Mar 18: Grousy

It's been a while since I snarked on the DRG's habit of forcing readings based on anniversaries. Well, today, as you know, is the anniversary not of the birth, nor of the death, but of the burial of Philip Massinger. No, I've never heard of him either. Does it help if I say he is the author of "A New Way To Pay Old Debts" -- the kind of 17th-century drama where the guy who owns the tavern is named Tapwell and the baker is named Furnace? It doesn't? Does it get you psyched if Wikipedia says that "It seems doubtful whether Massinger was ever a popular playwright"? Me neither.

But enough grousing -- wait, not yet. What is the deal with the old-timey playwrights and their affection for the Sir Giles Overreach (who is the most famous character from this play, apparently) style of naming? Did they think it was hilarious -- their version of putting Will Farrell in a funny wig? Or is it just to make it easier to keep track of everyone -- "oh, right, Furnace is the baker"? I dunno.

My other grouse is the excerpter's habit of just taking the first scene or two of a play. I find this lazy. It would give the reader the impression that "Hamlet" is about a couple of security guards who see a ghost. (Actually, I think that might have been a good plot for Method and Red.) So what we got is more Explorations In Early Modern Exposition. It's a new one, though: Wellborn a (no shit) well born wastrel, is out of credit with Tapwell. Tapwell tells Wellborn all about himself in order to humiliate him:

What you are, is apparent. Now, for a farewell,
Since you talk of father, in my hope it will torment you,
I’ll briefly tell your story.

(This is one of those times where I'm pasting formatted text so it's going to look weird.) It reminds you of a Bond villain, but instead of killing Wellborn, he's just going to cut off his tab. It ends the same way, though, because Wellborn beats the shit out of him:

Thou viper, thankless viper! impudent bawd!—
But since you are grown forgetful, I will help
Your memory, and tread you into mortar,
Nor leave one bone unbroken. [Beats him again.]

See, nowadays, the P.C. squad would be all out in full force if a rich kid beat up a bartender. It's not like the old days, no sir. I also wonder how you would stage it.

Well, the excerpt kind of went downhill after that point. Owing the aforegroused excerpting policy we never meet Sir Giles Overreach, although judging by his last name I think by the end he might go by Overreach-Comeuppance. We do get an example of why Massinger is commended to us in the volume as a wonderfully moral playwright, and also a hint of why he wasn't popular:

...but for such
As repair thither as a place in which
They do presume they may with license practise
Their lusts and riots, they shall never merit
The noble name of soldiers.

How Margaret Dumont!

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