By Dave Kiffer
June 25, 2006
The other day I was standing in line at the downtown post office sub station listening to the summer folk grumble about the cost of sending stuff back to the "real world." Behind me in line was a passing acquaintance, a man who I know well enough to nod to on the sidewalk, but have never really had a conversation with.
"Hey, Dave," he said. "How you doing?"
"Just peachy," I replied. "Not peachy keen, but definitely peachy."
"How's that political stuff going" he continued. "You doing okay on the Assembly?"
"Yes," I replied. "Some weeks are better than others but it's still going pretty well."
He paused for a few seconds.
"That's good to hear," he said. "I thought it was starting to get to you."
"Really," I replied back. "How come?"
He paused a little bit longer.
"Well," he said. "Lately, I've been seeing you talking to yourself as you walk around town."
I was shocked. Had I become one of those "charming" local characters who wanders the streets engaged in furtive monologues? Without even realizing it?
Then it suddenly dawned on me what he was talking about.
I am "doing" Shakespeare this month with those wonderful thespians at First City Players. We're engaged in mock battle with The Bard over "Much Ado About Nothing" at Point Higgins School the last two weekends of the month.
Since my mind is no longer the wonderful elastic dialogue sponge that it used to be, I have been spending a lot more time "running" my lines; repeating them over and over and over, often as I go about my daily routine.
So although it appeared that I was walking around town "re-arguing" all those political debates, I was actually "forsoothing", "in faithing" and "by my trothing" over and over again.
It's a good thing that my concerned acquaintance didn't actually hear what I was saying otherwise he would have likely told me to "get thee to Gateway for counseling anon!"
And thus, that is how in goes in thine little town of Ketchikan, where someone is almost always observing you and then - frequently - jumping to the wrong conclusion.
Of course, Shakespeare and politics are intimately intertwined. When Tip O'Neill said "All thine Politics be local" he was merely paraphrasing Richard III.
But my little encounter at the Post Office did get me thinking. Is there something more to be learned from Shakespeare than it "all sorts so well" in the end (except in the tragedies but that's another column!).
In learning "Much Ado About Nothing" I am reminded that we moderns have lost the fine art of the creative slander.
If I am offended in the 21st Century, a finger and word beginning with F is all I have to employ in order to express my displeasure. I think the ease of that is what probably leads to qa uicker escalation to physical violence.
After you've huffed your F word and extended your digit, well, the only further response is to employ whatever personal weapon of mass destruction that you are packing that day.
But in Shakespeare's time, you had to be a little more creative in your call (outs) and response. And rather than getting physical, you were expected to jab and parry with your tongue and brain.
For example how about:
Thou mammering clapper-clawed minnow?
Thou artless swag-bellied ratsbane?
Thou mewling shard-borne maggot pie?
Thou fobbing folly-fallen flirt girl?
Thou infectious rump-fed codpiece?
These are most excellent putdowns. Guaranteed to leave your opponent stammering.
What do they mean?
I haven't a clue. But then neither would the person with which thou wouldst be verbally jousting. The proper response would be to walk away, scratching one's head.
So the next time you are caught in debate, accuse your opponent of being a "dankish, dismal-dreaming, clot pole."
Then you will have truly put him (or her) down!
Forsooth, in faith, by my troth!
And fare you well!
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
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