been written before, some many times over many centuries.
“But that doesn’t necessarily detract from his great skill, from his ability as a writer. After all, it’s all about how you turn a phrase, isn’t it? The same plot told two ways can be boring in one instance and compelling in another, can’t it? Shakespeare’s great skill was his ability to take someone else’s story and re-write it in his own words, for his own time. And to write it with such beauty and poetry that he really brought it to life for the first time. He was a dramatist, yes. But ultimately, and most of all, he was a poet.”
Mr. Sparrow paused as he lifted the play.
“In the case of Romeo and Juliet , the story had already been around for centuries by the time Shakespeare got his hands on it. Does anyone know the original source?”
Mr. Sparrow looked around the class, and it was dead silent. He waited several seconds, then opened his mouth to speak—when suddenly, he stopped and looked right in Scarlet’s direction.
Scarlet’s heart pounded as she thought he was looking at her.
“Ah, the new boy,” Mr. Sparrow asked. “Please enlighten us.”
The entire class turned and looked in Scarlet’s direction, at Sage. She was relieved to realize he wasn’t calling on her.
She couldn’t help turning just a bit, too, looking behind her, at Sage. Instead of looking at the teacher, oddly, Sage looked at her as he spoke.
“Romeo and Juliet was based on a poem by Arthur Brooke: The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet .”
“Very good!” Mr. Sparrow said, sounding impressed. “And for extra points, might you know the year it was written?”
Scarlet was amazed. How had Sage known that?
“1562,” Sage replied, without hesitating.
Mr. Jordan looked happily surprised.
“Amazing! I’ve never had any student get that. Bravo, Sage. Since you’re such a scholar, here’s one final question. I’ve never known anyone—even among my peers—to get this right, so don’t feel badly if you don’t. If you get it, I’ll start you off with an automatic 100 on your first test. Where and when was the play first performed?”
The entire class turned in their seats and looked at Sage, the tension running high. Scarlet looked, too, and saw Sage smile back at her.
“It is believed to have been first performed in 1593, at a small venue called The Theatre, on the opposite side of the Thames.”
Mr. Jordan shouted out in excitement.
“WOW! My Sage, you are good. Wow, I’m impressed.”
Sage cleared his throat, not finished.
“That is the common understanding,” Sage said, “but in truth, it was actually performed once before that. In 1592. In Elizabeth’s castle. In her courtyard, amidst her private orchard.”
Scarlet looked back at Sage, speechless. His eyes had a far-off look, almost as if he were remembering being there himself. She couldn’t understand.
Mr. Sparrow’s smile fell.
“Oh, you were doing so good, Sage. I’m sorry. I’m afraid you are mistaken there. You should have quit while you were ahead—you actually had it right the first time. It was never performed before 1593.”
“Actually, I’m sorry sir, but I am correct,” Sage insisted gently but firmly.
Mr. Sparrow looked back at him, eyes opening wide in amazement.
“And what is your source?” he asked.
There was a long pause, as Sage sat there, apparently thinking. Scarlet was amazed. Who was this kid?
“I have none,” he said finally.
Slowly, Mr. Sparrow shook his head.
“I’m afraid without a source, we can’t verify, can we? I’ll tell you what: find me the source, and I’ll gladly reinstate your 100.
“In the meantime class,” Mr. Sparrow continued, “it’s time to break off into partners. Please find one, proceed to the benches, and open to Act one, Scene Five.”
There was a loud shuffling in the room, as everybody rose and headed over to the long benches on the side of the room.
“Remember, it’s a boy-girl scene!” Mr.