This Will Slay You

     A funny thing happened 400 years ago.
     OK, that’s not exactly news, but U.S. newspapers are just now getting around to reporting it. They’ve been waiting for a fax from the PR guy.
     Ha ha! Just a little joke at the expense of our free press!
     What do you think Ben Franklin and Tom Jefferson would say if they could read today’s newspapers, full of stories about murder and sex? I bet they would love it.
     But I digress.
     Thomas Vincent was a prompter at The Globe theater, back when Will Shakespeare was the house playwright. This anecdote is Vincent’s only appearance in history.
     John Taylor, the Water Poet, who made his living ferrying passengers across the Thames from London to the Globe and back, told this story about Vincent and another actor, John Singer.
     “These two men had such strange and different humours, that Vincent could not endure the sight or scent of a hot Loyne of Veale, and Singer did abhorre the smell of Aqua Vitae: But it hapned that both these were invited to Dinner by a Widdow, (that did not well know their dyets) and as they sate at the Boord, a hot Loyne of Veale was set before Vincent, who presently began to change colour, and looke pale, and in a trembling manner, he drop’t in a swowne under the Table; the Widdow (being in a great amazement) made haste for an Aqua vitae bottle to revive him, which was no sooner opened, but the very scent sent Singer after Vincent in the like foolish traunce. But when the Veale and Aqua vitae were taken away, after a little time the men recover’d: Vincent went into another Roome, and dranke, and Singer call’d for the Veale, and din’d well with it.”
     Is that the best story you’ve ever heard, or what?
     OK, maybe not as good as the one about the priest, the rabbi and the beautician, but still …
     This story pretty sums up our political situation today.
     Let’s say that Vincent is the Republicans and Singer is the Democrats.
     The Republicans can’t stand veal (taxes, and government doing anything at all but dropping bombs on people far away). And the Democrats can’t stand aqua vitae (the courage of their noncriminal convictions).
     If you expose any of these guys to something they don’t like, they faint dead away.
     Doughty fellows, all.
     So what happens?
     The widow (you and me) ends up feeding the Democrats veal (cowards eat our meat), while the Republicans go off into another room and drink.
     Is that what’s happening today, or what?
     Sorry I can’t tell you any more about Vincent (the Republicans).
     Singer, however, (the Democrats), was praised as a clown by an excellent playwright, Thomas Dekker.
     Dekker put Singer at the level of the great comic actors Richard Tarlton and Will Kempe. (Tarlton died before Shakespeare became famous, and Shakespeare fired Kempe for clowning around instead of reciting his lines.)
     Dekker wrote – specifically addressing the U.S. Congress in 1609 – that “Tarleton, Kemp, nor Singer, nor all the litter of Fooles that now come drawling behinde them, never played the clownes more naturally then the arrantest Sot of you all shall.”
     I rest my case.

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