Violet Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCCIX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, thus:
“I would be remiss, dear readers, if I made no mention of Scurveyshire’s annual Shakespeare Festival–a great tradition of English village life.”
Tradition has it that William Shakespeare once spent the night in Scurveyshire on his way to Oxford to buy candy, and rented a room at the shire’s most famous pub, The Lying Tart. Unable to get to sleep, he stayed up all that night to write his little-known tragicomedy, Two Damn Fools. “And one of them,” Christopher Marlowe reportedly said after reading the play, “is you.”
A special stage has been erected on the common for the annual performance of this play, which, these days, is only performed once a year, here in Scurveyshire. It is believed that Shakespeare himself disowned the play and always claimed that Marlowe wrote it. This year Two Damn Fools will be performed by an amateur cast selected by Lady Margo Cargo and directed by Reginal Tosspot, the town drunk.
The plot involves a case of mistaken identity resulting in two damned fools inadvertently marrying each other’s fiancees. That’s really all there is to the plot. Had it been written today, it would have been a low-rated BBC sitcom. But during the festival in Scurveyshire, anyone caught attending the play is treated to as much free ale as he or she can drink. This leads to great merriment, and a high crime rate.
Lord Jeremy Coldsore, as current justice of the peace, busily makes his preparations, whatever they may be. “This,” he confides in his friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, who thinks he is Sargon of Akkad, “is an unsurpassed opportunity for Black Rodney to plunge the entire community into catastrophic chaos. I have instructed Constable Chumley to hire two dozen special constables.”
“Does he think they’ll be enough?” asks Twombley.
“What he said was,” answers Jeremy, “‘Aye frithin’ mickle dorbies an’ speed yon thores.'”
Twombley nods sagely. “Sounds like he’s got it under control,” he remarks.
[Note: My allergies are killing me today. If there is any fault to find with this installment of Oy, Rodney, it’s still Ms. Crepuscular to blame.]