A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
The CBC`s Fresh Air said it was going to rain October 4. The Weather Channel said it was going to rain. The Weather Network said it was going to rain. Our Hey Google thingy said it was going to rain. As I started out for my walk I wondered if I should take an umbrella. I decided it wasn’t going to rain and left it in the car. It rained. I am either stupid or a Trump Republican, which I suppose is much the same thing.
One night in September I woke up to the sound of a gentle rain wafting through the window and onto the bedroom floor. I immediately started to quietly recite the immortal words of Shylock’s daughter, Portia, from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
“The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath: it is twice blest – it blesseth him that gives, and him that takes…”
It just came to me out of the blue and between the drops.We had to memorize the whole soliloquy seventy years ago. I know it was seventy years ago because I was Grade 9 and that was in 1950, and 2020 minus 1950 – carry one, square the hypotenuse, it should be – yup, it’s 70 years if it’s a minute.
Why would those words pop into my mind in the middle of the night? I asked myself. It must have been the gentle rain business. Other than waking up Mary when I stood on the bed and shouted, “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:” which didn’t go well – she called her lawyer, I lay there dreamily and immediately my mind drifted back to the halcyon days of my youth at OCI, the last quality school in Simcoe County. As I lay there thinking of those lazy afternoons looking out the window as Miss De Renzie cackled away at Will’s clever punch lines, which none of us ever got, I realized I have wasted far too much time reading the popular authors of the 20th and 21st century. I should have immersed myself in the timeless works of Bill Shakespeare. What a foolish mistake I made!
Had I done so I could be known as the foremost Elizabethan scholar of today and be sitting beside my phone at this very moment waiting for someone to call and ask, “Mr. Foster, what did Marc Antony do with all those ears?” or “Hey Jimbo, when Lady Macbeth cried, “Out damned spot!” Did she not realize that Oxi Clean does a wonderful job on blood stains, although it’s a bit pricey?”
But I sit here day after day and no one calls except some guy who says I owe the income tax department a whole pee-pot of money but if I call him right away he will go to bat for me.
I don`t know if you know much about Shakespeare, but he wrote a bit. Well, quite a bit really. I have The Complete Works of William Shakespeare sitting here and the Bard was a tad wordy to put it mildly. The damned book is 1252 pages long and it’s printed in teensy weensy type and single spaced. That’s a lot of writing. And don`t forget he wrote all this back in the 1500s when Microsoft Word was in its infancy. Everything had to be quilled. Historians estimate over half the geese in England were waddling around with a sore bum and the British Humane Society had old Bill on a watch list for forty years.
I tried to rewrite Macbeth as a comedy for Playboy a while back but when I realized the play is three hours long and after a week I was still on the first scene, I decided to put my masterpiece away until the muse hit me again or Hefner sent me an advance. As I recall, my version was a little racy, even for them, and when they asked me to cut out the foul language there was nothing on the page at all.
It absolutely amazes me that one man could write that many plays and sonnets. It is a staggering amount of writing especially doing it all by himself. I suppose he could have had a secretary who sat on his knee and took shorthand. Or maybe he dictated most of his stuff while he lay on the couch drinking sack. Sack is fortified wine. His bar bill must have been immense. He and his missus had three kids. She must have caught him when he was sober which wouldn’t have been too often.
I wondered for a while if it was too late to start to read his entire output and decided after a hit or two of Writers Tears Irish Whiskey to take a shot at it. I have been at it several days now and am well into King Henry the 6th, page two actually, and so far haven’t understood a word of it. Are we sure this guy was English?