Mark Evan Chimsky
Swagger is a story of passion, political intrigue, and prejudice that reveals the secret relationship that caused Shakespeare to break the rules—in his life and art.
It is about tearing down the walls we build up around ourselves—either to hide our true selves or to keep others out.
As an out gay man I know what it’s like to be perceived as an outsider and how others sometimes live in a prison they create for themselves by staying “in the closet.” I wanted to write about the nature of being “the other” and also how we hide from others—and ourselves.
Swagger is a work in which I can explore both themes: how the Moroccan dignitaries are considered “infidels” and “barbarians” when they come to England for their historic visit in 1600; and how Will and the Ambassador from Morocco Abdul Guahid are both men “in hiding.”
Will has built up a “fortress of words” to shut out his own grief after the death of his eleven-year-old son Hamnet, and Abdul Guahid has denied the truth of his own sexuality all his life, knowing that he would lose everything – his family, his honor, his faith—if he stops living a lie.
About a year ago, I was intrigued to learn that Hamlet contains 600 words that Shakespeare had never used before in any previous play.
What caused such exponential growth – in his vocabulary and his creativity?
What life-altering event happened to the playwright in the year 1600 that led him to write a work more psychologically complex than any other he had written, a play that virtually explodes with language?
I felt compelled to solve the mystery of that unprecedented creativity.
Deep-diving into the history of Elizabethan England, I discovered that the Muslim Ambassador from Morocco, Abdul Guahid, came to London in August of 1600 for a meeting with Queen Elizabeth I.
This historic visit generated intense curiosity and scorn. Immediately, I knew I had my “life-altering moment” for Will.
Doing further research, I was shocked to learn that soon after the visit of the Moroccan Ambassador and his fellow dignitaries, the Queen’s Court created a draft proclamation (most likely written by her Secretary of State Robert Cecil) to deport “Blackamoors” (as Muslims were referred to at the time) from England.
What began as a musical rooted in history suddenly took on an important timeliness.