Shakespeare at the Beach

I love memorizing Shakespeare on the MTR and then going to the beach at 3 AM to deliver the speech to the empty, vast, and wondering air, for once you memorize it you are thinking it when you deliver it. Like prayer you replace your usual crap (boop a doop money boop a doop idle speculation boop a doop sex) with something better.

I memorized this for an audition (Measure for Measure Act 2 sc 1)

Let us not make a scarecrow of the law
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey
And let it keep one shape till custom make it
Their perch, and not their terror.

Ay, but yet
Let us be keen, and rather cut a little
Than fall and bruise to death. Alas, this gentleman
Whom I would save had a most noble father.
But let your honour know
Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue
That in the working of your own affections
Had time cohered with place, or place with willing
Or in the resolute acting of your blood
Could have attained the effect of your own purpose
Whether you had not sometime in your life
Erred in this point which you now censure him
And pulled the law upon you.

‘Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fail. I not deny
The jury passing on the prisoner’s life
May in the sworn twelve contain a thief or two
Guiltier than him they try. What’s open made to justice,
That justice seizes. ‘Tis very pregnant:
The jewel we find, we stoop and take’t
Because we see it: but what we do not see
We tread upon and think not of it.
You may not so extenuate his offence
For I have had such faults: rather tell me
When I who censure him do so offend
Let mine own judgement pattern out my death
And nothing come in partial. Sir, he must die.

Be it as your wisdom wills.

Where’s the Provost.

Here, an’t like your honour

See that Claudio
Be execute by nine tomorrow morning
Bring him his confessor: let him be prepared
For that’s the utmost of his pilgrimage.

Well, heaven forgive him, and forgive us all!
Some rise by sin: and some by virtue fall
Some run from brakes of vice, and answer none:
And some condemn-ed for a fault alone.

[Typed in from memory]

This beautiful scene contains, as does a leaf replicate the form of a tree, the entire issue of the play: Angelo speaks for justice, Escalus, painfully and with broken syntax and circumlocution (the hardest bit to memorize) tries to suggest to him that he may have also sinned, for Shakespeare was subject, by Tudor law, to weekly attendance and weekly bible reading:

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God

[NOT typed in from memory: emphasis mine.]

Escalus sums it up. As in modern Hong Kong, because the leaders are just as stupid and evil as they rest of us, people rise by sin, and virtue makes you fall.

Here’s a rewrite of part of the scene in Bob Dylan’s style

It’s one thing to be tempted
Another thing to fall.
Some run from all correction
Goin’ in the wrong direction,
While some are nailed upon the cross
For one fault or even their own loss:
See her carryin’ her baby and the baby he don’t talk
In her own shoes ya gotta walk
While he kicks the mailbox and plays his trumpet
As if to ask who is the judge and who, the strumpet.
‘Cause it’s one thing to be tempted
And another thing to fall:
Y’all gonna need the landlord, y’all gotta read the deed
Y’all gonna call down and ring:
Y’all gotta see, the writing on the wall,
‘Cause the hypocrite tea preacher he’s right after all
It is one thing to be tempted
And another thing to fall.

Edward G. Nilges 2 June 2011. Moral rights asserted and be damn’d

Brits believe that “Americans can’t understand, or even pronounce Shakespeare”, so, for the good old U.S.A. and for father Abraham Lincoln (who damn straight read Shakespeare) I hope to get the part, and make all split: it is a long shot in a British-tradition community to be able to play Shakespeare as a Yank, with the ghost of a Chicago patois colliding with schwa and broad As, like Tom Eliot on old Caedmon recordings.

But casting is a complex art and even the ghost of John Belushi (“we’re onna mishin from Gahd”) may be like the black piper who wanted to join George MacDonald Fraser’s regimental band in the 1940s. As it happened, the Ugandan chap was a good piper and the Pipe Major admitted him. Casting is race neutral these days and in some cases gender neutral (isn’t Puck a lad? he’s often played by women) but accent neutrality may be another thin.

So if I don’t get cast the time was spent MOST profitably.

I’m onna a mishin from Gahd.


One Response to “Shakespeare at the Beach”

  1. spinoza1111 Says:

    Got the part, will play Escalus. Now, for the memory of Lincoln must show a British English community that an American can play Shakespeare. Right, you swine, this will read well in the Morning Post…

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