The 400th anniversary of the publishing of the First Folio is going to be huge - so the more, the merrier! Shakespeare is in our DNA and isn't going anywhere! My comedy drama Nay, Remember Me! tells the true story of the making of Shakespeare's First Folio, the first complete works of Shakespeare. The book that made it absolutely certain that Shakespeare's name would be eternal.
What is the First Folio?
The First Folio was the first complete works of Shakespeare to appear, perhaps the most important secular book to have ever been printed. On the 8th of November, 1623, the First Folio was entered into the Stationers' Register. The bookseller would have paid a fee of 4 to 6 pence to register the right to publish the work. On the 5th of December 2023, we know that the 25-year-old Sir Edward Dering bought two copies of the First Folio – that must have been an exciting day – it was an expensive high-end product. John Heminges and Henry Condell were the two main instigators of the project.
Who were Heminges and Condell?
Heminges and Condell acted with Shakespeare before his death in 1616, and when they lost their best source of income, they gathered all of Shakespeare's plays together to ensure an income for them (they had more than 20 children between them) and to ensure that Shakespeare's name would live on. There are 36 plays in the First Folio, and without Heminges and Condell, 18 would have been lost - such as Macbeth, Julius Caesar, The Tempest and Twelfth Night.
Is Nay, Remember Me! based on a true story?
Yes, the play charts the true story of the making of Shakespeare's First Folio. It follows the main facts as we know them. Heminges and Condell were actors who worked with Shakespeare, so the move to the publishing world was a big leap; they were inexperienced and out of their depth, Nay, Remember Me! explores the ups and the many downs of their ambitious project. There is one fictional event, but I don't want to spoil the surprise!
Why is the play a comedy?
I wanted the play to be fun to perform in and fun for the audience to watch: I put Shakespeare on the stage at the beginning of the play, but after the first scene, he appears as a rather vague and charming ghost.
I turned the character of the apprentice Leason into a cross-dressing role because this reminds us that men played all the male and female roles during the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. There is also a chance for some comedy here too.
Having lived in Stratford-upon-Avon for some years, I couldn't resist adding scenes that take a lighthearted peep at modern-day Stratford-upon-Avon to marvel at Shakespeare's legacy.
Are there serious moments in the play?
There are serious moments too - the death of one of the main characters, the printer Jaggard, did happen, which was a potential disaster for Heminges and Condell, but for a playwright, this is gold dust. As Shakespeare is such a global figure, I decided that the play should also pop over the Atlantic to Washington, DC, to meet Folger, the oil baron who spent a fortune on collecting First Folios and spent millions of dollars setting up the Folger Library - he was a very serious collector. The Folger Library now owns 82 of the original 750 copies that were printed in 1623.
Is the Nay Remember Me! only about men?
I was aware when I was writing the play that it was likely only to tell the story of the guys! So, I bring Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway, into the story and send her to London. There she meets Heminges' wife, Rebecca, and they exchange views on the all-consuming work that engages Heminges' every waking moment.
At the end of the play, I bring the woman onto the stage, including Emily Folger, so that they can have their say. But they are interrupted by the Ghost of Shakespeare, who disputes their grievances. In the end, anyone who directs Nay, Remember Me! can decide how they want to handle the ending, which, whilst comedic, does point to the problems that the wives of great men must endure, and I tried to address that. It can end happily, or the ending can be slightly darker.
Where was Nay, Remember Me! first performed?
In 2001 I was a student at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon studying for my MA in Shakespeare Studies; I was also working part-time for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The RSC announced that they would hold a Fringe Festival at the Other Place Theatre; I entered my play, and it was selected for inclusion. All the performances were sold out; the final performance on a Sunday afternoon was so full we had to get chairs from the cafe for people to sit on!
The director and designer, Chris Bassett, did a great job with the design; he also directed the piece, arranged the loan of the costumes and together, we assembled a group of both professional and amateur players to perform.
In addition, a printer based in Kidderminster loaned us some printing paraphernalia which was utilised throughout the production to give a sense of the atmosphere of the printing house.
2010 - The revival of Nay, Remember Me!
I later reworked and extended the piece, and Malvern Theatre Players produced it in 2010, where it was performed at the Coach House Theatre in Malvern, once again designed and directed by Chris Bassett. This production was nominated for a prize by NODA for the Best Regional Production Award for Best Drama. NODA's representative, Trevor Guest, said that "Nay. Remember Me! has both humour and pathos, and the script is exceptionally well-written.
Nay, Remember Me! then toured to the Medieval Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey in Torquay; again, all the performances were sold out.
Yes, but in 2023, is Shakespeare really still relevant?
As well as being a writer, I still lecture in Shakespeare Studies, and I believe that Shakespeare is increasingly relevant. We often hear about Shakespeare and his power over language; he invented 1,700 words, but Shakespeare has also had a significant impact on our cultural landscape. For example, our obsession with the skull motif can be traced back to Hamlet and Yorick's skull. The Porter in Macbeth fathered the knock, knock joke. The capital city of Australia might have been Shakespeare. The list is endless. The 400th-anniversary celebrations will further endorse Shakespeare's reputation, I am sure.
Why is 2023 a perfect year to perform a play about the First Folio?
There's no better way to celebrate drama than performing more drama! So, 2023 is the perfect year to consider putting on a production of Nay, Remember Me! It's the ideal piece for amateur and professional companies alike. Shakespeare was a West Midlands lad, and one of the two main protagonists, John Heminges, was born in Droitwich. But Condell was from Lincoln, and the apprentice Leason was from Hampshire. It would be great to see productions of the play being performed in some of these areas, but of course, he is a global figure, so the sky is the limit.
2023 will be a big year for the Bard, and this opportunity won't come along for at least a hundred years when our great-great-grandkids will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the publishing of the First Folio.
More information and contact details:
You can find the link to my YouTube film of the 2010 production at Torre Abbey in Devon by visiting: www.ameliamarriette.com/plays
Nay, Remember Me! is published by Lazy Bee Scripts: you can read the play for free online, find out the cost of getting a licence and much more by visiting:
Lazy Bee Scripts
4 Marsham Drive
Stockport, SK6 7DP
(UK) 0161 355 2374
(Mob) 079 6681 9638
NB. The prompt book, photographs, lighting plans, set design plans and a video of the 2010 production are available upon request. Props and costumes can be hired from the Malvern Theatre Players. www.malvern-theatres.co.uk Or by calling 01684 89227Sunda
If you want to get in touch with me, please do. I am always happy to offer workshops, or I can deliver one of my Shakespeare talks or act as a literary advisor if you want to perform my play.
I will be running a workshop for the Society of Teachers of Speech and Drama in August 2023 in Malvern; please subscribe to my blog to keep updated about this event and more. www.ameliamarriette.com/blog
UPDATE - News this week:
Both the Amdram Site and the Drama Groups site list Authors and Scripts too, and Nay, Remember Me! is now Listed on both sites.
The Shakespeare Institute Library in Stratford-upon-Avon have just listed Nay, Remember Me! under the new acquisitions section. Shakespeare Institute Library - University of Birmingham
The Theatre Network @theatrenetwork is also championing the play for both professional and amateur companies.
The Publication of the Society of Teachers of Speech and Drama Word Matters will publish my article about the First Folio in their March edition, and Nay, Remember Me! will be reviewed by an independent reviewer in the same issue. Publications – STSD