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Anonymous Movie Script

Writer(s) : John Orloff

Genres : Drama, Thriller

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                                  ANONYMOUS



                                  Written by

                                 John Orloff




1   BLACK SCREEN                                                   1

    TITLES BEGIN over the SOUNDS of city traffic.

                                                    FADE UP:


2   EXT. THEATER DISTRICT OF BROADWAY - DUSK                       2

    The sidewalks are filled with theater-goers heading for
    their shows. Cabs line the streets.

    SIDE ALLEY

    A cab quickly turns into the alley, coming to a
    screeching halt. A Man in a Grey Suit jumps out and
    rushes to the side entrance of a theater.

    In the background we see that the title of the play,
    "Anonymous", is written on the theatre's marquee...


3   INT. BROADWAY THEATER - BACKSTAGE - DUSK                       3

    We follow the Man in the Grey Suit as he rushes through
    narrow backstage hallways, passing several ACTORS
    dressing in Elizabethan costumes, applying their make-
    up, etc...

    TITLES CONTINUE.


4   INT. BROADWAY THEATER - BACKSTAGE/EMPTY STAGE - DUSK           4

    The curtains are still closed, and the sound of the
    audience excitedly MURMURING behind them is heard. .

    Stagehands are moving stage lights as--

    A STAGE MANAGER

    takes a nervous peek through the curtains to check the
    audience-- it's a full house. He holds a prop umbrella
    in one hand, anxiously checks his watch in the other.

    He looks on both wings of the stage-- and then relief
    floods his face as he sees The Man in the Grey Suit
    hurrying over to him. The Stage Manager wordlessly
    hands him the umbrella and signals to a stagehand in
    the background.

    The curtains start to OPEN and the MURMUR of the
    audience dies down.


                                                               1
                                                     pg. 2


5   INT. BROADWAY THEATER - THE STAGE - CONTINUOUS                5

    The man with the umbrella stands on the empty stage, a
    single light on him. He is "PROLOGUE". (We will see
    the same actor later as the "Prologue" of Henry V).

    "Prologue" regards his audience for a   beat before:

                              PROLOGUE
                Soul of the Age!
                The applause, delight, the wonder of
                our stage!
                Our Shakespeare, rise...
                       (beat, repeating)
                Our Shakespeare... For he is all of
                ours, is he not? The most performed
                playwright of all time! The author of
                37 plays, 154 sonnets, and several
                epic poems that are collectively known
                as the ultimate expressions of
                humanity in the English language. And
                yet... And yet...
                       (beat)
                Not a single manuscript of any kind
                has ever been found written in
                Shakespeare's own hand. In four
                hundred years, not one document-- be
                it poem, play, diary or even a simple
                letter.
                       (beat)
                He was born the son of a glove-maker,
                and at some unknown time, armed with
                but an elementary school education, he
                went to London where, the story goes,
                he became an actor and eventually a
                playwright.

    OFF STAGE

    A stagehand takes a wooden hammer and beats against a
    flat metal pate, creating the SOUNDS of THUNDER.

    Another stagehand starts to lift shutters in front of a
    stage light back and forth to create LIGHTNING STRIKES.

    ON STAGE

    "Prologue" opens his umbrella.

                             PROLOGUE (CONT'D)
                He died at the age of 56, and was
                survived by his wife and two daughters
                who were, like Shakespeare's own
                father, irrefutably illiterate.

                                                              2
                                                 pg. 3


OFF STAGE

In the rafters a stagehand opens valves.   It starts to
RAIN.

                         PROLOGUE (O.C.) (CONT'D)
            His will famously left his second best
            bed to his widow. But it made no
            mention of a single book or
            manuscript.

The actor who will play "Ben JONSON" (mid 30's) appears
in the wings, bearded, ready to go on stage, holding a
prop leather manuscript. Behind him a group of
Elizabethan "soldiers" strap on their swords.

ON STAGE

"Prologue" continues, as do TITLES.

                         PROLOGUE (CONT'D)
            Is it possible Shakespeare owned no
            books at his death because... he could
            not read? That he wrote no letters
            because he, like his father before him
            and his children after him, could not
            write?
                   (lets that sink in, then)
            Our Shakespeare is a cypher, a ghost;
            his biography made not by history...
            but by conjecture. His story not
            written with facts, but with...
            imagination.

The rain has intensified. "Prologue" turns and the
camera starts to leave him and the TITLES END....

                         PROLOGUE (CONT'D)
                   (more energetic)
            So! Let me offer you a different
            story. A darker story... Of quills
            and swords. Of power and betrayal.
            Of a stage conquered, and a throne
            lost!

A FLASH OF LIGHTNING, and for a moment only sheets of
RAIN are visible. No stage, no "Prologue". Then,
trough the rain, we see a form of a man... Ben
Jonson... running. Then we make out the shapes of
houses... a street. We're not on a stage anymore. We
are:




                                                          3
                                                      pg. 4


6    EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON - 1604 NIGHT                             6

     Jonson-- carrying the manuscript-- runs up the street
     toward a large circular theater.

     He frantically opens the wooden door to the theater--


7    INT. THE ROSE THEATER - NIGHT                                 7

     --and he quickly bolts it behind him, turns, and
     desperately looks for a place to hide. He runs towards
     the stage as--


8    EXT. THE ROSE THEATER - CONTINUOUS                            8

     About a dozen uniformed guards reach the door. They
     are led by Sir Richard POLE (40), Captain of the Guard.

                            POLE
               Break it down!

     And several of the guards charge the door with their
     pikes, HITTING it hard.

                            POLE (CONT'D)
               Again!


9    INT. THE ROSE THEATER - CONTINUOUS                            9

     Jonson hurries backstage, and disappears from our view
     just as--


10   EXT/INT. THE ROSE THEATER - CONTINUOUS                    10

     --the guards SMASH the door open.    Pole is the first
     in.

                             POLE
               Jonson!   Jonson!!    Show yourself!

     The soldiers immediately spread out into different
     parts of the theater. Jonson's gone. Because--

     JONSON

     has moved under the stage silently scurrying like a rat
     trying to find a place to hide among the stacks of
     props and costumes (swords, masks, flags and banners,
     shields, barrels, canons, etc.) But Jonson freezes
     when he sees--

                                                               4
                                                pg. 5


THROUGH THE CRACKS OF THE STAGE'S FLOORBOARDS

--the soldiers jump onto the stage and spread out, Pole
amongst them.

                          POLE (CONT'D)
            Out with you! Jonson! We'll smoke
            you out like a rat if we have to!
                   (beat)
            Jonson?! Jonson!!

Nothing.    A beat, then--

                         POLE (CONT'D)
                   (to a soldier)
            Torch it.

The soldier hesitates.

                          POLE (CONT'D)
            Torch it!   All of you!

The soldiers obey, lighting fire to the walls, the
galleries, the columns as--

JONSON

GASPS in horror. Desperate-- he spies an open metal
box nearby filled with un-used fireworks.

He tosses the fireworks out of the box-- and then
places the bound manuscripts in their place, then
closes the box. Then-- he grabs a nearby rapier as--

FLAMES

--begin to take hold everywhere: the columns at the
front of the stage... the trompe-l'oeil walls... the
seating galleries... the columns...

A TRAP DOOR

opens center-stage, and Jonson JUMPS out, the rapier in
his right hand, ready for a fight. But-- three
soldiers jump onto the stage, pikes ready.

Jonson-- no fool- turns and runs for the other end of
the stage-- but then runs smack into four other
soldiers!

Ballocks!

Jonson turns this way and that-- nowhere to run-- grins
wryly, drops his sword. Raises his hands in surrender.

                                                          5
                                                      pg. 6


11   EXT. THE ROSE THEATER - NIGHT                            11

     Jonson, his hands tied behind him, is pushed through
     the door, Pole following.

     A small crowd of actors, whores, etc., watch the
     theater burn. The guards have to push their way
     through them.

     INSERT

     The fire reaches the fireworks below the theater's
     stage, and--

     BACK TO SCENE

     -- the SOUND of fireworks EXPLODING makes Jonson turn
     and see:

     THE THEATER

     Timbers CRASH and fireworks EXPLODE over the theater.


12   EXT. THE THAMES RIVER - DAWN                             12

     A longboat carrying Jonson, Pole and the guards makes
     its way towards the Tower Of London.


13   INT. TOWER OF LONDON - AN INTERROGATION ROOM - DAWN      13

     Jonson is thrown into a chair, a guard on either side
     of him. It's dark-- the only light coming from a few
     torches in the walls, and a large fire pit at the far
     side of the room.

     An INTERROGATOR (30's) faces him.   Dressed all in
     black, he is wispy thin.

                            INTERROGATOR
               You are Benjamin Jonson, playwright?
               Son of William Jonson, glass-blower,
               son of James Jonson brick-layer?

     Jonson nods.

                            INTERROGATOR (CONT'D)
               And have you ever been arrested
               before, Mr. Jonson?

                            JONSON
               I'm a writer, aren't I?   Of course
               I've bloody well been--

                                                              6
                                                     pg. 7


And a guard BACKHANDS Jonson on the face full force--
hard enough to send Jonson and the chair to the ground.
His nose starts to bleed.

As the Guards pull him up, the Interrogator looks
across the room-- there is someone else there, a
FIGURE, watching, but cloaked in the darkness.

Jonson notices the figure as well.      We hear a voice
from the darkness.

                          FIGURE
             Ask him about the plays.

                            JONSON
                      (to the Interrogator)
             Plays?
                    (to the Figure)
             Which would you prefer, my lord? A
             pastoral? An historical? An
             historical-pastoral, or an hysterical
             historical pastoral--

And SMACK!    He's hit by the guards again.   He SPITS out
a tooth.

                          INTERROGATOR
             We are not interested in your plays,
             Jonson. We are interested in the
             plays given to you by Edward de Vere,
             Earl of Oxford.

Jonson stares at him a beat, and then looks into the
darkness.

                          JONSON
             I'm sorry my lord, but I am not sure I
             know whereof you speak. I have had
             the honor of meeting his lordship--

And SMACK--

                                              FLASH CUT TO:

FACES

laughing. Not in this room, somewhere else. Somewhere
outside. Before we really understand what we are
seeing we are:

BACK IN THE CELL

Jonson blinks, trying to stay conscious.      His mouth is
ripped, bleeding. So is his nose.

                                                              7
                                                       pg. 8


     The skin has broken on his forehead.     The Interrogator
     leans into the bloody Jonson.

                               INTERROGATOR
                  Where are the plays?

     Before Jonson even has a chance to answer-- SMACK!

                                                        CUT TO:

     MORE FACES

     Laughing.    We are:


14   INT. THE ROSE THEATER - DAY                                  14

     And it is nine years earlier. The faces come from an
     audience watching a play. They find the performance
     hysterical.


15   EXT. ROSE THEATER/BANKSIDE LONDON - CONTINUOUS               15

     The Rose towers above the nearby buildings "Bankside"
     (the part of London that houses the theaters,
     whorehouses, etc.).

     The Rose towers above the nearby buildings "Bankside"
     (the part of London that houses the theaters,
     whorehouses, etc.).

                              SOUTHAMPTON (O.S.)
                  Well?

     TWO MEN

     walk towards the theater. Edward de Vere (47), the
     Earl of OXFORD, an intensely handsome man. His clothes
     have seen better days.

     His companion is Henry Wriothesley, Earl of SOUTHAMPTON
     (22). Blonde, attractive, a bit of a pretty boy-- and
     extremely enthusiastic.

                               SOUTHAMPTON (CONT'D)
                  Wonderful, isn't it?

                               OXFORD
                         (frowning slightly)
                  Well, it's certainly... big.




                                                                  8
                                                  pg. 9


                       SOUTHAMPTON
          I promise you, Edward, you've seen
          nothing like it before! Nothing!

                       OXFORD
          Bricklayers and whores watching
          Aristophones?   You're quite right,
          Henry, not only have I never witnessed
          it, I'm not sure I care to.

                       SOUTHAMPTON
                 (teasing)
          You're an elitist, you know that,
          Edward?

Oxford pauses at the entrance.

                       OXFORD
          There won't be puppets, will there?

Southampton grins and gives a few coins to an USHER,
who escorts the two of them (the retainers stay
outside) inside.

                        USHER
          My lords...


INT. THE ENTRY OF THE ROSE THEATER - CONTINUOUS

The usher takes them up a flight of stairs.    Oxford
observes everything as they walk.

                       SOUTHAMPTON
          The stage-craft is quite spectacular.
          Far more elaborate than anything I've
          seen at court. I've witnessed be-
          headings that god as my witness look
          as real as at the Tower, cannons fired
          in battle...

They come to the second floor, where a SELLING-MAID has
a box of food and drink in front of her bosom-- much
like a match-stick girl.

                        SELLING-MAID
          Ale?   Mutton, mi' lord?

Southampton waves her off as they follow the usher up
another flight of stairs.




                                                          9
                                                   pg. 10


                        SOUTHAMPTON
           ...and last week, they had some sort
           of a device to hoist cherubs into the
           air and fly over the entire audience!

                        OXFORD
           An ap� mekhanes the�s. Deus ex
           machina. Machine of the Gods.

And as they ascend up more stairs, Oxford catches
glimpses of the stage and performance through the
rafters and over the heads of the attending audience.

                        OXFORD (CONT'D)
           Whenever the Greeks wrote their heroes
           into a situation from which they
           couldn't write their way out--

Oxford is becoming intrigued by the theater, almost
despite himself.

                        OXFORD (CONT'D)
           --Out came the ap� mekhanes the�s...
           As when Hippolytus is saved by
           Artemis, or Medea flown to Athens...
           Always good for an ap� mekhanes the�s
           was Euripides

Oxford continues up, two steps behind Southampton.

They come to the third floor and enter the box seating
area reserved for nobles, giving Oxford his first real
look at the theater itself. Oxford looks around and
sees-

FROM OXFORD'S POV

Audience members LAUGHING-- others DRINKING-- maids
SELLING food-- the actors ACTING...

It's alive.   Magical.

BACK TO OXFORD

Oxford takes it all in, almost stunned by it.

ON-STAGE

The actor William SHAKESPEARE (30) plays a commoner.
He is handsome, sexy, charismatic; and holds a tankard
of ale, and SWIGS from it constantly.

Another actor SPENCER (30) plays "FASTIDIOUS"; a
pompous, over-dressed, caricature of a nobleman.

                                                            10
                                                    pg. 11


He wears an enormous feather on his hat. Also on stage
is an actor called John HEMINGE (late 40's), who plays
"Sogliardo"

                         SHAKESPEARE
            And whither were you riding now,
            signior?

                         "FASTIDIOUS"
            Who, I? What a silly jest's that!
            Whither should I ride but to the
            court?

                         SHAKESPEARE
            O, pardon me, sir, twenty places more;
            your hot-house, your pig-house, or
            your whore-house!

The audience ROARS in laughter as Shakespeare looks
below at a buxom young lady among the "groundlings".
He smiles seductively. She smiles back.

BACKSTAGE

Jonson (now 25 and clean-shaven) is watching the
performance from behind a curtain, silently speaking
the lines with the actors.

IN THE RAISED SEATING

A group of playwrights and poets watch the play with an
air of judgement. They are: Christopher "Kit" MARLOWE
(32), young, brilliant, a bit foppish (he likes the
boys), Thomas NASHE (late 30's)-- a heavy-set, a hard
drinking satirist-- and Thomas DEKKER (29), considered
a bit of a hack by his colleagues.

They are called the "Mermaid's Wits" because they
frequent a pub named The Mermaid's Tavern.

                         NASHE
                   (takes a swig of ale)
            His second play, and almost a full
            house.
                   (burps)
            He's got a wit, does Jonson.

                         MARLOWE
            That might be so, but like a grain of
            wheat hid in a bushel of chaff: you
            shall seek all day ere you find it,
            and when you have it, it's not worth
            the search!


                                                             11
                                                 pg. 12


The others smile as a WOMAN passes.

                         WOMAN
          Ale!   Ale!!

                       DEKKER
          Marlowe-- spot me a few pence, will
          you? Henslowe still owes me for
          "Shoemaker's Holiday".

                       MARLOWE
                 (retrieving coins)
          That would be because no one saw
          "Shoemaker's Holiday".

                         DEKKER
          Ale here!

Marlowe gives the woman a few pennies as--

                       NASHE
          Kit... Isn't that one of your
          unrequited loves in the box over
          there?

Marlowe glances across the theater and spots
Southampton siting next to Oxford.

                       MARLOWE
                 (frowns)
          But with whom? Tell me not he prefers
          the company of such old grey men as
          that!

Nashe squints.

                       NASHE
          I think-- yes, by the beard, that's
          the Earl of Oxford. Old Tom Hooker
          used to play for him. Had his own
          acting troupe for private Court
          performances and the like.

                       DEKKER
          I wonder if he needs any material?

                       MARLOWE
          Certainly not any of yours.

                       NASHE
          No, no-- that was years ago. Had a
          falling out with the Queen, I heard.
          He's more of a recluse than a patron
          these days.

                                                          12
                                                     pg. 13


ON STAGE

Shakespeare points to "Fastidious".

                          SHAKESPEARE
             Who, he, the noble there? Why, he's a
             gull, a fool, no salt in him i' the
             earth; man, he looks like a fresh
             salmon kept in a tub!

Shakespeare struts around as though he owned the place.
The more he talks, the more the audience ROARS in
laughter.

                          SHAKESPEARE (CONT'D)
             He sleeps with a musk-cat every night,
             and walks all day hang'd in perfumed
             chains for penance.

                           A GROUNDLING
             Oi!   So that's what I been smelling!

More groundlings laugh.     Interestingly--

NOBLEMEN

in the box seats do not.

ON STAGE

Shakespeare continues his rant, speaking directly to
the groundlings.

                          SHAKESPEARE
             He has his skin tann'd in civet, to
             make his complexion strong, and the
             sweetness of his youth lasting in the
             sense of his sweet lady. And, sadly,
             the poor man's brain is lighter than
             his feather...

As the audience HOWLS in laughter, we see:

A NOBLEMAN

with a feathered hat gets up in fury, and exits the
theater, his lady with him. The Audience LAUGHS at him
as he goes.

ON STAGE

Shakespeare smiles triumphantly.



                                                              13
                                                   pg. 14


                         SHAKESPEARE (CONT'D)
            He is a good and empty puff, but he
            loves you well, signior. I wish you
            well with him.

OXFORD

Watches the nobleman with the big feathered hat pass
by.

BACKSTAGE

Later in the play...

Shakespeare returns backstage and takes a deep swig
from his tankard. He's actually drunk, though his
performance didn't show it at all. He spots Jonson,
and grabs him.

                        SHAKESPEARE (CONT'D)
            Jonson! Wonderful dialogue!
            Wonderful. I hope your next--

                          HENSLOWE (O.C.)
            Will!   Will Shakespeare!

Shakespeare turns to see a furious Philip HENSLOWE
(50'S) heading his way.

                         HENSLOWE (CONT'D)
            That's not ale in that goblet is it?

Shakespeare hides the goblet behind his back.

                         SHAKESPEARE
            Ale? Me? Drink during a performance?
            I am a professional sir!
                   (burps)
            A complete and--

He is interrupted by SCREAMS.    Not from actors on
stage, but by the audience.

IN THE THEATER

Complete panic erupts as dozens of The Queen's Guard
STORM into the theater. Everyone tries to get out as
quickly as possible, including the other actors, Henry
CONDELL (20's), Thomas POPE (30's), William SLY (13).

SIR RICHARD POLE, THE CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD

--jumps on stage.


                                                            14
                                                    pg. 15


                        POLE
           This play has been declared seditious
           and illegal by Lord William Cecil!

The audience begins to BOO at the mention of Cecil.

                        POLE (CONT'D)
           All are herewith ordered to disperse
           immediately!

                        A GROUNDLING
           Why don't you disperse William Cecil's
           arse!

                        POLE
           Arrest that man!

IN OXFORD'S BOX

                          SOUTHAMPTON
           Damn it all.    Well! Off to Essex's
           then?

He gets up. Oxford does not, seemingly interested in
the real drama below as everyone hurries from the
theater.

                          SOUTHAMPTON (CONT'D)
           Edward?

Oxford turns to him, distracted, and nods.

ON STAGE

Jonson pushes his way on stage.

                        JONSON
                  (to Pole)
           Seditious? Seditious?! It's a comedy
           for god's sake! There's nothing
           seditious about--

                        POLE
           Oi, is that right, is it?    And you
           know this because?

                        JONSON
           Because I wrote the bloody thing!      And-
           -

                        POLE
           Arrest him as well!

Jonson is grabbed by guards.

                                                             15
                                                       pg. 16


17   INT. A JAIL CELL - DAY                                        17

     Jonson is THROWN into the cell, the door SLAMMED behind
     him.

                             JONSON
                      (to the door)
               A pox on you!
                      (beat)
               And your carbuncled father!

     Jonson looks around-- the cell is filled with a dozen
     or so other prisoners.

                            ESSEX (O.S.)
               People taxed to the point of
               starvation, Spain running the New
               World, open revolt in Ireland,
               Catholic plots everywhere you turn...

                                                        CUT TO:


18   INT. TENNIS COURT AT ESSEX HOUSE - DAY                        18

     Robert, Earl of ESSEX (28), is playing tennis against
     Southampton. He's handsome, red-headed, and, we will
     learn, very ambitious.

                            ESSEX
               ...and how do the Cecils spend their
               time and energy? Shutting a theater!
               A theater, for god's sake? It's
               madness! No wonder the mob hates them
               so!

     The court is inside, and slightly different from
     today's game: the back walls are playable, somewhat
     like racquet-ball.

     Oxford sits on a bench, watching.   Essex SLAMS a shot,
     but it goes--

                              OXFORD
               Out!

     Essex looks furious, but holds his tongue.   Southampton
     prepares to serve.

                            OXFORD (CONT'D)
                      (to Southampton)
               Henry, how many people were at that
               play?


                                                                  16
                                                     pg. 17


     Southampton pauses before serving.

                           SOUTHAMPTON
               Hmm? I'm not sure, two thousand,
               maybe more.

     Southampton SERVES.   Essex returns, and another heated
     rally begins.

                            OXFORD
               And how many performances are there of
               a play like that?

                            SOUTHAMPTON
               Five or six I suppose.

     He HITS the ball again, and this time Essex misses it.

                             ESSEX
               By the--!

                            OXFORD
                      (to Essex)
               So! Ten thousand souls. All
               listening to the writings of one man--
               the ideas of one man. That's power,
               Robert. And if there is one thing the
               Cecils understand, it's power.

                            ESSEX
                      (snorts)
               And when did words ever win a kingdom?
               I think I'll keep my sword, thank you
               very much.

     Southampton SERVES as Oxford smiles at Essex's naivet�.


19   INT. CHANGING ROOMS/ESSEX HOUSE - DAY                      19

     Southampton and Essex are dressing out of their tennis
     clothes and into their normal clothes, assisted by two
     valets.

                            ESSEX
                      (to the valets)
               Leave us.
                      (they exit)
               Henry... Some of my men have...
               intercepted... some of William Cecil's
               recent correspondence with King James
               of Scotland...



                                                               17
                                                 pg. 18


Southampton pauses in clothing himself.   This is
serious.

                       ESSEX (CONT'D)
          Cecil's all but promising him the
          throne...

                        SOUTHAMPTON
          To James?   Elizabeth would never agree
          to-

                       ESSEX
          Elizabeth is old. Ill. Not of her
          old mind. Sometimes she doesn't even
          recognize me. And yet, still she
          refuses to name an heir.

                       SOUTHAMPTON
          But a Scotsman? On the Tudor throne?

                       ESSEX
          You are not in the Privy Council.
          Elizabeth does everything the Cecils
          wish of her. Everything!

BEHIND THEM

Oxford enters. They don't notice, though. He
instantly realizes he shouldn't say anything. He
listens as:

WIDER

                        ESSEX (CONT'D)
          Think, Henry, if James owes Cecil his
          throne, Cecil will have more influence
          in the next reign than he does in this
          one. And after William Cecil, his
          hunch-backed son will take his
          place...
                 (careful)
          That is why we must do everything in
          our power to ensure that the right man
          succeeds her.
                 (beat)
          A man deserving of the Tudor crown.

Southampton stiffens at that last phrase.

                       ESSEX (CONT'D)
          I ask you for the support of you and
          your men, Henry.... if it comes to a
          fight.


                                                          18
                                                       pg. 19


     Southampton looks at Essex hard.

                             SOUTHAMPTON
                You know you need not ask. I stand
                with you, as I always have.

     Essex smiles at him warmly. They both HEAR something
     shuffle behind them. They turn, and see:

     WHERE OXFORD WAS STANDING

     Nothing.   He is gone.

     BACK TO SOUTHAMPTON AND ESSEX

     They exchange a slightly worried look.

                                                         CUT TO:


20   EXT. ESSEX HOUSE - DAY                                         20

     Moments later, Oxford and Southampton are exiting the
     elaborate building that serves as Essex's London
     residence.

                             OXFORD
                Essex played rather poorly, didn't he?

     Southampton just nods, distracted.   Oxford reaches out
     to him, and touches his shoulder.

                             OXFORD (CONT'D)
                       (warning)
                Henry... The Cecils brook no rivals.

     Southampton pauses, confused for an instant, then--

                             SOUTHAMPTON
                       (re: his discussion with
                        Essex)
                You heard?

     Oxford nods.

                             SOUTHAMPTON (CONT'D)
                Always concerned for me, aren't you
                Edward?

     They keep walking towards Southampton's men.

                             SOUTHAMPTON (CONT'D)
                And what would you have me do?


                                                                   19
                                                  pg. 20


                       OXFORD
          I would have you deny him.

                       SOUTHAMPTON
          The son of the Queen?

                       OXFORD
          That is rumor only, Henry--

They stop. Southampton makes sure that his men are out
of earshot.

                       SOUTHAMPTON
          Rumor? My god, all you have to do is
          look at Essex to see the Queen's
          reflection. Everyone thinks he's her
          son, everyone! And I for one would
          rather bow to a Tudor, bastard though
          he may be, than a Scotsman!

                        OXFORD
          I desire nothing more than to see the
          next king be the rightful king. But
          what Essex contemplates will surely
          lead to Civil War.
                 (beat)
          No. If this is to be done, it must be
          done carefully, skillfully.

                       SOUTHAMPTON
          As I heard it, Elizabeth exiled you
          from her presence for the last twenty
          years because of your "skill" at Court
          politics.

And then he feels instantly ashamed of having said
that.

                       OXFORD
          I only have your interests in mind,
          Henry. For as you so rightly point
          out, my interests are already lost.

                       SOUTHAMPTON
          I know. Forgive me. You know how I
          feel about you. You have been a great
          friend to me ever since my father
          died. I promise you that I will do
          nothing rash without consulting you
          first.

Oxford nods, still worried, and Southampton heads for
his horse.


                                                           20
                                                      pg. 21


                            OXFORD
               Henry! Will you do me one thing more?
               Deliver a gift for me? A rather...
               elaborate gift?


21   EXT. CECIL HOUSE - SUNSET                                  21

     The stone house is nothing like a stereotypical Tudor
     house; it's enormous, and very ornate and intricate in
     design.

     It faces the river, and has an elaborate docking area
     which is now filled with all sorts of longboats letting
     the noblemen off for a week-end get away.


22   INT. CECIL HOUSE - GREAT HALL - DUSK                       22

     Most of England's nobility is assembled in small
     groups, talking. It's a dour, quiet affair. Some
     music, no life. Quite Puritan.

     Southampton is there, but Essex and Oxford are nowhere
     to be seen.

     A HUNCH-BACKED MAN

     --makes his way through the room, causing conversations
     to cease as he walks by. Even the most senior of the
     nobles bow their heads slightly in greeting him. This
     is Sir ROBERT CECIL (mid 30's).

     He pauses near Southampton.

                              SOUTHAMPTON
               Sir Robert.

                            ROBERT CECIL
               My lord of Southampton.
                      (looking around)
               Have you seen Essex?

                            SOUTHAMPTON
               I believe he is still in the viewing
               chamber with her majesty...

                              ROBERT CECIL
                        (sharp, annoyed)
               Alone?




                                                               21
                                                  pg. 22


                       SOUTHAMPTON
                 (smiles)
          With your father in London dealing
          with all the troubles in Ireland, who
          else should the Queen turn to but
          Essex?

Robert Cecil looks annoyed, but holds his tongue as the
SOUND of pikes HITTING the floor silences the hall.

A FOOTMAN clears his throat and--

                       FOOTMAN
          By the grace of god, her majesty,
          Elizabeth, Queen of England, Wales and
          Ireland!

DOUBLE DOORS

open, and Elizabeth (in her 60's) enters. She is
wearing a large sparkling pearl-encrusted dress with a
wide collar.

She walks slowly and carefully, and has a slight tremor
in her head and hands. She seems un-certain; like
she's not sure she recognizes all the faces around her
(Alzheimer's?). And she compensates for it by being
all the more regal, all the more un-human.

Essex is on her arm, dressed in a splendid jewel-
encrusted doublet.

Robert Cecil FROWNS at the sight of Essex on her arm.

Essex ignores Cecil's glare, notices Southampton--

                       ESSEX
                 (to Elizabeth)
          Ah-- Majesty, I've been told my lord
          of Southampton has a gift for you.

                       ELIZABETH
                 (eyes sparkle)
          A gift?

                       SOUTHAMPTON
          Yes, your grace, though not from me.

Southampton CLAPS his hands and a door across the room
OPENS.

A DWARF enters, followed by dancing faires, actors
swirling sparklers, and musicians playing music.


                                                           22
                                                  pg. 23


Elizabeth's rheumy eyes widen in complete delight, a
smile of total jubilation crosses her face.

Robert Cecil, on the other hand, looks horrified.

                       ELIZABETH
          Are you this gift, my precious little
          man?

                       DWARF
          No, no, my most majestic majesty. I
          am a free man. My gift is a play,
          majesty.

                       ELIZABETH
          A play?

The dwarf bows his assent.

                       ROBERT CECIL
                 (to the Dwarf)
          Plays are the work of the devil, born
          from a cesspool of plague, whoredom,
          thievery, fornication, and heresy.
          You may tell your master that her
          majesty--

                       ESSEX
                 (interrupting)
          --Will gladly accept your gift.

Robert Cecil turns to Essex, shocked.

                       ESSEX (CONT'D)
                 (to Elizabeth)
          Of course that is if you so desire,
          majesty.
                 (to Robert Cecil)
          The choice is her majesty's to make,
          not yours. Is that not so Sir Robert?

Robert frowns as Elizabeth looks around, unsure of the
political tides around her. Then--

                       ELIZABETH
                 (to the dwarf)
          Comedy? Or tragedy?

                       DWARF
          Comedy, majesty.

                       ELIZABETH
                 (delighted)
          A comedy!
                       (MORE)
                                                           23
                                                       pg. 24

                               ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
                      (beat)
               By whom?

                            DWARF
               By... Anonymous, your majesty...

                             ELIZABETH
               Anonymous...?
                      (then)
               Oh, but I do so admire his verse...

     Elizabeth lets go of Essex, and offers her hand to the
     Dwarf, who smiles brightly.

                            ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
               Lead us to this gift.

     And the Dwarf leads Elizabeth towards the door. Essex
     follows, and Southampton locks into step next to him.
     They exchange a knowing look as--

     Robert Cecil steps in line far after the Queen, not
     happy with this turn of events as we hear--

                            "QUINCE" (O.S.)
               Bless thee, Bottom! Bless thee!      Thou
               art translated!

                                                           CUT TO:


23   EXT. THE GROUNDS AT CECIL HOUSE - NIGHT                          23

     Sheer magic. Candles everywhere: in stakes, in the
     ground, in the trees. They light a make-shift "stage"
     surrounded by huge oak trees on three sides.

                            "BOTTOM"
               I see their knavery: this is to make
               an ass of me; to fright me, if they
               could. But I will not stir from this
               place, do what they can.

     Chairs have been brought out and put in rows in the
     grass. Elizabeth is watching center front row (of
     course). She loves it, SQUEALING in delight like a
     young woman. Essex is next to her.




                                                                     24
                                                   pg. 25


ON STAGE

Several actors are mid-scene in "A Midsummer Night's
Dream" (Act 3, Scene 1), their make-up quite elaborate
and fantastical: "Bottom", who is costumed as a man--
except that he has a DONKEY'S HEAD, "Quince", a
commoner, "Puck", played by the dwarf who is now
dressed like a cupid, and "Titania", Queen of the
fairies, who is presently asleep in a bed of fur. Puck
hides behind a tree watching.

                         "BOTTOM" (CONT'D)
            I will walk up and down here, and I
            will sing, that they shall hear I am
            not afraid.

BACKSTAGE

Oxford watches from behind a curtain, carefully
observing the Queen's reaction. Somehow we feel that
seeing her again after so many years stirs up some deep
emotion in him.

ON STAGE

                         "BOTTOM" (CONT'D)
                   (sings)
            The ousel cock so black of hue,
            With orange-tawny bill,
            The throstle with his note so true,
            The wren with little quill--

Titania awakens in her nest-like bed of fur.

                         "TITANIA"
            What angel wakes me from my flow'ry
            bed?

ELIZABETH

strongly reacts to Titania awakening.   It stirs some
memory in her. A pleasant memory.

OXFORD

watches, delighted by her reaction.

FROM HIS POV

We see Elizabeth watching. But it is an Elizabeth only
26 years old (referred to as YOUNG ELIZABETH in this
script). We HEAR the sound of other dialogue, but from
the same play. We are:


                                                            25
                                                      pg. 26


24   INT. HEDINGHAM CASTLE - GREAT HALL - NIGHT                    24

     Thirty-eight years earlier. And YOUNG ELIZABETH watches
     an earlier, slightly less sophisticated staging of "A
     Midsummer Night's Dream" (the costumes and sets are a
     bit more thrown together).

     All the actors are children from 7-12 years old or so.

     FROM BACKSTAGE

     A boy watches in the exact same position as we just saw
     Oxford. This is BOY OXFORD-- now only 10 years old.
     But he is made up and wears a winged costume for the
     character of "Puck".

                             "OBERON" (O.S.)
                ...and the owner of it blest ever
                shall in safety rest. Trip away; make
                no stay;
                meet me all by break of day.

     And the characters of "Oberon" and "Titania" exit.     Boy
     Oxford hurries--

     ON STAGE

                             "PUCK"
                If we shadows have offended, think but
                this, and all is mended, that you have
                but slumber'd here while these visions
                did appear...

     Next to Young Elizabeth, JOHN DE VERE, Oxford's father,
     also watches, his face beaming with pride.

                             "PUCK" (CONT'D)
                ...And this weak and idle theme, No
                more yielding but a dream, gentles, do
                not reprehend; if you pardon, we will
                mend.

     A STERN LOOKING MAN

     is watching a few seats   away from Young Elizabeth.   He
     is WILLIAM CECIL (40's,   Robert's father). He is a
     Puritan, dressed all in   black (with a white lace
     collar), and has a long   beard. He is frowning,
     loathing the play.




                                                                  26
                                                        pg. 27


     ON STAGE

                             "PUCK" (CONT'D)
                So, good night unto you all. Give me
                your hands, if we be friends, and
                Robin shall restore amends.

     The play now over, Young Elizabeth applauds with
     delight, as do the small group of courtiers all around
     her.

                               YOUNG ELIZABETH
                Lovely.    Lovely!

                                                         CUT TO:


25   INT. HEDINGHAM CASTLE - KITCHEN - LATER                        25

     A make-shift "back-stage" where all the young "actors"
     are removing their costumes and make-up, including Boy
     Oxford, who sits in front of a make-shift, leaning
     mirror.

     Much excited talking and commotion, until Boy Oxford
     notices everyone has gone silent. He turns-- his winged
     costume still on-- just as--

                               YOUNG ELIZABETH (O.S.)
                Ah!    There he is.

     Young Elizabeth and her senior Court, including William
     Cecil and John De Vere, have entered.

     Boy Oxford bows deeply.

                             YOUNG ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
                       (to Boy Oxford)
                Your father tells me you wrote this
                evening's play yourself.

     Boy Oxford glances at his father-- should he answer
     directly? His father NODS.

                             BOY OXFORD
                I did indeed, your majesty.

                             YOUNG ELIZABETH
                You sport with me.
                       (smiling)
                Compose something.

                               BOY OXFORD
                Now?

                                                                   27
                                                  pg. 28


                        YOUNG ELIZABETH
          Yes.   Now.

                       BOY OXFORD
          On what subject, your grace?

She thinks.   Then--

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
                 (smiles)
          Truth...

                       BOY OXFORD
                 (thinks, then--)
          For... Truth... is Truth...
          Though... never so old...
          and time cannot make that false,
          which once was true.

She smiles, claps.

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
                 (to John de Vere)
          My lord of Oxford. It seems you have
          added a poet to your family's long
          line of warriors.

                       BOY OXFORD
          Madam, I am as accomplished with the
          sword and the musket as I am with
          verse.

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
                 (amused)
          Are you indeed?

                       BOY OXFORD
                 (nods seriously)
          It is my only desire to one day be
          your majesty's most trusted servant in
          matters both of war and state, if you
          will but have me.

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
                 (charmed)
          Why, Lord Cecil, it seems we may very
          well have found your replacement.

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          We hope not too soon, majesty, we hope
          not too soon.




                                                           28
                                                       pg. 29


                            YOUNG ELIZABETH
                      (teasing)
               And how liked you our young lord's
               play, William?

     William Cecil stiffens in discomfort.

                            YOUNG ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
                      (to Boy Oxford,
                       conspiratorially)
               Our Lord Cecil is our most religious
               of subjects, and no doubt thinks your
               little masque will deliver your soul
               straight into the arms of Lucifer
               himself. Don't you, William?

     The Boy Oxford looks at William Cecil, perplexed by
     such a thing.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               That is God's decision, your majesty.
               Not mine.

     William Cecil looks directly at John de Vere resulting
     in an uncomfortable silence.

     Elizabeth notices.

                            YOUNG ELIZABETH
               Well, if plays are indeed such a sin,
               I pray I do not find my salvation
               until very late in life.

     Boy Oxford smiles.   He might very well be in love.

                                                        CUT TO:


26   INT. A JAIL CELL - DAY                                        26

     Thirty-eight years later. The door SWEEPS open and a
     snoring, sleeping Jonson is awakened by--

                              GUARD (O.S.)
               Jonson!    Ben Jonson!

     The other prisoners make way as the guard approaches
     Jonson. The guard tosses a wax-sealed piece of
     parchment onto Jonson's lap.

                            GUARD (CONT'D)
               You've been released.

     Jonson looks at it, confused.

                                                                  29
                                                           pg. 30


                                GUARD (CONT'D)
                   Got powerful friends, now, don't you?


26A   EXT. A BOAT - RIVER THAMES - DAY                                26A

      Jonson is in a nobleman's longboat (for the first time
      in his life). Across from him sits FRANCESCO--
      Italian, 60's-- wearing a doublet with the Oxford coat
      of arms on its chest.

      The City of London is far in the distance.

      Jonson looks around uncomfortably at the luxurious boat
      for a moment before--

                                JONSON
                   And who are you?

      Francesco just stares back.

                                JONSON (CONT'D)
                   And where are we going?

      Francesco is silent.

      WIDER

      The boat approaches a large stone house, Oxford Stone.

                                                            CUT TO:

      A RED ROSE

      as it is cut from its bush by ink-stained hands.       We
      are:


27    EXT. OXFORD STONE - GARDEN - DAY                                 27

      Oxford smells the rose, inhaling its essence. Then he
      turns and sees Francesco escorting Ben Jonson towards
      him.

      Before they reach him he glances at his wife ANNE De
      Vere (40's) who sits in the distance knitting with one
      of their daughter's, BRIDGET (17).

      Jonson is quite uncomfortable to be at such a grand
      place. Jonson CLEARS his throat.

                                JONSON
                   My lord...


                                                                      30
                                                  pg. 31


                       OXFORD
          The Tudor rose. The most beautiful of
          flowers, don't you think?

                       JONSON
          It looks to me to have quite a number
          of thorns, my lord.

                        OXFORD
          So it does.   So it does.

                       JONSON
          I am told, my lord, that I owe my
          freedom to you.

                       OXFORD
          That is true. And it was quite hard
          to come by. One does not cross my
          father-in-law lightly.

Jonson doesn't know who he is talking about.

                       OXFORD (CONT'D)
          Lord William Cecil. I have the
          questionable distinction of being
          married to his only daughter.

Oxford looks over to his wife who watches them
suspiciously. He begins to walk away forcing Jonson and
Francesco to follow.

                       OXFORD (CONT'D)
          It did, however, serve as helpful when
          I wrote to your jailers to release you
          in my father-in-law's name.

Jonson suddenly looks worried and turns and looks back
to Anne.

                       JONSON
                 (in a panicked whisper)
          My lord-- I'm sorry, does that mean my
          release is not officially sanctioned?

                        OXFORD
          Don't be an idiot Jonson, of course it
          wasn't.
                 (beat)
          But you are free, are you not?

They have come to an entrance to a GARDEN MAZE and Anne
watches them as they disappear into the maze.



                                                           31
                                                     pg. 32


28   EXT. MAZE - DAY                                           28

     Oxford turns to Jonson.

                            OXFORD
               I enjoyed your little comedy last
               week, Jonson. You have potential,
               great potential.

                            JONSON
               Thank you, my lord.

                            OXFORD
               But it's politics did seem to have
               quite an effect on the Tower. My
               father-in-law's men felt it quite
               seditious.

                            JONSON
               Politics? My play had nothing to do
               with politics! It was just a simple
               comedy--

                             OXFORD
               That showed your betters as fools who
               go through life barely managing to get
               food from plate to mouth, were it not
               for the cleverness of their servants.
                      (beat)
               All art is political, Jonson.
               Otherwise it would just be decoration.
               And all artists have something to say,
               otherwise... they'd make shoes. And
               you're not a cobbler, are you, Jonson?

     As they enter the center of the maze, Oxford turns to
     his servant.

                               OXFORD (CONT'D)
                      (nods)
               Francesco.

     Francesco steps forward and hands Jonson a leather
     bound manuscript. Jonson looks at it confused and
     opens it.

                            JONSON
               A play, my lord?

                            OXFORD
               One you shall stage Bankside.

                               JONSON
               Stage?

                                                              32
                                                  pg. 33


                       OXFORD
          Under your name.

                       JONSON
          My name, my lord?

                       OXFORD
          I can't very well use my name, can I?
          I'm the seventeenth Earl of Oxford.
          The Lord Great Chamberlain of England,
          Viscount Bolebec, Lord Escales,
          Sandford and Badlesmere, etc, etc.
          No. I have a... reputation to
          protect. In my world, one does not
          write plays, Jonson. People like you
          do.

Jonson tries not to be offended.

                       JONSON
          Yes. My lord. You wrote an entire
          play, my lord. I know how difficult--

                       OXFORD
          Not a play, Jonson, I've written many.
          No doubt, many more than you yourself.
          A good number performed at Court years
          ago, others never seen by a living
          soul.

                       JONSON
          And you want... me to apply my name to
          this play?

                       OXFORD
          No. I mean you to put your name to
          all of them.

                         JONSON
          All of them?

                       OXFORD
          Well don't look like I just gutted
          your pet dog, Jonson. I mean to make
          you the most popular-- and therefore
          the most monetarily successful--
          playwright in all of London.

Jonson pales.   This is a disaster for him.

                       OXFORD (CONT'D)
          I wish you god speed and good morrow.

Jonson looks down at the manuscript, reads a few lines.

                                                           33
                                                      pg. 34


                            JONSON
               My lord-- I really--

     He looks up, but Oxford is gone, having left the maze
     without so much as a good-bye.

                              JONSON (CONT'D)
               My lord?

     But before he can follow, Francesco tosses a leather
     pouch of coins at his feet.

                            FRANCESCO
               That is for your trouble, Signor
               Jonson. And your silence. If I hear
               you break that silence, then... not so
               good for Signor Jonson.

     And Francesco follows after his master as Jonson picks
     up the pouch, examining its contents.

     And then Jonson realizes he doesn't know how to get out
     of the maze. He chases after them.

                             JONSON
               Hello?   My lord?! I--

     And he's lost. He looks this way and that, then picks
     a path (the wrong one).


29   EXT. CECIL HOUSE - DAY                                      29

     Robert Cecil is standing at the opulent river   entrance
     to Cecil House, waiting for an enormous barge   docking.
     William Cecil (now 75) is at the front of the   barge,
     waiting to disembark. He constantly holds an    ornately
     carved white cane.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               So! I am gone for three days, and you
               somehow manage to let her spend all of
               them solely in the company of the Earl
               of Essex...

     Robert Cecil looks at him sharply.   How did he know.

                            WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
               Don't think because I was in London, I
               didn't know exactly what went on here
               in my absence.




                                                                34
                                                      pg. 35


                            ROBERT CECIL
               He is an Earl, father. I cannot deny
               him--

                             WILLIAM CECIL
               Of course not! You don't deny him
               anything. You find excuses. She is
               unwell, she is reading, she is seeing
               the Ambassador from Russia. For God's
               sake, use your imagination, Robert.
               Whatever will you do when I am gone?
                      (beat)
               We will have to deal with Essex soon.
               His ambitions are becoming a nuisance.


30   INT. CECIL HOUSE - HALLWAY - DAY                           30

     William Cecil enters an impressive hallway and turns to
     his son.


                            WILLIAM CECIL
               Now tell me about the play.

     Robert Cecil looks surprised for an instant that he
     knows about that as well.

                            ROBERT CECIL
               It-- it was an anonymous gift. Essex
               insisted it be performed, just to
               spite me in front of Court...

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               Of course he did.
                      (concerned)
               But what was it about?

                            ROBERT CECIL
               About? Some nonsense about fairies
               and cherubs.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               ...And dancing asses?

     Robert looks surprised at his father who has stopped
     suddenly.

                            WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
                      (realizing, to himself)
               Edward...
                      (to Robert Cecil)
               Have you any idea what you have-- No,
               how could you...

                                                               35
                                                    pg. 36


     And he starts back up the stairs.

                              ROBERT CECIL
               Father...    It was just a play...

                             WILLIAM CECIL
               And do you know how long it took me to
               banish them from her presence? She
               adores them! Adores them! And Edward
               knows it.
                      (beat)
               Mark my words, Robert, he has done
               this for a purpose.

                              ROBERT CECIL
               Purpose?    What purpose?

                            WILLIAM CECIL
                      (thinking, to himself)
               What purpose indeed?
                      (to Robert)
               But through your carelessness I must
               now deal not only with Essex, but
               Edward as well. For whether in shadow
               or in person, Edward has returned to
               Court!

     And with that he slams the door shut.

     Robert Cecil walks over to a nearby window. Visibly
     upset he starts to stare out of the window and
     remembers...

                                                        CUT TO:


31   OMIT                                                          31

     THROUGH A THIRD STORY WINDOW

     We see servants carrying big trunks. There are at least
     120 men on horses. They all wear the Oxford's crest.

                             WILLIAM CECIL (O.S)
               Robert.


32   INT. CECIL HOUSE - HALLWAY - DAY                              32

     And it is thirty years earlier.

     BOY ROBERT CECIL (now 9) is staring out of the window.
     His back must have been deformed either in utero or at
     birth, because even now he is hunchbacked.

                                                                  36
                                                   pg. 37


                       WILLIAM CECIL(O.S.)
                 (more commanding)
          Robert! Come here.

Finally Boy Robert Cecil turns and sees Young Oxford
(now 17) entering the hallway with William Cecil and
his wife and daughter, Young ANNE (15). In front of
them, lined up, are several men whom we will learn are
TUTORS.

Boy Robert Cecil doesn't move.

                       WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
                 (to Young Oxford)
          I am sorry, my lord. But my son
          Robert prefers the company... of
          himself...

Boy Robert Cecil watches as his father turns to his
mother and sister.

                       WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
          May I present my wife, Lady Cecil, and
          my daughter, Anne.

Young Anne curtsies.

                       YOUNG ANNE
          I am sorry for your loss, my lord.
          The realm lost a great lord with your
          father's death. We hope you will be
          happy in our house--

                       BOY ROBERT CECIL (O.S.)
          Are you going to live here forever?

Everybody turns and sees the odd hunchback child has
finally come over.

                         YOUNG OXFORD
                   (smiles)
          No.    Only until I reach my maturity.

                        BOY ROBERT CECIL
          Why?

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          Because the Queen has bade it so.
                 (to Young Oxford)
          My lord, when we first met, you said
          you wished to become a great man of
          State. Both the Queen and I hope to
          make that so.
                       (MORE)

                                                            37
                                                 pg. 38

                       WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
          To that end, I have the honor of
          introducing you to your tutors.
                 (indicates one of them)
          Seven to eight you shall be tutored in
          French by Mister Crane--

                      YOUNG OXFORD
          Monsieur. Ca me fait plaisir de vous
          connaitre.

Master Crane bows his head.

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          Nine to ten is Greek with Mister
          Simmons.

                       YOUNG OXFORD
                 (in Greek)
          Dalon, an d'ego, hoti mathamata ge
          esti ha trafo psychas.

                       BOY ROBERT CECIL
          Is that Homer?

                        YOUNG OXFORD
                  (sharp)
          No.   Plato.

Boy Robert frowns at the correction.

                       WILLIAM CECIL
                 (slight frown, then)
          And you know your uncle, Mister
          Golding, who has petitioned me to
          allow you to assist him in his
          translations of ancient Latin texts
          into English.

                       YOUNG OXFORD
                 (in Latin)
          Continetne, ut spero, Ovidii
          Metamorphose? Mihi honori erit,
          patrue

Mister Golding bows his head in appreciation.

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          Then cosmography with Doctor Richards.
          Two to three is geography and history,
          and four to five fencing.

William Cecil seems to have finished.



                                                          38
                                                       pg. 39


                            YOUNG OXFORD
                      (to William Cecil)
               And composition? Poetry?

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               This is a Puritan home, your grace.
               We believe such activities to be the
               worship of false idols, and therefore
               a sin before the eyes of God.

                            YOUNG OXFORD
               A sin? But surely there must be room
               for beauty and art in life, my lord.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               Not in this household.


33   INT. CECIL HOUSE - GREAT HALL - DAY                         33

     Young Oxford is fencing with a tutor. He's quite good.
     In fact, he's better than the tutor, who is twice his
     age.

     Boy Robert Cecil casually watches as he plays chess
     against himself.

     Young Oxford, with a fierce, beautifully executed
     attack, disarms his tutor. The tutor's sword FLIES
     into the air, and hits--

     THE CHESS BOARD

     making the pieces scatter.

     WIDER

     Boy Robert Cecil looks up, his face furious, to see
     Young Oxford coming over to him.

                            YOUNG OXFORD
               You were losing anyway.

                            BOY ROBERT CECIL
               I was also winning.

     Young Oxford picks up the sword, throws it to his
     tutor, who catches it.

                            BOY ROBERT CECIL
                            (CONT'D)
               You know I am going to one day succeed
               my father at the Queen's side. Not
               you.

                                                                39
                                                    pg. 40


     Young Oxford motions to go, then picks up the black
     king, and tosses it to Boy Robert Cecil, who can't
     catch it because of his deformity. It CLANGS on the
     floor.

                            YOUNG OXFORD
                 Really?


34   INT. CECIL HOUSE - HALLWAY - DAY                           34

     Moments later, the Young Oxford heads down the hall
     alone, heading for his rooms, his sword still in his
     hand.

                                                     CUT TO:

     POEMS

     neatly written on parchment.   We are:


35   INT. CECIL HOUSE - YOUNG OXFORD'S ROOM - DAY               35

     And a SERVANT is looking at the poems, then quickly
     stuffing them into a bag.

     But then he HEARS footsteps coming. Panicked, he looks
     for someplace to hide-- a tapestry half covers a door--
     he runs to it-- the door is locked!

     So he hides behind the tapestry just as the door opens,
     and Young Oxford enters.

     After a few steps, Young Oxford senses something amiss.
     Looks at his--

     WRITING DESK

     where the parchments are scattered.

     YOUNG OXFORD

     goes to his desk, picks up one of the pieces of
     parchment. It has poetry on it. His poetry. He goes
     through some other pages. And realizes other pages are
     missing. He becomes infuriated. He sees--

     UNDER THE TAPESTRY

     Two feet.




                                                               40
                                                        pg. 41


     WIDER

     Young Oxford CHARGES the tapestry, sword in hand.     He
     THRUSTS the sword THROUGH the tapestry.

     The man screams in agony as he falls. He doesn't just
     die, but screams and screams and screams.

     Young Oxford steps back-- half in horror... half in
     triumph. The SOUND of APPLAUSE takes us to:


36   INT. THE ROSE THEATER - BACKSTAGE - DAY                      36

     Thirty-three years later.

     Shakespeare is on stage, taking a bow. The audience is
     APPLAUDING and SCREAMING their approval of a
     performance that has just ended. He steps backwards--

     BACKSTAGE

     --where Jonson stands holding the manuscript Oxford
     gave him.

                              SHAKESPEARE
                 Is it any good?

                              JONSON
                 How in blazes should I know?

                              SHAKESPEARE
                 You haven't even read it?

     And Shakespeare is drawn back--

     ON STAGE

     --where he bows again, then steps--

     BACKSTAGE

     --so Jonson can answer him.

                              JONSON
                 I read a line or two-- I promised
                 Henslowe I'd finish "Eastward Ho" by
                 Saturday.

                              SHAKESPEARE
                 And you say he's a nobleman?

     Jonson doesn't answer.


                                                                 41
                                                       pg. 42


                             SHAKESPEARE (CONT'D)
               Powerful?   Rich??

     Jonson still doesn't answer, which is answer enough.

                            SHAKESPEARE (CONT'D)
               Ohhhh, you have to do it then, don't
               you?

     And Shakespeare goes back on stage.


37   EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON - DAY                                  37

     Jonson and Shakespeare are walking along Bankside,
     still mid-conversation. They pass all sorts of vendors
     selling fish, fresh water, food, etc...

                            JONSON
               I tell you Will-- I came to London to
               become a great poet, to, to, be the
               conscience of our times, the soul of
               our age! To change the world, not to
               become someone else's--

                            SHAKESPEARE
                      (amused)
               Change the world? With rhyme?

                            JONSON
               Yes, why not? Why can't a man change
               the world with words?

     Shakespeare laughs at him.

                            JONSON (CONT'D)
                      (mimicking Oxford)
               "I can make you the most popular and
               the richest playwright in all of
               London."
                      (takes a swig)
               Ballocks! I can do that myself, thank
               you very much.


38   INT. THE MERMAID'S TAVERN - NIGHT                           38

     Shakespeare is perusing the manuscript.   Some of the
     actors from the Rose are in the BG.

                            SHAKESPEARE
               You know, it's actually not half
               bad...


                                                                42
                                                         pg. 43


     Jonson takes a swig of ale, then--

                              JONSON
                 Not half--?! You're an actor, what in
                 God's name do you know about writing?!
                 He's an amateur, Will, a complete and
                 utter amateur. Last week gardening,
                 this week playwrighting, next week
                 hawking.
                        (takes another swig)
                 No. I won't do it. It would be an
                 affront against the Muses...

                              SHAKESPEARE
                        (smiles)
                 Well we musn't offend the muses,
                 whatever we do.
                        (thinks, then)
                 How much money did you say he gave
                 you?

                              JONSON
                 What, you think my name can be bought,
                 if the number's great enough, do you?

     Shakespeare smiles enigmatically.

                              SHAKESPEARE
                 No, not at all... I think we should
                 keep your good name quite intact,
                 thank you very much.

     Jonson frowns, confused as we--

                                                          CUT TO:

     A RED WIG

     as it is placed on the head of Elizabeth.   We are:


39   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - OLD ELIZABETH'S BEDROOM - DAY           39

     Elizabeth is behind an elaborately painted screen.
     Several ladies-in-waiting attend her, helping her get
     ready for the day. It's an intricate process. Make-
     up, multiple articles of clothing, jewelry...

                              WILLIAM CECIL (O.S.)
                 King Philip of Spain sees the current
                 Catholic revolt in Ireland as a
                 weakness of ours. A weakness to be
                 exploited....


                                                                    43
                                                  pg. 44


Elizabeth's wig is being glued into place.

                       ELIZABETH
          Ireland?

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SCREEN (THEN INTERCUT EACH SIDE
OF SCREEN AS NEEDED)

William Cecil hasn't realized that his son Robert has
sneaked in the room behind him to listen in.

                        WILLIAM CECIL
          There are rumors of his sending
          financial aid, and even troops. We
          must act quickly.
                 (beat)
          We must replace the Lord Lieutenant of
          Ireland, and send additional troops
          immediately, majesty.

                        ELIZABETH
          Replace?   With whom?

William Cecil hesitates slightly, then--

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          I would recommend the Earl of Essex,
          your majesty.

                       ELIZABETH
          Essex?  To Ireland?
                 (frowns)
          For how long?

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          As long as the present crisis
          warrants, majesty.

                       ELIZABETH
          Impossible. He cannot be spared. We
          feel his counsel is of greater import
          with each passing day.

Not what William Cecil wanted to hear.

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          I only recommend we send your most
          able subjects where they are most
          needed, majesty.
                 (beat, a last-ditch
                  effort)
          Philip of Spain dreams still of taking
          your kingdom from you.
                       (MORE)

                                                           44
                                                  pg. 45

                       WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
          Of burning you at the stake as a
          heretic. Give him a foot-hold in
          Ireland, and--

                       ELIZABETH
          But Essex?

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          Essex's martial abilities are, in my
          opinion, the only antidote to the
          plague of Philip.
                 (clears his throat)
          Though, Essex would not,
          unfortunately, be able to remain in
          the Privy Council if he is in
          Ireland...

                       ELIZABETH
          And who would you advise to replace
          him?

Three ladies-in-waiting approach with three different
gown. Elizabeth studies them as:

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          Sir Robert Cecil.

                       ELIZABETH
          Your son?

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          He is my own advisor first, my son
          second, majesty. His counsel has been
          invaluable to me, and no doubt will be
          to you as well.

Elizabeth points to one of the dresses, and waves the
handmaidens away.

                       ELIZABETH
          Yes, yes, yes. We will send Essex to
          Ireland and place Robert on my Privy
          Council.

But William's flash of victory is dampened by--

                       ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          I saw a play this last weekend,
          William. It made me think of... days
          long past. Of memories... long past.
          Long past. I should like to see more
          of them...
          Has Edward been happy, William? With
          your daughter?

                                                           45
                                                    pg. 46


     William Cecil doesn't answer. Instead he thinks,
     remembers, as we hear his younger voice...

                             WILLIAM CECIL (O.S.)
               Murdered!

                                                        CUT TO:


40   INT. CECIL HOUSE - GREAT HALL - DAY                           40

     Thirty years earlier.

     William Cecil is standing in front of an enormous
     fireplace, pacing in a pique of anger.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               By your own hand!

                            YOUNG OXFORD
               He was stealing my poems.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               He was doing my bidding!

                             YOUNG OXFORD
               Yours?

                           WILLIAM CECIL
               Of course. As soon as Robert informed
               me that you were disobeying my
               express--

                             YOUNG OXFORD
               Robert?   Robert told--

     William Cecil SLAMS his fists on a table.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               Enough! Thou shalt not worship false
               idols in my household! Your
               everlasting soul hangs in the balance.
               Not poems. Your soul!

                            YOUNG OXFORD
               My poems are my soul!

     William Cecil turns away in frustration as much as
     disgust.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               You have placed me in a grave
               position, Edward.
                            (MORE)

                                                                  46
                                                       pg. 47

                             WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
               I cannot have my reputation soiled by
               this regrettable lack of control on
               your part... No. I will not have it.
               We can claim self-defense, he drew
               sword first.
                      (beat)
               But... I wish something in return.

     Young Oxford looks worried.

                            WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
               My daughter is young, impressionable.
               She has feelings for you, Edward. It
               is to be expected, living in such
               close quarters...

                            YOUNG OXFORD
               Sir. For the last three years you
               have managed to seize much of my
               inheritance--

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               Hold your tongue, Edward, before you
               make a claim you cannot retract! I
               have been legally reimbursed for your
               education and living expenses.

                            YOUNG OXFORD
               And now you suggest you be
               "reimbursed" the rest of my once
               considerable estates through your
               daughter's bed?

     William Cecil studies Young Oxford's face.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               No. This is how I suggest you keep
               your noble head from the executioner's
               block.

     YOUNG OXFORD

     stares at him.   The SOUND of CHURCH BELLS RINGING takes
     us to:


41   INT. WESTMINSTER ABBEY - DAY                                41

     And Young Oxford and Anne are being married by a
     bishop.




                                                                47
                                                       pg. 48


                            BISHOP
               ...and in the fear of god, duly
               considering the causes for which
               matrimony was ordained. One was the
               procreation of children...

     WILLIAM CECIL

     appears triumphant.   He looks beaming over to...

                            BISHOP (CONT'D)
               ...to be brought up in the fear and
               nurture of the Lord and praise of God.
               Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy
               against sin.

     YOUNG ELIZABETH

     Who presides over the whole affair. The first time we
     see a dress on her which makes her truly regal.

                            BISHOP (CONT'D)
               Thirdly, for the mutual society, help
               and comfort, that the one ought to
               have of the other, both in prosperity
               and adversity, into the which holiest
               state these two persons present come
               now to be joined.

     AT THE ALTAR

     Young Anne looks at her young husband, lovingly. Young
     Oxford is a bit overwhelmed and unsure of it all. And
     then we HEAR a trumpet BLARING, which takes us to:


42   INT. THE ROSE THEATER - DAY                                 42

     Thirty-two years later.

     Vendors hawk food and drink as they walk through the
     audience.

     IN OXFORD'S BOX

     Oxford sits, Francesco behind him, exhilarated by the
     scene below him.

     IN THE GALLERIES

     Marlowe, Dekker and Nashe are looking at their single-
     sheet programs.



                                                                48
                                                pg. 49


                        NASHE
           "Henry V" by... No one?

                        MARLOWE
           And why would any of you admit to
           trying to better me in a historical
           drama? Comedy, yes, tragedy, perhaps.
           But never will one of you best me in
           historicals.

Marlowe takes a swig of ale, and spots Jonson coming to
join them.

                        MARLOWE (CONT'D)
           Or will we be seeing a most hysterical
           historical?

Jonson sits next to Marlowe.

                        MARLOWE (CONT'D)
           Hmm? Ben? Waiting to see how it's
           received before you lay claim??

Before Jonson can answer--

ON STAGE

An actor, CONDELL (40's), dressed all in white (even
his face is painted white) enters stage. He is
"Prologue". He addresses the audience directly.

                        "PROLOGUE"
           Oh, for a muse of fire, that would
           ascend the brightest heaven of
           invention. A kingdom for a stage,
           princes to act, and monarchs to behold
           the swelling scene! Then should
           warlike Harry, like himself, assume
           the port of Mars, and at his heels
           should famine, sword, and fire crouch
           for his employment. Can this cockpit
           hold the vasty fields of France?

IN THE GALLERIES

Jonson seems surprised.   This is not what he expected.
This is good.

                                                    CUT TO:

HORSE HOOVES

as they POUND on cobblestone.   We are:


                                                              49
                                                      pg. 50


43   EXT. THE ENGLISH COUNTRY-SIDE - DAY                        43

     And Southampton is riding his horse at full gallop
     through the countryside. About two dozen retainers
     follow, the first few with Southampton's coat-of-arms
     on flags.


44   INT. THE ROSE THEATER - DAY                                44

     It is later in the play.

     On stage, about 15 actors are in full battle armor.
     They include: "HENRY V", played by the actor called
     Spencer, "WESTMORELAND", "EXETER", "SALISBURY". All
     the men on stage now wear battle armor.

                             "HENRY V"
                This day is called the feast of
                Crispian: he that outlives this day,
                and comes safe home, will stand a tip-
                toe when this day is named, and rouse
                him at the name of Crispian.

     IN THE GALLERIES

     Marlowe, Dekker, Nashe and Jonson all watch, obviously
     impressed. Nashe takes a swig of Ale.

     IN OXFORD'S BOX

     Oxford watches, loving the stagecraft involved in the
     production.

                             "HENRY V" (CONT'D)
                He that shall see this day and live
                t'old age, will yearly on the vigil
                feast his neighbors, and say 'To-
                morrow is Saint Crispian.

     ON STAGE

     "Henry V" speaks to his men.

                             "HENRY V" (CONT'D)
                Then will he strip his sleeve and show
                his scars.

     The actor playing "Henry" kneels at the front of the
     stage. He speaks to the groundlings as though they are
     his troops.




                                                               50
                                                   pg. 51


                        "HENRY V" (CONT'D)
           And say 'These wounds I had on
           Crispin's day.' Old men forget: yet
           all shall be forgot, but he'll
           remember with advantages what feats he
           did that day. This story shall the
           good man teach his son.

THE GROUNDLINGS

become literally spellbound.

                        "HENRY V" (CONT'D)
           And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go
           by, from this day to the ending of the
           world, but we in it shall be
           remembered; we few, we happy few, we
           band of brothers; for he to-day that
           sheds his blood with me shall be my
           brother; be he ne'er so vile, this day
           shall gentle his condition: and
           gentlemen in England now a-bed shall
           think themselves accursed they were
           not here, and hold their man-hoods
           cheap whiles any speaks that fought
           with us upon Saint Crispin's day!

The entire audience stands and CHEERS madly.

OXFORD

watches, with a pride he has never felt.

IN THE GALLERIES

The "wits" look at each other amazed.

ON STAGE

                        "SALISBURY"
           My sovereign lord, bestow yourself
           with speed. The French are bravely in
           their battles set and will with all
           expedience charge on us.

                        "HENRY V"
           All things are ready, if our minds be
           so.

                        "WESTMORELAND"
           Perish the man whose mind is backward
           now!



                                                            51
                                                         pg. 52


                              "HENRY V"
                 You know your places: God be with you
                 all!

     THE "HUT"

     which is a round tower on top of the stage, contains
     several small cannons manned by stagehands. They shoot
     BLANK CANNON SHOTS.


45   EXT. THE CITY GATES OF LONDON - DAY                           45

     Southampton and his retainers gallop through a City
     gate. Above the gate, the severed heads of murderers
     sit on pikes.


46   INT. THE ROSE THEATER - DAY                                   46

     Actors portraying French soldiers STORM the stage,
     swords brandished. "Henry" and his men begin fighting
     them, their swordplay elaborate and impressive.


47   EXT. LONDON BRIDGE - DAY                                      47

     Southampton and his entourage gallop over London
     Bridge.


48   INT. THE ROSE THEATER - DAY                                   48

     The battle rages on stage.

     One hardy audience member starts to actually ATTACK one
     of the French "soldiers" himself. He's quickly joined
     by a few comrades-- and it quickly becomes a madhouse;
     half play, half real fight, as more audience members
     join the "battle". The play quickly degenerates into a
     bloody brawl between actors and audience.


49   EXT/INT. ROSE THEATER - DAY                                   49

     Southampton arrives at the theater.   He jumps   off his
     horse, and hurries--

     INTO THE STAIRWELL

     jumping two steps at a time. We HEAR the sound of
     APPLAUSE. The play is now over. Southampton hurries
     into--


                                                                  52
                                                    pg. 53


OXFORD'S BOX

He sees Oxford, who is applauding.    All the actors of
the play are taking their bows.

                         SOUTHAMPTON
            William Cecil's convinced the Queen
            that only Essex can save Ireland from
            the Revolt.

Oxford processes this.

                         SOUTHAMPTON (CONT'D)
            I've pledged to go with him, Edward.
            We sail in an hour.

                         OXFORD
            Henry--

                         SOUTHAMPTON
            I ask for your blessing, Edward.

                         OXFORD
            I can't give it to you.

IN THE GALLERIES

                         NASHE
            I for one wish to see this anonymous
            colleague of ours.
                   (stands)
            Playwright! Playwright!!

Marlowe and others join in.   And--

BACKSTAGE

Shakespeare, standing next to a small table of props,
quickly dips his fingers in an inkwell to make them
stained. He grabs a large feathered quill and tucks a
piece of parchment under his arm, then hurries--

ON STAGE

--where he bows deeply, loving the adulation.

IN OXFORD'S BOX

                         SOUTHAMPTON
            If he is to be my king, then it is my
            sacred duty to be with him in battle.




                                                             53
                                                        pg. 54


     Oxford tries to understand Southampton, but then
     notices Shakespeare on stage. His mouth opens in
     shock, and he turns to look across the theater at--

     JONSON

     who guiltily looks away.   Marlowe's mouth is open, his
     hands stop applauding.

     IN OXFORD'S BOX

     Southampton is angered by Oxford's distraction.

                             SOUTHAMPTON (CONT'D)
                I am sorry to have disturbed your
                entertainment.

     And he exits.

                             OXFORD
                Henry-- Henry!!

     But the younger man is gone.

     ON STAGE

     Shakespeare bows, then--

                             SHAKESPEARE
                I, I... It's been... I, I, want
                to... thank my actors, whose great
                acting brought... my words... to life
                due to their most finest acting.
                Ah... Thank you.

                              OXFORD (O.S.)
                An actor?!!

                                                         CUT TO:


50   INT. OXFORD STONE - STUDY - DAY                                50

     The multi-arched ceiling is painted blue with gold
     stars. Globes-- both terrestrial and astral-- abound.

     Jonson stands in front of a very angry Oxford.

                             OXFORD
                An actor for god's sake?

                             JONSON
                My lord, I thought that--


                                                                   54
                                                       pg. 55


                             OXFORD
                You presumed to think? On my behalf?
                Whatever made you believe you had that
                prerogative?

     A beat.   Jonson is a bit afraid.

                             JONSON
                My lord, your voice is completely
                different than mine. My, my, my
                characters are--

                             OXFORD
                Voice? You have no voice! That's why
                I chose you!
                       (beat, softer)
                You at least kept my name from him?

     Jonson NODS.

                             OXFORD (CONT'D)
                And will continue to do so?

     Oxford studies him, believes him.   Then he opens a
     cabinet.

     In it, manuscript after manuscript are stacked.     Jonson
     looks behind him, stunned by the number.

     Oxford looks up and down the cabinet. He pulls one
     out, decides no, and puts it back, looking for just the
     right one... He pulls another out, then hands it to
     Jonson.

                             OXFORD (CONT'D)
                A romantic tragedy. In iambic
                pentameter.

                             JONSON
                       (amazed)
                All, my lord? Is that possible?

                             OXFORD
                Of course it is!


51   INT. OXFORD STONE - HALLWAY - DAY                             51

     Jonson exits Oxford's study, still amazed at the
     manuscript as he walks.

     He passes ANNE, Oxford's wife (now 40's), who is on her
     way to the study with their eldest daughter, BRIDGET
     (17).

                                                                  55
                                                       pg. 56


     She watches him go by and immediately realizes that she
     has seen him before. But she stays silent.


52   INT. OXFORD STONE - STUDY - DAY                             52

     Oxford is writing at a desk as Anne enters.

                            ANNE
               Who was that man?    I've seen him
               before.

     Oxford holds up a finger to prevent her from speaking
     while he finishes writing a thought. It's a long
     thought. Anne is obviously annoyed, and interrupts
     him.

                            ANNE (CONT'D)
               Edward-- we must discuss our Bridget's
               dowry.

                              OXFORD
                        (looking up - confused)
               Dowry?

     He remembers when he spies his daughter.

                            ANNE
               She cannot go into marriage without a
               dowry that is becoming to the daughter
               of the Earl Oxford.

                            OXFORD
               I can give her Brooke House and a
               hundred pounds.

                            BRIDGET
               A hundred pounds? Father?     Mother!

                            OXFORD
               That is all we have to give at the
               moment.

     The matter over, Oxford goes back to his writing.

                            ANNE
                      (furious)
               Edward. Edward! Speak to me! Our
               family is in financial ruins, and, and
               you, you play the flute while Rome
               burns!

     Oxford turns.


                                                                56
                                                 pg. 57


                       OXFORD
          Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned.

And then he goes back to writing.

                       ANNE
          For god's sake, who cares Edward?
          When your own daughter can't even have
          a suitable dowry?

She stares at him.

                       ANNE (CONT'D)
          My god, you're writing again, aren't
          you? After you agreed-- after my
          father expressly forbade it!

Oxford turns to her, full of emotion

                       OXFORD
          Anne-- If you could have seen them--
          the mob... They, they didn't just sit
          there like the reptilia of court,
          faces motionless, fangs momentarily
          retracted. No! They, they jumped on
          stage, they fought the French! A
          butcher-- he actually broke his arm!
          He was so--

                        ANNE
          Stop!   Stop it at once!!

Anne storms over and grabs the parchment from under
him, and begins RIPPING it up.

                       ANNE (CONT'D)
          Why!? Why must you write?! Why must
          you continue to humiliate this family?

He stares at her, almost uncomprehendingly.   Then--

                       OXFORD
          The voices, Anne... The voices. I, I
          can't stop them... They, they come
          when I sleep, when I wake, when I sup,
          when I, I, I walk down a hall! The
          sweet longings of a maiden, the, the
          surging ambitions of a courtier, the
          foul designs of a murderer, the
          wretched pleas of his victims.    Only-
          - only when I put their words-- their
          voices-- to parchment are they cast
          loose, freed... Only then is my
          mind... quieted... at peace.

                                                          57
                                                       pg. 58


     Anne steps back, frightened of him.

                            OXFORD (CONT'D)
               I... would go mad if I didn't write
               down the voices.

     She stares at him, horrified.

                            ANNE
               Art thou possessed?

     He stares back at her.   A long beat

                            OXFORD
               I... don't know.

                            SHAKESPEARE (O.S.)
               "Two households, both alike in
               dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay
               our scene"


53   EXT. LONDON BRIDGE - DAY                                    53

     Shakespeare and Jonson are walking along London Bridge--
     the only bridge that spanned the Thames at the time, it
     is a street lined with multi-storied buildings-- almost
     like a mall.

     Shakespeare caries and reads from a manuscript of
     "Romeo and Juliet"

                            SHAKESPEARE
               "From ancient grudge break to new
               mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil
               hands unclean."
                      (no longer reading)
               Incredible!! The whole bloody thing
               in verse?!

                            JONSON
                      (nonchalant)
               It's really not that difficult, if you
               try.

                            SHAKESPEARE
               And have you ever tried?

     Jonson gives him a sharp look, and pauses to pick some
     onions from a stand.

     Shakespeare notices a BUXOM BLONDE women selling apples
     at the next stand.


                                                                58
                                                 pg. 59


                       SHAKESPEARE (CONT'D)
                 (performing for the
                  Blonde)
          "But soft, what light through yonder
          window breaks?
          It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
          Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious
          moon,
          Who is already sick and pale with
          grief, That thou her maid art far more
          fair than she."

The Buxom Blonde smiles at Shakespeare seductively.

                       SHAKESPEARE (CONT'D)
                 (to Jonson)
          I'll have little trouble parting the
          legs of barmaids after that
          performance!

                       JONSON
          You can't play Romeo.

Jonson leaves the stall, and continues down the street.
Shakespeare hesitates, then gives the girl a dazzling
smile. She smiles back, then Shakespeare runs after
Jonson.

                        SHAKESPEARE
                 (to Jonson)
          Why not? I won't let that oaf Spencer
          have another go at one of my roles.
          No-- only Will Shakespeare can pump
          the life into Romeo's veins.
                 (grins at another passing
                  girl)
          And his cod piece!
                 (beat, desperate)
          Ben-- Ben! I'm an actor, every inch
          of me, down to my very toes... I want-
          - no, I need, crave-- to act. I can't
          just idle the day by with--

                       JONSON
          So bloody well act like a writer! And
          for God's sake, keep off the stage.
          Writers don't have time to act.

                                           DISSOLVE TO:




                                                          59
                                                        pg. 60


54   INT. THE ROSE THEATER - DAY                                  54

     A performance of "Romeo and Juliet". About a dozen
     actors are dancing. It is Act 1, Scene 5. "ROMEO",
     played by Spencer, is staring longingly at "Juliet".
     "Romeo" turns to his servant.

                              "ROMEO"
                 What lady's that, which doth enrich
                 the hand of yonder knight?

                              "SERVANT"
                 I know not, sir.

                              "ROMEO"
                 O, she doth teach the torches to burn
                 bright! It seems she hangs upon the
                 cheek of night like a rich jewel in an
                 Ethiop's ear; beauty too rich for use,
                 for earth too dear!

     The actor playing Romeo plays to the women in the
     audience. And

     THE WOMEN

     respond, eye lashes twittering.

     THE WITS

     Watch in awe!   Now they're all taking swigs of ale.

     BACKSTAGE

     Shakespeare mouthing silently the lines of "Romeo".

     IN OXFORD'S BOX

     Oxford watches the dance carefully.

                              "ROMEO" (CONT'D)
                 Did my heart love till now? Forswear
                 it, sight! For I ne'er saw true
                 beauty till this night.

                                                  DISSOLVE TO:


55   INT. RICHMOND PALACE - GREAT HALL - NIGHT                    55

     Twenty-eight years earlier. A dance is taking place.

     YOUNG OXFORD-- now 20 is dancing with Young Anne.     But
     his eyes are on:

                                                                 60
                                                  pg. 61


Young Elizabeth, who is dancing with the Spanish
AMBASSADOR.

YOUNG ELIZABETH

seems less than interested in her dancing partner.    She
STARES intently back at Young Oxford.

WIDER

There is a natural change in the music, and all the
dancers switch partners-- it's part of the dance.
Young Oxford goes to Young Elizabeth, the Spanish
Ambassador goes to Anne.

YOUNG ELIZABETH AND YOUNG OXFORD

stare into each others eyes as they dance the intricate
moves.

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
          My lord of Oxford.

Elizabeth smiles.

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          We liked your play tonight very much.
          Your young King Henry reminded us of
          you.

                       OXFORD
          Did he?

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
          Rash, yet brave. A boy-- and yet a
          man. Fair on the eyes, fairer to the
          ear...

WIDER

Much of the Court is watching this.   They can tell
there are sparks between them.

All the dancers change partners, including Elizabeth
and Oxford. A few dance moves, and Oxford once again
finds himself with Elizabeth.

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          We are glad of your return from the
          continent. Two years is far too long
          to be without such excellent
          amusements.

Young Oxford dips his head slightly in acknowledgment.

                                                            61
                                                     pg. 62


                          YOUNG OXFORD
             If I had known my absence would cause
             your grace so much... longing, I would
             have returned much-- much-- sooner.

Was that a come-on?    Young Elizabeth decides to find
out.

                          YOUNG ELIZABETH
             Your wife must be much pleased by your
             presence once more at her side...

Young Oxford glances over at--

YOUNG ANNE

who is now dancing with the Spanish Ambassador. But
she watches Young Elizabeth and Young Oxford with a
great deal of jealousy.

WILLIAM CECIL

Follows his daughter's look. He doesn't like what he
sees any more than Young Anne does.

BACK TO YOUNG ELIZABETH AND YOUNG OXFORD

Still dancing.

                          YOUNG OXFORD
             If she is, it is but a small comfort
             to me. I am returned only under my
             father-in-law's insistence.

A beat as this sinks in.

                          YOUNG ELIZABETH
                    (surprised)
             Cecil had told me your match was one
             of love.

                          YOUNG OXFORD
             And so he would wish.
                    (long beat)
             But how could one ever love the moon,
             after having first seen the sun?

He stares intensely into her eyes.    And she stares
right back.

                                              DISSOLVE TO:




                                                              62
                                                       pg. 63


57    EXT. RICHMOND PALACE - BALCONY - DAY                         57

      Three Ladies-in-waiting run onto the balcony to join
      Bessie, who is looking across the palace grounds,
      watching--


56    EXT. RICHMOND PALACE - FOREST - SAME TIME                    56

      Young Elizabeth and Young Oxford, both on horseback,
      unaccompanied, trot over a small bridge.


56A   EXT. RICHMOND PALACE - BALCONY - SAME TIME                  56A

      The Ladies-in-waiting giggle, but are interrupted by--

                             WILLIAM CECIL (O.S.)
                Where is her majesty?

      Bessie turns to William Cecil.

                             BESSIE
                My lord. Her majesty went riding with
                the Earl of Oxford.

      The Ladies-in-waiting share knowing smiles.


56B   EXT. RICHMOND PALACE - FOREST - SAME TIME                   56B

      Young Elizabeth and Young Oxford share flirty glances,
      and then Young Elizabeth spurs her horse to a gallop,
      and dashes into the fog. Young Oxford immediately
      follows.

                                                        CUT TO:


58    INT. A ROYAL TENT - LATER                                    58

      A servant places a silver plate filled with shucked
      oysters onto a table filled with quail, venison, wine,
      etc...

      Young Elizabeth sits across from Young Oxford.   It's
      just the two of them dining.

                             YOUNG ELIZABETH
                And which country did you like the
                most on your travels, my lord?

                             YOUNG OXFORD
                I think Italy, your grace.

                                                                  63
                                                         pg. 64


                            YOUNG ELIZABETH
               And why is that? The weather?       The
               food?

                            YOUNG OXFORD
               No their theater, which they call la
               Commedia dell'arte. And, of course,
               the women.

     She raises an eyebrow.

                              YOUNG ELIZABETH
               The women?

                            YOUNG OXFORD
               They were more... clear with their
               desires than our English ladies. When
               they want something, they take it.
               They do not wait to be taken...

                                                SLOW DISSOLVE TO:


59   OMIT                                                            59


60   INT. RICHMOND PALACE - RECEIVING CHAMBER - NIGHT                60

     A door SLAMS open, and Young Elizabeth and Young Oxford
     dash in, ripping each others clothes off in the
     fireplace-lit room.

     Young Elizabeth gently pushes Young Oxford towards her
     throne... She kisses him. Then begin to make love.
     On the throne.

                                                    DISSOLVE TO:

     LATER

     Postcoital, the fire still lit. Young Elizabeth is
     half asleep, half awake, nestled in furs in front of
     the fireplace... much like Titania in "Midsummer
     Night's Dream"...

     Young Oxford watches her as she stirs and wakes.      She
     smiles at him.

                            YOUNG ELIZABETH
               I can't decide. Are you Prince
               Hal...? Or Romeo? No. Benedick,
               maybe...?
               No--
                            (MORE)

                                                                    64
                                                    pg. 65

                         YOUNG ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
                   (smiles)
          --Puck

                         YOUNG OXFORD
                   (smiles)
          Puck?

                         YOUNG ELIZABETH
          Yes, Puck!

She's only teasing.

                       YOUNG OXFORD
          Ah, but Puck would never fight for you
          in the Netherlands...

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
                 (surprised, smiles)
          The Netherlands?

But then she realizes he's serious, and the smile
vanishes.

                       YOUNG OXFORD
          Well, why not? It's an open secret on
          the continent that you support the
          rebels against Spain-- and that you
          are commissioning Englishmen to help
          their cause. Spain's loss is
          England's gain, is it not?

Her eyes narrow as she studies his face.

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
          Is this why you bedded me? For a
          commission?

                        YOUNG OXFORD
          No.   No-- of course not--    I--

She stands, wrapped in her sheets, furious at the
thought of once more being used.

                         YOUNG ELIZABETH
          Leave me.    Leave at once!

A beat.

                         YOUNG OXFORD
          Bess--

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
          How dare you! How dare you!! I
          command you to leave my presence.

                                                             65
                                                 pg. 66


And she steps back, waiting for him to exit.

Young Oxford stands... and starts to approach her...
He's nude, his back to us.

She steps back, a bit stunned by his impertinence.   He
steps towards her as--

                        YOUNG OXFORD
          O Mistress mine, where are you
          roaming?
          O stay and hear... your true-love's
          coming,
          That can--
                 (looks up and down her
                  body)
          --kiss both high and low...

A bit stunned by his approach, she stumbles backwards
on her sheets.

                       YOUNG OXFORD (CONT'D)
          Trip no further, pretty sweeting....

But he's sexy... and naked. And spouting poetry.     She
stops retreating and allows his approach.

                       YOUNG OXFORD (CONT'D)
          Journeys end in lovers' meeting--
          Every wise man's son doth know.

A small smile escapes her lips.

                       YOUNG OXFORD (CONT'D)
          What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
          Present mirth hath present laughter;
          What's to come is still unsure:

He starts to kiss her neck.   Cautiously at first.   But
she likes it.

                       YOUNG OXFORD (CONT'D)
          In delay there lies no plenty--
          Then come kiss me, Sweet-and-twenty,
          Youth's a stuff will not endure.

She responds to him, melting from both his words and
touch. They start to kiss deeply, passionately... And-
-

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
                 (passionately)
          You will stay in England... And in...
          my chambers...

                                                           66
                                                       pg. 67


     The flash of disappointment on Young Oxford's face
     about that last bit is tempered by Young Elizabeth's
     sheet falling to the floor. They begin to make love
     passionately once more.

                            NASHE (O.S.)
               I could do it if I wanted to...


61   INT. THE MERMAID'S TAVERN - DAY                             61

     Twenty-seven years later. Jonson, Marlowe, Dekker and
     Nashe sit silently at a table, mugs of ale in hand.
     Having just returned from "Romeo and Juliet", all are a
     bit in shock. The actors from the perfomance are there
     as well in the BG.

                            MARLOWE
                      (to Nashe)
               Do what?

                            NASHE
                      (a little drunk)
               A play in iambic, in iambic pen...in-
               bic-pentameter. It's not that hard.

                            JONSON
               Think you so? Have you ever tried?

                            NASHE
               Of course not. But I could if I
               wanted...

                            DEKKER
               It wasn't all in verse.

                              NASHE
               Ha!   See!   Even easier!

     Shakespeare enters and makes a bee line for them.

                            SHAKESPEARE
                      (excited)
               Henslowe wants "Romeo" to run a
               fortnight.
                      (unbelievable news)
               A fortnight! Innkeeper! A round for
               everybody! Inkeeper!!
                      (no response)
               Billy!!!

     And Shakespeare goes over to the bar.



                                                                67
                                                       pg. 68


                                NASHE
                 A fortnight?

                              DEKKER
                 The maids love the romantic tragedies.

                              MARLOWE
                 Precisely why I avoid them.

                             NASHE
                 Aw, well. No worries. A one-trick
                 pony. He'll never be able to do it
                 again.


62   INT./EXT. THE ROSE THEATER - DAY                            62

     A MONTAGE of various plays:

     "TWELFTH NIGHT"

     Viola and Sebastian are reunited...

     "CAESAR"

     Caesar is attacked by Brutus, Cinna, Cassius, etc...

     "MACBETH"

     The witches are on stage.

     These three performances are INTER-CUT with:

     PLAYBILLS

     outside the Rose, announcing each play's title.      At
     first, Shakespeare's name is small, with each
     succeeding play his name gets bigger. And--

     AFTER EACH PERFORMANCE

     Shakespeare bows to the ever-increasing applause of his
     audience. He looks up to see the Mermaid's Wits all
     watching him with stony silence.

     And as each play is seen, Jonson and the rest of the
     Wits seem more and more depressed.

     And after each performance, Shakespeare seems to be
     greeted with more and more adulation.

     The MONTAGE ends with...



                                                                68
                                                       pg. 69


     A PLAYBILL

     in front of the theater announcing "William
     Shakespeare's Hamlet". Shakespeare's name is now above
     the title. We HEAR the audience howl with LAUGHTER as--


63   INT. ROSE THEATER - DAY                                     63

     An actor playing "POLONIUS" does an obvious caricature
     of William Cecil, dressed in black with an exaggerated
     rendition of Cecil's beard.

                               "POLONIUS"
                         (over-acting)
                  ...Beware of entrance to a quarrel,
                  but being in, bear it that the opposed
                  may beware of thee. Give every man
                  thy ear, but few thy voice, take each
                  man's censure, but reserve thy
                  judgment....


64   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - AUDIENCE CHAMBER - DAY              64

     Elizabeth watches the same play at a court performance.
     We see Elizabeth smiling amused as "Polinous" continues
     his rant...

                               "POLINOUS"
                  ....Costly thy habit as thy purse can
                  buy, but not expressed in fancy, rich,
                  nor gaudy, for the apparel oft
                  proclaims the man. This above all, to
                  thine own self be true.

     Elizabeth absent mindedly starts to scratch her chest,
     irritated by some sort of itch, but still focused on
     the play.


65   INT. ROSE THEATER - DAY                                     65

     Jonson watches tight lipped...

     The character of GERTRUDE", the Queen, is joined by
     "HAMLET". "Polonius" is behind a curtain, listening
     in, and is seen by the audience. "Hamlet" appears
     enraged.

                               "GERTRUDE"
                  What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not
                  murder me? Help, ho!


                                                                69
                                                      pg. 70


                            "POLONIUS"
                      (behind curtain)
               What ho, help!

     "Hamlet" draws his sword.

                             "HAMLET"
               How now?   A rat? Dead, for a ducat,
               dead!

     "Hamlet" stabs "Polonius" through the curtain.

                            "POLONIUS"
               O, I am slain.

     "Polonius" emerges from behind the curtain, covered in
     pig's blood, and dies an anguished death.

     There is stunned silence in the audience. And then one
     lone Groundling CLAPS, then another, then the whole
     audience.

                            GROUNDLING
               Not a day too soon for old Cecil!!


66   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - AUDIENCE CHAMBER - DAY             66

     Elizabeth is still scratching her chest, but more
     vigorously as some of the members of court give
     uncomfortable glances at each other over the death of
     William Cecil-- er "Polonius" onstage.

                            "GERTRUDE"
               O me, what hast thou done?

                            "HAMLET"
               Nay, I know not. Is it the King?

                            "HAMLET" (CONT'D)
               Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool,
               farewell! I took thee for thy better:
               take thy fortune; Thou find'st to be
               too busy is some danger. Leave
               wringing of your hands: peace! sit you
               down, And let me wring your heart; for
               so I shall, If it be made of
               penetrable stuff,
               If damned custom have not brass'd it
               so
               That it is proof and bulwark against
               sense.



                                                               70
                                                    pg. 71


     Elizabeth can't take the itching anymore. She RIPS
     open her bodice and violently scratches some sort of
     rash on her chest.


67   INT/EXT. ROSE THEATER - DAY                               67

     Oxford is in his usual box, but completely alone.   He
     has a smile of satisfaction on his lips while...

     JONSON

     Looks over to Oxford with astonishment... While on
     stage the world sees for the first time "Hamlet"
     contemplating suicide.

                            "HAMLET"
               To be, or not to be: that is the
               question: whether `tis nobler in the
               mind to suffer the slings and arrows
               of outrageous fortune, or to take arms
               against a sea of troubles, and by
               opposing end them...

     Loud thunder and...

     RAIN STARTS TO FALL

     And as only the stage and the galleries are covered,
     the groundlings are pelted with the cold drops of
     water. But they stay. They stay. They cover
     themselves up, and silently watch on.

                            "HAMLET'
               ...To die, to sleep- no more- and by a
               sleep to say we end the heartache, and
               the thousand natural shocks that flesh
               is heir to...

     The audience-- soaked, pelted with rain-- watches
     immobile.

     And then a again a loud thunder clap takes us to the
     end of the play...

     SHAKESPEARE

     Bows to the thunderous applause. It is still raining,
     but nobody wants to leave. While-

     THE MERMAID'S WITS

     watch in the crowd, a complex range of emotions, but
     jealousy and loathing at the top of the list.

                                                              71
                                                        pg. 72


      ON STAGE

      some of the audience members grab Shakespeare, and pull
      him on their shoulders, carrying him triumphantly out
      of the theater.

                                                         CUT TO:


68    EXT. STREET IN FRONT OF TOWER OF LONDON - DAY                 68


      Marlowe walks towards the Tower of London.


68A   INT. TOWER OF LONDON / POLE'S ROOM - DAY                     68A

      Silence....Marlowe is waiting patiently...

      He is sitting across from Pole, the Captain of the
      Guard, who is reading his report....

                              POLE
                        (looks up)
                 Are you certain of this?
                        (almost confused)
                 William Cecil was murdered?

                              MARLOWE
                 Not literally, of course. He was a
                 character, a fictional character. But
                 the metaphor was clear for anyone to
                 see. And see, they did.

      Pole reads more from the parchment.

                              MARLOWE (CONT'D)
                 Will you shut it down?

      Pole continues to read.

                              POLE
                 That is not for me to decide...

      He brings out a pouch of coins, and tosses it across
      the table.

                              POLE (CONT'D)
                 Your service to his lordship is once
                 again greatly appreciated.

      Marlowe takes the pouch of money.



                                                                   72
                                                      pg. 73


                            ROBERT CECIL (O.S.)
               He butchered you!


69   INT. CECIL HOUSE - WILLIAM CECIL'S STUDY - DAY             69

     Robert Cecil is furious, pacing back and forth in front
     of William Cecil, who sits behind a large wooden desk.

     William Cecil is pale and sweaty-- he is deathly ill,
     and sits in a wooden chair with small spoked wheels
     attached to the legs-- sort of an Elizabethan
     wheelchair.

                            ROBERT CECIL
               Not only in front of Court! But the
               entire City as well! We must arrest
               this Shakespeare and-

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               No, Robert, think. If he is really as
               popular as you say, we would only
               anger the mob. No. We must strike at
               Edward directly.

     William Cecil slowly-- and shakily-- bends down from
     his chair as--

                            ROBERT CECIL
               But we cannot maintain our authority
               if the mob thinks us laughing stocks--

                            WILLIAM CECIL
                      (angry)
               Our authority comes from Elizabeth and
               from God! Elizabeth! Elizabeth is
               the key to all.

     Robert Cecil looks hurt by his father's anger.

                            WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
                      (gentler)
               Robert... You must think deeper. You
               must compensate. Compensate for
               your... malformations... with the
               gifts God did grant you... With
               cunning. With ruthlessness.

     William Ceci pushes a hidden button on the side of his
     desk-- a spring loaded secret drawer POPS open. Robert
     Cecil has never seen it before.

     Cecil produces a folded piece of parchment from the
     drawer, offers it to Robert Cecil.

                                                               73
                                                        pg. 74


                             WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
                From King James of Scotland.

      Robert Cecil looks surprised.


69A   INT. CECIL HOUSE - HALLWAY - MOMENTS LATER                 69A

      Robert Cecil is pushing William Cecil in his
      wheelchair. They are completely alone.

                              WILLIAM CECIL
                James knows of the Queen's affection
                for Essex... and the rumors of his
                birth. He is justly concerned.
                       (beat)
                You will reply to him.

                             ROBERT CECIL
                I will reply to him?

                             WILLIAM CECIL
                I am dying, Robert--
                       (before Robert can
                        protest)
                We both know this to be true. And I
                will not witness the next coronation.


69B   INT. CECIL HOUSE - WILLIAM CECIL'S BEDROOM - MOMENTS       69B
      LATER

      Robert Cecil wheels his father in.

                             WILLIAM CECIL
                Help me to my bed, my son.
                       (Robert Cecil does so)
                If we are to secure your place at the
                side of the next king, you must get
                that king his throne, not I.

      A beat as this registers on Robert Cecil.

                              WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
                You will write to James that I am
                gravely ill, but that all is in hand.
                Much of the Privy Council has already
                secretly agreed to his ascension to
                the English throne due to your
                tireless, but secret, entreaties on
                his behalf.
                       (beat)
                And then tell him Essex will not
                return from Ireland alive.

                                                                 74
                                                         pg. 75


     Robert Cecil looks surprised.

                             WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
               This is how kings are made, Robert.
               So it was with Elizabeth, and so it
               shall ever be. There were many rival
               claims to her throne, but none
               survived to make their claim. James
               must know that you will do the same
               for him, and he will reward you for
               it.
                      (beat)
               But we must do one thing more...

     William Cecil has a coughing fit-- reaches for a glass
     vial of medicine at his bedside-- takes it.

                            WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
               Like Essex, Edward must be removed.

                            ROBERT CECIL
                      (confused)
               Edward?

     William Cecil is slowly falling asleep...

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               He uses the tools at his disposal, as
               we use the tools at ours. But ours
               will win... as they always have.

                            ROBERT CECIL
                      (more confused)
               I-- I don't understand, father.    What
               does Edward--

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               Edward seeks what we seek.   To choose
               the next King.

     Off Robert Cecil's surprised face we hear:

                            YOUNG ELIZABETH (O.S.)
               I am with child...

                                                          CUT TO:


70   INT. RICHMOND PALACE - LONG GALLERY - DUSK                      70

     Twenty seven years earlier. Young Elizabeth is pacing,
     terribly agitated. Bessie, the lady-in-waiting we have
     seen constantly at her side is the only other person
     present.

                                                                    75
                                                 pg. 76


                       WILLIAM CECIL
          Are you certain?

Young Elizabeth turns to Bessie.

                       BESSIE
          Two cycles have passed, my lord.

William Cecil thinks.

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
          I wish to marry him...

William Cecil looks startled.

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          Marry him, your grace? He is already
          married.

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
          I can do what I will.

                        WILLIAM CECIL
          Can you?

She gives him a sharp look.

                       WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
          Most of the Catholic princes of Europe
          wish to topple you and end your
          Protestant reign... The only things
          that stop them are the channel, and
          the hope that they might marry you,
          and thereby achieve your realm through
          other means.

Young Elizabeth hears him, thinks on it, then begins
pacing again.

                       YOUNG ELIZABETH
          I love him...

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          Would you risk your throne for him?
          Would you risk England for him?

He knows the answer to that.

                       WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
          We must do as we have done before...
          You must go on Progress, somewhere
          isolated, accompanied by only those
          whom you most trust.
                       (MORE)

                                                          76
                                                     pg. 77

                            WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
               After the birth, I will find a
               suitable house for the child to be
               reared in.

     Young Elizabeth is uncertain.

                             YOUNG ELIZABETH
               And Edward?

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               He must never know.


71   INT. CECIL HOUSE - PRIVATE CHAPEL - DAY                   71

     A simple, cold space, like William Cecil himself.
     William Cecil is alone in prayer. A few beats, then he
     senses he is not alone. He turns and sees Young Oxford
     (still 20).

                            YOUNG OXFORD
               What have you done?

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               I am praying.

                            YOUNG OXFORD
                      (ignoring him)
               She won't see me! I've gone to her
               chambers three times, and she will not
               receive me. And now she's gone!

     William Cecil regards Young Oxford for a beat, then
     stands.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               She's on Progress.

     With this he leaves the chapel.


72   INT. CECIL HOUSE - HALLWAY - CONTINUOUS                   72

     Young Oxford runs after him.

                             YOUNG OXFORD
               Where?   Where did she go?

     William Cecil is silent.

                            YOUNG OXFORD (CONT'D)
               What did you say to her? Tell me!



                                                              77
                                                      pg. 78


                            WILLIAM CECIL
               The Queen does not ask for my advice
               about matters of the heart, Edward.
               If she had, she hardly would have
               chosen you for her pleasure.

     He has a point.

                            WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
               You must have known her eye would move
               elsewhere, Edward. It always has.
               You are neither the first, nor the
               last, of her lovers.

     Young Oxford looks up at him like a bucket of cold
     water has hit him.

     William Cecil stops. He looks at Oxford with a stern
     face.

                            WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
               Go back to my daughter, Edward. She
               will accept you with open arms, as she
               always has. Behave as your great
               title demands you behave. Tend to
               your estates, your investments.
                      (a beat)
               And make me a grandson, an heir!

     Off Young Oxford's pained expression.

                                                        CUT TO:


73   INT. MERMAID'S TAVERN - NIGHT                                 73

     Twenty-seven years later. Jonson is alone, trying to
     write at a small table, though it's obvious from his
     fits and starts and crossing outs that he is having
     difficulty.

                            MARLOWE (O.S.)
               It's difficult to write, isn't it?
               After watching something like
               "Hamlet"...

     Jonson looks up. Marlowe sits, uninvited.    Jonson
     looks annoyed at the interruption.

                            MARLOWE (CONT'D)
               I've seen you watch him. Will.
               During a performance. It eats at
               you... at your soul...


                                                                  78
                                                  pg. 79


Jonson stares at him, his answer obvious.

                       MARLOWE (CONT'D)
          Why do you think Will hasn't been
          arrested? You or I make the slightest
          joke about a nobleman of no
          consequence, and we find ourselves in
          a cell quicker than a fart spreads in
          the trade winds. Will-- he murders a
          caricature of old William Cecil
          himself, and still whores all the way
          to Westminster and back.

                       JONSON
                 (shrugs)
          Perhaps they haven't noticed..

Jonson gets up and walks towards the door.

                       MARLOWE
          I made sure they did...

Jonson turns around.

                       JONSON
          You informed on one of your own?   To
          the Tower?

                       MARLOWE
          Watch who you judge, Ben, for as God
          is my witness, you may well find
          yourself doing the same before you
          meet your maker. We do what we have
          to, to survive, and survive well, in
          this life. All of us. And Will is
          definitely not one of us. You know
          he's illiterate, don't you?

Jonson is stunned.

                       MARLOWE (CONT'D)
          No? Oh, he can read well enough-- how
          else could he learn his lines? But
          the man never actually learned to form
          his letters.

                       JONSON
          Why are you here, Kit?

                       MARLOWE
                 (smiles)
          So who did write it? You?   No.    You'd
          take credit for it. No...
                       (MORE)

                                                           79
                                                          pg. 80

                             MARLOWE (CONT'D)
                It must be someone who wants their
                anonymity protected. Someone who
                might even pay to have it protected.

      Jonson is getting nervous.

                               MARLOWE (CONT'D)
                A nobleman.

      Jonson looks up.   Marlowe smiles, knowing he is closer
      to the truth.

                               MARLOWE (CONT'D)
                But which?    You know, don't you, Ben?

                             JONSON
                You've had too much to drink, Kit.
                You're beginning to sound like one of
                your plays.

      Jonson stands and hurries out of the Tavern.


73A   EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON    - MOMENTS LATER                      73A

      Jonson heads down the street, Marlowe chasing after
      him.

                             MARLOWE
                Ben! Tell me. We can go to him
                together. Guarantee his anonymity...
                for a price.

                             JONSON
                You reported on me as well, didn't
                you, Kit? Last year. That's why I
                was arrested, wasn't it? Because you
                went to the Tower?

                             MARLOWE
                       (lying)
                Ben, Ben... I had nothing to do with
                that.

      Jonson studies Marlowe for a beat and then walks away.

                             MARLOWE (CONT'D)
                Ben-- I'll just go to Will! He'll
                tell me because he has so much more to
                lose than you. Fame. Fortune. And
                you'll profit nothing from it.
                Nothing!

      But Jonson is gone.

                                                                   80
                                                    pg. 81


74   EXT. MILITARY CAMP - IRELAND - DAY                         74

     A military encampment with dozens of tents on a cliff
     by the Irish seaside.

     CLOSER

     Essex's tent is larger, and guarded. An OLD SERVANT
     carrying a tray with a silver pitcher approaches. A
     guard opens the tent for him to enter.


     INT. ESSEX'S TENT - CONTINUOUS

     Essex is having a Council of War with his generals and
     senior officers, including Southampton. They all stand
     around a table, consulting a map of Ireland.

                            ESSEX
                      (pointing)
               If the Rebels have stripped the
               northern borders... Then we must
               march south... and take Cahir
               Castle...

     The SERVANT stays in the background as he pours wine
     into various goblets. Southampton notices him-- the
     servant's hand shakes as he pours the wine.

                            GENERAL
                      (clears throat,
                       uncomfortable)
               My lord. `Tis a well-defended
               fortress.    Two thousand men at
               least. We cannot--

     Southampton notices the Servant's shaking hand slipping
     into a pocket as--

                            ESSEX
               So what would you have me do? Spend
               the entire spring encamped? I am sent
               to Ireland to end this infernal
               rebellion, not idle my days with--

                            SOUTHAMPTON
               Robert!

     In an instant Southampton draws a silver engraved
     pistol and SHOOTS the servant!

     Everyone is shocked-- but then we see:



                                                               81
                                                     pg. 82


     THE SERVANT

     had drawn his own, small wooden pistol.

     ESSEX

     shares a look with Southampton.


75   EXT. OXFORD STONE - GARDEN - DAY                           75

     To Establish. A foggy day. In the Foreground we see
     the maze. Oxford and his fencing master, BEAULIEU
     (20's) are in the center of the maze dueling with
     rapiers for exercise.

     CLOSER

     They wear outfits that are slightly more protective
     than ornamental.

     They duel for a few moments, and then Oxford TOUCHES
     Beaulieu's shoulder. The speak entirely in French.

                             BEAULIEU
               Point!

     Oxford backs off, as does the fencing master.

                            OXFORD
                      (in French)
               Bien. Faisons du travail... le Coup
               droit d'autorit�?

                            BEAULIE
               Mais oui, mon seigneur.

                              OXFORD
               Bien.    En garde!

     And they once again begin to duel. But we quickly
     surmise something is amiss. Beaulieu is much more
     aggressive than he was before. Oxford realizes it, but
     is an expert swordsman, and defends himself well.

     And then Beaulieu aggressively moves forward, and STABS
     Oxford in the leg.

                            OXFORD (CONT'D)
               Qu'est ce que vous faites?

     But Oxford has little chance to react, because Beaulieu
     continues his attack.


                                                               82
                                                       pg. 83


                              OXFORD (CONT'D)
               Beaulieu?    Beaulieu?!

     This has become an assassination attempt, not an
     exercise.

     ENTRANCE OF THE MAZE

     Francesco is entering the maze with a silver tray
     carrying a pitcher and two goblets.

     CENTER OF THE MAZE

     Though wounded, Oxford is a superior swordsman. And he
     begins his own attack-- with a ferocity that surprises
     Beaulieu.

     IN THE MAZE

     Francesco heads for the center as--

     IN THE CENTER OF THE MAZE

     Oxford PIERCES Beaulieu's heart with his rapier, and
     Beaulieu SCREAMS--

     IN THE MAZE

     Francesco hears the scream, and starts to run.

                              FRANCESCO
               Signor?    Signor?!

     IN THE CENTER OF THE MAZE

     Oxford collapses as Francesco rushes in.

                           FRANCESCO (CONT'D)
               Signor? Mio dio! Signor! What has
               happened--

     Oxford checks his leg wound, and glances at the dead
     Beaulieu. He tries to wave off Franceso's aid, but to
     no avail as--

                            OXFORD
               Beaulieu-- he, he tried to kill me...


76   EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON - DAY                                  76

     Jonson, slightly drunk, walks down a street, a whore
     under his arm, and notices a commotion up ahead: people
     talking by an alley near the Mermaid's tavern.

                                                                83
                                                    pg. 84


                            JONSON
                      (to a passer-by)
               What's all that, then?

                            MAN
               A body...

     Jonson peers over and sees:

     A BODY

     on its back in the alley. Someone turns it over.    It's
     MARLOWE, a dried stab-wound in his eye.

     JONSON

     is stunned.

                            MAN (CONT'D)
               Must have been a cut-purse. Nowhere's
               bloody safe anymore, I'll tell you
               that...

                                                       CUT TO:


77   INT. A BEAR-BAITING THEATER - DAY                            77

     A small, open air theater where a chained bear is being
     led around the theater. A set of mastiffs are being
     led on the opposite side of the theater.

     The spectators are unruly, loudly making bets for the
     mauling to come.

     Jonson is among them, taking a look at the bear, deciding
     whether to bet on it or not.

                            BEAR BAITER
               Sampson! Sired by the great Arthur
               himself! No dog's yet been bred that can
               take him down!

     Shakespeare suddenly sits next Jonson hardly notices.

                            SHAKESPEARE
               I need more money.

                            JONSON
               More--? You already make more than any
               playwright Bankside.




                                                                 84
                                                 pg. 85


                       BEAR BAITER
          But then here, good friends, I bring you
          a pack of dogs so fierce, so dangerous,
          that Medusa herself would shrink in fear!

                       SHAKESPEARE
          I'm going to build my own theater, Ben,
          one that fits the scale of my work--

Jonson suddenly turns to him.

                        JONSON
          Your work?

                       BEAR BAITER
          Not a one has had a morsel of food in a
          week! Bred by the great John Sinclow!

                       A MAN
          Fourpence on three dogs!

                       SHAKESPEARE
          They insist only a gentleman can own the
          land.

                       ANOTHER MAN
          A shilling on four!

                       SHAKESPEARE
          The bribes are outrageous, but I found
          some one who will make me a coat-of-arms,
          and change the Stratford lists for me.

                        JONSON
          Impossible.

                       ANOTHER MAN
          Eight shillings on six dogs!   Eight
          shillings on six dogs!

                       JONSON
          I'll take that bet!!   Eight shillings on
          the bear, six dogs!

                        ANOTHER MAN
          Done!

                       SHAKESPEARE
          Bad bet, that.

                       JONSON
                 (to Shakespeare)
          You'll have to make do with what
          you've got. I won't be your beggar.

                                                          85
                                                      pg. 86


Shakespeare gives him a look to kill.

                          SHAKESPEARE
             This isn't a request, Ben.   I'll have
             more money.

                          JONSON
             Or what? You'll slit my throat like
             you did Kit's?

                          MAN
             Release the dogs!   Release the dogs!

Shakespeare shows no reaction.

                          JONSON
             I know he went to see you last night,
             Will. And I know he was planning to
             expose you if you didn't agree to his
             terms.

IN THE PIT

The bear baiting begins.

WIDER

Shakespeare stares at Jonson.

                          SHAKESPEARE
                    (dead serious)
             You're mad, Ben. Kit was my friend.

                          JONSON
             Be careful, Will. You kill me off
             too, and you won't have any good plays
             to act in after this is all done.

Some of the spectators BOO while others CHEER, and--

                          SHAKESPEARE
             I'll have my guineas, Ben. One way or
             another, I'll have my guineas.

And he gets up and leaves as the--

DOGS

start to go for the bear's throat.     Thge cheering goes to
a roar as we--



                                                       CUT TO:

                                                                 86
                                                       pg. 87


      SHAKESPEARE

      Wears a beard and fake nose. He tries to stay hidden so
      Jonson doesn't see him. We are:


78    EXT. LONDON BRIDGE - DAY                                      78

      Jonson is waiting not far from him by a stand and
      drinks an ale.

      Then Oxford's servant, Francesco, appears.

      After the two men have exchanged couple of words,
      Francesco gives Jonson a leather folder containing a
      manuscript and a purse jingling with coin. Jonson
      takes them and leaves.

      Jonson safely gone, Shakespeare starts to follow
      Francesco who heads back over the bridge.


78A   EXT. THE THAMES RIVER - DUSK                                 78A

      Shakespeare is in a small boat following Francesco, who
      is in Oxford's boat. They head towards Oxford Stone.


      EXT. OXFORD STONE - DUSK

      Shakespeare watches as Francesco enters Oxford Stone.


79    OMIT                                                          79

                                                         CUT TO:


80    INT. OXFORD STONE - STUDY - DUSK                              80

      Shakespeare is waiting, clearly uncomfortable. It's
      not the kind of room he's used to being in. He holds
      his wig and his nose.

      A door opens, and Oxford enters, walking on a stick
      because of his leg injury. He is followed by his
      servant, Francesco.

                             OXFORD
                So! You are the famous Shakespeare
                whose labors I have enjoyed so much.
                I am at your service, sir.



                                                                   87
                                                 pg. 88


Shakespeare is uncomfortable. He wasn't expecting
Oxford himself. Then he just goes for it.

                       SHAKESPEARE
          My lord-- I- I need more money.

                       OXFORD
                 (sharp)
          I beg your pardon?

                       SHAKESPEARE
          My expenses have, ah, aggrandized...
          since this all began.

                       OXFORD
          "Aggrandized"?

                       SHAKESPEARE
          And if, if your lordship doesn't agree
          to an increase in my, ah, fee, I shall
          be forced to make certain... facts
          public.

                       FRANCESCO
          Have you any idea to whom you are
          speaking?

                       SHAKESPEARE
          I am addressing the writer of
          Hamlet... of Juliet and her Romeo.   Am
          I not?

Oxford is silent. Francesco goes to physically eject
Shakespeare from the room.

                      FRANCESCO
          Out. Get out! How dare you insult my
          master in--

                          OXFORD
          Wait!
                 (beat)
          How much?

Shakespeare looks at Francesco, then Oxford.

                       SHAKESPEARE
          Four hundred pounds. A year.

                          FRANCESCO
          A year?

                          OXFORD
          Pay him.

                                                          88
                                                      pg. 89


     Francesco is shocked.

                            OXFORD (CONT'D)
                      (impatient, in Italian)
               Pagalo!

     Shakespeare smiles.


81   EXT. OXFORD STONE - DUSK                                   81

     Shakespeare exits, tossing a leather pouch filled with
     coins. He smiles.


82   INT. OXFORD STONE - STUDY - DUSK                           82

     Oxford watches Shakespeare walk down the road through a
     window.

                            FRANCESCO
               Forgive me for speaking of things
               above my place or understanding,
               signor. But... Is this wise? They
               have already tried to kill you once.

                            OXFORD
               Wisdom, Francesco, is a quality I have
               unfortunately never possessed...

     Francesco stares at Oxford who is deep in thought.

     The sound of heated love making takes us to...


83   INT. CECIL HOUSE - YOUNG OXFORD'S BEDROOM - NIGHT          83

     Twenty-five years earlier. Young Oxford (now 25 and
     with a beard) is making love to someone. We can't tell
     who at first, and assume it is Elizabeth. And then we
     see, it's BESSIE, Young Elizabeth's lady-in-waiting.

                                                DISSOLVE TO:


84   INT. CECIL HOUSE - YOUNG OXFORD'S BEDROOM - NIGHT          84

     An hour later, post-coital. A fire is burning, and
     Bessie is finishing dressing herself.

                            BESSIE
               Edward... You know she would be
               furious if she found out about this...


                                                               89
                                                     pg. 90


      Young Oxford doesn't answer. He is deep in thought.

                             BESSIE (CONT'D)
                She still loves you.

                              YOUNG OXFORD
                No.   She abandoned me.

                             BESSIE
                You don't know, do you?

      He looks at her quizzically.

                              BESSIE (CONT'D)
                The Queen.   She had your child.


85    EXT. CECIL HOUSE - EARLY MORNING                           85

      A carriage drives towards the house.


85A   INT. CARRIAGE - EARLY MORNING                             85A

      Young Anne de Vere holds her sleeping daughter in her
      arms.


86    INT. CECIL HOUSE - HALLWAY - EARLY MORNING                 86

      Bessie carefully closes Oxford's bedroom door and
      suddenly freezes.

      She turns and sees Young Oxford's wife with her little
      daughter at her side standing in the hallway staring at
      her.

      For a moment nobody dares to move, then Bessie rushes
      off...

                             WILLIAM CECIL
                I cannot be certain, majesty, when
                the... relationship began.

                                                      CUT TO:


87    INT. RICHMOND PALACE - GREAT HALL - DAY                    87

      Young Elizabeth looks out a window, obviously
      distressed. William Cecil is across from her, his face
      tense.



                                                                90
                                                       pg. 91


                             WILLIAM CECIL
                But sometime soon after your return to
                Court.

                               YOUNG ELIZABETH
                You're sure?

                             WILLIAM CECIL
                They-- they haven't been very
                discreet, majesty. I presume he
                wanted you to know. To... to hurt
                you.

      She is crushed.

                             WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
                Majesty, there is more. The lady is
                pregnant.

      Young Elizabeth freezes, stunned.   Then--

                               YOUNG ELIZABETH
                Arrest them.    Arrest them both!

      William Cecil bows and exits.

      Now alone, Young Elizabeth lets her emotions out.   She
      picks up a vase and THROWS it into a wall.


87A   EXT. TOWER OF LONDON - DAY                                87A

      From high above, we see a carriage arrive.    It stops,
      and William Cecil gets out.


88    INT. TOWER OF LONDON - YOUNG OXFORD'S CELL - DAY           88

      Young Oxford (now 26) is looking out a window at the
      river beyond. He has been imprisoned for some months.
      His beard has become ragged, his clothes have seen
      better days.

      William Cecil enters.

                             WILLIAM CECIL
                Your whore gave birth last week.

      Young Oxford turns to William Cecil. The stare at each
      other for a beat.




                                                                91
                                                   pg. 92


                        WILLIAM CECIL (CONT'D)
          The Queen has decided to release you.
          It seems time does indeed heal all
          wounds.
                 (beat)
          These are her conditions for your
          release. One. You will not
          acknowledge the child. Two. You will
          never see the mother again. Three.
          You will avoid Court at all costs.
          Her majesty would prefer not to be
          reminded of you in any way ever again.

A beat as Young Oxford thinks on all this.

                         YOUNG OXFORD
          Banished...?

                        WILLIAM CECIL
          No. You have the freedom of the
          kingdom. Just not of the Court.
                 (beat)
          Those are her terms. Here are mine.
          You will go back to my daughter. You
          will make some effort to make her
          happy and you will finally act
          according to your station in life, and
          accept the responsibilities of your
          great title.

Oxford reluctantly NODS.    William Cecil goes to leave.

                          YOUNG OXFORD
          My lord!     I, too, have a condition.

William Cecil turns.

                       YOUNG OXFORD (CONT'D)
          I will go back to your daughter if...
          You tell me the name of the child.

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          I don't know if the whore has even
          delivered the--

                        YOUNG OXFORD
          No.   The other one.

Cecil's face goes to stone.

                       WILLIAM CECIL
          The other one?
                 (realizing)
          Who told you?

                                                            92
                                                       pg. 93


     Cecil is obviously annoyed by this development.

                            YOUNG OXFORD
               I will go back to your daughter. I
               will make you as many grandchildren as
               she can bare...

     William Cecil thinks.

                            YOUNG OXFORD (CONT'D)
               Or I can remain here...

     William Cecil decides.

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               There is no record of his true birth,
               no trail that leads to you, or the...
               mother. His foster parents never knew
               the truth, and both are now dead...

                              YOUNG OXFORD
               The name?

                            WILLIAM CECIL
               Make even a hint of this to the child,
               or anyone else, and this agreement is
               void, and I'll see your head on the
               block within a fortnight. And the
               boy's as well.

                            YOUNG OXFORD
                      (excited)
               It's a boy...?


89   EXT. CECIL HOUSE - GARDEN - DAY                             89

     Young Oxford (cleaned up) is watching a BOY about five
     years old dueling with a tutor. The boy is quite good.

     The boy notices Young Oxford, and stops duelling.

                              BOY
               Hello...

                              YOUNG OXFORD
               Hello.

     Young Oxford smiles at the boy.

                            YOUNG OXFORD (CONT'D)
               I'm Edward, the Earl of Oxford.



                                                                93
                                                        pg. 94


                              BOY
                 My lord...

     The Boy bows, a serious expression on his face.

                              YOUNG OXFORD
                 They tell me one day you're to be an
                 Earl as well.

                              BOY
                 I shall be the Earl of Southampton.

                              YOUNG OXFORD
                        (smiling)
                 Well then, we shall be Earls together,
                 shan't we?


                                                          CUT TO:


90   INT. WESTMINSTER ABBEY - DAY                                    90

     Twenty-five years later. William Cecil's body is in
     state, in his coffin, in the center of the apse.

     ELIZABETH

     looking completely stricken, approaches the coffin,
     holding Cecil's white cane. She places it at his side.

     In the background we hear the Archbishop of Canterbury
     reading from the bible.

                              ARCHBISHOP (O.S.)
                 ... In the sweat of thy face shalt
                 thou eat bread, till thou return to
                 the earth: for out of it wast thou
                 taken, because thou art dust, and to
                 dust shalt thou return...

     ROBERT CECIL

     scans the room, to see how it is all playing out.

     OXFORD

     watches stoically, his wife and children at his side.




                                                                    94
                                                       pg. 95


91   EXT. WESTMINSTER ABBEY - DAY                                91

     The funeral over, Elizabeth exits the portal of
     Westminster Abbey and heads to her carriage. A huge
     crowd of mourners has assembled.

     Robert Cecil steps into place right behind her.

                            ELIZABETH
               We wish to recall Essex from
               Ireland...

     Robert Cecil is instantly concerned, but hides it well.
     They continue to walk.

                            ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
               We feel a terrible void, now that your
               father is no longer at our side...

     Robert Cecil bows his head as he walks.

                            ROBERT CECIL
               A wise decision, your majesty. If
               nothing else, it will give him an
               opportunity to respond to all these
               rumors.

     Still walking, she turns to him sharply.

                             ELIZABETH
               Rumors?

                            ROBERT CECIL
               I'm sorry, majesty, I thought you'd
               heard.

                             ELIZABETH
               Heard what?

                            ROBERT CECIL
               Essex is in negotiations with Philip
               of Spain...

                            ELIZABETH
               Peace is at hand. We know this.

                            ROBERT CECIL
               Majesty-- it is said that Essex has
               promised Phillip all of Catholic
               Ireland in return for...

     He hesitates.



                                                                95
                                                       pg. 96


                            ELIZABETH
               In return for what?

                            ROBERT CECIL
               Spain's support of Essex's claim to
               the throne of England...

     They have arrived at her carriage.

                             ROBERT CECIL (CONT'D)
                      (beat)
               It is, as of yet, just rumor.

                            ELIZABETH
               Bring him to me, William.   Bring him
               to me at once!

                            ROBERT CECIL
                      (correcting)
               Robert, majesty.

     Elizabeth stares at him for an instant, then gets into
     her carriage, unsure of herself.

                            ROBERT CECIL (CONT'D)
               My father's death has been a great
               loss for us all...

     She ignores him, trying to collect herself. Robert
     Cecil turns to the driver, NODS, and the carriage takes
     off.

     As soon as it is away, Robert Cecil turns and some in
     the crowd of commoners begin to BOO at him.

                                                        CUT TO:

     HORSE HOOVES

     as they gallop over emerald green grasses.   We are:


92   EXT. A MILITARY FIELD IN IRELAND - DAY                        92

     A group of horsemen gallop into Essex's camp. A
     MESSENGER jumps off his horse and heads for Essex's
     tent.


93   INT. ESSEX'S TENT - DAY                                       93

     Where Essex and Southampton are having dinner as the
     messenger enters. He bows.


                                                                  96
                                                      pg. 97


                            MESSENGER
               My lord...

     He hands him a sealed envelope. Essex takes it, begins
     to read. Frowns, SLAMS the parchment down. He looks
     into the distance, trying to process what he's just
     read.

     Southampton picks up the parchment and begins reading.

                            SOUTHAMPTON
               She can't believe this...

                            ESSEX
               Oh, can't she?

                            SOUTHAMPTON
               It's Robert Cecil. He failed to kill
               you, now he tries to kill your name.

     Essex heads for the flap of the tent.

                            ESSEX
               We leave with the tide!

                                                        CUT TO:


94   INT. THE MERMAID'S TAVERN - NIGHT                             94

     Shakespeare enters the tavern carrying a rolled up
     parchment. He passes various actors drinking, then
     hurries over to Jonson, Nashe and Dekker, who are deep
     in drink.

                            SHAKESPEARE
               Well, I've got it!

     Shakespeare unravels the parchment.   He puts it on the
     table with a flourish.

     It shows a coat-of-arms containing a spear and a
     falcon. The colors are numerous, and garish.

                            SHAKESPEARE (CONT'D)
               The herald just finished it not an
               hour ago.
                      (smiles)
               Well?

     Everyone is confused by it.

                            NASHE
               It's quite... colorful.

                                                                  97
                                                  pg. 98


                       DEKKER
          What in blazes is it?

                       SHAKESPEARE
          My coat-of-arms! It cost a bloody
          fortune, but, by god, you can call me
          gentleman now!

Jonson looks over at Shakespeare. Shakespeare locks
eyes with him, but looks away, ashamed of something.

                       DEKKER
          I can't quite make out the motto...
          Non sanz... Non...

                       SHAKESPEARE
          "Non sanz droict".

                       NASHE
          Not without--

                        JONSON
          Right!? Not without right?
                 (beat)
          You went to him, didn't you? You
          lying knave-- you went to him!

Shakespeare doesn't want to discuss this with the
others present.

                        SHAKESPEARE
                  (smiles)
          Ben.   Ben! Let me buy you a--

He grabs Jonson's shoulder, but Jonson pushes him away.

                      JONSON
          What? You've already killed off one
          competitor. Now you want another dead
          as well?

Shakespeare looks at the confused Nashe and Dekker
nervously.

                       SHAKESPEARE
          I don't know what you mean.   Ben, we
          should really--

                       JONSON
          I swore to him I wouldn't tell you his
          name. Swore it! Do you have any idea
          what he might do to me? Do you?
                 (to Nashe)
                       (MORE)

                                                           98
                                                     pg. 99

                            JONSON (CONT'D)
               He's not even a writer you know. He
               can't even--

                            SHAKESPEARE
               Ben-- you've had too much to drink.

     Shakespeare grabs Jonson.

                            JONSON
               Unhand me!

     Shakespeare backs off. Jonson pulls out a piece of
     parchment from his shirt.

                            JONSON (CONT'D)
               Here!
                      (looks around)
               A quill! A quill!

     Nashe and Dekker look at each other, slightly
     embarrassed. Jonson finds a quill deep in his pants.
     He thrusts it at Will, who ignores it.

                            JONSON (CONT'D)
                      (re: the parchment)
               Go on, Will. Write something for us.
               Now. Go on! Amaze us with your
               verse. Your wit! No? Try astounding
               us with the letter "E". Or an "I"--
               it's just a straight line!

     Shakespeare stares at him.

                            SHAKESPEARE
               You haven't got any ink.

     And he exits.

                                                      CUT TO:


95   EXT. THE CITY GATES OF LONDON - DAY                         95

     Southampton and Essex are on horseback, followed by
     several dozen armed retainers, GALLOPING towards the
     city of London.


96   EXT. WHITEHALL PALACE - COURTYARD - DAY                     96

     The party rides into the first gate. The palace is the
     city residence of the Queen, and is at the edge of the
     City.


                                                                99
                                                      pg. 100


     Essex and Southampton jump off their horses.


97   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - HALLWAY - DAY                        97

     Essex and Southampton walk quickly down the long
     hallway, opening door after door. Servants scurry
     behind them, terrified of the intrusion, trying to stop
     them. They open the doors into--


98   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - AUDIENCE CHAMBER - DAY               98

     The ladies-in-waiting scream in fear when they see the
     two men in battle gear.

                            ESSEX
                      (to Southampton)
               Wait for me.

     And he continues on into--


99   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - OLD ELIZABETH'S BEDROOM -            99
     CONTINUOUS

     --where Elizabeth is still dressing, putting on make-
     up, etc. She is NOT wearing her wig, and is only
     wearing her undergarments. She looks quite ugly.

     She turns to see Essex, shocked at his intrusion.

     Essex FREEZES.   He knows he has just made an enormous
     faux-pas.

                            ESSEX
               Majesty, I, I...

     She stares at him, horrified to be seen in such a
     manner. The she regains her composure and--

                             ELIZABETH
               Get out!   Out!!!

     He steps back in horror-- not at her appearance, but
     what he has just done. The doors SLAM in front of him
     as we--

                            ELIZABETH (O.S.)
                            (CONT'D)
               The insolence!




                                                                100
                                                       pg. 101


100   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - AUDIENCE CHAMBER - DAY              100

      Elizabeth, now dressed and wearing her wig on her
      throne, is raging at Robert Cecil.

                             ELIZABETH
                Who in God's name does he think he is?
                Abandoning his post without my leave!

      She begins to absent-mindedly unbutton the top of her
      bodice.

                             ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
                Coming into our presence in such a
                manner, neither announced nor invited,
                half his army in my courtyard. He's
                gone mad... mad!

                             ROBERT CECIL
                No. Unfortunately for us, your
                majesty, he is quite sane. He simply
                believes he is your royal equal.

      She turns to him sharply, furious at the thought.


101   EXT. ESSEX HOUSE - DAY                                      101

      It looks like an armed camp, with part of Essex's army
      encamped in the front courtyard. The soldiers are all
      tense.

      Oxford, followed only by Francesco, rides into the
      courtyard. He is immediately surrounded by armed men,
      their muskets pointed at him. Oxford raises his hands.

                             OXFORD
                I am Edward, Earl of Oxford.

                              SOUTHAMPTON
                Edward!   Edward! Thank god you're
                here.

      Southampton comes towards him.

                             SOUTHAMPTON (CONT'D)
                Elizabeth has revoked all of his royal
                licenses! She believes every lie
                Cecil tells about him.
                       (seeing Oxford's wound)
                Edward? What happened to your leg?




                                                                 101
                                                        pg. 102


                             OXFORD
                       (shrugs)
                Nothing.

      Oxford continues towards the door. Southampton
      follows, his concern for Oxford's wound noticeable.


102   INT. ESSEX HOUSE - HALL - DAY                                102

      Oxford, Southampton and Essex are alone. Oxford is
      sitting in a chair, while Essex paces impatiently,
      Southampton standing between them.

                             ESSEX
                She won't accept my letters. I cannot
                get to her. Cecil plans to arrest me
                any day. I know it.
                       (beat and more determined)
                But that won't be as easy as he
                thinks.

                             OXFORD
                Fight him in London, and you only
                validate every rumor and lie Cecil has
                ever told about you.

                             ESSEX
                Then what do you suggest I do? Let
                myself be arrested so I can be tried
                and executed for crimes I did not
                commit?

                            OXFORD
                No. I will go to Elizabeth, myself,
                alone--

                             ESSEX
                How? Cecil won't let her see a letter
                without reading it first.

                             OXFORD
                I won't send her a letter.   I will
                send her a book.

      Essex looks confused, but Oxford ignores it.

                             OXFORD (CONT'D)
                She will call for me. And while I am
                with her, you will come-- not with an
                army, not with swords, but with her
                loyal subjects. The cobblers, the
                tinkers, the bricklayers of London.
                             (MORE)

                                                                  102
                                                         pg. 103

                              OXFORD (CONT'D)
                 All, all calling for Robert Cecil's
                 banishment from Court. Words, Robert,
                 words, will prevail with her, not
                 swords.

       Essex looks unsure.

                                ESSEX
                 And the mob?    How will I--

                              OXFORD
                 Leave that to me.


103    OMIT                                                         103


103A   INT. OXFORD STONE - A STUDY - NIGHT                         103A

       Oxford is in his rooms, writing feverishly by
       candlelight.

       He completes a thought... closes the manuscript...
       writes down the title with a flourish:

       The Tragedie of Richard III


104    INT. A ROOM ABOVE THE MERMAID'S TAVERN - DAY                 104

       A room for the whores to take their tricks.    Small,
       with nothing much beyond a straw bed.

       Shakespeare is bedding a buxom young lady.

       And then the door OPENS. Francesco enters, and Oxford
       follows, holding a manuscript. Shakespeare looks
       shocked. She starts to SCREAM and yell as she pulls a
       sheet to cover herself.

                              FRANCESCO
                        (to the whore)
                 Hold your tongue, whore, and get out!

       She does so as Oxford walks over to Shakespeare. He
       tosses the manuscript to him. Shakespeare starts to
       look at it. The whore is partially dressed, so--

                              FRANCESCO (CONT'D)
                        (to the whore)
                 Out, woman!

                               WHORE
                 Oi.   `Oo's going to pay me then?

                                                                   103
                                                        pg. 104


      Shakespeare gives a look to Oxford-- he certainly isn't
      going to pay for it.

      Oxford nods to Francesco, who gives the whore a few
      coins. She smiles, and leaves.

                             OXFORD
                You shall begin rehearsals
                immediately. But it is not to be
                performed until I tell you. And you
                may only have a day's notice.

      Shakespeare looks confused.

                             SHAKESPEARE
                That will be expensive-- keeping all
                the actors ready. Having the props
                made but not--

      Oxford tosses a very large pouch of coins at him, and
      then begins to leave.

                             OXFORD
                Oh, and congratulations. You've had
                an epic poem published today.

                             SHAKESPEARE
                       (confused)
                Published? You mean like in a book?

      Renaissance MUSIC BEGINS as we--

                                                         CUT TO:

      A PIECE OF PAPER

      as a printer presses down the press onto it. The title
      page is printed in front of us. It's called "Venus and
      Adonis". A MONTAGE BEGINS.


105   INT. A PRINT SHOP - DAY                                      105

      And the printer brings the page out from the press and
      checks it for proper alignment.

                             SHAKESPEARE (V.O.)
                `The boar!' quoth she; whereat a
                sudden pale,
                Like lawn being spread upon the
                blushing rose...
                Usurps her cheek; she trembles at his
                tale,
                             (MORE)

                                                                  104
                                                        pg. 105

                              SHAKESPEARE (V.O.)
                 And on his neck her yoking arms she
                 throws:

       The printer nods his approval...   The poem continues
       with:


105A   EXT. THE PRINT SHOP - DAY                                  105A

       Shakespeare exits the Print Shop, continuing to read
       the book, now out-loud.

                              SHAKESPEARE (V.O.)
                 She sinketh down, still hanging by his
                 neck,
                 He on her belly falls, she on her
                 back.
                        (not quoting)
                 Oh, I like this...

                                                   DISSOLVE TO:


106    OMIT                                                        106

       A COVER OF "VENUS AND ADONIS"

       that is held by a woman.

                              LADY IN WAITING (O.S.)
                 'Fondling,' she saith,
                 I'll be a park, and thou shalt be my
                 deer;
                 Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or
                 in dale:

       We are:


107    INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - AUDIENCE CHAMBER - DAY              107

       A LADY-IN-WAITING is reading out loud to other Ladies.
       They listen giggling now and then. We only see them
       from the back.

                              LADY IN WAITING
                 Graze on my lips; and if those hills
                 be dry,
                 Stray lower, where the pleasant
                 fountains lie.




                                                                  105
                                                         pg. 106


                               SECOND LADY IN WAITING
                         (continuing)
                  Seeds spring from seeds, and beauty
                  breedeth beauty;
                  Thou wast begot; to beget is thy duty.
                  By law of nature thou art bound to
                  breed...

      They look up and see--

      ELIZABETH

      standing across the room.   How much has she heard?

      WIDER

      They all stand abruptly, worried. The women who was
      reading the book puts it down on a table.

      Elizabeth silently walks over to them, and picks up the
      book. She opens it as we--

                                                           CUT TO:


108   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - HALLWAY - DUSK                         108

      Robert Cecil walks down the long hall, heading for an
      audience with the queen. Two guards open a door,
      letting him into--


109   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - OLD ELIZABETH'S BEDROOM - DUSK         109

      Elizabeth is looking out the window. It's raining
      outside. She is NOT wearing her wig, not much make-up,
      and looks quite... odd.

      Robert Cecil enters.

                               ELIZABETH
                         (turns)
                  You find me disgusting, don't you?
                  Repugnant. Wrinkled?

                               ROBERT CECIL
                  You, you are the sun, majesty.   The
                  glory of--

                               ELIZABETH
                  Liar!

      Robert Cecil shuts his mouth.


                                                                   106
                                                 pg. 107


                        ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          Is it so hard to believe that once I
          was young? That I was... beautiful?
          Your father knew me as such...
                 (beat)
          You have read the book?

She doesn't have to say which one. Robert Cecil sees a
copy of "Venus and Adonis" on a table. He NODS.

                       ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          He writes to me. To remind me of that
          beauty. That love. How I... took
          him. How I... adored him...

Robert Cecil knows to be silent.   She looks out the
window.

                       ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
                 (throaty, sexually)
          Graze on my lips; and if those hills
          be dry,
          Stray lower, where the pleasant
          fountains lie...

She smiles seductively, transported in time.

                        ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          I've been foolish. Proud. Yes. Too
          proud. Gloriana... The Virgin
          Queen... A statue. Bloodless.
                 (beat)
          "Thou wast begot; to beget is thy
          duty.
          By law of nature thou art bound to
          breed, That thine may live when thou
          thyself art dead"...
                 (beat)
          Your father told you of the child?

A beat.

                       ROBERT CECIL
                 (hint of a smile)
          Which one, your majesty?

Elizabeth's eyes flare in anger for an instant, then
she regains composure.

                         ELIZABETH
          His.   Mine.   He still lives?

Robert Cecil nods.


                                                           107
                                                  pg. 108


                       ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          He was well placed? A nobleman?

                       ROBERT CECIL
                 (hesitates)
          Yes... your majesty.

                          ELIZABETH
          Who?

Robert Cecil hesitates.

                       ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          I am your Queen! Now who is my son!!?

                       ROBERT CECIL
          His grace, the Earl of... Southampton,
          your majesty.

She seems surprised. Perhaps she was expecting Essex.
But then she smiles, and NODS in approval.

                       CECIL
          Majesty... You are not having doubts
          about James of Scotland succeeding
          you, are you?

Elizabeth goes into a rage.

                       ELIZABETH
          James?! He is the son of Mary! She
          plotted and schemed to steal the
          throne from under me! No son of hers
          will rule while a yet Tudor lives!

Robert Cecil is surprised by her fury. He bows his
head as Elizabeth tries to collect herself.

                       ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          I will decide what is best for my
          kingdom! Not you! Not you!!
                 (calmer)
          I have bid Edward to come to me on my
          return to London on Monday next. It
          is decided.

She says no more, the audience over. Robert Cecil
hesitates, and then she glares at him... He bows and
exits, the fury on his face plain.

Elizabeth looks at her own reflection in the window...




                                                            108
                                                      pg. 109


                              ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
                        (sotto)
                 And so, in spite of death, I shall
                 survive,
                 In that, my likeness still is left
                 alive.

                                                          CUT TO:


110    EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON - DAY                                   110

       Ben Jonson walks with a manuscript in his hands. He
       stops for a moment when he sees the new Globe theater.
       Workers are still painting the walls.

       He pauses when he sees a poster in front advertising a
       performance of "Richard III" on Monday next.


110A   INT. THE GLOBE THEATER - DAY                              110A

       Jonson sticks his head in and takes in the glorious new
       theater Shakespeare and Burbage have built.

       The actor Condell is on stage, rehearsing the character
       of "Gloucester". He walks on stage with a limp, and
       has a large hump on his back. He is a caricature of
       Robert Cecil.

                              "GLOUCESTER"
                        (in character)
                 But I, that am not shaped for sportive
                 tricks, nor made to court an amorous
                 looking-glass...

       Richard BURBAGE, the theater's stage manager, is
       watching his performance with Spencer and a group of
       actors.

       Jonson stops and watches the rehearsal for a beat.

                              "GLOUCESTER" (CONT'D)
                        (in character)
                 I, that am curtail'd of this fair
                 proportion, deformed, unfinish'd, sent
                 before my time into this breathing
                 world...

                              SPENCER
                 Good part, that...




                                                                109
                                                  pg. 110


                       "GLOUCESTER"
          ...and that so lamely and
          unfashionable that dogs bark at me as
          I halt by them.
                 (out of character)
          Is this wise?

                       BURBAGE
          It's only the one performance.   Go on!

                       "GLOUCESTER"
          I need a drink...

And "Gloucester" heads backstage.

                       JONSON
                 (to Burbage)
          Burbage. Wonderful theater. Wonderful!
          The best Bankside! But only one
          performance? Is it that bad?

                       BURBAGE
          Hardly, it's Will's new play. Richard
          the Third. We've been hired to
          perform it free to the public.

                         JONSON
          Free?

                       BURBAGE
          Aye. Some anonymous nobleman paid for
          everything. God knows Will never
          would.   Been rehearsing all week,
          just found out this morning, we go up
          next Monday.

Jonson thinks a beat-- that's odd-- but then holds up
his manuscript.

                       JONSON
                 (grins)
          My best so far. I guarantee more than
          one performance. Though I'll not pay
          for the tickets myself.
                 (winks)
          No need to.

                       BURBAGE
          Sorry, Ben...

Jonson looks confused.




                                                            110
                                                          pg. 111


                             BURBAGE (CONT'D)
                Will... He's part owner... I'm sorry
                Ben, but I had to agree no Jonson
                plays at the Globe... Ever.

      Jonson is in shock.

                                                           CUT TO:


111   INT. THE MERMAID'S TAVERN - NIGHT                              111

      Jonson is deep in drink, by himself.   He listens as
      patrons of the bar say:

                             MAN
                       (to a woman)
                You doin' tomorrow?

                              WOMAN
                You askin?

                             MAN
                Managed to get two tickets to
                Shakespeare's latest. Cost me a
                fortune.

                             PASSING MAN
                Ballocks, did it! They're giving them
                away free.

      Some of the actors from the rehearsal enter, all jolly
      and excited. They head for the bar. They are: The
      ACTOR WHO PLAYED "GLOUCESTER", Spencer, Pope, Heminge,
      etc...

                             SPENCER
                Best villain in the history of
                theater, Richard the Third. No doubt.

                               HEMINGE
                Come on.    Better than Mephistopheles?

                             SPENCER
                No doubt! Your Marlowe-- god rest his
                soul-- is fine for your everyday
                scalawag, and your Jonson won't even
                try the hard drama. No, this is
                Shakespeare, for god's sake! The man
                knows drama. I tell you, not even the
                Greeks compare!
                       (toasting)
                To Shakespeare! And villainy!


                                                                    111
                                                        pg. 112


                             ALL
                To Shakespeare! And villainy!

      Jonson gets up, furious, and exits, quite drunk.     The
      actors don't even notice him.


112   EXT. STREET IN FRONT OF TOWER OF LONDON    - NIGHT           112

      Jonson stumbles down the streets, alone, deep in his
      own private hell. It's raining.

                             WHORE
                Fancy a tumble? Only sixpence!

      Jonson waves her off.     He looks up and sees:

      FROM HIS POV:

      The Tower of London. He makes a decision.


113   OMITTED                                                      113


114   INT. THE TOWER OF LONDON - POLE'S ROOM - DAY                 114

      Jonson sits in the same spot where Marlowe was sitting
      earlier. And he hates himself for it. Rain drips down
      the windows.

      Pole looks up from some papers.

                             POLE
                I haven't got all day, man.

                             JONSON
                I... There is a-- there is a play to
                be performed... on Monday.

                             POLE
                There's many plays to be performed
                next Monday, isn't there?

                              JONSON
                Yes, my lord, but this one is to be
                performed one performance, and one
                performance only. On Monday. All
                Bankside is talking of it.
                       (beat)
                The History of King Richard the Third.
                By William Shakespeare.

      Pole is confused.   So?

                                                                  112
                                                       pg. 113


                             JONSON (CONT'D)
                He kills his brother the king, and
                half the royal family to get the
                throne for himself--

                             POLE
                I know who Richard the Third was.

                             JONSON
                Yes. Of course you do. But in
                William Shakespeare's version, he is
                played as a hunch-back.

      Pole realizes this is significant.


115   INT. CECIL HOUSE - THE PRIVATE CHAPEL - DAWN                115

      Robert Cecil has prayed all night. His lips silently
      move in a prayer for a miracle.

      When Pole appears he doesn't stop his prayer. Only
      after Pole whispers in his ear does he stop and look
      slowly up to the simple cross and close his eyes in
      relief.


116   EXT. LONDON - DAY                                           116

      From high, high above a city of 200,000 souls. It's a
      beautiful sunny day, but black storm clouds are on the
      horizon.

      All of London is on its feet. They all are on their way
      to Bankside.

      The London Bridge is crammed one way. The River Thames
      is full of many small boats of theatergoers.


117   EXT. BANKSIDE - IN FRONT OF THE GLOBE - DAY                 117

      We see that a huge crowd has formed in front of the
      Globe.


118   INT. THE GLOBE THEATER - BACKSTAGE - DAY                    118

      Everyone is busy, preparing for the performance;
      actors, stage-hands, etc...

      Shakespeare adjusts an actor's costume when Burbage
      walks up besides him.


                                                                 113
                                                          pg. 114


                               BURBAGE
                  We have to turn `em away by the
                  hundreds! Look! Never seen anything
                  quite like it!

        And both men look out the curtains to the crowd
        outside.

        The theater is full to the last seat. The people are
        crammed together like sardines.


118A    INT. OXFORD STONE - OXFORD'S ROOM - NIGHT                   118A

        Oxford is being dressed in front of a mirror...    His
        finest clothes... Powder to face...

        Francesco assists him.


118AA   INT. THE GLOBE THEATER - THE GALLERIES - DAY             118AA

        Jonson is leaning against the edge of the balustrade,
        watching the Groundlings fill in. He bites his nails
        nervous.

        Nashe joins him as--

                               NASHE
                  So! I heard the Earl of Essex paid for
                  this whole performance! Man's never even
                  been to the theater, and still he's heard
                  of Will--

        Dekker also joins them.

                               DEKKER
                  Essex!? Impossible. My cousin's one of
                  his men-at-arms. Hasn't been paid in
                  weeks. They're all just sitting there,
                  waiting.

                                  JONSON
                  Waiting?     Waiting for what?

                               DEKKER
                  Wants to have an audience with the Queen.
                  As if Cecil would ever let Essex near her
                  now.

                               NASHE
                  By the mass, Cecil in favor, Essex out!
                  Who can keep up with it all!?
                         (takes a swig)
                               (MORE)
                                                                    114
                                                         pg. 115

                              NASHE (CONT'D)
                 Zounds, I tire of politics, politics,
                 politics.


119   EXT. THE THAMES RIVER - DAY                                   119

      Oxford is in a long-boat, headed for Whitehall Palace.
      The oars of the boat cut neatly and silently into the
      water.


120   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - OLD ELIZABETH'S BEDROOM - DAY         120

      Elizabeth is doing her toilette. She seems excited like
      a school girl before her first date. Her Ladies in
      waiting are attending to her.


121   INT. THE GLOBE THEATER - DAY                                  121

      The audience HUSHES as--

      ON STAGE

      "GLOUCESTER", the future Richard III, enters. He is
      hunch-backed, and looks as much like Robert Cecil as
      possible in terms of beard and costume. First the
      people are in stunned silence, but then like magic the
      hissing starts. It is followed by more hissing and the
      first boos.

      The actor playing Gloucester nervously looks around...

      IN THE GALLERIES

      Dekker seems surprised at the similarity to Robert Cecil.

                              DEKKER
                        (to Nashe)
                 Tired of politics are you? Seems you
                 picked the wrong day to come to the
                 theater, then...

      Jonson gives Dekker a sharp look.   What's going on here?

      ON STAGE

      "Gloucester" addresses the audience.

                              "GLOUCESTER"
                 Now is the winter of our discontent
                 made glorious summer by this son of
                 York. Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd
                 his wrinkled front....

                                                                   115
                                                          pg. 116


      The hissing and booing has swelled so strong that the
      actor stops for a moment. But then he finds the courage
      again to continue.

      Jonson looks down at the Groundling's reaction, and
      spots--

      FRANCESCO

      in the audience. But among the Groundlings, not in
      Oxford's usual box seat.

      JONSON

      looks over to Oxford's box.   It's empty.

                               "GLOUCESTER"
                  ...and now instead of mounting barded
                  steeds to fright the souls of fearful
                  adversaries, he capers nimbly in a
                  lady's chamber to the lascivious
                  pleasing of a lute. But I, that am
                  not shaped for sportive tricks, nor
                  made to court an amorous looking-
                  glass...


122   OMIT                                                           122


123   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - ROBERT CECIL'S ROOM - DAY              123

      Robert Cecil watches himself in a mirror as armor is
      placed on him by servants.

                               "GLOUCESTER" (O.S.)
                  I, that am curtail'd of this fair
                  proportion, deformed, unfinish'd, sent
                  before my time into this breathing
                  world,....


124   EXT. BANKSIDE - IN FRONT OF THE GLOBE THEATER - DAY            124

      The huge crowd has stayed in front of the Globe. It
      seems they are waiting for something. We hear hissing
      and booing from the crowd inside the theater.

                               "GLOUCESTER"
                  ...and that so lamely and
                  unfashionable that dogs bark at me as
                  I halt by them.



                                                                    116
                                                         pg. 117


125   INT. THE GLOBE THEATER - DAY                                  125

      On stage, "Gloucester: continues despite the concert of
      hissing and booing...

                             "GLOUCESTER"
                And therefore, since I cannot prove a
                lover, I am determined to prove a
                villain and hate the idle pleasures of
                these days...


126   EXT. ESSEX HOUSE - DAY                                        126

      Essex mounts his horse, Southampton at his side. Their
      sixty or so men behind them ready for the march to
      Elizabeth.

                             ESSEX
                Edward knows what he is doing...      Does
                he not?

                             SOUTHAMPTON
                He promised us a mob. They'll be
                here.

      Essex looks concerned, but says no more.


127   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - ROBERT CECIL'S ROOM - DAY             127

      The servant tightens the last strap of Robert Cecil's
      armor. He smiles at himself in the mirror.

                             "GLOUCESTER" (O.S.)
                Plots have I laid!

      CANNONS DRAWN BY HORSES

      as they roll down a cobbled street.   We are:


128   EXT. LONDON BRIDGE   - DAY                                    128

      Soldiers move people and carts off the street. Others
      put CANNONS into place and then cover them with canvas
      tarps.

                             "GLOUCESTER" (O.S.)
                Inductions dangerous, by drunken
                prophecies, libels and dreams, to set
                my brother Clarence and the king in
                deadly hate the one against the other.


                                                                   117
                                                         pg. 118


129   INT. THE GLOBE THEATER - DAY                                  129

      Shakespeare watches from backstage, getting more and
      more nervous by the audience's reaction.

                               AN AUDIENCE MEMBER
                         (to the actor playing
                          "Gloucester")
                  A pox on you!

                               FRANCESCO
                  A pox on Cecil!

                               MORE AUDIENCE MEMBERS
                  A pox on Cecil! A pox on Cecil!

      The actors are getting nervous.      People start throwing
      lettuce and tomatoes at them.

                               NASHE
                  Why is Oxford's man with the Groundlings?

      BACKSTAGE

      Shakespeare and Burbage exchange a worried glance.


130   EXT. ESSEX HOUSE - DAY                                        130

      The BELLS of St. James' Cathedral mark the hour as five
      o'clock. Essex looks to Southampton nervously.


131   INT. THE GLOBE THEATER - DAY                                  131

      The play continues. "Gloucester" is plotting yet
      another death on his way to the throne.

                               "GLOUCESTER"
                  Hath she forgot already that brave
                  prince,    
                  Edward, her lord, whom I, some three
                  months since,    
                  Stabb'd in my angry mood at Tewksbury?
                     A sweeter and a lovelier gentleman-
                      Fram'd in the prodigality of
                  nature,     Young, valiant, wise, and
                  no doubt right royal-     

                               FRANCESCO
                  Down with Cecil!

      The actor playing "Gloucester" hesitates.     The audience
      is getting unruly.

                                                                   118
                                                    pg. 119


                         FRANCESCO (CONT'D)
            Up with Essex! To Essex House!     To
            Essex House!!

IN THE GALLERIES

Jonson is putting the pieces together.   He stands.

                         JONSON
            This is what Essex is waiting for--
                   (realizing)
            Oxford is bringing him a mob.

Jonson heads for the stairs.

                         NASHE
            Why would Oxford--

                         JONSON
            I don't know, I don't know! But, the
            Tower-- Cecil, he already knows. He
            knows!
                   (looks at Francesco)
            I-- I have to warn them!

Nashe and Dekker are baffled as Jonson rushes down the
stairs.

                         VARIOUS GROUNDLINGS
            Up with Essex! Essex! Death to
            Cecil!

BACKSTAGE

Shakespeare turns to Burbage.

                         SHAKESPEARE
            We must close the play. Now!!

                         BURBAGE
            Close the...? Are you off your head?

We can start to HEAR the audience chanting "Ess-ex,Ess-
ex"...

ON STAGE

It's getting unruly.

                         "GLOUCESTER"
                   (repeating)
            Fram'd... in the prodigality of
            nature, Young, valiant, wise, and no
            doubt right royal-

                                                              119
                                                       pg. 120


      "Ess-ex, Ess-ex, Ess-ex"

      ON THE GROUND

      Jonson pushes his way through the crowd, trying to head
      for Francesco. But they're separated by a sea of people.

                             FRANCESCO
                To Essex House! To Essex House!
                Death to Cecil! Traitor!

      A moment as the whole audience thinks on this. And
      then these chants are repeated by hundreds in the
      audience as they are pushing towards exits.

      And Jonson-- still struggling to reach Francesco-- is
      carried along with the mob.


132   EXT. OUTSIDE THE GLOBE THEATER - DAY                        132

      The mob pours out of the doors.

      Storm clouds are gathering.   A RUMBLE of thunder sounds
      in the distance.


133   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - HALLWAY - DAY                       133

      Oxford is waiting for his audience, looking out a
      window, nervously.


134   EXT. BANKSIDE LONDON - DAY                                  134

      The crowd pours through Bankside, growing in numbers as
      more people come out of taverns, whore-houses, etc...

      A shop-owner comes out of his store, confused.   Another
      MAN grabs him.

                             MAN
                To Essex!   And then to the Queen!
                       (joins in the chanting)
                Ess-ex! Ess-ex!

      The shop-owner begins to get the spirit of the mob.


135   EXT. LONDON BRIDGE - DAY                                    135

      If anything, the crowd is twice the size it was moments
      ago. They head down the shop-lined bridge, full of
      bravado.

                                                                 120
                                                      pg. 121


      JONSON

      is in the middle of the uncontrolled mob.   He spots
      Francesco nearby.

      WIDER

      The mob has to slow down on the bridge. There is not
      much room. And then it happens!

      We are at the front of the mob, when the first soldiers
      appear and pull down the tarps revealing the cannons.

      People scream as an Officer appears and--

                               OFFICER
                Fire!

      And then the cannon FIRES. There is PANIC all around,
      and-

      JONSON

      runs with the crowd, trying to escape.


137   EXT. ESSEX HOUSE - DAY                                     137

      Essex and Southampton look tense.   They expected a mob
      here by now.

                             SOUTHAMPTON
                They should be here by now...

      Essex frowns.

                             ESSEX
                We go as we are! Now!!

      And he spurs his horse, and GALLOPS down the street.

                             ESSEX (CONT'D)
                To the Queen!

      Southampton has no choice, and follows.   So do the 60
      or so men behind them.


136   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - HALLWAY - DAY                      136

      Oxford hears a cannon shot. But it could also be the
      sound of thunder. He goes to the window, sees the rain
      clouds, and dismisses the sound. A LADY IN WAITING
      enters.

                                                                121
                                                          pg. 122


                                  LADY-IN-WAITING
                   My lord.    Her majesty will be with you
                   shortly.

138   Omitted                                                        138


139   EXT. LONDON BRIDGE - DAY                                       139

      The mob is in panic.      And--

      JONSON

      is in the middle of it.

                                FRANCESCO
                   Signor Jonson! We are betrayed!    Run!
                   Run!

      Jonson looks on in horror as Francesco is KILLED by a
      soldier wielding a pike.


140   EXT. WHITEHALL PALACE - COURTYARD - DAY                        140

      Essex and his men ROAR past the token guards at the
      front gate, and gallop into the--

      MAIN COURTYARD

      Essex rears his horse, looks around at the many windows
      that surround them from above.

                                ESSEX
                   To the Queen! To the Queen!

      His men repeat his plea.      And then, once again, another
      trap springs.

      THE GATE

      SLAMS closed.    And--

      GUARDS ARMED WITH MUSKETS

      line up in a colonnade in the story above.      Pole is in
      command.

                                POLE
                   Take your aim!

      SOUTHAMPTON

      realizes--

                                                                    122
                                                        pg. 123


                                SOUTHAMPTON
                 It's a trap!

                                ESSEX
                 Spread out!

       But before his men can obey--

       IN THE COLONNADE

       Pole orders--

                                POLE
                 Fire!!

       IN THE COURTYARD

       AND a hundred shots FIRE down into Essex and his men!


141    INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - HALLWAY - DAY                       141

       Oxford HEARS the SHOTS fired.    Confused, he goes to a
       window, looks out and sees:

       FROM HIS POV:

       Men fall all around Essex and Southampton.


141A   EXT. WHITEHALL PALACE - COURTYARD - DAY                    141A

       Pole walks down the colonnade.

                                POLE
                 Re-load!


142    INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - AUDIENCE CHAMBER - DAY              142

       Elizabeth heads for the window just as a door behind
       her SLAMS open, and Robert Cecil hurries in with a
       dozen guards.

                              ROBERT CECIL
                 Majesty! You must away! Essex is in
                 armed revolt! He's come to usurp you!

                             ELIZABETH
                       (confused)
                 Essex? I-- Edward is--

       She seems like a confused old woman.


                                                                  123
                                                       pg. 124


                             ROBERT CECIL
                You must flee! Quickly! Majesty! He
                means to kill you and take your throne
                for himself!

      It takes only an instant for that to sink in. She
      looks enraged. And then she turns with a flurry, and
      heads back the way she came. The guards that were with
      Robert Cecil follow her.


143   EXT. WHITEHALL PALACE - COURTYARD - DAY                     143

      Another fusillade is SHOT, and more of Essex's men go
      down.

      And then doors OPEN on the ground floor, and guards
      RUSH out to take down the survivors.

      Essex and Southampton valiantly fight, but there's just
      too many.

      They're soon surrounded... And Essex, knowing all is
      lost, raises his sword in defeat.

      Southampton sees this, and does the same.


144   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - HALLWAY - CONTINUOUS                144

      Oxford watches all of this through the window.

                             ROBERT CECIL (O.S.)
                She won't forgive him this, Edward.

      Oxford turns, devastated.

                              ROBERT CECIL (CONT'D)
                Essex will be convicted and executed
                for treason.
                       (beat)
                As will your son.

      Oxford looks shocked.

                             ROBERT CECIL (CONT'D)
                       (smiles)
                What? Didn't you think I knew? Of
                course I knew, Edward. My father told
                me all his secrets. All of them.
                       (smiling)
                Though the most fascinating was not
                made known to me until after his
                death.
                             (MORE)
                                                                 124
                                                  pg. 125

                       ROBERT CECIL (CONT'D)
          He hated you, Edward, how he hated
          you. And yet he married his only
          daughter to you. I never knew why,
          until I read his last letter to me.

                       OXFORD
          He wanted his grandson to be an Earl.

                        ROBERT CECIL
          No, Edward.   He wanted his grandson to
          be a king.

Oxford now looks confused.

                       ROBERT CECIL (CONT'D)
          Elizabeth had several children,
          Edward, not just yours. She was
          sixteen for the first. Bloody Mary
          was still Queen, and our future
          Gloriana was out of favor. No one
          thought her very important at all.
          Except my father, of course. And when
          her first child was born, a male, my
          father took it, and hid it. The
          grandson of Henry VIII, the foundling
          of course had to be reared a nobleman.
          John De Vere, the previous Earl of
          Oxford, agreed to accept the task.

Oxford goes ashen.

                        OXFORD
          You lie...

                        ROBERT CECIL
          Do I?
                 (beat)
          Why do you think he worked so hard to
          become your guardian after your father
          died? He had it all planned years in
          advance. He would teach you
          everything he knew about statecraft,
          marry his daughter, and, after
          Elizabeth's death, proclaim you heir.
          His own grandchild to follow you on
          the throne. But he couldn't possibly
          predict what kind of failure you would
          become. How you would fail in
          politics, ignore your estates to the
          point of bankruptcy, all to write...
                 (sneers)
          Poetry.
                 (beat)
          Or that you would commit incest.
                        (MORE)
                                                            125
                                                        pg. 126

                               ROBERT CECIL (CONT'D)
                        (beat)
                 Delicious isn't it? Right out of a
                 Greek tragedy.

                              OXFORD
                 Elizabeth would never have--

                               ROBERT CECIL
                 What?  Slept with her son?
                        (beat)
                 I don't think she ever knew, to tell
                 you the truth. Though you never know
                 with the Tudors. They all have had
                 such strange tastes in bed-fellows.
                        (beat)
                 You could have been a king, Edward.
                 And your son after you. Except for
                 the fact that... you were you.


145    EXT. WHITEHALL PALACE - COURTYARD - DAY                     145

       It's raining, hard.

       Oxford almost stumbles out of the building onto the now
       empty courtyard. The remains of the battle are still
       visible. Wounded, screaming horses struggle to
       stand...

       Oxford's a shell-- devoid of emotion. Broken. Hardly
       alive at all. He drops to his knees, the rain pouring
       down on him.

       We see the silhouette of a man watching through a
       window from the second story above. It's--


145A   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - HALL - SAME TIME                   145A

       --Robert Cecil, a slight smile on his face.

       Pole approaches him from behind. Robert Cecil doesn't
       turn or acknowledge Pole, but speaks to him as he
       stares at Oxford.

                              ROBERT CECIL
                 I want a fair trial for Southampton...
                 Evidence, witnesses, no false
                 confessions. It must be above
                 reproach. Though with a guilty
                 verdict of course. Oh, and Pole--
                        (turns)
                 If there is any mention of that play--
                        (looks back at Oxford)
                              (MORE)
                                                                  126
                                                        pg. 127

                             ROBERT CECIL (CONT'D)
                --Make certain the secretaries refer
                to it as Richard the Second. There
                will be no mention of hunchbacks in
                the official record...

                                                         CUT TO:


146   EXT. OXFORD STONE - GARDEN - DAY                             146

      Oxford is sitting in a chair, watching the river
      Thames, alone. Snow is falling and Oxford is covered
      in a thick blanket. He looks ill.

      Anne walks up behind him.

                             ANNE
                Sentence has been passed.

      Oxford looks over at her.   Anne smiles.   This news
      gives her great pleasure.

                              ANNE (CONT'D)
                They are to be be-headed.
                       (with venom)
                Both of them. Essex tomorrow,
                Southampton in a week.
                       (beat)
                Your son is going to be killed,
                Edward. By his own mother. Put that
                in one of your plays!

      And she leaves him with that.


147   EXT. THE TOWER OF LONDON - COURTYARD - DAY                   147

      Essex-- dressed in black, but with a bright red
      waistcoat-- is led up a scaffold by guards, his hands
      bound behind him.

      Snow covers the courtyard. There are only a few
      witnesses, as befitting Essex's rank.

      ESSEX

      stands, looking at life one last time. The Executioner
      approaches with an axe. Essex turns, realizing it is
      time.

                               ESSEX
                Strike true.

      He kneels, resting his head on a wooden bench.

                                                                  127
                                                          pg. 128


                              ESSEX (CONT'D)
                 God save the Queen!

      And BAM!   Just as the axe lands we--

                                                           CUT TO:

      FROM A WINDOW

      we see the body of Essex fall onto the scaffolding, his
      head into a basket. We are:


148   INT. THE TOWER OF LONDON - A CELL - DAY                        148

      Southampton, a prisoner, is watching his future fate
      from a room high in a tower.

                                                      DISSOLVE TO:

      BOOTS

      as they walk, limping along tiled floors.      We are:


149   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - AUDIENCE CHAMBER - DAY                 149

      Doors fly open and Oxford appears before Elizabeth, who
      is on her throne, regal and all in white, surrounded
      by courtiers, including Robert Cecil. But she looks
      very old, very ill.

      Everyone goes silent as Oxford approaches Elizabeth.
      Oxford makes no notice of them. He bows deeply in
      front of her.

                                ELIZABETH
                 Leave us.    All of you.

      People start to exit.     But not Robert Cecil.

                                ROBERT CECIL
                 Majesty, I--

                                ELIZABETH
                 Leave us!

      Cecil exits, obviously worried.       When they are alone:

                              ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
                 You look old...

      Oxford smiles sadly.


                                                                    128
                                                pg. 129


                       OXFORD
          I thank your majesty for seeing me.

                       ELIZABETH
          You cannot have him.

                       OXFORD
          He is our son.

                       ELIZABETH
          Who did commit High Treason!

                       OXFORD
          They only wished for a place in
          government equal to their station.
          Equal to their birth.

                       ELIZABETH
          You caused this! Your play, your
          words, caused my people to mob against
          me! Do you think I wasn't aware of
          your plot with this man Shakespeare,
          that I wouldn't recognize your voice?
          It should be your head on the block
          next week, not Southampton's!

Oxford kneels.

                       OXFORD
          Then take my head. In our son's
          stead.

Elizabeth turns away from him, angered.   She walks to a
window, turns her back on him.

                       OXFORD (CONT'D)
          Neither they nor I ever conspired
          against you. Cecil alone was our aim.
          He has corrupted your--

                        ELIZABETH
          Cecil?  He has kept me my throne!
                 (beat)
          Mary, Queen of Scots... Philip, King
          of Spain... Four French Louis's...
          Eight Popes-- they all wanted my head.
          My throne. All of them!
                 (beat)
          Yet here I remain... Because of the
          Cecils.

                       OXFORD
          We would have protected you--


                                                          129
                                                 pg. 130


                        ELIZABETH
          You would have protected me? You? My
          "loyal" Earls?
                 (snarls)
          You think Essex and Southampton were
          the first to conspire against me, to
          try to take my throne? No!
                 (beat)
          Only the Cecils could I trust!
          Commoners! They could never claim my
          throne. Never! Their wealth, their
          power, their survival, all depended on
          me. Me and no other!

A long beat before--

                       OXFORD
          Let our child live...

                       ELIZABETH
                 (furious)
          All Englishmen are my children!

She has a coughing fit. Oxford patiently waits until
she has recovered. Finally...

                       ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          Does he know?

Oxford shakes his head.

                       ELIZABETH (CONT'D)
          And if I give him to you?

                       OXFORD
          He will never learn of it from me.

She pauses for a long moment...    And then she decides.

                        ELIZABETH
          He must never know... Never.
                 (beat)
          Take him.

Oxford dares to smile, relieved.

                        OXFORD
          But only after my death! Only then!
          When all is complete. After James is
          crowned king, his crown safe, only
          then can you claim your son... our
          son.
                 (beat)
          This Island will be whole.
                        (MORE)
                                                           130
                                                         pg. 131

                              OXFORD (CONT'D)
                One Island, one kingdom, one King.
                       (with disgust)
                Scotsman though he be.
                       (beat)
                That, that will be my final gift to my
                people.
                       (beat)
                And I shall remain pure... Un-taken!

      Elizabeth again looks out a window.

                             ELIZABETH
                Treason... that is all that has come
                from you... your son... Your plays...
                None will be claimed by you. None.

      And she leaves the throne chamber. Oxford looks after
      her as the SOUNDS of BELLS slowly begin GONGING as we-

                                                   DISSOLVE TO:


150   EXT. LONDON - DAY                                             150

      The bell-ringing comes from St. Paul's Cathedral, the
      largest church in the City.

                                                          CUT TO:


151   EXT. THE THAMES RIVER - DAY                                   151

      On the frozen river Thames we see the funeral
      procession for the greatest Queen England has ever
      seen. Everybody follows the carriage with the casket
      of the queen.

      All the lords and ladies of the land.   All wear
      elaborate black clothing.

      First is Robert Cecil.   Proudly.   Not far walks Oxford.

      He is a statue. Devoid of emotion. And then joyous
      CHORAL MUSIC replaces the CHURCH GONGS as we--

                                                          CUT TO:

      A GOLD CROWN

      as it is placed on a head.    We are:




                                                                   131
                                                       pg. 132


152   INT. WESTMINSTER ABBEY - DAY                                152

      JAMES I (late 30's) is being crowned by the Archbishop.
      All the lords and ladies of the land are standing in
      attendance.

      ROBERT CECIL

      is watching James. His face betrays his proud
      feelings. All of Robert Cecil's desires have come true.

      Oxford's wife Anne is there, but Oxford is nowhere to
      be seen.

                             ARCHBISHOP (O.S.)
                God save the King!

                             EVERYONE IN THE ABBEY
                God save the King!

                                                        CUT TO:


153   EXT. STREET IN FRONT OF TOWER OF LONDON - DAY               153

      It's foggy. Oxford stands next to a carriage, waiting
      as the gates open, and Southampton-- scruffy and a bit
      worse for wear-- is escorted out.

      Southampton smiles weakly when he sees Oxford waiting
      for him. The two men walk towards each other and
      embrace.

      Both men have tears in their eyes.

                             SHAKESPEARE (O.S.)
                No, no, no, no.

                                                        CUT TO:


154   INT. THE GLOBE THEATER - DAY                                154

      Shakespeare is on stage, supervising a rehearsal of
      "Much Ado About Nothing". He doesn't look pleased.

                             SHAKESPEARE
                The line won't get a laugh that way.
                You must accent the word sirrah--

                              JONSON (O.S.)
                Will!   Will Shakespeare!



                                                                 132
                                                        pg. 133


      Shakespeare turns and sees Jonson heading his way.
      Jonson is completely drunk, waving a sword in one hand,
      a tankard in another.

                               JONSON (CONT'D)
                So!    Off to the palace are you?

      Shakespeare immediately sees Jonson's condition.

                              SHAKESPEARE
                Ben!

                             JONSON
                A command performance for our new
                king! Even in bloody Scotland they've
                heard of bloody Will Shakespeare, have
                they? Fraud. Charlatan.
                Counterfeiter of wit! Murderer!

      The actors on stage are all watching, nervous.

                             SHAKESPEARE
                Ben, please...

      But Jonson CHARGES Shakespeare. Shakespeare easily
      dodges the drunk Jonson. Jonson ROARS and attacks
      again.

      Shakespeare dodges again, turns, and manages to grab
      Jonson by the throat. They are face to face.

                             SHAKESPEARE (CONT'D)
                You came to me, Ben. You came to me!

      They stare at each other and then Shakespeare SHOVES
      him off. Jonson falls to the ground.

                                                         CUT TO:


155   EXT. OUTSIDE THE GLOBE THEATER - LATE AFTERNOON              155

      Jonson-- only semi conscious-- is carried by the actors
      and dumped into the street. They leave him there. He
      wallows in the mud for a beat. Then--

                             SERVANT (O.C.)
                Master Jonson?

      Jonson looks up to see one of Oxford's servants
      standing above him.




                                                                  133
                                                       pg. 134


156   INT. OXFORD STONE - OUTSIDE OXFORD'S BEDROOM - DUSK         156

      The servant guides Jonson towards Oxford's bedroom just
      as Anne and a DOCTOR emerge from it. She recognizes
      him.

                             ANNE
                       (to servant)
                What is this man doing in my house?

      The servant doesn't know what to say.

                             ANNE (CONT'D)
                       (to Jonson)
                You will leave at once. My husband is
                quite ill--

                             JONSON
                It was your husband who sent for me,
                madam.

                             ANNE
                And I am dismissing you--

      A SECOND DOCTOR exits the sick man's room.

                             SECOND DOCTOR
                Are you Jonson?

      Jonson nods.

                             SECOND DOCTOR (CONT'D)
                He's asking for you.

                             JONSON
                Excuse me, your grace.

                                                        CUT TO:


157   INT. OXFORD STONE - OXFORD'S BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS           157

      Oxford, in bed, looks quite ill, sweat covering his
      brow.

      He furiously writes on a small tablet on his lap. He
      holds up his hand for silence as Jonson enters, the
      doctor following behind him.

                             OXFORD
                Thank you, doctor.

      The doctor exits.


                                                                 134
                                                  pg. 135


                       OXFORD (CONT'D)
          Come over here, Jonson...

He points to a chair by the bed. When Jonson sits down
he notices a big pile of manuscripts by the side of the
bed.

                        OXFORD (CONT'D)
          Did you know, Jonson, that my family
          can trace its peerage farther back
          than any family in the kingdom?   We
          fought at Crecy. At Bosworth Field.
          At Agincourt.
                 (beat)
          I inherited my Earldom as one of the
          wealthiest men ever to breathe English
          air... and at last breath, I shall be
          one of the poorest.

Jonson looks on sadly.

                        OXFORD (CONT'D)
          Never a voice in government. Never a
          sword raised in glorious battle. No
          immortal deeds for my heirs to know me
          by.
                 (beat)
          Words, merely words, are to be my
          legacy...
                 (beat)
          You alone watch my plays and know them
          as mine. When I hear the applause,
          the cheering, of the audience, all
          those hands clapping, they are
          celebrating... another man. But in
          that cacophony of sounds, I strained
          to hear the sound of two hands only.
          Yours.
                 (beat)
          But heard them, I never did.

Jonson stares at him.

                       OXFORD (CONT'D)
          Death takes away all pretense and
          demands honesty from its target. You,
          you have never told me... never told
          me what you thought of my work...

To answer is not an easy task for Jonson's ego.    He
hesitates.




                                                            135
                                                    pg. 136


                       JONSON
                 (almost a whisper)
          I find... your words... the most
          wondrous ever heard on our stage.    On
          any stage... Ever.

The two men now looking each other in the eye.

                       JONSON (CONT'D)
                 (sotto)
          You are the soul of the age...

Oxford smiles at the thought of it.   Then--

                       OXFORD
          Promise me... promise me, Jonson, that
          you will keep our secret safe. That
          you won't expose Shakespeare...

                         JONSON
          My lord?

                       OXFORD
          I have seen it in your face... He
          vexes you. How could he not? But he
          is not your burden. He is mine.

Then he nods to the manuscripts by his side.

                       OXFORD (CONT'D)
          All my writings. The plays, the
          sonnets... Keep them safe. Keep them
          from my family. From the Cecil's.
          Wait a few years, and then, publish
          them.

Jonson looks stricken.

                       JONSON
          I am not worthy of this charge, my
          lord. I... I betrayed you... I told
          them of your--

                       OXFORD
          I have made it my life to know the
          character of men, Jonson. I know you.
          You may have betrayed me, but you will
          never betray my words...

He puts the last manuscript on the pile.

Jonson looks at the--



                                                              136
                                                           pg. 137


      FRONT PAGE

      Which reads "DEDICATION", then more words, starting
      with:

      "To the Earl of Southampton"


158   INT. OXFORD STONE - OUTSIDE OXFORD'S BEDROOM - DUSK             158

      Jonson leaves Oxford's room, visibly shaken.    The
      manuscripts are under his arm.

      Anne, Oxford's wife is still there, surround by
      doctors.

      Then she sees Jonson leaving.

                                ANNE
                   Get out! You, your friends, your
                   blasphemous theaters, have brought
                   nothing but ruin and dishonor to this
                   family.

                                JONSON
                   Ruin? Dishonor? Madam. You, your
                   family, me, even Elizabeth herself
                   shall be remembered solely because we
                   had the honor to live whilst your
                   husband put ink to paper.

      He turns and exits.

                                                            CUT TO:


159   EXT. OXFORD STONE - DUSK                                        159

      Jonson exits the building and walks away. He reads the
      dedication on the first page of the manuscript as he
      walks.

                                JONSON (V.O.)
                   To the Earl of Southampton. The love
                   I dedicate to your lordship is without
                   end; whereof this pamphlet, without
                   beginning, is but a superfluous
                   moiety.

      Jonson freezes, and looks back at Oxford's house,
      realizing there is another whole layer to all this;
      exactly what he can only guess.

                                                            CUT TO:

                                                                     137
                                                       pg. 138


160   INT. OXFORD STONE - OXFORD'S ROOM - NIGHT                    160

      A few hours later. Oxford has died in his bed. Anne
      watches as a doctor covers his face with a sheet.

                             JONSON (V.O.)
                What I have done is yours; what I have
                to do is yours; being part in all I
                have, devoted, yours.


161   EXT. A SMALL CHURCH - DAY                                    161

      A casket is being interred into the family mausoleum.
      Anne is there, as are Oxford's children. So is Robert
      Cecil.

                             JONSON (V.O.)
                Were my worth greater, my duty would
                show greater; meantime, as it is, it
                is bound to your lordship, to whom I
                wish long life... still lengthened
                with all happiness.

      Southampton is there as well.   Watching. Tears roll
      down his cheeks.

                                                         CUT TO:


162   INT. TOWER OF LONDON - INTERROGATION ROOM - NIGHT            162

      Where we began.

      A bucket of water is DUMPED on Jonson. He regains
      consciousness and looks around. Somewhat confused he
      sees:

      Robert Cecil limping out of the dark towards him.
      Robert Cecil leans down, and very close to his ear,
      whispers:

                             CECIL
                I can make all this go away, Jonson...
                To be but a dream. Like one of your
                plays... Or, I can bring you so much
                pain-- pain that were you given a
                thousand years, and a thousand quills,
                you could never justly describe...

      Cecil steps back.




                                                                 138
                                                    pg. 139


                       CECIL (CONT'D)
          I know you have them. All his
          manuscripts. My sister saw you leave
          Oxford Stone with them under your arm.

Jonson takes a long time before answering. Will he
betray Oxford?

                       JONSON
          They were destroyed...   burned...   by
          your own men...

Cecil doesn't know whether to believe him or not.

                       INTERROGATOR
          He's lying...

                       JONSON
          My lord? Why would I lie? Is there a
          man alive who has reason to hate him
          more than I?

Jonson stares directly at Cecil, knowing he is speaking
about Cecil as well as himself.

                       JONSON (CONT'D)
          He was something I could never be. An
          undeniable perfection... that plagued
          my soul... And to him I was...
          nothing. A messenger. Nothing more.

Cecil stares into his eyes for a long moment, searching
for the truth. Then he smiles.

                        CECIL
          Let him go!   He tells the truth.

Robert Cecil turns to leave, but then turns a last
time.

                       CECIL (CONT'D)
          And Jonson-- better him, won't you?
          Wipe his memory for all time. For
          you. And for me.

Robert Cecil smiles at Jonson, who can only stare at
him. Finally:

                       JONSON
                 (sotto)
          I am afraid that this is not possible,
          my lord.

Robert Cecil's smile freezes and he leaves.

                                                              139
                                                         pg. 140


163    EXT. STREET IN FRONT OF TOWER OF LONDON - DAWN               163

       Jonson is getting released. He walks away....a lonely
       figure.


164    EXT. THE ROSE THEATER - DAWN                                 164

       Wide from above...Still smoking from the fire....All
       the sudden we make out Jonson searching through the
       rubble.


164A   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - AUDIENCE CHAMBER - NIGHT            164A

       Set for a Court performance of a play. Courtiers bow
       as King James I enters the chamber, Robert Cecil two
       steps behind him. James takes his seat right in front
       of the stage, as Elizabeth used to.


164B   EXT. THE ROSE THEATER - DAWN                                164B

       Jonson's eyes search the ground.   And, eventually, he
       finds it--

       THE METAL BOX

       that seems to somehow have survived the conflagration.

       JONSON

       opens the box.

       INSIDE THE BOX

       Are the manuscripts Oxford gave him. Jonson smiles,
       relieved. They are singed at the edges, but they are
       there. We hear--

                               PROLOGUE (O.S.)
                  O-- for a muse of fire... that would
                  ascend the brightest heaven of
                  invention...

                                                   DISSOLVE TO:

       AN ACTOR

       playing Prologue. He is the same actor who introduced
       the "play" at the beginning of the film. But now he
       wears Elizabethan clothing-- but again, all
       monochromatic and grey.


                                                                   140
                                                     pg. 141


                             PROLOGUE (CONT'D)
                A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
                and monarchs to behold the swelling
                scene!


165   INT. WHITEHALL PALACE - AUDIENCE CHAMBER - NIGHT          165

      And he is standing on the stage.

                             PROLOGUE
                Let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
                on your imaginary forces work.

      King James' watches enthusiastically, Robert Cecil
      right next to him.

                             JAMES I
                We had seen some of this Shakespeare's
                plays in Edinburgh, Sir Robert. I
                must tell you, we enjoyed them
                immensely, and look forward to seeing
                many more, now that we are in
                London... I presume you are as avid a
                theater man as myself?

      Robert Cecil's smile remains frozen.

                             ROBERT CECIL
                Of course, your majesty...

      The CAMERA moves away from them and we realize we are
      on the theater stage where we started.


166   INT. BROADWAY THEATER - STAGE - DUSK                      166

      "Prologue" turns and addresses his audience (and us) in
      the modern theater.

                              PROLOGUE
                Robert Cecil remained the most powerful
                man in the Court of King James, though he
                could not prevent the public theaters
                from becoming ever more popular. William
                Shakespeare, however, spent the remaining
                years of his life not in the playhouses
                of London, but in the small town of his
                birth, Stratford upon Avon, as a
                businessman and grain merchant.
                       (beat)
                              (MORE)



                                                               141
                                               pg. 142

                        PROLOGUE (CONT'D)
          Ben Jonson succeeded in his desire to be
          the most celebrated playwright of his
          time, becoming England's first Poet
          Laureate. And in 1623, he wrote the
          dedication to the collected works of the
          man we call William Shakespeare.
                 (beat)
          And so... though our story is finished,
          our poet's is not. For his monument is
          ever-living, made not of stone but of
          verse, and it shall be remembered... as
          long as words are made of breath and
          breath of life.

The curtains close.

END CREDITS start to roll...

                                              FADE OUT.