“Why not? Being a player is more respectable than selling grain or tanning leather.”
“Not by much. No hardworking commoner is ever respected, unless a generous nobleman desires to purchase his services.”
William was delighted to have his instincts confirmed.
“Lord Oxford respects his actors or he would never sponsor them,” he countered.
“He respects us playwrights more,” Greene said, between burps. “The actors would have no thoughts in their heads without us playwrights putting ‘em there.”
“I don’t believe it,” William chuckled. “Only wise and clever men can learn someone else’s words and bring them to life. Actors must step beyond themselves to portray their characters.”
“Tush, man,” Greene laughed. “Actors are fools. They travel around the countryside all summer long, jostled about in rickety wagons, shouting bombasts and clashing swords, dripping sweat into their heavy helmets and woolen cloaks. Would you call that clever? We playwrights are the clever ones, sitting comfortably around Lord Oxford’s table at the Savoy, eating and drinking his food, writing and revising our work. Without us, the playhouses would have no plays and the actors would have nothing to say. Take my word for it.”
William didn’t recall hearing any of the traveling players complain about the hardships of the road. They were simply glad to be paid for their hard work.
And as he well knew, playwrights, players and playhouses were England’s newest commercial enterprise. Lord Oxford’s role as their sponsor was precarious, in light of his political and family connections – and worse yet, if he indulged his whims with the lowly pursuits of writing and acting.
“Who are the playwrights around Lord Oxford’s table?” William asked.
“You’ve probably never heard of ‘em, as most people don’t know the names of our playwrights nowadays, nor do they bloody well care. But there’s me and Lord Oxford, John Lyly, Thomas Watson the poet, Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe. . . Have you ever written a play?”
“No,” William said, taken aback. “I’ve never given it any thought.”
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