My Irish Up: Two Gunmen of Verona

Mike Corrigan

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

In Shakespeare’s times, the only thing that could stop a bad guy with a sword was a good guy with a sword. At the final curtain, the Globe stage was littered with gore. But what would The Bard’s stance be on gun violence, in the modern world? A recently-discovered lost play fragment, Two Gunmen of Verona, provides no easy answers.

Shakespearean scholar Toby R. Nottaby, while noting that the fragment that follows is “of dubious origin,” nonetheless finds the recently discovered work entirely in concert with Shakespearean plot, language and sensibilities. “The more blood the more credible,” Nottaby said. “It’s like King Lear. The playwright’s just saying that in the country of the mad, the madman is king. Were Shakespeare around today, he’d be writing cop show scripts for TV.”

Two Gunmen of Verona, Act I

A street in Washington, D.C., where roving bands of brigands, formerly Congressmen, march in phalanx formation, mowing down anything that moves in defense of the Second Amendment. Enter Rosencranz, a lobbyist, who stands in a pothole, and Fortenbras, another lobbyist, who quickly disguises himself as a pothole. They carry automatic weapons and wear bandoliers. They perform the secret lobbyist handshake, involving a fist bump and the ritual exchange of thousand dollar bills.

Fortenbras: What ho, Rosy?

Rosencranz: That was no ho, that was my…

(Gunfire drowns out the rest of the speech.)

Fort. (taking cover in his foxhole/pothole):

Forsooth, assassination’s all of late.

Why can’t we pass sane gun laws in this state?

Ros.: Methinks youthinks wethinks alike, yet still.

The men I represented had death to shill.

If Congress came to snatch away their guns

They’d fight those with campaign funds.

They do not care who dies or grumps “Ahem,”

As long as the dead and dying are not them.

ENTER Gilderstein

Fort.: What news, Gildy?

Gild: Who calls? The very street?

The world’s sure-cursed when ragged potholes speak!

Fort.: ’Tis I, your friend, in pitch and tar disguise

To keep black murther off, and gunmen’s spies.

Gilderstein and Fortenbras embrace and dance an impromptu pas de deux, and then a Minuet, ending with Rosencranz “passing under the bridge.” More gunfire breaks up the lovefest; there follows a terrific explosion. All three dive into adjoining potholes and the remaining dialogue in the scene occurs on a mostly-empty stage, the only thing visible the tops of three surplus U.S. Marine Corps helmets, disguised as two pots of geraniums and a ginkgo tree.

Ros.: In Washington, know violence’s cause?

It’s gun control, which arms the worst outlaws.

And leaves defenseless innocents to die!

And yet you cry, “Disarm!”? I beg you, why?

Gild: My ten-year-old was shot, alas, last night.

Ros.: A lass? Alas! Yet owning guns a right.

You can’t curse all for infamy of one!

Forget your grief, have peace, what’s done is done.

Fort.: Your words ring true.

Gild.: Yet sad…

Ros.: Our truth’s the blood,

We spill. They’ll not take down this neighborhood!

(Dull explosions, disguised as sharp explosions. Machine gun fire. A lobbyist for BP, poorly disguised as a lobbyist for Exxon-Mobil, runs onstage from right and is cut down. Seven Congressmen brandishing automatic weapons and waving copies of the U.S. Constitution follow, firing wildly.)

Ros.: We stand here, Freedom’s fiercest living fans…

…To die!

Fort.: (Jumping up and firing, Sands of Iwo Jima-style) And proud to die… Americans!

(Gunfire. Grenades. CURTAIN.)

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