Saturday, November 23, 2013

Shakespeare References in John Mortimer’s Rumpole Rests His Case

As in John Mortimer’s Rumpole A La Carte, there are plenty of Shakespeare references in this collection of short stories. In “Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces,” John Mortimer has his lead character refer to Hamlet: “‘Treat every man according to his deserts and who shall escape whipping?’ I quoted Hamlet at him” (page 12).

In “Rumpole and the Remembrance of Things Past,” there is a nice reference to King Lear. Mortimer writes, “These were the two who had undertaken to save the planet earth from extinction by kicking Rumpole, and our junior secretary Dawn, out into a storm to have a puff, an act which, in my humble submission, bore a close resemblance to the way Goneril and Regan treated their old Dad” (page 28). That story also has a reference to Julius Caesar. Mortimer writes, “There is a tide in the affairs of men when you have to be completely ruthless” (page 53). That is a reference to Act IV Scene III, when Brutus says, “There is a tide in the affairs of men,/Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

In “Rumpole and the Asylum Seekers,” there is a Hamlet reference when Mortimer writes, “When troubles come, they come not single spies, or even single asylum seekers.” In Act IV, Claudius says, “When sorrows come, they come not single spies,/But in battalions.”

“Rumpole and the Camberwell Carrot” has a reference to King Lear: “I could have discussed King Lear’s pertinent question: ‘Handy Dandy. Which is justice, which the thief?’ but breakfast wasn’t the right time for such debates” (page 104).

“Rumpole and the Actor Laddie” has several Shakespeare references, as one of the story’s chief characters is a stage actor. In the story’s first paragraph there are references to The Merchant Of Venice and As You Like It: “That wonderful sniff of contempt, just the way Larry used to do in The Merchant. Of course I’ve only had the opportunity of seeing your perf from the gods at the Old Bailey. And I don’t believe you saw the last thing I did. My Adam the gardener in As You with the Clitheroe Mummers. A small part, of course, but I think I made a little jewel of it” (page 137). The second paragraph contains more references: “My crown is a little tarnished now, but some old theatre-goers won’t easily forget my Benvolio, my French Ambassador – above all my Rosencranz in the Danish play” (page 137). Benvolio is, of course, from Romeo And Juliet. The French Ambassador could be from Henry The Fifth or Chatillion from King John. And Rosencranz is obviously from Hamlet. There is a second reference to Hamlet a little later on: “And then Percy had gone into the witness box and taken the oath in the hushed tones of the Prince of Denmark addressing his father’s ghost” (pages 140-141). That’s followed immediately by a reference to Julius Caesar: “After a few routine questions, he ignored me and became Mark Antony, orating to the Roman plebs. ‘My friends and fellow countrymen on the Jury,’ his voice was low and throbbing” (page 141). He follows that with a reference to Macbeth: “I am a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage – in my case this witness box – and then, perhaps to your relief, will be heard no more” (page 141). That’s a reference to Macbeth’s famous speech from Act V: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,/And then is heard no more.” He then mentions Shakespeare directly: “I have sung with Shakespeare and argued with Shaw” (page 141). That same page contains a reference to Othello: “You will remember the line in the Moorish play – I speak of Othello – about the base Indian who threw a pearl away, richer than all his tribe?” (page 141). Then another line refers to Othello, Hamlet and Macbeth: “Let’s forget the Moorish play, the Danish play, or indeed the Scottish play for a moment” (page 141). Then, for good measure, there is a reference to The Merchant Of Venice: “I imagined, for a moment, that I was playing the Doge in the Venetian play” (page 141).

“Rumpole and the Teenage Werewolf” has a couple of Shakespeare references. The first is to both Macbeth and Troilus and Cressida: “Not, perhaps, for the Macbeths or the Agamemnons in their houses of doom” (page 147). The second is a playful reference to Hamlet. Rumpole says, “It’ll bring the case to a fairly quick conclusion so you can spend more time with your Great Dane,” and Adrian responds, “Good old Ophelia” (page 170).

Rumpole Rests His Case was published in 2001.

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