もうひとりのシェイクスピア(2011年)

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1 BLACK SCREEN 1

TITLES BEGIN over the SOUNDS of city traffic.

FADE UP:

2 EXT. THEATER DISTRICT OF BROADWAY – DUSK 2

The sidewalks are filled with theater-goers heading for
their shows. Cabs line the streets.

SIDE ALLEY

A cab quickly turns into the alley, coming to a
screeching halt. A Man in a Grey Suit jumps out and
rushes to the side entrance of a theater.

In the background we see that the title of the play,
“Anonymous”, is written on the theatre’s marquee…

3 INT. BROADWAY THEATER – BACKSTAGE – DUSK 3

We follow the Man in the Grey Suit as he rushes through
narrow backstage hallways, passing several ACTORS
dressing in Elizabethan costumes, applying their make-
up, etc…

TITLES CONTINUE.

4 INT. BROADWAY THEATER – BACKSTAGE/EMPTY STAGE – DUSK 4

The curtains are still closed, and the sound of the
audience excitedly MURMURING behind them is heard. .

Stagehands are moving stage lights as–

A STAGE MANAGER

takes a nervous peek through the curtains to check the
audience– it’s a full house. He holds a prop umbrella
in one hand, anxiously checks his watch in the other.

He looks on both wings of the stage– and then relief
floods his face as he sees The Man in the Grey Suit
hurrying over to him. The Stage Manager wordlessly
hands him the umbrella and signals to a stagehand in
the background.

The curtains start to OPEN and the MURMUR of the
audience dies down.

1
pg. 2

5 INT. BROADWAY THEATER – THE STAGE – CONTINUOUS 5

The man with the umbrella stands on the empty stage, a
single light on him. He is “PROLOGUE”. (We will see
the same actor later as the “Prologue” of Henry V).

“Prologue” regards his audience for a beat before:

PROLOGUE
Soul of the Age!
The applause, delight, the wonder of
our stage!
Our Shakespeare, rise…
(beat, repeating)
Our Shakespeare… For he is all of
ours, is he not? The most performed
playwright of all time! The author of
37 plays, 154 sonnets, and several
epic poems that are collectively known
as the ultimate expressions of
humanity in the English language. And
yet… And yet…
(beat)
Not a single manuscript of any kind
has ever been found written in
Shakespeare’s own hand. In four
hundred years, not one document– be
it poem, play, diary or even a simple
letter.
(beat)
He was born the son of a glove-maker,
and at some unknown time, armed with
but an elementary school education, he
went to London where, the story goes,
he became an actor and eventually a
playwright.

OFF STAGE

A stagehand takes a wooden hammer and beats against a
flat metal pate, creating the SOUNDS of THUNDER.

Another stagehand starts to lift shutters in front of a
stage light back and forth to create LIGHTNING STRIKES.

ON STAGE

“Prologue” opens his umbrella.

PROLOGUE (CONT’D)
He died at the age of 56, and was
survived by his wife and two daughters
who were, like Shakespeare’s own
father, irrefutably illiterate.

2
pg. 3

OFF STAGE

In the rafters a stagehand opens valves. It starts to
RAIN.

PROLOGUE (O.C.) (CONT’D)
His will famously left his second best
bed to his widow. But it made no
mention of a single book or
manuscript.

The actor who will play “Ben JONSON” (mid 30’s) appears
in the wings, bearded, ready to go on stage, holding a
prop leather manuscript. Behind him a group of
Elizabethan “soldiers” strap on their swords.

ON STAGE

“Prologue” continues, as do TITLES.

PROLOGUE (CONT’D)
Is it possible Shakespeare owned no
books at his death because… he could
not read? That he wrote no letters
because he, like his father before him
and his children after him, could not
write?
(lets that sink in, then)
Our Shakespeare is a cypher, a ghost;
his biography made not by history…
but by conjecture. His story not
written with facts, but with…
imagination.

The rain has intensified. “Prologue” turns and the
camera starts to leave him and the TITLES END….

PROLOGUE (CONT’D)
(more energetic)
So! Let me offer you a different
story. A darker story… Of quills
and swords. Of power and betrayal.
Of a stage conquered, and a throne
lost!

A FLASH OF LIGHTNING, and for a moment only sheets of
RAIN are visible. No stage, no “Prologue”. Then,
trough the rain, we see a form of a man… Ben
Jonson… running. Then we make out the shapes of
houses… a street. We’re not on a stage anymore. We
are:

3
pg. 4

6 EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON – 1604 NIGHT 6

Jonson– carrying the manuscript– runs up the street
toward a large circular theater.

He frantically opens the wooden door to the theater–

7 INT. THE ROSE THEATER – NIGHT 7

–and he quickly bolts it behind him, turns, and
desperately looks for a place to hide. He runs towards
the stage as–

8 EXT. THE ROSE THEATER – CONTINUOUS 8

About a dozen uniformed guards reach the door. They
are led by Sir Richard POLE (40), Captain of the Guard.

POLE
Break it down!

And several of the guards charge the door with their
pikes, HITTING it hard.

POLE (CONT’D)
Again!

9 INT. THE ROSE THEATER – CONTINUOUS 9

Jonson hurries backstage, and disappears from our view
just as–

10 EXT/INT. THE ROSE THEATER – CONTINUOUS 10

–the guards SMASH the door open. Pole is the first
in.

POLE
Jonson! Jonson!! Show yourself!

The soldiers immediately spread out into different
parts of the theater. Jonson’s gone. Because–

JONSON

has moved under the stage silently scurrying like a rat
trying to find a place to hide among the stacks of
props and costumes (swords, masks, flags and banners,
shields, barrels, canons, etc.) But Jonson freezes
when he sees–

4
pg. 5

THROUGH THE CRACKS OF THE STAGE’S FLOORBOARDS

–the soldiers jump onto the stage and spread out, Pole
amongst them.

POLE (CONT’D)
Out with you! Jonson! We’ll smoke
you out like a rat if we have to!
(beat)
Jonson?! Jonson!!

Nothing. A beat, then–

POLE (CONT’D)
(to a soldier)
Torch it.

The soldier hesitates.

POLE (CONT’D)
Torch it! All of you!

The soldiers obey, lighting fire to the walls, the
galleries, the columns as–

JONSON

GASPS in horror. Desperate– he spies an open metal
box nearby filled with un-used fireworks.

He tosses the fireworks out of the box– and then
places the bound manuscripts in their place, then
closes the box. Then– he grabs a nearby rapier as–

FLAMES

–begin to take hold everywhere: the columns at the
front of the stage… the trompe-l’oeil walls… the
seating galleries… the columns…

A TRAP DOOR

opens center-stage, and Jonson JUMPS out, the rapier in
his right hand, ready for a fight. But– three
soldiers jump onto the stage, pikes ready.

Jonson– no fool- turns and runs for the other end of
the stage– but then runs smack into four other
soldiers!

Ballocks!

Jonson turns this way and that– nowhere to run– grins
wryly, drops his sword. Raises his hands in surrender.

5
pg. 6

11 EXT. THE ROSE THEATER – NIGHT 11

Jonson, his hands tied behind him, is pushed through
the door, Pole following.

A small crowd of actors, whores, etc., watch the
theater burn. The guards have to push their way
through them.

INSERT

The fire reaches the fireworks below the theater’s
stage, and–

BACK TO SCENE

— the SOUND of fireworks EXPLODING makes Jonson turn
and see:

THE THEATER

Timbers CRASH and fireworks EXPLODE over the theater.

12 EXT. THE THAMES RIVER – DAWN 12

A longboat carrying Jonson, Pole and the guards makes
its way towards the Tower Of London.

13 INT. TOWER OF LONDON – AN INTERROGATION ROOM – DAWN 13

Jonson is thrown into a chair, a guard on either side
of him. It’s dark– the only light coming from a few
torches in the walls, and a large fire pit at the far
side of the room.

An INTERROGATOR (30’s) faces him. Dressed all in
black, he is wispy thin.

INTERROGATOR
You are Benjamin Jonson, playwright?
Son of William Jonson, glass-blower,
son of James Jonson brick-layer?

Jonson nods.

INTERROGATOR (CONT’D)
And have you ever been arrested
before, Mr. Jonson?

JONSON
I’m a writer, aren’t I? Of course
I’ve bloody well been–

6
pg. 7

And a guard BACKHANDS Jonson on the face full force–
hard enough to send Jonson and the chair to the ground.
His nose starts to bleed.

As the Guards pull him up, the Interrogator looks
across the room– there is someone else there, a
FIGURE, watching, but cloaked in the darkness.

Jonson notices the figure as well. We hear a voice
from the darkness.

FIGURE
Ask him about the plays.

JONSON
(to the Interrogator)
Plays?
(to the Figure)
Which would you prefer, my lord? A
pastoral? An historical? An
historical-pastoral, or an hysterical
historical pastoral–

And SMACK! He’s hit by the guards again. He SPITS out
a tooth.

INTERROGATOR
We are not interested in your plays,
Jonson. We are interested in the
plays given to you by Edward de Vere,
Earl of Oxford.

Jonson stares at him a beat, and then looks into the
darkness.

JONSON
I’m sorry my lord, but I am not sure I
know whereof you speak. I have had
the honor of meeting his lordship–

And SMACK–

FLASH CUT TO:

FACES

laughing. Not in this room, somewhere else. Somewhere
outside. Before we really understand what we are
seeing we are:

BACK IN THE CELL

Jonson blinks, trying to stay conscious. His mouth is
ripped, bleeding. So is his nose.

7
pg. 8

The skin has broken on his forehead. The Interrogator
leans into the bloody Jonson.

INTERROGATOR
Where are the plays?

Before Jonson even has a chance to answer– SMACK!

CUT TO:

MORE FACES

Laughing. We are:

14 INT. THE ROSE THEATER – DAY 14

And it is nine years earlier. The faces come from an
audience watching a play. They find the performance
hysterical.

15 EXT. ROSE THEATER/BANKSIDE LONDON – CONTINUOUS 15

The Rose towers above the nearby buildings “Bankside”
(the part of London that houses the theaters,
whorehouses, etc.).

The Rose towers above the nearby buildings “Bankside”
(the part of London that houses the theaters,
whorehouses, etc.).

SOUTHAMPTON (O.S.)
Well?

TWO MEN

walk towards the theater. Edward de Vere (47), the
Earl of OXFORD, an intensely handsome man. His clothes
have seen better days.

His companion is Henry Wriothesley, Earl of SOUTHAMPTON
(22). Blonde, attractive, a bit of a pretty boy– and
extremely enthusiastic.

SOUTHAMPTON (CONT’D)
Wonderful, isn’t it?

OXFORD
(frowning slightly)
Well, it’s certainly… big.

8
pg. 9

SOUTHAMPTON
I promise you, Edward, you’ve seen
nothing like it before! Nothing!

OXFORD
Bricklayers and whores watching
Aristophones? You’re quite right,
Henry, not only have I never witnessed
it, I’m not sure I care to.

SOUTHAMPTON
(teasing)
You’re an elitist, you know that,
Edward?

Oxford pauses at the entrance.

OXFORD
There won’t be puppets, will there?

Southampton grins and gives a few coins to an USHER,
who escorts the two of them (the retainers stay
outside) inside.

USHER
My lords…

INT. THE ENTRY OF THE ROSE THEATER – CONTINUOUS

The usher takes them up a flight of stairs. Oxford
observes everything as they walk.

SOUTHAMPTON
The stage-craft is quite spectacular.
Far more elaborate than anything I’ve
seen at court. I’ve witnessed be-
headings that god as my witness look
as real as at the Tower, cannons fired
in battle…

They come to the second floor, where a SELLING-MAID has
a box of food and drink in front of her bosom– much
like a match-stick girl.

SELLING-MAID
Ale? Mutton, mi’ lord?

Southampton waves her off as they follow the usher up
another flight of stairs.

9
pg. 10

SOUTHAMPTON
…and last week, they had some sort
of a device to hoist cherubs into the
air and fly over the entire audience!

OXFORD
An apò mekhanes theós. Deus ex
machina. Machine of the Gods.

And as they ascend up more stairs, Oxford catches
glimpses of the stage and performance through the
rafters and over the heads of the attending audience.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
Whenever the Greeks wrote their heroes
into a situation from which they
couldn’t write their way out–

Oxford is becoming intrigued by the theater, almost
despite himself.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
–Out came the apò mekhanes theós…
As when Hippolytus is saved by
Artemis, or Medea flown to Athens…
Always good for an apò mekhanes theós
was Euripides

Oxford continues up, two steps behind Southampton.

They come to the third floor and enter the box seating
area reserved for nobles, giving Oxford his first real
look at the theater itself. Oxford looks around and
sees-

FROM OXFORD’S POV

Audience members LAUGHING– others DRINKING– maids
SELLING food– the actors ACTING…

It’s alive. Magical.

BACK TO OXFORD

Oxford takes it all in, almost stunned by it.

ON-STAGE

The actor William SHAKESPEARE (30) plays a commoner.
He is handsome, sexy, charismatic; and holds a tankard
of ale, and SWIGS from it constantly.

Another actor SPENCER (30) plays “FASTIDIOUS”; a
pompous, over-dressed, caricature of a nobleman.

10
pg. 11

He wears an enormous feather on his hat. Also on stage
is an actor called John HEMINGE (late 40’s), who plays
“Sogliardo”

SHAKESPEARE
And whither were you riding now,
signior?

“FASTIDIOUS”
Who, I? What a silly jest’s that!
Whither should I ride but to the
court?

SHAKESPEARE
O, pardon me, sir, twenty places more;
your hot-house, your pig-house, or
your whore-house!

The audience ROARS in laughter as Shakespeare looks
below at a buxom young lady among the “groundlings”.
He smiles seductively. She smiles back.

BACKSTAGE

Jonson (now 25 and clean-shaven) is watching the
performance from behind a curtain, silently speaking
the lines with the actors.

IN THE RAISED SEATING

A group of playwrights and poets watch the play with an
air of judgement. They are: Christopher “Kit” MARLOWE
(32), young, brilliant, a bit foppish (he likes the
boys), Thomas NASHE (late 30’s)– a heavy-set, a hard
drinking satirist– and Thomas DEKKER (29), considered
a bit of a hack by his colleagues.

They are called the “Mermaid’s Wits” because they
frequent a pub named The Mermaid’s Tavern.

NASHE
(takes a swig of ale)
His second play, and almost a full
house.
(burps)
He’s got a wit, does Jonson.

MARLOWE
That might be so, but like a grain of
wheat hid in a bushel of chaff: you
shall seek all day ere you find it,
and when you have it, it’s not worth
the search!

11
pg. 12

The others smile as a WOMAN passes.

WOMAN
Ale! Ale!!

DEKKER
Marlowe– spot me a few pence, will
you? Henslowe still owes me for
“Shoemaker’s Holiday”.

MARLOWE
(retrieving coins)
That would be because no one saw
“Shoemaker’s Holiday”.

DEKKER
Ale here!

Marlowe gives the woman a few pennies as–

NASHE
Kit… Isn’t that one of your
unrequited loves in the box over
there?

Marlowe glances across the theater and spots
Southampton siting next to Oxford.

MARLOWE
(frowns)
But with whom? Tell me not he prefers
the company of such old grey men as
that!

Nashe squints.

NASHE
I think– yes, by the beard, that’s
the Earl of Oxford. Old Tom Hooker
used to play for him. Had his own
acting troupe for private Court
performances and the like.

DEKKER
I wonder if he needs any material?

MARLOWE
Certainly not any of yours.

NASHE
No, no– that was years ago. Had a
falling out with the Queen, I heard.
He’s more of a recluse than a patron
these days.

12
pg. 13

ON STAGE

Shakespeare points to “Fastidious”.

SHAKESPEARE
Who, he, the noble there? Why, he’s a
gull, a fool, no salt in him i’ the
earth; man, he looks like a fresh
salmon kept in a tub!

Shakespeare struts around as though he owned the place.
The more he talks, the more the audience ROARS in
laughter.

SHAKESPEARE (CONT’D)
He sleeps with a musk-cat every night,
and walks all day hang’d in perfumed
chains for penance.

A GROUNDLING
Oi! So that’s what I been smelling!

More groundlings laugh. Interestingly–

NOBLEMEN

in the box seats do not.

ON STAGE

Shakespeare continues his rant, speaking directly to
the groundlings.

SHAKESPEARE
He has his skin tann’d in civet, to
make his complexion strong, and the
sweetness of his youth lasting in the
sense of his sweet lady. And, sadly,
the poor man’s brain is lighter than
his feather…

As the audience HOWLS in laughter, we see:

A NOBLEMAN

with a feathered hat gets up in fury, and exits the
theater, his lady with him. The Audience LAUGHS at him
as he goes.

ON STAGE

Shakespeare smiles triumphantly.

13
pg. 14

SHAKESPEARE (CONT’D)
He is a good and empty puff, but he
loves you well, signior. I wish you
well with him.

OXFORD

Watches the nobleman with the big feathered hat pass
by.

BACKSTAGE

Later in the play…

Shakespeare returns backstage and takes a deep swig
from his tankard. He’s actually drunk, though his
performance didn’t show it at all. He spots Jonson,
and grabs him.

SHAKESPEARE (CONT’D)
Jonson! Wonderful dialogue!
Wonderful. I hope your next–

HENSLOWE (O.C.)
Will! Will Shakespeare!

Shakespeare turns to see a furious Philip HENSLOWE
(50’S) heading his way.

HENSLOWE (CONT’D)
That’s not ale in that goblet is it?

Shakespeare hides the goblet behind his back.

SHAKESPEARE
Ale? Me? Drink during a performance?
I am a professional sir!
(burps)
A complete and–

He is interrupted by SCREAMS. Not from actors on
stage, but by the audience.

IN THE THEATER

Complete panic erupts as dozens of The Queen’s Guard
STORM into the theater. Everyone tries to get out as
quickly as possible, including the other actors, Henry
CONDELL (20’s), Thomas POPE (30’s), William SLY (13).

SIR RICHARD POLE, THE CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD

–jumps on stage.

14
pg. 15

POLE
This play has been declared seditious
and illegal by Lord William Cecil!

The audience begins to BOO at the mention of Cecil.

POLE (CONT’D)
All are herewith ordered to disperse
immediately!

A GROUNDLING
Why don’t you disperse William Cecil’s
arse!

POLE
Arrest that man!

IN OXFORD’S BOX

SOUTHAMPTON
Damn it all. Well! Off to Essex’s
then?

He gets up. Oxford does not, seemingly interested in
the real drama below as everyone hurries from the
theater.

SOUTHAMPTON (CONT’D)
Edward?

Oxford turns to him, distracted, and nods.

ON STAGE

Jonson pushes his way on stage.

JONSON
(to Pole)
Seditious? Seditious?! It’s a comedy
for god’s sake! There’s nothing
seditious about–

POLE
Oi, is that right, is it? And you
know this because?

JONSON
Because I wrote the bloody thing! And-


POLE
Arrest him as well!

Jonson is grabbed by guards.

15
pg. 16

17 INT. A JAIL CELL – DAY 17

Jonson is THROWN into the cell, the door SLAMMED behind
him.

JONSON
(to the door)
A pox on you!
(beat)
And your carbuncled father!

Jonson looks around– the cell is filled with a dozen
or so other prisoners.

ESSEX (O.S.)
People taxed to the point of
starvation, Spain running the New
World, open revolt in Ireland,
Catholic plots everywhere you turn…

CUT TO:

18 INT. TENNIS COURT AT ESSEX HOUSE – DAY 18

Robert, Earl of ESSEX (28), is playing tennis against
Southampton. He’s handsome, red-headed, and, we will
learn, very ambitious.

ESSEX
…and how do the Cecils spend their
time and energy? Shutting a theater!
A theater, for god’s sake? It’s
madness! No wonder the mob hates them
so!

The court is inside, and slightly different from
today’s game: the back walls are playable, somewhat
like racquet-ball.

Oxford sits on a bench, watching. Essex SLAMS a shot,
but it goes–

OXFORD
Out!

Essex looks furious, but holds his tongue. Southampton
prepares to serve.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
(to Southampton)
Henry, how many people were at that
play?

16
pg. 17

Southampton pauses before serving.

SOUTHAMPTON
Hmm? I’m not sure, two thousand,
maybe more.

Southampton SERVES. Essex returns, and another heated
rally begins.

OXFORD
And how many performances are there of
a play like that?

SOUTHAMPTON
Five or six I suppose.

He HITS the ball again, and this time Essex misses it.

ESSEX
By the–!

OXFORD
(to Essex)
So! Ten thousand souls. All
listening to the writings of one man–
the ideas of one man. That’s power,
Robert. And if there is one thing the
Cecils understand, it’s power.

ESSEX
(snorts)
And when did words ever win a kingdom?
I think I’ll keep my sword, thank you
very much.

Southampton SERVES as Oxford smiles at Essex’s naiveté.

19 INT. CHANGING ROOMS/ESSEX HOUSE – DAY 19

Southampton and Essex are dressing out of their tennis
clothes and into their normal clothes, assisted by two
valets.

ESSEX
(to the valets)
Leave us.
(they exit)
Henry… Some of my men have…
intercepted… some of William Cecil’s
recent correspondence with King James
of Scotland…

17
pg. 18

Southampton pauses in clothing himself. This is
serious.

ESSEX (CONT’D)
Cecil’s all but promising him the
throne…

SOUTHAMPTON
To James? Elizabeth would never agree
to-

ESSEX
Elizabeth is old. Ill. Not of her
old mind. Sometimes she doesn’t even
recognize me. And yet, still she
refuses to name an heir.

SOUTHAMPTON
But a Scotsman? On the Tudor throne?

ESSEX
You are not in the Privy Council.
Elizabeth does everything the Cecils
wish of her. Everything!

BEHIND THEM

Oxford enters. They don’t notice, though. He
instantly realizes he shouldn’t say anything. He
listens as:

WIDER

ESSEX (CONT’D)
Think, Henry, if James owes Cecil his
throne, Cecil will have more influence
in the next reign than he does in this
one. And after William Cecil, his
hunch-backed son will take his
place…
(careful)
That is why we must do everything in
our power to ensure that the right man
succeeds her.
(beat)
A man deserving of the Tudor crown.

Southampton stiffens at that last phrase.

ESSEX (CONT’D)
I ask you for the support of you and
your men, Henry…. if it comes to a
fight.

18
pg. 19

Southampton looks at Essex hard.

SOUTHAMPTON
You know you need not ask. I stand
with you, as I always have.

Essex smiles at him warmly. They both HEAR something
shuffle behind them. They turn, and see:

WHERE OXFORD WAS STANDING

Nothing. He is gone.

BACK TO SOUTHAMPTON AND ESSEX

They exchange a slightly worried look.

CUT TO:

20 EXT. ESSEX HOUSE – DAY 20

Moments later, Oxford and Southampton are exiting the
elaborate building that serves as Essex’s London
residence.

OXFORD
Essex played rather poorly, didn’t he?

Southampton just nods, distracted. Oxford reaches out
to him, and touches his shoulder.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
(warning)
Henry… The Cecils brook no rivals.

Southampton pauses, confused for an instant, then–

SOUTHAMPTON
(re: his discussion with
Essex)
You heard?

Oxford nods.

SOUTHAMPTON (CONT’D)
Always concerned for me, aren’t you
Edward?

They keep walking towards Southampton’s men.

SOUTHAMPTON (CONT’D)
And what would you have me do?

19
pg. 20

OXFORD
I would have you deny him.

SOUTHAMPTON
The son of the Queen?

OXFORD
That is rumor only, Henry–

They stop. Southampton makes sure that his men are out
of earshot.

SOUTHAMPTON
Rumor? My god, all you have to do is
look at Essex to see the Queen’s
reflection. Everyone thinks he’s her
son, everyone! And I for one would
rather bow to a Tudor, bastard though
he may be, than a Scotsman!

OXFORD
I desire nothing more than to see the
next king be the rightful king. But
what Essex contemplates will surely
lead to Civil War.
(beat)
No. If this is to be done, it must be
done carefully, skillfully.

SOUTHAMPTON
As I heard it, Elizabeth exiled you
from her presence for the last twenty
years because of your “skill” at Court
politics.

And then he feels instantly ashamed of having said
that.

OXFORD
I only have your interests in mind,
Henry. For as you so rightly point
out, my interests are already lost.

SOUTHAMPTON
I know. Forgive me. You know how I
feel about you. You have been a great
friend to me ever since my father
died. I promise you that I will do
nothing rash without consulting you
first.

Oxford nods, still worried, and Southampton heads for
his horse.

20
pg. 21

OXFORD
Henry! Will you do me one thing more?
Deliver a gift for me? A rather…
elaborate gift?

21 EXT. CECIL HOUSE – SUNSET 21

The stone house is nothing like a stereotypical Tudor
house; it’s enormous, and very ornate and intricate in
design.

It faces the river, and has an elaborate docking area
which is now filled with all sorts of longboats letting
the noblemen off for a week-end get away.

22 INT. CECIL HOUSE – GREAT HALL – DUSK 22

Most of England’s nobility is assembled in small
groups, talking. It’s a dour, quiet affair. Some
music, no life. Quite Puritan.

Southampton is there, but Essex and Oxford are nowhere
to be seen.

A HUNCH-BACKED MAN

–makes his way through the room, causing conversations
to cease as he walks by. Even the most senior of the
nobles bow their heads slightly in greeting him. This
is Sir ROBERT CECIL (mid 30’s).

He pauses near Southampton.

SOUTHAMPTON
Sir Robert.

ROBERT CECIL
My lord of Southampton.
(looking around)
Have you seen Essex?

SOUTHAMPTON
I believe he is still in the viewing
chamber with her majesty…

ROBERT CECIL
(sharp, annoyed)
Alone?

21
pg. 22

SOUTHAMPTON
(smiles)
With your father in London dealing
with all the troubles in Ireland, who
else should the Queen turn to but
Essex?

Robert Cecil looks annoyed, but holds his tongue as the
SOUND of pikes HITTING the floor silences the hall.

A FOOTMAN clears his throat and–

FOOTMAN
By the grace of god, her majesty,
Elizabeth, Queen of England, Wales and
Ireland!

DOUBLE DOORS

open, and Elizabeth (in her 60’s) enters. She is
wearing a large sparkling pearl-encrusted dress with a
wide collar.

She walks slowly and carefully, and has a slight tremor
in her head and hands. She seems un-certain; like
she’s not sure she recognizes all the faces around her
(Alzheimer’s?). And she compensates for it by being
all the more regal, all the more un-human.

Essex is on her arm, dressed in a splendid jewel-
encrusted doublet.

Robert Cecil FROWNS at the sight of Essex on her arm.

Essex ignores Cecil’s glare, notices Southampton–

ESSEX
(to Elizabeth)
Ah– Majesty, I’ve been told my lord
of Southampton has a gift for you.

ELIZABETH
(eyes sparkle)
A gift?

SOUTHAMPTON
Yes, your grace, though not from me.

Southampton CLAPS his hands and a door across the room
OPENS.

A DWARF enters, followed by dancing faires, actors
swirling sparklers, and musicians playing music.

22
pg. 23

Elizabeth’s rheumy eyes widen in complete delight, a
smile of total jubilation crosses her face.

Robert Cecil, on the other hand, looks horrified.

ELIZABETH
Are you this gift, my precious little
man?

DWARF
No, no, my most majestic majesty. I
am a free man. My gift is a play,
majesty.

ELIZABETH
A play?

The dwarf bows his assent.

ROBERT CECIL
(to the Dwarf)
Plays are the work of the devil, born
from a cesspool of plague, whoredom,
thievery, fornication, and heresy.
You may tell your master that her
majesty–

ESSEX
(interrupting)
–Will gladly accept your gift.

Robert Cecil turns to Essex, shocked.

ESSEX (CONT’D)
(to Elizabeth)
Of course that is if you so desire,
majesty.
(to Robert Cecil)
The choice is her majesty’s to make,
not yours. Is that not so Sir Robert?

Robert frowns as Elizabeth looks around, unsure of the
political tides around her. Then–

ELIZABETH
(to the dwarf)
Comedy? Or tragedy?

DWARF
Comedy, majesty.

ELIZABETH
(delighted)
A comedy!
(MORE)
23
pg. 24

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
(beat)
By whom?

DWARF
By… Anonymous, your majesty…

ELIZABETH
Anonymous…?
(then)
Oh, but I do so admire his verse…

Elizabeth lets go of Essex, and offers her hand to the
Dwarf, who smiles brightly.

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
Lead us to this gift.

And the Dwarf leads Elizabeth towards the door. Essex
follows, and Southampton locks into step next to him.
They exchange a knowing look as–

Robert Cecil steps in line far after the Queen, not
happy with this turn of events as we hear–

“QUINCE” (O.S.)
Bless thee, Bottom! Bless thee! Thou
art translated!

CUT TO:

23 EXT. THE GROUNDS AT CECIL HOUSE – NIGHT 23

Sheer magic. Candles everywhere: in stakes, in the
ground, in the trees. They light a make-shift “stage”
surrounded by huge oak trees on three sides.

“BOTTOM”
I see their knavery: this is to make
an ass of me; to fright me, if they
could. But I will not stir from this
place, do what they can.

Chairs have been brought out and put in rows in the
grass. Elizabeth is watching center front row (of
course). She loves it, SQUEALING in delight like a
young woman. Essex is next to her.

24
pg. 25

ON STAGE

Several actors are mid-scene in “A Midsummer Night’s
Dream” (Act 3, Scene 1), their make-up quite elaborate
and fantastical: “Bottom”, who is costumed as a man–
except that he has a DONKEY’S HEAD, “Quince”, a
commoner, “Puck”, played by the dwarf who is now
dressed like a cupid, and “Titania”, Queen of the
fairies, who is presently asleep in a bed of fur. Puck
hides behind a tree watching.

“BOTTOM” (CONT’D)
I will walk up and down here, and I
will sing, that they shall hear I am
not afraid.

BACKSTAGE

Oxford watches from behind a curtain, carefully
observing the Queen’s reaction. Somehow we feel that
seeing her again after so many years stirs up some deep
emotion in him.

ON STAGE

“BOTTOM” (CONT’D)
(sings)
The ousel cock so black of hue,
With orange-tawny bill,
The throstle with his note so true,
The wren with little quill–

Titania awakens in her nest-like bed of fur.

“TITANIA”
What angel wakes me from my flow’ry
bed?

ELIZABETH

strongly reacts to Titania awakening. It stirs some
memory in her. A pleasant memory.

OXFORD

watches, delighted by her reaction.

FROM HIS POV

We see Elizabeth watching. But it is an Elizabeth only
26 years old (referred to as YOUNG ELIZABETH in this
script). We HEAR the sound of other dialogue, but from
the same play. We are:

25
pg. 26

24 INT. HEDINGHAM CASTLE – GREAT HALL – NIGHT 24

Thirty-eight years earlier. And YOUNG ELIZABETH watches
an earlier, slightly less sophisticated staging of “A
Midsummer Night’s Dream” (the costumes and sets are a
bit more thrown together).

All the actors are children from 7-12 years old or so.

FROM BACKSTAGE

A boy watches in the exact same position as we just saw
Oxford. This is BOY OXFORD– now only 10 years old.
But he is made up and wears a winged costume for the
character of “Puck”.

“OBERON” (O.S.)
…and the owner of it blest ever
shall in safety rest. Trip away; make
no stay;
meet me all by break of day.

And the characters of “Oberon” and “Titania” exit. Boy
Oxford hurries–

ON STAGE

“PUCK”
If we shadows have offended, think but
this, and all is mended, that you have
but slumber’d here while these visions
did appear…

Next to Young Elizabeth, JOHN DE VERE, Oxford’s father,
also watches, his face beaming with pride.

“PUCK” (CONT’D)
…And this weak and idle theme, No
more yielding but a dream, gentles, do
not reprehend; if you pardon, we will
mend.

A STERN LOOKING MAN

is watching a few seats away from Young Elizabeth. He
is WILLIAM CECIL (40’s, Robert’s father). He is a
Puritan, dressed all in black (with a white lace
collar), and has a long beard. He is frowning,
loathing the play.

26
pg. 27

ON STAGE

“PUCK” (CONT’D)
So, good night unto you all. Give me
your hands, if we be friends, and
Robin shall restore amends.

The play now over, Young Elizabeth applauds with
delight, as do the small group of courtiers all around
her.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
Lovely. Lovely!

CUT TO:

25 INT. HEDINGHAM CASTLE – KITCHEN – LATER 25

A make-shift “back-stage” where all the young “actors”
are removing their costumes and make-up, including Boy
Oxford, who sits in front of a make-shift, leaning
mirror.

Much excited talking and commotion, until Boy Oxford
notices everyone has gone silent. He turns– his winged
costume still on– just as–

YOUNG ELIZABETH (O.S.)
Ah! There he is.

Young Elizabeth and her senior Court, including William
Cecil and John De Vere, have entered.

Boy Oxford bows deeply.

YOUNG ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
(to Boy Oxford)
Your father tells me you wrote this
evening’s play yourself.

Boy Oxford glances at his father– should he answer
directly? His father NODS.

BOY OXFORD
I did indeed, your majesty.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
You sport with me.
(smiling)
Compose something.

BOY OXFORD
Now?

27
pg. 28

YOUNG ELIZABETH
Yes. Now.

BOY OXFORD
On what subject, your grace?

She thinks. Then–

YOUNG ELIZABETH
(smiles)
Truth…

BOY OXFORD
(thinks, then–)
For… Truth… is Truth…
Though… never so old…
and time cannot make that false,
which once was true.

She smiles, claps.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
(to John de Vere)
My lord of Oxford. It seems you have
added a poet to your family’s long
line of warriors.

BOY OXFORD
Madam, I am as accomplished with the
sword and the musket as I am with
verse.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
(amused)
Are you indeed?

BOY OXFORD
(nods seriously)
It is my only desire to one day be
your majesty’s most trusted servant in
matters both of war and state, if you
will but have me.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
(charmed)
Why, Lord Cecil, it seems we may very
well have found your replacement.

WILLIAM CECIL
We hope not too soon, majesty, we hope
not too soon.

28
pg. 29

YOUNG ELIZABETH
(teasing)
And how liked you our young lord’s
play, William?

William Cecil stiffens in discomfort.

YOUNG ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
(to Boy Oxford,
conspiratorially)
Our Lord Cecil is our most religious
of subjects, and no doubt thinks your
little masque will deliver your soul
straight into the arms of Lucifer
himself. Don’t you, William?

The Boy Oxford looks at William Cecil, perplexed by
such a thing.

WILLIAM CECIL
That is God’s decision, your majesty.
Not mine.

William Cecil looks directly at John de Vere resulting
in an uncomfortable silence.

Elizabeth notices.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
Well, if plays are indeed such a sin,
I pray I do not find my salvation
until very late in life.

Boy Oxford smiles. He might very well be in love.

CUT TO:

26 INT. A JAIL CELL – DAY 26

Thirty-eight years later. The door SWEEPS open and a
snoring, sleeping Jonson is awakened by–

GUARD (O.S.)
Jonson! Ben Jonson!

The other prisoners make way as the guard approaches
Jonson. The guard tosses a wax-sealed piece of
parchment onto Jonson’s lap.

GUARD (CONT’D)
You’ve been released.

Jonson looks at it, confused.

29
pg. 30

GUARD (CONT’D)
Got powerful friends, now, don’t you?

26A EXT. A BOAT – RIVER THAMES – DAY 26A

Jonson is in a nobleman’s longboat (for the first time
in his life). Across from him sits FRANCESCO–
Italian, 60’s– wearing a doublet with the Oxford coat
of arms on its chest.

The City of London is far in the distance.

Jonson looks around uncomfortably at the luxurious boat
for a moment before–

JONSON
And who are you?

Francesco just stares back.

JONSON (CONT’D)
And where are we going?

Francesco is silent.

WIDER

The boat approaches a large stone house, Oxford Stone.

CUT TO:

A RED ROSE

as it is cut from its bush by ink-stained hands. We
are:

27 EXT. OXFORD STONE – GARDEN – DAY 27

Oxford smells the rose, inhaling its essence. Then he
turns and sees Francesco escorting Ben Jonson towards
him.

Before they reach him he glances at his wife ANNE De
Vere (40’s) who sits in the distance knitting with one
of their daughter’s, BRIDGET (17).

Jonson is quite uncomfortable to be at such a grand
place. Jonson CLEARS his throat.

JONSON
My lord…

30
pg. 31

OXFORD
The Tudor rose. The most beautiful of
flowers, don’t you think?

JONSON
It looks to me to have quite a number
of thorns, my lord.

OXFORD
So it does. So it does.

JONSON
I am told, my lord, that I owe my
freedom to you.

OXFORD
That is true. And it was quite hard
to come by. One does not cross my
father-in-law lightly.

Jonson doesn’t know who he is talking about.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
Lord William Cecil. I have the
questionable distinction of being
married to his only daughter.

Oxford looks over to his wife who watches them
suspiciously. He begins to walk away forcing Jonson and
Francesco to follow.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
It did, however, serve as helpful when
I wrote to your jailers to release you
in my father-in-law’s name.

Jonson suddenly looks worried and turns and looks back
to Anne.

JONSON
(in a panicked whisper)
My lord– I’m sorry, does that mean my
release is not officially sanctioned?

OXFORD
Don’t be an idiot Jonson, of course it
wasn’t.
(beat)
But you are free, are you not?

They have come to an entrance to a GARDEN MAZE and Anne
watches them as they disappear into the maze.

31
pg. 32

28 EXT. MAZE – DAY 28

Oxford turns to Jonson.

OXFORD
I enjoyed your little comedy last
week, Jonson. You have potential,
great potential.

JONSON
Thank you, my lord.

OXFORD
But it’s politics did seem to have
quite an effect on the Tower. My
father-in-law’s men felt it quite
seditious.

JONSON
Politics? My play had nothing to do
with politics! It was just a simple
comedy–

OXFORD
That showed your betters as fools who
go through life barely managing to get
food from plate to mouth, were it not
for the cleverness of their servants.
(beat)
All art is political, Jonson.
Otherwise it would just be decoration.
And all artists have something to say,
otherwise… they’d make shoes. And
you’re not a cobbler, are you, Jonson?

As they enter the center of the maze, Oxford turns to
his servant.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
(nods)
Francesco.

Francesco steps forward and hands Jonson a leather
bound manuscript. Jonson looks at it confused and
opens it.

JONSON
A play, my lord?

OXFORD
One you shall stage Bankside.

JONSON
Stage?

32
pg. 33

OXFORD
Under your name.

JONSON
My name, my lord?

OXFORD
I can’t very well use my name, can I?
I’m the seventeenth Earl of Oxford.
The Lord Great Chamberlain of England,
Viscount Bolebec, Lord Escales,
Sandford and Badlesmere, etc, etc.
No. I have a… reputation to
protect. In my world, one does not
write plays, Jonson. People like you
do.

Jonson tries not to be offended.

JONSON
Yes. My lord. You wrote an entire
play, my lord. I know how difficult–

OXFORD
Not a play, Jonson, I’ve written many.
No doubt, many more than you yourself.
A good number performed at Court years
ago, others never seen by a living
soul.

JONSON
And you want… me to apply my name to
this play?

OXFORD
No. I mean you to put your name to
all of them.

JONSON
All of them?

OXFORD
Well don’t look like I just gutted
your pet dog, Jonson. I mean to make
you the most popular– and therefore
the most monetarily successful–
playwright in all of London.

Jonson pales. This is a disaster for him.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
I wish you god speed and good morrow.

Jonson looks down at the manuscript, reads a few lines.

33
pg. 34

JONSON
My lord– I really–

He looks up, but Oxford is gone, having left the maze
without so much as a good-bye.

JONSON (CONT’D)
My lord?

But before he can follow, Francesco tosses a leather
pouch of coins at his feet.

FRANCESCO
That is for your trouble, Signor
Jonson. And your silence. If I hear
you break that silence, then… not so
good for Signor Jonson.

And Francesco follows after his master as Jonson picks
up the pouch, examining its contents.

And then Jonson realizes he doesn’t know how to get out
of the maze. He chases after them.

JONSON
Hello? My lord?! I–

And he’s lost. He looks this way and that, then picks
a path (the wrong one).

29 EXT. CECIL HOUSE – DAY 29

Robert Cecil is standing at the opulent river entrance
to Cecil House, waiting for an enormous barge docking.
William Cecil (now 75) is at the front of the barge,
waiting to disembark. He constantly holds an ornately
carved white cane.

WILLIAM CECIL
So! I am gone for three days, and you
somehow manage to let her spend all of
them solely in the company of the Earl
of Essex…

Robert Cecil looks at him sharply. How did he know.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
Don’t think because I was in London, I
didn’t know exactly what went on here
in my absence.

34
pg. 35

ROBERT CECIL
He is an Earl, father. I cannot deny
him–

WILLIAM CECIL
Of course not! You don’t deny him
anything. You find excuses. She is
unwell, she is reading, she is seeing
the Ambassador from Russia. For God’s
sake, use your imagination, Robert.
Whatever will you do when I am gone?
(beat)
We will have to deal with Essex soon.
His ambitions are becoming a nuisance.

30 INT. CECIL HOUSE – HALLWAY – DAY 30

William Cecil enters an impressive hallway and turns to
his son.

WILLIAM CECIL
Now tell me about the play.

Robert Cecil looks surprised for an instant that he
knows about that as well.

ROBERT CECIL
It– it was an anonymous gift. Essex
insisted it be performed, just to
spite me in front of Court…

WILLIAM CECIL
Of course he did.
(concerned)
But what was it about?

ROBERT CECIL
About? Some nonsense about fairies
and cherubs.

WILLIAM CECIL
…And dancing asses?

Robert looks surprised at his father who has stopped
suddenly.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
(realizing, to himself)
Edward…
(to Robert Cecil)
Have you any idea what you have– No,
how could you…

35
pg. 36

And he starts back up the stairs.

ROBERT CECIL
Father… It was just a play…

WILLIAM CECIL
And do you know how long it took me to
banish them from her presence? She
adores them! Adores them! And Edward
knows it.
(beat)
Mark my words, Robert, he has done
this for a purpose.

ROBERT CECIL
Purpose? What purpose?

WILLIAM CECIL
(thinking, to himself)
What purpose indeed?
(to Robert)
But through your carelessness I must
now deal not only with Essex, but
Edward as well. For whether in shadow
or in person, Edward has returned to
Court!

And with that he slams the door shut.

Robert Cecil walks over to a nearby window. Visibly
upset he starts to stare out of the window and
remembers…

CUT TO:

31 OMIT 31

THROUGH A THIRD STORY WINDOW

We see servants carrying big trunks. There are at least
120 men on horses. They all wear the Oxford’s crest.

WILLIAM CECIL (O.S)
Robert.

32 INT. CECIL HOUSE – HALLWAY – DAY 32

And it is thirty years earlier.

BOY ROBERT CECIL (now 9) is staring out of the window.
His back must have been deformed either in utero or at
birth, because even now he is hunchbacked.

36
pg. 37

WILLIAM CECIL(O.S.)
(more commanding)
Robert! Come here.

Finally Boy Robert Cecil turns and sees Young Oxford
(now 17) entering the hallway with William Cecil and
his wife and daughter, Young ANNE (15). In front of
them, lined up, are several men whom we will learn are
TUTORS.

Boy Robert Cecil doesn’t move.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
(to Young Oxford)
I am sorry, my lord. But my son
Robert prefers the company… of
himself…

Boy Robert Cecil watches as his father turns to his
mother and sister.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
May I present my wife, Lady Cecil, and
my daughter, Anne.

Young Anne curtsies.

YOUNG ANNE
I am sorry for your loss, my lord.
The realm lost a great lord with your
father’s death. We hope you will be
happy in our house–

BOY ROBERT CECIL (O.S.)
Are you going to live here forever?

Everybody turns and sees the odd hunchback child has
finally come over.

YOUNG OXFORD
(smiles)
No. Only until I reach my maturity.

BOY ROBERT CECIL
Why?

WILLIAM CECIL
Because the Queen has bade it so.
(to Young Oxford)
My lord, when we first met, you said
you wished to become a great man of
State. Both the Queen and I hope to
make that so.
(MORE)

37
pg. 38

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
To that end, I have the honor of
introducing you to your tutors.
(indicates one of them)
Seven to eight you shall be tutored in
French by Mister Crane–

YOUNG OXFORD
Monsieur. Ca me fait plaisir de vous
connaitre.

Master Crane bows his head.

WILLIAM CECIL
Nine to ten is Greek with Mister
Simmons.

YOUNG OXFORD
(in Greek)
Dalon, an d’ego, hoti mathamata ge
esti ha trafo psychas.

BOY ROBERT CECIL
Is that Homer?

YOUNG OXFORD
(sharp)
No. Plato.

Boy Robert frowns at the correction.

WILLIAM CECIL
(slight frown, then)
And you know your uncle, Mister
Golding, who has petitioned me to
allow you to assist him in his
translations of ancient Latin texts
into English.

YOUNG OXFORD
(in Latin)
Continetne, ut spero, Ovidii
Metamorphose? Mihi honori erit,
patrue

Mister Golding bows his head in appreciation.

WILLIAM CECIL
Then cosmography with Doctor Richards.
Two to three is geography and history,
and four to five fencing.

William Cecil seems to have finished.

38
pg. 39

YOUNG OXFORD
(to William Cecil)
And composition? Poetry?

WILLIAM CECIL
This is a Puritan home, your grace.
We believe such activities to be the
worship of false idols, and therefore
a sin before the eyes of God.

YOUNG OXFORD
A sin? But surely there must be room
for beauty and art in life, my lord.

WILLIAM CECIL
Not in this household.

33 INT. CECIL HOUSE – GREAT HALL – DAY 33

Young Oxford is fencing with a tutor. He’s quite good.
In fact, he’s better than the tutor, who is twice his
age.

Boy Robert Cecil casually watches as he plays chess
against himself.

Young Oxford, with a fierce, beautifully executed
attack, disarms his tutor. The tutor’s sword FLIES
into the air, and hits–

THE CHESS BOARD

making the pieces scatter.

WIDER

Boy Robert Cecil looks up, his face furious, to see
Young Oxford coming over to him.

YOUNG OXFORD
You were losing anyway.

BOY ROBERT CECIL
I was also winning.

Young Oxford picks up the sword, throws it to his
tutor, who catches it.

BOY ROBERT CECIL
(CONT’D)
You know I am going to one day succeed
my father at the Queen’s side. Not
you.

39
pg. 40

Young Oxford motions to go, then picks up the black
king, and tosses it to Boy Robert Cecil, who can’t
catch it because of his deformity. It CLANGS on the
floor.

YOUNG OXFORD
Really?

34 INT. CECIL HOUSE – HALLWAY – DAY 34

Moments later, the Young Oxford heads down the hall
alone, heading for his rooms, his sword still in his
hand.

CUT TO:

POEMS

neatly written on parchment. We are:

35 INT. CECIL HOUSE – YOUNG OXFORD’S ROOM – DAY 35

And a SERVANT is looking at the poems, then quickly
stuffing them into a bag.

But then he HEARS footsteps coming. Panicked, he looks
for someplace to hide– a tapestry half covers a door–
he runs to it– the door is locked!

So he hides behind the tapestry just as the door opens,
and Young Oxford enters.

After a few steps, Young Oxford senses something amiss.
Looks at his–

WRITING DESK

where the parchments are scattered.

YOUNG OXFORD

goes to his desk, picks up one of the pieces of
parchment. It has poetry on it. His poetry. He goes
through some other pages. And realizes other pages are
missing. He becomes infuriated. He sees–

UNDER THE TAPESTRY

Two feet.

40
pg. 41

WIDER

Young Oxford CHARGES the tapestry, sword in hand. He
THRUSTS the sword THROUGH the tapestry.

The man screams in agony as he falls. He doesn’t just
die, but screams and screams and screams.

Young Oxford steps back– half in horror… half in
triumph. The SOUND of APPLAUSE takes us to:

36 INT. THE ROSE THEATER – BACKSTAGE – DAY 36

Thirty-three years later.

Shakespeare is on stage, taking a bow. The audience is
APPLAUDING and SCREAMING their approval of a
performance that has just ended. He steps backwards–

BACKSTAGE

–where Jonson stands holding the manuscript Oxford
gave him.

SHAKESPEARE
Is it any good?

JONSON
How in blazes should I know?

SHAKESPEARE
You haven’t even read it?

And Shakespeare is drawn back–

ON STAGE

–where he bows again, then steps–

BACKSTAGE

–so Jonson can answer him.

JONSON
I read a line or two– I promised
Henslowe I’d finish “Eastward Ho” by
Saturday.

SHAKESPEARE
And you say he’s a nobleman?

Jonson doesn’t answer.

41
pg. 42

SHAKESPEARE (CONT’D)
Powerful? Rich??

Jonson still doesn’t answer, which is answer enough.

SHAKESPEARE (CONT’D)
Ohhhh, you have to do it then, don’t
you?

And Shakespeare goes back on stage.

37 EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON – DAY 37

Jonson and Shakespeare are walking along Bankside,
still mid-conversation. They pass all sorts of vendors
selling fish, fresh water, food, etc…

JONSON
I tell you Will– I came to London to
become a great poet, to, to, be the
conscience of our times, the soul of
our age! To change the world, not to
become someone else’s–

SHAKESPEARE
(amused)
Change the world? With rhyme?

JONSON
Yes, why not? Why can’t a man change
the world with words?

Shakespeare laughs at him.

JONSON (CONT’D)
(mimicking Oxford)
“I can make you the most popular and
the richest playwright in all of
London.”
(takes a swig)
Ballocks! I can do that myself, thank
you very much.

38 INT. THE MERMAID’S TAVERN – NIGHT 38

Shakespeare is perusing the manuscript. Some of the
actors from the Rose are in the BG.

SHAKESPEARE
You know, it’s actually not half
bad…

42
pg. 43

Jonson takes a swig of ale, then–

JONSON
Not half–?! You’re an actor, what in
God’s name do you know about writing?!
He’s an amateur, Will, a complete and
utter amateur. Last week gardening,
this week playwrighting, next week
hawking.
(takes another swig)
No. I won’t do it. It would be an
affront against the Muses…

SHAKESPEARE
(smiles)
Well we musn’t offend the muses,
whatever we do.
(thinks, then)
How much money did you say he gave
you?

JONSON
What, you think my name can be bought,
if the number’s great enough, do you?

Shakespeare smiles enigmatically.

SHAKESPEARE
No, not at all… I think we should
keep your good name quite intact,
thank you very much.

Jonson frowns, confused as we–

CUT TO:

A RED WIG

as it is placed on the head of Elizabeth. We are:

39 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – OLD ELIZABETH’S BEDROOM – DAY 39

Elizabeth is behind an elaborately painted screen.
Several ladies-in-waiting attend her, helping her get
ready for the day. It’s an intricate process. Make-
up, multiple articles of clothing, jewelry…

WILLIAM CECIL (O.S.)
King Philip of Spain sees the current
Catholic revolt in Ireland as a
weakness of ours. A weakness to be
exploited….

43
pg. 44

Elizabeth’s wig is being glued into place.

ELIZABETH
Ireland?

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SCREEN (THEN INTERCUT EACH SIDE
OF SCREEN AS NEEDED)

William Cecil hasn’t realized that his son Robert has
sneaked in the room behind him to listen in.

WILLIAM CECIL
There are rumors of his sending
financial aid, and even troops. We
must act quickly.
(beat)
We must replace the Lord Lieutenant of
Ireland, and send additional troops
immediately, majesty.

ELIZABETH
Replace? With whom?

William Cecil hesitates slightly, then–

WILLIAM CECIL
I would recommend the Earl of Essex,
your majesty.

ELIZABETH
Essex? To Ireland?
(frowns)
For how long?

WILLIAM CECIL
As long as the present crisis
warrants, majesty.

ELIZABETH
Impossible. He cannot be spared. We
feel his counsel is of greater import
with each passing day.

Not what William Cecil wanted to hear.

WILLIAM CECIL
I only recommend we send your most
able subjects where they are most
needed, majesty.
(beat, a last-ditch
effort)
Philip of Spain dreams still of taking
your kingdom from you.
(MORE)

44
pg. 45

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
Of burning you at the stake as a
heretic. Give him a foot-hold in
Ireland, and–

ELIZABETH
But Essex?

WILLIAM CECIL
Essex’s martial abilities are, in my
opinion, the only antidote to the
plague of Philip.
(clears his throat)
Though, Essex would not,
unfortunately, be able to remain in
the Privy Council if he is in
Ireland…

ELIZABETH
And who would you advise to replace
him?

Three ladies-in-waiting approach with three different
gown. Elizabeth studies them as:

WILLIAM CECIL
Sir Robert Cecil.

ELIZABETH
Your son?

WILLIAM CECIL
He is my own advisor first, my son
second, majesty. His counsel has been
invaluable to me, and no doubt will be
to you as well.

Elizabeth points to one of the dresses, and waves the
handmaidens away.

ELIZABETH
Yes, yes, yes. We will send Essex to
Ireland and place Robert on my Privy
Council.

But William’s flash of victory is dampened by–

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
I saw a play this last weekend,
William. It made me think of… days
long past. Of memories… long past.
Long past. I should like to see more
of them…
Has Edward been happy, William? With
your daughter?

45
pg. 46

William Cecil doesn’t answer. Instead he thinks,
remembers, as we hear his younger voice…

WILLIAM CECIL (O.S.)
Murdered!

CUT TO:

40 INT. CECIL HOUSE – GREAT HALL – DAY 40

Thirty years earlier.

William Cecil is standing in front of an enormous
fireplace, pacing in a pique of anger.

WILLIAM CECIL
By your own hand!

YOUNG OXFORD
He was stealing my poems.

WILLIAM CECIL
He was doing my bidding!

YOUNG OXFORD
Yours?

WILLIAM CECIL
Of course. As soon as Robert informed
me that you were disobeying my
express–

YOUNG OXFORD
Robert? Robert told–

William Cecil SLAMS his fists on a table.

WILLIAM CECIL
Enough! Thou shalt not worship false
idols in my household! Your
everlasting soul hangs in the balance.
Not poems. Your soul!

YOUNG OXFORD
My poems are my soul!

William Cecil turns away in frustration as much as
disgust.

WILLIAM CECIL
You have placed me in a grave
position, Edward.
(MORE)

46
pg. 47

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
I cannot have my reputation soiled by
this regrettable lack of control on
your part… No. I will not have it.
We can claim self-defense, he drew
sword first.
(beat)
But… I wish something in return.

Young Oxford looks worried.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
My daughter is young, impressionable.
She has feelings for you, Edward. It
is to be expected, living in such
close quarters…

YOUNG OXFORD
Sir. For the last three years you
have managed to seize much of my
inheritance–

WILLIAM CECIL
Hold your tongue, Edward, before you
make a claim you cannot retract! I
have been legally reimbursed for your
education and living expenses.

YOUNG OXFORD
And now you suggest you be
“reimbursed” the rest of my once
considerable estates through your
daughter’s bed?

William Cecil studies Young Oxford’s face.

WILLIAM CECIL
No. This is how I suggest you keep
your noble head from the executioner’s
block.

YOUNG OXFORD

stares at him. The SOUND of CHURCH BELLS RINGING takes
us to:

41 INT. WESTMINSTER ABBEY – DAY 41

And Young Oxford and Anne are being married by a
bishop.

47
pg. 48

BISHOP
…and in the fear of god, duly
considering the causes for which
matrimony was ordained. One was the
procreation of children…

WILLIAM CECIL

appears triumphant. He looks beaming over to…

BISHOP (CONT’D)
…to be brought up in the fear and
nurture of the Lord and praise of God.
Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy
against sin.

YOUNG ELIZABETH

Who presides over the whole affair. The first time we
see a dress on her which makes her truly regal.

BISHOP (CONT’D)
Thirdly, for the mutual society, help
and comfort, that the one ought to
have of the other, both in prosperity
and adversity, into the which holiest
state these two persons present come
now to be joined.

AT THE ALTAR

Young Anne looks at her young husband, lovingly. Young
Oxford is a bit overwhelmed and unsure of it all. And
then we HEAR a trumpet BLARING, which takes us to:

42 INT. THE ROSE THEATER – DAY 42

Thirty-two years later.

Vendors hawk food and drink as they walk through the
audience.

IN OXFORD’S BOX

Oxford sits, Francesco behind him, exhilarated by the
scene below him.

IN THE GALLERIES

Marlowe, Dekker and Nashe are looking at their single-
sheet programs.

48
pg. 49

NASHE
“Henry V” by… No one?

MARLOWE
And why would any of you admit to
trying to better me in a historical
drama? Comedy, yes, tragedy, perhaps.
But never will one of you best me in
historicals.

Marlowe takes a swig of ale, and spots Jonson coming to
join them.

MARLOWE (CONT’D)
Or will we be seeing a most hysterical
historical?

Jonson sits next to Marlowe.

MARLOWE (CONT’D)
Hmm? Ben? Waiting to see how it’s
received before you lay claim??

Before Jonson can answer–

ON STAGE

An actor, CONDELL (40’s), dressed all in white (even
his face is painted white) enters stage. He is
“Prologue”. He addresses the audience directly.

“PROLOGUE”
Oh, for a muse of fire, that would
ascend the brightest heaven of
invention. A kingdom for a stage,
princes to act, and monarchs to behold
the swelling scene! Then should
warlike Harry, like himself, assume
the port of Mars, and at his heels
should famine, sword, and fire crouch
for his employment. Can this cockpit
hold the vasty fields of France?

IN THE GALLERIES

Jonson seems surprised. This is not what he expected.
This is good.

CUT TO:

HORSE HOOVES

as they POUND on cobblestone. We are:

49
pg. 50

43 EXT. THE ENGLISH COUNTRY-SIDE – DAY 43

And Southampton is riding his horse at full gallop
through the countryside. About two dozen retainers
follow, the first few with Southampton’s coat-of-arms
on flags.

44 INT. THE ROSE THEATER – DAY 44

It is later in the play.

On stage, about 15 actors are in full battle armor.
They include: “HENRY V”, played by the actor called
Spencer, “WESTMORELAND”, “EXETER”, “SALISBURY”. All
the men on stage now wear battle armor.

“HENRY V”
This day is called the feast of
Crispian: he that outlives this day,
and comes safe home, will stand a tip-
toe when this day is named, and rouse
him at the name of Crispian.

IN THE GALLERIES

Marlowe, Dekker, Nashe and Jonson all watch, obviously
impressed. Nashe takes a swig of Ale.

IN OXFORD’S BOX

Oxford watches, loving the stagecraft involved in the
production.

“HENRY V” (CONT’D)
He that shall see this day and live
t’old age, will yearly on the vigil
feast his neighbors, and say ‘To-
morrow is Saint Crispian.

ON STAGE

“Henry V” speaks to his men.

“HENRY V” (CONT’D)
Then will he strip his sleeve and show
his scars.

The actor playing “Henry” kneels at the front of the
stage. He speaks to the groundlings as though they are
his troops.

50
pg. 51

“HENRY V” (CONT’D)
And say ‘These wounds I had on
Crispin’s day.’ Old men forget: yet
all shall be forgot, but he’ll
remember with advantages what feats he
did that day. This story shall the
good man teach his son.

THE GROUNDLINGS

become literally spellbound.

“HENRY V” (CONT’D)
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go
by, from this day to the ending of the
world, but we in it shall be
remembered; we few, we happy few, we
band of brothers; for he to-day that
sheds his blood with me shall be my
brother; be he ne’er so vile, this day
shall gentle his condition: and
gentlemen in England now a-bed shall
think themselves accursed they were
not here, and hold their man-hoods
cheap whiles any speaks that fought
with us upon Saint Crispin’s day!

The entire audience stands and CHEERS madly.

OXFORD

watches, with a pride he has never felt.

IN THE GALLERIES

The “wits” look at each other amazed.

ON STAGE

“SALISBURY”
My sovereign lord, bestow yourself
with speed. The French are bravely in
their battles set and will with all
expedience charge on us.

“HENRY V”
All things are ready, if our minds be
so.

“WESTMORELAND”
Perish the man whose mind is backward
now!

51
pg. 52

“HENRY V”
You know your places: God be with you
all!

THE “HUT”

which is a round tower on top of the stage, contains
several small cannons manned by stagehands. They shoot
BLANK CANNON SHOTS.

45 EXT. THE CITY GATES OF LONDON – DAY 45

Southampton and his retainers gallop through a City
gate. Above the gate, the severed heads of murderers
sit on pikes.

46 INT. THE ROSE THEATER – DAY 46

Actors portraying French soldiers STORM the stage,
swords brandished. “Henry” and his men begin fighting
them, their swordplay elaborate and impressive.

47 EXT. LONDON BRIDGE – DAY 47

Southampton and his entourage gallop over London
Bridge.

48 INT. THE ROSE THEATER – DAY 48

The battle rages on stage.

One hardy audience member starts to actually ATTACK one
of the French “soldiers” himself. He’s quickly joined
by a few comrades– and it quickly becomes a madhouse;
half play, half real fight, as more audience members
join the “battle”. The play quickly degenerates into a
bloody brawl between actors and audience.

49 EXT/INT. ROSE THEATER – DAY 49

Southampton arrives at the theater. He jumps off his
horse, and hurries–

INTO THE STAIRWELL

jumping two steps at a time. We HEAR the sound of
APPLAUSE. The play is now over. Southampton hurries
into–

52
pg. 53

OXFORD’S BOX

He sees Oxford, who is applauding. All the actors of
the play are taking their bows.

SOUTHAMPTON
William Cecil’s convinced the Queen
that only Essex can save Ireland from
the Revolt.

Oxford processes this.

SOUTHAMPTON (CONT’D)
I’ve pledged to go with him, Edward.
We sail in an hour.

OXFORD
Henry–

SOUTHAMPTON
I ask for your blessing, Edward.

OXFORD
I can’t give it to you.

IN THE GALLERIES

NASHE
I for one wish to see this anonymous
colleague of ours.
(stands)
Playwright! Playwright!!

Marlowe and others join in. And–

BACKSTAGE

Shakespeare, standing next to a small table of props,
quickly dips his fingers in an inkwell to make them
stained. He grabs a large feathered quill and tucks a
piece of parchment under his arm, then hurries–

ON STAGE

–where he bows deeply, loving the adulation.

IN OXFORD’S BOX

SOUTHAMPTON
If he is to be my king, then it is my
sacred duty to be with him in battle.

53
pg. 54

Oxford tries to understand Southampton, but then
notices Shakespeare on stage. His mouth opens in
shock, and he turns to look across the theater at–

JONSON

who guiltily looks away. Marlowe’s mouth is open, his
hands stop applauding.

IN OXFORD’S BOX

Southampton is angered by Oxford’s distraction.

SOUTHAMPTON (CONT’D)
I am sorry to have disturbed your
entertainment.

And he exits.

OXFORD
Henry– Henry!!

But the younger man is gone.

ON STAGE

Shakespeare bows, then–

SHAKESPEARE
I, I… It’s been… I, I, want
to… thank my actors, whose great
acting brought… my words… to life
due to their most finest acting.
Ah… Thank you.

OXFORD (O.S.)
An actor?!!

CUT TO:

50 INT. OXFORD STONE – STUDY – DAY 50

The multi-arched ceiling is painted blue with gold
stars. Globes– both terrestrial and astral– abound.

Jonson stands in front of a very angry Oxford.

OXFORD
An actor for god’s sake?

JONSON
My lord, I thought that–

54
pg. 55

OXFORD
You presumed to think? On my behalf?
Whatever made you believe you had that
prerogative?

A beat. Jonson is a bit afraid.

JONSON
My lord, your voice is completely
different than mine. My, my, my
characters are–

OXFORD
Voice? You have no voice! That’s why
I chose you!
(beat, softer)
You at least kept my name from him?

Jonson NODS.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
And will continue to do so?

Oxford studies him, believes him. Then he opens a
cabinet.

In it, manuscript after manuscript are stacked. Jonson
looks behind him, stunned by the number.

Oxford looks up and down the cabinet. He pulls one
out, decides no, and puts it back, looking for just the
right one… He pulls another out, then hands it to
Jonson.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
A romantic tragedy. In iambic
pentameter.

JONSON
(amazed)
All, my lord? Is that possible?

OXFORD
Of course it is!

51 INT. OXFORD STONE – HALLWAY – DAY 51

Jonson exits Oxford’s study, still amazed at the
manuscript as he walks.

He passes ANNE, Oxford’s wife (now 40’s), who is on her
way to the study with their eldest daughter, BRIDGET
(17).

55
pg. 56

She watches him go by and immediately realizes that she
has seen him before. But she stays silent.

52 INT. OXFORD STONE – STUDY – DAY 52

Oxford is writing at a desk as Anne enters.

ANNE
Who was that man? I’ve seen him
before.

Oxford holds up a finger to prevent her from speaking
while he finishes writing a thought. It’s a long
thought. Anne is obviously annoyed, and interrupts
him.

ANNE (CONT’D)
Edward– we must discuss our Bridget’s
dowry.

OXFORD
(looking up – confused)
Dowry?

He remembers when he spies his daughter.

ANNE
She cannot go into marriage without a
dowry that is becoming to the daughter
of the Earl Oxford.

OXFORD
I can give her Brooke House and a
hundred pounds.

BRIDGET
A hundred pounds? Father? Mother!

OXFORD
That is all we have to give at the
moment.

The matter over, Oxford goes back to his writing.

ANNE
(furious)
Edward. Edward! Speak to me! Our
family is in financial ruins, and, and
you, you play the flute while Rome
burns!

Oxford turns.

56
pg. 57

OXFORD
Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned.

And then he goes back to writing.

ANNE
For god’s sake, who cares Edward?
When your own daughter can’t even have
a suitable dowry?

She stares at him.

ANNE (CONT’D)
My god, you’re writing again, aren’t
you? After you agreed– after my
father expressly forbade it!

Oxford turns to her, full of emotion

OXFORD
Anne– If you could have seen them–
the mob… They, they didn’t just sit
there like the reptilia of court,
faces motionless, fangs momentarily
retracted. No! They, they jumped on
stage, they fought the French! A
butcher– he actually broke his arm!
He was so–

ANNE
Stop! Stop it at once!!

Anne storms over and grabs the parchment from under
him, and begins RIPPING it up.

ANNE (CONT’D)
Why!? Why must you write?! Why must
you continue to humiliate this family?

He stares at her, almost uncomprehendingly. Then–

OXFORD
The voices, Anne… The voices. I, I
can’t stop them… They, they come
when I sleep, when I wake, when I sup,
when I, I, I walk down a hall! The
sweet longings of a maiden, the, the
surging ambitions of a courtier, the
foul designs of a murderer, the
wretched pleas of his victims. Only-
– only when I put their words– their
voices– to parchment are they cast
loose, freed… Only then is my
mind… quieted… at peace.

57
pg. 58

Anne steps back, frightened of him.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
I… would go mad if I didn’t write
down the voices.

She stares at him, horrified.

ANNE
Art thou possessed?

He stares back at her. A long beat

OXFORD
I… don’t know.

SHAKESPEARE (O.S.)
“Two households, both alike in
dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay
our scene”

53 EXT. LONDON BRIDGE – DAY 53

Shakespeare and Jonson are walking along London Bridge–
the only bridge that spanned the Thames at the time, it
is a street lined with multi-storied buildings– almost
like a mall.

Shakespeare caries and reads from a manuscript of
“Romeo and Juliet”

SHAKESPEARE
“From ancient grudge break to new
mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil
hands unclean.”
(no longer reading)
Incredible!! The whole bloody thing
in verse?!

JONSON
(nonchalant)
It’s really not that difficult, if you
try.

SHAKESPEARE
And have you ever tried?

Jonson gives him a sharp look, and pauses to pick some
onions from a stand.

Shakespeare notices a BUXOM BLONDE women selling apples
at the next stand.

58
pg. 59

SHAKESPEARE (CONT’D)
(performing for the
Blonde)
“But soft, what light through yonder
window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious
moon,
Who is already sick and pale with
grief, That thou her maid art far more
fair than she.”

The Buxom Blonde smiles at Shakespeare seductively.

SHAKESPEARE (CONT’D)
(to Jonson)
I’ll have little trouble parting the
legs of barmaids after that
performance!

JONSON
You can’t play Romeo.

Jonson leaves the stall, and continues down the street.
Shakespeare hesitates, then gives the girl a dazzling
smile. She smiles back, then Shakespeare runs after
Jonson.

SHAKESPEARE
(to Jonson)
Why not? I won’t let that oaf Spencer
have another go at one of my roles.
No– only Will Shakespeare can pump
the life into Romeo’s veins.
(grins at another passing
girl)
And his cod piece!
(beat, desperate)
Ben– Ben! I’m an actor, every inch
of me, down to my very toes… I want-
– no, I need, crave– to act. I can’t
just idle the day by with–

JONSON
So bloody well act like a writer! And
for God’s sake, keep off the stage.
Writers don’t have time to act.

DISSOLVE TO:

59
pg. 60

54 INT. THE ROSE THEATER – DAY 54

A performance of “Romeo and Juliet”. About a dozen
actors are dancing. It is Act 1, Scene 5. “ROMEO”,
played by Spencer, is staring longingly at “Juliet”.
“Romeo” turns to his servant.

“ROMEO”
What lady’s that, which doth enrich
the hand of yonder knight?

“SERVANT”
I know not, sir.

“ROMEO”
O, she doth teach the torches to burn
bright! It seems she hangs upon the
cheek of night like a rich jewel in an
Ethiop’s ear; beauty too rich for use,
for earth too dear!

The actor playing Romeo plays to the women in the
audience. And

THE WOMEN

respond, eye lashes twittering.

THE WITS

Watch in awe! Now they’re all taking swigs of ale.

BACKSTAGE

Shakespeare mouthing silently the lines of “Romeo”.

IN OXFORD’S BOX

Oxford watches the dance carefully.

“ROMEO” (CONT’D)
Did my heart love till now? Forswear
it, sight! For I ne’er saw true
beauty till this night.

DISSOLVE TO:

55 INT. RICHMOND PALACE – GREAT HALL – NIGHT 55

Twenty-eight years earlier. A dance is taking place.

YOUNG OXFORD– now 20 is dancing with Young Anne. But
his eyes are on:

60
pg. 61

Young Elizabeth, who is dancing with the Spanish
AMBASSADOR.

YOUNG ELIZABETH

seems less than interested in her dancing partner. She
STARES intently back at Young Oxford.

WIDER

There is a natural change in the music, and all the
dancers switch partners– it’s part of the dance.
Young Oxford goes to Young Elizabeth, the Spanish
Ambassador goes to Anne.

YOUNG ELIZABETH AND YOUNG OXFORD

stare into each others eyes as they dance the intricate
moves.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
My lord of Oxford.

Elizabeth smiles.

YOUNG ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
We liked your play tonight very much.
Your young King Henry reminded us of
you.

OXFORD
Did he?

YOUNG ELIZABETH
Rash, yet brave. A boy– and yet a
man. Fair on the eyes, fairer to the
ear…

WIDER

Much of the Court is watching this. They can tell
there are sparks between them.

All the dancers change partners, including Elizabeth
and Oxford. A few dance moves, and Oxford once again
finds himself with Elizabeth.

YOUNG ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
We are glad of your return from the
continent. Two years is far too long
to be without such excellent
amusements.

Young Oxford dips his head slightly in acknowledgment.

61
pg. 62

YOUNG OXFORD
If I had known my absence would cause
your grace so much… longing, I would
have returned much– much– sooner.

Was that a come-on? Young Elizabeth decides to find
out.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
Your wife must be much pleased by your
presence once more at her side…

Young Oxford glances over at–

YOUNG ANNE

who is now dancing with the Spanish Ambassador. But
she watches Young Elizabeth and Young Oxford with a
great deal of jealousy.

WILLIAM CECIL

Follows his daughter’s look. He doesn’t like what he
sees any more than Young Anne does.

BACK TO YOUNG ELIZABETH AND YOUNG OXFORD

Still dancing.

YOUNG OXFORD
If she is, it is but a small comfort
to me. I am returned only under my
father-in-law’s insistence.

A beat as this sinks in.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
(surprised)
Cecil had told me your match was one
of love.

YOUNG OXFORD
And so he would wish.
(long beat)
But how could one ever love the moon,
after having first seen the sun?

He stares intensely into her eyes. And she stares
right back.

DISSOLVE TO:

62
pg. 63

57 EXT. RICHMOND PALACE – BALCONY – DAY 57

Three Ladies-in-waiting run onto the balcony to join
Bessie, who is looking across the palace grounds,
watching–

56 EXT. RICHMOND PALACE – FOREST – SAME TIME 56

Young Elizabeth and Young Oxford, both on horseback,
unaccompanied, trot over a small bridge.

56A EXT. RICHMOND PALACE – BALCONY – SAME TIME 56A

The Ladies-in-waiting giggle, but are interrupted by–

WILLIAM CECIL (O.S.)
Where is her majesty?

Bessie turns to William Cecil.

BESSIE
My lord. Her majesty went riding with
the Earl of Oxford.

The Ladies-in-waiting share knowing smiles.

56B EXT. RICHMOND PALACE – FOREST – SAME TIME 56B

Young Elizabeth and Young Oxford share flirty glances,
and then Young Elizabeth spurs her horse to a gallop,
and dashes into the fog. Young Oxford immediately
follows.

CUT TO:

58 INT. A ROYAL TENT – LATER 58

A servant places a silver plate filled with shucked
oysters onto a table filled with quail, venison, wine,
etc…

Young Elizabeth sits across from Young Oxford. It’s
just the two of them dining.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
And which country did you like the
most on your travels, my lord?

YOUNG OXFORD
I think Italy, your grace.

63
pg. 64

YOUNG ELIZABETH
And why is that? The weather? The
food?

YOUNG OXFORD
No their theater, which they call la
Commedia dell’arte. And, of course,
the women.

She raises an eyebrow.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
The women?

YOUNG OXFORD
They were more… clear with their
desires than our English ladies. When
they want something, they take it.
They do not wait to be taken…

SLOW DISSOLVE TO:

59 OMIT 59

60 INT. RICHMOND PALACE – RECEIVING CHAMBER – NIGHT 60

A door SLAMS open, and Young Elizabeth and Young Oxford
dash in, ripping each others clothes off in the
fireplace-lit room.

Young Elizabeth gently pushes Young Oxford towards her
throne… She kisses him. Then begin to make love.
On the throne.

DISSOLVE TO:

LATER

Postcoital, the fire still lit. Young Elizabeth is
half asleep, half awake, nestled in furs in front of
the fireplace… much like Titania in “Midsummer
Night’s Dream”…

Young Oxford watches her as she stirs and wakes. She
smiles at him.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
I can’t decide. Are you Prince
Hal…? Or Romeo? No. Benedick,
maybe…?
No–
(MORE)

64
pg. 65

YOUNG ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
(smiles)
–Puck

YOUNG OXFORD
(smiles)
Puck?

YOUNG ELIZABETH
Yes, Puck!

She’s only teasing.

YOUNG OXFORD
Ah, but Puck would never fight for you
in the Netherlands…

YOUNG ELIZABETH
(surprised, smiles)
The Netherlands?

But then she realizes he’s serious, and the smile
vanishes.

YOUNG OXFORD
Well, why not? It’s an open secret on
the continent that you support the
rebels against Spain– and that you
are commissioning Englishmen to help
their cause. Spain’s loss is
England’s gain, is it not?

Her eyes narrow as she studies his face.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
Is this why you bedded me? For a
commission?

YOUNG OXFORD
No. No– of course not– I–

She stands, wrapped in her sheets, furious at the
thought of once more being used.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
Leave me. Leave at once!

A beat.

YOUNG OXFORD
Bess–

YOUNG ELIZABETH
How dare you! How dare you!! I
command you to leave my presence.

65
pg. 66

And she steps back, waiting for him to exit.

Young Oxford stands… and starts to approach her…
He’s nude, his back to us.

She steps back, a bit stunned by his impertinence. He
steps towards her as–

YOUNG OXFORD
O Mistress mine, where are you
roaming?
O stay and hear… your true-love’s
coming,
That can–
(looks up and down her
body)
–kiss both high and low…

A bit stunned by his approach, she stumbles backwards
on her sheets.

YOUNG OXFORD (CONT’D)
Trip no further, pretty sweeting….

But he’s sexy… and naked. And spouting poetry. She
stops retreating and allows his approach.

YOUNG OXFORD (CONT’D)
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting–
Every wise man’s son doth know.

A small smile escapes her lips.

YOUNG OXFORD (CONT’D)
What is love? ‘tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:

He starts to kiss her neck. Cautiously at first. But
she likes it.

YOUNG OXFORD (CONT’D)
In delay there lies no plenty–
Then come kiss me, Sweet-and-twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

She responds to him, melting from both his words and
touch. They start to kiss deeply, passionately… And-


YOUNG ELIZABETH
(passionately)
You will stay in England… And in…
my chambers…

66
pg. 67

The flash of disappointment on Young Oxford’s face
about that last bit is tempered by Young Elizabeth’s
sheet falling to the floor. They begin to make love
passionately once more.

NASHE (O.S.)
I could do it if I wanted to…

61 INT. THE MERMAID’S TAVERN – DAY 61

Twenty-seven years later. Jonson, Marlowe, Dekker and
Nashe sit silently at a table, mugs of ale in hand.
Having just returned from “Romeo and Juliet”, all are a
bit in shock. The actors from the perfomance are there
as well in the BG.

MARLOWE
(to Nashe)
Do what?

NASHE
(a little drunk)
A play in iambic, in iambic pen…in-
bic-pentameter. It’s not that hard.

JONSON
Think you so? Have you ever tried?

NASHE
Of course not. But I could if I
wanted…

DEKKER
It wasn’t all in verse.

NASHE
Ha! See! Even easier!

Shakespeare enters and makes a bee line for them.

SHAKESPEARE
(excited)
Henslowe wants “Romeo” to run a
fortnight.
(unbelievable news)
A fortnight! Innkeeper! A round for
everybody! Inkeeper!!
(no response)
Billy!!!

And Shakespeare goes over to the bar.

67
pg. 68

NASHE
A fortnight?

DEKKER
The maids love the romantic tragedies.

MARLOWE
Precisely why I avoid them.

NASHE
Aw, well. No worries. A one-trick
pony. He’ll never be able to do it
again.

62 INT./EXT. THE ROSE THEATER – DAY 62

A MONTAGE of various plays:

“TWELFTH NIGHT”

Viola and Sebastian are reunited…

“CAESAR”

Caesar is attacked by Brutus, Cinna, Cassius, etc…

“MACBETH”

The witches are on stage.

These three performances are INTER-CUT with:

PLAYBILLS

outside the Rose, announcing each play’s title. At
first, Shakespeare’s name is small, with each
succeeding play his name gets bigger. And–

AFTER EACH PERFORMANCE

Shakespeare bows to the ever-increasing applause of his
audience. He looks up to see the Mermaid’s Wits all
watching him with stony silence.

And as each play is seen, Jonson and the rest of the
Wits seem more and more depressed.

And after each performance, Shakespeare seems to be
greeted with more and more adulation.

The MONTAGE ends with…

68
pg. 69

A PLAYBILL

in front of the theater announcing “William
Shakespeare’s Hamlet”. Shakespeare’s name is now above
the title. We HEAR the audience howl with LAUGHTER as–

63 INT. ROSE THEATER – DAY 63

An actor playing “POLONIUS” does an obvious caricature
of William Cecil, dressed in black with an exaggerated
rendition of Cecil’s beard.

“POLONIUS”
(over-acting)
…Beware of entrance to a quarrel,
but being in, bear it that the opposed
may beware of thee. Give every man
thy ear, but few thy voice, take each
man’s censure, but reserve thy
judgment….

64 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – AUDIENCE CHAMBER – DAY 64

Elizabeth watches the same play at a court performance.
We see Elizabeth smiling amused as “Polinous” continues
his rant…

“POLINOUS”
….Costly thy habit as thy purse can
buy, but not expressed in fancy, rich,
nor gaudy, for the apparel oft
proclaims the man. This above all, to
thine own self be true.

Elizabeth absent mindedly starts to scratch her chest,
irritated by some sort of itch, but still focused on
the play.

65 INT. ROSE THEATER – DAY 65

Jonson watches tight lipped…

The character of GERTRUDE”, the Queen, is joined by
“HAMLET”. “Polonius” is behind a curtain, listening
in, and is seen by the audience. “Hamlet” appears
enraged.

“GERTRUDE”
What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not
murder me? Help, ho!

69
pg. 70

“POLONIUS”
(behind curtain)
What ho, help!

“Hamlet” draws his sword.

“HAMLET”
How now? A rat? Dead, for a ducat,
dead!

“Hamlet” stabs “Polonius” through the curtain.

“POLONIUS”
O, I am slain.

“Polonius” emerges from behind the curtain, covered in
pig’s blood, and dies an anguished death.

There is stunned silence in the audience. And then one
lone Groundling CLAPS, then another, then the whole
audience.

GROUNDLING
Not a day too soon for old Cecil!!

66 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – AUDIENCE CHAMBER – DAY 66

Elizabeth is still scratching her chest, but more
vigorously as some of the members of court give
uncomfortable glances at each other over the death of
William Cecil– er “Polonius” onstage.

“GERTRUDE”
O me, what hast thou done?

“HAMLET”
Nay, I know not. Is it the King?

“HAMLET” (CONT’D)
Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool,
farewell! I took thee for thy better:
take thy fortune; Thou find’st to be
too busy is some danger. Leave
wringing of your hands: peace! sit you
down, And let me wring your heart; for
so I shall, If it be made of
penetrable stuff,
If damned custom have not brass’d it
so
That it is proof and bulwark against
sense.

70
pg. 71

Elizabeth can’t take the itching anymore. She RIPS
open her bodice and violently scratches some sort of
rash on her chest.

67 INT/EXT. ROSE THEATER – DAY 67

Oxford is in his usual box, but completely alone. He
has a smile of satisfaction on his lips while…

JONSON

Looks over to Oxford with astonishment… While on
stage the world sees for the first time “Hamlet”
contemplating suicide.

“HAMLET”
To be, or not to be: that is the
question: whether `tis nobler in the
mind to suffer the slings and arrows
of outrageous fortune, or to take arms
against a sea of troubles, and by
opposing end them…

Loud thunder and…

RAIN STARTS TO FALL

And as only the stage and the galleries are covered,
the groundlings are pelted with the cold drops of
water. But they stay. They stay. They cover
themselves up, and silently watch on.

“HAMLET’
…To die, to sleep- no more- and by a
sleep to say we end the heartache, and
the thousand natural shocks that flesh
is heir to…

The audience– soaked, pelted with rain– watches
immobile.

And then a again a loud thunder clap takes us to the
end of the play…

SHAKESPEARE

Bows to the thunderous applause. It is still raining,
but nobody wants to leave. While-

THE MERMAID’S WITS

watch in the crowd, a complex range of emotions, but
jealousy and loathing at the top of the list.

71
pg. 72

ON STAGE

some of the audience members grab Shakespeare, and pull
him on their shoulders, carrying him triumphantly out
of the theater.

CUT TO:

68 EXT. STREET IN FRONT OF TOWER OF LONDON – DAY 68

Marlowe walks towards the Tower of London.

68A INT. TOWER OF LONDON / POLE’S ROOM – DAY 68A

Silence….Marlowe is waiting patiently…

He is sitting across from Pole, the Captain of the
Guard, who is reading his report….

POLE
(looks up)
Are you certain of this?
(almost confused)
William Cecil was murdered?

MARLOWE
Not literally, of course. He was a
character, a fictional character. But
the metaphor was clear for anyone to
see. And see, they did.

Pole reads more from the parchment.

MARLOWE (CONT’D)
Will you shut it down?

Pole continues to read.

POLE
That is not for me to decide…

He brings out a pouch of coins, and tosses it across
the table.

POLE (CONT’D)
Your service to his lordship is once
again greatly appreciated.

Marlowe takes the pouch of money.

72
pg. 73

ROBERT CECIL (O.S.)
He butchered you!

69 INT. CECIL HOUSE – WILLIAM CECIL’S STUDY – DAY 69

Robert Cecil is furious, pacing back and forth in front
of William Cecil, who sits behind a large wooden desk.

William Cecil is pale and sweaty– he is deathly ill,
and sits in a wooden chair with small spoked wheels
attached to the legs– sort of an Elizabethan
wheelchair.

ROBERT CECIL
Not only in front of Court! But the
entire City as well! We must arrest
this Shakespeare and-

WILLIAM CECIL
No, Robert, think. If he is really as
popular as you say, we would only
anger the mob. No. We must strike at
Edward directly.

William Cecil slowly– and shakily– bends down from
his chair as–

ROBERT CECIL
But we cannot maintain our authority
if the mob thinks us laughing stocks–

WILLIAM CECIL
(angry)
Our authority comes from Elizabeth and
from God! Elizabeth! Elizabeth is
the key to all.

Robert Cecil looks hurt by his father’s anger.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
(gentler)
Robert… You must think deeper. You
must compensate. Compensate for
your… malformations… with the
gifts God did grant you… With
cunning. With ruthlessness.

William Ceci pushes a hidden button on the side of his
desk– a spring loaded secret drawer POPS open. Robert
Cecil has never seen it before.

Cecil produces a folded piece of parchment from the
drawer, offers it to Robert Cecil.

73
pg. 74

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
From King James of Scotland.

Robert Cecil looks surprised.

69A INT. CECIL HOUSE – HALLWAY – MOMENTS LATER 69A

Robert Cecil is pushing William Cecil in his
wheelchair. They are completely alone.

WILLIAM CECIL
James knows of the Queen’s affection
for Essex… and the rumors of his
birth. He is justly concerned.
(beat)
You will reply to him.

ROBERT CECIL
I will reply to him?

WILLIAM CECIL
I am dying, Robert–
(before Robert can
protest)
We both know this to be true. And I
will not witness the next coronation.

69B INT. CECIL HOUSE – WILLIAM CECIL’S BEDROOM – MOMENTS 69B
LATER

Robert Cecil wheels his father in.

WILLIAM CECIL
Help me to my bed, my son.
(Robert Cecil does so)
If we are to secure your place at the
side of the next king, you must get
that king his throne, not I.

A beat as this registers on Robert Cecil.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
You will write to James that I am
gravely ill, but that all is in hand.
Much of the Privy Council has already
secretly agreed to his ascension to
the English throne due to your
tireless, but secret, entreaties on
his behalf.
(beat)
And then tell him Essex will not
return from Ireland alive.

74
pg. 75

Robert Cecil looks surprised.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
This is how kings are made, Robert.
So it was with Elizabeth, and so it
shall ever be. There were many rival
claims to her throne, but none
survived to make their claim. James
must know that you will do the same
for him, and he will reward you for
it.
(beat)
But we must do one thing more…

William Cecil has a coughing fit– reaches for a glass
vial of medicine at his bedside– takes it.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
Like Essex, Edward must be removed.

ROBERT CECIL
(confused)
Edward?

William Cecil is slowly falling asleep…

WILLIAM CECIL
He uses the tools at his disposal, as
we use the tools at ours. But ours
will win… as they always have.

ROBERT CECIL
(more confused)
I– I don’t understand, father. What
does Edward–

WILLIAM CECIL
Edward seeks what we seek. To choose
the next King.

Off Robert Cecil’s surprised face we hear:

YOUNG ELIZABETH (O.S.)
I am with child…

CUT TO:

70 INT. RICHMOND PALACE – LONG GALLERY – DUSK 70

Twenty seven years earlier. Young Elizabeth is pacing,
terribly agitated. Bessie, the lady-in-waiting we have
seen constantly at her side is the only other person
present.

75
pg. 76

WILLIAM CECIL
Are you certain?

Young Elizabeth turns to Bessie.

BESSIE
Two cycles have passed, my lord.

William Cecil thinks.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
I wish to marry him…

William Cecil looks startled.

WILLIAM CECIL
Marry him, your grace? He is already
married.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
I can do what I will.

WILLIAM CECIL
Can you?

She gives him a sharp look.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
Most of the Catholic princes of Europe
wish to topple you and end your
Protestant reign… The only things
that stop them are the channel, and
the hope that they might marry you,
and thereby achieve your realm through
other means.

Young Elizabeth hears him, thinks on it, then begins
pacing again.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
I love him…

WILLIAM CECIL
Would you risk your throne for him?
Would you risk England for him?

He knows the answer to that.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
We must do as we have done before…
You must go on Progress, somewhere
isolated, accompanied by only those
whom you most trust.
(MORE)

76
pg. 77

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
After the birth, I will find a
suitable house for the child to be
reared in.

Young Elizabeth is uncertain.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
And Edward?

WILLIAM CECIL
He must never know.

71 INT. CECIL HOUSE – PRIVATE CHAPEL – DAY 71

A simple, cold space, like William Cecil himself.
William Cecil is alone in prayer. A few beats, then he
senses he is not alone. He turns and sees Young Oxford
(still 20).

YOUNG OXFORD
What have you done?

WILLIAM CECIL
I am praying.

YOUNG OXFORD
(ignoring him)
She won’t see me! I’ve gone to her
chambers three times, and she will not
receive me. And now she’s gone!

William Cecil regards Young Oxford for a beat, then
stands.

WILLIAM CECIL
She’s on Progress.

With this he leaves the chapel.

72 INT. CECIL HOUSE – HALLWAY – CONTINUOUS 72

Young Oxford runs after him.

YOUNG OXFORD
Where? Where did she go?

William Cecil is silent.

YOUNG OXFORD (CONT’D)
What did you say to her? Tell me!

77
pg. 78

WILLIAM CECIL
The Queen does not ask for my advice
about matters of the heart, Edward.
If she had, she hardly would have
chosen you for her pleasure.

He has a point.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
You must have known her eye would move
elsewhere, Edward. It always has.
You are neither the first, nor the
last, of her lovers.

Young Oxford looks up at him like a bucket of cold
water has hit him.

William Cecil stops. He looks at Oxford with a stern
face.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
Go back to my daughter, Edward. She
will accept you with open arms, as she
always has. Behave as your great
title demands you behave. Tend to
your estates, your investments.
(a beat)
And make me a grandson, an heir!

Off Young Oxford’s pained expression.

CUT TO:

73 INT. MERMAID’S TAVERN – NIGHT 73

Twenty-seven years later. Jonson is alone, trying to
write at a small table, though it’s obvious from his
fits and starts and crossing outs that he is having
difficulty.

MARLOWE (O.S.)
It’s difficult to write, isn’t it?
After watching something like
“Hamlet”…

Jonson looks up. Marlowe sits, uninvited. Jonson
looks annoyed at the interruption.

MARLOWE (CONT’D)
I’ve seen you watch him. Will.
During a performance. It eats at
you… at your soul…

78
pg. 79

Jonson stares at him, his answer obvious.

MARLOWE (CONT’D)
Why do you think Will hasn’t been
arrested? You or I make the slightest
joke about a nobleman of no
consequence, and we find ourselves in
a cell quicker than a fart spreads in
the trade winds. Will– he murders a
caricature of old William Cecil
himself, and still whores all the way
to Westminster and back.

JONSON
(shrugs)
Perhaps they haven’t noticed..

Jonson gets up and walks towards the door.

MARLOWE
I made sure they did…

Jonson turns around.

JONSON
You informed on one of your own? To
the Tower?

MARLOWE
Watch who you judge, Ben, for as God
is my witness, you may well find
yourself doing the same before you
meet your maker. We do what we have
to, to survive, and survive well, in
this life. All of us. And Will is
definitely not one of us. You know
he’s illiterate, don’t you?

Jonson is stunned.

MARLOWE (CONT’D)
No? Oh, he can read well enough– how
else could he learn his lines? But
the man never actually learned to form
his letters.

JONSON
Why are you here, Kit?

MARLOWE
(smiles)
So who did write it? You? No. You’d
take credit for it. No…
(MORE)

79
pg. 80

MARLOWE (CONT’D)
It must be someone who wants their
anonymity protected. Someone who
might even pay to have it protected.

Jonson is getting nervous.

MARLOWE (CONT’D)
A nobleman.

Jonson looks up. Marlowe smiles, knowing he is closer
to the truth.

MARLOWE (CONT’D)
But which? You know, don’t you, Ben?

JONSON
You’ve had too much to drink, Kit.
You’re beginning to sound like one of
your plays.

Jonson stands and hurries out of the Tavern.

73A EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON – MOMENTS LATER 73A

Jonson heads down the street, Marlowe chasing after
him.

MARLOWE
Ben! Tell me. We can go to him
together. Guarantee his anonymity…
for a price.

JONSON
You reported on me as well, didn’t
you, Kit? Last year. That’s why I
was arrested, wasn’t it? Because you
went to the Tower?

MARLOWE
(lying)
Ben, Ben… I had nothing to do with
that.

Jonson studies Marlowe for a beat and then walks away.

MARLOWE (CONT’D)
Ben– I’ll just go to Will! He’ll
tell me because he has so much more to
lose than you. Fame. Fortune. And
you’ll profit nothing from it.
Nothing!

But Jonson is gone.

80
pg. 81

74 EXT. MILITARY CAMP – IRELAND – DAY 74

A military encampment with dozens of tents on a cliff
by the Irish seaside.

CLOSER

Essex’s tent is larger, and guarded. An OLD SERVANT
carrying a tray with a silver pitcher approaches. A
guard opens the tent for him to enter.

INT. ESSEX’S TENT – CONTINUOUS

Essex is having a Council of War with his generals and
senior officers, including Southampton. They all stand
around a table, consulting a map of Ireland.

ESSEX
(pointing)
If the Rebels have stripped the
northern borders… Then we must
march south… and take Cahir
Castle…

The SERVANT stays in the background as he pours wine
into various goblets. Southampton notices him– the
servant’s hand shakes as he pours the wine.

GENERAL
(clears throat,
uncomfortable)
My lord. `Tis a well-defended
fortress. Two thousand men at
least. We cannot–

Southampton notices the Servant’s shaking hand slipping
into a pocket as–

ESSEX
So what would you have me do? Spend
the entire spring encamped? I am sent
to Ireland to end this infernal
rebellion, not idle my days with–

SOUTHAMPTON
Robert!

In an instant Southampton draws a silver engraved
pistol and SHOOTS the servant!

Everyone is shocked– but then we see:

81
pg. 82

THE SERVANT

had drawn his own, small wooden pistol.

ESSEX

shares a look with Southampton.

75 EXT. OXFORD STONE – GARDEN – DAY 75

To Establish. A foggy day. In the Foreground we see
the maze. Oxford and his fencing master, BEAULIEU
(20’s) are in the center of the maze dueling with
rapiers for exercise.

CLOSER

They wear outfits that are slightly more protective
than ornamental.

They duel for a few moments, and then Oxford TOUCHES
Beaulieu’s shoulder. The speak entirely in French.

BEAULIEU
Point!

Oxford backs off, as does the fencing master.

OXFORD
(in French)
Bien. Faisons du travail… le Coup
droit d’autorité?

BEAULIE
Mais oui, mon seigneur.

OXFORD
Bien. En garde!

And they once again begin to duel. But we quickly
surmise something is amiss. Beaulieu is much more
aggressive than he was before. Oxford realizes it, but
is an expert swordsman, and defends himself well.

And then Beaulieu aggressively moves forward, and STABS
Oxford in the leg.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
Qu’est ce que vous faites?

But Oxford has little chance to react, because Beaulieu
continues his attack.

82
pg. 83

OXFORD (CONT’D)
Beaulieu? Beaulieu?!

This has become an assassination attempt, not an
exercise.

ENTRANCE OF THE MAZE

Francesco is entering the maze with a silver tray
carrying a pitcher and two goblets.

CENTER OF THE MAZE

Though wounded, Oxford is a superior swordsman. And he
begins his own attack– with a ferocity that surprises
Beaulieu.

IN THE MAZE

Francesco heads for the center as–

IN THE CENTER OF THE MAZE

Oxford PIERCES Beaulieu’s heart with his rapier, and
Beaulieu SCREAMS–

IN THE MAZE

Francesco hears the scream, and starts to run.

FRANCESCO
Signor? Signor?!

IN THE CENTER OF THE MAZE

Oxford collapses as Francesco rushes in.

FRANCESCO (CONT’D)
Signor? Mio dio! Signor! What has
happened–

Oxford checks his leg wound, and glances at the dead
Beaulieu. He tries to wave off Franceso’s aid, but to
no avail as–

OXFORD
Beaulieu– he, he tried to kill me…

76 EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON – DAY 76

Jonson, slightly drunk, walks down a street, a whore
under his arm, and notices a commotion up ahead: people
talking by an alley near the Mermaid’s tavern.

83
pg. 84

JONSON
(to a passer-by)
What’s all that, then?

MAN
A body…

Jonson peers over and sees:

A BODY

on its back in the alley. Someone turns it over. It’s
MARLOWE, a dried stab-wound in his eye.

JONSON

is stunned.

MAN (CONT’D)
Must have been a cut-purse. Nowhere’s
bloody safe anymore, I’ll tell you
that…

CUT TO:

77 INT. A BEAR-BAITING THEATER – DAY 77

A small, open air theater where a chained bear is being
led around the theater. A set of mastiffs are being
led on the opposite side of the theater.

The spectators are unruly, loudly making bets for the
mauling to come.

Jonson is among them, taking a look at the bear, deciding
whether to bet on it or not.

BEAR BAITER
Sampson! Sired by the great Arthur
himself! No dog’s yet been bred that can
take him down!

Shakespeare suddenly sits next Jonson hardly notices.

SHAKESPEARE
I need more money.

JONSON
More–? You already make more than any
playwright Bankside.

84
pg. 85

BEAR BAITER
But then here, good friends, I bring you
a pack of dogs so fierce, so dangerous,
that Medusa herself would shrink in fear!

SHAKESPEARE
I’m going to build my own theater, Ben,
one that fits the scale of my work–

Jonson suddenly turns to him.

JONSON
Your work?

BEAR BAITER
Not a one has had a morsel of food in a
week! Bred by the great John Sinclow!

A MAN
Fourpence on three dogs!

SHAKESPEARE
They insist only a gentleman can own the
land.

ANOTHER MAN
A shilling on four!

SHAKESPEARE
The bribes are outrageous, but I found
some one who will make me a coat-of-arms,
and change the Stratford lists for me.

JONSON
Impossible.

ANOTHER MAN
Eight shillings on six dogs! Eight
shillings on six dogs!

JONSON
I’ll take that bet!! Eight shillings on
the bear, six dogs!

ANOTHER MAN
Done!

SHAKESPEARE
Bad bet, that.

JONSON
(to Shakespeare)
You’ll have to make do with what
you’ve got. I won’t be your beggar.

85
pg. 86

Shakespeare gives him a look to kill.

SHAKESPEARE
This isn’t a request, Ben. I’ll have
more money.

JONSON
Or what? You’ll slit my throat like
you did Kit’s?

MAN
Release the dogs! Release the dogs!

Shakespeare shows no reaction.

JONSON
I know he went to see you last night,
Will. And I know he was planning to
expose you if you didn’t agree to his
terms.

IN THE PIT

The bear baiting begins.

WIDER

Shakespeare stares at Jonson.

SHAKESPEARE
(dead serious)
You’re mad, Ben. Kit was my friend.

JONSON
Be careful, Will. You kill me off
too, and you won’t have any good plays
to act in after this is all done.

Some of the spectators BOO while others CHEER, and–

SHAKESPEARE
I’ll have my guineas, Ben. One way or
another, I’ll have my guineas.

And he gets up and leaves as the–

DOGS

start to go for the bear’s throat. Thge cheering goes to
a roar as we–

CUT TO:

86
pg. 87

SHAKESPEARE

Wears a beard and fake nose. He tries to stay hidden so
Jonson doesn’t see him. We are:

78 EXT. LONDON BRIDGE – DAY 78

Jonson is waiting not far from him by a stand and
drinks an ale.

Then Oxford’s servant, Francesco, appears.

After the two men have exchanged couple of words,
Francesco gives Jonson a leather folder containing a
manuscript and a purse jingling with coin. Jonson
takes them and leaves.

Jonson safely gone, Shakespeare starts to follow
Francesco who heads back over the bridge.

78A EXT. THE THAMES RIVER – DUSK 78A

Shakespeare is in a small boat following Francesco, who
is in Oxford’s boat. They head towards Oxford Stone.

EXT. OXFORD STONE – DUSK

Shakespeare watches as Francesco enters Oxford Stone.

79 OMIT 79

CUT TO:

80 INT. OXFORD STONE – STUDY – DUSK 80

Shakespeare is waiting, clearly uncomfortable. It’s
not the kind of room he’s used to being in. He holds
his wig and his nose.

A door opens, and Oxford enters, walking on a stick
because of his leg injury. He is followed by his
servant, Francesco.

OXFORD
So! You are the famous Shakespeare
whose labors I have enjoyed so much.
I am at your service, sir.

87
pg. 88

Shakespeare is uncomfortable. He wasn’t expecting
Oxford himself. Then he just goes for it.

SHAKESPEARE
My lord– I- I need more money.

OXFORD
(sharp)
I beg your pardon?

SHAKESPEARE
My expenses have, ah, aggrandized…
since this all began.

OXFORD
“Aggrandized”?

SHAKESPEARE
And if, if your lordship doesn’t agree
to an increase in my, ah, fee, I shall
be forced to make certain… facts
public.

FRANCESCO
Have you any idea to whom you are
speaking?

SHAKESPEARE
I am addressing the writer of
Hamlet… of Juliet and her Romeo. Am
I not?

Oxford is silent. Francesco goes to physically eject
Shakespeare from the room.

FRANCESCO
Out. Get out! How dare you insult my
master in–

OXFORD
Wait!
(beat)
How much?

Shakespeare looks at Francesco, then Oxford.

SHAKESPEARE
Four hundred pounds. A year.

FRANCESCO
A year?

OXFORD
Pay him.

88
pg. 89

Francesco is shocked.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
(impatient, in Italian)
Pagalo!

Shakespeare smiles.

81 EXT. OXFORD STONE – DUSK 81

Shakespeare exits, tossing a leather pouch filled with
coins. He smiles.

82 INT. OXFORD STONE – STUDY – DUSK 82

Oxford watches Shakespeare walk down the road through a
window.

FRANCESCO
Forgive me for speaking of things
above my place or understanding,
signor. But… Is this wise? They
have already tried to kill you once.

OXFORD
Wisdom, Francesco, is a quality I have
unfortunately never possessed…

Francesco stares at Oxford who is deep in thought.

The sound of heated love making takes us to…

83 INT. CECIL HOUSE – YOUNG OXFORD’S BEDROOM – NIGHT 83

Twenty-five years earlier. Young Oxford (now 25 and
with a beard) is making love to someone. We can’t tell
who at first, and assume it is Elizabeth. And then we
see, it’s BESSIE, Young Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting.

DISSOLVE TO:

84 INT. CECIL HOUSE – YOUNG OXFORD’S BEDROOM – NIGHT 84

An hour later, post-coital. A fire is burning, and
Bessie is finishing dressing herself.

BESSIE
Edward… You know she would be
furious if she found out about this…

89
pg. 90

Young Oxford doesn’t answer. He is deep in thought.

BESSIE (CONT’D)
She still loves you.

YOUNG OXFORD
No. She abandoned me.

BESSIE
You don’t know, do you?

He looks at her quizzically.

BESSIE (CONT’D)
The Queen. She had your child.

85 EXT. CECIL HOUSE – EARLY MORNING 85

A carriage drives towards the house.

85A INT. CARRIAGE – EARLY MORNING 85A

Young Anne de Vere holds her sleeping daughter in her
arms.

86 INT. CECIL HOUSE – HALLWAY – EARLY MORNING 86

Bessie carefully closes Oxford’s bedroom door and
suddenly freezes.

She turns and sees Young Oxford’s wife with her little
daughter at her side standing in the hallway staring at
her.

For a moment nobody dares to move, then Bessie rushes
off…

WILLIAM CECIL
I cannot be certain, majesty, when
the… relationship began.

CUT TO:

87 INT. RICHMOND PALACE – GREAT HALL – DAY 87

Young Elizabeth looks out a window, obviously
distressed. William Cecil is across from her, his face
tense.

90
pg. 91

WILLIAM CECIL
But sometime soon after your return to
Court.

YOUNG ELIZABETH
You’re sure?

WILLIAM CECIL
They– they haven’t been very
discreet, majesty. I presume he
wanted you to know. To… to hurt
you.

She is crushed.

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
Majesty, there is more. The lady is
pregnant.

Young Elizabeth freezes, stunned. Then–

YOUNG ELIZABETH
Arrest them. Arrest them both!

William Cecil bows and exits.

Now alone, Young Elizabeth lets her emotions out. She
picks up a vase and THROWS it into a wall.

87A EXT. TOWER OF LONDON – DAY 87A

From high above, we see a carriage arrive. It stops,
and William Cecil gets out.

88 INT. TOWER OF LONDON – YOUNG OXFORD’S CELL – DAY 88

Young Oxford (now 26) is looking out a window at the
river beyond. He has been imprisoned for some months.
His beard has become ragged, his clothes have seen
better days.

William Cecil enters.

WILLIAM CECIL
Your whore gave birth last week.

Young Oxford turns to William Cecil. The stare at each
other for a beat.

91
pg. 92

WILLIAM CECIL (CONT’D)
The Queen has decided to release you.
It seems time does indeed heal all
wounds.
(beat)
These are her conditions for your
release. One. You will not
acknowledge the child. Two. You will
never see the mother again. Three.
You will avoid Court at all costs.
Her majesty would prefer not to be
reminded of you in any way ever again.

A beat as Young Oxford thinks on all this.

YOUNG OXFORD
Banished…?

WILLIAM CECIL
No. You have the freedom of the
kingdom. Just not of the Court.
(beat)
Those are her terms. Here are mine.
You will go back to my daughter. You
will make some effort to make her
happy and you will finally act
according to your station in life, and
accept the responsibilities of your
great title.

Oxford reluctantly NODS. William Cecil goes to leave.

YOUNG OXFORD
My lord! I, too, have a condition.

William Cecil turns.

YOUNG OXFORD (CONT’D)
I will go back to your daughter if…
You tell me the name of the child.

WILLIAM CECIL
I don’t know if the whore has even
delivered the–

YOUNG OXFORD
No. The other one.

Cecil’s face goes to stone.

WILLIAM CECIL
The other one?
(realizing)
Who told you?

92
pg. 93

Cecil is obviously annoyed by this development.

YOUNG OXFORD
I will go back to your daughter. I
will make you as many grandchildren as
she can bare…

William Cecil thinks.

YOUNG OXFORD (CONT’D)
Or I can remain here…

William Cecil decides.

WILLIAM CECIL
There is no record of his true birth,
no trail that leads to you, or the…
mother. His foster parents never knew
the truth, and both are now dead…

YOUNG OXFORD
The name?

WILLIAM CECIL
Make even a hint of this to the child,
or anyone else, and this agreement is
void, and I’ll see your head on the
block within a fortnight. And the
boy’s as well.

YOUNG OXFORD
(excited)
It’s a boy…?

89 EXT. CECIL HOUSE – GARDEN – DAY 89

Young Oxford (cleaned up) is watching a BOY about five
years old dueling with a tutor. The boy is quite good.

The boy notices Young Oxford, and stops duelling.

BOY
Hello…

YOUNG OXFORD
Hello.

Young Oxford smiles at the boy.

YOUNG OXFORD (CONT’D)
I’m Edward, the Earl of Oxford.

93
pg. 94

BOY
My lord…

The Boy bows, a serious expression on his face.

YOUNG OXFORD
They tell me one day you’re to be an
Earl as well.

BOY
I shall be the Earl of Southampton.

YOUNG OXFORD
(smiling)
Well then, we shall be Earls together,
shan’t we?

CUT TO:

90 INT. WESTMINSTER ABBEY – DAY 90

Twenty-five years later. William Cecil’s body is in
state, in his coffin, in the center of the apse.

ELIZABETH

looking completely stricken, approaches the coffin,
holding Cecil’s white cane. She places it at his side.

In the background we hear the Archbishop of Canterbury
reading from the bible.

ARCHBISHOP (O.S.)
… In the sweat of thy face shalt
thou eat bread, till thou return to
the earth: for out of it wast thou
taken, because thou art dust, and to
dust shalt thou return…

ROBERT CECIL

scans the room, to see how it is all playing out.

OXFORD

watches stoically, his wife and children at his side.

94
pg. 95

91 EXT. WESTMINSTER ABBEY – DAY 91

The funeral over, Elizabeth exits the portal of
Westminster Abbey and heads to her carriage. A huge
crowd of mourners has assembled.

Robert Cecil steps into place right behind her.

ELIZABETH
We wish to recall Essex from
Ireland…

Robert Cecil is instantly concerned, but hides it well.
They continue to walk.

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
We feel a terrible void, now that your
father is no longer at our side…

Robert Cecil bows his head as he walks.

ROBERT CECIL
A wise decision, your majesty. If
nothing else, it will give him an
opportunity to respond to all these
rumors.

Still walking, she turns to him sharply.

ELIZABETH
Rumors?

ROBERT CECIL
I’m sorry, majesty, I thought you’d
heard.

ELIZABETH
Heard what?

ROBERT CECIL
Essex is in negotiations with Philip
of Spain…

ELIZABETH
Peace is at hand. We know this.

ROBERT CECIL
Majesty– it is said that Essex has
promised Phillip all of Catholic
Ireland in return for…

He hesitates.

95
pg. 96

ELIZABETH
In return for what?

ROBERT CECIL
Spain’s support of Essex’s claim to
the throne of England…

They have arrived at her carriage.

ROBERT CECIL (CONT’D)
(beat)
It is, as of yet, just rumor.

ELIZABETH
Bring him to me, William. Bring him
to me at once!

ROBERT CECIL
(correcting)
Robert, majesty.

Elizabeth stares at him for an instant, then gets into
her carriage, unsure of herself.

ROBERT CECIL (CONT’D)
My father’s death has been a great
loss for us all…

She ignores him, trying to collect herself. Robert
Cecil turns to the driver, NODS, and the carriage takes
off.

As soon as it is away, Robert Cecil turns and some in
the crowd of commoners begin to BOO at him.

CUT TO:

HORSE HOOVES

as they gallop over emerald green grasses. We are:

92 EXT. A MILITARY FIELD IN IRELAND – DAY 92

A group of horsemen gallop into Essex’s camp. A
MESSENGER jumps off his horse and heads for Essex’s
tent.

93 INT. ESSEX’S TENT – DAY 93

Where Essex and Southampton are having dinner as the
messenger enters. He bows.

96
pg. 97

MESSENGER
My lord…

He hands him a sealed envelope. Essex takes it, begins
to read. Frowns, SLAMS the parchment down. He looks
into the distance, trying to process what he’s just
read.

Southampton picks up the parchment and begins reading.

SOUTHAMPTON
She can’t believe this…

ESSEX
Oh, can’t she?

SOUTHAMPTON
It’s Robert Cecil. He failed to kill
you, now he tries to kill your name.

Essex heads for the flap of the tent.

ESSEX
We leave with the tide!

CUT TO:

94 INT. THE MERMAID’S TAVERN – NIGHT 94

Shakespeare enters the tavern carrying a rolled up
parchment. He passes various actors drinking, then
hurries over to Jonson, Nashe and Dekker, who are deep
in drink.

SHAKESPEARE
Well, I’ve got it!

Shakespeare unravels the parchment. He puts it on the
table with a flourish.

It shows a coat-of-arms containing a spear and a
falcon. The colors are numerous, and garish.

SHAKESPEARE (CONT’D)
The herald just finished it not an
hour ago.
(smiles)
Well?

Everyone is confused by it.

NASHE
It’s quite… colorful.

97
pg. 98

DEKKER
What in blazes is it?

SHAKESPEARE
My coat-of-arms! It cost a bloody
fortune, but, by god, you can call me
gentleman now!

Jonson looks over at Shakespeare. Shakespeare locks
eyes with him, but looks away, ashamed of something.

DEKKER
I can’t quite make out the motto…
Non sanz… Non…

SHAKESPEARE
“Non sanz droict”.

NASHE
Not without–

JONSON
Right!? Not without right?
(beat)
You went to him, didn’t you? You
lying knave– you went to him!

Shakespeare doesn’t want to discuss this with the
others present.

SHAKESPEARE
(smiles)
Ben. Ben! Let me buy you a–

He grabs Jonson’s shoulder, but Jonson pushes him away.

JONSON
What? You’ve already killed off one
competitor. Now you want another dead
as well?

Shakespeare looks at the confused Nashe and Dekker
nervously.

SHAKESPEARE
I don’t know what you mean. Ben, we
should really–

JONSON
I swore to him I wouldn’t tell you his
name. Swore it! Do you have any idea
what he might do to me? Do you?
(to Nashe)
(MORE)

98
pg. 99

JONSON (CONT’D)
He’s not even a writer you know. He
can’t even–

SHAKESPEARE
Ben– you’ve had too much to drink.

Shakespeare grabs Jonson.

JONSON
Unhand me!

Shakespeare backs off. Jonson pulls out a piece of
parchment from his shirt.

JONSON (CONT’D)
Here!
(looks around)
A quill! A quill!

Nashe and Dekker look at each other, slightly
embarrassed. Jonson finds a quill deep in his pants.
He thrusts it at Will, who ignores it.

JONSON (CONT’D)
(re: the parchment)
Go on, Will. Write something for us.
Now. Go on! Amaze us with your
verse. Your wit! No? Try astounding
us with the letter “E”. Or an “I”–
it’s just a straight line!

Shakespeare stares at him.

SHAKESPEARE
You haven’t got any ink.

And he exits.

CUT TO:

95 EXT. THE CITY GATES OF LONDON – DAY 95

Southampton and Essex are on horseback, followed by
several dozen armed retainers, GALLOPING towards the
city of London.

96 EXT. WHITEHALL PALACE – COURTYARD – DAY 96

The party rides into the first gate. The palace is the
city residence of the Queen, and is at the edge of the
City.

99
pg. 100

Essex and Southampton jump off their horses.

97 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – HALLWAY – DAY 97

Essex and Southampton walk quickly down the long
hallway, opening door after door. Servants scurry
behind them, terrified of the intrusion, trying to stop
them. They open the doors into–

98 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – AUDIENCE CHAMBER – DAY 98

The ladies-in-waiting scream in fear when they see the
two men in battle gear.

ESSEX
(to Southampton)
Wait for me.

And he continues on into–

99 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – OLD ELIZABETH’S BEDROOM – 99
CONTINUOUS

–where Elizabeth is still dressing, putting on make-
up, etc. She is NOT wearing her wig, and is only
wearing her undergarments. She looks quite ugly.

She turns to see Essex, shocked at his intrusion.

Essex FREEZES. He knows he has just made an enormous
faux-pas.

ESSEX
Majesty, I, I…

She stares at him, horrified to be seen in such a
manner. The she regains her composure and–

ELIZABETH
Get out! Out!!!

He steps back in horror– not at her appearance, but
what he has just done. The doors SLAM in front of him
as we–

ELIZABETH (O.S.)
(CONT’D)
The insolence!

100
pg. 101

100 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – AUDIENCE CHAMBER – DAY 100

Elizabeth, now dressed and wearing her wig on her
throne, is raging at Robert Cecil.

ELIZABETH
Who in God’s name does he think he is?
Abandoning his post without my leave!

She begins to absent-mindedly unbutton the top of her
bodice.

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
Coming into our presence in such a
manner, neither announced nor invited,
half his army in my courtyard. He’s
gone mad… mad!

ROBERT CECIL
No. Unfortunately for us, your
majesty, he is quite sane. He simply
believes he is your royal equal.

She turns to him sharply, furious at the thought.

101 EXT. ESSEX HOUSE – DAY 101

It looks like an armed camp, with part of Essex’s army
encamped in the front courtyard. The soldiers are all
tense.

Oxford, followed only by Francesco, rides into the
courtyard. He is immediately surrounded by armed men,
their muskets pointed at him. Oxford raises his hands.

OXFORD
I am Edward, Earl of Oxford.

SOUTHAMPTON
Edward! Edward! Thank god you’re
here.

Southampton comes towards him.

SOUTHAMPTON (CONT’D)
Elizabeth has revoked all of his royal
licenses! She believes every lie
Cecil tells about him.
(seeing Oxford’s wound)
Edward? What happened to your leg?

101
pg. 102

OXFORD
(shrugs)
Nothing.

Oxford continues towards the door. Southampton
follows, his concern for Oxford’s wound noticeable.

102 INT. ESSEX HOUSE – HALL – DAY 102

Oxford, Southampton and Essex are alone. Oxford is
sitting in a chair, while Essex paces impatiently,
Southampton standing between them.

ESSEX
She won’t accept my letters. I cannot
get to her. Cecil plans to arrest me
any day. I know it.
(beat and more determined)
But that won’t be as easy as he
thinks.

OXFORD
Fight him in London, and you only
validate every rumor and lie Cecil has
ever told about you.

ESSEX
Then what do you suggest I do? Let
myself be arrested so I can be tried
and executed for crimes I did not
commit?

OXFORD
No. I will go to Elizabeth, myself,
alone–

ESSEX
How? Cecil won’t let her see a letter
without reading it first.

OXFORD
I won’t send her a letter. I will
send her a book.

Essex looks confused, but Oxford ignores it.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
She will call for me. And while I am
with her, you will come– not with an
army, not with swords, but with her
loyal subjects. The cobblers, the
tinkers, the bricklayers of London.
(MORE)

102
pg. 103

OXFORD (CONT’D)
All, all calling for Robert Cecil’s
banishment from Court. Words, Robert,
words, will prevail with her, not
swords.

Essex looks unsure.

ESSEX
And the mob? How will I–

OXFORD
Leave that to me.

103 OMIT 103

103A INT. OXFORD STONE – A STUDY – NIGHT 103A

Oxford is in his rooms, writing feverishly by
candlelight.

He completes a thought… closes the manuscript…
writes down the title with a flourish:

The Tragedie of Richard III

104 INT. A ROOM ABOVE THE MERMAID’S TAVERN – DAY 104

A room for the whores to take their tricks. Small,
with nothing much beyond a straw bed.

Shakespeare is bedding a buxom young lady.

And then the door OPENS. Francesco enters, and Oxford
follows, holding a manuscript. Shakespeare looks
shocked. She starts to SCREAM and yell as she pulls a
sheet to cover herself.

FRANCESCO
(to the whore)
Hold your tongue, whore, and get out!

She does so as Oxford walks over to Shakespeare. He
tosses the manuscript to him. Shakespeare starts to
look at it. The whore is partially dressed, so–

FRANCESCO (CONT’D)
(to the whore)
Out, woman!

WHORE
Oi. `Oo’s going to pay me then?

103
pg. 104

Shakespeare gives a look to Oxford– he certainly isn’t
going to pay for it.

Oxford nods to Francesco, who gives the whore a few
coins. She smiles, and leaves.

OXFORD
You shall begin rehearsals
immediately. But it is not to be
performed until I tell you. And you
may only have a day’s notice.

Shakespeare looks confused.

SHAKESPEARE
That will be expensive– keeping all
the actors ready. Having the props
made but not–

Oxford tosses a very large pouch of coins at him, and
then begins to leave.

OXFORD
Oh, and congratulations. You’ve had
an epic poem published today.

SHAKESPEARE
(confused)
Published? You mean like in a book?

Renaissance MUSIC BEGINS as we–

CUT TO:

A PIECE OF PAPER

as a printer presses down the press onto it. The title
page is printed in front of us. It’s called “Venus and
Adonis”. A MONTAGE BEGINS.

105 INT. A PRINT SHOP – DAY 105

And the printer brings the page out from the press and
checks it for proper alignment.

SHAKESPEARE (V.O.)
`The boar!’ quoth she; whereat a
sudden pale,
Like lawn being spread upon the
blushing rose…
Usurps her cheek; she trembles at his
tale,
(MORE)

104
pg. 105

SHAKESPEARE (V.O.)
And on his neck her yoking arms she
throws:

The printer nods his approval… The poem continues
with:

105A EXT. THE PRINT SHOP – DAY 105A

Shakespeare exits the Print Shop, continuing to read
the book, now out-loud.

SHAKESPEARE (V.O.)
She sinketh down, still hanging by his
neck,
He on her belly falls, she on her
back.
(not quoting)
Oh, I like this…

DISSOLVE TO:

106 OMIT 106

A COVER OF “VENUS AND ADONIS”

that is held by a woman.

LADY IN WAITING (O.S.)
‘Fondling,’ she saith,
I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my
deer;
Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or
in dale:

We are:

107 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – AUDIENCE CHAMBER – DAY 107

A LADY-IN-WAITING is reading out loud to other Ladies.
They listen giggling now and then. We only see them
from the back.

LADY IN WAITING
Graze on my lips; and if those hills
be dry,
Stray lower, where the pleasant
fountains lie.

105
pg. 106

SECOND LADY IN WAITING
(continuing)
Seeds spring from seeds, and beauty
breedeth beauty;
Thou wast begot; to beget is thy duty.
By law of nature thou art bound to
breed…

They look up and see–

ELIZABETH

standing across the room. How much has she heard?

WIDER

They all stand abruptly, worried. The women who was
reading the book puts it down on a table.

Elizabeth silently walks over to them, and picks up the
book. She opens it as we–

CUT TO:

108 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – HALLWAY – DUSK 108

Robert Cecil walks down the long hall, heading for an
audience with the queen. Two guards open a door,
letting him into–

109 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – OLD ELIZABETH’S BEDROOM – DUSK 109

Elizabeth is looking out the window. It’s raining
outside. She is NOT wearing her wig, not much make-up,
and looks quite… odd.

Robert Cecil enters.

ELIZABETH
(turns)
You find me disgusting, don’t you?
Repugnant. Wrinkled?

ROBERT CECIL
You, you are the sun, majesty. The
glory of–

ELIZABETH
Liar!

Robert Cecil shuts his mouth.

106
pg. 107

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
Is it so hard to believe that once I
was young? That I was… beautiful?
Your father knew me as such…
(beat)
You have read the book?

She doesn’t have to say which one. Robert Cecil sees a
copy of “Venus and Adonis” on a table. He NODS.

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
He writes to me. To remind me of that
beauty. That love. How I… took
him. How I… adored him…

Robert Cecil knows to be silent. She looks out the
window.

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
(throaty, sexually)
Graze on my lips; and if those hills
be dry,
Stray lower, where the pleasant
fountains lie…

She smiles seductively, transported in time.

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
I’ve been foolish. Proud. Yes. Too
proud. Gloriana… The Virgin
Queen… A statue. Bloodless.
(beat)
“Thou wast begot; to beget is thy
duty.
By law of nature thou art bound to
breed, That thine may live when thou
thyself art dead”…
(beat)
Your father told you of the child?

A beat.

ROBERT CECIL
(hint of a smile)
Which one, your majesty?

Elizabeth’s eyes flare in anger for an instant, then
she regains composure.

ELIZABETH
His. Mine. He still lives?

Robert Cecil nods.

107
pg. 108

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
He was well placed? A nobleman?

ROBERT CECIL
(hesitates)
Yes… your majesty.

ELIZABETH
Who?

Robert Cecil hesitates.

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
I am your Queen! Now who is my son!!?

ROBERT CECIL
His grace, the Earl of… Southampton,
your majesty.

She seems surprised. Perhaps she was expecting Essex.
But then she smiles, and NODS in approval.

CECIL
Majesty… You are not having doubts
about James of Scotland succeeding
you, are you?

Elizabeth goes into a rage.

ELIZABETH
James?! He is the son of Mary! She
plotted and schemed to steal the
throne from under me! No son of hers
will rule while a yet Tudor lives!

Robert Cecil is surprised by her fury. He bows his
head as Elizabeth tries to collect herself.

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
I will decide what is best for my
kingdom! Not you! Not you!!
(calmer)
I have bid Edward to come to me on my
return to London on Monday next. It
is decided.

She says no more, the audience over. Robert Cecil
hesitates, and then she glares at him… He bows and
exits, the fury on his face plain.

Elizabeth looks at her own reflection in the window…

108
pg. 109

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
(sotto)
And so, in spite of death, I shall
survive,
In that, my likeness still is left
alive.

CUT TO:

110 EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON – DAY 110

Ben Jonson walks with a manuscript in his hands. He
stops for a moment when he sees the new Globe theater.
Workers are still painting the walls.

He pauses when he sees a poster in front advertising a
performance of “Richard III” on Monday next.

110A INT. THE GLOBE THEATER – DAY 110A

Jonson sticks his head in and takes in the glorious new
theater Shakespeare and Burbage have built.

The actor Condell is on stage, rehearsing the character
of “Gloucester”. He walks on stage with a limp, and
has a large hump on his back. He is a caricature of
Robert Cecil.

“GLOUCESTER”
(in character)
But I, that am not shaped for sportive
tricks, nor made to court an amorous
looking-glass…

Richard BURBAGE, the theater’s stage manager, is
watching his performance with Spencer and a group of
actors.

Jonson stops and watches the rehearsal for a beat.

“GLOUCESTER” (CONT’D)
(in character)
I, that am curtail’d of this fair
proportion, deformed, unfinish’d, sent
before my time into this breathing
world…

SPENCER
Good part, that…

109
pg. 110

“GLOUCESTER”
…and that so lamely and
unfashionable that dogs bark at me as
I halt by them.
(out of character)
Is this wise?

BURBAGE
It’s only the one performance. Go on!

“GLOUCESTER”
I need a drink…

And “Gloucester” heads backstage.

JONSON
(to Burbage)
Burbage. Wonderful theater. Wonderful!
The best Bankside! But only one
performance? Is it that bad?

BURBAGE
Hardly, it’s Will’s new play. Richard
the Third. We’ve been hired to
perform it free to the public.

JONSON
Free?

BURBAGE
Aye. Some anonymous nobleman paid for
everything. God knows Will never
would. Been rehearsing all week,
just found out this morning, we go up
next Monday.

Jonson thinks a beat– that’s odd– but then holds up
his manuscript.

JONSON
(grins)
My best so far. I guarantee more than
one performance. Though I’ll not pay
for the tickets myself.
(winks)
No need to.

BURBAGE
Sorry, Ben…

Jonson looks confused.

110
pg. 111

BURBAGE (CONT’D)
Will… He’s part owner… I’m sorry
Ben, but I had to agree no Jonson
plays at the Globe… Ever.

Jonson is in shock.

CUT TO:

111 INT. THE MERMAID’S TAVERN – NIGHT 111

Jonson is deep in drink, by himself. He listens as
patrons of the bar say:

MAN
(to a woman)
You doin’ tomorrow?

WOMAN
You askin?

MAN
Managed to get two tickets to
Shakespeare’s latest. Cost me a
fortune.

PASSING MAN
Ballocks, did it! They’re giving them
away free.

Some of the actors from the rehearsal enter, all jolly
and excited. They head for the bar. They are: The
ACTOR WHO PLAYED “GLOUCESTER”, Spencer, Pope, Heminge,
etc…

SPENCER
Best villain in the history of
theater, Richard the Third. No doubt.

HEMINGE
Come on. Better than Mephistopheles?

SPENCER
No doubt! Your Marlowe– god rest his
soul– is fine for your everyday
scalawag, and your Jonson won’t even
try the hard drama. No, this is
Shakespeare, for god’s sake! The man
knows drama. I tell you, not even the
Greeks compare!
(toasting)
To Shakespeare! And villainy!

111
pg. 112

ALL
To Shakespeare! And villainy!

Jonson gets up, furious, and exits, quite drunk. The
actors don’t even notice him.

112 EXT. STREET IN FRONT OF TOWER OF LONDON – NIGHT 112

Jonson stumbles down the streets, alone, deep in his
own private hell. It’s raining.

WHORE
Fancy a tumble? Only sixpence!

Jonson waves her off. He looks up and sees:

FROM HIS POV:

The Tower of London. He makes a decision.

113 OMITTED 113

114 INT. THE TOWER OF LONDON – POLE’S ROOM – DAY 114

Jonson sits in the same spot where Marlowe was sitting
earlier. And he hates himself for it. Rain drips down
the windows.

Pole looks up from some papers.

POLE
I haven’t got all day, man.

JONSON
I… There is a– there is a play to
be performed… on Monday.

POLE
There’s many plays to be performed
next Monday, isn’t there?

JONSON
Yes, my lord, but this one is to be
performed one performance, and one
performance only. On Monday. All
Bankside is talking of it.
(beat)
The History of King Richard the Third.
By William Shakespeare.

Pole is confused. So?

112
pg. 113

JONSON (CONT’D)
He kills his brother the king, and
half the royal family to get the
throne for himself–

POLE
I know who Richard the Third was.

JONSON
Yes. Of course you do. But in
William Shakespeare’s version, he is
played as a hunch-back.

Pole realizes this is significant.

115 INT. CECIL HOUSE – THE PRIVATE CHAPEL – DAWN 115

Robert Cecil has prayed all night. His lips silently
move in a prayer for a miracle.

When Pole appears he doesn’t stop his prayer. Only
after Pole whispers in his ear does he stop and look
slowly up to the simple cross and close his eyes in
relief.

116 EXT. LONDON – DAY 116

From high, high above a city of 200,000 souls. It’s a
beautiful sunny day, but black storm clouds are on the
horizon.

All of London is on its feet. They all are on their way
to Bankside.

The London Bridge is crammed one way. The River Thames
is full of many small boats of theatergoers.

117 EXT. BANKSIDE – IN FRONT OF THE GLOBE – DAY 117

We see that a huge crowd has formed in front of the
Globe.

118 INT. THE GLOBE THEATER – BACKSTAGE – DAY 118

Everyone is busy, preparing for the performance;
actors, stage-hands, etc…

Shakespeare adjusts an actor’s costume when Burbage
walks up besides him.

113
pg. 114

BURBAGE
We have to turn `em away by the
hundreds! Look! Never seen anything
quite like it!

And both men look out the curtains to the crowd
outside.

The theater is full to the last seat. The people are
crammed together like sardines.

118A INT. OXFORD STONE – OXFORD’S ROOM – NIGHT 118A

Oxford is being dressed in front of a mirror… His
finest clothes… Powder to face…

Francesco assists him.

118AA INT. THE GLOBE THEATER – THE GALLERIES – DAY 118AA

Jonson is leaning against the edge of the balustrade,
watching the Groundlings fill in. He bites his nails
nervous.

Nashe joins him as–

NASHE
So! I heard the Earl of Essex paid for
this whole performance! Man’s never even
been to the theater, and still he’s heard
of Will–

Dekker also joins them.

DEKKER
Essex!? Impossible. My cousin’s one of
his men-at-arms. Hasn’t been paid in
weeks. They’re all just sitting there,
waiting.

JONSON
Waiting? Waiting for what?

DEKKER
Wants to have an audience with the Queen.
As if Cecil would ever let Essex near her
now.

NASHE
By the mass, Cecil in favor, Essex out!
Who can keep up with it all!?
(takes a swig)
(MORE)
114
pg. 115

NASHE (CONT’D)
Zounds, I tire of politics, politics,
politics.

119 EXT. THE THAMES RIVER – DAY 119

Oxford is in a long-boat, headed for Whitehall Palace.
The oars of the boat cut neatly and silently into the
water.

120 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – OLD ELIZABETH’S BEDROOM – DAY 120

Elizabeth is doing her toilette. She seems excited like
a school girl before her first date. Her Ladies in
waiting are attending to her.

121 INT. THE GLOBE THEATER – DAY 121

The audience HUSHES as–

ON STAGE

“GLOUCESTER”, the future Richard III, enters. He is
hunch-backed, and looks as much like Robert Cecil as
possible in terms of beard and costume. First the
people are in stunned silence, but then like magic the
hissing starts. It is followed by more hissing and the
first boos.

The actor playing Gloucester nervously looks around…

IN THE GALLERIES

Dekker seems surprised at the similarity to Robert Cecil.

DEKKER
(to Nashe)
Tired of politics are you? Seems you
picked the wrong day to come to the
theater, then…

Jonson gives Dekker a sharp look. What’s going on here?

ON STAGE

“Gloucester” addresses the audience.

“GLOUCESTER”
Now is the winter of our discontent
made glorious summer by this son of
York. Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d
his wrinkled front….

115
pg. 116

The hissing and booing has swelled so strong that the
actor stops for a moment. But then he finds the courage
again to continue.

Jonson looks down at the Groundling’s reaction, and
spots–

FRANCESCO

in the audience. But among the Groundlings, not in
Oxford’s usual box seat.

JONSON

looks over to Oxford’s box. It’s empty.

“GLOUCESTER”
…and now instead of mounting barded
steeds to fright the souls of fearful
adversaries, he capers nimbly in a
lady’s chamber to the lascivious
pleasing of a lute. But I, that am
not shaped for sportive tricks, nor
made to court an amorous looking-
glass…

122 OMIT 122

123 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – ROBERT CECIL’S ROOM – DAY 123

Robert Cecil watches himself in a mirror as armor is
placed on him by servants.

“GLOUCESTER” (O.S.)
I, that am curtail’d of this fair
proportion, deformed, unfinish’d, sent
before my time into this breathing
world,….

124 EXT. BANKSIDE – IN FRONT OF THE GLOBE THEATER – DAY 124

The huge crowd has stayed in front of the Globe. It
seems they are waiting for something. We hear hissing
and booing from the crowd inside the theater.

“GLOUCESTER”
…and that so lamely and
unfashionable that dogs bark at me as
I halt by them.

116
pg. 117

125 INT. THE GLOBE THEATER – DAY 125

On stage, “Gloucester: continues despite the concert of
hissing and booing…

“GLOUCESTER”
And therefore, since I cannot prove a
lover, I am determined to prove a
villain and hate the idle pleasures of
these days…

126 EXT. ESSEX HOUSE – DAY 126

Essex mounts his horse, Southampton at his side. Their
sixty or so men behind them ready for the march to
Elizabeth.

ESSEX
Edward knows what he is doing… Does
he not?

SOUTHAMPTON
He promised us a mob. They’ll be
here.

Essex looks concerned, but says no more.

127 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – ROBERT CECIL’S ROOM – DAY 127

The servant tightens the last strap of Robert Cecil’s
armor. He smiles at himself in the mirror.

“GLOUCESTER” (O.S.)
Plots have I laid!

CANNONS DRAWN BY HORSES

as they roll down a cobbled street. We are:

128 EXT. LONDON BRIDGE – DAY 128

Soldiers move people and carts off the street. Others
put CANNONS into place and then cover them with canvas
tarps.

“GLOUCESTER” (O.S.)
Inductions dangerous, by drunken
prophecies, libels and dreams, to set
my brother Clarence and the king in
deadly hate the one against the other.

117
pg. 118

129 INT. THE GLOBE THEATER – DAY 129

Shakespeare watches from backstage, getting more and
more nervous by the audience’s reaction.

AN AUDIENCE MEMBER
(to the actor playing
“Gloucester”)
A pox on you!

FRANCESCO
A pox on Cecil!

MORE AUDIENCE MEMBERS
A pox on Cecil! A pox on Cecil!

The actors are getting nervous. People start throwing
lettuce and tomatoes at them.

NASHE
Why is Oxford’s man with the Groundlings?

BACKSTAGE

Shakespeare and Burbage exchange a worried glance.

130 EXT. ESSEX HOUSE – DAY 130

The BELLS of St. James’ Cathedral mark the hour as five
o’clock. Essex looks to Southampton nervously.

131 INT. THE GLOBE THEATER – DAY 131

The play continues. “Gloucester” is plotting yet
another death on his way to the throne.

“GLOUCESTER”
Hath she forgot already that brave
prince,
Edward, her lord, whom I, some three
months since,
Stabb’d in my angry mood at Tewksbury?
A sweeter and a lovelier gentleman-
Fram’d in the prodigality of
nature, Young, valiant, wise, and
no doubt right royal-

FRANCESCO
Down with Cecil!

The actor playing “Gloucester” hesitates. The audience
is getting unruly.

118
pg. 119

FRANCESCO (CONT’D)
Up with Essex! To Essex House! To
Essex House!!

IN THE GALLERIES

Jonson is putting the pieces together. He stands.

JONSON
This is what Essex is waiting for–
(realizing)
Oxford is bringing him a mob.

Jonson heads for the stairs.

NASHE
Why would Oxford–

JONSON
I don’t know, I don’t know! But, the
Tower– Cecil, he already knows. He
knows!
(looks at Francesco)
I– I have to warn them!

Nashe and Dekker are baffled as Jonson rushes down the
stairs.

VARIOUS GROUNDLINGS
Up with Essex! Essex! Death to
Cecil!

BACKSTAGE

Shakespeare turns to Burbage.

SHAKESPEARE
We must close the play. Now!!

BURBAGE
Close the…? Are you off your head?

We can start to HEAR the audience chanting “Ess-ex,Ess-
ex”…

ON STAGE

It’s getting unruly.

“GLOUCESTER”
(repeating)
Fram’d… in the prodigality of
nature, Young, valiant, wise, and no
doubt right royal-

119
pg. 120

“Ess-ex, Ess-ex, Ess-ex”

ON THE GROUND

Jonson pushes his way through the crowd, trying to head
for Francesco. But they’re separated by a sea of people.

FRANCESCO
To Essex House! To Essex House!
Death to Cecil! Traitor!

A moment as the whole audience thinks on this. And
then these chants are repeated by hundreds in the
audience as they are pushing towards exits.

And Jonson– still struggling to reach Francesco– is
carried along with the mob.

132 EXT. OUTSIDE THE GLOBE THEATER – DAY 132

The mob pours out of the doors.

Storm clouds are gathering. A RUMBLE of thunder sounds
in the distance.

133 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – HALLWAY – DAY 133

Oxford is waiting for his audience, looking out a
window, nervously.

134 EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON – DAY 134

The crowd pours through Bankside, growing in numbers as
more people come out of taverns, whore-houses, etc…

A shop-owner comes out of his store, confused. Another
MAN grabs him.

MAN
To Essex! And then to the Queen!
(joins in the chanting)
Ess-ex! Ess-ex!

The shop-owner begins to get the spirit of the mob.

135 EXT. LONDON BRIDGE – DAY 135

If anything, the crowd is twice the size it was moments
ago. They head down the shop-lined bridge, full of
bravado.

120
pg. 121

JONSON

is in the middle of the uncontrolled mob. He spots
Francesco nearby.

WIDER

The mob has to slow down on the bridge. There is not
much room. And then it happens!

We are at the front of the mob, when the first soldiers
appear and pull down the tarps revealing the cannons.

People scream as an Officer appears and–

OFFICER
Fire!

And then the cannon FIRES. There is PANIC all around,
and-

JONSON

runs with the crowd, trying to escape.

137 EXT. ESSEX HOUSE – DAY 137

Essex and Southampton look tense. They expected a mob
here by now.

SOUTHAMPTON
They should be here by now…

Essex frowns.

ESSEX
We go as we are! Now!!

And he spurs his horse, and GALLOPS down the street.

ESSEX (CONT’D)
To the Queen!

Southampton has no choice, and follows. So do the 60
or so men behind them.

136 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – HALLWAY – DAY 136

Oxford hears a cannon shot. But it could also be the
sound of thunder. He goes to the window, sees the rain
clouds, and dismisses the sound. A LADY IN WAITING
enters.

121
pg. 122

LADY-IN-WAITING
My lord. Her majesty will be with you
shortly.

138 Omitted 138

139 EXT. LONDON BRIDGE – DAY 139

The mob is in panic. And–

JONSON

is in the middle of it.

FRANCESCO
Signor Jonson! We are betrayed! Run!
Run!

Jonson looks on in horror as Francesco is KILLED by a
soldier wielding a pike.

140 EXT. WHITEHALL PALACE – COURTYARD – DAY 140

Essex and his men ROAR past the token guards at the
front gate, and gallop into the–

MAIN COURTYARD

Essex rears his horse, looks around at the many windows
that surround them from above.

ESSEX
To the Queen! To the Queen!

His men repeat his plea. And then, once again, another
trap springs.

THE GATE

SLAMS closed. And–

GUARDS ARMED WITH MUSKETS

line up in a colonnade in the story above. Pole is in
command.

POLE
Take your aim!

SOUTHAMPTON

realizes–

122
pg. 123

SOUTHAMPTON
It’s a trap!

ESSEX
Spread out!

But before his men can obey–

IN THE COLONNADE

Pole orders–

POLE
Fire!!

IN THE COURTYARD

AND a hundred shots FIRE down into Essex and his men!

141 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – HALLWAY – DAY 141

Oxford HEARS the SHOTS fired. Confused, he goes to a
window, looks out and sees:

FROM HIS POV:

Men fall all around Essex and Southampton.

141A EXT. WHITEHALL PALACE – COURTYARD – DAY 141A

Pole walks down the colonnade.

POLE
Re-load!

142 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – AUDIENCE CHAMBER – DAY 142

Elizabeth heads for the window just as a door behind
her SLAMS open, and Robert Cecil hurries in with a
dozen guards.

ROBERT CECIL
Majesty! You must away! Essex is in
armed revolt! He’s come to usurp you!

ELIZABETH
(confused)
Essex? I– Edward is–

She seems like a confused old woman.

123
pg. 124

ROBERT CECIL
You must flee! Quickly! Majesty! He
means to kill you and take your throne
for himself!

It takes only an instant for that to sink in. She
looks enraged. And then she turns with a flurry, and
heads back the way she came. The guards that were with
Robert Cecil follow her.

143 EXT. WHITEHALL PALACE – COURTYARD – DAY 143

Another fusillade is SHOT, and more of Essex’s men go
down.

And then doors OPEN on the ground floor, and guards
RUSH out to take down the survivors.

Essex and Southampton valiantly fight, but there’s just
too many.

They’re soon surrounded… And Essex, knowing all is
lost, raises his sword in defeat.

Southampton sees this, and does the same.

144 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – HALLWAY – CONTINUOUS 144

Oxford watches all of this through the window.

ROBERT CECIL (O.S.)
She won’t forgive him this, Edward.

Oxford turns, devastated.

ROBERT CECIL (CONT’D)
Essex will be convicted and executed
for treason.
(beat)
As will your son.

Oxford looks shocked.

ROBERT CECIL (CONT’D)
(smiles)
What? Didn’t you think I knew? Of
course I knew, Edward. My father told
me all his secrets. All of them.
(smiling)
Though the most fascinating was not
made known to me until after his
death.
(MORE)
124
pg. 125

ROBERT CECIL (CONT’D)
He hated you, Edward, how he hated
you. And yet he married his only
daughter to you. I never knew why,
until I read his last letter to me.

OXFORD
He wanted his grandson to be an Earl.

ROBERT CECIL
No, Edward. He wanted his grandson to
be a king.

Oxford now looks confused.

ROBERT CECIL (CONT’D)
Elizabeth had several children,
Edward, not just yours. She was
sixteen for the first. Bloody Mary
was still Queen, and our future
Gloriana was out of favor. No one
thought her very important at all.
Except my father, of course. And when
her first child was born, a male, my
father took it, and hid it. The
grandson of Henry VIII, the foundling
of course had to be reared a nobleman.
John De Vere, the previous Earl of
Oxford, agreed to accept the task.

Oxford goes ashen.

OXFORD
You lie…

ROBERT CECIL
Do I?
(beat)
Why do you think he worked so hard to
become your guardian after your father
died? He had it all planned years in
advance. He would teach you
everything he knew about statecraft,
marry his daughter, and, after
Elizabeth’s death, proclaim you heir.
His own grandchild to follow you on
the throne. But he couldn’t possibly
predict what kind of failure you would
become. How you would fail in
politics, ignore your estates to the
point of bankruptcy, all to write…
(sneers)
Poetry.
(beat)
Or that you would commit incest.
(MORE)
125
pg. 126

ROBERT CECIL (CONT’D)
(beat)
Delicious isn’t it? Right out of a
Greek tragedy.

OXFORD
Elizabeth would never have–

ROBERT CECIL
What? Slept with her son?
(beat)
I don’t think she ever knew, to tell
you the truth. Though you never know
with the Tudors. They all have had
such strange tastes in bed-fellows.
(beat)
You could have been a king, Edward.
And your son after you. Except for
the fact that… you were you.

145 EXT. WHITEHALL PALACE – COURTYARD – DAY 145

It’s raining, hard.

Oxford almost stumbles out of the building onto the now
empty courtyard. The remains of the battle are still
visible. Wounded, screaming horses struggle to
stand…

Oxford’s a shell– devoid of emotion. Broken. Hardly
alive at all. He drops to his knees, the rain pouring
down on him.

We see the silhouette of a man watching through a
window from the second story above. It’s–

145A INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – HALL – SAME TIME 145A

–Robert Cecil, a slight smile on his face.

Pole approaches him from behind. Robert Cecil doesn’t
turn or acknowledge Pole, but speaks to him as he
stares at Oxford.

ROBERT CECIL
I want a fair trial for Southampton…
Evidence, witnesses, no false
confessions. It must be above
reproach. Though with a guilty
verdict of course. Oh, and Pole–
(turns)
If there is any mention of that play–
(looks back at Oxford)
(MORE)
126
pg. 127

ROBERT CECIL (CONT’D)
–Make certain the secretaries refer
to it as Richard the Second. There
will be no mention of hunchbacks in
the official record…

CUT TO:

146 EXT. OXFORD STONE – GARDEN – DAY 146

Oxford is sitting in a chair, watching the river
Thames, alone. Snow is falling and Oxford is covered
in a thick blanket. He looks ill.

Anne walks up behind him.

ANNE
Sentence has been passed.

Oxford looks over at her. Anne smiles. This news
gives her great pleasure.

ANNE (CONT’D)
They are to be be-headed.
(with venom)
Both of them. Essex tomorrow,
Southampton in a week.
(beat)
Your son is going to be killed,
Edward. By his own mother. Put that
in one of your plays!

And she leaves him with that.

147 EXT. THE TOWER OF LONDON – COURTYARD – DAY 147

Essex– dressed in black, but with a bright red
waistcoat– is led up a scaffold by guards, his hands
bound behind him.

Snow covers the courtyard. There are only a few
witnesses, as befitting Essex’s rank.

ESSEX

stands, looking at life one last time. The Executioner
approaches with an axe. Essex turns, realizing it is
time.

ESSEX
Strike true.

He kneels, resting his head on a wooden bench.

127
pg. 128

ESSEX (CONT’D)
God save the Queen!

And BAM! Just as the axe lands we–

CUT TO:

FROM A WINDOW

we see the body of Essex fall onto the scaffolding, his
head into a basket. We are:

148 INT. THE TOWER OF LONDON – A CELL – DAY 148

Southampton, a prisoner, is watching his future fate
from a room high in a tower.

DISSOLVE TO:

BOOTS

as they walk, limping along tiled floors. We are:

149 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – AUDIENCE CHAMBER – DAY 149

Doors fly open and Oxford appears before Elizabeth, who
is on her throne, regal and all in white, surrounded
by courtiers, including Robert Cecil. But she looks
very old, very ill.

Everyone goes silent as Oxford approaches Elizabeth.
Oxford makes no notice of them. He bows deeply in
front of her.

ELIZABETH
Leave us. All of you.

People start to exit. But not Robert Cecil.

ROBERT CECIL
Majesty, I–

ELIZABETH
Leave us!

Cecil exits, obviously worried. When they are alone:

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
You look old…

Oxford smiles sadly.

128
pg. 129

OXFORD
I thank your majesty for seeing me.

ELIZABETH
You cannot have him.

OXFORD
He is our son.

ELIZABETH
Who did commit High Treason!

OXFORD
They only wished for a place in
government equal to their station.
Equal to their birth.

ELIZABETH
You caused this! Your play, your
words, caused my people to mob against
me! Do you think I wasn’t aware of
your plot with this man Shakespeare,
that I wouldn’t recognize your voice?
It should be your head on the block
next week, not Southampton’s!

Oxford kneels.

OXFORD
Then take my head. In our son’s
stead.

Elizabeth turns away from him, angered. She walks to a
window, turns her back on him.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
Neither they nor I ever conspired
against you. Cecil alone was our aim.
He has corrupted your–

ELIZABETH
Cecil? He has kept me my throne!
(beat)
Mary, Queen of Scots… Philip, King
of Spain… Four French Louis’s…
Eight Popes– they all wanted my head.
My throne. All of them!
(beat)
Yet here I remain… Because of the
Cecils.

OXFORD
We would have protected you–

129
pg. 130

ELIZABETH
You would have protected me? You? My
“loyal” Earls?
(snarls)
You think Essex and Southampton were
the first to conspire against me, to
try to take my throne? No!
(beat)
Only the Cecils could I trust!
Commoners! They could never claim my
throne. Never! Their wealth, their
power, their survival, all depended on
me. Me and no other!

A long beat before–

OXFORD
Let our child live…

ELIZABETH
(furious)
All Englishmen are my children!

She has a coughing fit. Oxford patiently waits until
she has recovered. Finally…

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
Does he know?

Oxford shakes his head.

ELIZABETH (CONT’D)
And if I give him to you?

OXFORD
He will never learn of it from me.

She pauses for a long moment… And then she decides.

ELIZABETH
He must never know… Never.
(beat)
Take him.

Oxford dares to smile, relieved.

OXFORD
But only after my death! Only then!
When all is complete. After James is
crowned king, his crown safe, only
then can you claim your son… our
son.
(beat)
This Island will be whole.
(MORE)
130
pg. 131

OXFORD (CONT’D)
One Island, one kingdom, one King.
(with disgust)
Scotsman though he be.
(beat)
That, that will be my final gift to my
people.
(beat)
And I shall remain pure… Un-taken!

Elizabeth again looks out a window.

ELIZABETH
Treason… that is all that has come
from you… your son… Your plays…
None will be claimed by you. None.

And she leaves the throne chamber. Oxford looks after
her as the SOUNDS of BELLS slowly begin GONGING as we-

DISSOLVE TO:

150 EXT. LONDON – DAY 150

The bell-ringing comes from St. Paul’s Cathedral, the
largest church in the City.

CUT TO:

151 EXT. THE THAMES RIVER – DAY 151

On the frozen river Thames we see the funeral
procession for the greatest Queen England has ever
seen. Everybody follows the carriage with the casket
of the queen.

All the lords and ladies of the land. All wear
elaborate black clothing.

First is Robert Cecil. Proudly. Not far walks Oxford.

He is a statue. Devoid of emotion. And then joyous
CHORAL MUSIC replaces the CHURCH GONGS as we–

CUT TO:

A GOLD CROWN

as it is placed on a head. We are:

131
pg. 132

152 INT. WESTMINSTER ABBEY – DAY 152

JAMES I (late 30’s) is being crowned by the Archbishop.
All the lords and ladies of the land are standing in
attendance.

ROBERT CECIL

is watching James. His face betrays his proud
feelings. All of Robert Cecil’s desires have come true.

Oxford’s wife Anne is there, but Oxford is nowhere to
be seen.

ARCHBISHOP (O.S.)
God save the King!

EVERYONE IN THE ABBEY
God save the King!

CUT TO:

153 EXT. STREET IN FRONT OF TOWER OF LONDON – DAY 153

It’s foggy. Oxford stands next to a carriage, waiting
as the gates open, and Southampton– scruffy and a bit
worse for wear– is escorted out.

Southampton smiles weakly when he sees Oxford waiting
for him. The two men walk towards each other and
embrace.

Both men have tears in their eyes.

SHAKESPEARE (O.S.)
No, no, no, no.

CUT TO:

154 INT. THE GLOBE THEATER – DAY 154

Shakespeare is on stage, supervising a rehearsal of
“Much Ado About Nothing”. He doesn’t look pleased.

SHAKESPEARE
The line won’t get a laugh that way.
You must accent the word sirrah–

JONSON (O.S.)
Will! Will Shakespeare!

132
pg. 133

Shakespeare turns and sees Jonson heading his way.
Jonson is completely drunk, waving a sword in one hand,
a tankard in another.

JONSON (CONT’D)
So! Off to the palace are you?

Shakespeare immediately sees Jonson’s condition.

SHAKESPEARE
Ben!

JONSON
A command performance for our new
king! Even in bloody Scotland they’ve
heard of bloody Will Shakespeare, have
they? Fraud. Charlatan.
Counterfeiter of wit! Murderer!

The actors on stage are all watching, nervous.

SHAKESPEARE
Ben, please…

But Jonson CHARGES Shakespeare. Shakespeare easily
dodges the drunk Jonson. Jonson ROARS and attacks
again.

Shakespeare dodges again, turns, and manages to grab
Jonson by the throat. They are face to face.

SHAKESPEARE (CONT’D)
You came to me, Ben. You came to me!

They stare at each other and then Shakespeare SHOVES
him off. Jonson falls to the ground.

CUT TO:

155 EXT. OUTSIDE THE GLOBE THEATER – LATE AFTERNOON 155

Jonson– only semi conscious– is carried by the actors
and dumped into the street. They leave him there. He
wallows in the mud for a beat. Then–

SERVANT (O.C.)
Master Jonson?

Jonson looks up to see one of Oxford’s servants
standing above him.

133
pg. 134

156 INT. OXFORD STONE – OUTSIDE OXFORD’S BEDROOM – DUSK 156

The servant guides Jonson towards Oxford’s bedroom just
as Anne and a DOCTOR emerge from it. She recognizes
him.

ANNE
(to servant)
What is this man doing in my house?

The servant doesn’t know what to say.

ANNE (CONT’D)
(to Jonson)
You will leave at once. My husband is
quite ill–

JONSON
It was your husband who sent for me,
madam.

ANNE
And I am dismissing you–

A SECOND DOCTOR exits the sick man’s room.

SECOND DOCTOR
Are you Jonson?

Jonson nods.

SECOND DOCTOR (CONT’D)
He’s asking for you.

JONSON
Excuse me, your grace.

CUT TO:

157 INT. OXFORD STONE – OXFORD’S BEDROOM – CONTINUOUS 157

Oxford, in bed, looks quite ill, sweat covering his
brow.

He furiously writes on a small tablet on his lap. He
holds up his hand for silence as Jonson enters, the
doctor following behind him.

OXFORD
Thank you, doctor.

The doctor exits.

134
pg. 135

OXFORD (CONT’D)
Come over here, Jonson…

He points to a chair by the bed. When Jonson sits down
he notices a big pile of manuscripts by the side of the
bed.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
Did you know, Jonson, that my family
can trace its peerage farther back
than any family in the kingdom? We
fought at Crecy. At Bosworth Field.
At Agincourt.
(beat)
I inherited my Earldom as one of the
wealthiest men ever to breathe English
air… and at last breath, I shall be
one of the poorest.

Jonson looks on sadly.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
Never a voice in government. Never a
sword raised in glorious battle. No
immortal deeds for my heirs to know me
by.
(beat)
Words, merely words, are to be my
legacy…
(beat)
You alone watch my plays and know them
as mine. When I hear the applause,
the cheering, of the audience, all
those hands clapping, they are
celebrating… another man. But in
that cacophony of sounds, I strained
to hear the sound of two hands only.
Yours.
(beat)
But heard them, I never did.

Jonson stares at him.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
Death takes away all pretense and
demands honesty from its target. You,
you have never told me… never told
me what you thought of my work…

To answer is not an easy task for Jonson’s ego. He
hesitates.

135
pg. 136

JONSON
(almost a whisper)
I find… your words… the most
wondrous ever heard on our stage. On
any stage… Ever.

The two men now looking each other in the eye.

JONSON (CONT’D)
(sotto)
You are the soul of the age…

Oxford smiles at the thought of it. Then–

OXFORD
Promise me… promise me, Jonson, that
you will keep our secret safe. That
you won’t expose Shakespeare…

JONSON
My lord?

OXFORD
I have seen it in your face… He
vexes you. How could he not? But he
is not your burden. He is mine.

Then he nods to the manuscripts by his side.

OXFORD (CONT’D)
All my writings. The plays, the
sonnets… Keep them safe. Keep them
from my family. From the Cecil’s.
Wait a few years, and then, publish
them.

Jonson looks stricken.

JONSON
I am not worthy of this charge, my
lord. I… I betrayed you… I told
them of your–

OXFORD
I have made it my life to know the
character of men, Jonson. I know you.
You may have betrayed me, but you will
never betray my words…

He puts the last manuscript on the pile.

Jonson looks at the–

136
pg. 137

FRONT PAGE

Which reads “DEDICATION”, then more words, starting
with:

“To the Earl of Southampton”

158 INT. OXFORD STONE – OUTSIDE OXFORD’S BEDROOM – DUSK 158

Jonson leaves Oxford’s room, visibly shaken. The
manuscripts are under his arm.

Anne, Oxford’s wife is still there, surround by
doctors.

Then she sees Jonson leaving.

ANNE
Get out! You, your friends, your
blasphemous theaters, have brought
nothing but ruin and dishonor to this
family.

JONSON
Ruin? Dishonor? Madam. You, your
family, me, even Elizabeth herself
shall be remembered solely because we
had the honor to live whilst your
husband put ink to paper.

He turns and exits.

CUT TO:

159 EXT. OXFORD STONE – DUSK 159

Jonson exits the building and walks away. He reads the
dedication on the first page of the manuscript as he
walks.

JONSON (V.O.)
To the Earl of Southampton. The love
I dedicate to your lordship is without
end; whereof this pamphlet, without
beginning, is but a superfluous
moiety.

Jonson freezes, and looks back at Oxford’s house,
realizing there is another whole layer to all this;
exactly what he can only guess.

CUT TO:

137
pg. 138

160 INT. OXFORD STONE – OXFORD’S ROOM – NIGHT 160

A few hours later. Oxford has died in his bed. Anne
watches as a doctor covers his face with a sheet.

JONSON (V.O.)
What I have done is yours; what I have
to do is yours; being part in all I
have, devoted, yours.

161 EXT. A SMALL CHURCH – DAY 161

A casket is being interred into the family mausoleum.
Anne is there, as are Oxford’s children. So is Robert
Cecil.

JONSON (V.O.)
Were my worth greater, my duty would
show greater; meantime, as it is, it
is bound to your lordship, to whom I
wish long life… still lengthened
with all happiness.

Southampton is there as well. Watching. Tears roll
down his cheeks.

CUT TO:

162 INT. TOWER OF LONDON – INTERROGATION ROOM – NIGHT 162

Where we began.

A bucket of water is DUMPED on Jonson. He regains
consciousness and looks around. Somewhat confused he
sees:

Robert Cecil limping out of the dark towards him.
Robert Cecil leans down, and very close to his ear,
whispers:

CECIL
I can make all this go away, Jonson…
To be but a dream. Like one of your
plays… Or, I can bring you so much
pain– pain that were you given a
thousand years, and a thousand quills,
you could never justly describe…

Cecil steps back.

138
pg. 139

CECIL (CONT’D)
I know you have them. All his
manuscripts. My sister saw you leave
Oxford Stone with them under your arm.

Jonson takes a long time before answering. Will he
betray Oxford?

JONSON
They were destroyed… burned… by
your own men…

Cecil doesn’t know whether to believe him or not.

INTERROGATOR
He’s lying…

JONSON
My lord? Why would I lie? Is there a
man alive who has reason to hate him
more than I?

Jonson stares directly at Cecil, knowing he is speaking
about Cecil as well as himself.

JONSON (CONT’D)
He was something I could never be. An
undeniable perfection… that plagued
my soul… And to him I was…
nothing. A messenger. Nothing more.

Cecil stares into his eyes for a long moment, searching
for the truth. Then he smiles.

CECIL
Let him go! He tells the truth.

Robert Cecil turns to leave, but then turns a last
time.

CECIL (CONT’D)
And Jonson– better him, won’t you?
Wipe his memory for all time. For
you. And for me.

Robert Cecil smiles at Jonson, who can only stare at
him. Finally:

JONSON
(sotto)
I am afraid that this is not possible,
my lord.

Robert Cecil’s smile freezes and he leaves.

139
pg. 140

163 EXT. STREET IN FRONT OF TOWER OF LONDON – DAWN 163

Jonson is getting released. He walks away….a lonely
figure.

164 EXT. THE ROSE THEATER – DAWN 164

Wide from above…Still smoking from the fire….All
the sudden we make out Jonson searching through the
rubble.

164A INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – AUDIENCE CHAMBER – NIGHT 164A

Set for a Court performance of a play. Courtiers bow
as King James I enters the chamber, Robert Cecil two
steps behind him. James takes his seat right in front
of the stage, as Elizabeth used to.

164B EXT. THE ROSE THEATER – DAWN 164B

Jonson’s eyes search the ground. And, eventually, he
finds it–

THE METAL BOX

that seems to somehow have survived the conflagration.

JONSON

opens the box.

INSIDE THE BOX

Are the manuscripts Oxford gave him. Jonson smiles,
relieved. They are singed at the edges, but they are
there. We hear–

PROLOGUE (O.S.)
O– for a muse of fire… that would
ascend the brightest heaven of
invention…

DISSOLVE TO:

AN ACTOR

playing Prologue. He is the same actor who introduced
the “play” at the beginning of the film. But now he
wears Elizabethan clothing– but again, all
monochromatic and grey.

140
pg. 141

PROLOGUE (CONT’D)
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
and monarchs to behold the swelling
scene!

165 INT. WHITEHALL PALACE – AUDIENCE CHAMBER – NIGHT 165

And he is standing on the stage.

PROLOGUE
Let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
on your imaginary forces work.

King James’ watches enthusiastically, Robert Cecil
right next to him.

JAMES I
We had seen some of this Shakespeare’s
plays in Edinburgh, Sir Robert. I
must tell you, we enjoyed them
immensely, and look forward to seeing
many more, now that we are in
London… I presume you are as avid a
theater man as myself?

Robert Cecil’s smile remains frozen.

ROBERT CECIL
Of course, your majesty…

The CAMERA moves away from them and we realize we are
on the theater stage where we started.

166 INT. BROADWAY THEATER – STAGE – DUSK 166

“Prologue” turns and addresses his audience (and us) in
the modern theater.

PROLOGUE
Robert Cecil remained the most powerful
man in the Court of King James, though he
could not prevent the public theaters
from becoming ever more popular. William
Shakespeare, however, spent the remaining
years of his life not in the playhouses
of London, but in the small town of his
birth, Stratford upon Avon, as a
businessman and grain merchant.
(beat)
(MORE)

141
pg. 142

PROLOGUE (CONT’D)
Ben Jonson succeeded in his desire to be
the most celebrated playwright of his
time, becoming England’s first Poet
Laureate. And in 1623, he wrote the
dedication to the collected works of the
man we call William Shakespeare.
(beat)
And so… though our story is finished,
our poet’s is not. For his monument is
ever-living, made not of stone but of
verse, and it shall be remembered… as
long as words are made of breath and
breath of life.

The curtains close.

END CREDITS start to roll…

FADE OUT.




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