Revenge should have no bounds

Introducing The Shakespeare Knaves, Jades and Villains Compleat Vengeance Solution. This is a proven way by which to cause the most grievous vexation in the hearts of scam artists and other online thieves.

It’s quite simple actually. It involves sending about 30,000 texts of the complete works of Shakespeare to a person who has deliberately deceived or stolen money from someone.

The idea is not mine. A week ago I read about a man in the west of England who had been a victim of a £80 theft and in retribution, he had sent almost 30,000 text messages of 22 Shakespeare plays to the guilty perpetrator. It is not clear whether this was to reform the individual through poetry and great writing, or to induce moral reflection. Villains in Shakespeare are often beyond such reform, as their wills are already given to earthly lusts and desires. As reform is unlikely, it must have been to instruct and raise up the mind.

While I endorse the idea of seeking some retribution with this technique, I would draw an exception to transmitting the complete works for two reasons. The first one is that there are many very violent passages and scenes in Shakespeare and they may be construed – in today’s litigious world – as in incitement to violence, or to cause some personal harm.

For instance:
“By this hand, I will supplant some of your teeth.” (The Tempest) This one is a classic of its type.

“Your hearts I’ll stamp out with my horse’s heels and make a quagmire of your mingled brains.” ( Henry VI Pt1) Grand and the horse really adds superiority. Probably goes fox-hunting too.

“I will beat thee into handsomeness.” (Troilus and Cressida) Not inherently threatening but may be read the wrong way.

“Thou elvish-marked, abortive rooting-hog!…Thou slander of thy heavy mother’s womb, thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins, thou rag of honour, thou detested-“ (Richard III) The best by far.

It wouldn’t take a very astute lawyer to see some brooding and evil intent in those quotes. No, it’s too risky to be sending that and telecommunications carriers have strict rules about menacing behavior. If a mobile operator saw those quotes they’d suspend the mobile account and there’d be no redress.

The second reason for not sending all of Shakespeare’s works is that many of the plays are too good and by sending all those texts it would be entertaining someone who doesn’t really deserve such favor.

There is a practical way around that conundrum. Not all the plays are excellent. In fact some of them are really very bad. Two Gentleman of Verona and The Comedy of Errors and Pericles are either shambolic or just stinkers. If only the worst plays were sent in text then the culprit, the knave and villain, would suffer terribly.

For me the worst of all, The Merry Wives of Windsor, is like an awful, extended punishment and a play so witless that it might have been written by Benny Hill.

Receiving that play over a few days would be torture. The constant beeping; will it never cease? Enough to go out and get a new device and a new number. That may the undoing of this otherwise perfect stratagem.

Guy Cranswick
27th March 2014


I would say even more

In the time since I recovered from the forbidding and occasionally unhinged world of the Dostoevsky I rediscovered the works of Hergé. It was a necessary transition, reaffirming in some degree, though I cannot say what exactly. Hergé, is, of course, better known as the creator of Tintin.

I used to read Tintin in the junior school library and then, much later, I would go to Rue du Four, near my office, just down from Montparnasse station, and buy each volume from FNAC. In the last week I have picked them again, I have the complete works. It is not the same as saying one has the Pléiade edition of Proust but the book spines make a nice colored pattern in the shelf.

The name Tintin means, nothing doing, or no way, as a declaration of intent. It was not his given name and I am not sure if there is any record any of the books what his real name is. One of the undercover cops in the Engrenages series had the nickname Tintin so it is not just for kids. He was a bit cooler than the boy reporter in the plus fours with the cowlick.

What seems so strong in the stories is their tone. They are light but not vapid; they can be serious but not grim, the characters are well defined, and not all of them caricatures. That is probably why they are enduring, every aspect is thoroughly developed. The detail in the frames is like looking at a film. The two pratfall prone detectives Dupont and Dupond, who are unfortunately associated with Scotland Yard, are prone to the type of verbal contortions that Moliere might have used in The Bourgeois Gentilhomme. One states the obvious and the other echoes with, “I would say even more.”

From what I saw of the film that was made a few years ago it was heavy handed and rather too dark, at least that is, much darker than the books. That could be why they are so hard to develop in other media, the unique hand of Hergé could balance between action and humor and make them exciting but not brutal. It is true that some of the books, the earlier ones especially, are unpleasantly racist and typical of the era, but then Hergé could tackle Western imperialism and Japanese aggression in China, not a likely subject for children’s entertainment.

In the last book, he brings Tintin up to 1960s. Disguised as a rock musician with long hair, headband, and sheepskin jacket Tintin admits to an official in a fictional South American country that he is with a band called the Les Jolly Old Fellows. That is in the French version. In the English edition, the band is called The Dripping Tap. Hergé’s ear for music may have lost some acuteness by then as the French name creates an image of cardigan wearing pipe-smoking men in slippers.

Even the minor quibbles apart, there is much in Tintin; an escape from the self-consciously serious. Along with Dupont and Dupond, I would say even more.

Guy Cranswick
17th March 2014


It’s been quite spiritual in the last week or so. The principal reason for this mood is completing Brothers Karamazov. Shouldn’t that be, The Brothers Karamazov? Yes. But more of that later.

That book was as exhausting as walking across Siberia with a broken snow shoe. This reaction has been documented elsewhere and can be found in this post.

In the time since the book was closed for the last time, I have had much to contemplate and had a few doubles of vodka (only figuratively as I don’t drink vodka) to, to, to…ponder the meaning of it all; the immensity, the breadth, the inherent craziness. I am not sure exactly, but it’s been profound.

In a vague and rather uncertain way, one of the things that circulates in the head is why we stick a definite article in the title of the book. In Russian, and I haven’t even a passing acquaintance with Russian grammar, they don’t, but then many languages do not need to assign good old, the; though its understood to be there in the grammatical form of a title.

With languages derived from Latin ‘the’ is quite important and is put in front of words that can confuse the English speaker. It’s more bad practice when the is translated into English literally from French or Italian, because it is redundant in English.

That quality of transition is quite similar to some bands who had a The in their name, invariably in the 1960s and then somehow, along the way, they lost it. The was no longer groovy in the early 1970s and they dropped it. Or later, as in some cases, their fans gave them a The for their abbreviated name as a sign of their closer connection to the group. This analysis all breaks down with The Band but let’s not dwell on that demonstrative assertion of unique status.

A quick online search doesn’t show a trend to greater or lesser use of The in book titles. It may be that in some genres The is essential, sci-fi perhaps, while in others, not at all. The spy thriller likes The as it heavily implies government secrets, officially sanctions and the like, as, for example: The Exabyte Sanction. But then, equally, the has a life in the romantic fiction arena, with a book title like, The Rose of Mayo.

My next choice will be something not Russian, or at the very least where I do not have to grasp the Orthodox catechism in all its permutations. It will be light and funny, not quite Jeeves, which is almost aerated egg white, but something clever and witty, and who knows, it may have a the in the title.

Guy Cranswick
6th March 2014