Wednesday, August 13, 2014

If Shakespeare Had Done National Novel Writing Month

Today’s post is not related to food. Side effects may include: increased IQ, increased cultural enlightenment, and increased sensitivity to the arts.

For the last five years, every November, I’ve participated in a writing adventure called National Novel Writing Month (or shorthand, NaNoWriMo)  Hundreds of thousands of people around the world crank out a 50,000+ novel in the course of only 30 days.

I’m still on the fence about NaNo participation this year, being as that I’ll arrive home from the island just days before the chaos begins.  However, I reason to myself, I’ve got plenty of time NOW to prepare and research and outline the novel...

Which I plan to get to as soon as I finish my island goal of reading all of Shakespeare’s plays.

Which brings me to the point of today’s blog entry title.  It is said when writing his works, Shakespeare “never blot’d a line”, which is pretty get it right the first time without mistakes.  However, there are certain plays of The Bard’s that I think would have benefitted from some kind of editing process.

And The Two Gentlemen of Verona is one of them.  In fact, I am further convinced that Shakespeare wrote this play in response to some kind of timely demand, such as: “Holy buggery hell, the Queen’s coming to The Globe next week!  We need a new play!  Will, get on it, man!”

Hence, the play I mentioned above.  And because he’s William Shakespeare, nobody really questioned the play, its meager plot, and many, many discrepancies.

The play itself is simple: two guys from Verona, Italy, come to Milan to, I dunno, travel the world and get more worldly?  Meet some rich nobility guys and network?  Anyway, the one guy, Valentine, is like, yeah, look at me!  Having the time of my life!  His buddy, Proteus, is like, who cares about traveling the world?  I’m in love with Julia and I don’t want to leave her anyway.  Eventually, Proteus’s dad is like, kid, people are going to think you’re a wuss if you don’t get out and do something with your life.  So, I’m kicking you out of Verona...go hang out with Valentine in Milan.

But hey, something interesting has happened to Valentine in Milan...he’s fallen in love with the Duke’s daughter, Silvia.  And she’s into him too...but, it’s not a totally equitable (albeit respectable) match, so it’s kept under wraps for now.  Until Proteus gets there, and guess what?  Proteus sees Silvia one time, and just like that, Julia is history.

And this, I fear, is where the Bard began to feel the pressure of the time constraint.  In short:

1. Proteus dithers for about five minutes about this dilemma...eventually deciding to double-cross his best friend, Valentine and utterly forsake his first true love, Julia.  So, he reveals a Valentine-Silvia midnight marriage plan to the Duke of Milan, who promptly throws Valentine out of his kingdom.  This is WTH Moment #1 - I’d actually liked Proteus and was hugely disappointed by this act of jerkness.

2. Three outlaws are hanging out in the forest where Valentine, dejected, wanders through.  They confess to their various sins (trying to access a lord’s daughter, killing another man, etc.) before deciding Valentine should be their leader in their aimlessness.  WTH Moment #2.

3. Julia, meanwhile, having no idea she’s been thrown over, decides to sneak out to go to Proteus...but in order to not be molested on the journey, she decided to dress up as a man.  Lo and behold and not a big surprise, she ends up in the service of Proteus, who is now trying to woo Silvia now that Valentine is out of the picture.  Poor Julia, really.  Why she doesn’t just haul off and punch him in the gonads is beyond me.

4. At some point, Silvia abandons her home to search for Valentine, whom she loves. 

5. Everyone, fortuitously (the Duke included), meets up in the forest.  Where a bunch of really weird things happen:

a. Valentine is pissed, naturally, at the betrayal of his best friend.

b. Proteus pleads, like, partial insanity for his behavior.  WTH Moment #3.

c. Julia reveals herself and Proteus is like oh, babe, there you are! (#4)

d. Valentine forgives Proteus...immediately. (#5)

e. The Duke of Milan forgives Valentine...immediately.  And then grants the hand of his daughter. (#6)

f. Valentine asks that the outlaws with him be forgiven for their crimes.  Duke agrees...immediately. (#7)

And then, what started out as a clever, romantic farce ends up a quick WTF happy ending piece of horse pucky.  Valentine, at the very least, should have punched Proteus in the face.  Julia, at the very least, should have made Proteus grovel for penitence.  And the Duke was just an idiot.

It’s almost like Shakespeare was at the 11th hour when he got to the end, and he was just like, ah, forget it, it’s just The she can tell between good story and bad, and then he just cranked off some unbelievable, quick ending to just get it over with.

So.  Yeah.  That’s my profound, philosophical argument today.  The Two Gentlemen of Verona was Shakespeare’s speed-driven crap.  Perfect for NaNoWriMo.

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