Did you know that William Shakespeare did in fact write one last play before he died and it wasn’t, as many suppose, “Cardenio.” In fact, amazingly, it was about none other than Christopher Columbus. The story of the momentous discovery of the play in an ancient chest on a demolition site in Stratford on Avon a couple of years ago is told in David Herman’s fascinating and unique historical novel “W.S. and C.C.” with great attention to historical fact and detail and with striking excerpts from the play itself. The hero of the story, the first man in modern times to have had the great good fortune to be the first to behold and hold in his trembling hands the original pages of the four-centuries-old play and accompanying letters in the Bard’s own hand, is Douglas Parsons, a foreman on the demolition site with a solid university background in English literature and Shakespeare’s vast literary repertoire.
The spell-binding novel takes us through the play, seen through the unbelieving eyes of Parsons and its huge emotional impact on him so that he himself becomes a prominent protagonist in the story as it unfolds. How is it he wonders bemusedly that someone like him who has been shabbily treated by life should have suddenly been gifted by fate with such a fabulous and incredible treasure, he alone among all men on earth, and to him alone the great responsibility to bring it to the knowledge of mankind in general. In truth he is greatly tempted to reveal the knowledge of his discovery to the beautiful Professor Anne Cornwall, a world authority on Shakespeare, with whom he falls deeply in love and must repeatedly steel himself not to “spill the beans.”
A bit like the novel, Herman’s own story, is also not run-of-the mill. Born in London in 1940, he immigrated to Israel in 1966, not long after graduating from Cambridge with a degree in Modern Languages. For 20 years he was the pioneer publisher of English-teaching newspapers in simplified English for the Israeli school system. Today, he lives in Jerusalem and works as a translator.
He wrote his novel because of his deep and abiding interest in Shakespeare’s works and in the life and achievements of Columbus, and this double interest led him to combine the two themes in this unusual and challenging work.
Herman is currently looking for a publisher and he hopes that this article will arouse and awaken the interest of publishers because as he puts it “never heretofore has there been a work of fiction that so smoothly and impressively blends the worlds and works of Shakespeare, the great dramatist, and Columbus, the great discoverer. And I hope that it will not be long ere a publisher discovers my novel and enables the whole world to discover it too.”