My name is Toby. I’m an old man, eighty-three this spring. My house is right in the middle of Stratford-upon-Avon, and I can watch the street market from my window. But I live very quietly now. I’m just an old man, sitting in a chair.
I once knew the greatest man in England. For thirty years I was his friend. I worked with him in the theatre, through the good times and the bad times. He was a good friend to me. He was also the best playwright, the best poet, that ever lived in England. Will Shakespeare was his name.
I saw all his plays in the theatre. People loved them. They shouted, laughed and cried, ate oranges, and called for more. All kinds of people. Kings, Queens, Princes, great lords and ladies, poor people, the boys who held the horses … everyone. Will Shakespeare could please them all.
He put me in a play once. Well, he used my name — Toby. Twelfth Night was the play, I remember. Sir Toby Belch. He was a big fat man, who liked drinking too much and having a good time. Queen Elizabeth the First watched that play — on Twelfth Night, the 6th of January, 1601. She liked it, too.
Will’s dead now, of course. He’s been dead more than thirty years, and no one sees his plays now. The Puritans have closed all the theatres. There’s no singing, no dancing, no plays. It wasn’t like that in my young days. We had a good time in London, Will and I …
I’ve no teeth now, and my hair has all fallen out, but I can