WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE left London near the end of his days because he was going blind, according to a playwright who has studied the Bard’s life and working conditions.
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“It would have been virtually impossible for him to get to the age of 48 and still have 20-20 vision,” said Rick Thomas, whose play on the subject, For All Time, is to hit the boards next summer.
With his eyesight on the blink, Shakespeare’s writing would have been impossible and his main reason for living in London gone, goes the argument.
“I started off thinking about how Shakespeare would spend his working day,” Thomas explained. “He would have been rehearsing in the morning and performing in the afternoon, so if he was going to write at all it would have been in the evening. For six months of the year that would have been in candlelight.”
“I just can’t see that Shakespeare could have had that clear vision.”
Thomas could claim support for his ideas from the man himself, who used blindness as a running metaphor in King Lear. One of the characters, Gloucester, has his eyes cruelly removed, but finds that he can ‘see’ all the better for it. “I see it feelingly,’ is how Gloucester puts it.
Rival theories as to why Britain’s greatest writer left London include the shock of seeing the Globe theatre burn down in 1613; a general wish to wind down after decades of work; the pull of Stratford-upon-Avon, where his daughters were in the process of bearing him grandchildren, and the straightforward idea that Shakespeare never really walked out on London at all, that, in fact, he moved between his two home towns throughout his life.
Bearing all that in mind, Thomas is careful not to claim certainty.
“I plumped for blindness in the end, but the truth is we just do not know and the truth is we will probably never know,” he said.