A True Comedy of Errors

by Carolynn Marie

    A white flag billowed in the wind, acting as a beacon over the entire city of Stratford.  The crazy maze of
cobbled streets was choked under the mob of people, pushing their way through to the Globe Theater.
    Refreshment stands had already been set up in the veranda outside, stocked full of fruit and bread
at a fardin a piece.  Somewhere to the left, a merchant roared and bolted after a young thief as he snatched a
loaf of bread off his cart.  Several people dried themselves off after crossing the ford of the shallow Thames
River, then proceeded down the small strat which the area was named after.
     "A penny!  A penny!  Pennies please!  Pennies here!  Admission for one penny!  First time
publickly acted by the Right honourable, the Lord Chamberlain, his servants, and the player William Shakespeare
of the Lord Chamberlain's Men Acting Company!  Pennies here!  A penny for admittance!  Pennies please!"
     A sign stood next to the awning that led into the Globe Theater that read as follows:

A Midsommer nights dreame
As performed by Lord Chamberlain and His Men
Publickly acted this day, 23rd June, 1599

     Several people had traveled by foot all day, and they eagerly popped their pennies into the keepers'
hands faster than they could manage.
    Ever since the player William Shakespeare had written Venus and Adonis, as well as his sugared sonnets,
the Globe Theater was rarely empty for his productions.  The theater itself had been constructed only the year
before, and one of the first plays to have been performed there was the smash production of Henry V.  Tales
of another play had gotten to nearly all of England rapidly.  Supposedly, the play itself had been written and
performed five years previous at the wedding of William Stanley, the Earl of Derby, and his bride, Elizabeth
Vere, daughter of the Earl of Oxford, in the presence of Her Highness Queen Elizabeth.  No one knew so
far of what this new theatrical event was about, but if the player and playwright Shakespeare was part of it,
then it must be good, all reasoned.
     Many giggled that perhaps it had something to do with tonight.  It was the 23rd of June, Midsummer night,
a time of the year when the Fair Folk owned the surrounding forests and windswept moors.  A few people
had been extremely nervous at the thought of a play with goblins.
     A boy learned of the goblins and fairies before he could toddle.  They were known to take on the form
of humans in order to cause mischief from time to time.  Fairies found mortals as toys to play with, and for
that reason, few people ventured out after dark, and even fewer made jest of them.  In order for Shakespeare
to write a play about the Fair Folk, he had to either be extremely brave or completely mad.
    There was a loud bustle as the groundlings made their way to the pit, located on the ground directly in
front of the stage.  A few rough-looking men started to shove their companions in the cramped dirt area.
Several others merely sighed in annoyance.  One penny, after all, will only bring so much comfort in a theater.
     Meanwhile, up in the gallery, those who had paid an additional penny sat in the stiff, high-backed wooden
benches and in the surrounding balconies.  A few well-dressed ladies fanned themselves from the hot summer
heat, anxious for the play to begin.
     "Hush, now!  'Tis beginning!" someone cried.  A deathly silence came over the crowd as the curtains on
the inner stage drew back, revealing the court of an obviously wealthy nobleman.  A man walked forward
onto the stage with a large wooden placard in his hands.

A Midsommer nights dreame
Act One Sc. One
The palace of Theseus, Duke of Athens

     There was some enticed murmuring from the crowd at the sight of a royal Roman court.  The rich noble
on the throne spoke first in a loud, jolly voice, to the woman at his side.
"Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
 draws on apace; four days bring in
 another moon; but, O, methinks how slow
 this old moon wanes!  She lingers my desires,
 like to a stepdame or a dowager,
 long withering out a young man's revenue!"

     The audience sighed in one breath.  A wedding was about to occur.  Such a lovely occasion!  Yet, they
knew in an instant who the first two persons were; Theseus himself, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta.
     The groundlings finally hushed and stared up at the play in wonderment, anxious to see their money's worth.


    Meanwhile, backstage in the Tiring House, all pandemonium had broken loose.   Men swarmed
around like a mob of excited bees.  Several helped to lace up their friends' corsets and dress their wigs.
Stagehands scampered from actor to actor, offering make-up, mirrors, and, for the extremely nervous
rookies, smelling salts.
    A young boy, his twig-like arms buried under a mound of old clothes, scuttled through the crowd.
    "Late again," he whispered.  He licked at a salty tear that dripped off the edge of his nose and he
cracked his stiff back.  He whimpered to himself. "Oh, Tad.  You're an idiot."
    Turning a corner, he rammed a young actor.  Both boys tumbled to the floor.  The mound of clothes
exploded in a flurry of old pantaloons and shirts, spreading a mess all over the floor.
    Tad cradled his skull and crawled to his knees.  His mouth dried when he realized who he had just
knocked over.  It was the leader of the boys, John.  He was rather big for his age, already five feet in
height despite his age of twelve.  He put his size to good use when harassing Tad, a mere speck of a
being in comparison.  That, and his lowly status, made the servant a common target.
    The small boy looked at the floor. "My greatest apologies, John."
    From the stairwell behind came the muffled snickers of the grown men.  He felt a flicker of red
creeping up the base of his neck.
     The actor pulled himself together and dusted his clothes. "Soft!" he snapped. "Where do you think you're-"
    When he realized who he was talking to, he laughed and readjusted his collar in a snooty manner. "I see
you are still cleaning up mouse scraps backstage, Taddy."
     "My great apologies, sir," he whispered again, then dove for the broom closet, out of sight of the other
actors.  He waited a few minutes, his ears strained until he heard the reassuring slam of a door as the actors
headed towards the stage arena.
    The closet door creaked open, and he cautiously peered out to make sure he was alone before he left
his hiding place.
    He managed to pull out a straw broom and he then proceeded to wipe the dust that had flown up into
the air from the scurry of many boots.  It was then that he saw The Costume.
    The Costume, as he referred to it in an admiring way, included bright red pants that stopped at mid-calf,
white stockings, and a colorful motley-like blouse that many of the gypsies who visited the city during the
summer festivals wore during their extravagant dances.  The Wearer placed a wreath of holly and leaves
on his crown to finish the disguise.  This was to be the actor who played the devilish puck, a small
character in the background of the play.  The way Sir William Shakespeare had written the entire affair
didn't give much screen time to the hobgoblin, but to play a supernatural being was nonetheless exciting.
    John had been given the part of the puck.  Even though it was a small part, his already-inflated ego had
tripled as if he had been asked to perform for Her Majesty.
    Shakespeare had, indeed, taken a tremendous risk at having a fairy in a play of his.  Most people still
believed that elves were evil little demons rather than playful sprites.  The Queen had supposedly liked
the play when it first had been performed for the royal family.  But this was the first time the play would
be open to the general public.  What would the people of England think?
    The boy sighed.  What he would give to be in such an event.  True, he had always dreamt such things
late at night when everyone in the house was asleep.  But who would give the chance of an acting career to
someone with no training and no parents?  An orphan and a servant, that's what he was.  It's probably
all he would become as he aged and finally died.
     The broom was laid aside again a wall for a moment.  His head turned to watch the mass array of
stage-hands running back and forth with ladders.  He rested his head in his hands.  Suddenly he felt very
desolate and alone.  It would be very sad to die a Nobody, he thought.  A small tear suddenly trickled
down the lone crease on his face till it reached his chin, finally gathering enough mass and falling onto his
torn trousers.  And with a name like Tad, he certainly didn't sound like a great future player, he thought.
And he was too small, too runty.
     But the chance to be in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, to travel with them and be invited into the
presence of Her Majesty to perform for royalty!  Even playing such a small part as the puck didn't
seem too bad even though it meant only a total of perhaps ten minutes onstage.  And he would be
paid, of course.  And provided by the Company for the rest of his life, if he did a good job.  Men
would ask to shake his hand.  Officials would ask him to attend their colleges, perhaps.
    No, that was just wishful thinking.
    But he may get a patron, some rich landowner to pay for his interests as a player.  And he would
eat meat and drink every night, perhaps.  And the pale faced and white-gloved ladies perhaps would
throw him kisses...
    His right eye twitched in repulsion.  Little boys didn't like girls.
     But at least he would be famous, wealthy...
     "And stupid!" he exclaimed angrily, then clasped his hands around his legs as he curled into a ball.
    It was simply a silly, Midsummer night's dream.
    He cringed as John passed underneath the stairway.  He detested most of the boys.  Many of them
were older, stronger, and taller, and often picked on him.  John was the ringleader of the bunch, often
pushing them to giving Tad a black eye.  Such had been the case that morning when Tad had gotten
caught trying to escape from them through a laundry door.  His small body had gotten stuck, and the
other boys had easily caught him.
    He tried covering up the bruise by stealing some of the player's face powder.  It had worked, for
a while anyway, until he had been caught when John threw a pitcher of water into his face and the
powder dripped.  He had gotten a whipping for thievery.
    Tad bit his lip and hummed a song to himself as he swept the floor.
     He found a balding man seated in a corner of the Tiring House, frantically writing on some scraps
of paper.  He quailed when he realized he was staring at the play's writer.
     Sir William Shakespeare rarely made his visits to the Tiring House this time of year.  Most of it was
spent in the countryside with his wife, Anne, and his children during the months most common for the
sickness in order to keep away from cholera, which feasted on the enormous crowds that tramped up
and down Stratfords scrawny avenues.  He was widely respected among the populace and the players
as a writer, though one or two critics were liable to scorn his work, and Trouble had an uncanny habit
of stalking him.  In fact, he had been ostracized from Stratford some ten years ago when he had been
caught poaching in the deer park of Sir Thomas Lucy.
     His curious life and stubbornness towards others made him well-known among certain close friends
of his.
    Others were blunt.  A few of the cruder players hissed that his balding scalp and stubborn attitude
made him resemble an old jackass.
     Tad swallowed hard.
     "Sir?" Tad politely whispered.
     The man jumped up at him, startled.  Tad cowered at the look on his face. "Perchance you have
seen a small boy about your age, wand'ring the premises?" The tone in his voice was too urgent, too
     Tad didn't know what to say.  Little boy actors were always running around the place.  One of them
had kicked Tad in the ribs only a while ago for not dressing him in his costume quickly enough.  The boy
rubbed his side at the painful memory.
     "N-no, sir.  I mean, perchance, what I meant to say, honourable Sir, is-" The man's look was starting
to unnerve him.
     Sir Shakespeare waved him away with one hand. "I regret asking, boy." He kicked at the table near
him in a growing rage. "Damn him!"
     Tad cringed at the oath, but tried not to show it.
     "Sir, which boy perchance are searching for?" he asked kindly.
     Sir Shakespeare looked up at him, his face showing that he was clearly surprised to see him still
there. "The lad to play the puck has mysteriously disappeared, the twit."
    The little boy's entire body twitched.  They were looking for John, he realized.  Something was
really wrong.  John wouldn't miss a show if the entire Spanish Armada had him at gunpoint.
    "... that rat is probably out playing hooky somewhere.  I shall personally see to it that harlequin's
father is sued within an inch of his life!  Over two pound spent on the sets alone-" Sir Shakespeare
suddenly stared at the little servant, whose skinny form crawled for the door. "You, boy, what is your name?"
     Tad blinked. "Tad ... Sir."
     "What?  Speak up."
     "Tad, Sir."
     "Thy Father's house?"
     "I do not know, Sir," the child answered truthfully. "Sir Rupert's, I mean to say, is my guardian."
     "Do you know of any others who can serve as a replacement?"
    "I do not know, Sir," he repeated. "I ... I suppose the other stagehands could tell you, Sir, but I merely
see to the chores.  But you couldn't inquire them now, Sir; they are running the curtains and ropes and props."
    One of Sir Shakespeare's eyes widened in careful scrutiny.  Tad nervously watched the man as his arm
was lifted and pinched as if he were a scrawny chicken for sale at the market.  The man snorted in
disgust. "You are too small, but then, so are hobgoblins.  And there are no other lads to play the part in
the theater right now... tell me, lad.  Do you know anything of acting?"
     "Yes, yes, Sir," Tad said, eager to please. "I've watched the other boys practice every day, Sir."
     "Do you know the directions for upstage and downstage?"
     "Yes, Sir."
     "Have you ever acted before?"
     "No, Sir, but I am willing to learn.  I'm very obedient, Sir, though Sir Rupert isn't very inclined to
say so.  He once said, 'Thee are a willing boy, at least', but I saw the look on his face, and it seemed
rather cross." He added hurriedly, "But I try very hard, Sir."
    "Oh?  When did he say that?"
    "When I was seven, Sir.  I ... I accidentally ... that is ..." The boy faltered in obvious anxiety. "I was
serving the estate's cook in the kitchen and I mistook lighting oil for cooking oil ... and I blew up the
stove and set the kitchen afire.  But it was an accident, Sir.  I didn't mean it.  I try very hard, you see."
    "Seven?  How old are you, now?"
    "Twelve, Sir."
    "You remember your scolding?"
    Tad's voice was a mere whisper by then. "No rudeness intended, Sir, but my bottom certainly didn't
forget the scolding I received."
    "I meant his words to you."
    "Yes, Sir."
    "You are a perceptive lad, are you not?"
    Tad puzzled over the unknown word. "If that is bad, I do not mean to be, Sir."
    "I mean, you are quite observant."
    "I believe so, Sir, if you believe so."
    "It seems you have a terrific memory."
    "Yes, Sir, if I may say so, Sir."
    "Then you would remember lines I gave you to recite?"
    "I believe so, Sir.  I learned all my letters in a day."
    "One day?"
    "Yes, Sir."
    The balding man covered his mouth with his hand and leaned against the wall, deep in thought.  Once
or twice he made a try to speak, but failed.  Finally, he sighed in defeat and thumbed his way as a
commoner might in the direction of the dressing rooms. "Go forth, boy.  You shall play the puck."
    Tad's eyes widened in joy as he dove for the room.
     Sir Shakespeare winced as Tad crashed into a tall pile of buckets, sending the whole affair
thundering to the floor.  He groaned and covered his face with a hand. "I do wonder if I have made
a fatal error," he sighed to himself.


    Inside an abandoned lavatory, a dark figure kicked and thrashed.  At twelve years, John was
already well-built as many of the lads were, but he was no match for his captor.
     He spat something from beneath his gag and fell over in his chair as he lunged at his attacker.  The
other figure, however, was in no position for being taken unawares.  He simply pranced to the side and
tripped him.  The lad landed on his head with a grunt before finally spitting out the cloth.
     "Ye rogue!  I shall personally see to it that you are bound in rope and-" He didn't finish his sentence.
    A handkerchief, none too clean, was ripped out of the boy's own pocket and stuffed into his mouth
hurriedly.  The slightly larger figure suddenly grew several feet in a few seconds.  A cap was adjusted
on its head before patting the boy on the cheek in a caring manner.
    "Ah, don't worry about that, my boy," the figure said in a rough voice.  The boy grunted in protest
from beneath his gag.  The man simply put a long forefinger to his captive's nose, puckering his own
mouth in a mocking tone. "Rope hardly gives me a problem.  You may want to try some chains when
you finally call the constable, John," he continued in a false pouty voice.  He pulled on his belt and
adjusted his collar and headed for the door.
    "Numero uno, fix the kid." He looked back at the boy, who was looking ready to personally
throttle him. "Et nombre deux ..." He cocked his head at the sound of a man yelling from the
Tiring House.  Sir William Shakespeare, if he wasn't mistaken.  He could recognize the sound of the
man's holler anywhere.  A small chuckle escaped him. "Bingo, done!  Cross that off the list."
    A thick, papyrus scroll was pulled out of the back of his trousers.  It unrolled into a large pile on the
floor until he found the appropriate item.  A large quill appeared out of his pocket, and he promptly
crossed it off the list.
     A rough-shaven drunk appeared out of the lavatory, slamming the door in the boy's livid face.  He
made a mental note to free the lad before the stench of the place sent him into a fit.
    He sighed, somewhat flushed, at his coarse trousers and blouse hung unevenly on his thin frame.  Well,
if it helped him fit into the crowd, he would have to wear it.
     It had been rather sad to listen to that little imp talking to himself in the Tiring house, all by himself.
    "Strike me blind if he isn't just the cutest little thing," he muttered to himself, then smiled. "For a mortal,
    Perhaps he could kill two birds with one stone.  Have a little fun as well as help the lad out at the
same time.  Oh, yes, and print a few retractions for that Shakespeare chap.  He smirked. "And now
for number three on my list ..."


    Sir Shakespeare looked up, slightly miserable, which made Tad start to worry.  He nervously
pulled at the collar of his puck costume.  He felt funny in such a fine-made item, when he had been
so used to a life of cold rags and worn shoes.
     The playwright stroked his beard in a contemplating way. "Where could that script have gone to?
Ye must learn the lines within the hour, boy.  I shan't set you out there to make me look like a buffoon-"
     "No aid needed there," someone snickered from behind.  Both man and boy whirled in startlement.
     "I beg your pardon, sir?" the former demanded from the air.
    "Ah ... I said, may I make a suggestion, good sirs?"
     Tad squinted into the darkness beneath one of the trapdoors leading into the space beneath the stage
nicknamed "Hell".  A young man crept out of the darkness of the stage's underbelly in the rag clothes of
the tavern drinking men.  That and his gold earring and long blond hair and newborn beard set neither
Sir Shakespeare nor Tad at ease.  It gave him the look of a pirate.
     He put a hand forward in an inviting gesture, and said, "I couldn't help but overhear.  It seems there
is a bit of a problem here.  May I offer my assistance?"
     Tad and Shakespeare exchanged slightly unstrung glances.
     The newcomer laughed merrily. "Nay!  I may be of some help, good sirs!  I know much of Puck
and such." His eyes twinkled.
     Sir Shakespeare started. "With all due respect, sir, how do you know of the contents of my new
play?" he demanded brusquely.
     The other man didn't seem to notice the curtness in his tone, or if he did, he certainly didn't pay any
attention to it. "Well, good sirs, I happen to know a lot.  More than you know perhaps!  Splendid to
meet you, good player!  And you too, youngin'!" He shook Tad's hand eagerly, not paying any heed
to the youth's fanciful make-up and finery.
     "I've heard many good stories of Puck, and know much of Oberon, and have met many persons
quite knowledgeable on the subject, good sir!"
    He continued to shake Tad's hand.
    "Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, isn't the little blighter?  Yes?  No?  I thought it right.
Most of it from the men at the pubs and all."
    Tad was starting to lose feeling in his palm.
    "But I'm a good knowledgeable type on Puck of England and where-abouts, good sirs!" He
hiccuped, and Tad thought he could detect the trace of lager and ale on his breath.  He tried to
wiggle away from the man's grasp, but he was still shaking his hand.
     "You 'ere playin' Puck in the play, aye?" he asked Tad, finally ceasing his hand-shaking.  The boy
pulled away hurriedly and set to massaging his palm.  The man had a good grip.
     "Yes, sir, I am," he said slowly.
     Robin carefully inspected Tad's face and costume with a critical air.  The boy snapped to attention
and watched the man nervously out of the corner of his eye.
    An approving smile suddenly broke on Robin's face. "Quite good!  I love this child, William, my
boy!" He nicked the youth's cheek playfully.  Sir Shakespeare did a double take at the 'William, my boy'.
To take such liberties, and from a peasant! "Oh, please accept my humblest apologies, for my name is not
important, of course.  Just call me Robin.  Anyhow!  Allow me, good sir, to have a gander at that script,
sir!" He snatched it from the other's hands before the latter could react. "Ah, yes, Act one, scene one ...
hmm ... ah-ha ... oh, hmm ... mmm-mmm-mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ... well, Willi!  Looks rather good!"
     "I'll have to ask you to leave," Shakespeare said warily.
     "Well if that doesn't beat all!" Robin looked slightly offended. "I assure you, good sir, I am most
knowledgeable on the subject."
     "What is your point?"
     "I could offer you my services to write the play."
     If the playwright had been calm before, his placid attitude was lost now. "Are you serious?" he
asked incredulously. "Why ever should I?"
     "You wrote this play and performed it for Her Majesty nearly five years ago," Robin pointed out. "Do
you remember all the lines?  You were not able to attend rehearsal because you have been with your
family these past three months.  You do not know the stage directions nor remember the lines."
    "Can you write all of the puck's lines in the next half hour?" Shakespeare demanded. "Over half the
script is simply missing.  I think not." He went back to muttering under his breath. "I can not understand
where it has gone to.  I know I left it next to my purse, and the next thing I know there is only the first
ten pages left..."
     A devious grin slowly flowed across Robin's unshaven features. "I assure you, sir, I know much of
Puck's lines in the real Midsummer nights dream."
     "Absolutely not!" Sir Shakespeare exploded, looking like he was about to pull out what hair
remained on his scalp. "First my actor to play the puck has gone missing, and I must employ an
errand's boy.  Then my script is stolen, and no one else knows the puck's lines enough to play them,
and I must now leave my career in the hands of a stranger with porter on his breath!  And not even a
straight man, at that!"
     "What makes you think that because I have an odd appearance means I know not a thing about the
Fair Folk?" Robin inquired curiously.  When Sir Shakespeare wasn't looking, he passed the boy at his
side a quick, friendly wink.  Tad took the liberty of smiling politely back.
     "Are you mad?" the playwright roared. "How can you possibly write four acts in a quarter of an hour?"
     "Well, I suppose you could just cancel the play and give everyone's money back," Robin speculated. "But
then, it would hardly sit well with critics of this fine city to hear that the popular playwright lost his actor,
script, and audience all in one evening, hmm?"
     Sir Shakespeare's hands fell to his sides, and he stared at the stranger with disbelief in his eyes.  He
bit his lip and shut his eyes in defeat as he shoved paper and a quill into Robin's hands.
    "Fine, then," he sighed.  The look on his face was of a man who had already given up. "But please,
I beg of you, hurry!"
     Robin nodded gleefully.  He tapped Tad on the shoulder. "Come, come, my boy!  I shall need the
help of you if we are to write the account of Puck in the real Midsummer nights dream!"
     "The REAL one, sir?" Tad looked utterly confused, his wreath of holly leaves falling over one of his eyes.
    "Oh, of course, of course!  You didn't think this was all made up, did you?  Heavens, no, my boy!
Lovely!  Good show!  Come, come, don't tarry!  Let's not keep Puck and his adoring public waiting!
Puck goes on stage, and he is certainly going to look GOOD.  I shall see to that!!!  Come, come!  What
are you waiting for?  Hurry, now!  Come!  Don't fuss, don't dilly-dally!"
    Tad found himself being half-dragged, half-carried backstage to a private area, whereupon Robin sat
cross-legged on the floor and furiously started to scribble out half the play that remained.  Every once
in a while, there would be utterings of, "My, my, this shan't do at all.  Well, just a simple cross-out here ..."
    Tad felt slightly sick.
     "Sir, what is going to happ-"
     "Oh, my boy!  Don't ask questions!  Oh, well, I suppose you SHOULD, as you ask questions and
you hopefully will get the answers!  Just leave me be for half a moment." Less than fifteen minutes later,
Robin's fast-paced scribbling ceased, and he sprinkled some shavings on the ink for it to dry.  He then
held it up to the light, squinting one eye, then beamed. "'Tis perfect!  Shakespeare couldn't have written
it better himself!  Take a look, my boy!"
     Tad did a double-take.  The original play was gone after the first act.  Everything else was entirely
Robin's work.  In fact, only four pages of Sir Shakespeare's original play remained.  The other fifty
pages or so were new.
     Robin saw the stricken expression on the lad's face. "Oh, I know what you are thinking.  Willi's
going to hit the roof."
     "Sir, if I may say so, he's terribly steadfast in his-"
     "You mean, stubborn."
     "I ... I ... yes, sir.  They say he's a-" Tad slapped his hands over his mouth before he could help himself.
     "A jackass, you were going to say." Robin barked a laugh, but he stopped and pondered this for
a moment in a thoughtful mood. "Yes, he is, I'd be inclined to say." His eyes wandered down towards the
sheets of paper laying, momentarily forgotten, on his lap.  His face brightened. "A jackass ... and a bit of a
clown ...how interesting ..." And he was scribbling furiously again.
     "Sir, with all due respect, weren't you only supposed to fix the puck's lines?" the boy ventured to ask.
    Robin purposely ignored him. "What?  I'm sorry, you'll have to speak louder, I'm a trifle deaf in
this ear." Tad immediately looked down at the ground.  The man stopped, noticing the boy's hurt expression.
    "Are you alright?" he inquired.  His tone was a touch softer this time.
     "Yes, sir." Tad was whispering by then.
     That answer didn't sit well with Robin, so he drew the boy close and stared into the boy's eyes.
"Your problem," he said, "is that you walk, talk, act, think, look, and listen like a servant."
     "Begging your pardon, sir, but I am a servant," Tad corrected in a very quiet voice.
     "Not all servants are that way, you know."
     "I'm one, myself."
     Tad's eyes brightened at the sight of a colleague. "For whom, sir?"
     "Oh, a pretty powerful Lord, I'd be inclined to say."
     "The Duke of Vere, sir?" Tad inquired innocently.
     "No, no, much bigger and better than the Duke of Vere." He sniffed at Tad's doubtful expression.
"Well, you know, just because I look this way does not mean I'm not a high servant.  Appearances
can be quite deceiving, you know.  Don't you agree?"
     Tad scratched his toe against the floorboards and nodded shyly.
     Robin gave a devilish snicker. "What fools these mortals be," he sighed softly.
     "Nothing.  Forget it."
     "Are you here on an errand for your master, sir?"
     "No, but I've taken the liberty onto myself to help Sir Shakespeare."
     Tad took this into consideration.  The wreath of holly fell over his eyes again, and he took it off to
inspect it. "If I'm not supposed to act like a servant, sir, then how should I act?"
     "Yourself," came the smart response.
     "But I don't know me!" Tad wailed in defeat.
    "Then find yourself," Robin ordered irritably. "Now, take these pages to the rest of the actors," he
continued as he knelt down to the boy's eye level.  And for the first time, Tad realized that the man's
eyes were simple blue irises.  There was nothing of pupils whatsoever.  It was eerie, almost as if he was
looking straight through a living, breathing mask. "All except the lines of Puck's.  Then report directly
back here for your lesson on how to play your part, by myself, of course.  Go!  Shoo!  Well, what
are you waiting for?  Move it!"
    He pushed him forward in the small of his back, and Tad went scrambling off to pass out the
appropriate scripts to the adjoining players.


     Intermission lasted a little longer than usual.  A fight broke out in The Yard, and a constable had
to drag off the offenders.  Some of the people were starting to grumble, and even the polite ladies in
the tight corsets started to twitch and fidget.
     Almost a full hour later, the inner stage curtain flew open, and the crier came out once again bearing
the following sign.

A Midsommer nights dreame
Act Two Sc. One
A wood near Athens
    That was his cue.  Tad swallowed a thickness that had grown in his throat and slowly started his
march onto the stage.  The setting sun created a blaze of fire in the sky overhead; it only made the
shadows cast off the people more ominous than usual.  He sucked in a short, gasping breath at the
enormous crowd.
     Another young boy cautiously wandered onto the stage, a stupid look on his face and a nervous
one in his eyes.  He cut a comical little figure in his own fairy costume of red rags and the wild hair of a
wood sprite.
     Tad suddenly realized that the boy's eyes were incredibly wide and he was jerking his head at him.
     "Your lines," he hissed, frightened that the play was now lost. "Your lines, Taddy!"
    He breathed out slowly to calm himself as Robin had taught him. Not nervous, he ordered himself.
Puck is very sly, very merry.  That is what Robin said, did he not?
    "H-how now, spirit!" Tad squeaked.  He wet his chapped lips and called out a little stronger this
time, as Robin had taught him.  This time, he sounded more confident. "Whither wander you?"
     "Over hill, over dale," the other boy replied gratefully, carefully trying to remember the new lines
that Robin had just rewritten.  He paused delicately for a moment before continuing.

"Thorough bush, thorough brier,
over park, over pale,
thorough flood, thorough fire;
I do wander everywhere, swifter than the moones sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green,
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats you see.
Those be rubies, fairy favors;
In those freckles live their savors.
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I'll be gone.
Our queen and all her elves come here anon."

     There were now some intense whisperings and giggles from the audience.  A few women in the
high-backed chairs frowned in disapproval.  Hobgoblins were not the proper topic for any proper play.

 "Either I mistake your shape or making quite,
 Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Called Robin Goodfellow.  Are you not he
That frights the maidens of the villagery;
Skim milk, and sometimes labor in the quern,
And bootless makes the breathless housewife churn;
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm;
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck
You do their work, and they shall have good luck.
Are you not he?"

     There were some snickers from the men.  Robin leaned against the pier of the pit nonchalantly.
A smile was on his face as the people started to become completely engrossed in the going-ons.
     Tad giggled nervously and caught his breath.

 "Thou speakest right!
 I am that merry wanderer of the night!"

     Upon finishing this little comment, his eyes sought out Robin from audience and silently implored
him how he was doing.  The man smiled and gave a little nod.  There was a bright glistening in Tad's
eyes, and seconds later, a happy tear fell on his sallow cheeks.


    As the play continued, the chuckles proceeded to loud roars of laughter as Puck continued to
make the wrong people fall in love with the wrong lovers, and at the comment of "Lord, what
fools these mortals be!" even the women had the courage as to laugh rather than stay quiet.
     Tad put a shocked expression on his face when he 'realized' his mistake.
    "This is the woman, but not this the man!" he exclaimed to his Lord Oberon.  Several more giggles.
The puck was definitely stealing the show.
     The play finally ended some two hours after the long intermission and the thunder of applause and
shrill whistles just would not cease.  Robin noticed, with amusement, that as several people left the theater,
they began to reenact the funniest moments for the benefits of their friends.
     A hand clapped on his shoulder, yanking him backstage.  He whirled around to find a furious William
Shakespeare glowering at him.
     "What have you done?" he demanded. "Look at what you did to my play!  How could you change it
so-" He stared at his customers, who stopped their eager chatter and waved and clapped at his sudden
appearance.  Sir Shakespeare took a backwards-step in befuddlement, then managed to take a
bow. "I thank you for coming!" he called in a friendly fashion.  His voice may have been friendly, but the
look in his eyes was clearly of confusion.
     A few men carried Shakespeare off, congratulating him on such a job well-done.  Robin crossed his
arms, his eyes narrowed.  It figures that the popular playwright would get the credit for such a marvelous,
and talented, and brilliant, and clever idea, Robin thought, jaded.
     Tad ran up to him, jumping up and down in his excitement. "I have been offered a contract by the
Lord Chamberlain Acting company to do another play ... in London!" he squeaked, doing a funny little jig.
    A soft smile appeared on Robin's face; the boy, he noticed, was already a pleasant shade of pink,
no longer the thin little work-horse of the Tiring House.
     "I am glad to hear it," he commented quietly.  He dusted off his hands. "Well!  I'd best be off!"
     Tad stopped. "Sir, why did you help us today?"
     Robin smiled again. "Let's just say I couldn't bear seeing a play with such lovely potential go to
waste.  I wish you the best of luck in the theater business, my boy!  It appears you have found
yourself after all." Robin headed out the door with his hands in his pockets and a spring in his step.
It was the last time Tad saw him.
     But he never forgot him.


    Several hours later saw Robin wandering a dirt path in the forest outside of Stratford.  His shadow
appeared on surrounding tree trunks from Midsummer's half-moon and followed the exhausted traveler
for a few more miles before he was sure he hadn't been followed.
    A ghostly white light glowed, and the broad-shouldered young man's body twisted and shrank into a
tiny little elf with long, inhuman ears and a mop of wind-blown hair.
     Puck stretched and yawned, then cracked the stiff vertebrae in his neck. "Such a lovely evening," he
sighed to himself. "Saved myself a reputation and had fun with a little mortal.  They are such funny little
pets.  Beats having a parrot; at least most humans don't bite back."
     He fished around in his pocket for his whittling knife and found the tattered remains of the purloined
script, and he couldn't help but smile mischievously.  It had been ridiculously easy to pickpocket William
Shakespeare's purse of the play, and even easier to offer his services to re-write the whole comedy.
    Willi had written the puck as an evil little hobgoblin.  Puck had seen the original play at the Earl of
Derby's private wedding five years previous in the guise of a kitchen servant, and he hadn't liked it at
all.  It was simply no good for a mortal to be giving him a bad reputation, especially when it wasn't true.
     After all, he hardly needed a farce that would cause people to refer to him hundreds of years from
now as, "an evil little goblin".
    He sprawled out on a tree branch and whittled a flute out of a dead willow branch.  He stopped
after a few minutes and regarded it critically, then started to play.
     He stopped after a few minutes. "You know," he sang to himself, "I can't help but have the funniest
feeling that I forgot to do something." He thought for a moment. "Nah ... probably just forgot to trip
Willi on his way out of the theater.  Mortals are such funny playthings, and yet the more I see of some
humans, the better I like my dog."


    The Globe Theater's caretaker shuffled alongside the outside gate to the building, running a gnarled
hand in search for the lock in this foggy gloom.  Upon finding it, he fit a rusted key into the latch and
twisted it shut before shuffling back down the street to his home.
     Bang!  His old legs ground to a halt.  He listened for a moment.  When nothing else came, he
shrugged and continued walking.


     The door to the lavatory dented from the impact of a boot from the inside.
     John spit out the dirty handkerchief and battered at the locked door. "I know not who you are,
you rogue!" he yelled in the darkness of the enclosed space. " But I shall get you back for this, I swear I will!"
    And then, staring back at the seat, he wrinkled his nose and groaned.  It was to be a long night.
There was a slipping noise as he tripped on something, landing right into the bucket, headfirst.


The End.