Delighting in the Rude Mechanicals

Shakespeare chocked “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” so full of wisdom, one hardly knows where to begin.

E.G.: “The course of true love never did run smooth…”

The best comes when the “hard-handed men” mount the stage for ‘Pyramus and Thisby.’

The master of revels has declared the actors incompetent. The new queen Hippolyta worries that the spectacle will prove embarrassing. But Theseus calms her with these God-like words:

HIPPOLYTA
I love not to see wretchedness o’er charged
And duty in his service perishing.

THESEUS
Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.

HIPPOLYTA
He says they can do nothing in this kind.

THESEUS
The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing.
Our sport shall be to take what they mistake:
And what poor duty cannot do, noble respect
Takes it in might, not merit.
Where I have come, great clerks have purposed
To greet me with premeditated welcomes;
Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,
Make periods in the midst of sentences,
Throttle their practised accent in their fears
And in conclusion dumbly have broke off,
Not paying me a welcome. Trust me, sweet,
Out of this silence yet I pick’d a welcome;
And in the modesty of fearful duty
I read as much as from the rattling tongue
Of saucy and audacious eloquence.
Love, therefore, and tongue-tied simplicity
In least speak most, to my capacity.

“Never any thing can be amiss, when simpleness and duty tender it.”

Wetted County

Rain and snow fall from the sky. The water that lands on the Buck, Bent, and Poor Mountain peaks of the Blue Ridge–not to mention Tinker Mountain, Fulhardt Knob, the Peaks of Otter, and many others–this water flows down towards the Atlantic Ocean via the Roanoke River, which is also called the Staunton River.

East of the Blue Ridge, in the hills where moonshine flowed like water in the Prohibition Era, Smith Mountain rises as a solitary ridge. West of the mountain, the hills crinkle up like folds of crumpled paper.

Roanoke River watershed
Since the springtime of the world, the Roanoke River has flown through the Smith Mountain pass, or gorge. On September 24, 1963, mankind (specifically, the Appalachian Power Company) interrupted the flow of the river with a colossal hydroelectric dam. Over the course of the next two and a half years, the water backed up to wet all the earth that lies lower than 800 feet above sea level.

Paved roads, underwater; trees and ruined barns and God only knows what else. Now Tom Brady fans ride jet-skis over what were once tobacco fields where Booker T. Washington might have gone for walks when he was a boy.

Amazing world.

One of the roads that leads to the campsites at Smith Mountain Lake State Park used to be a country road that ran past the front door of a farmhouse. A couple of years ago, an Eagle Scout rebuilt the three-person swing that the farmer put up for his family.

…Speaking of amazing, we cannot take our leave of Shakespeare’s Richard III without contemplating the speech King Richard gives in Scene 3 of Act V. Night falls on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth Field. The souls of all the king’s murder victims come to him in his dream and condemn him: “Despair and die.”

Richard awakes in a cold sweat.

What do I fear? myself? there’s none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack. I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself!
I am a villain: yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well: fool, do not flatter.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the high’st degree
Murder, stem murder, in the direst degree;
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, Guilty! guilty!
I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die, no soul shall pity me:
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself?
Methought the souls of all that I had murder’d
Came to my tent; and every one did threat
To-morrow’s vengeance on the head of Richard.

The scene in “The Two Towers” movie where Smeagol and Gollum debate each other: perhaps whoever wrote it was inspired by this speech of King Richard’s. (Tokien did not write the part where Gollum accuses Smeagol of committing murder.)