Uncle Harlow is Dead: Part 1

A few years ago, way back before I knew proper script formatting, I was asked by a classmate to write a short film script for his group. Events out of my control prevented me from sending this in on time, but I looked through it and decided it’s worth putting out there. Enjoy!

CHARACTERS

PALMIRA WEIGAND

Lines: 90

An overworked graduate student. Bitter and busy. She’s a huge fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson, and is studying to be an astrophysicist just like him. She’s a try-hard, but please don’t tell her that.
AMANDA WEIGAND

Lines: 87

A dutiful 10-year-old cousin to Palmira. Loves her family. Takes matters seriously and expects to be taken seriously. Has little to no filter.
HARLOW WEIGAND

Lines: 2

A lazy man who tried to act wiser than he really was. Spent his time in the land of the living drinking, watching TV, and trying to hide his fat. Not appearing in this film.

SETTING

A spacious house in the countryside.

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

INT: Drab basement. Day.

PALMIRA WEIGAND sleeps at her desk, on top of her pile of astrophysics books and papers. Most of the room’s light comes from one window, a light that pierces the air over a large TV. PALMIRA wakes up and tries to read, but can’t keep her eyes open. She rests her head again, lightly pounding her book in frustration. We hear footsteps approaching down the stairs. PALMIRA wakes up and goes back to reading from her textbook. AMANDA WEIGAND runs in clutching a book by its cover.

AMANDA

I found it!

PALMIRA

I don’t have the time.

AMANDA

It’s the treasure hunt! It’s Uncle Harlow’s last wish!

PALMIRA

Oh. Wonderful.

AMANDA

You don’t even know what I’m talking about, do you?

PALMIRA

Yes I do. I know all about it. It’s wonderful. Now please, I’ve already lost half of spring break.

AMANDA

This is really important. I mean it this time. Please? I’ll leave you alone after this, I swear!

PALMIRA

I’m not trying to get rid of you.

AMANDA

You are! You told my dad I was too old to be babysat, and then you run off here to do your astriophissics or whatever!

PALMIRA

Ok, ok, I’ll listen.

AMANDA

Ok. You know when Uncle Harlow died, my mom looked through his will, where he says the last stuff he wants us to do and have…

PALMIRA

I know what a will is.

AMANDA

Well in the will, my mom found these instructions for a treasure hunt in this house. He said that if we complete the hunt we’ll ‘understand his life story’ and hear his last words. But we never found the first clue until just now! It was deep in his pile of old books.

PALMIRA

So if I finish this treasure hunt for you, you’ll let me study.

AMANDA

Yes!

PALMIRA stands up, reaches over the TV, and pulls out a sheet of paper from the tangle of cables resting there.

PALMIRA

Found it.

AMANDA

What? You cheated!

PALMIRA

I found it by accident two years ago. Look, “The Last Words of Uncle Harlow:”

AMANDA

La la la la la la la la la la can’t hear you!

PALMIRA

That was a good hunt. Thanks, Amanda.

AMANDA

C’mon, we gotta do this! It’s what he wanted!

PALMIRA

All Harlow wanted-

AMANDA

Uncle Harlow.

PALMIRA

All Uncle Harlow wanted was to watch TV 24-7. I bet all his clues ended up behind there.

AMANDA

You’re mean! Harlow planned this for us!

PALMIRA

I’ve got plans too. We played last Sunday. That was good enough for both of us.

PALMIRA starts taking notes in her book. AMANDA lets out a high-pitched screech, jolting PALMIRA’S pen. After a hyperventilation, AMANDA screams again.

PALMIRA

Christ! Grow up!

AMANDA

We’re doing this the right way, for Uncle Harlow. It’s what grown-ups do.

PALMIRA

Fine, fine, you’re right. I still reserve the right to walk out.

AMANDA

Yay! Ok, here’s what I found: “Congratulations, my ‘only friends’! This is the beginning of my posthumous scavenger hunt. As Bilbo would say, ‘If you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ They say beginnings are important because that’s where things begin.”

PALMIRA rolls her eyes, scoffs.

AMANDA

Stop that!

PALMIRA

Sorry.

AMANDA

“Members of the Weigand tribe, you are about to go on an important quest, and learn about your dear Uncle Harlow’s life. You may not be prepared for the truth, but it is my truth. Adjust your thinking caps, it’s time for a riddle!

This starts the last part of my last will.

Begin at the site of Jack and Jill.”

Hmmmm… I wonder… it could be…

PALMIRA

(disbelief over obviousness of clue)

It’s a hill.

AMANDA

Yeah, I guess so.

EXT: Hill within walking distance of the house. Day.

AMANDA and PALMIRA climb up the hill. PALMIRA carries a shovel.

PALMIRA

Wow, what hard work. Think of all of the precious seconds he sacrificed for that ingenious riddle!

Am I being too sarcastic?

AMANDA

Yeah.

PALMIRA

Ok, sorry, that’s beneath me.

AMANDA

You should be nice to Uncle Harlow. I try really hard on things too, especially art class since my brother says I stink at it. I showed everyone my painting of a big party and everyone else said it was good, so I’m gonna make more.

PALMIRA

I just don’t know what to do. We know how this ends…

AMANDA

You know.

PALMIRA

… and none of us liked him. It’s why we don’t send monkeys to space anymore. We know what happens and no one wants to clean up the mess. Do you remember when you used to call him “Smelly Uncle?”

AMANDA

He’s my smelly uncle.

PALMIRA

Barely. I’m not sure you caught on to this, but when he claimed he’d forgotten our birthdays on purpose so he could surprise us later? He was lying. He’d actually forget.

AMANDA

He gave me that collector’s edition Hannah Montana: The Movie, and he’d share all those spicy chips with me.

PALMIRA

He gave a little, I guess. I suppose I should be grateful too.

AMANDA

My teacher tells me that gratitude is the sign of civilization.

PALMIRA

Oh, that reminds me. Thank you notes for my interviewers. Another thing I should be doing.

The two girls reach the top of the hill.

PALMIRA

Now I’m not sure if you’ve gone digging before, but it’s not as easy as it looks. If he’s any good at this, then he probably dug it in deep.

PALMIRA sticks her shovel into the ground. It only goes in half an inch before hitting a loud CLUNK.

PALMIRA

Huh. Well, this is Harlow we’re talking about.

PALMIRA and AMANDA soon dig up the box from its shallow hole.

AMANDA

Ok, let’s go. I’ve done a bunch of riddles before, even though I needed my mom’s help with my riddle book. I bet that last clue was just a warm-up.

PALMIRA

Sure.

AMANDA

I’m serious!

AMANDA pulls out a note from the box, which is a rusty, space-themed vintage lunchbox.

AMANDA

“When I was young, I would run to this hill if I ever needed to be alone. One day, an eight-year old me ran up here and didn’t want to go back down. My parents wouldn’t let me watch TV, they wanted me to find a goal for my life. That night, the moon came up full. A voice in my head gave me a purpose: to meet this voice one day on the moon. I looked through the newspapers and concluded that this voice belonged to Neil Armstrong.”

PALMIRA

Sounds like the plot of some weird kid’s cartoon.

AMANDA

“Is a nest where birds find their rest?

What room in the house do I hold ABOVE the rest?”

PALMIRA

Oh come on. Attic.

AMANDA

Now let’s see… it’ll be on the upper floors of the house…

PALMIRA

Attic.

AMANDA

It’s near where birds build their nests…

PALMIRA

Attic.

AMANDA

He likes the room…

PALMIRA

I’ve found this one too. It’s in the attic.

AMANDA

Ok, fine! It’s the stupid attic! Jeez!

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2.

Designing Characters: The Nitty-Gritty

True character resides in the little details. And these details don’t even need to make it to the page or the silver screen, just as long as you know them and they sculpt the man or woman or other you wish to portray. There are some obvious traits to address, like what their favorite food is or what their living situation’s like, but I have some not-so-obvious ones I’d like to share with you.

  • What are your characters’ eating habits? I encountered this question when reading Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters by Michael Tierno, a sort of Aristotle’s Poetics for Dummies. Tierno suggests asking “How do they eat, what do they eat? Do they think about food a lot? What do your characters’ refrigerators look like?” (Tierno, 125) to determine character. Desire forms the bedrock of all characters, and there’s no desire more primal and (in this time and in most countries, anyways) more customizable. How often does she do takeout? Appetizers or dessert as restaurants? How does he deal with those flimsy things in popcorn that get stuck in his teeth?
Google Image search gave me a lot of sheep. Not sure what that means...
Google Image search gave me a lot of sheep when I googled “character eating” . Not sure what that means…
  • What jokes does he/she not get? Ask this, and the character in your mind is confused, annoyed, or pretending to laugh. How he/she got there, now that’s where you learn about the world your character lives in and how he functions in it. No one lives in the vacuum of space, after all, not yet anyways. And this isn’t jokes she doesn’t think are funny, they’re jokes that she thinks could never be funny. “I don’t get it,” followed by “What does her hair color have to do with anything?” or “Why would you laugh at someone’s dead child?” or “Who’s Barack Obama?”
  • Is your character good with kids? Again, plonck them in a situation and see what happens. How characters treat other people is fine, dandy, and a bag of chips, but kids occupy a special place in collective consciousness as aliens trying to learn our human ways while telling us the fable of their people (starring Optimus Prime and Darth Vader). Does she clown around with kids, acting the fall-gal? Does he moralize around them? Does she grab the tiniest one and smack the other kids in the face with it? The possibilities are endless!
  • What’s their hypocrisy? By the time I get around to answering this question, I know that I’ve formed the core internal conflict my character must face. How aware your character is of this flaw is up to you, because that’ll also define your hero or heroine. It also sets up a truism when writing characters: no one always reacts to any situation with the same defining characteristic. Even your muscle-bound henchman whose motto is “Punch it until it goes away” may hesitate when he finds a kitten sleeping on his breakfast cereal that morning. Writing character is a struggle between what an audience expects/might do (the bland, reasonable approach) vs. what an interesting human being might do (the quirky, individualistic approach). Character is sometimes more than consistency

The Nice Guy Tango

This is the skit I mentioned here that got the feminist club all upset. I haven’t edited it since. Enjoy! Also, trigger warning for sexism or something.

SECTION A consists of the lines in red.

NICE GUYS 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 sit in a row.

1

Hats.

2

Zoned.

3

M’lady.

4

Nuh-uh.

5

Misandry.

6

Ethics

SECTION A repeats at x2 speed. LIGHTING

And now, the six gallant gentlemen of the Internet Jail in their rendition of the Nice Guy Tango.

SECTION A repeats at x4 speed.

SECTION A repeats at x4 speed.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6

SHE HAD IT COMING, SHE HAD IT COMING,

IF SHE SAID YES, SHE WOULD’VE LIVED.

THIS IS THE VAST TOLL FOR DATING ASSHOLES

INSTEAD OF US ‘CAUSE WE DON’T FORGIVE

SECTION A repeats at x4 speed.

1

I have my heroes. Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, the Blues Brothers. And one thing they all share is a stylish hat. So I go to the store and pick out the most expensive fedora I can find. After buying a lime green suit to match it, I post a picture of my getup online, captioning it with “I’m sharper than everyone else because I know there’s no God.” Some bird named Poppy, who I’d been courting for some time, replies, “The hat really makes your neckbeard stand out.” Well now her neckbeard stands out, if only because it’s now a neckbeard made of blood.

1 dances.

2, 4, and 6

SHE HAD IT COMING, SHE HAD IT COMING,

MY HOPES FOR DATING YOU HAVE SUNK.

YOU WANT A REAL MAN, I LIVE ON 4CHAN,

YOU MIGHT CHANGE YOUR MIND WHEN YOU GET DRUNK.

2

I met Cissy in fifth grade. There were many fun nights to be had, singing and gossiping and playing with our My Little Pony toys. And ever since we met, she’s always been on my mind. Oh yeah. You know what. Right in the pussy. But I don’t get the courage to ask her out until senior graduation. And you know what she says? “I’ve always seen us as just best friends.” She put me in the friendzone! Me! But it’s ok, we’re even now. She put me in the friendzone… and I put her corpse in a warzone.

2 dances.

1, 3, and 5

SHE HAD IT COMING, SHE HAD IT COMING.

I’M SICK OF LONELY FRIDAY NIGHTS.

3

First things first, I’m a gentleman. I always tip my hat for the ladies, open the door for the ladies, and refer to ladies by their proper name: ‘hoes.’ Sorry, I meant ‘ladies.’ So there’s this girl in my 18th century relations class named Susie, and whenever she arrives, I always say “M’lady” and pull out her chair for her. One day, she tells me “I can do it for myself, thanks. Also, girls find it creepy when you call them ‘m’lady.’” Well, Susie, do girls find it creepy when you force-feed them a live pig? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you when I’m porking you.

3 dances.

2, 4, and 6

THE PRICE FOR BEIN’ LIBERTERIAN

WHEN YOUR WORLD DOESN’T HAVE MEN’S RIGHTS.

4

(As if speaking a foreign language)

Skank tranny whore slut bitch fat cow ho slob pig bimbo smutbag tits basic cunt flat dumb cock-eating dunderhead Skyler White.

LIGHTING

What the fuck is wrong with you!?

4

Nuh-uh! Jhust… tro-lling!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6

SHE HAD IT COMING…

5

I am an intellectual, and prove it daily by wining arguments online regarding complex subjects such as religion and civil rights. This may not sound impressive, but the Internet can be a ruthless pit for those unaware of its nuances. Anyways, I arrive at the subreddit TwoXChromosomes, where they talk about uninteresting things such as date rape and periods. I proposed that misandry is a more prevalent force in the world than misogyny, and backed it up with facts about gender quotas and the fact that Jennifer Lawrence won’t return my calls. Some ‘woman,’ username cicerocookcounty, argued against me, and just would. Not. Shut. Up. So I doxed her, drove over to her house, broke in, and when she arrived, I told her I considered her opinions misinformed. She did not respond, because I also shot her.

5 dances.

2, 4, and 6

SHE HAD IT COMING, SHE HAD IT COMING,

SHE’S JUST A TYPICAL MEAN CHICK.

I WILL BE UPFRONT: YOU ALL ARE TOO BLUNT.

MAYBE I WILL SEND YOU A DICK PIC.

6

A boyfriend of a female game developer wrote on a blog post that his ex had slept with a reporter in order to get good reviews for her video game Depression Quest. So we began #GamerGate, a movement to defend ethics in videogame journalism from social justice critiques.

5

Dude, there was no review.

6

You serious?

5

Yeah. #GamerGate started over something that no one can find.

6

Oh.

5

You are the saddest bastard I’ve ever seen.

6

It’s ok! When the game developer’s dog died, I sent her pictures of dead dogs!

5

That’s just depressing.

6

But it’s ok, because then they’ll see us as nice guys, right?

5

Dude, discussing videogames or harassing women: pick one. You’re somehow nastier than us and also much, much wussier. At least I killed a girl. You’ve only succeeded at making your mother cry.

6

I guess I’m not very good at this.

5

Don’t worry. I’ll teach you everything I know about women, and then we’ll practice necrophilia in a threesome.

6

Together?

5

Together.

5 and 6 make out, then break away.

6

Eww, gross!

5

I don’t know what came over me. I’m not a sicko. I love women.

6

I love women too.

5

I mean, couldn’t you tell how much I love women?

QUICK BLACKOUT

Nice Guys, Amirite?

I got kicked out of a feminist club a week and a half back. Much like the last time someone kicked me out of an organization, it’s a tale of my foot in my mouth that raises thought-provoking questions, like why the hell my foot keeps ending up there. Let’s hear it!

So I hear from this woman in my Poetry class that she’s part of this feminist union that meets on Mondays, and that for the past few meetings it’s only been her and boys attending. At which point, I think, “Hey, The Iowa City All-Male Feminist Union sounds like the title to my next short story.” But I’d just read about feminism online if I didn’t care about the actual movement; feminism interests me, and I’d call myself a feminist if I actually did feminist stuff like, say, go to meetings. So here’s a way to take out two truffles with one bite.

When our class met again next week, I mention to said woman a skit idea I’ve knocked about upstairs: a parody of The Cell Block Tango called ‘The Nice Guy Tango,” replacing sex-based murders with would-be sex-based murders if the “Nice Guys” on the Internet did anything more productive than lick the Cheetos stains from their fingers and headbutt their keyboards. She said it sounded hilarious. So the next time the feminists meet, I’d a) make like a minor-leagues player watching a Cubs game with pen and paper, and b) draw a few laughs at the expense of people this club probably hates. One of these went wrong, and it wasn’t like they knocked the pen out of my hand, strapped me to a chair and force-fed me bananas until I confessed.

When I google 'feminist,' first suggestion to come up is 'angry.' Hey, if that happened to me, I'd be angry too.
When I google ‘feminist,’ first suggestion to come up is ‘angry.’ Hey, if that happened to a group of mine, I’d be angry too.

At the end of a dry, but informative and actually gender-balanced meeting, I passed around “The Nice Guy Tango.” They read it. They don’t laugh, but neither do I when reading or watching funny stuff by myself, so my nerves are still quivering to burst out with either a THANK YOU or I’M SORRY. The girl from Poetry class says I really captured the voice of these assholes, which I take for the half-compliment it is. Ah well. It’s probably not my best skit, or even a good one, but it gave me an excuse to leave my bed and soak in the Chicago soundtrack. I lose track of how many copies I take home with me.

Spring Break follows, then a jolt back to earth where I realize I did nothing over Spring Break and have to work instead of attend meetings. Next time I see the circle of old couches and well-dressed members of the Iowa City Feminist Union, it’s almost the end of March. Only three people show up besides me, and we just shoot the shit for 45 minutes. When I leave, the one non-binary member asks if they can join me on my walk back. They mentions my skit, and the “oh” out of my mouth is as deep as my heart feels. They said that “The Nice Guy Tango” was potentially triggering to others and reinforced sexist notions and would I mind sitting out the rest of the semester instead of sitting in with them. We talk in that stilted, polite way used when people who barely know each other have to discipline someone. They mentioned how, even though I made my intent clear and wasn’t trying to be sexist or trigger more than a laugh, the characters I wrote hit way too close to home for a cis white male to expect to bring anything but hurt. They (the group) couldn’t trust me to not say anything stupid/harmful at these meetings. Said member didn’t take me for a Jeff Dunham (or what others think of him), a comedian using the guise of parody to protect his or her bigoted ways, but confirmed that the board-imposed exile was unanimous. We parted with small smiles and light steps, and with me thinking about Stephen Colbert, Mel Brooks, tumblr, and how stupid it was of me to answer the “preferred gender pronouns?” at the first meeting with “he/him/his/Your Magnificent.”

Imagine this, but with them all on PCs instead.
Imagine this, but with them all on PCs instead. The Nice Guy Tango!

I know what y’all are gonna say, and I’m here to tell you you’re directing your blame to the wrong place. The fact that they didn’t like my skit speaks to my failure to properly convey the joke, not their inability to “get” the joke. If Nancy Pelosi only drew coughs and silence at the DNC with a “How many Republicans does it take to change a lightbulb” bit, it’s not like blue doesn’t hate red, but rather the former Speaker telling a joke without its most essential ingredient. Right? Right. I’m glad we had this talk.

The real question here is how far one should go when parodying or representing something. I’m reminded of Poe’s Law, the internet truthism stating it’s impossible to tell a satire of something like Creationism apart from actual examples without the Creator confirming or denying intent in court. And when you’re bombarded with hate and ickyness tweet after tweet, like many women on the Internet are, words like the ones I used in “The Nice Guy Tango” start to hurt no matter who they’re coming from or what the intent is. But let’s not beat around the wasps nest: this is a writing blog, after all.

It’s timing, by the way.

If you want to convey that a character’s racist, should he or she speak the six-lettered n word? Depends on how much they like nougat, har har joke. But this is something The Iowa City Normal Feminist Club might say ‘no,’ to, arguing it’s triggering and harmful and promotes bigotry. That’s how they reacted to my skit speaking a word rhyming with ‘punt,’ even though it wasn’t directed at anyone within the work. Quick Heads Up: If you ever ask me, “Am I allowed to (blank) in my writing?” I’ll say “Yes! If the story calls for (blank) and you can write (blank) well, then (blank) until your (blank) lasts longer than four (blanks), at which point you should call a doctor.” But this doesn’t mean what you write will be free of consequences- not censorship, just negative feedback. And having a character criticize another for their ‘nasty rigor’ is the sledgehammer as opposed to the feather-duster or vibrator of characterization. Do some anvils need to be dropped, as TV Tropes so aptly puts it? Yes. And even though the pervading problems of racism today are more systemic than bigoted, there are still people out there calling others their favorite Winnie the Pooh character out of hate, and who denies that it’s fun to see such characters drink boiling black tar strewn with broken glass? Admittedly, little comeuppance happens to the characters in my skit throwing around derogatory terms for women, other than the audience laughing at their insecurities and their moral failings. My skit functioned as a character portrayal, and my commentary essentially read “Roll up, roll up, everyone come see the freaks.” And I’m not calling for heavy moralizing like in the Hays Code days, where each character that starts a sentence with “I’m not sexist, but-“ ends it with “-how’d all these spiders get in my pants?” Yet I feel such a tactic would’ve earned me more points with the Club. Direct and moral consequences may not always reflect reality for these types of cretins, but that’s the fun thing about writing- you can choose whatever reality you want to portray. Even cartoons and musicals depict strong emotional truths, divorced from the nitty-gritty as they might be. And that focuses in on why my skit didn’t work with this particular audience: it provided an all-too accurate painting of these jerks, and did little beyond that. I should’ve had some consequence within the world of my work, be it positive or negative. That hour googling “fedora shaming” meant I placed this piece in a more-or-less real world, a real world where these feminists live and rage against this exact type of person. I’ll post the skit later this week, and you’ll see what I mean.

I don’t know if realizing this will make me a better feminist writer, since I never know when I’m going to write “feminist” material. But this experience will better me, if only by letting me focus on what aspects of real life I consider funny based on my distance from said subject.

Tune in next week when I lose my bartending job asking my boss what it “means” to be a martini anyways!

EDIT: HERE’S “THE NICE GUY TANGO“!

Written by Willie Shakespeare, Age 8

What would Shakespeare’s writing be like if he was 8 years old? A little thought experiment I did back in the day. Enjoy!

PYRAMUS AND THISBE 2

By Willie Shakespeare, Age 8

Translations and footnotes by Nick Edinger of the Shakespeare Translators of Dundee Society

Act 1

Enter Tyramus, Phisbe.

 

Tyramus

Alas, my poor son Pyramus is dead!

I found him stabbed besides a lion’s bed,

Alongside maiden Thisbe[1]. She, too, poked

With same dagger[2], Aphrodit’s[3] wrath invoked.

Thisbe’s relatives lived around this wall

Which divides our houses. Before his death,

My son would place his eye upon this wall

Like a canker[4]. But soft! I found a hole!

Phisbe

Oh woe! Oh woe! Oh woe! Oh woe! Oh woe!

My daughter will’fly[5] sought her salvation

With bloody dagger. Violent is all love!

Tyramus

I’m taught I shall not covert neighbor’s wife,

But this is cutest thing I’ve seen this life!

Woman! Why is there wall between our love?

Phisbe

As you know, our homes are on witch’s curse,

Which bewitches those of us which love first.[6]

Tyramus

Curse your womanly fear! At this first sight,

I see I’ll love this girl against all blights[7]!

Phisbe

And I love you, you eye peering from crack.

Only you may stare at this crack[8]. But woe!

Villainous John[9] seeks my hand in marriage.

Tyramus

I’ll kill him. He makes my hand work too hard[10].

We must meet. Disguise yourself from witch eye

In men’s dress. True, I love you, greater than

Loaner loves a debt.[11] We will meet again!

Tyramus and Phisbe exit.

Act 2

Enter John.

John

I’m the villain. I have declared war on faraway England, have obtained treasure enough to mold Olympus for myself[12]. Foolish Tyramus sharpens my swords every night and day.

Enter Medea[13] and Alcides[14].

 

John

Thine curse, Medea, killed the two brats well.

Medea

My pet lion did well, but how on Earth

Did those two meet, since wall sep’rates from birth?

John

Ease, my pet. If it hap on Earth, than it

Did have power to hap[15]. Slave Alcides!

My war plan still needs funds. As I have planned,

The double death shall distract from our deed.

Steal self[16] from hence and steal coffers of the

Families Phisbe and Tyramus. Away!

Alcides

I shall obey.

They exit.

 

Act 3

Enter Caesar, two Clowns.

 

Caesar

Pardon me. I am your Caesar. Where is

My treacherous cousin, whose name is Miss

Medea? Why do you walk with bottle[17]?

First Clown

First, ye redress[18] me by me proper name, ye.

Caesar

If you so wish. What is your proper name?

First Clown

Nobody[19].

Caesar

Nobody, tell me where Medea hides.

Second Clown

Of course, he hadn’t said anything yet[20].

First Clown

I’d say I’d seen nobody, but I did not glance in a pond yet[21]!

Second Clown

Since that lion’s been in town, I’ve seen no bunny[22] myself.

Enter Phisbe [disguised as a man].

 

Phisbe

Hast thou seen a strong man called Tyramus?

Second Clown

Tyrant must[23] answer for us, for we have not. Beware him, for he talks to nobody.

Caesar

Sensible man, know thee of Medea?

Phisbe

O her! She cursed that house over yonder,

Divided in and out by sturdy wall.

Caesar

She runs from me as she runs from her God.

Phisbe

God forsake any girl that runs from place[24].

Caesar

Once I find her, I’ll punch her in the face.

Enter Tyramus.

 

Tyramus

[aside] I haste to come on time, but my Phisbe

is not here. Only men do my eyes see.

Phisbe

My lord! ‘Tis I, the jewel all clothed in rags!

Tyramus

Thou lies! No woman could match[25] man so well.

Caesar

And women dressed as men are put to death.

Phisbe

But I love you, Tyramus! You did too!

Tyramus

You’re no brother of mine. I swear before

The Pantheon[26] I’ve not seen you before.

My love forsakes me! Only my son knew

True joy when Death’s swift wings did him consume!

Tyramus exits.

 

Phisbe

He seeks his death! So soon from comedy

Does our tale dive into tragedy!

They exit.

 

Act 4

Enter Tyramus

 

Tyramus

Oh woeful Trojan, I, who finds no horse[27][28]

With no most beautiful woman inside.

This knife of Pyramus has not been dulled.[29]

Our world is tragic. What is that sound?

Enter John, Alcides.

Tyramus

John! You dare steal from the wall’s houses!

John

I did! And now your life hast given me all![30]

Tyramus

If life is tragedy, tell me, brother,

What is one death piled on another!

[They fight]. Enter lion.

 

John

By beard of Zeus[31]! I throw money at it

To scare the beast away from our great duel.

Oh no! I bake its rage, it comes for me!

My rich[32] stomach is what makes it hungry!

Exit, pursued by lion.

 

Pyramus

And now, the blade to my bosom’s embrace…

Ow! Ow! That stings! I lack Pyramus’

Strength. The lion licks his blades over there.

Perhaps it’s my cold flesh that he could tear!

He exits.

 

Act 5

Enter Phisbe.

 

Phisbe

The clowns did hold me up, holding my time

With their enforced merriments… woe is me!

The processed remains[33] of my lover lie

In front. Its flies pick undigested clothes.

It would be comical, this heap of dung,

If my life did take another tale type.

With these men rags, I choke myself in grief.

I cannot bear love’s loss. Oh what relief!

[Phisbe dies]. Enter Tyramus and Medea [hidden].

 

Tyramus

The lion ran too fast for me to catch,

Most likely since he digested John quick.

I return to what’s left of him. O me!

Besides this poo, my love of life does lie.

I recognize the robes. What fool was I

To not see her when we met early on!

My life is like that shit. It’s that far gone.

I find my courage now to raise my blade.

I hope, for love, that He[34] my sins forgave.

[Tyramus dies]. Enter Alcides, Caesar, and Two Clowns.

 

Caesar

What means this mad[35]? Cousin, you must explain.

Medea

I foresee past and now[36]. I tell it plain.

I lost control of lion. It did eat

My employer, John, he of warlike mind.

Old Phisbe did confuse it for her love

And sought to join above[37]. Young Tyramus

Also took his life to join her in death.

My lion is loose. God says we’ll be next.

Caesar

None live here long. Clowns can’t find comedy

In world like this. The lion will find we.

Two sets of lovers dead will make none glad.

Love makes you happy, and love makes you sad.

They exit.[38]

[1] The legend of Pyramus and Thisbe recounts two lovers that live in one house divided by a wall. They communicated through a crack in the wall, and decided to elope. Thisbe, at the meeting place, is scared off by a lion and leaves behind her mantle. When Pyramus sees the lion with the mantle, he concludes that Phisbe has been eaten. He stabs himself. Phisbe returns, sees the dead body of her love, and kills herself.

[2] I.e., she used the same dagger that killed Pyramus to kill herself.

[3] Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

[4] A type of caterpillar that attacks plants, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

[5] Willfully

[6] The witch’s curse applies to anyone on one side of the wall who loves someone on the other side.

[7] Blights include both the witch’s curse and what children in modern times would call ‘cooties.’

[8] A pun regarding Phisbe’s derriere. The Shakespeare Translators of Dundee Society apologizes for the juvenile humor of young Master Shakespeare and reassures new readers that we will not have to point out any crude humor in any of his other plays.

[9] A possible reference to John Shakespeare, father of William Shakespeare.

[10] Implying that Tyramus is an employee of John.

[11] I.e., more than a loaner loves the promise of receiving his money back.

[12] I.e., he could pile his wealth into a mountain similar to Olympus (the home of the Greek gods).

[13] A witch in Greek mythology, most famous for her role in the Jason and the Argonauts myth.

[14] The birth name of Hercules. Unlike with other classical references, the Shakespeare Translators of Dundee will assume that modern audiences recognize who Hercules is.

[15] I.e., it was possible on Earth for Pyramus and Thisbe to meet because they met on Earth.

[16] Yourself (i.e., go away)

[17] The First Clown, as the audience will soon observe, is drunk.

[18] First Clown means ‘address’

[19] A clear allusion to Homer’s Odyssey, in which Ulysses convinces the Cyclops that his name is ‘Nobody.’

[20] I.e., nobody has told Caesar where Medea is because Nobody (First Clown) has not told Caesar where Medea is.

[21] In this case, the First Clown would use a pond as a mirror.

[22] This joke assumes that lions eat bunnies. The Shakespeare Translators of Dundee express preemptive regret if we have ruined the joke for any readers.

[23] A pun on ‘Tyramus’

[24] i.e., on the social hierarchy

[25] disguise herself like a

[26] The Shakespeare Translators of Dundee suggests that if the reader does not know what the Pantheon is, he or she may not find this text within his or her reading range.

[27] A popular condom during Shakespeare’s time.

[28] The Shakespeare Translators of Dundee entrusts that the reader understands that the previous footnote was a witticism, as we assume our readers comprehend as basic an allusion as the Trojan Horse.

[29] Tyramus has arrived where Pyramus died, and now picks up the latter’s pointed extension.

[30] I.e., John has taken literally everything from Tyramus now.

[31][this comment retracted by the editor of this edition for unnecessary profanity]

[32] Fat

[33] I.e., the lion finished eating and took a massive [this word retracted by the editor of this edition for unnecessary profanity]

[34] Jesus

[35] Madness

[36] Young Master Shakespeare believed witches could view the past, and events in other parts of the world.

[37] I.e., in heaven.

[38] As many versions of other Shakespeare plays exist, the Shakespeare Translators of Dundee believe that this represents an abridged, earlier version of the ingenious tale that we know Shakespeare, even at such a young age, was more than capable of producing.