|"We Haven't Got There Yet"|
|Publication date||March 2009|
"We Haven't Got There Yet" is a fantasy story by Harry Turtledove, published on-line at Tor.com, March 2009. In 1606, William Shakespeare learns of a new play entitled Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by playwright Tom Stoppard. Shakespeare, angered that someone has plagiarized his Hamlet, attends the play. His initial anger softens as he discovers that he actually quite enjoys what he sees. After bribing his way backstage, he learns from the cast that they were actually in London in 2066 to perform Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead for its centennial, and then suddenly found themselves transported in back in time. As actors, they decide to continue to perform plays written centuries after Shakespeare's death.
When one of the actors, a woman named Jessica who plays Gertrude, recites a poem Shakespeare has not yet written, the Bard flees. Days later, he returns to the theater as the troupe are performing a new play. He enters, wondering who Godot is, and who is waiting for him.
The idea for the story came to Turtledove when he and his family attended a performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Turtledove wondered aloud how Shakespeare would have viewed the work.
The story is superficially similar to Turtledove's own "Hindsight", which also features a time-traveler publishing works before they were written. The critical difference is the time-traveler's intent. Michelle Gordian has a specific agenda in "Hindsight"; she hopes to change her future by flooding the past with popular works of science fiction. The time-traveling troupe in "We Haven't Got There Yet" is just trying to survive in their changed circumstances. "We Haven't Got There Yet" appears to be Turtledove's attempt to present a William Shakespeare who suddenly realizes just how valued and appreciated his work will be after his death. In this, Turtledove is extremely successful.
Further, Shakespeare quickly grasps Stoppard's critical points regarding the dispensablility of the eponymous characters in Hamlet. He soon sees that they only really come alive when the action of Hamlet requires them to. Otherwise, their existence is a series of stretches of boredom, until they finally meet their ends as in Hamlet.
While the course of history is not explicitly altered, the performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as well as Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot centuries before could qualify the story as alternate history, if barely. Given Shakespeare's reaction to Stoppard's work, it is likely that the remainder of Shakespeare's writing will differ to some degree from OTL. There are also subtle clues that history has already been altered: the Rose Theatre is still active in 1606, and Shakespeare thinks of Will Kempe as someone still alive. Most historians place the Rose's shutting down and Kempe's death sometime before that date. However, these differences are not explored.