The Beard of Avon

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The Beard of Avon
The Beard of Avon poster.jpg
Poster for the 2007 production at Center Stage, Portland
Written by Amy Freed
Date premiered 2001
Place premiered South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, California
Original language English
Subject Shakespeare and his wife become involved with the Earl of Oxford
Genre Period piece; farce
Setting Sixteenth century: Stratford-upon-Avon and London, England

The Beard of Avon is a play by Amy Freed, originally commissioned and produced by South Coast Repertory in 2001. It is a farcical treatment of the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship, in which both Shakespeare and his wife become involved, in different ways, with secret playwright Edward de Vere and find themselves helping to present the works of several other secretive authors under Shakespeare's name, including Queen Elizabeth I herself.[1]

Cast of Characters[edit]

Lead Characters[edit]

  • William Shakspere- A lad of Stratford. In his early thirties, mostly. Simple, honest, very appealing fellow. Possessor of hidden gifts. Poses as a playwright under the stage name "William Shakespeare".
  • Geoffrey Dunderbread- The Company's slutty Boy player, and leading lady of the Globe Theatre. Shakspere's confidante. Plays the roles of Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, Lavinia in Titus Andronicus, and Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew.
  • Edward De Vere- 17th Earl of Oxford. in his forties. Wicked, charming, sexy, brilliant. A closet writer. In a "secret" homosexual affair with Henry Wriothesley
  • Anne Hathaway- Shakspere's wife. Lively, illiterate, promiscuous. When abandoned by her husband, she goes to London disguised as a whore. She seduces de Vere and becomes Shakspere's "Shadow woman".
  • Queen Elizabeth I- Queen of England. Between forty and sixty. A sacred monster. Wants a boyfriend.[2]

Supporting Characters[edit]

  • Henry Wriothesley
  • Old Colin
  • John Heminge
  • Henry Condel
  • Richard Burbage
  • Francis Bacon
  • Lady Lettice
  • Francis Walsingham
  • Lord Burleigh
  • Earl of Derby
  • Walter Fitch

Critical views[edit]

The play is described by critic Robert Brustein as a "lusty antidote to all forms of Bardolatry, including the perverse and benighted kind that considers the bard a beard". He describes it as "an extended satiric sketch worthy of Monty Python", but suggests that some of the comic faux-Elizabethan language "fails to pass the test of grammar or scansion".[3] Katherine Scheil emphasises its bawdy aspects, as Anne discovers Will's seedy sex-life, unleashing her own desire to explore "wild and stormy expanses of uncharted filth".[1] According to James Fisher, Freed demonstrates her own affinity with Shakespeare:

Freed—a similarly adept wordsmith—explores the very nature of language itself and the intangible font of creative achievement. Despite occasional bursts of anachronistic broad comedy, Freed proves herself a true ally of Shakespeare in many ways. She amply demonstrates her romance with language, rich characterization, and a bold mix of humor and drama with moments of surprisingly moving pathos in this delightfully crack-brained play...Whether indulging in intricate speechifying or punning banter, Freed's outstanding characteristic as a dramatist is the richness of her ingenious experimentation with the complexities of wordplay.[4]


  1. ^ a b Katherine Scheil, "Filling the Wife-Shaped Void: The Contemporary Afterlife of Anne Hathaway", Peter Holland (ed), Shakespeare Survey: Volume 63, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p.229 ff.
  2. ^ Amy Freed, The Beard of Avon, New York, 2004, character descriptions.
  3. ^ Robert Sandford Brustein, Millennial Stages: Essays and Reviews, 2001-2005, Yale University Press, 2006, pp. 122-123.
  4. ^ James Fisher, "The Beard of Avon (review)", Theatre Journal, Volume 55, Number 3, October 2003, pp.528-530.