From Fabricated Nonsense

Mr Pete Satchmo on Henry IX

Here at Bachblog, Dr Peter Saccio is our favorite teacher and writer on the subject of Shakespeare’s plays. We are sorry to say that we were unable to recruit him to comment on William Shake-scene’s recent play. Of course, it’s not really Shakespeare, and it’s not really a play (yet?). But we are thrilled to employ Mr Pete Satchmo, Softball Coach and Associate Professor of English at Dartboard Community College in his stead.

A link to the full text of the play is found at the bottom of this very page.     — Ed.

Unlocking the play

Henry IX - The War of the Noses (ebook cover page)I consider this sadly-neglected play to represent the most important piece of modern mock-Shakespearian piffle since I saw–quite by accident–a fringe festival mashup of King Lear and The Powerpuff Girls in 2017.[1]

So I am pleased to share my insights into this remarkable achievement; this play that I believe will be as big a part of undergraduate English courses 400 years in the future as Titus Andronicus is today. Principally, I will identify what I have found to be the subtle, politically astute veiled portraiture of its sharply-drawn characters. Yes, the author’s introduction assures us that “any resemblances to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental.”[2] As if! I suppose we are also not expected to take note of the obvious nod to the English bard in the author’s cheeky nom de plume, William Shake-scene.

After I have laid bare the identities of such carefully disguised scoundrels as Iwanna Cushy and Rube Giovanni, I will briefly delineate a few of the playwright’s Shakesperian allusions (thefts, some may say). And not only Shakespeare: this guy rips off such musical luminaries as Procul Harum, Parliament/Funkadelic, and both Elvises. You, dear reader, are in for a treat!

Identification of characters

House of the Red Nose

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Baby_Trump_blimp.svg - Furfur [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]The title character, KING Henry IX, born Donjon Thumpingbroke, is certainly a send-up of Donald Trump. The portrait is rather too obvious and requires no elucidation. What some miss, though, is the allusion to Henry Bollingbroke, King Henry IV of England. This king usurped the crown from Richard II, imprisoned him in the Tower of London and, probably, ordered his murder. This haunted Bollingbroke throughout his reign, during which he brooded unhappily on his status in the eyes of many as an illegitimate king.[3]

Once the reader identifies Thumpingbroke with Trump (who is morally bankrupt and, often, financially bankrupt–“broke”–as well), the identities of his red-nosed retinue are easily inferred; particularly those of his family. QUEEN Melancholia is his sad wife Melania: the character and its model from Eastern Europe; the character’s coat graffito “What, me worry?” a reminder of the First Lady’s meeting-immigrant-children attire. Iwanna Cushy, Princess of YORK is his daughter Ivanka: the character’s name evokes both Trump’s longtime creepy sexual obsession with his own daughter and her marriage to Jared Kushner, The MERCHANT of York. Kushner is Jewish and his character’s name recalls Shakespeare’s “Jewish play,” though Shylock is not the play’s merchant. Donjonny, Prince of JERSEY stands in for Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr: while his father’s favored daughter in the play possesses York (New York?), the son has Jersey (encastled in Newark?).

The king’s crier, Mistress HUCKLEBERRY, is a too-kind portrait of Trump’s lying spaniel of an ex-press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The playwright riffs on the name’s association with Huckleberry Hound throughout the play. Stephen BANNCOCK apes Trump’s one-time adviser, the far-right kingmaker “Sloppy Steve” Bannon. Blinking, blinkered Rube GIOVANNI, “mayor of London; a fool,” is Rudy Giuliani and Geoffrey BEAUREGARD, lampoons Trump’s one-time toy-sized Attorney General and punching bag, Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions–represented on stage as a toy punching bag.

https://forcechange.com/505941/melania-trump-must-apologize-for-wearing-i-dont-care-jacket-to-border/Other red-nosers: Trump’s disgraced personal lawyer, bag man, and fixer-turned-traitor Michael Cohen, appearing in the guise of Mikhail COZEN. Abject hypocrite “Reverend” Jerry Fallwell Jr, bowing and scraping in Thumpingbroke-designed Ku Klux Klannish ecclesiastical weeds, as Bishop FAULTWELL. Wild man Theo Newgentleman, “The SPLOOGE,” drawn from the gun-totin’, deranged cowardly guitarist and big-game-hunting misogynist Ted Nugent–“the Nuge”–plays a key role.

Finally, a rogue’s gallery of four minor characters. Sir Toady BELCHED (lifted from Twelfth Night’s Sir Toby Belch) surely stands in for Trump’s grifting billionaire supporters and is the only of these to appear on stage. The identity of a model for Ned NOODLE is obscure–perhaps an in-joke of the author?–but he undoubtedly represents the working class, red-capped masses Trump so effectively exploits. The final two: Spike HA’PENNY for Vice President Mike Pence and Fox News personality Sean Hannity as boot-licking Shamus O’SANITY.

House of the Blue Nose

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/33/Illustration_of_Bernie_Sanders.jpg - DonkeyHotey [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]The identities of the red-nosed faction made clear, their blue-nosed counterparts are easily pinpointed. One thing that may be said here: though these opposition forces do come in for ridicule–with one notable exception–they are largely spared the author’s most withering contempt. We need not guess at the color of Mr Shake-scene’s nose.

The MOOR, Duke of Omaha is the exception noted above. He, or the King’s nightmare version of him, is portrayed lovingly and respectfully. His identity as the ex-president Obama is no great mystery. Obama’s vice president Biden is portrayed (though only as an offstage presence) as the lightweight court jester Smilin’ JOE, and the resemblance is uncanny!

HILARITY, “vanquished opponent of the king,” and WILLIAM the Randy, her consort, are harshly-drawn sketches of Hillary and Bill Clinton: a pair for whom the author bears the palpable disdain of a disillusioned suitor.

Three Parliamentarians–Lord Charles the SCHEMER, the devastatingly-named Lady Nancy MACBROTH, and the belligerently earnest Saint Bernard FLANDERS–playfully tweak the blue noses of Congressional “leaders” Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and bloviating gadfly (and genius?) Bernie Sanders. The three as send-ups of MacBeth’s weird sisters is particularly ripe.

Others

Two unaffiliated others are included in the play’s list of dramatis personae. Unaffiliated, but no friends to the King. The first of these is
THE MILLER, also CHORUS, whose presentation throughout the play is ominous. He embodies Special Council Robert Mueller.[4] The cast list concludes with another ominous figure, Gonereal STORMBORN. Although she does not tread the boards of the stage, her presence is felt keenly. Her name manages to allude to a scheming daughter of King Lear, a murderous blonde mother of dragons, a venereal disease and, of course, President Trump’s porn-star mistress, Stormy Daniels.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/TyCobbGoudeycard.jpg - Goudey [Public domain]Beyond the cast listing, several names are mentioned. A few are identifiable: Manifold (for Paul Manifort), Spewitt (ex-EPA director Pruitt), the “craven soldier” Flint (General Flynn). Surely “mustachioed Rogers Hornsby” is Trump’s ex-lawyer, the walrus-faced Ty Cobb. (Note that the image of Cobb used here appears to be in error.)

It is an impressive collection of historical-tragical-comical miscreants, for sure.

Allusions, borrowings, and theft

This fringe-festivalish, mock-Shakesperian, profound trifle is chock full of winking references to the work of the Sweet Swan of Avon and, somewhat surprisingly, 20th century pop music. I will touch briefly on a few.

Stealing from the best

The title page is playfully adorned with a reproduction of a 16th century engraving of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford: a very Looney choice to be sure. The author adopts the alias “William Shake-scene,” in a clever borrowing from Robert Greene’s deathbed screed Greene’s Groats-worth of Wit (1592).[5] Specifically, it comes from Greene’s attack accusing Shakespeare, a mere actor and “Johannes Factotum” (Jack-of-all-Trades), of usurping the role of his university-educated betters and, possibly, of plagiarizing their work:

an up-start Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9c/Greenes-Groats-worth.png - Robert Greene [Public domain]Does our author nod to his own borrowings? Possibly. He rewrites Shakespeare’s prologue from Henry V to serve as his own, and for an epilogue he does similar violence to Jacques’s “Seven ages of man” speech from Twelfth Night. In his only other direct lift, Shake-scene rewrites the “Tomorrow and tomorrow…” soliloquy from MacBeth and has Thumpingbroke speak it to close the first act (I.6). These three instances are the only snatches of blank verse used in this play. Wisely, I believe. Its author is no poet.

This Henry IX is chock full of allusions to the plays of Shakespeare. The Scottish play is foremost in this regard: the aforementioned “tomorrow and tomorrow” speech, the portentous prophecy of the eight ball (I.6), the weird sisters appearance (II.5), and more. The denouement recalls Hermione’s miraculous turn in The Winter’s Tale. The clownish Splooge-Jersey swordplay scene (II.1) seems to take place in As You Like It’s Arden Forest, though Splooge’s speech on the futility of honor there is an echo of Falstaff’s “better a living coward than a dead hero” oration in Henry IV, Part 1.

Etcetera.

Stealing from the rest

The author’s borrowings from and allusions to the life of Donald J Trump are scattered like so much reeking manure throughout the play. From the naked biography of the Prologue and Epilogue; to his sensitivity about his actual family name of “Drumpf” (I.1), his alleged sport on a Moscow hotel bed (II.4), his debts to and lap-dog relationship with Russians (as France, “Louie the Terrible,” II.7, in one example), golf, greed, anger, orange hue, and his childishness–toys, comic books, knock-knock jokes. Only the deadly seriousness of his fascist-disguised-as-populism threat seems to be missing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trustelviscostello.jpg - Fair use under US copyright lawLastly, there is a thin thread of pop music references running through the play. There is William the Randy’s desperate protestation of love for Hilarity with a string of Elvis Presley song titles (I.2). Fear of The Miller “telling his tale” is used to introduce hopelessly obscure Procol Harum references (including at II.5). The King’s gaolers Gus and Alfie are borrowed from Elvis Costello (II.7). Lastly, the King’s expectorated frustration with members of Parliament produce this Mothership Connection (II.5):

I do know these ever-confuséd voices. A band o’ Parliament, by George! Roof-raising funky gamesters; impolitic knaves.

Only Sir Nose Devoid-of-Funk himself could fail to enjoy this 30-minute respite from our “own too-sweet time [...] so fraught” (Prologue).
 

Mr Pete Satchmo
English Department
Dartboard Community College
August, 2019

 

Click here to read the whoreson play.

Notes

  1. Most readers will assume I am kidding. To which I say, “Nuh uh!” I actually led my wife and visiting brother and sister-in-law to the wrong venue during the 2017 Minneapolis Fringe Festival. We had driven to Uptown to see our daughter (niece to our guests) perform with a Middle Eastern dance ensemble. I insisted in error that the venue was on the west side of Lyndale Ave. So we saw Mayor Lear of Townsville by accident, missing the final performance of our daughter’s show. The Star Tribune reviewed the Powerpuff/King Lear mash-up unenthusiastically. I thought it was fun enough.   — Ed. [^]
  2. Pffft! [^]
  3. All images not owned by Bachblog were obtained from Wikimedia. Attributions and copyright information are contained in the images’ “alt” tags. [^]
  4. Those believing Mueller’s real-life report was a dud are both wrong and right. Wrong because it clearly and unequivocally lays out impeachable evidence of Trump’s obstruction of justice (notwithstanding Trump’s oft-repeated blatant lie that it “totally exonerates him”). Right because it has been buried by Congress: the Democratic leadership in the House will not bring up articles of impeachment because they know that Republicans in the Senate will never vote to convict. [^]
  5. Greene’s pamphlet bears the full title Greenes Groats-worth of Witte, Bought with a Million of Repentance, Describing the follie of youth, the falshoode of makeshift flatterers, the miserie of the negligent, and mischiefes of deceiuing Courtezans. Pithy. Our author’s use of it, a favorite text of “Anti-Stratfordians,” coupled with a portrait of the 17th Earl of Oxford, suggests he may be afflicted with some measure of the heresy that William Shakespeare of Stratford may have been Edward de Vere’s “beard.” This despite the fact that neither man is known to be depicted with anything like a full beard. [^]