Friday, 15 January 2010

Shakespeare Was a Lewisman

I bet you never knew that Shakespeare spent some of his youth in Stornoway... Neither did I, to tell the truth, but maybe I should take his collected works with me when I go there in May, to see if they resonate with the landscape. And I shall look out for more fragments of his juvenilia there, like his play MacLeod, recently discovered in a fish-box. The play provides a Lewis-eye view of the arrival of the Vikings, as seen by Murdo the hermit. As one would expect from juvenilia, the verse is a bit rocky, though it sometimes rattles along nicely, as in this scene in which Murdo tells Lord Stornoway and his factor what he has seen:

MURDO
My Lord I must impart to you grave tidings of lament

STORNOWAY
Don’t tell me that once again you’re behind with the rent?

MURDO
No my Lord its worse than that. I’ve seen the dragon prow!

FACTOR
You mean to say…?

STORNOWAY
In a roundabout way….

MURDO
That the Norse are coming now!

MURDO
I spotted sails last evens’ time, approaching like a sea beast, a longship with a dragons head and eighty oars at least.

FACTOR
What was their destination, could you perceive their plot?

MURDO
I didn’t feel to tarry, so fast away I got!

STORNOWAY
They could be in this bay by now in full view of this Castle

FACTOR
This pile is falling ’round our ears, they’ll capture it no hassle.

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