This is a talk about forgetting, or the suppression or subversion of memory, as the essential creative principle – we memorise in order to forget. My primary example is Shakespeare, but he is only the example I know best: Shakespeare in this can hardly be unique. I have in mind both really big creative acts like forgetting that the Lear story has a happy ending, or forgetting the deaths of Mamillius and Antigonus in constructing the transcendently happy ending of The Winter’s Tale; and really small but even more baffling creative acts such as in As You Like It introducing a character named Jaques and forgetting that there is already a character named Jaques in the play, or in the second part of Henry IV introducing a character named Lord Bardolph when there is already a character named Bardolph in the play, or in The Comedy of Errors calling Adriana’s servant Luce the first time she appears, and in the next scene calling her Nell; or at the beginning of Othello describing Cassio as ‘almost damned in a fair wife’ and then having him unmarried for the rest of the play, or in The Tempest listing Antonio’s son as one of the shipwreck victims and then never mentioning him again – there are many more such examples in Shakespeare. And (how could it be otherwise?) the process of constructing the Shakespeare we want has for the most part also been a process of forgetting about these elements of Shakespeare’s creative process. Such examples, however, are surely keys to the act of creation – this is the essential Shakespeare, the essence of drama itself. Anthropology tells us that drama begins as ritual, but ritual is an act of memory; it only becomes drama when it forgets and revises, when plots become unexpected, when the end forgets the beginning, when every performance forgets the previous one, and forgets the text it purports to follow, when every text emends the last, hoping to consign to oblivion all except the forgotten but endlessly restored original.