The thirty-first of October, 2011: God preserve us from cheesy cant

Much of my time, lately, has been (willingly and happily) given over to various incarnations of the ever-expanding Liars’ League. This, coupled with the current Shakespearean exertions of leading Liar Ben Crystal, caused me to start (like a guilty thing/Upon a fearful summons) when, part-way through Anthony Burgess’ predictably virtuose 1964 novelisation of Shakespeare’s life Nothing Like The Sun (‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;/Coral is far more red than her lips’ red’ – Sonnet 130), I came across this:

WS said, bold cider-boy and crony of justices and scholars: ‘… As for acting, is it not all lies? A boy is made a woman, a short man will add a cubit with stilt-shoes – ‘

‘Chopines,’ corrected Master Woodford.

‘ – A living man will say he is dying. Now I grant that in Seneca there was none of this, for his plays were not acted but read aloud.’

‘Oh, God preserve us from cheesy cant,’ said Master Quedgeley. ‘That is Banbury talk … Life,’ so went Quedgeley on, ‘is in a sense all lies. We watch ourselves act every day. Philip drunk and Philip sober. One is inside the other watching the other. And so I am John Quedgeley and Jack Quedgeley and Jockey Quedgeley and Master Quedgeley, Justice of Peace, and all. It is all acting.’

And WS saw that this was true, revolving it in the murk of the bottom of his cider-tankard.

I think that Burgess – the hobbyist linguist who wrote the marvellous study of language and speech A Mouthful Of Air – would have loved to have seen (or, rather, heard) Hamlet in its original pronunciation, and that it’s rather a shame that he will be too dead to attend at Reno, Nevada, tomorrow.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s