William Shakespeare may have been forced to quit writing because of poor eyesight, a playwright has claimed.
Rick Thomas is hoping his new play will shed some light on the mystery surrounding why the Bard left London to return to his Stratford-upon-Avon birthplace before his death in 1616.
Shakespeare’s return to Stratford in 1613 signalled the end of his writing career, and a lack of historical evidence has left experts baffled as to why he stopped writing.
Now Cumbria-based Mr Thomas, who has been commissioned to write For All Time by The Theatre By The Lake in Keswick, has suggested that years of writing by candlelight may have taken a toll on the Shakespeare’s eyesight.
He said: “I started off thinking about how Shakespeare would spend his working day.
“He would have been rehearsing in the morning, he would have been performing in the afternoon. So if he was going to write at all it would have been in the evening. So for six months of the year that would have been in candlelight. If you think about it in those terms it would have been virtually impossible for him to get to the age of 48 and still have 20-20 vision.”
Mr Thomas drew on his own experiences as a writer to conclude that poor lighting would have affected Shakespeare’s eyesight.
He added: “I just can’t see that Shakespeare could have had that clear vision.”
Stanley Wells, chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said the blindness theory was interesting but that he thought the playwright could have left London after being traumatised by the Globe theatre burning down in 1613.
He added that Shakespeare’s sight must have been good enough at the end of his life for him to be able to sign his elaborate signature.
Five of Shakespeare’s six surviving signatures were written in the final years of his life, with one believed to be penned just two months before his death.
But Mr Thomas said his play was not meant to be a historical account, but to put forward lots of reasons why Shakespeare wanted to leave London.
He said: “I plumped for the blindness in the end as the main reason but the truth is we just do not know and the truth is we will probably never know.”