Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Cordelia Game

The Cordelia Game is based on Cordelia’s role in the opening scene of King Lear. It occured to me that the whole play would go in completely a different direction if Cordelia just said “Oh, Daddy, I love you so much!” Such a different direction, indeed, that there wouldn’t even be a play. I realised there might be many such opportunities throughout the canon. In “the Cordelia Game”, you go round the table, giving each player 30 seconds or so to think of a character and something they could say which would totally and completely scupper the plot of their play. Anyone who can’t think of one, or whose suggestion fails to impress the other players, drinks three fingers or buys the next round. For example:

CORDELIA:          Oh, daddy, I love you so much! Much more than my sisters. They’re just taking the piss. But I love you so much you wouldn’t believe it. Listen ...

HAMLET:              Well, it’s an ill wind, isn’t it? I haven’t seen mum so happy in years.

CLAUDIO:             I'm sorry, Don John, but I just don't believe you. And it’s not bloody Hero up at that window, anyway. It doesn’t look anything like her. It’s that tart who goes round with your henchman whatsisname. You’re just taking the piss.

PROSPERO:          I didn’t like to tell them, but I’d never learned to read. So that’s why we’re stuck on this island, Miranda. Yes, Mr Caliban, sir, I’ll be there in a moment, sir!

HENRY VI:            [of YORK, ideally before his brattish kids are even conceived] Off with his head!

LADY ANNE:        What a good idea! [stabs Richard to death]

ISABELLA:            I’ll go to Angelo and plead for mercy. And if that doesn’t work I’ll offer to suck his nob. That’s bound to do it! I wonder if I should go dressed as a nun...?

In the duel scene of Ricard II:


ORLANDO:            Um, you don’t fancy dinner with me on Friday, at all, do you, M. LeBeau?

IAGO:                      Ancient? Excellent! It’s my dream job, you know.

ROSALINE:            Yes, Romeo, I will marry you.

HENRY V:               May I with right and conscience make this claim?

ARRAGON:            I’ll choose the lead casket, please.

3rd WITCH:              All hail Macbeth, that shall be kind hereafter.

GONERIL:              Oh, come on daddy, I don’t love you that much. I mean, you are a bit crotchety, aren’t you. And Albany’s rather sweet...

and a personal favourite:

MARK ANTHONY:    Friends, Romans, Cunts...

Incidentally, back in 2004 I initiated "The Cordelia Game" at the Shaksper forum. The thread commences here.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Three Little Men of Sin

Three Little Men of Sin
to the tune of
“Three Little Maids From School Are We”
from Gilbert and Sullivan's “The Mikado”

ALL:                     Three little men of sin are we.
                             Born to the aristocracy.
                             Deep in our own hypocrisy.
                             Three little men of sin.

ALONSO:            I mostly think of my son who died.
ANTONIO:           I mostly think about regicide
SEBASTIAN:      I mostly think about fish, deep-fried
ALL:                     Three little men of sin.

ALL:                    One man of sin was, most unwary,
                             Caught in the arms of the harmless fairy
                             In the position missionary.
                             Three little men of sin.
                             Three little men of sin.

ALL:                     Some people make love raunchily
                             Some people do it tenderly
                             We do it
ANTONIO:                           most chirurgeonly!
ALL:                     Three little men of sin.

ALL:                     Prospero’s daughter liked to jog
                             Over a fen, a flat, a bog,
                             To be with prince Ferdie and his log.
                             Four little men of sin.
                             Four little men of sin.

ALONSO:            I had an affair with young Jean Harlow
ANTONIO:           Marilyn Monroe
SEBASTIAN:                                   and Bridget Bardot
ALL:                     Really, we want to shag Gonzalo!
                             Three little men of sin.
                             Three little men of sin.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Shakespearean Mathematics 1

And here’s an interesting quote:

ARCHBISHOP:                     Nor did the French possess the Salic land
                                                Until four hundred one-and-twenty years
                                                After defunction of King Pharamond
                                                Idly supposed the founder of this law,
                                                Who died within the year of our redemption
                                                Four hundred twenty-six, and Charles the Great
                                                Subdued the Saxons and did seat the French
                                                Beyond the river Sala in the year
                                                Eight hundred five.

This is Shakespearian Mathematics, as expressed in the equation:

               805 – 426 = 421.

Sunday, 25 March 2012


Most of the first act of Henry V is taken up with a long scene in Harry’s throne room, commencing with the Archbishop’s detailed (and this is Shakespeare, so it’s very detailed) explanation of Henry’s claim to the French throne, discussing the doctrine In Terram Salicam Mulieres Ne Succedant. (“Salicam” was a famous voyeuristic website in Plantagenet times. It was popular with young noblemen, because Sally could often be seen removing her wimple.) I think I’d like to discuss the Archbishop’s argument at some length. It runs roughly like this: Firstly, you need to examine the French Royal Family tree. The way to analyse the claim to the crown is to work from elder child to younger, which on the following diagram is represented by working from left to right. Only once a person’s line has died out can you move on to the next line across.

Here’s the family tree as far as Edward III:

Basically, the French argument is that Salic law applies. Salic law says that no-one can claim the crown through a female line. Therefore Edward III of England could not claim the French crown through his mother, the French princess Isabella, on the death of Charles IV of France. Accordingly no-one in the line of Philip IV of France has survived with a valid claim. You therefore have to move to the right, and the crown passes down the line of the late Count of Valois.

The archbishop’s argument is that the French are wrong. Salic law does not apply in France itself, only to an area of Germany once colonised by the French. Accordingly a claim through a female line is not ruled out. There are three precedents for a successful claim to the French throne through a female line. Accordingly, the line of Philip IV of France has not died out, and the descendants of Edward III (not the descendants of the Count of Valois) are the true kings of France.

Unfortunately, this argument is, as the Australians put it, fucked. You can see why if you follow the family tree onwards, beyond Edward III:

Do you see the problem? If Salic law doesn’t apply and a claim to the French crown can be established down a female line, then clearly Edmund Mortimer is king of France, since he can claim through his grandmother Philippa.

It boils down to the archbishop saying: Edward III should have been king of France, according to a strict and careful interpretation the family tree in light of the legal precedents and the non-applicability of Salic law. You are the heir to Edward III by a rather vaguer sequence of events which involves a deposition and murder (of Richard II), and applying Salic law to the line of Lionel of Clarence. Therefore you are king of France. QED.

HENRY:                     May I, with right and conscience, make this claim?

ARCHBISHOP:         No.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Henry V - Medieval Telephone Book

I remember once saying to someone that I thought performing a full text version of Henry V would be like performing a telephone book. I didn’t really mean much by that, except to say that the play, definitely one of Shakespeare’s best, is tiresomely long in its full text, and contains many passages which are unnecessary, easily cut, difficult to play, difficult to follow, difficult not to yawn over, or filled with cross-references to other plays or long-forgotten history.

Rethinking that off-the-cuff comment of mine, recently, I noticed that there really are passages of Henry V that do read like a telephone book. Basically just lists of names. I therefore present, for your entertainment, my own abridgement of the play - almost as long as some performed versions - “Henry V - Medieval Telephone Book”:

ARCHBISHOP:         Charles the Great... King Pharamond...
                                    King Pepin, which deposed Childeric,
                                                               ... descended
                                    Of Blithild, which was daughter to King Clothair.
                                    Hugh Capet also, who usurped the crown
                                    Of Charles the Duke of Lorraine, sole heir male...
                                                          ... of Charles the Great
                                    ... Conveyed himself as heir to the Lady Lingard,
                                    Daughter to Charlemagne, who was the son
                                    To Louis the Emperor, and Louis the son
                                    Of Charles the Great. Also King Louis the Ninth,
                                           ... fair Queen Isabel, his grandmother,
                                    Was lineal of the Lady Ermengard,
                                    Daughter to Charles the foresaid Duke of Lorraine...
                                    King Pepin’s title, and Hugh Capet’s claim,
                                    King Louis his satisfaction...
                                    ... your great uncle, Edward the Black Prince

CHORUS:                  One, Richard Earl of Cambridge, and the second,
                                    Henry Lord Scroop of Masham, and the third,
                                    Sir Thomas Grey, knight, of Northumberland.

FRENCH KING:       ...the Dukes of Berry and of Bretagne,
                                    Of Brabant and of Orleans...
                                    And you, Prince Dauphin.
                                    Charles Delabreth, High Constable of France,
                                    You dukes of Orleans, Bourbon and of Berry,
                                    Alencon, Brabant, Bar and Burgundy,
                                    Jacques Chatillon, Rambures, Vaudemont,

                                    Beaumont, Grandpre, Roussi and Fauconbridge,
                                    Foix, Lestrelles, Boucicault and Charolias,
                                    High dukes, great princes, barons, lords and knights.

SALISBURY:                                ... my noble lord of Bedford,
                                    My dear lord Gloucester, and my good lord Exeter.

HENRY:                     Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
                                    Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester

EXETER:                    Charles, Duke of Orleans, nephew to the King;
                                    John, Duke of Bourbon, and Lord Boucicault.

HENRY:                     Charles Delabreth, High Constable of France;
                                    Jacques of Chatillon, Admiral of France;
                                    The Master of the Crossbows, Lord Rambures;
                                    Great Master of France, the brave Sir Guichard Dauphin;
                                    John, Duke of Alencon; Anthony Duke of Brabant,
                                    The brother to the Duke of Burgundy;
                                    And Edward, Duke of Bar: of lusty earls,
                                    Grandpre and Roussi, Fauconbridge and Foix,
                                    Beaumont and Marle, Vaudemont and Lestrelles.
                                    ... Edward the Duke of York; the Earl of Suffolk;
                                    Sir Richard Keighley; Davy Gam, esquire

                                                                        ... uncle Exeter,
                                    And brother Clarence, and you, brother Gloucester,
                                    Warwick and Huntingdon.


Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Rosalind Game

This Shakespearean drinking game is based on a sequence in As You Like It in which the love-sick Orlando is writing lots of poems to his beloved Rosalind, on trees. (This was the done thing in the days before literary agents.)  Touchstone makes fun of these, making up some of his own. This is surprisingly easy to do, and gives rise to “The Rosalind Game” - one of the very few decent Shakespearian drinking games. You get a slow rhythm going, and you go round the table in a circle, making up Rosalind couplets - ie two ΄˘΄˘΄˘΄ lines in which the first line rhymes with “Rosalind” and the second line ends with the word “Rosalind”. (You are allowed to use the “lind”, “linde”, “lin” or “line” pronunciations, and it's best not to be too strict about the metre!) Anybody who can't think of one in time drinks two fingers.

Here are a couple of Shakespeare’s, to give us the idea. First, this is Orlando’s:

Let no face be kept in mind,
But the fair of Rosalinde.

... and this is Touchstone’s:

Sweetest nut hath sourest rind -
Such a nut is Rosalinde.

... and now, some suggestions for the game:

Forgive me Father, I have sinned,
I've just had sex with Rosalind.

A competition I have winned:
To find strange rhymes for “Rosalind”.

I've tied her to this bed with twine,
And now I'll spank my Rosaline.

She is tall and she is thin
Like a beanpole, Rosalin.

Cecelia is nice and kind
The nasty one is Rosalinde.

For your love away I’ve pined,
Oh, my darling Rosalinde.

I saw a film with Kevin Kline
And a girl called Rosaline.

She runs her fingers up my spine,
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, Rosaline.

The George Medal has been pinned
To the breast of Rosalind.

I've softened her with food and wine
Now I'll propose to Rosaline.

She’s either tripletted or quinned;
Very pregnant Rosalind.

Percussion, strings and brass and wind -
The orchestra of Rosalind.

I live in Brixham which is twinned
With the town of Rosalind.

If jam is jarred and beans are tinned
Does that mean Rosaline is “skinned”?

I know a girl who’s got the wind;
Smelly, farty, Rosalind.

Birds are winged and fish are finned
But I am "armed" - like Rosalind.

“All these poems should by binned”
Is the view of Rosalind.

... and a personal favourite, although probably not strictly within the rules:

Skwidgelly, skwodgelly, skwudgelly, skwind
Flubba-dubba-dum-dum Rosalind.

Sunday, 4 March 2012


Shakespeare is truly over-rated. Vastly, hugely and impossibly over-rated. Everything he and his characters ever said or did is revered, analysed, regurgitated, theorised, deconstructed and BORED ON ABOUT to the point where the whole world has blinded itself to the fundamental truth that Shakespeare really is a big pile of old shite. A huge, festering, mountain of poo. A monumental, overhyped, substanceless mass of stinking guano. In short, it is crap.

And it’s not just Shakespeare, oh no, it’s also the people who talk about and write about Shakespeare: the academics, the teachers, the students, the actors and directors; everybody who has been sucked into the great Shakespeare quagmire. They are all crap, too.

This blog offers the cynic’s guide to Shakespeare. It takes the lid off the myth and tells you, in unflinching detail, exactly what is wrong with Shakespeare and his works.