TONY JONES: Good evening and welcome to Q&A, which tonight is live from the House of Lords itself. To answer your questions tonight: the "Bard of Avon", theatre owner and playwright William Shakespeare, prominent pro-Catholic spokesperson Guy Fawkes, Member of Parliament and Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire Edmund Sheffield, statesman, scientist and KC Francis Bacon and celebrated alchemist and mathematician, John Dee. Please welcome our panel.
Remember that Q&A is live from 09.30 Eastern Time, so join the Twitter conversation by sending in your carrier pigeons, or mail us by hiring a herald and runner. But let's go to our very first question, which comes from Lord de Rouge from Didcott.
LORD DE ROUGE: Given the patronage of His Majesty of one particular theatre, does the panel feel that the arts generally shall suffer henceforth a hideous degradation?
TONY JONES: I think that we should hear from William on this first.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: Prithee, shall I compare thee to a lady with birth pangs? There is wailing and much shouting, but whence the babe be born, a great celebration may be found amongst its family.
GUY FAWKES: You say that but you are the very one in receipt of poor a thousand crowns a year from the king's own purse.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: Thou art a knave!
GUY FAWKES: Call me a knave again and a thousand times a knave, and yet thou are not fit to be even called a beggar.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: What is this nonsense?
GUY FAWKES: It is you and people like you, and indeed this great parliament who resides over in your own words "this realm, this land, this England", who beg for the King's shilling and marry get it, for thou art little more than a blaggard who dost sit at the end of the King's chamber and play for sport? No sir, thou playest for monies.
Even thy great theatre which thou call "the Globe", is not a globe but a temple to thy own self-aggrandising, and a coffin to thy spirit. Dost thou pay thy taxes as the peasant folk do? Not a bar of it. Not a bar. Thou dost not only withhold thy taxes but thou playest for monies from the peasantry who can ill-afford to surrender the bread from their table.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: Prithee good sir, wouldst thou hold the wages back from a merchant? Consider this very frame upon which thy eyes are set and thou tongue which flashes quick against to be the very frame of a merchant who trades not in rude goods, but of wit, merriment and mirth. The theatre doth employ more than merely players but singers and minstrels, and magick men, and orators. Indeed this very House of Lords, be a theatre of our Lords and Masters, some of who derive their monies from oratory within this place.
TONY JONES: If we wouldn't mind, I'd like to hear Lord Sheffield's thoughts.
EDMUND SHEFFIELD: What?...
TONY JONES: Do you think that the King favouring one theatre over another is a bad thing for the arts?
EDMUND SHEFFIELD: Well I... er... that is to say... it could very well be that if one thing leads to another thing that maybe... what?
TONY JONES: Do you think that the King is playing favourites?
EDMUND SHEFFIELD: That is to say... I should jolly well hope so. He is the King.
TONY JONES: I think that we'll leave that question there. Our next question comes via a foot messenger from the Duke of Salisbury and we writes: "Good evening yon Q and A. My question is directed towards the 'playwright' William Shakespeare. Did thee or did thee not really write and conceive all of those plays, sonnets and poems thyself, or did thou hav'st a ghost writing apprentice?
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: As far as the east is from the west, I shalt swear on this land itself that I wrote every play, sonnet and poem, and every skerrick, iota and dot myself.
FRANCIS BACON: Swear thou mightst, for thou art adding lying to thievery.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: How dare you!
FRANCIS BACON: Audere est facere - to dare is to do.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: Pay him no attention, for he is a cad and a bounder!
TONY JONES: I think we have a comment from Lord Sheffield.
EDMUND SHEFFIELD: I quite like plays... and lashings of sack...
TONY JONES: I think we have had quite enough of Lord Sheffield at the moment...
EDMUND SHEFFIELD: Thank you...
FRANCIS BACON: This... William... is a lair of the most voracious kind. Most prudently he did not write every play, sonnet and poem, and every skerrick, iota and dot himself, for 'twas by my own pen that words doth flow, 'twixt the mind and the parchment. 'Twas mine eyes that saw these words doth form and dance upon the pages and 'twas my own mind which bore these words.
TONY JONES: We have a comment from the floor...
AUDIENCE: Why Mr Shakespeare will my children great and grand be forced to sit and study your texts?
TONY JONES: We take that as a comment...
JOHN DEE: Can I just say that it is reasonable for the King to employ players, wise men, armorists and alchemists as he sees fit? He is the King and has the Divine Right to do with His kingdom as he pleases.
TONY JONES: It looks as though we have a message brought to us via the medium of song, brought to us by the House of Lords own interns. They like to call their piece an Intern-ette.
HOUSE INTERNS: 'Twas long ago in days of old,
Whence men thought to turn lead to gold.
May what we ask from us to you,
Is can this task ever be true?
TONY JONES: I think that this question is best directed to John Dee don't you think?
JOHN DEE: Thank you.
TONY JONES: Er...
JOHN DEE: I do not view the world or its learnings as different pursuits, but all learnings as facets of the same enlightenment. All things both corporeal and ethereal have their being in the two realms of the visible and the invisible. Once one begins to understand the pure verities of the invisible and ethereal realm, I believe it will be possible to alter the qualities of a thing in the visible and corporeal realm.
TONY JONES: Do you think that it will be possible to turn lead into gold?
JOHN DEE: I can not see why not.
EDMUND SHEFFIELD: Jolly good...
GUY FAWKES: I have seen Lords who can turn large fortunes into little ones...
EDMUND SHEFFIELD: I have seen potatoes...
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: I have seen the world will end in fire, and the world end in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favour fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate, to say that for destruction ice, is also great, and would suffice.
FRANCIS BACON: I bet thou stole that as well...
TONY JONES: I believe that we have a question from a lowly peasant on the floor, a Mr Peter McDow.
PETER McDOW: Ahem...
TONY JONES: Peter?...
PETER McDOW: Oh yes... Ahem... Mister Shakespeare, In your recent play "Othello the Moor", you cast both Moors and Catholics in a poor light. What do you really think about Moors and Catholics?
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: I merely reflect the gaze of the people. I care not for the reflections therein...
EDMUND SHEFFIELD: All Catholics are a nuisance and should be either shot, or rounded up and burned.
TONY JONES: Do you really believe that?
EDMUND SHEFFIELD: Of course!... them and the Jews, the Moors, the French, the Scots, all manner of street urchins and the poor... especially the poor. I would be happy if a great fire engulfed this City of London and burned all of the poor of this city to a crisp.
TONY JONES: That's a little harsh...
GUY FAWKES: It would be from one of whom poverty has never set foot on his doorstep.
TONY JONES: We have a question from the floor from a Mr Robert Catesby.
ROBERT CATESBY: Given the anti-Catholic sentiment in the last question, does anyone think that an attack on the King or Parliament may occur soon?
EDMUND SHEFFIELD: God forbid such a thing to ever occur!
TONY JONES: But would it be technically possible?
JOHN DEE: I don't think a Lord with a great army could mount an attack on the Parliament in the streets, though a wise man might if he were studious, decide to deliver his terrible arsenal under cover of night fall.
TONY JONES: How so?
JOHN DEE: This great house of swill has a vast undercroft underneath it. If one could disguise gunpowder, masquerading of barrels of wine, then perhaps one could store thirty or fortyfold of barrels?
TONY JONES: We have a comment from Francis...
FRANCIS BACON: May I just say that printing, gunpowder and the compass: These three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world; the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third in navigation; whence have followed innumerable changes, in so much that no empire, no sect, no star seems to have exerted greater power and influence in human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.
TONY JONES: Can I just ask Guy... As a noted Catholic, you're not averse to controversy, what do you think of his theory?
GUY FAWKES: Remember, remember the First of November,
Accusatory firey and hot,
I see no reason, and certain no season,
To confirm or deny such a plot.
TONY JONES: Well I guess that you've heard it first here on Q and A, and what a poetic way to end the show. Tune in next week when we're off to the beach at Portsea where we'll hear from John McEwen, all star Doug Anthony, the PM Harold Holt, Lionel Murphy QC and Jim Cairns, provided that the Doctor shows up in his blue box on time again.