The Boor of Avon

“Good even, gentle patrons: welcome all who span the Globe to see me here withal. Tonight, a treat not meat or meal, but words awaits you here: this Winter’s night, a tale shall spread before you, not…”

“Not fit for man nor beast, you mean? Not fish nor fowl nor fan? I know this much: this play’s not by your hand.”

“Er…as I said, this Winter’s Tale I tell, in Sicily and in Bohemia’s heart is set and tells the tale of Leontes, the King, who in his palace sets…”

“Thou waggish fen-sucked malt-worm! Tell this mob the truth! That from a purse not yours these words were plucked, and by your hand their author truly fucked!”

“Such language! Sir, a civil tongue you’ll keep, or good these ushers by your scruff will grasp and hurl you, razor-tongue, into the snow. Now, if I might return to introduce this play to these good folk who my words kind regard to come out on this dreary night, I call your eyes to this, the lady lead, Hermione, the Queen…”

“The queen of what? The queen of sour smiles? The queen of beards? Tradition and decorum, yea, does call for men to dress the parts of ladies fair and play the roles of women, but, dear Will, so gross and rank this common-kissing troll who plies his trade as trull, so lunked his head — why, sure, I thought that even gents could not so well convey a haggard piebald hag, and that you’d somehow smuggled to the stage a woman true: in point of fact, the only woman crone and crowish-bent to play your ill-writ dame: your mother, Mary Arden, is her name!”

“A gentleman and scholar, playwright too, I flatter that I am these things and more; but you, sir, push me to the very brink of what we term civility among we mortals, though perhaps your stoop-backed tribe of jungle apes, you have no words…”

“No words indeed have I! No words are left to me, though words I had! Words after words, but now I find them here, and writ beneath your name! Thou warped rug-headed baggage! Giglet! Thief!”

“I have a show to do, good sir. If all you offer these suave patrons of the muse is catcalls, cattarh and such slander vile, perhaps you might return from whence you came: the corner, I assume, of Bethlehem and Cuckoo Street. For I am sure the mad fishwife who is the sole audience for your tepid tales of woe must miss you now that sun has set and no more entertainment may be had by dancing in the rubbish thrown below.”

“Thou art a most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise-breaker the owner of no one good quality…”

Now who’s the thief? Thou rough and rugged robber, that’s from my critically praised comedy by the name of All’s Well That Ends Well, presented here not thirteen winters past! Usurper! Fraud!”

“Well, Will, if that I stole, then I have but reclaimed what once was mine, then lifted by a man I thought my friend. You lie so smooth and polished and rehearsed that you forget ’twas you who stole it first.”

“Dear man, might I get on with this, my speech? I have but few lines left to say and then we can enjoy the play, no matter what its provenance — if birthed by me or thee. This heckling hassle is no joy to hear, and illest all it takes place at my toil. Whatever rancored deed to you I’ve done, or so you say, at least I do not come to where you work and from your mouth remove the man-root of the clients that you serve.”

“Thou artless plume-plucked gudgeon! Traitor! Thug! The truth will out, and someday volumes vast will rival all your stolen plays for length and girth (though not for bloviage) to prove ’twas I, not thee, who mastered rhyme and drama, prose and poetry!”

“Perhaps. Perhaps the day will come of which you speak; perhaps one day you won’t seem drunk and weak. Until that time, do sit and no more shriek.”

“My name’s Ben Jonson; I’ll be here all the week.”


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