You mustn’t think that I leapt into this business of mocking Shakespeare without knowing a little about those who have gone before me: Bennett, Miller, Cook and Moore driving the nail into the coffin of doublet-and-hose history plays in ‘So That’s The Way You Like It’, and Max Beerbohm’s gleeful evisceration of secondhand Shakespearean verse drama in ‘Savonarola Brown’.
And a more recent example, Francis Heaney’s brilliant Pericles: Prince of Tired Plots, has left me unable to perform a similar office for the play. I’ll just say that, my God, it’s all true, and quote these few lines from Act 5, Scene I:
Helicanus Our vessel is of Tyre, in it the King:
A man who for this three months hath not spoken
To any one, nor taken sustenance
But to prorogue his grief.
Lysimachus Upon what ground is his distemperature?
Hel. ‘Twould be too tedious to repeat.