It has long been known that William Shakespeare, the greatest storyteller of the Elizabethan era, wrote his epic drama King Lear during quarantine from the plague. However, historians just recently discovered a treasure trove of other drafts he wrote during that time, pieces that would ultimately become some of his most famous works.
His most notable of sonnets, sonnet #18, was not originally written for his lover. Instead, his subject was his most trustworthy quarantine companion, the popular streaming service Netflix.
Sonnet 18, For My Dearest Netflix
Shall I compare thee to a blank brick wall?
Thou art more lively and more intr’sting:
Rough germs do confine us to this drab hall,
And summer’s breath thus solace cannot bring:
Sometime too foul the air of body smells,
And rarely is his membrane cleanly wash’d;
And every wine from wine a story tells,
By chance or as my giant thirst is quash’d;
But thy eternal video shan’t bleed
Nor lose the sweet comfort that thou givest;
Nor shall Comcast throttle thy rapid speed,
When in exile thy traffic is biggest:
So long as I can sit and my eyes see,
So long I will sit and give eyes to thee.
Such passion, such joy. Another iconic work, Hamlet, originally contained a monologue of a more banal variety than what he ultimately settled on.
Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1 Monologue
To bathe, or not to bathe—that is the question:
Whether ‘tis better for the nose to suffer
The odors of my unwashed armpits
Or to take action and leave this bed
And by moving, become clean. To wake, to shave—
No more– and by shaving to say we end
The shadow, and the thousand little hairs
That my face is heir to.
It is clear from this work that Shakespeare himself struggled mightily with self-hygiene in quarantine. As such, he sought solace, as many of us do, in food. We see this most acutely in his original draft of the famous “double, double toil and trouble” scene of the Scottish play.
Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Oven burn, and hunger double.
Two and one quarter cups flour, all-purpose
One cup (two sticks) of butter, soft surface
Three quarter cups sugar, granulated, and white
The same amount of brown, but packed in tight
The extract of vanilla, just one spoon of tea
With two eggs of chicken, large as can be
As many NESTLÉ® Semi-Sweet Morsels as one can bear
But leave off the nuts, lest thou want a scare
For the best possible comfort, in times of quarantine,
Follow this recipe, and bake away stress unseen
Triple, triple, sit and nibble;
Eat the cookies, and thus remain civil.
Sounds delicious. Finally, as we all can relate to, Shakespeare felt his fair share of loneliness and sexual desire while in isolation. His original Romeo and Juliet balcony scene suggests that he may in fact have acted on these impulses, only to be refuted by someone who understood the proper practices of social distancing.
Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2
How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
Social distancing doth dictate thou must stay outside my reach
The place is death, considering thou art outside,
If the virus doth find thee here.
With love’s light wings did I find my way to thee;
For strict health guidelines cannot hold love out,
And what love can that dares love attempt;
Therefore the virus is no threat to me,
On top of that, I be’eth hor-ny.
If thou art infected, the virus shall murder thee.
And thy excessive thirst, unappealing it be.
Go away my Romeo, while I think about what’s next
For right now the best thou’ll get is a half-hearted sext.