fine, how about I tell you about the magician Prospero and the beautiful Miranda who falls in love with Ferdinand, but his father had seized the kingdom years before? No? You’re scared of fairies? Come now Will, you’re not really telling me you’re scared of fairies. How can you be scared of fairies with a grandpa like me? Okay, I’ll tell you about my conquests when I was young, handsome and thin… eh, okay, not very young, or very handsome, and only a tiny bit thinner… There were, so they say, some married women in a town called Windsor… Actually, let’s leave that, I won’t be able to eat my sausages if I remember the beating I got then. I’ve got it, I’ll tell you about those two from Verona who were in love. You know, Romeo and the girl who loved him so much that… Will, I don’t imagine you’ll tell anyone about all these stories will you… do you promise?”
The young Will kept his promise. He didn’t tell anyone. But he did change them a little and turn them into plays for the theatre some 400 years ago. And he changed them so well that even today they are performed all over the world, and millions of people are moved by them every year.