A Sixteenth-Century Shakespearean Actor Suffers a Meltdown at London’s Globe Theatre

(Originally appeared on The New Yorker, February 17 2009)

“Why are you walking right through? What is it with you? … Do you understand my mind is not in the scene if you’re doing that? Do you want me to go and trash your lights? Do you want me to go and trash them?…Then why are you trashing my scene?”—Christian Bale, on the set of “Terminator Salvation.”

Actor: Thou bitch-wolf! Do I topple the candelabras in front of thee when thou dost inketh these plays which I deign to perform?

Shakespeare: Nay, I do not. Mine apologies, m’lord.

Actor: Unmuzzled festering strumpet of a man! Art thou horn-mad? I wouldst be keen to send thee off to the hot-house! Hag-seed and whore!

Shakespeare: From the hallows of mine heart, sir, I prithee send my tenderest repents.

Actor: Villainous tang of fecund rabble! Thou art like a plague boil upon mine tilly-tally! Would thee like to see mine tilly-tally!

Shakespeare: I again prostrate my debased self before thee and pray forgiveness.

Actor (imitating brain-damaged court jester): Ah la la dee dah! I am none other than a lecherous jester who sings only a prick-song! I am a befouléd fool who shouldst be banned from the Globe for eternity! Is that what thine asks for?

Shakespeare: Believe me, sir, if I couldst revert to a previous course and merely remain seated during thy soliloquy…

Actor (sarcastically): O, then everything should then be perfect! O, the tulips wouldst blossom and the doves shouldst fly toward the heavens! Thou art a rank tyro, man! Thy fen-sucked, beef-witted shrimp! Shall I boot ye in thy plump rear? Shall I kick thee in thine pale-mooned, full-gorged ass?!

Shakespeare: Ah, perhaps we have travelled too far with such a scene. O, let us now merely rejoice for a minute of blessed silence…

Actor: O, really? Dost thou wish me to topple thy candelabras and immolate them in a hellacious pyre? Dost thou desire that? Then why art thou immolating my scene?

Shakespeare: I didst not intend to besmirch a personage of such grand popularity, known throughout the hemisphere as a much admired and handsome thespian.

Actor: Thou art a fine gentlemen, with much talent and affinity with thee words. And yet…and yet, thou canst also be a tremendous dullard of infinite proportions.

Shakespeare: I beseech thee to continue with the scene, for ’tis an important one. Would ye be willing to do as much?

Actor (still upset): Go forward: if I must. For I ’twas and still remain a professional.

Director: And … to take it thee from thy top…and action…

Actor (sighs, motions to agent for a cup of hot meade): “To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.…”

Exit Shakespeare to hire a renowned P.R. firm for spinneth-control with the London broadsheets.

—With Teddy Wayne