Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Claire Mokrauer-Madden: Well, you're certainly a jet setter these days!
Bill Sheasgreen: I should say the same for you, Sarah and Heather!
CMM: Yes, Sarah's off at orientation in sunny Ithaca, which I hear really is sunny, and Heather has been on a rather more secret mission.
BS: Right, no need to divulge the details of that!
CMM: And this weekend we're headed for another trip. This time to Stratford upon Avon. Over the years I'm sure you've made plenty of trips to Stratford.
BS: I think it would be more appropriate to say I have made a lot of trips from Stratford.
CMM: Why do you say that?
BS: Didn't you know I'm one of Stratford's local boys?
CMM: I thought you were Canadian? Or are you from Bath? I can't remember...
BS: I can't believe you couldn't tell from my name. I'm Bill Sheasgreen. I've changed the spelling of my name over the years, but since I didn't really establish any standard version until much later, my contemporaries took off running with one of the variant spellings.
CMM: So how did you used to spell Sheasgreen?
BS: The pronunciation has changed over time, but when I was young I favored Shakspear.
CMM: Are you saying you're William Shakespeare?!?!
BS: Please. I prefer Bill. You know that.
CMM: I'm actually not sure at all who you are anymore!
BS: Is there anyway I can prove I am who I am?
CMM: Can you sit down and write a sonnet right now?
BS: Don't be silly. I never have time to do that anymore. I have too many essays to mark.
CMM: Would you act out one of your famous scenes for me?
BS: I did my farewell tour in the mid 1970's as the Drunk Porter in MacBeth. My performing days are over.
CMM: How do you plan on proving that you're William Shakespeare?
BS: I can explain the thing about my second best bed.
CMM: The one you left your wife when you died? How are you here if you died and she inherited your second best bed?
BS: I faked my death.
CMM: I heard a tale that you and Ben Johnson drank too much and you didn't recover.
BS: I'm glad someone bought that story. What really happened was that Ben, who works for MI-5, came down to see me in my retirement in the country to ask me to help him on a mission. Ann was against it, but as she hadn't known much about my work in the security services while I was "working as an actor and playwright in London", faking my death seemed like an easy way around her. I explained everything and left it in the mattress of our second best bed. I'm sure she found my letter at some point after I was long gone from Stratford.
CMM: Let's backtrack for a moment. You referred to Ben Johnson in the present tense, but I've seen his grave at Westminster Abbey.
BS: Do you really think anyone as large as Ben could have been buried in a hole that small? He's not dead either.
CMM: To tell you the truth I haven't had the pleasure of meeting the man and seeing how big he is.
BS: The size of that tomb is a bit of an inside joke.
CMM: Clearly. So what kind of work was he enlisting you to do?
BS: That's still classified. I doubt that file will ever be declassified, but I can say that Guy Fawkes was such an unwitting patsy. It was years of work, and frankly too much to explain in one sitting.
CMM: Did you set him up in the Gunpowder Plot?
BS: Oh no! That was his own doing. I'm not at liberty to say what my professional relationship with him was.
CMM: Ok, I'm willing to let that lie. So are you looking forward to going back to Stratford?
BS: I used to dread it for fear of running into friends of Ann's, but none of them are left there now, so I'm happy enough to sneak a peak at my old digs these days.
CMM: Hang on! You're so reticent to mention what Heather has been doing! Is she working with you at MI-5?
BS: I'm sorry, did you say something? I couldn't hear anything. My, what a sunny day it is! I think I'll go for a walk now. See you later!.....
CMM: ....ummmm. Ok... thanks for his interview....
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