Protesting Too Much

Banner Cymbeline frown quote - Stratford Shakespearean stranger humour

20 January 2016
· Why can’t Stratfordians take a joke? ·
  • Humour itself doth of itself persuade
  • The wits of men without recourse to tutor;
  • What needeth then apologies be made,
  • To tweet forth that which is so singular?
  • Or why is Oxford himself publisher
  • Of those wry thoughts that he should keep unknown
  • From Stratford eyes, because they are his own?
  • Perchance the claim of Oxford’s sovereignty
  • Suggests this hurtful spite from Shaxper’s beings;
  • For by their blocks his pure heart wounded be:
  • Perchance they fear as he, good natur’d, sings,
  • Dreading compare, their unkind action stings
  • His simple japes, that such a man should vaunt
  • That golden truth which their beliefs do want.

adapted from Lucrece, lines 80-93

Is it necessary to become a stranger to humour in order to maintain one’s faith in the sui generis genius of the Merchant of Warwickshire?

It’s a serious question.

Last September I signed onto Twitter, hoping that I’d be able to amuse myself and perhaps a few others. I wanted witty banter (140-character brevity is the distilled soul of wit, when it fits), and a spot of fun. Being dead is boring after four centuries plus – my quadricentennial was twelve years ago – so why not liven things up a little?

While I have cavorted in my tiny corner of the Twitterverse, I’ve been diligent in following the lodestar of civility. Call it noblesse oblige, or what you will. I don’t tweet rudely to anyone, and I don’t respond when rudeness is tweeted to me, or about me. (One of the several parodic Shakespeares gets downright ugly with his random ad hominem salvos.) But I’ve seen a lot of awful Authorship offal flung back and forth, on Twitter and elsewhere.

Of course I know that there are fundamental disagreements and academic rivalries between Oxforders and Stratfordites, these 21st-century Montagues and Capulets. I’m the cause, after all. But I say a plague o’ both their ivory towers if that’s how professional Bardologists, orthodox or protestant, choose to behave.

I’m not here to antagonise anyone.

It seems, however, that despite my good intentions, my name does just that, for some folks at least. Earlier today, for the second time, a person with a vested Stratfordian interest has reacted to an innocuous, non-personal jest of mine by summarily blocking me. The first time it happened (by someone else) I was given a perfunctory choice between deleting my tweet and being blocked. Today there was no warning, no appeal, and certainly no attempt to find out if a misunderstanding might have arisen between my intent and their umbrage.

Mary Stuart trial Beale drawing - Stratford Shakespearean stranger humour

I was a judge at the trial of Mary Stuart. She was
doomed, but at least the proper form was observed.
As senior peer and Lord Great Chamberlain
of England, I’m #3, upper left.

For more about the trial and this drawing, see
Trying to Remember Trying Mary is Trying.

Today there was only the block.

Mary Stuart execution Dutch drawing - Stratford Shakespearean stranger humour

I wasn’t there. This is a Dutch depiction made
twenty-five years later.

It may not have sounded exactly like this.

’Sblood, even Essex got a facsimile of a trial, and he was in armed rebellion against the Crown (well, sort of). I served at that trial, too. For the record: I neither aided nor supported Essex’s misbegotten putsch, despite fair young Henry’s involvement. Not all of Anonymous was correct.

I’m not naïve. I know how Twitter works and how people often act there (badly). I’m hardly a hothouse flower, but it’s disheartening. After all, the last man beheaded on the block at Tower Hill was Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat. In 1747. Yet twice now, within the short span of a few months, I’ve been axed as a response from two different people with the same dog in the hunt. These decapitations are disproportionate bordering on paranoid, by people who seem to view my mere appearance on their timeline as an intolerable felony, or some sort of threat. Maybe it’s because I’m the other dog.

To put it another way,

why art thou so solemn - Stratford Shakespearean stranger humourIs the structure of their Shaksperean worldview so fragile that it can’t withstand a mild wobble of wit, even on Twitter? If they are too churlish to abide a patently playful tweet from a tongue-in-cheek earl who’s been dead since 1604, I venture to suggest that their approach to this life’s brief and comic tragedy might benefit from a change in attitude.

  • Why should they in their peevish opposition
  • Take it to heart? Fie! ’tis a fault to heaven,
  • A fault against the dead, a fault to nature

Even my father-in-law agrees.