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John Fribbling

John Fribbling is a fictional character, an invention whose purpose is to explore what may have happened in the life of William Shakespeare during those years when the poet effectively disappeared from public records. If Fribbling were a real person his biography would look something like this:

John Fribbling was born the son of a farmer in Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset in the mid-Sixteenth Century. He was expelled from his local grammar school after only a year of education. His head teacher had cause to describe him as "a child of quite extraordinary density with all the capacity for learning of a drainage ditch and the personality of an excitable and ill-disciplined sheep dog."

Little else is known of his early life.

In 1579 records show that he submitted his first letter to Sir Francis Walsingham, the Secretary of State and Spy Master. The most interesting fact about this first correspondence was Walsingham's assertation that he had never heard of John Fribbling, and that he had certainly never agreed to employ this man whose "obvious derangement" made him an unlikely choice for a spy.

Despite Walsingham's complete lack of encouragement Fribbling continued to write regular letters to Sir Francis, reporting on his singularly unsuccessful attempts to discover plots against Queen or state in tedious detail.

In 1584, with the continuing indifference of his assumed patron, Fribbling arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon and, with more luck than judgement, stumbled across one William Shakespeare. Driven by nothing more than his inability to find any actual evidence of Shakespeare's wrong-doing, Fribbling followed the young playwright for some years.

John Fribbling is thought to be among the first, and most extreme, recorded cases of celebrity stalking.

Some cynical historians have suggested that John Fribbling himself is merely the construct of a website editor looking for an engaging way to follow the story of William Shakespeare. The fact that Fribbling's dossier emerged so recently, and so close to the deadline for this project, has been pointed out as one of a number of suspiciously convenient facts. The argument over how Fribbling managed to encode his letters in HTML 400 years before the invention of the internet is an ongoing one.

Read the entertainingly erratic, and frequently bizarre, Fribbling reports.

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