In January of 1563 people started dying in England, due to the plague, but by June it was an epidemic.
|Dance of Death by Hans Holbein the Younger|
It lasted for over one full year, until June 1564.
I think both Shakespeare (who wrote that "all the world's a stage") and Cecil understood that life is a danse macabre, a Dance of Death, where each and every actor is led off the stage by Death eventually.
Robert Cecil was taught by the two most powerful men in England, his father William Cecil, and Sir Francis Walsingham. They were Queen Elizabeth’s two most trusted and closest councillors.
Shakespeare was fighting to survive. He may have taken an active part in the failed Essex Rebellion. It is possible that he could have been imprisoned, or even killed, for his involvement.
Thomas Kyd had been tortured for far less, and he later died due to his wounds. Christopher Marlowe may have been killed by the government, also for far less.
Shakespeare would also have fought Cecil for the freedom of the theatres. If Shakespeare was imprisoned indefinitely or killed, it is possible that the theatres could have been shut, maybe for good.
Shakespeare had used the theatres as a way to rally support for the Earl of Essex before, and after the Rebellion. Cecil could have decided to just shut them.
This was part of Shakespeare's Dance of Death. He knew that he would die one day or another. He had suffered great losses in his life, with his son Hamnet in 1596 and his father John only months after the Essex Rebellion, and had written about these deaths in his plays.
I think he wrote Hamlet knowing that it could mean the end of him.
Today we know that Shakespeare was not imprisoned indefinitely, was not killed and that the theatres remained open.
But it is just possible that history could have been different.
And if we stop for a moment, it is just possible that we have Shakespeare to thank for the theatres remaining open.
Shakespeare would go on to write and perform, and Death would have to wait to take him from the stage.
David B. Schajer
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