Monday, April 21, 2008

Johannes Factotum

Yes, trust them not, for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that, with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes Factotum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrie.

Back to Mr Greene's outburst.

I've been reading a couple of his plays - and, by the standards of the time, they were not bad - in fact, they were made for a specific audience and served that audience well.

What has upset Mr Greene? And, as the Bordolators have done an effective knife job on his reputation, how can we look at this comment - fairly?

We all assume (meaning, I do) that the above quote is aimed at Shakespeare the writer - but I'm not so sure. That 'bombast out a blanke verse', the more I look at it, and the more I re-read of the plays of the time, seems a comment on Shakespeare the actor rather than Shakespeare the writer. Was Shakespeare in a Greene play - and 'bombasting away? Or did Greene see him in Marlowe (and it must have been a big role) mangling the verse? Was Shakespeare ham acting for the crowd?

You know, I wouldn't be surprised: One thing that makes his plays so successful is his attention to the groundlings.

And that 'Shake-scene'? That's a full throat shouting out the lines performance if ever I saw one.

Was Shakespeare guilty of something worse - dare he add extra lines to an already written play?

And was that a Greene play?

And was it a "popular" alteration?

I'll post soon on the couple of Greene plays I recently read (only a partial re-read this time) but I do actually suspect Mr Greene had something to complain of ...

... not the plagiarism that we see with hindsight - but the actor messing up the text (after all, what did Hamlet say on that?).

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Anonymous said...

Greene is saying that William Shakspere is like the crow in Aesop's Fables, who steals feathers from other birds and dresses in them. His claims at having written the scripts he has piecemealed together are false (the lousy quartos). Greene is angry because he knows the real author, a courtier, who must use pen-name.

Alan K.Farrar said...

Second part of that was complete twaddle - the first relevant.