September 11, 2010 Jose

Crapping On Things You Love:
I’m Coming For YOU, William Shakespeare

Shakespeare_Droeshout_1623The Crapping On Things You Love series has without a doubt shown everyone at the home offices of Jose Nation just how enjoyable it is to shit on the things people love the most—and if it feels good, do it, right?

Recently we kicked the Beatles around a little; today, it will be the monolithic champion of the literary world. Mention his name in certain circles and watch as grown men swoon like school girls: Billy Shakespeare.

In nearly every academic circle in every corner of the world, Shakespeare is touted as the absolute pinnacle of literary achievement. He is the heralded literary genius that has defined humanity and the roiling passions that rule it for eons to come. A renowned poet and playwright, his descriptions of love, lust, despair, mercy, greed, revenge, and violence are declared timeless and infinitely insightful—applicable to every generation for hundreds of years in both directions. To study his work is to know the heart of your fellow-man in ways totally unachievable by the hands of lesser scribes. If all other work by every other poet were to suddenly combust and disappear from the galaxy forever, well, that would be just fine. Here is how most English Lit/Theatre/Art History majors feel about Billy:

In all reality, “The Bard” (I feel gross just typing that) had diarrhea of the pen, and his comedies simply are not funny. In fact, the best thing to happen to Shakespeare in the last four hundred years or so is the Hollywood screenplay. Any dialogue-driven vehicle for storytelling that runs over four hundred freaking pages needs a cold-hearted, bastard producer to cut out the bullshit. I mean, come on! I’m not crazy, right? Am I crazy? What in the fuck do you elbow-patch wearing, pipe-smoking mother-fuckers want from me? All cuddled up in your fisherman’s sweater with your god-damned moccasins on! And oh, I can hear you now, bemoaning wretchedly the loss of the author’s original intent, the voice of history’s integrity lost to the crass hands of modern man’s impatience. Crap on that. Crap ALL OVER that. The guy was long-winded and needed a good editor. End of story. Here, read this excerpt from Richard III, act 1, scene 2, and tell me why in the world it couldn’t have been said more concisely (seriously, leave it in the comments; rid me of my ignorance, genius):

LADY ANNE

Foul devil, for God’s sake, hence, and trouble us not;
For thou hast made the happy earth thy hell,
Fill’d it with cursing cries and deep exclaims.
If thou delight to view thy heinous deeds,
Behold this pattern of thy butcheries.
O, gentlemen, see, see! dead Henry’s wounds
Open their congeal’d mouths and bleed afresh!
Blush, Blush, thou lump of foul deformity;
For ’tis thy presence that exhales this blood
From cold and empty veins, where no blood dwells;
Thy deed, inhuman and unnatural,
Provokes this deluge most unnatural.
O God, which this blood madest, revenge his death!
O earth, which this blood drink’st revenge his death!
Either heaven with lightning strike the murderer dead,
Or earth, gape open wide and eat him quick,
As thou dost swallow up this good king’s blood
Which his hell-govern’d arm hath butchered!

I think this chick is pissed because some guy killed her husband or something, but who can be sure? It’s so shrouded in “poetry” that a normal person has to sit in a damned classroom with twenty other people and discuss every freaking line for a half hour each to discern any meaning. And I can guarantee you this: fill twenty classrooms with twenty students and let them discuss the meaning of one soliloquy for twenty hours. You will end up with twenty different explanations. I promise you will. I swear it.

This being said, I admit that—with vicious slashing—there are entertaining and even gripping Shakespeare dramas, if placed in the right hands. I truly enjoyed Mel Gibson’s Hamlet (I think I just heard a scholarly head explode).

But none of the comedies are funny. None of them. Not one. And the only people who ever laugh at them are people who are afraid of what their academically militant friends will think if they DON’T laugh at this trite, vaudevillian nonsense. Every one of Shakespeare’s comedic plots are a desperate attempt to get people to like him, and they’re all the same: a girl dresses like a guy to achieve some goal women can’t normally meet as a female, falls in love with a guy who doesn’t know she’s a chick, and then some more corny shit happens until the end, when all the characters find out she’s a chick. It’s such a rip-off of Just One of the Guys that it makes me shiver.

And then, when you remember that in Shakespeare’s day the female characters were played by men, and therefore the actors pretending to be men were actually men and so were not in fact pretending at all, you realize that the only humorous premise by this tired blowhard was depressingly dull and fruitless.

Here is an example of a “joke” from a Shakespeare play called The Comedy of Errors:

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme
nor reason? Well, sir, I thank you.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Thank me, sir, for what?

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
Marry, sir, for this something that you gave me for nothing.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
I’ll make you amends next, to give you nothing for
something. But say, sir, is it dinner-time?

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
No, sir; I think the meat wants that I have.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
In good time, sir; what’s that?

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
Basting.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Well, sir, then ’twill be dry.

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
If it be, sir, I pray you, eat none of it.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Your reason?

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
Lest it make you choleric and purchase me another
dry basting.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Well, sir, learn to jest in good time: there’s a
time for all things.

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
I durst have denied that, before you were so choleric.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
By what rule, sir?

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
Marry, sir, by a rule as plain as the plain bald
pate of father Time himself.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Let’s hear it.

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
There’s no time for a man to recover his hair that
grows bald by nature.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
May he not do it by fine and recovery?

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
Yes, to pay a fine for a periwig and recover the
lost hair of another man.

Oh for the love of Christ. Forget it. I give up. I think there was supposed to be a whole slew of jokes in there, but who the fuck knows. It just goes on and on and on until you basically want to KILL SOMEBODY.

Yet the “really smart” and “droll” people of the Western World insist that this is the most brilliant writer of all time. Ever. And they struggle like a tar-ridden lung to explain his greatness in words that are even more confusing than the Bard’s (shudder) own. Here is an actual quote from a hopeless asshole’s review of Richard III, pulled from Amazon.com:

Inextricably, although I by no means empathize with him even remotely, Richard somehow, despite his inordinately decadent reprobate ploys, coupled with his twisted soliloquies pleading to the audience his hopeless case, make him one entirely enigmatic, yet entirely captivating, antagonist that makes this play enticingly enjoyable — in a most devilish kind of way.

“O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!”

Jesus, dude. You can’t be serious.

Don't wuss out, say something.