Prompting Shakespeare #2
“Now is the Winter of our discontent,” Gloucester began but was interrupted in the harshest of ways.
As he cleaned the soggy tomato remains off of his face, he heard from the side of the groundling’s pit where the fetid fruit was tossed from, these chilling words: “It ain’t Winter, you daft foot-licker. We’re in Spring, ain’t we?”
From the other side, another tomato was flung, but it missed its mark by a toadstool. Mumbles of agreement, noddings of heads, and a robust “Here! Here!” egged the tosser’s taunting on.
“We had our Winter. Not too harsh, no, not like the good old days.” More mumbled agreements met that statement. “Used to be piles and piles of the shite, big enough to toss a body under and scurry away. Bodies popping up all over the place come Spring. Not, um, like I would know anything about that.”
Another groundling piped up: “When we used to have us a real Spring, not this sodden mess we ‘ave been soaked with. The muck we trudge through on a normal day is bad enough without all this rain!”
A chorus of agreement sounded out. At the tail end of rabble’s babble, a lone voice could be heard from the back of the pit, close to the stalls. “Verily! Verily!” He was beaten to unconsciousness with a flurry of sausages on sticks.
Gloucester, aghast, was being nudged to go on, make a good show of it.
He cleared his voice loud enough to draw attention back to the stage. The jumping up and down helped. The audience guffawed loudly, except for the few who were enjoying the sausage whipping they maintained on the “Verily” clotpole.
Taking his royal stance, Gloucester once again tried to get his soliloquy started. He got as far as “Now is the…” before a shower of rotten tomatoes spread around, and on, him.
Breaking character, he stomped to the near edge of the raised platform. Tossing his arms up, he yelled: “Now, wait, you bloody wankers!”
Near quiet settled over the crowd. Before Gloucester continued, he eyed a snaggled-toothed crone by the stage. She was brandishing a reasonably large summer squash. Glaring at her, the squash slowly sank out of sight.
“Cease and desist this vexing behavior. This is a play. We are merely the vehicles to voice the words of a true master of playwrights. The history we represent is our shared histories. This…”
“Is boring, is what it is,” yelled the first tomato flinger. A cheer went up from the crowds, both groundlings and those in the stalls. A tawdry red-haired wench was now at his side, snuggling up close, drawn by the attention this one was receiving from the crowd.
“Enough! Enough! If you lot would stop with the insults. And the rotten fruit hurling,” Gloucester noticed that the summer squash had reappeared. “And other propulsive objects, then the entire point of our play would show itself. We don’t always need sword fights and constant mayhem.”
The second pipper-upper bellowed out: “But we like them. Why we come. A little blood action on stage boils me own blood!”
Cheers rang out even more raucously around the domeless arena. The PU wound up with a devastating kiss, delivered by the pre-mentioned red-headed wench, who had wound her way towards him upon hearing “boiling blood.” They left in an abrupt hurry.
As they made their way, those left in the pit began a growing war chant: “Fight! Fight! Fight!” It grew in intensity. All the actors knew the stage was lost. They hastened to exit, stage left. Gloucester was last, dragging his feet. He picked up his pace as the summer squash rolled by.
Turning once more in the desperate hope of changing their minds, Gloucester could only fixate on the malicious grin from the hag in the front. He bolted offstage. A hideous cackle followed him.
The stage manager looked at him askance, then hurried away. It was a lonely walk back to the dressing closet. Gloucester didn’t notice, nor care, that the bear and its baiter passed him by. The boisterous cheers let him know; the battle was lost. The stage was theirs.
Shedding the bits and pieces of his costume, and character, sighing heavily with the removal of each piece, William was falling into a dark place. The remaining actors looked at each other, finally pushing Young Tim on.
“Master Shakespeare, they were just a bunch of ruffians. Huge uneducated ones at that, not hearing the poetry of your words before them.”
“But, the histories…”
Old Tim sauntered over.
“Willie,” he said, slapping his leader on the back. “This is good for the Royals. This bunch? They want fun and depravity. Come, let’s get out of here and put some beer into you.”
Half-heartedly, the company of players left to get malt-wormed.
Another prompt from a different writers group was the word “Unseasoned.” Make of it what you will and write. So, ten of us went to task. The above was my take. Stumped, the line from Richard III flitted through my noggin, and here we are.
For those who don’t know, Shakespeare did more than write his plays. He hit the stage with his troupes, as well as taking on several other roles. From what I’ve read, his level of performance was rated from “better stick to writing” to “he gave a good showing.” Make of that what you will for Will.
Click on the link for more facts on The Globe Theater, the groundlings, the stalls, and more.
A site I just found, and now love, is SHAKESPEARE’S WORDS, created in 2018 by David and Ben Crystal. If you are not familiar with some of the words in my tale, this site is an excellent place to find their meanings and much more.
One last thing: Shakespeare’s plays are BEST when you see a heartfelt performance. Reading them, as well, is vital for scholarly pursuits, other educational sharing, and all involved in putting on a production.
Remember: the play’s the thing.