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A criminal speaks :

 

Black Will. I love the smell of gunpowder.

 

(Arden of Faversham, 9.8)

 

—in the morning?

 

*    

 

The Interpretation of Dreams

 

Arden. This night I dreamed that . . .

. . .

Franklin. This fantasy doth rise from Michael’s fear . . .

 

(Arden, 6.6–31)

 

Vittoria. To pass away the time, I’ll tell your grace

                    A dream I had last night . . .

               . . .

               Bracciano. Sweetly shall I interpret this your dream . . .

 

(The White Devil, 1.2.224–61)

 

Duchess.  I had a very strange dream tonight.

Antonio.                                                                  What was ’t?

Duchess.  Methought I wore my coronet of state,

     And on a sudden all the diamonds

     Were chang’d to pearls.

Antonio.                                My interpretation

     Is, you’ll weep shortly, for to me the pearls

     Do signify your tears.

 

(Duchess of Malfi, 3.5.12–7)

 

*

 

Mosby. And then?

Alice. And then—conceal the rest, for ’tis too bad—

 

(Arden, 8.62–3)

 

               Dr Bill. Why don’t you tell me the rest of it?

               Alice. It’s too awful.

 

*

 

Freud, Der Wahn und die Träume in W. Jensens “Gradiva” (Leipzig : Franz Deuticke, 1912), 2.

 

die Dichter . . . denn sie pflegen eine Menge von Dingen zwischen Himmel und Erde zu wissen, von denen sich unsere Schulweisheit noch nichts träumen läßt.

 

Storytellers . . . know many things that our academic wisdom has never yet dreamt of.

 

*

 

Franklin. Ay, by my faith; the air is very cold. (Arden, 4.106)

               Hamlet. The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold. (1.4.1)

 

THE SHAKESPEAREAN CONNECTION to Arden of Faversham is plausible. Shakespeare—a playwright in his early period designated as “1592” (the date, btw, of Arden of Faversham) experiments in various genres such as history, comedy, revenge tragedy; and also attempts a domestic murder story. Plausible? Yes. Can Scrooby find significant connections between Arden and, say, Macbeth? Yes. Can it be proven that Shakespeare wrote even a single word of Arden of Faversham? No. At any rate, whichever master poet wrote the play had a magnificent command of the art of storytelling. Whoever wrote Arden of Faversham was an Original Master of Suspense.

 

*

 

The Big Sleep

 

Michael. Before you [ Arden ] lies Black Will and Shakebag. . . . They’ll be your ferrymen to long home.

 

(Arden, 10.44–6)

 

*

 

Preston Sturges? The Coen Brothers?

 

The plan to murder Thomas Arden undergoes revision due to unforeseen circumstances and/or the appearance of a new bright idea how many times?

 

1. Plan A (1.145)

2. Plan B (2.98)

3. Plan C (3.38–40)

4. Plan D (3.172–8)

5. Plan E (5.60–3)

6. Addendum to all plans (8.23–43)

7. Plan F (9.46–50)

8. Plan G (10.147)

9. Plan H (10.79)

10. Plan I (12.47–8)

11. Plan J (12.61–9)

12. Plan K (14.72–3)

13. Plan L (14.115–22)

 

*

 

Maximum suspense, outrageous duplicity

 

               De Niro. It’s over there, on the corner. . . . No, go ahead. It’s right in there.

 

(Goodfellas, 2:10:58)

 

               Alice. Nay, if thou loved me as thou dost pretend . . .

                    Thou would have followed him. . . .

               Arden. I know my wife counsels me for the best.

                    I’ll seek out Mosby. . . .

 

(Arden, 13.121–50)

 

*

 

               Will. Greene and we two will dog him through the fair,

                    And stab him in the crowd, and steal away.

 

(Arden, 72–3)

 

Black Will, for all of his vicious bluster throughout the whole of the play, finally admits—in a cringeworthy blast of prose-bluster—he’s never killed a man before (14.10–27).

 

—recalling The Scholfield Kid in Unforgiven (1:47:21).

 

*

 

Alice is as wily and evil as Clytemnestra—

 

e.g.

 

               Mosby. [ aside ] Oh, how cunningly she can dissemble [ act false ] !

 

No surprise, then :

 

               Mosby. And let your husband sit upon a stool,

                    That I may come behind him cunningly

                    And with a towel pull him to the ground,

                    Them stab him till his flesh be as a sieve.

 

(Arden, 14.116–9)

 

               Clytemnestra. He is unable to escape or defend

     Against his fate because I throw over him,

     As if catching a fish, an ample garment

     That snares him in its evil wealth of fabric.

     I strike him twice, and with two loud cries his limbs

     Give way beneath him; and when he falls I put in

     A third blow, my prayer-offering to Zeus

     Of the Underworld, preserver of the dead.

     Fallen there, he gasps out his life, and with each

     Sharp breath strikes me with dark drops of bloody dew,

     And I rejoiced no less than bursting flower-buds

     Rejoicing over Heaven-sent springtime rains.

 

(Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 1381–92)

 

*

 

Pynchonistic

 

Will. Thou knowest, Greene, that I have lived in London this twelve years, where I have made some go upon wooden legs for taking the wall on me.

 

i.e., a pedestrian passing him on the inside rather than politely giving way and stepping out into the street.  

 

(Arden, 14.5–7)

 

[ “A gentleman . . . takes the curb side of the pavement.” Emily Post, Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home (1922), ch5. ]

 

Charles Mason, on walking the pavements of an English city :

 

“Oh, one may, if one wishes, find Insult at ev’ry step,—from insolent Stares to mortal Assault, and Orgy of Insult interrupted. . . . There never be time enough to acknowledge, let alone to resent, such a mad Variety of offer’d Offense.”

 

Pynchon, Mason&Dixon (Stuttgart : Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, 1997), 14.

 

*

 

Thomas Arden is murdered right after the stage direction—

 

               [ He throws the dice ]

 

It’s a Taxi Driver–like burst of cathartic violence, as Black Will, Shakebag, and Alice all stab the defenseless man until dead.

 

               Alice. Take this for hind’ring Mosby’s love and mine!

 

*

 

Many currents (Ξάνθου πο δινήεντος) are active at the murder scene—

 

Alice. And, Susan, fetch water and wash away this blood.

Susan. The blood cleaveth to the ground and will not out.

Alice. But with my nails I’ll scrape away the blood;—

     The more I strive, the more the blood appears!

Susan. What’s the reason, Mistress, can you tell?

Alice. Because I blush not at my husband’s death.

 

(Arden, 14.251–6)

 

But keep the wolf far thence, that’s foe to men,

For with his nails he’ll dig them up again.

 

(The White Devil, 5.4.101–2 & The Waste Land, 75–6.)

 

*

 

Scene 14

 

The post-murder Situation is strikingly contemporary in its vision—e.g., the growing suspense of Alice’s pretence of innocence beginning to hit false notes :

 

                Mosby. [ aside ] She will undo us with her foolishness. (14.303)

 

Finally the mechanics of hiding the body undoes them all :

 

               Susan. As we went it snowéd all the way,

                    Which makes me fear our footsteps will be spied.

               Alice. Peace, fool! The snow will cover them again.

 

(Arden, 14.354–5)

 

Alice’s confidence is misplaced. When the authories come knocking, the jig is up for her and her conspirators :

 

Franklin. I fear me he was murdered in this house

     And carried to the fields, for from that place

     Backwards and forwards may you see

     The print of many feet within the snow.

 

(Arden, 14.389–2)

 

Hitchcock might have penned this production.

 

*

 

The two lovers turn on each other after the murder in perfect Double Indemnity–style :

 

               Mosby. How long shall I live in this hell of grief?

     Convey me from the presence of that strumpet.

Alice. Ah, but for thee I had never been strumpet.

 

(Arden, 18.12–3)

 

*

 

Two innocents are condemned to die along with the conspiracy of criminals—one man simply for politely delivering a letter; and the other is the young Susan, a servingmaid.

 

As for evil Alice?

 

               Mayor. Bear Mistress Arden unto Canterbury,

                    Where her sentence is, she must be burnt.

 

(Arden, 18.30–1)

 

*

 

Shakespeare’s Arden of Faversham—the strikingly modern narrative that anticipated an infinite number of thrillers.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Posted (edited)

acroamatic

 

Μεγάρα

α:

πρέσβυ, λεύσσω τμ φίλτατ: τί φ;

 

μφιτρύων

οκ οδα, θύγατερ: φασία δ κμ χει.

 

Euripides, Heracles, 513–5

 

               Megara.

               Wha—? Old man, do I see the man I love? Or what?

 

               Amphitryon.

               I don’t know. I find myself speechless.

 

After a gruelling five hundred lines of tension while these characters face certain death, and after Megara has dressed her three sons in their finery so that when the family is executed by the state they can look their best, all of a sudden comes the man most thought dead—Megara’s husband, the children’s father, Amphitryon’s son : the hero Heracles.

 

They stare at him from their position in the sunstruck courtyard before their house. Has their long-hoped-for dream of deliverance really come, in the last second before certain death?

 

Just here the dialogue, coming as it does after a grand dramatic apex, will be delivered deadpan, flat. Some interruptions are too profound to disturb your composure.

 

Heracles comes, a third of the way into the play of his name. He comes unexpectedly in two senses—he’s about to step into a bout of unremitting horror perpetrated by his own hands, though his coming madness is motivated by spiteful goddesses. So what is this charmed silence? It is the space of a magnitudinous Revelation; but also the most delicate quiet before the storm.

 

A silence that is a holding of the breath.

 

*

 

ο μν λλ Φιλίππ μν, μετ τ φάσμα πέμψαντι Χαίρωνα τν Μεγαλοπολίτην ες Δελφος . . . γεννήθη δ ον λέξανδρος σταμένου μηνς κατομβαινος. . . .

After his dream-vision, Philip, the father of Alexander, sent Chaeron of Megalopolis to Delphi. . . . then Alexander was born in the month of [July].

 

Plutarch, Life of Alexander the Great, 2.1 / 3.1 / 3.3

 

λέξανδρος τι τ γένει πρς πατρς μν ν ρακλείδης

Alexander, through his father’s line, was a descendant of Heracles.

 

*

 

Pliny, Natural History, 35

 

Alexander, though of lofty disposition, showed the greatest respect for the artist Apelles. The king brought to him a lovely woman by the name of Pancaste [ or, Campaspe ], the loveliest of his concubines. It was said among the people that she was his first love. So admired was Pancaste in his eyes, so exquisite was the shape of her body, he directed the artist to paint a nude portrait of her. So it happened that while Apelles was painting her he fell head-over-heels in love with her. When Alexander learned the fact of this, he gave her as a present to Apelles. This act demonstrated Alexander’s greatness of soul, for though he was a king of great grandeur in courage, he was no less powerful in self-control, and his gift showed his honour as clearly as any of his victories. Alexander sacrificed his own affections out of love for the artist. Some say Pancaste was the model for the artist’s painting of Venus rising out of the waters.

 

*

 

Clitus. Parmenio, I cannot tell whether I should more commend in Alexander’s victories courage or courtesy . . .

 

John Lyly, Campaspe, 1.1.1–2

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Deus opimus maximus

 

Whatever date we assign to Campaspe, there can be little doubt that it was one of the first theatrical dramas in our language with an historical background.

 

Campaspe is, in fact, the first romantic drama, a forerunner of Shakespeare.

 

John Dover Wilson, John Lyly (Cambridge : Macmillan and Bowes, 1905), 99–100.

 

*

 

Οδίπους the gweat and tewwible

 

πάτρας Θήβης νοικοι, λεύσσετ, Οδίπους δε,

ς τ κλείν ανίγματ δει κα κράτιστος ν νήρ,

ο τίς ο ζήλ πολιτν ν τύχαις πιβλέπων

 

O citizens of Thebes, behold Oedipus, who solved the famous riddle and was the mightiest of men. Who of us did not look on his good fortune with envy?

 

Sophocles, Οδίπους Τύραννος, 1524–6

 

προσμίξας δ τας Θήβαις . . . οτως τρεψε τος Μακεδόνας πρς πόλεμον.

Alexander came to Thebes and led his Macedonians into war.

 

Plutarch, Life of Alexander, 11.4

 

θεν λέξανδρος περιαλγς γενόμενος ες περβάλλουσαν ργν προλθεν κα πάσ τιμωρί τος Θηβαίους μετελθεν κρινεν

And so Alexander became powerfully angry, and advanced on the Thebans with overwhelming force.

 

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 17.9.6

 

δ πόλις λω κα διαρπασθεσα κατεσκάφη

The city was conquered and plundered and destroyed.

 

Plutarch, Life of Alexander, 11.5

 

*

 

Parmenio. Behold the Theban prisoners . . .

Campaspe. If there be such a thing as Alexander, I hope it shall be no miserable thing to be a virgin.

 

Lyly, Campaspe, 32, 63–4

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λαμβάνει δ ρακλς παρ Κρέοντος ριστεον τν πρεσβυτάτην θυγατέρα Μεγάραν

As a prize for the best and bravest, Heracles received from Creon, king of Thebes, his eldest daughter Megara.

 

Apollodorus, Library, 2.4.11

 

*

 

Euripides, Heracles, 1–4

 

Τίς τν Δις σύλλεκτρον οκ οδεν βροτν,

ργεον μφιτρύων, ν λκαός ποτε

τιχθ Περσέως, πατέρα τόνδ ρακλέους;

ς τάσδε Θήβας σχον

 

               Who here does not know the name of Amphitryon,

               he who shared a wife with Zeus? I, Amphitryon,

               the son of Alcaeus the son of Perseus,

and father of Heracles! Here in Thebes I lived . . .

 

*

 

               Clitus. Thebes is razed.

 

Campaspe, 1.1.4

 

*

 

Hamlet. Let Hercules himself do what he may,

     The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.

 

*     *     *

 

In the beginning—

 

                              [ Actus Primus. Scaena Prima. ]

 

Lyly’s Campaspe champions the concept of a meritocracy.

 

Campaspe. [ I was ] born of a mean parentage . . .

Alexander. Well, ladies, for so your virtues show, whatsoever your births be, you shall be honourably treated.

 

(1.1.84, 86–7)

 

*

 

Campaspe champions the concept of a cultured society.

 

Alexander. It resteth now that we have as great care to govern in peace as conquer in war, that whilst arms cease, arts may flourish, and joining letters with lances we endeavour to be as good philosophers as soldiers, knowing it no less praise to be wise, than commendable to be valiant.

 

(1.1.94–99)

 

*

 

Campaspe champions the concept of the Reasonable.

 

Clitus. Parmenio, I cannot tell whether I should more commend in Alexander’s victories courage or courtesy, in the one being a resolution without fear, in the other a liberality above custom: Thebes is razed, [ but ] the people [ are ] not racked; towers thrown down, [ but ] bodies not thrust aside; a conquest without conflict, and a cruel war in a mild peace.

 

(1.1.1–7)

 

*

 

meritocracy + cultured society + the reasonable =

 

CONCEPT 1 : MORALITY

 

*

 

CONCEPT 2 : INHERITANCE; BEQUEATHMENT

 

Clitus. This shall be the opinion of us both, that none was worthy to be the father of Alexander but Philip, nor any meet [ fit ] to be the son of Philip but Alexander.

 

(1.1.7–31)

 

=

 

Morality is a virtue bequeathed to and inherited by the virtuous.

 

*

 

[ Enter Timoclea and Campaspe and other captives ]

 

(1.1.32 s.d.)

 

*

 

Utopic conquerors—The reasonable is merciful :

 

Parmenio. Soft, Clitus, behold the spoils and prisoners, a pleasant sight to us because profit is joined with honour, not much painful to them because their captivity is eased by mercy.

 

(1.1.32–5)

 

*

 

Courage.

 

Timoclea. . . . let us not be ashamed to cast our eyes on him . . .

Parmenio. Madam, you need not doubt; it is Alexander that is the conqueror.

Timoclea. Alexander hath overcome, not conquered.

Parmenio. To bring all under his subjection is to conquer.

Timoclea. He cannot subdue that which is divine.

Parmenio. Thebes was not.

Timoclea. Virtue is.

 

(1.1.50–5)

 

Timoclea exemplifies courageous, principled femininity.

 

CONCEPT3  : (HEROIC) SPIRIT

 

*

 

CONCEPT 4  : DESTINY

 

               Timoclea. Destiny is seldom foreseen, never prevented.

 

(1.1.44–5)

 

*

 

CONCEPT 5  : RESPONSIBILITY—e.g., EVER-GROWING INTELLIGENCE

 

Alexander. Hephestion, it resteth now that we have as great care to govern in peace as conquer in war, that whilst arms cease, arms may flourish, and joining letters with lances we endeavour to be as good philosophers as soldiers, knowing it no less praise to be wise, than commendable to be valiant.

Hephestion. Your majesty therein showeth that you have as great desire to rule as to subdue; and needs must [ it must be ] that commonwealth be fortunate whose captain is a philosopher and whose philosopher is a captain.

 

(1.1.94–104)

 

*

 

Midnight in Paris (2011)

 

Alexander sees Timoclea first, addresses her as “lady”, and has a short exchange with her; then notices Campaspe and addresses her as “fair lady”, yet speaks just as briefly with her as with Timoclea. The captives are then sent out and Alexander immediately turns to other business.

 

Later in the play, however, Campaspe will loom large in his life—hence the play’s title.

 

Storyteller Lyly pioneers the technique of the in passing that leads eventually to the monumental—(a technique explored earlier in this thread with examples from The White Devil and Being There).

 

Please consider :

 

Owen Wilson and Léa Seydoux casually meet and subsequently ignore each other; he even keeps his back to her for a significant duration while she looks away, busy at work; and when he leaves she doesn’t look after him (44:28-46). But later they meet again, and will eventually realise they’re right for one another.

 

As for Campaspe

 

Once Campaspe is ushered offstage, Alexander has zero thought of love; his mind is bent solely on right governance :

 

Alexander. Hephestion, it resteth now that we have as great care to govern in peace as conquer in war . . .

 

Just now, a potential lover has passed him by unnoticed.

 

*

 

Fair play—Judged on behaviour (not birth)

 

               Alexander. Clitus, are these the prisoners?

               Clitus. [ If it ] Like your Majesty, they are prisoners, and of Thebes.

               Alexander. Of what calling or reputation?

               Clitus. I know not; but they seem to be ladies of honour.

 

(1.1.69–72)

 

*

 

Contrast

 

Timoclea is combative with her overlords rather than compliant. Campaspe, meanwhile, speaks mildly :

 

Campaspe. Then if it be such a thing to be Alexander, I hope it shall be no miserable thing to be a virgin. For if he save our honours it is more than to restore our goods. And rather do I wish he preserve our fame than our lives, which if he do, we will confess there can be no greater thing than to be Alexander.

 

(1.1.61-8)

*

 

What is the character Campaspe fundamentally conveying there? She is hoping for the best.

 

And perhaps those last words of hers shall be a happy species of Famous Last Words?

 

*

 

Marvellous Lyly’s mind.

 

For if he save our honours it is more than to restore our goods.

 

[ For if he preserve our honours, he is preserving something he can never give us. ]

 

*

 

Virtuous Alexander’s first speech utterance involves two questions :

 

               Alexander. Clitus, are these prisoners? Of whence these spoils?

 

—demonstrating close engagement with the world.

 

*

 

Hint of sex

 

Campaspe. Then if it be such a thing to be Alexander, I hope it shall be no miserable thing to be a virgin.

 

(1.1.64)

 

*

 

The Big Reveal

 

The first 68 lines prepare the audience for the first appearance of Alexander onstage. Within this span of lines the name of Alexander is heard in the dialogue a total of twelve times.

 

Of the 15 sets of lines spoken before Alexander enters, he is a subject of 11 of them.

 

1.1 is a masterclass in preparing an audience for a Big Reveal. Lyly well knows that There is No Colossal Moment Without a Set-up.

 

*

 

That said

 

Every moment in Campaspe is a colossal moment in technics—by virtue of the origin.

 

*

 

First-rate art as responsible teaching tool

 

Alexander—a focused, well-put-together gentleman of correct behaviour, exemplar of virtue.

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relatable?

 

suspicion is a proof, and to be accused is to be condemned.

 

(Lyly, Campaspe, 3.4.9–10)

 

Alexander. It were a shame Alexander should desire to command the world if he could not command himself.

 

(5.4.168–70)

 

*

 

kindred

 

A messenger swans in on business and glances at a painted portrait; it is of a lady whose beauty has seized Alexander’s heart. The messenger, a young boy, all unknowing, casually passes judgement unsolicited and by the by.

 

               Page. I have known many fairer faces.

 

(4.5.11)

 

               Ernie. I seen better.

 

Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (33:27)

 

*

 

on remakes

 

Sylvius. Now shall you hear the third, who sings like a nightingale.

Diogenes. I care not; for I have heard a nightingale sing herself.

 

(5.1.31–2)

 

*

 

Dialogic parallax

 

Phrygius. There is more pleasure in tuning of a voice than in a volley of shot.

 

(5.3.41–2)

 

Alexander. If all the travails of conquering the world will set either thy body or mine in tune, Hephestion, we will undertake them.

 

(5.4.9–11)

 

*

 

kindred

              

Alexander. Page, go speedily for Apelles. Will him to come hither, and when you see us earnestly in talk, suddenly cry out, “Apelles’ shop is on fire!”

 

(5.4.25-7)

 

               Eli. Daniel Plainview, the house is on fire!

 

*

 

“What is love?”

 

Alexander. What do you think of love? What do you imagine it to be?

Hephestion. A word, a superstition thought a god, by use turned to a humour, by self-will made a flattering madness.

 

(5.4.34–41)

 

Playboy. You once said you were cynical about love. How about now?

Jack. It all seems like divine madness.

 

(January 2004), 84.

 

               R. Royster. Except I have her to my Wife, I shall runne madde.

 

Nicholas Udall, Ralph Roister Doister (1.2.142)

 

 

*

 

               Alexander. What doth thou think of the time we have here?

               Diogenes. That we have little, and lose much.¹

 

(5.4.52)

 

               Anton. You stand to win everything.

 

¹ Non exiguum temporis habemus, sed multum perdimus. (Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae, 1.4.3)

 

*

 

Alexander. And good Hephestion, when all the world is won and every country is thine and mine, either find me out another to subdue or, of my word, I will fall in love.

 

                              [ end ]

 

(5.4.171–4)

 

Ordell. See, I get high at night, when I get through with all my business.

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Chilax. And as the Tutor to great Alexander

     Would say, a young man should not dare to read

     His moral books till after five-and-twenty;

     So must that he or she, that will be bawdy

     (I mean discreetly bawdy) and be trusted,

     If they will rise . . .  

    

John Fletcher, The Tragedy of Valentinian

 

Et quamquam Valentinianus, homo propalam ferus, inter imperitandi exordia, ut asperitatis opinionem molliret, impetus truces retinere non numquam in potestate animi nitebatur, serpens tamen vitium et dilatum, paulatim licentius erupit ad perniciem plurimorum, quod auxit ira acerbius effervescens.

 

It was well-understood among the people that the Emperor Valentinian was a notoriously cruel man. In the early period of his reign, he struggled to apply the power of his mind to repress his violent impulses, hoping to control his public reputation; but little by little his faults revealed themselves, and he brought the ruin of very many men as his anger and cruelty boiled over with increasing frequency.

 

Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 27.7.4.

 

*

 

Gibbon, Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire (Gütersloh : Bertelsmann, 1995), 977–8.

 

After Valentinian became master of the world, he unfortunately forgot that, where no resistance can be made, no courage can be exerted; and instead of consulting the dictates of reason and magnanimity, he indulged the furious emotions of his temper, at a time when they were disgraceful to himself, and fatal to the defenceless objects of his displeasure. In the government of his household, or of his empire, slight, or even imaginary offences—a hasty word, a casual omission, an involuntary delay—were chastised by a sentence of immediate death. The expressions which issued the most readily from the mouth of the emperor of the West were, “Strike off his head”; “Burn him alive”; “Let him be beaten with clubs till he expires”; and his most favoured ministers soon understood that, by a rash attempt to dispute or suspend the execution of his sanguinary commands, they might involve themselves in the guilt and punishment of disobedience. The repeated gratification of this savage justice hardened the mind of Valentinian against pity and remorse; and the sallies of passion were confirmed by the habits of cruelty. He could behold with calm satisfaction the convulsive agonies of torture and death.

 

*

 

Ardelia.                                So godly!

     This is ill-breeding.

 

(Valentinian, 1.2.170–1)

*

 

— Think, say, Dangerous Liaisons (1988) or In the Company of Men (1997).

 

               Ardelia. She is a kind of nothing but her service

 

i.e., All she’s good for is bed.

 

(1.2.91)

 

*

 

1.1

 

For the entirety of the 113 lines the lone subject on men’s minds is—How do we violate the chastity of young Lucina?

 

               Balbus. If the emperor, grown mad with love, should force her?

 Chilax. Let’s go consider, then, and if it all fail,

                    This is the first quick eel that saved her tail.

 

(1.1.91, 112–3)

 

*

 

1.2

 

Two older women enter Lucina’s home and try to persuade the young housewife to sleep around with the nobility; but Lucina is having none of it.  

 

               Ardelia. Come, let’s go think. She must not scape us thus.

                    There is a certain season, if we hit,

                    That women may be rid without a bit.

 

(1.2.174–6)

 

Act 1 of The Tragedy of Valentinian is equivalent to an inverted American Psycho. Society itself is the psycho, and is preying on Lucina from every angle.

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The caesura between Mr Blonde getting hit, then relaxing into the big sleep. (59:42–1:00:11)

 

The caesura between Frank White relaxing into his big sleep, then lowering his gun. (1:39:39–51)

 

Reservoir Dogs (1992) / King of New York (1990)

 

*

 

Valentinian. Justice shall never hear ye; I am justice.

 

(3.1.34)

*

 

Lucina. I see there is no God but power

 

(3.1.144)

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Lady Macbeth. What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?

 

(5.1.39–41)

 

Valentinian.                                If ye divulge it,

       Know I am far above the faults I do.

 

(3.1.118–9)

 

*

 

In Act 1, Maximus, a great soldier, is emphatically virtuous.

 

Maximus.                                       Where lives virtue,

                    Honour, discretion, wisdom? Who are called

                    And chosen to the steering of the empire

                    But bawds and singing-girls? . . .

                    Why are we thus, or how become thus wretched?

                                                                    

(1.3.5–8, 36)

 

Maximus is husband to doomed Lucina; so will come to re-evaluate his position of “virtue”.

 

*

 

Aëtius is a distinguished general in the Roman army and advisor to Valentinian. Aëtius believes in Rome, the long-term idea of Rome, while knowing the emperor is a short-term sociopathic tyrant.

 

Thus Aëtius plays all sides.—He is also an ally of Maximus, the husband of Lucina. Each is a “noble friend” to the other (1.3.1 / 3.1.345).

 

In reply to friend Maximus quoted above :

 

               Aëtius. Though these be truths . . .

                                                                    . . . yet remember

                    We are but subjects, Maximus. Obedience

                    To what is done and grief for what is ill done

                    Is all we can call ours.

 

(1.3.14–7)

 

Rome suffers the apocalyptic wackiness of Valentinian, yet Aëtius grins and bears it.

 

Aëtius.                                         pray consider,

     We are but shadows. Motions others give us;

     And though our pities may become the times,

     Justly our powers cannot.

 

(1.3.72–5)

 

Aëtius is sensible, reasonable, politic, polite, wholly practical—yet at one point he reveals a naivete that sounds like a nostalgic throwback to Lyly’s Campaspe :

 

               Aëtius. Our honest actions, and the light that breaks

     Like morning from our service, chaste and blushing,

     Is that that pulls a prince back. Then he sees,

                   And not till then truly repents his errors,

     When subjects’ crystal souls are glasses [ mirrors ] to him.

 

These sentimental words are equivalent to the 1930s music wafting in during the final lovers’ quarrel in Double Indemnity.

 

*

 

4.4. Maximum Absurdity

 

Three men are enlisted by Valentinian to dispatch of Aëtius, whom the emperor believes is a traitor to Rome—thanks to Maximus, who has betrayed his “noble friend” Aëtius via the gambit of an anonymous letter. Aëtius must be collateral damage in Maximus’ revenge plot against the emperor.

 

Aëtius welcomes becoming a martyr to Rome. Problem is, is getting someone to kill him.

 

*

 

Majestic and Absurd

 

Aëtius. Do not I bear my last hour here now sent me?

 

This is, as we shall soon discover, morbid humour at the start of 4.4.

 

Aëtius. Does any man lament I should die nobly?

 

What happens?

 

It takes 268 lines to kill a man who wants to die.

 

*

 

4.4 is full of antinomies. Aëtius, the man of honour, speaks first to his friends who urge him to flee with his life :

 

Aëtius. You think this tenderness and love you bring me;

     ’Tis treason and the strength of disobedience,

     And if ye tempt me further, ye shall feel it.

 

     my death,

     Ten times more glorious than my life.

 

     Why do ye weep?

     I am to triumph, friends, and more than Caesar,

     For Caesar fears to die; I love to die.

 

     Not I the miseries that Rome shall suffer,

     Which is a benefit life cannot reckon.

 

     No more, I say. He that laments my end

     By all the gods dishonours me.

 

*

 

Aëtius wants to die honourably in a dishonourable age. What’s it all mean?

 

*

 

Impatient to be dead

 

Aëtius persuades his friends to leave him to his fate. Now, three nobles arrive—Balbus, Chilax, and Lycinius—tasked to bring Aëtius to death.

 

Aëtius. Yet I will die a Soldier, my sword drawn,

     But against none. Why do ye fear? Come forward.

 

What follows is comic interplay—also tense?—between the antagonists :

 

Balbus. You were a Soldier, Chilax.

Chilax.                                                 Yes, I mustered,

     But never saw the enemy.

Lycinius.                                    He’s drawn;

     By heaven I dare not do it.

Aëtius.                                       Why do ye tremble?

     I am to die. Come ye not now from Caesar

     To that end? Speak.

Balbus.                           We do, and we must kill ye.

     ’Tis Caesar’s will.

 

Yet still they hesitate.

 

(Kind reader, we’ve all seen this scene many a time—“Kill it!” “You kill it!” “I ain’t doin’ it!”, etc.)

 

Aëtius.                          Come forward, fools,

     Why do ye stare? Upon mine honour, bawds,

     I will not strike ye.

 

But the noble conspirators remain too scared to act.

 

Lycinius.         I’ll not be first.

Balbus. Nor I.

Chilax. You had best die quietly. The Emperor

     Sees how you bear yourself.

 

A lame remark, considering the Emperor is the one who ordered Aëtius dead. Chilax is appealing to the man’s sense of honour in the most ridiculous way.

 

               Aëtius.                                          I would die, rascals,

                    If you would kill me quietly.

 

Shut up and do it!

 

Yet the conspirators continue to waffle; so wily Aëtius turns the tables :

 

Aëtius.                                            I’ll call the guard

     Unless you will kill me quickly, and proclaim

     What beastly, base, and cowardly companions

     The Emperor has trusted with his safety:

     Nay, I’ll give out, ye fell of my side, villains.

 

Aëtius is threatening his killers to kill him—or else!

 

But the killers are cowards. Aëtius insults them :

 

 Aëtius. Strike home, ye bawdy slaves!

Chilax.                                                         He will kill us!

 

Standoff. Finally, a soldier arrives—

 

Balbus.                                    Here’s Pontius.

Pontius. Not killed him yet?

     Is this the love ye bear the emperor?

     Nay, then, I see ye are traitors all. Have at ye!

 

 [ Pontius attacks. Lycinius runs away ]

 

Chilax. O, I am hurt!

Balbus.                      And I am killed!

 

               [ exit Balbus and Chilax ]

 

*

 

The cowards pay the price—just as Aëtius threatened!  (“I’ll give out, ye fell of my side, villains.” = “I’ll say you came over to my side.”)

 

Now General Aëtius faces Pontius, a soldier he has wronged in the past.

 

Aëtius.                           Art thou not Pontius?

Pontius. I am the same you cast [out ], Aëtius,

     And in the face of all the camp disgraced.

Aëtius. Then so much nobler, as thou wert a soldier,

     Shall my death be. Is it revenge provoked thee,

     Or art thou hired to kill me?

Pontius.                                        Both.

Aëtius.                                                    Then do it.

Pontius. Is that all?

Aëtius.                       Yes.

 

*

 

               Barnes. Do it.

 

Platoon

 

*

 

Yet Pontius doesn’t do it. He would rather enter into a long dialogue with Aëtius, the third extended dialogue exchange (so far) in the absurdly protracted death-scene of 4.4.

 

Aëtius. Come, strike, and be a general.

Pontius.                                                      Prepare, then.

 

As Pontius is a patriotic Roman, Aëtius’ desire for an honourable death strikes at his heart. And so—

 

Pontius makes ready to bring death—

 

               Aëtius. I am prepared for all.

               Pontius.                                    For now, Aëtius,

                    Thou shalt behold I was no traitor,

                    And as I do it, bless me. Die as I do.

 

                              [ Pontius stabs himself ]

 

               Aëtius. Thou have deceived me, and I thank thee.

                    By all my hopes in heaven, thou art a Roman.

 

Finally—

 

Aëtius.                                    Then, Aëtius,

     See what thou dar’st thyself.

 

                              [ picks up sword ]

 

Yet another speech follows (251–64), a “heroic death speech” (cf. Revenger’s Tragedy, 5.3.107–25; Othello, 5.2.398–421), then, after 268 lines, an eternity on the stage—

 

                              [ Aëtius stabs himself ]

 

Aëtius. Do men fear this? O that posterity

     Could learn from this (that loves his wound):

     There is no pain in dying well,

     Nor none are lost but those that make their hell.

 

                              [ He dies ]

 

*

 

The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.

 

Paradise Lost, 1.254–5

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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When in Rome . . .

 

Phidias.                           He that would live now

     Must, like the toad, feed only on corruptions

     And grow with those to greatness.

 

(4.4.281–3)

 

*

 

“Stuck in the Middle With You”

 

Act 5 begins with the entrance of two allies of Maximus and the late Aëtius :

 

                              [ Enter Phidias with his dagger in him, and Aretus poisoned ]

 

The two men are dying, yet celebrating their good fortune. One hour earlier, Aretus, before poisoning himself, poisoned Valentinian. Cue the Fletcherian antinomies :

 

               Phidias. Remember who dies with thee and despise death.

               Aretus. I need no exhortation. The joy in me

                    Of what I have done, and why, makes poison pleasure

                    And my most killing torments mistresses.

 

Good reader, picture blood-red Reservoir Dogs :

 

               Phidias. This that consumes my life yet keeps it in me;

 

—meaning the dagger in his body stops his blood from spilling out—

 

                    Nor do I feel the danger of a dying,

                    And if but endure to hear the curses

                    Of this fell tyrant dead, I have half my heaven.

 

As they speak, are Phidias and Aretus writhing and groaning?

 

(cf. Mr. Orange; the stricken bank employees in Wild at Heart, 1:47:03–19.)

 

               Aretus. Hold thy soul fast but four hours, Phidias,

                    And thou shall see to wishes beyond ours,

                    Nay, more, beyond our meanings [ intentions ] .

 

Four hours?! With a dagger in him? He’ll try his best—

 

               Phidias. I would not faint yet.

 

When the scene ends Phidias is never seen again. Scrooby guesses he didn’t make it.

 

Aretus, though dying a slow death, still has work to do. Like Mr Orange, he has one message to deliver.

 

*

 

5.2

 

begins with the emperor’s allies bemoaning the Situation :

 

Lycinius. O friends, the Emperor!

Proculus.                                         What say the doctors?

Lycinius. For us a most sad saying: he is poisoned;

     Beyond all cure, too.

              

                              [ Valentinian is carried on, sick in a chair, followed by Eudoxia the Empress ]

 

               Valentinian. O gods, gods! O my heart-strings! (24)

 

The odious tyrant, writhing in titanic agonies of mortal pain, doesn’t drop dead until line 140.

 

Finally he understands—oops, too late :

 

               Valentinian.                   I am but flesh,

                    A man, a mortal man.

 

Too late—yet the tyrant is still active enough to assail his physicians :

 

               Valentinian. Finding no true disease in man but money,

                    That talk yourselves into revenues—O!—

                    And ere ye kill your patients beggar ’em;

                    I’ll have ye flayed and dried!

 

(cf. Goodfellas, 34:47)

 

Aretus, then, also slow-dying from poison, is brought before the dying Valentinian; and Aretus cleans up his unfinished business.

 

               Aretus. The gods have set thy last hour, Valentinian.

                    Thou art a man, a bad man too, a beast,

                    And like a sensual bloody thing thou diest.

 

Please recall

 

               Leon. Time to die.

 

Aretus mocks his victim relentlessly.

 

                   I gave thee poison for Aëtius’ sake.

                    . . .

     Be not abused with priests nor ’pothecaries,

     They cannot help thee. Thou hast now to live

     A short half-hour, no more, and I ten minutes.

Valentinian. O villain! I grow hotter, hotter!

Aretus.                                                              Yes.    

 

Two dying men facing off.

 

Aretus rubs it in from 78–109. Example :

 

               Aretus. Thy tortures to what now I suffer, Caesar,

                    At which thou must arrive too ere thou diest,

                    Are lighter and more full of mirth than laughter.

 

Aretus finally dies happy after line 109. Meanwhile—

 

               Valentinian. Hold me! Hold me! Hold me!

                    Hold me, or I shall burst else!

 

(Dorothy. Hold me! I’m falling! I’m falling! Hold me!)

              

Now for Valentinian’s last words, drawn out for forty lines of course, a grotesque parody of the “heroic death speech”—considering the man’s an odious tyrant. But during his philosophic speechifying he pays for his crimes :

 

               Valentinian. O torments, torments, torments, pains above pains!

                    . . .

                    My brains are ashes, now my heart, my eyes. Friends,

                    I go, I go. More air, more air! I am mortal.

 

                              [ He dies ]

 

*

Seneca, De Ira, 1.13.5.

 

et invalidum omne natura querulum est.

The weak are full of complaints.

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Love letters(m) vs. (s)

              

interdum aciem liquidarum imitatis aquarum,

flumen eras, interdum undis contrarius ignis.

 

Ovid, Metamorphoses, 8.736–7

 

*

 

(m) transformed into (w)

 

The joyous birds shrouded in cheerful shade,

     Their notes unto the voice atte(m)pered sweet;

     Th’Angelical soft tre(m)bling voices (m)ade

     To th’instru(m)ents divine respondence (m)eet:

     The silver sounding instruments did (m)eet

     With the base (m)ur(m)ur of the waters fall:

     The waters fall with difference discreet,

     Now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call:

The gentle warbling wind low answered to all.

 

Spenser, Faerie Queene, 2.12.71

 

The joyous birds shrouded in cheerful shade,

     Their notes unto the voice attempered s(w)eet;

     Th’Angelical soft trembling voices made

     To th’instruments divine respondence meet:

     The silver sounding instruments did meet

     With the base murmur of the (w)aters fall:

     The (w)aters fall with difference discreet,

     No(w) soft, no(w) loud, unto the (w)ind did call:

The gentle (w)arbling (w)ind lo(w) ans(w)ered to all.

 

*

              

Just now I opened Spenser . . .

 

Keats, Letter to J. H. Reynolds, 18 April 1817

 

Season of (m)ists and (m)ello(w) fruitfulness,

   Close boso(m)-friend of the (m)aturing sun;

Conspiring with hi(m) ho(w) to load and bless

   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

To bend with apples the (m)oss’d cottage-trees,

   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

      To s(w)ell the gourd, and plu(m)p the hazel shells

   (w)ith a s(w)eet kernel; to set budding (m)ore,

And still (m)ore, later flo(w)ers for the bees,

Until they think (w)ar(m) days (w)ill never cease,

      For su(m)(m)er has o’er-bri(m)(m)’d their cla(m)(m)y cells.

 

In the poem’s last three lines, the “grounded” (m) is absent altogether, conjuring an airy ending :

 

Hedge-crickets sing; and no(w) (w)ith treble soft

   The red-breast (w)histles from a garden-croft;

      And gathering s(w)allo(w)s t(w)itter in the skies.

 

*

 

A Bird came down the Walk—

She did not know I saw—

She bit an Angle Worm in halves

And ate the fellow, raw

 

*

 

The tale of Erysichthon

 

Ille etiam Cereale nemus violasse securi

dicitur et lucos ferro temerasse vetustos.

Stabat in his ingens annoso robore quercus,

una nemus.

 

He it was, it is said, who violated a grove sacred to goddess Ceres, and desecrated the long-standing wood with an iron axe.

 

How did Ceres, goddess of growth, respond? Erysichthon began feeling hungry. He might fill his stomach with food, but wouldn’t be satisfied. Finally, then, when nothing was left to eat—

 

ipse suos artus lacero divellere morsu

coepit et infelix minuendo corpus alebat.

 

He tore himself to pieces with his teeth, biting into his flesh, and piece by piece he picked at his body, to feed his barren self.

 

Ovid, Metamorphoses, 8.725–884

 

*

 

Lyly, Love’s Metamorphosis

 

Silvestris. For what joy can there be in our lives, when every kind word proceed of fear, not affection?

 

*

 

               They say you are what you eat and if so I HAVEN’T CHANGED A BIT!

 

Stephen King, “Survivor Type”

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Everybody pays, even for things they didn’t do.

Stephen King, Thinner

 

*     *     *

 

Problem Child (1990), or, Satansbraten

 

Eulalia. Lord, what folly is in youth!

                                   How unhappy be children now-a-days!

 

The character of Junior in Problem Child is an exemplary expression of the Anti.

 

Junior is more than anti-social, -convention, -animal, -family, -religion, -God, -authority, -English language, -ethics, -people, -buildings, -food—

 

The kid is anti-life.

 

But what if the problem child was sent down to earth by a benevolent God to show us the truth of ourselves? The function of the problem child is to reveal the BS of everything. Junior is the living spirit of Heideggerian Destruktion. Through his agency might come our Utopia.

 

We the audience see ourselves in the characters of the narrative, any narrative, and thereby strive to become better persons.

 

tl;dr—The problem child has been sent by God to save us.

 

*

 

Problem Child, ca. 1549–53

 

An early anonymous English play entitled A Pretty Interlude called Nice Wanton shows us possibly the first “wild child” in English Literature.

 

*

 

Have a nice day.

 

OED—nice (1300) : Of a person: foolish, silly, simple; ignorant.

 

*

 

Brother and sister Ismael and Dalilah are dissolute teenagers running wild. Their many offences include disobedience; swearing; gambling; thievery; mockery; fighting with neighbours’ kids; sleeping around; skipping school; idleness; lying; singing obscene songs. Ismael and Dalilah are wholly obnoxious and ungovernable—

 

—which is why they are accompanied onstage by the personification of Iniquity, to whom Ismael loses all of his money in a game of dice.

 

               Ismael. The knaves have all the money, good fellows have none!

 

Depravity inspires him to atrocious deeds :

 

Ismael. ’Tis no matter, I will have money, or I will sweat;

     By God’s blood, I will rob the next I meet—

     Yea, and it be my father!

 

Nothing’s sacred to Ismael. He routinely steals money from his father’s wallet; and in his sister’s presence he describes her as “whore” ten times.

 

Indeed, the play’s dialogue is peppered with sexual-speak, such as these song lyrics, which are well-nigh pornographic

 

               Iniquity.       Gold locks

     She must have knocks,

     Or else I do her wrong.

 

OED—knocks (1377) : a hard stroke or thump.

 

               Dalilah.      Then, by the rood,

                    A bone in your hood

                    I shall put, ere it be long.

 

Dalilah sports with Iniquity carelessly, exuberantly, without knowing a jot of his falsity; but we come to know it :

 

Iniquity. (to audience) Do ye hear this jade?

 

OED—jade (1386) : A contemptuous name for a horse of inferior breed; later (1560), hussy.

 

*

 

An early Henry James Positive-Negative Statement

 

               Dalilah. O good brother, let us go;

                    I will never go more to school.

                    Shall I never know

                    What ‘pastime’ meaneth?

                    Yes, I will not be such a fool.

 

*

 

After an intermission, the outcome of Dalilah’s wild life is revealed :

 

                              [ Dalilah cometh in ragged, her face hid, or disfigured, halting on a staff ]

 

               Dalilah. Alas, wretched wretch that I am!

                    Most miserable caitiff that ever was born!

                    Full of pain and sorrow, crookéd and lorn [ lost ] :

                    Stuff’d with diseases, in this world forlorn!

 

Of course, she blames her parents :

 

                    My parents did tiddle [ spoil ] me; they were to blame;

                    Instead of correction, in ill did me maintain.

 

*

 

Earlier in the play Xantippe their mother was warned by a neighbour that her two outrageous children are terrorizing the neighbourhood and require “sober correction” :  

 

               Eulalia. They swear, curse, and scold, as they go by the way,

                    Giving others ill example to do the same,

                    To God’s displeasure, and their hurt another day.

                    Chastise them for it, or else ye are to blame!

 

Unfortunately the loving mother laughed off her neighbour, though confirmatory evidence was mounting :

 

Xantippe. Liar!

     [ to herself ] My children or I be cursed, I think;

     They be complained on wherever they go.

 

*

 

A Pretty Interlude called Nice Wanton, a thoughtful and well-structured entertainment, communicates stern warnings to the audience.

 

*

 

The play features one of the earliest courtroom scenes in English Literature.

 

The courtroom—Surprise!—is not without a whiff of corruption.

 

               Bailiff. [ in judge’s ear ] If your lordship would be so good to me

                    As for my sake to set him free,

                    I could have twenty pound in a purse,

                    Yea, and your lordship a right fair horse,

                    Well worth ten pound—

 

Since, however, Nice Wanton is well-intentioned fiction, the judge is exceeding honest, and chastises the bailiff.

 

*

 

Ismael, alas, is sentenced to death for “felony, burglary, and murder” :

 

               Judge. To the place of execution then thou shalt go,

                    There to be hanged to death; and after, again,

                    Being dead, for ensample to be hanged in a chain.

                    Take him away, and see it done.

 

Delilah, meanwhile, has already died an untimely death, from a sexual disease called the “pox” that she caught in “the stews” (the brothels).

 

*

 

Born into a prosperous home, the two kids stupidly squandered their good fortune, and lost everything.

 

The mother is left to weep her many tears.

 

               Xantippe. Alas, alas, and well-away!

                    I may curse the time that I was born!

                    Never woman had such fortune, I dare say;

                    Alas, two of my children be forlorn.

                    . . .

     Why should God punish and plague me so sore?

     To see my children die so shamefully!

     I will never eat bread in this world more!

     With this knife will I slay myself by and by.

 

Then her surviving child Barnabas saves her with a speech imploring faith in God; and he reminds his mother of her earthly responsibilities :

 

Barnabas. All worldly cares let pass and fall.

     And thus comfort my father I pray you heartily.

 

*

 

And so, at the last, in the Epilogue to the play, Barnabas, who wisely followed the straight and narrow to a successful life, offers the audience some positive advice :

 

Barnabas. Right gentle audience, by this interlude ye may see

     How dangerous it is for the frailty of youth,

     Without good governance, to live at liberty;

     . . .

     Therefore exhort I all parents to be diligent

     In bringing up their children aye to be circumspect,

     Lest they fall to evil.

     . . .

     O ye children, let your time be well-spent,

     Apply your learning, and your elders obey;

     It will be your profit for another day.

 

*     *     *

 

Revaluation

 

The English stage experience began with narratives founded in morality, ethics, and personal responsibility.

 

Nice Wanton is a theatrical entertainment with responsible messages for adults.

 

First-rate narrative art of the present day preserves the superior essence of the origins of English theatrical storytelling.

 

*

 

As long as youth remains youth, A Pretty Interlude called Nice Wanton will be relevant and relatable—a work from the past, yet always in our future.

 

Art is always ahead of us, and our efforts to catch up make us better people.

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Why not discard the idea that once we watch a film in a linear manner, we must do it that same way everytime?

 

Rewatching a film with the concentration required for reading Shakespearean-era plays—let’s call this “Intentional Watching”.  

 

We can zone out on, say, Vertigo or Oppenheimer one time; but another time we might approach a film as if wrestling with a complex ever-growing and -evolving mathematical equation in which the theoretical answer is Revelation of Self.

 

Sometimes going along with the ride is exhilarating.

 

Sometimes a spectator can choose to see differently.

 

Spectator as Pioneer.

 

Wrestling with Art brings expansion of Vision which endures.

 

An artwork is a Big Bang that activates the intentional spectator into an expanding multiverse of mind.

 

*     *     *

 

The Unthinking is the Unexercised, and therefore is not yet towards health.

 

*

 

Images are pools that immerse and drown,

Words are springboards into infinite air.

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Posted (edited)

John Marston, Antonio’s Revenge

 

[ Act 1. Scene 1 ]

 

Enter Piero, unbraced, his arms bare, smeared in blood, a poniard in one hand bloody, and a torch in the other; Strotzo following him with a cord.

 

Piero. Ho, Gasper Strotzo, bind Feliche’s trunk

     Unto the panting side of Mellida!                                                    [ Exit Strotzo ]

     ’Tis yet dead night, and all the earth is clutch’d

     In the dull leaden hand of snoring sleep.

     No breath disturbs the quiet of the air;

     No spirit moves upon the breast of earth,

     Save howling dogs, night-crows, and screeching owls,

     Save meagre ghosts, Piero, and black thoughts.                       [ Clock strikes ]

     One, two!                                                                                 

     Lord! In two hours what a topless mount

     Of unpeer’d mischief have these hands cast up!                      [ Re-enter Strotzo ]

     I can scarce coop triumphing vengeance up

     From bursting forth in braggart passion!

Strotzo. My lord, ’tis firmly said that.

 

*

 

Yet again, a masterpiece of a narrative—“An astonishingly adroit amalgamation of the dead-serious and the comic interfused one with another.”

 

This is comedy horror recalling, say, The Evil Dead (1981); and begins with the abrupt lunacy of Goodfellas.

 

*

 

[ Act 1. Scene 1 ]

 

Enter Piero [ Duke of Venice ], unbraced, his arms bare, smeared in blood, a poniard [ dagger ] in one hand bloody, and a torch in the other; Strotzo [ his servant ]  following him with a cord.

 

 

The most striking opening in Shakespearean-era stagecraft?

 

Piero, Duke of Venice, is a wild sight, a terror stepped out of a nightmare. His finery is unfastened and hanging loose (“unbraced”)—evidence of energetic exertion. That blood stains his body augurs nothing good, nor does the dagger in his hand. The play opens as dark as a nightmare : Piero requires a torch to see his way.

 

Piero. Ho, Gasper Strotzo, bind Feliche’s trunk

     Unto the panting side of Mellida!                                                    [ Exit Strotzo ]

 

In the play’s first line Piero orders his servant to tie the dead body (“trunk”) of a gentleman to a distressed young woman, Mellida. A serious request? A grave request? A Gothic horror Situation, surely. But what follows is comic dialogue that sounds like elevated Shakespearean-speak—but it isn’t; or rather, it’s more than that. What is said is burlesque parody of such convention :

 

     ’Tis yet dead night, and all the earth is clutch’d

     In the dull leaden hand of snoring sleep.

     No breath disturbs the quiet of the air;

 

The piling up of Elizabethan-theatre clichés transmits clearly to us the humour engineered into the Situation. Questionable is the tautology of “dull leaden”; it is silly repetition from a speaker improvising an attempt at something poetic.

 

Worse is the comic “snoring sleep”—silly-solemn humour engineered by storyteller Marston, and no mistake (if you hear it). “snoring sleep” might be a mock-poetic phrase lifted from, say, The Brand New Monty Python Bok (1973).

 

(Scrooby factoid : The word “snore”, for whatever reason, call it a not-very-poetic word, occurs rarely in Shakespearean-era theatre, though the word has been around since ca. 1330.)

 

Note the powerful contradiction in Piero hitting a noble note rhetorically while drenched in blood (cf. Macbeth, 2.2.48–52).

 

Also note the contradiction “No breath disturbs the quiet of the air”—Oh no, Piero? You’re generating heavy disturbance.

 

“No breath disturbs the quiet of the air.” The play is attuning the audience to the Situation of breathless horror. The line is a behavioural cue for the audience; it seeks (along with the whole stage experience) to rivet the audience to a proverbial “pin-drop” fascination. It is also a comic hope encoded into the script : hopefully, says storyteller Marston with a smile, the audience will be riveted to this!

 

     No spirit moves upon the breast of earth,

     Save howling dogs, night-crows, and screeching owls,

     Save meagre ghosts, Piero, and black thoughts.       

 

The parody of the elevated note continues, and intensifies. Oh how Piero lays it on thick! Not only dogs are sounding out, but also night-crows [ night-jars? ] and owls. One sound would have been enough for any playwright (cf. Macbeth, 2.2.5). Moreover, “spirits moving” and “meagre [ pale ] ghosts” are theatre clichés. Piero’s piling-up of elements is a parody montage of creepy components.

 

COLOSSAL POINT : As you and I note the humour of all this, please keep in mind that the physical atmosphere generated by the play may be received by the audience as totally serious—after all, a sensible person’s first reaction to a bloody situation is “fear and loathing”. 

 

Dr. Branom. When we’re healthy, we respond to the hateful with fear and nausea.

 

The general vibe of upfront seriousness predominates, and (potentially) blots out all reception of any humour by an audience. (At least at first viewing.)

 

Now Piero the excited character modulates his mood down to zero :

              

               Save meagre ghosts, Piero, and black thoughts.            

 

Piero addressing himself by name moves him deeper into himself—“black thoughts” might be his proper name (so to speak) as “black thoughts” are his motivating force, the essence of his being. He is suddenly maximum-solemn, for he has just killed a man he has long planned to kill; and has more vengeance in mind; and in his head feels all this.


Already the silly-comic and the heavy-serious are in consummate mix; and we’re at line 8.

 

Save meagre ghosts, Piero, and black thoughts.            

 

(Note the transition from “ghosts” to “thoughts”—consider the two words synonymous here in an Ibsen-Bergman way.)

 

Scary, comic, ridiculous, serious, solemn—everything intermixing thick and fast as in the twentieth-century music of, say, Shostakovich or Schnittke.

 

[ Clock strikes ]

     One, two!                                                                                 

     Lord! In two hours what a topless mount

     Of unpeer’d mischief have these hands cast up!                     

 

 The solemnity of the sounding clock maintains the hushed, momentarily-contracted mood of his “black thoughts”.

 

 “two hours”—as in (for one thing) the running time to come. The meta-theatre Situation is already at full-blast in the play (e.g., Elizabethan clichés, audience cues). The line (“In two hours . . .”) might be taken out of context and inserted into a diary of storyteller Marston’s.

 

“topless” evokes open-air Heaven. Soon, in this first flush of his bloody success, Piero favourably compares himself to gods. The word “topless” is a sly set-up of a fundamental character trait to come; or, the use of “topless” already reveals the arrogance of the character.

 

     Lord! In two hours what a topless mount

     Of unpeer’d mischief have these hands cast up!      

 

As with the word “rise” in Marlowe’s Doctor Fasutus (3.1–15), the use here of the word “up” is a cue to the actor that his emotions grow in intensity during the delivery of the line.

 

     Lord! In two hours what a topless mount

     Of unpeer’d mischief have these hands cast up!

 

A bipolar (so to speak) Piero is once again high on his own supply of triumph, celebrating the success of his terrible duplicity. Like The White Devil and Richard III, Antonio’s Revenge opens with a psychopath.

 

A murderer riding high on the success of his violence brings to mind—

 

“I had not felt so nice since I was twelve”—An American Dream.

 

Piero’s bloody success infuses him with supreme confidence; and the complexity of his language is evolving.

 

     Lord! In two hours what a topless mount

     Of unpeer’d mischief have these hands cast up!                  

 

“unpeer’d”—i.e., unrivalled. Piero is celebrating himself as the most brazen operator of all.

 

“unpeer’d” in a second sense—his fellow noblemen lack the courage to pull off his bloody deeds, and he mocks them for it; and on the thought his wild emotions rise.

 

“unpeer’d” in a third sense : no one saw him do the deed of horror; and the rush of getting away with it is transcendent :

 

     I can scarce coop triumphing vengeance up

     From bursting forth in braggart passion!

 

[ O how Senecan this hysteria is! 1.1 opens as purely English-Senecan as, say, The Spanish Tragedy or Fulke Greville’s Alaham. ]

 

Strotzo. My lord, ’tis firmly said that.

 

i.e., “Well said”; “You said it”.

 

—or, “You flow well, brother” (Revenger’s Tragedy, 2.3.146). Please recall the not uncommon Shakespearean-era technique of a character meta-praising the play’s poetry.

 

Strotzo. My lord, ’tis firmly said that.

 

—is also Strotzo applauding the acting skills of Piero. This signification, too, is a not uncommon meta-theatrical technique. For example :  

 

               Iniquity. O my heart! This wench can sing,

                     And play her part.

 

(A Pretty Interlude called Nice Wanton, 146)

 

               De Niro. You’re a good actress, you know that?

 

Casino

 

*

 

The play has only just begun, but Strotzo is already praising its poetry and acting; and Piero is about to appeal for applause—twice! (The credits haven’t even ended yet, so to speak; which recalls the credit-sequence shenanigans opening Fox and His Friends (1975).)

 

The appealing for applause is yet more Elizabethan stage convention. But its use here is maximum absurdity. Appealing for applause—at line 20?!

 

               Piero.                                        You horrid scouts

                     That sentinel swart night, give loud applause

                     From your large palms!

 

Then again at 31–2 :

 

                                                    Hell, night,

                Give loud applause to my hypocrisy [ successful falsity ] !

 

Asking for applause twice in one scene would be questionable at best; but asking for applause twice in almost the same breath is intentionally engineered-in meta-theatre overkill.

 

So are the cliché appeals to “Hell” and “night”.

 

Most absurd is the bumping up of an appeal for applause from the end of a play to its beginning. It’s loony, as if the projectionist got the reels out of order.

 

*

 

The character Piero is on full tilt.

 

     I can scarce coop triumphing vengeance up

     From bursting forth in braggart passion!

 

cf.

 

               Max Cherry. Now you want me to speculate on what you do.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Fun with Scrooby

 

Balurdo. I have the gift to speak that which neither any man nor myself understands.

 

(1.2.35–6)

 

*

 

Earlier in this thread, your tireless Scrooby explored, in a cursory fashion, the interpretation of dreams in Shakespearean-era drama. Three plays were noted—Arden of Faversham, The White Devil, and The Duchess of Malfi. These plays each feature a recollection of one dream.

 

               Ordell. This is gettin silly now.

 

In 1.2 of Antonio’s Revenge three different characters recall their dreams. Three dreams in an entire play would be overkill, and here are three dreams in one scene?! It’s a silly situation, a parody of convention; and brings to mind the scars scene in Jaws.

 

It’s comedy of aggregation, of “piling it up”, of structural exaggeration.  

 

Antonio. Last sleep, my sense was steep’d in horrid dreams . . .

 

and he recounts visions of “bleeding wounds” and “bubbling gore” and ghosts, and terror—

 

then, comically, Balurdo the fool attempts to one-up Antonio :

 

Balurdo. Verily, Sir Jeffrey had a monstrous strange dream the last night. . . .

 

and in his dream, a heap of nonsense, he describes an “abominable ghost” rising out of the earth, but then describes his dream-self getting dressed and eating a “mess of broth”.

 

(1.2.105–37)

 

In 1.2, storyteller Marston transforms the theatrically-atmospheric reporting of a dream into a joke.

 

Crocodile Dundee. That’s not a knife; that’s a knife.

 

*

 

Scholars took Antonio’s Revenge seriously for years and years?—We’ve heard that story before.

 

Antonio and Mellida and Antonio’s Revenge. . . . Our first impression is likely to be one of bewilderment, that anyone could write plays so bad and that plays so bad could be preserved and reprinted.

 

T. S. Eliot, “John Marston”

 

Among all John Marston’s plays, Antonio’s Revenge seems to be the hardest to pin down. Critics have long disagreed about whether the play is moral, immoral, or amoral; whether it accepts or rejects the idea of revenge; and even whether it is meant to be a serious play, a comic parody, or an early version of the theater of the absurd.

 

Phoebe S. Spinrad, “The Sacralization of Revenge in Antonio’s Revenge”, Comparative Drama 39 (Summer 2005), 169–85.

 

At the conclusion of her paper, Phoebe has no idea of her own to offer.

 

*

 

The implacable meta-theatrical in Antonio’s Revenge : five examples

 

(1.)

 

The following apparently recalls the character of Hieronimo in the monumental Spanish Tragedy; and isn’t the only time Marston cites Kyd. Storyteller Marston is also poking fun at performance technique (cf. examples 4 & 5) :

 

               Pandulpho. Would’st have me cry, run raving up and down,

                    For my son’s loss? Would’st have me turn rank mad,

                    Or wring my face with mimic action;

                    Stamp, curse, weep, rage, and then my bosom strike?

                    Away, ’tis apish action, player-like.

 

(1.2.314–8)

 

(2.)

 

End of Act 1 :

 

               Pandulpho. Sound louder, music! Let my breath exact

                    You strike sad tones until this dismal act.

 

(1.2.341–2)

 

(3.)

 

Piero is triumphing at the sight of his enemy weeping in sorrow. What does he do?

 

               Piero. Strotzo, cause [ make ] me straight

                    Some plaining [ sad ] ditty to augment despair.

 

(2.2.133-4)

 

Storyteller Marston is mocking the use of manipulative music in the theatre.

 

Marston himself uses mournful music twice in 1.2!

 

(4.)

 

Storyteller Marston, poking fun at performance technique :

 

Antonio. Madam, I will not swell, like a tragedian,

                    In forcéd passion of affected strains.

 

(2.2.109–10)

 

(5.)

 

Storyteller Marston, poking fun at performance technique :

 

Maria. Dost nought but weep, weep?

Antonio. Yes, mother, I do sigh, and wring my hands,

     Beat my poor breast, and wreathe my tender arms.

 

(2.2.143-5)

 

*     *     *

 

Antonio. Let none out-woe me: mine’s Herculean woe.

 

Antonio, onstage with book in hand, begins reading Seneca, and responds angrily (and, btw, in stream-of-consciousness—addressing himself from line 5) :

 

Antonio. Pish, thy mother was not lately widowèd,

     Thy dear a(ff)ièd love lately de(f)am’d

     With blemish of (f)oul lust, when thou wrotest thus.

     Thou wrapt in (f)urs, beaking thy limbs ’(f)ore (f)ires,

     (F)orbid’st the (f)rozen zone to shudder. Ha, ha! ’tis nought

     But (f)oamy bubbling of a (f)leamy brain,

     Nought else but smoke.

 

(2.2.138) / (2.2.49–55)

 

χει δ τομ(ν) οκ (ν)αίδεια(ν), γέρο(ν),

λλ ελάβεια(ν): οδα γρ κατακτα(ν)(ν)

Κρέο(ν)τα πατέρα τσδε κα θρό(ν)ους χω(ν).

οκου(ν) τραφέ(ν)τω(ν) τ(ν)δε τιμωρος μος

χρζω λιπέσθαι τ(ν) δεδραμένω(ν) δίκη(ν).

 

The tyrant Lycius completes a speech of twenty-nine lines with a very resolute ending—the hard drumbeat of the “n” sound.

 

Euripides, Heracles, 165–9

 

*

 

NSFW

 

Valentinian. A common whore serves you and far about ye;

     The pleasures of a body lamed with lewdness,

     A mere perpetual motion makes ye happy.

 

(The Tragedy of Valentinian, 4.1.34–6)

 

recalls

 

Vindice. Are lordships sold to maintain ladyships

     For the poor benefit of a bewitching minute?

 

(Revenger’s Tragedy, 3.5.74–5)

 

recalls

 

               Ziegler. Maybe five minutes, six minutes, something like that.

               Dr Bill. I don't know, maybe an hour or more. But maybe only ten minutes.

 

recalls

 

Silvia. [ on love ] A fine volley of words, gentlemen, and quickly shot off.

 

(The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 2.4.32–3)

 

*

 

wtf

 

Ghost of Andrugio. Thou vigour of my youth, juice of my love,

     Seize on revenge!

 

The bloody and horrible Antonio’s Revenge, which features, for example, a corpse decomposing onstage—

 

               Piero. Rot there, thou cerecloth that enfolds the flesh

                    of my loath’d foe; moulder to crumbling dust;

                    Oblivion choke the passage of thy fame!

               . . .

Pandulfo. Why taint’st thou then the air with stench of flesh,

                    And human putrefaction’s noisome scent?

 

(3.1.44–5) / (2.1.1–3, 71–2)

 

—is a sequel to a romantic comedy!

 

               Antonio. Here ends the comic crosses of true love:

                    Oh may the passage most successful prove!

 

                              [ end of Antonio and Mellida ]

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Retro concept : National Pride

 

Clement. But more; the king by letters hath foretold

     That Frederick, the Almain emperor,

     Hath brought with him a German of esteem,

     Whose surname is Don Jacques Vandermast,

     Skilful in magic and those secret arts.

Mason. Then must we all make suit unto the friar,

     To Friar Bacon, that he vouch this task,

     And undertake to countervail in skill

     The German; else there’s none in Oxford can

     Match and dispute with learned Vandermast.

Burden. Bacon, if he will hold the German play,

     Will teach him what an English friar can do—

     The devil, I think, dare not dispute with him.

 

Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, vii.13–25.

 

*

 

Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay is one of the earliest comedies existing in English Literature. The play is as wondrous as it is charming, as accomplished in its poetry as inventive in its structure. In reading the play one crosses a literary bridge from the medieval era of Nice Wanton to the era of Shakespeare.

 

*

 

The supernational wormhole of The White Devil has a predecessor in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay—a “glass prospective” (vi.5; viii.76), or “crystal” (vi.15), equivalent to a live CCTV feed.

 

               2nd scholar. Hearing your worship kept within your cell

                    A glass prospective wherein men might see

                    Whatso their thoughts or hearts’ desire could wish,

                    We come to know how that our fathers fare.

 

(xiii.26–29)

 

What eventuates from two visiting scholars looking into the crystal?—A double double-murder! First fathers, then sons.

 

Such a surprise teaches the good Friar Bacon not to dabble with the supernatural any longer.

 

During the double wedding at play’s end, the Friar remarks that he’s

 

Repentant for the follies of my youth,

That magic’s secret mysteries misled.

 

The ending of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay is Europe’s Faust myth turned on its head. Friar Bacon, initiate in the secret sciences, receives, unlike Faust, a reprieve.

 

*

 

Treasure hunt for lexiphiles

 

Serlsby. Let it be me; and trust me, Margaret,

     The meads environ’d with the silver streams,

     Whose battling pastures fatteneth all my flocks,

     Yielding forth fleeces stapled with such wool

     As Lemnster cannot yield more finer stuff,

     And forty kine with fair and burnish’d heads,

     With strouting dugs that paggle to the ground,

     Shall serve thy dairy, if thou wed with me.

 

(x.57–64) / [ Lemnster : Leominster, in Herefordshire ]

 

OED—Paggle : “To bulge, swell out like a bag; to hang loosely.” Obsolete. rare. (1592)

 

Has anyone yet found a second usage of this word in the English language of yesteryear?

 

*

 

A thought for Reynolds Woodcock to keep in mind?

 

Miles. ’Tis no matter, I am against you with the old proverb, “The more the fox is cursed, the better he fares”.

 

(xi.123–4)

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The Hateful Eight (2015)

 

Genius Move—The incorporation of both Revenge and Justice in the one act of the hanging of Daisy.

 

Revenge—no explanation required.

 

Justice

 

Mannix. As my first and final act as the Sheriff of Red Rock . . .

 

The hanging of Daisy fuses together The Oresteia (institutionalized justice) and Revenge Tragedies (it’s personal).

 

Daisy’s hanging may prompt an audience to recall the Hangman’s speech on Justice, perhaps to reevaluate it.

 

btw, The Hangman’s speech on Justice ends with :

              

               John Ruth. Amen.

 

*

 

Heavy Engineered-in Symbolic Situation

 

The use of Amen resonates.

 

I am the door; whoever enters through me shall be saved. (John 10:9)

 

A door is a portal to the fresh air of infinite freedom.

 

               Daisy. You need to nail it in!

               Obie. Jesus Christ!

               Joe Gage. Goddamn it!

 

(52:56; 53:08; 53:27)

 

cf.

 

Hartman. Who’s the slimy little communist-****, twinkle-toed ********** down here who just signed his own death warrant?

 

*     *     *

 

Meta-theatre

 

Mannix. Now we’ve come to the part of the story . . .

 

(2:37:00)

 

*

 

Some other Shakespearean-era resonances in Hateful Eight—

 

Trap door in the floor.

 

Hanging Daisy onstage—Horatio in Spanish Tragedy.

 

The (Lincoln) letter onstage.

 

Musical interlude—Daisy sings the ballad.

 

The masquerade—

 

John Ruth. One of them fellows is not what he says he is.

 

(51:02; 1:08:46; 2:27:00)

 

Joe Gage. You know, looks can be deceiving.

 

Warren. That’s “Marco the Mexican”?

The Hangman. Precisely, yeah.

 

(btw, “Precisely, yeah”—comedy of degree : precision + slangy.)

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eww, gross!

 

Act 3 opens inside Saint Mark’s Church :

 

Antonio. Graves, vaults, and tombs, groan not to bear my weight;

     Cold flesh, bleak trunks, wrapt in your half-rot shrouds,

     I press you softly with a tender foot.

 

(3.1.9–11)

 

Tactile Night of the Living Dead / Evil Dead decomposition. And 3.1 doesn’t get any less loony from here.

 

*

 

Inside the church, where the dead cry out from their tombs (“Murder!” “Revenge!”)—

 

Julio.  [ Friend ] Antonio, are you here, i’faith?

     . . .

     Truth, since my mother died, I love you best.

 

Aww, tenderness from a youngling; cue Terms of Endearment?

 

Antonio.                               Come, pretty tender child,

     It is not thee I hate, not thee I kill.

     Thy father’s blood that flows within thy veins,

     Is it I loathe; is that revenge must suck.

     I love thy soul . . .

 

               [ Antonio stabs Julio ]

 

(3.1.142–91)

 

*

 

3.1 doesn’t get any less loony from here, either. Antonio speaks out over the corpse :

 

Antonio. Ghost of my poison’d sire, suck this fume:

     To sweet revenge perfume thy circling air

     With smoke of blood. I sprinkle round his gore,

     And dew thy tomb with these fresh-reeking drops.

 

Recall Roy Batty tainting his lips with Pris’ blood.

 

     Lo! Thus I heave my blood-dyed hands to heaven,

     Even like insatiate Hell still crying, More!

 

Antonio is seriously out of control—high on war.

 

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Antonio’s Revenge

 

sustains a highest-octane narrative lunacy your friendly Scrooby has yet encountered in the Shakespearean-era plays. The high pitch of the Situation holds at deafening levels, with few respites, for the duration of the play (recalling the vigorous brio of The Revenger’s Tragedy).

 

               Ghost. Fly, dear Antonio.

                    Once more assume disguise, and dog the court

                    In feignéd habit till Piero’s blood

                    May even overflow the brim of full revenge.

 

(3.5.24–7)

 

Storyteller Marston’s Kubrick-like level of scrupulosity in the stacking-up of cliché and convention is so relentless—well-nigh line by line (he doesn’t leave out extreme tone shifts)—that the entirety of the Shakespearean-era theatre, both tragedy and comedy, might well be recreated from scratch if only this one single play survived—the heartwarming Antonio’s Revenge.

 

               Antonio. Fall to, good Duke. O these are worthless cates [ treats ] ,

     You have no stomach to them. Look, look here:

     Here lies a dish to feast thy father’s gorge.

     Here’s flesh and blood which I am sure thou lov’st.

 

[ uncovers the dish containing Lucio’s limbs ]  

 

(5.5.46–9)

 

John Marston’s Antonio’s Revenge is a founding member of Scrooby’s TRIUMVIRATE OF THEATRICAL INSANITY, positioned alongside Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy and Webster’s The White Devil.

 

*

 

                              [ The conspirators unmask, and bind Piero ]

 

Antonio. Murder and torture; no prayers, no entreats!

Pandulpho. We’ll spoil your oratory. Out with his tongue.

 

               [ They pluck out his tongue and triumph over him ]

 

(5.5.32–3)

 

*

 

THEORY : the Abel Ferrara of Ms .45 & Body Snatchers & Addiction would have realized this project well.

 

Pandulpho. Let him die, and die, and still be dying!

     And yet not die, till he hath died and died

     Ten thousand deaths in agony of heart.

Antonio. Now, pell-mell! Thus the hand of Heaven chokes

     The throat of murder! This for my father’s blood!          [ stabs him ]

Pandulpho. This for my son!                                                   [ stabs him ]

Alberto. This for them all!                                                        [ stabs him ]

     And this, and this! Sink to the heart of hell!

 

[ They run at Piero with their rapiers ]

 

Pandulpho. Murder for murder, blood for blood, doth yell!

 

Finally calm.

 

Ghost of Andrugio. ’Tis done, and now my soul shall sleep in rest.

     Sons that revenge their father’s blood are blest.

 

[ Curtains are drawn ]

 

(5.5.73–82)

 

*

 

Body Parts

 

 Hieronimo.                                                      Indeed,

                     Thou may’st torment me, as his wretched son

                     Hath done in murdering my Horatio,

                     But never shalt thou force me to reveal

                    The thing which I have vowed inviolate;

                    And therefore, in despite of all thy threats,

                    Pleased with their deaths, and eased with their revenge,

                    First take my tongue, and afterwards my heart!

 

                              [ He bites out his tongue ]

 

The Spanish Tragedy (4.4.184–91)

 

*

 

                              [ Holds up Piero’s tongue ]

 

Antonio. Behold, black dog!

               Pandulpho.                            Grin’st thou, thou snurling cur?

 

(5.5.39–40)

 

               Mr. Blonde. [ into ear ] Ηey! What’s going on? You hear that?

 

*

 

OED’s earliest example for “snurling” is 1719.

 

*

 

“cliché”, “convention”—but Antonio’s Revenge shows innovation as well, first and foremost in the language of the play. Marston apparently coins a bunch of words (recalling Aeschylus and Shakespeare and James Joyce); or, in however many cases, is the first recorded user of them.

 

*

 

Consider the unconventional scheme of a MOTHER-SON REVENGE PLOT :

 

               Ghost of Andrugio. [ to Maria ] I was empoisoned by Piero’s hand.

                    Join with my son to bend up strained Revenge.

 

*

 

Of course—a Henry James Positive-Negative Statement

 

Pandulpho. Lost a true friend?

     O happy soul that lost him whilst he were true.

 

(4.5.37–8)

*

 

Death—by affluenza?!

 

Piero. Dead! Alas, how dead?

Strotzo. The vast delights of his large sudden joys

     Opened his powers so wide, that’s native heat

     So prodigally flowed t’exterior parts

     That th’inner citadel was left unmanned,

     And so surprised on sudden by cold death.

 

(1.4.8–13)

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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postscript on Antonio’s Revenge

 

2.2. Antonio, onstage with book in hand, begins reading Seneca . . .

 

The physical appearance in Antonio’s Revenge of the play’s primary inspiration is a humorous Situation, sure—more burlesque self-referential Marston wackiness.

 

It also antedates an extremely common film technique.

871770fedd4c9e285470b453666417a1.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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charms of marriage

 

In this digital age of reproduction Scrooby has just put to one side the first edition of De Profundis by Oscar Wilde.

 

               London : Methuen and Co., 1905.                                                                          

 

Scrooby entertains no fetish for first editions, though Scroob has fond memories of handling first editions of The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, and Newton’s Principia Mathematica.

 

Why does Scrooby say this, so uncharacteristic of the usual discourse in this thread?

 

*

 

Good Reader, think of crunch-time when the right wire must be cut or the bomb detonates. Just as delicate a Situation is the handling of the first edition of De Profundis. The book was printed in an edition of 200. The handmade paper, watermarked “Arnold’s Unbleached”, is a pleasure to handle : heavy, deckle-edged. Fine paper never stops feeling awesome under the fingertips. (This paper has, strange as it may sound, a powdery feel.) The text is tactile, the raised print of letterpress. And the crisp ripple of the deckle edges (like the curled edges of lasagna) on the hands and fingers as the pages are turned keeps the attention awake. Holding the book is similar in spirit to, say, a perpetually-operating William Castle’s Percepto! Though remarkably well-made and sturdy (with medieval-looking inboard binding; and the book, even now, sometimes creaks as the joints flex in the spine), still and all, the book is as delicate as a Chinese vase.

 

The text-block on each page occupies only about fifty percent of the available space—very much like, surprise, the first edition of The Faerie Queene. The lack of typographic clutter and all the white space encourage concentration.

 

The book was printed when English publishing had standards.

 

btw, The Faerie Queene’s first edition is shambolic (though dedicated to Queen Eizabeth), with the text floating all over the place from page to page—tending to the upper left-hand on one page, tending to the lower-right on the next, without rhyme or reason. The typography of De Profundis, however, is as pristine and lovely and centred as the sophisticated first edition of Paradise Lost.

 

*

 

The physicality of the book contributes to the experience of it—the physical sensation of handling the beautiful.

 

*

 

The craftsmanship of the book recalls, say, the real-world practical effects of Oppenheimer; and, more generally, the mystic mood of celluloid itself.

 

*

 

OK, what is Scrooby saying?

 

Handling art is a Ceremonial Situation.

 

Why? In the process we’re Towards Humanness. 

 

*

 

Anything that helps to prompt a person to approach Art in a reverential manner reserved for that which Saves, is good.

 

The delicate craftsmanship of the first edition of De Profundis, for example, forces Scroob to treat the Situation reverentially.

 

*

 

Opening the first edition of De Profundis evokes the feeling of entering a holy place.

 

*

 

BEST CASE SCENARIO : This sacred feeling of devoted concentration is activated by all first-rate art.

 

*

 

Devotion blazes an artful path towards the sacred at the centre.

 

*     *    *

 

Prison life makes one see people and things as they really are. That is why it turns one to stone. It is the people outside who are deceived by the illusions of life and contribute to its unreality. We who are immobile both see and know.

 

td;lr : People stay alive because Love is worth the pain.

 

*

 

Art lasts longer than love,

to remind us to love.

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Terence, Hecyra, or, The Mother-in-Law

 

PROLOGUE

Hecyra is the name of this fable.

Its first performance was a disaster,

for it was interrupted by lunacy

so that no one could watch it, or understand.

What happened was, the audience turned their

attention, in stupid fascination,

to a tightrope-walker. This is offered

now as a new play; the author is not

offering it again to sell it again.

You have come to know my previous works;

I ask you that you come to know this one.

 

                              [ Act I. Enter Philotus, a young whore; and Syra, an old woman ]

 

Philotus. Gosh, Syra, you can find few lovers faithful to their women!

     Like this Pamphilius [ his house ] , who swore to Bacchus

     (how many times?), and oh so solemnly

     so no one could misunderstand him,

     he would never bring a wife as long as

     she was alive into his house. Oh yeah?

     He’s done it.

Syra.                  And that’s why I’ve told you over

     and over never to pity any of ’em,

     but plunder ’em for everything you can get.

Philotus. Ha! Is no man special?

Syra.                                                  None.

 

(1–8; 52–67)

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Miraris si nondum sapientia omne opus suum implevit? Nondum tota se nequitia protulit: adhuc nascitur, et huic omnes operam damus, huic oculi nostri, huic manus serviunt. Ad sapientiam quis accedit? Quis dignam iudicat nisi quam in transitu noverit? Quis philosophum aut ullum liberale respicit studium, nisi cum ludi intercalantur, cum aliquis pluvius intervenit dies quem perdere libet?

 

Seneca, Naturales quaestiones, 7.32

 

Do you think our wisdom has reached its completion? But the wickedness of everything has not yet fully come forth; it is still being born, and though we see it and consider it, to this we close our hands. Who is wise? Who respects philosophy or any study except when the games are postponed? When is art pleasing except when rain interrupts the day? Who knows anything worthwhile unless they have heard it in passing?

 

*

 

κα γρ α κκενο ο τν ατν τρόπον, ομαι, τ τε ήτορι κα φιλοσόφ κα πσι δ τος π τς λευθερίου παιδείας προσήκει τέρπειν τος χλους, κα τος νδραποδώδεσι τούτοις ρχηστας, μίμοις, θαυματοποιος.

 

Aelius Aristides, Orations, 34

 

It’s not right, I think, for orators and philosophers and educators to go out of their way to please the masses as those sycophants do, the dancers and mimes and jugglers.


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