September 19th, 2010

dream

Shakespearean apocrypha and anti-immigrant fervor

I'm currently reading The Shakespeare Wars, by Ron Rosenbaum. It's a fascinating book, full of entertaining and thought-provoking descriptions of and commentary on various disputes connected with the Bard and his works. Some of the book covers scholarly matters, some of it performance and directorial issues, but it's all fascinating- even when I don't agree with his conclusions.

One chapter is about Shakespeare's possible contributions to the play Sir Thomas More. The main fuss about this is that the manuscript copy of the play contains 147 lines that may be in Will's own handwriting- a sort of Holy Grail, considering the only undisputed writing we have in his hand consists of six signatures and (ironically) the words "By me".

I'd certainly like it to be true... but what really struck me in reading part of that passage is how appropriate it seems to this day and age. Sir Thomas is talking down an anti-immigrant mob, one that wants all those swarthy wage competitors evicted. Sound familiar? Here is what he tells them:

"Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to th' ports and costs for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I'll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another."

Like I said, seems rather appropriate to some of the more hysterical carryings on going on these days...
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