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I See Elsie

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Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 9:19AM   |  Add a comment

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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