The Swan and the Company – Scrivener’s Forge 12

This is my response to the exercise on creativity which asks you to build a story combining two unrelated things. I followed the exercise literally and linked a swan and a company.


The swan looked morose, or at least self-involved, as it swept sedately down the river. Will knew how it felt.

Knowing how others felt was Will’s great gift. It wasn’t for nothing that Ben called him the Swan of Avon. He was celebrated at court and beloved by the groundlings. Or did Ben mean this was his swansong, the glorious music before he was taken to Apollo’s bosom? Yes that would be like Ben. Will frowned.

Portia’s speech came to him: “Let music sound while he doth make his choice; then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end, fading in music.”

He hardly heard what Burbage babbled. “Will, you cannot, must not.”

Will struck a pose, chest out, gazing out over the reaches of the river. “It will be a wonderful play, a great play. My finest work.”

“Mayhaps, but it will be the death of us. Your Henrys were magnificent. The groundlings hissed with glee at your Richard. But you cannot write the story of the Queen’s Royal father. It is too bloody and too soon. Stick to history that nobody alive remembers and you can fashion the story as Her Majesty pleases.”

“Cannot? Cannot, you say?” Will thumped his chest. “I am William Shakespeare, the Bard, the Swan of Avon. Have I not proven my worth to good Queen Bess? Did not my piece for her revels delight her? May I not write as I please?”

Richard Burbage put a hand on his playwright’s arm and spoke gently. “Were it up to me, you could write whatever delighted you. But it is not up to me. Richard. Lord Robert has taken an interest in your latest work.”

Will waved an airy hand. “Pah, Robert Cecil, the Queen’s pygmy.”

“The Queen’s spymaster. Those in whom he takes an interest tend to end up lacking their heads. He has closed the Theatre and turned my company out into the streets.”

“My Henry VIII will rescue you and bring us glory, Burbage. If it be my swansong, then so be it – I am prepared to die for my art.”

Burbage sighed. Will was two people – the amiable jobbing wordsmith, always ready to rewrite a scene, and the vainglorious braggart. He took Will’s arm. “Let us to the tavern, Will. A pot of ale is what we need to aid us meditate upon this matter. Bring what you have written thus far and we will see.”

“An alehouse be not the place for my manuscript. There is too great a danger of spillage and ruin.”

Burbage smiled, but the smile did not reach his eyes. “Fear not, Will. You can trust that I will ensure no harm comes to our endeavour.”

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