Posts Tagged ‘William Shakespeare’

A Moment with Edward de Vere
By Perry Bradford-Wilson
Author of Tales of McKinleyville: Big Doin’s at the Chinese Baptist Church, Tales of Placerville: Booksellers to the Savage West, and co-author of Midnight in Never Land


Often when he rode through the town he could feel their eyes on him and the envy, the jealousy, and the overwhelming desire that they cast made him want to scream. These townspeople – some poor men held to the land they worked, some better men who were free to find the best work, some merchants who lived well in houses almost as large as his own – they all, to the man, looked upon him the same way when he passed. They saw the finery of his dress and they saw the value of his well-bred steed and expensive saddle and bridle. But before all else they saw his title, for nothing else in this land mattered so much as a title. He wasn’t and could never be just a man to them. He would forever be Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl Of Oxford, a member of the nobility whose station by birth made him superior to the common man.

And sometimes this made Edward weep.

For when he looked back at them he was never so similarly blinded by their caste. When Edward gazed upon the cobbler while riding by the shop each morning he saw in his mind’s eye the complete story of a man’s life, with its many chapters and its beginnings and endings. How many daughters did this cobbler have, learning the ladies’ arts at home from their mother? How many sons lived above the shop and which of them would follow in his footsteps, joining the cobblers’ guild and making fine boots and shoes? How many loves had come and gone in the old man’s life before he settled on the woman who was now his wife, and was she a loving partner or a shrew? What dreams did he still entertain, even though in his age every word of his life was surely written in stone?

But Edward could never ask the man these things. Conversation was rarely given freely between the common people and the nobility. The cobbler might answer the most basic questions a gentleman asked, but his innermost thoughts were separated from Edward forever by the disaster of the latter’s noble birth. Asking such questions of Edward’s own class would of course be redundant. No secrets were kept in the castle halls. Every secret was deliberately cried from the towers to feed the egos of the thick, preening, lifeless and wellborn.

There, the people at the market each about their own business; the gay men, the wit entertaining his young friends, the buyer debilitated by indecision as the greedy eyes of the merchant wait for him to make a choice. It was people such as this who populated the Earth, not the odd and self-absorbed vessels of the noble houses who believed themselves blessed with a spark of the divine and who breathed the rarefied air of peerage.

Aye, there was the rub. Edward’s family would have found his fascination with the lives of the vulgar ken shocking, and this made Edward keep these thoughts to himself, which only increased his feeling of detachment. “Caught between two worlds,” he sometimes thought of himself, “I all alone beweep my outcast state and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.”

Self-pity did not become him, however, and so he retreated to his books and diaries, places where the stories of men, albeit legendary, historical and mythical, lay ripe for consumption. Perhaps Hercules did not live the life of a simple cobbler, but at least he was human by half.

There was just one way he could communicate with them, be one with them, and show that he understood them. “The play,” he reminded himself. “The play’s the thing.”

© 2008 Perry Bradford-Wilson