Shakespeare’s Bargain (Get Inspired, week 2)

What if Shakespeare had written the most definitive guides to demonology in existence, in iambic pentameter?

In our timeline, Shakespeare was one of the most prolific and arguably one of the most known playwrights on the planet, chronicling kings and jesters, merchants and witches. If he suffered from writer’s block, it’s admirably hidden, perhaps in the slower stanzas of King Richard III.

In another timeline, he ran dry after Henry VI, part III, and instead of Titus Andronicus, he vanished without traceable publication for a year and a day. During that time, he made a bargain, and today the Most Unholy Church holds a copy of it, written in blood on human parchment: Shakespeare was to complete a cycle of plays documenting the fall of Lucifer and every demon in Hell. In exchange, words would never fail him and his name would live eternally.

His first work after his absence, Res Infernalis, spawned fame, riots, and calls for his head, as word of mouth spread and crowds overwhelmed the theatres. When guards and an escort of churchmen came to take him for trial, a flash mob exploded in London, and no traces of those men were ever found to bury.

When Filius Abramalech gained Europe-wide renown, the Vatican issued a letter announcing that the English playwright had sold his soul to Satan, and called upon the faithful to send him to his master in Hell. The Pope died within hours of signing it, but crowds thronged nonetheless to see Shakespeare’s next work, The Struggle of Beleth, in such numbers that thousands died in the crowds and the crows feasted for days.

Appropriately, Lucifer claimed his due after the publication of Zepar’s Tryst, and Shakespeare died aged 102, in the year 1666.

This one came to mind sometime late one night in a fit of green-eyed jealousy over people who never seem to spend time staring at words on a screen that just won’t settle down on the page the way they sounded in my head. What if it afflicted even the best of us, and what if writer’s block changed history?

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