The Fault of Underlings: Prompting Shakespeare

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wall

THE FAULT OF UNDERLINGS

Prompting Shakespere #1

The wall, the big, honking wall, blocked their way. This troupe of merry wanderers, The Misfit Players, Inc., was mightily perplexed. Their GPS systems failed them, one and all, as they came to a stop, looking agape at the deterrent before them.

“Odds Bodkins,” Nick Bottom, vexed, said as he removed himself from the VW Microbus that he shared with Peter Quince and Robin Starveling.  Quince had to remind Bottom to turn the engine off and headlights.  With a low whistle and a moan, Peter left the van.  Robin followed on his heels. Reaching Bottom, all three stared at the wall in front of them.

“Tom Snout! Get your earth-vexing, fool-born, rank tush over here.” Bottom looked back, grimacing as he noticed the three still sitting in that gleeking, weather-beaten Caravan that only gets 19 MPG. “Now, Tom!”

Tom turned to look at Snug, who sat beside him and then at Francis Flute in the back. Huffing a jarring huff, Tom nodded to them as he creaked the door open and stepped out. The others left the vehicle, careful not to slam any of the doors. Flute and Snug fell in behind Tom.

“Uh, look, um, Bottom. This maggot-pie of a wall was not here the last time we, um, passed this way.”

Nick Bottom glared icy death at him. Tom could only shrug his shoulders, the second time higher and fell with dead weight precision, drawing out a sigh that came from his toes. He scratched his head and chin, looking beyond Bottom and Quince and up at the wall.

The other Misfits followed his gaze up, then swiveling their noggins in all directions. None saw an end to this ungainly wall; the height of it was bewildering. Most felt their reasoning mind begin to fritz out. Diverting their eyes to anywhere else but the wall was in order.

They were all dumb-founded and verklempt. This once merry band of performers, one and all, turned their attention to Peter Quince.

His face was redder than any one of them had ever seen before; or when they were honest with themselves, since their last performance of “Thisbe loves Pyramis.” And, truth be told, the one before that. And, so on.

As Quince’s gaze fell upon Tom, he felt it was a good idea to retreat as best he could. He took two steps back. “No yelling. Good,” he thought and resumed his retreat. With a snap of his fingers and a motion to the other, Robin and Snug, who were behind him, halted his running away progress. The three others came closer, creating a circle around Tom. He gulped three times three as his body went cold and sticky.

Muttering, but loud enough for his fellow misfits to hear, spoke: “Something wicked this way comes.” Hands shaking, Tom needed a way to hide the motions. His left hand went into his tunic’s pocket, but his right hand…o, his right…raised itself to Tom’s mouth. Without realizing, Tom Snout bit his thumb at the same time he locked eyes with red-faced Quince.

“You dare bite your thumb at me, Tom Snout?”

“No, um, no, no, Peter. Uh, it is not you I bite my thumb, at or for.”

Snug growled. “Then who do you bite that thumb at?”

Francis complimented Snug on a most fierce growl, and added: “Or for, Tom?”

“Look, brave and stalwart friends, um, I just booked the gig, got the info…”

“And forgot to get the deposit for said gig!” Quince growled even more fiercely.

Robin whispered to Francis: “If anyone in our audience heard a growl of that magnitude, they would grow afeared and most likely faint.”

Francis just nodded,

“Yeah, uh, sorry about that, Peter Quince. Um, well, we were rehearsing most diligently. Then Nick started going on and on as usual…” Tom was interrupted by the sound of Bottom’s fist hitting his other unclenched hand. The withering glare did not, for once, deter him from finishing: “Um, as usual, braying like an ass.”

Tom broke the eye contact and turned to Quince.

“And you, Petey, were nowhere to be found.” Tom Snout stopped biting his thumb, lowering his arm from his face only to cross it across his chest, joined by his other arm. “And I did haggle us a handsome fee for this appointment.”

“An outstanding and just fee, Peter Quince,” added Francis Flute. The daggers that flew out of Quince’s eyes sent Flute to take refuge behind Snug, a sharp squeak sounding out.

Before any other word, growl, or threatening look was tossed out, this ruffled merry band of gentlemen was startled by what fell before them.  A growing luminescence broke through a chink in the wall that none had noticed before.

“What light through yonder chink breaks?” Bottom pondered obtusely. The sniggering behind him stopped as he twirled to face them.

Peter patted Bottom on his shoulder.

“Nick, I say this for truth, as we all know we are facing East.”

Robing Starveling chimed in., “And the man in the moon is fading away, away towards the West.”

Snug cried out. “Look!”

The opulence of the growing light spread before them. The moods that had fallen on them all we lightened as if a veil of cobwebs were lifted and dispersed to the cloudless sky. No one heard the muffled guffaws from the copse of trees off to their side.

Tom threw his arms out wide and grinned, turning to his fellow thespians.

“See? We can still make the performance with time to spare if we hasten.” Turning to look back at the pathway that was now evident thanks to the morning sun. “This night’s troubles have been much to do about nothing.”

Everyone cheered — even Bottom.

“To your vehicles, my stout and sturdy fellows. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; before this lane close to the wall is strewn with rush hour traffic.”

Tom Snout took the driver’s seat of his Caravan, Snug taking the passenger seat, Flute resting across the back in comfort.

As Tom started the engine and began following the VW, Francis began to sing. Snug and Tom joined in wholeheartedly in this roundel of a Fairy song.

************************************************************

Author’s Notes:

If you are even a passing fan of Shakespearean fare, the above is a mashup, of sorts. I “stole,” and played with, the following plays:

    1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    2. Hamlet
    3. The Scottish Play
    4. Henry V
    5. Romeo and Juliet
    6. Much Ado About Nothing

If you click on the links, they will take you to the full script. The Complete Works of William Shakesapeare is a wonderful source to find all of his plays. Free of charge. If you want just the cliff notes, every play has a Wiki page. 

The above characters are from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They are the comic relief, the “mechanicals,” who perform the play-within-the-play of Pyramus and Thisbe. These men are laborers (tinker, weaver, carpenter, etc.) who are looking for their big break: to perform at the Royal Wedding and receive money and a name for themselves.

Most of The Fault of Underlings is grounded in AMND. Some dialogue I tweaked from the plays listed above. As to some of the words used, you can thank Master William himself. If you’re not familiar with them you can use Google.  It’s good to learn something new every day.

The Big Honking Wall has NOTHING to do with Game of Thrones.  In AMND, Tom Snout plays the Wall with a Crannied Hole or Chink in it so Thisbe and Pyramus can speak to each other, and maybe steal a kiss. This all happens in Act 5 during the play within the play. The following are Tom’s lines as the wall:

Snout. In this same interlude it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,
Did whisper often very secretly.
This loam, this rough-cast and this stone doth show
That I am that same wall; the truth is so:
And this the cranny is, right and sinister,
Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.

You’ll notice there is a discrepency with Thisby’s name. In searching, it’s Thisbe. In the above monologue, it’s Thisby. I just went the former route.

This came about from a prompt at a weekly writer’s group I attend. Our mission was to use secondary characters as the leads, going wherever our writer’s minds would take us. We share what we wrote with the others in the group.

They laughed. I hope you do as well.

4 responses »

    • If you have the interest or need to. I enjoy most of the plays. Some are a chore to read, but seeing them performed takes it to the level it should be presented to you. My suggestion: Find an outdoor festival over the summer that is performing at least one of his plays. Reading the plays, imo, is best served when you in a production or studying it.

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