Play Sonnet 86

Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
Bound for the prize of all too precious you,
That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?
Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?
No, neither he, nor his compeers by night
Giving him aid, my verse astonished.
He, nor that affable familiar ghost
Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,
As victors of my silence cannot boast;
I was not sick of any fear from thence:
     But when your countenance filled up his line,
     Then lacked I matter; that enfeebled mine.



In Sonnet 86, the poet pines for a beloved lost to a rival, a loss that has cost him his muse.

Billy wonders if it was it his rival’s ambitious poetry, which was written to win his lover away from him, that stopped his ability to think? Did it cause all of his ideas to die upon their birth? Was it the rival’s heaven-sent ability -writing! – which was blessed by the gods, that stopped Billy in his tracks? Neither he nor his companions who helped him were able to stop our guy’s poetic ability. Neither he nor the Muse which aids him each night can claim to have silenced our man. For Billy Shakes does not shake in fear! However, when his lover gifted their beautiful selves to that rival… he was lost and destroyed.


Will’s Wordplay

Sonnet 86 is well known as the final sonnet of The Rival Poet arc. Consisting of Sonnets 78-86, and is generally thought to be written around the years of 1598–1600, based on vocabulary evidence and similarities found with the plays that he also wrote during this time period.

There is no exact answer as to who this rival poet is since nearly every well-known poet contemporary with Shakespeare has, at some time, been suggested as the “rival poet”. Among the poets considered to be the rival poet, George Chapman and Christopher Marlowe, colleagues and literary competitors to Shakespeare, are generally considered to be two of the most likely contenders.

Many of these potential identifications have been made using alleged clues found in Sonnet 86! The second and third quatrains in particular have garnered much attention in this regard. The description of a poet “by spirits taught to write” has led several critics, to name George Chapman as the likeliest candidate. This is due to his supposed spiritual inspiration by the ghost of Homer. Weird, right? Another connection is the line “Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?” to Christopher Marlowe’s play Tamburlaine, saying that the reactions described in both are similar to each other. Who is The Rival Poet? The World… may never know…

In a different reading, Shakespearean scholar Eric Sams has interpreted this reference to spiritual communion as an allusion to Barnabe Barnes, a notorious English occultist and poet,[13] while others contend that the significance of the spirit is simply an allusion to poetic genius and that it contains no reference to an actual personage.


St. Mark’s Church, Manhattan

St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery is located at 131 East 10th Street, at the intersection of Stuyvesant Street and Second Avenue in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The property has been the site of continuous Christian worship for more than three and a half centuries; it is New York’s oldest site of continuous religious practice, and the church is the second-oldest church building in Manhattan.[1]



In 1651, Petrus Stuyvesant, Governor of New Amsterdam, purchased land for a bowery or farm from the Dutch West India Company and by 1660 built a family chapel at the present day site of St. Marks Church. Stuyvesant died in 1672 and was interred in a vault under the chapel.

Stuyvesant’s great-grandson, Petrus, sold the chapel property to the Episcopal Church for $1 in 1793, stipulating that a new chapel be erected to serve Bowery Village, the community which had coalesced around the Stuyvesant family chapel. In 1795 the cornerstone of the present day St. Mark’s Church was laid, and the fieldstone Georgian style church, built by the architect and mason John McComb Jr., was completed and consecrated on May 9, 1799.[4] Alexander Hamilton provided legal aid in incorporating St. Mark’s Church as the first Episcopal parish independent of Trinity Church in the United States.

Many details from the Church’s many renovations and redesigns remain today. In 1828, the church steeple, the design of which is attributed to Martin Euclid Thompson and Ithiel Town, in Greek Revival style, was erected. The current cast- and wrought iron fence was added in 1838.

At the start of the 20th century, leading architect Ernest Flagg designed the rectory, but, overall, while the 19th century saw St Mark’s Church grow through its many construction projects the 20th century was marked by community service and cultural expansion. Rector William Guthrie was known to incorporate Native American, Hindu, Buddhist, and Bahá’í ceremonies and guest speakers into services – things that made news across the country as well as troubled his leadership.

Today, the rectory houses the Neighborhood Preservation Center, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the Historic Districts Council, as well as other preservation and community organizations. The Preservation Youth Project expanded to a full-time work training program and under the supervision of artisan teachers undertook the mission of the preserving St Mark’s landmark exterior.

On July 27, 1978, a fire nearly destroyed the church. The Citizens to Save St Mark’s was founded to raise funds for its reconstruction and the Preservation Youth Project undertook the reconstruction supervised by architect Harold Edelman and craftspeople provided by preservation contractor I. Maas & Sons. The Landmark Fund emerged from the Citizens to Save St Mark’s and continues to exist to help maintain and preserve St. Mark’s Church for future generations. The restoration was completed in 1986, with new stained-glass windows designed by Edelman.


The Arts

St Mark’s has supported an active artistic community since the 1800s. In 1919 poet Kahlil Gibran was appointed a member of the St. Mark’s Arts Committee, and the next year, the two prominent Indian statues, “Aspiration” and “Inspiration” by sculptor Solon Borglum, which flank the church entry, were unveiled. Gibran also presented readings of his famous written works,[8] some of which became annual affairs for a while,] as well as an exhibition of his drawings. Isadora Duncan danced in the church in 1922, and Martha Graham in 1930. In 1926, poet William Carlos Williams lectured at the St. Mark’s Sunday Symposium, which over the years featured such artists as Amy Lowell, Edward Steichen, Houdini, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Ruth St. Denis and Carl Sandburg.

Theatre Genesis was founded by director Ralph Cook in 1964 and, in the same year, Sam Shepard had his first two plays, Cowboys and Rock Garden produced at the church. In 1969, St. Mark’s innovated a fusion of liturgy and experimental rock music, the Electric Liturgy given by the Mind Garage, which was the first work of its kind to be nationally televised.

St. Mark’s hosts modern artistic endeavors, including the Poetry Project, and Danspace Project, which stage events throughout the year. A November 1971 Poetry Project reading by Patti Smith, accompanied by Lenny Kaye on guitar, launched their rock and roll careers and marked the founding of the Patti Smith Group.

In addition, Richard Foreman’s avant-garde Ontological-Hysteric Theater[20] was also housed there in its own space from 1992 until 2010.



1. New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S. (text); Postal, Matthew A. (text) (2009), Postal, Matthew A., ed., Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p.67


ACTOR – Harrison Scott

Harrison Scott trained at ITW Amsterdam and Playwrights Horizons Theater School at NYU. Since graduating, he’s performed at the NYC Fringe, Foodplay Productions Nat’l Tour, and is currently in Dave Malloy’s new musical, Beardo , and a production of Assassins at 440 Studios as the Balladeer. He just wrapped “ The Invisible Son ,” which should be making its rounds in film festivals by the end of the year. Web: “ TBH: An Original…,” and “ Live ‘n’ Learn.” Harrison has a passion for Shakespeare, and studied at RADA for a semester while at NYU. He is thankful to be a part of such a diverse project!


DIRECTOR – John Robert Hammerer

John Robert Hammerer is a writer, producer, editor and director who is thrilled to join The Sonnet Project. His most recent film, The Frog and the Racecar, was nominated for Best Concept at the 2016 Brightside Tavern Film Festival and also screened at NewFilmmakers New York. He has also worked as a Dailies Operator at Deluxe New York for shows such as Elementary, Girls and the upcoming Friends From College. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he is currently developing his next projects.