I recently spent three days at the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City. This is perhaps the only place in the world where you can hear actors speak some of the most beautiful words ever written, and then turn on the Southern Utah University radio station on the way back to your motel and hear a DJ say, “Anyways, here’s some more hits we’re crankin’ out.”
I also got to hear a girl make the following remark after watching “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” a light-hearted and frothy comedy in which Sir John Falstaff gets his come-uppance for being lecherous: “That was sad,” she said. “I felt bad for Sir John Whatever.” I’m sure Shakespeare would be delighted to know that one of his sunniest and goofiest comedies made someone sad in behalf of Sir John Whatever. Perhaps this girl would also feel some sense of tragedy if she were to see the Verdi opera based on “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” entitled, “Whatever.”
While at the festival, my primary concern was of course watching the plays, or, in some cases, staying in the hotel room and reading the Cliff’s Notes on them instead. My second greatest priority was eating. However, this is generally true no matter what I’m doing. I could be duct-taped to a rocket that was being launched into the sun, and I’d be thinking, “I wonder if the sun has a Wendy’s?” (Also: “How would I go about putting Dave Thomas there?”)
Anyway, with food and Shakespeare on my mind simultanously, I came up with the following mouth-watering play titles during the parts of the shows when I wasn’t paying attention:
“Much Ado about Muffins”
“Two Gentlemen of Bologna”
“Love’s Bagels Lost”
“The Cherry Pies of Windsor”
“The Taming of the Stew”
“The Merchant of Venison”
“A Midsummer Night’s Bean”
And as long as we’re speaking randomly about Shakespeare: Everyone’s heard the famous “To be or not to be” speech, and the “What light through yonder window breaks?” line. But in studying the Bard’s work, I’ve found a number of interesting lines that are not quoted nearly as often, perhaps because I’ve made them up. Here are some:
“Lookest thou at me? Art thou looking at me? I seeth not anyone else here; it must be that thou lookest at me.” (“MacDeath”)
“I love her not, for behold, from the tree of ugly hath she fallen, yea, and striketh each branch on the way down.” (“Titus Androgynous”)
“Thy help I seek. Seest thou can that backwards my words are.” (“Windsor of Wives Merry The”)
“Thou hast captured my heart. Give it back.” (“Henry XXIII”)
“Whassup?” (“Two Boyz from Verona”)
“Romeo, O Romeo. Where the hell fore art thou Romeo?” (“Romeo Must Die”)
“With Cupid’s cruel arrows am I stung, and with tetanus is my flesh now infected.” (“A Midsummer Nightmare”)
“Alas, poor Sir John Whatever. I knew him well.” (“The Tragedy of Sir John Whatever”)
I underwent much personal struggle over whether the "Much Ado About Nothing" variation should be "Much Ado About Stuffing" or "Much Ado About Muffins." "Stuffing" is what I thought of first, but it occurred to me that "muffins" was not only in general a funnier word than "stuffing," but that "stuffing" might rhyme a little TOO well in this case, thus making "muffins" more unexpected and therefore funnier. It's difficult business, this humor-writing.
My pal Chris was with me to see "The Merry Wives of Windsor," as he was set to direct the same show in Provo later in the summer, and he wanted to steal some ideas, I guess, or whatever. Anyway, he's the one who pointed out the girl's sympathetic remarks concerning Sir John Whatever, and Chris and I laughed about it for a good many days thereafter.
I thought of more Shakespeare food titles, but didn't include them because they weren't as funny and/or because they referred to Shakespeare plays that aren't as commonly known. But they are: "Julius Caesar Salad," "Troilus and Croissant," "Twelfth Bite" and "Titus Andronicustard."
Also, that whole "comedy" premise where you make up things to say in Shakespearean language: total crap. That's something a hack would do. Fie on me.