Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Not end of days...but perhaps middle-to-late afternoon of days?
Indeed, I brought out a different sort of big gun in this battle between my desires and my recalcitrant brain: I re-read another of my all-time favourite Renaissance plays, Francis Beaumont's (and perhaps, also, John Fletcher's*) The Knight of the Burning Pestle (a total failure on the stage in 1607; first published 1613).
It really doesn't get much funnier than The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Ostensibly a city comedy, the fourth wall is broken by a Citizen and his Wife within the first ten lines, and they proceed to direct the play's action till the end; their primary artistic contribution is ensuring that their grocer's apprentice, Rafe, be given a central role.
Rafe is addicted to romances and quests and his intrusions fit very awkwardly and hilariously with the fairly straightforward Rom-Com being performed by the "real" actors. I recall sitting in my little grad student office at Queen's laughing my head off while re-reading this for my comps; I also recall walking by the little grad students offices of other young Renaissance scholars laughing their heads off as they re-read this play for their comps. It's the most utterly original, charming, and gutsy thing going in early 17th-century drama.
As it's a parody, though, I think you need to read the mainstream stuff first to really appreciate it. Except for the part when Rafe delivers his death speech "with a forked arrow through his head" because the Wife has demanded that he "come out and die"; you'll love that regardless of what you do or do not know about Beaumont's (and possibly Fletcher's) contemporaries.
Now, the problem is this: I love this play. It's perfect and brilliant and if someone put on a production of it in Toronto, I'd probably have to offer to bear their child. But this reader's block is getting so bad that I had trouble getting through even this. I suppose I could just give up, and stop trying to read for awhile...but what would I do? I don't know what to do without books; that's not hyperbole - I don't know what to do when I'm not reading, not for more than an hour or two at a time anyway.
Is it the tension in the air?
I don't know, could be; I always thought of myself as a "read to escape when necessary" sort of person but perhaps that's changed. Or maybe it's just the all around weirdness of everything right now. The ongoing bookshop building drama goes on. The G20 summit is in Toronto this weekend and our shop/apartment is located directly and exactly between the official protest site and the fenced of hyper-security zone; gangs of bike cops are everywhere, looking at everyone suspiciously; the protests have begun early and I heard a fair bit of yelling this afternoon.
Then, of course, there was an earthquake here today; a minor one, but still - W T flying F? This is middle-coast, not west coast. And now there's a possibility of tornadoes?!? Some have already touched down in more rural areas. I'm about as calm as a Mexican jumping bean double espresso sugar cookie, I swear.
So, we're closing the shop for the weekend and battening down the hatches. Hopefully, I'll be able to read to help pass the time...
*It was believed for a long time, and beginning in the 17th century, that The Knight of the Burning Pestle was co-authored; more recent scholarship tends towards attributing sole authorship to Beaumont.