The Parrot Tavern is a speculative drama, inspired, according to the book’s back cover, by the “love triangle alluded to” in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Many readers, scholars and authors are convinced that Shakespeare’s sonnets evince a deep (possibly sexual) love for another man. In this story, that triangle involves William, his possible male love interest and his female paramour.
The Parrot Tavern is an inn where “Will” seeks refuge to work on his writing. His buddy Kemp can’t resist the impulse to taunt and torment him, and Susan, the innkeeper, keeps busy dragging Kemp away from Will’s room. A handsome young earl named Henry has formed a strong friendship with Will and visits him at the tavern. While the plausibility of Will and Henry being lovers is raised by Kemp and two of Henry’s courtiers, the play never challenges that assertion, nor confirms it.
The Parrot Tavern is an impeccably crafted, absorbing drama that begins comically, then subtly becomes more serious. Henry discovers Will has fallen for a beguiling woman, and Will makes Henry swear he won’t seek her out. But without intending to, Henry crosses paths with Will’s paramour, only grasping this after consummating his relationship with her. When Will discovers this, the play delivers an intense, excruciating exchange, ending on a powerful, somber note.
Like The Merchant of Venice, The Parrot Tavern compares the substance of male attachment to the way men connect with women. When Will and Henry fight, we long for them to talk things through but understand that in the heat of anger, friends don’t always say what’s necessary. Ultimately, readers are left wondering about the exact nature of Will and Henry’s bond.
Many dramas raise more questions than they answer. This is not necessarily a flaw, as such questions can elucidate issues about humanity, love, forces beyond our control. While the outcome of this play may prove frustrating for some, the drama is undeniably poignant, intriguing and utterly compelling.
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