There’s a play called Sir Thomas More. It is never performed, despite having bits in it written by Shakespeare. Every Shakespeare play is performed. Even the rubbish ones. Except Sir Thomas More. Sir Thomas More is never performed, ever. Not any more.
Actually, in academia and the theatre world, it is well known how the play spread like an infectious disease, from city to city, from continent to continent, barred out here, confiscated there, denounced by Press and pulpit, censured even by the most advanced of literary anarchists. No definite principles had been violated in its wicked pages, no doctrine promulgated, no convictions outraged. It could not be judged by any known standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art had been struck in Sir Thomas More, all felt that human nature could not bear the strain, nor thrive on words in which the essence of purest poison lurked. The very banality and innocence of the first act only allowed the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect.
Basically, anyone who has ever seen Sir Thomas More performed has gone insane. (I’m not sure how the actors managed to stage it, but there you go. Perhaps actors are immune for some reason.)
But it’s worse than that. Anyone who has even read the whole thing in its entirety has gone insane.
There are asylums stuffed with academics, Shakespeare scholars, students of Early Modern drama… all slavering and gibbering and banging their heads against their rubber-padded walls, chewing off their own fingers, sitting in their own faeces and happily eating it, because of this play. There are multiple known cases of people slaughtered (usually with screwdrivers for some unfathomable reason) by people who have seen or read Sir Thomas More and immediately gone on wild-eyed killing sprees.
Most people, of course, have only read the Shakespeare bits. Because no other dramatist of his time was any good at all. But even reading a part of this play can drive one partially insane. For instance, there are many who will attempt to claim that Shakespeare’s scenes in the play constitute a message of humanistic tolerance for refugees. In the scene, More attempts to reason with a xenophobic crowd who are hellbent on driving back some asylum seekers. More asks the crowd to imagine themselves in the position of the refugees and… shit I nearly did it myself there. This insanity in insidious. The mere iteration of the intact Shakespearean contribution integrated into the play instantly insinuates itself into my interiority and instigates incipient irrationality which instantiates itself into the imagination and iii iiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii…….
Sorry. I’m back now.
Yeah, as I was saying. Otherwise sensible people will i-i-imagine that Shakespeare is making a humanistic plea for tolerance of strangers, which can then be adopted sentimentally by modern liberals. Actually, what he’s doing is demonstrating the shit ignorance and fuck selfishness of ordinary people, the mob, who need to be lectured on basic Christian morals by Sir Thomas fucking More… who was, in the real world, a religious bigot and fanatic who persecuted and tortured people he disagreed with. …