Monday, 28 June 2004

No holds bard

Shakespeare's great, isn't he? I mean, there he was, taking the mickey out of My luve's like a red, red, rose a century and a half before it was written, in a sonnet that begins:

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red...

and ends:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.

Shakespeare-quoters are terrible bores, of course, present company not excepted, but there's no doubt that he does have a line for every occasion. What better way of ending your retirement speech, for example, than:
Forever, and forever, farewell, [fellow Board members]
If we do meet again, why, we will smile;
If not, why then this parting was well made.

And if your boss has a literary bent he could reply:
Forever, and forever, farewell, [Wilkinson]
If we do meet again, why, we will smile indeed;
If not, it's true this parting was well made.

When Shakespeare is in his historically obscure mood he is easy to parody, and Beyond the Fringe caught beautifully the confusion that arises when you don't know whether he's talking about places or chaps:
Get thee to Gloucester, Essex. Do thee to Wessex, Exeter.
Fair Albany to Somerset must eke his route.
And Scroop, do you to Westmorland, where shall bold York
Enrouted now for Lancaster, with forces of our uncle Rutland
Enjoin his standard with sweet Norfolk's host....

and so on, and on.

Then there are his totally unfunny comic plebeians:
Is't all botched up, then, Master Puke?
Aye, and marry is, good Master Snot.

Rowan Atkinson (long before he developed his silly Mr Bean act) demonstrated a line from the same parody. He comes on stage in tights, codpiece and a huge Tudor hat, run through with a sword; the point sticks out behind and the handle end pokes out of his midriff and swings gently up and down. Striding to the footlights, he throws out one arm and declaims:
Now is th'unfriendly steel
'Twixt gut and bladder interpos'd...


Astolath said...

I'm an incurable Shakespeare bore myself, just because I've never lost my enthusiasm for his work, evey since studying Henry IV - Part 1 for O'level all those years ago. You've hit the nail on the head though, it's not so much wanting to appear clever that one reaches for a quote from the bard, simply he's already said most things in a far more eloquent way than most of us ever could. And, when you look at the sheer number of his words and phrases that have come into common usage, indeed, it's sometime hard not to quote him.

I'll top your Rowan Atkinson reference with fond memories of Peter Sellers' Shakespearean rendition of The Beatles' 'Hard Days Night'!

Anonymous said...

I must to my occupation bend,
else pay the price when day is o'r.
Of idleness there is no lack
When quoting poets bore.

(I love this place !)


Tony said...

Then to't forthwith, procrastinating wench
And stand not on the order of your need
For poets are dispos'd to tarry long
While platters will not wait upon your heed.

Anonymous said...

See, I TOLD you....

I love this place!

Tony said...

Yes, and he did it in Olivier's extraordinary Richard II intonation.
Did you ever hear Sellers doing Alec Guinness? It brilliantly captured that sort of musical tonelessness his voice had.
By the way, I was going to put your first comment on my page of fulsome compliments (though it wasn't all that fulsome) but I couldn't find anything to link to: you have even made your blogger profile private. There's secretive now - are the bailiffs after you?

Astolath said...

I'm sorry, I hadn't realised that I was incommunicado as far as blogger was concerned, I'll do something about that when I get a minute.

I'm at, I publish my blog to my own website.

Astolath said...

Ooops! Hit the publish button too qickly methinks!

No, I've not seen the him doing Alec Guiness - sounds wonderful. I'll have to track that one down...

Grumio said...

Really the best way to quote Shakespeare is briefly and to the point – he really does have a phrase for EVERY occasion.

For instance, it is now 11.18pm where I am and, sure enough:

"I have a great exposition of sleep come upon me"

(Hey, how do you italics?)

A draft of sack for the first person correctly to identify this line NO GOOGLING (or any other digi-search)

Tony said...

Away, slight man.