Friday, January 6, 2012

Shakespeare Apocrypha: The Tragedy of Locrine

Just read ‘The Tragedy of Locrine,’ another play from the apocrypha body. Again, the general consensus is that this play wasn’t written by Shakespeare, although some commentators accept the possibility that it may have been ‘revised’ by him. The play is centred around the mythical Trojan founders of the English nation - king Brutus and his sons, Locrine, Camber and Albanact.

The main focus of the play is Locrine, who becomes king after his fathers death. Firstly Locrine has to fight off the invading Scythians, killers of his brother Albanact. Then, having fell in love with Estrild, wife of the defeated Scythian king, he has to face the wrath of his spurned wife, Guendoline, and her accompanying army. Defeated, both he and Estrild kill themselves in classic Shakespearean fashion.

To my untrained eye this play feels very much like a Shakespeare play and I see no reason to doubt that it is. However, Wikipedia describes the play’s verse as ‘stiff,’ ‘formal’ and ‘un-Shakespearean.’ Personally, it doesn’t seem anywhere near that bad to me. Although, of course, it clearly isn’t a classic.

And lo!, what’s this? Yet more Shakespearean filth. This scene, one of the comic scenes from the play, concerns a character called Oliver who, along with his son William, tries to force the character Strumbo to marry his daughter for having, let’s say, relations with her.

Oliver. [...]will you have my Daughter or no?
Strumbo. A very hard question, Neighbour, but I will solve it as I may; what reason have you to demand it of me?
William. Marry Sir, what reason had you when my Sister was in the barn to tumble her upon the Hay, and to fish her Belly?
Strumbo. Mass thou say'st true; well, but would you have me marry her therefore? No, I scorn her, and you, and you: Ay, I scorn you all.
Oliver. You will not have her then?

Would this in itself be enough to de-Shakespeare it? I wonder.

Actually, in an earlier post I wrote;
“It seems that anything earthy, set in contemporary England and full of social commentary is generally consigned to the non-Shakespeare pile.”
Perhaps I should add risque innuendo to that list as well.

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