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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Multi-Color Graphics on Shakespearean Themes

"VERGES & DOGBERRY:
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING"

Description of wood-cut 18 colors 10" x 14"
by Hannah Tompkins

 

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Verges and Dogberry are neither Fools nor Clowns in the formal sense, though they are both foolish and comic. In the expression of these traits they expound wisdoms and expose truths.

Unlike the usual comic pairs of 'straight man' and 'fall guy', both these characters are gulls, the prototypes of the 20th century immortals, Laurel & Hardy. The latter defines the essence of their humors
" Laurel was the dumb, dumb guy who never has anything bad happen to him, Hardy was the smart, smart guy who is dumber than the dumb guy, only he doesn't know it."
This is a perfect description of Verges and Dogberry. When Dogberry remarks about his partner "When the age is in the wit is out", he could just as well have been making a self-confession.

With Laurel & Hardy, the similarities of their temperaments are balanced by the incongruities of their physical make ups, which ignites the comicality. These features have been applied to the Shakespearean bumblers in this print.

Both pairs, in their simplicity have been swept into confusion by the complexities of the world. They have been whirled to the periphery by centrifugal force, from which point they make astute observations. Dogberry, in his self-proclaimed priority declares:
"..an' two men ride of a horse,
one must ride behind."
      (III.v.)
Centuries later the echo resounds as pompous Hardy persuades Laurel aside with his famous last words "Let me do it." which, as everyone knows, is the fatal invitation to disaster.

Verges & Dogberry are simple but upright, and uphold the law, like the columns behind them. While on Night Watch, they over-hear and expose a plot of deception thus averting what could have become a tragic consequence. In a deserted street a crescent moon rises in a starless sky, behind a structure of many doors and windows, like the mind, some open, some closed, casting many shadows on the cobbled ground where they stand.

Like Diogenes, with lamp in hand, Verges patiently submits to the swagger of his peer. Their weapon is not the halberd but the language. In fracturing the king's English, they manage to juggle things upside down and inside out, things which, paradoxically, land right side up as unsuspecting truths.

Despite the mishaps shared by both sets of comics, though separated by centuries, one quality endures: the ultimate in human relationships: loyalty and mutual acceptance. This giving springs from the vital source of 'self-acceptance'.

Perhaps there dwells within us all an equivalent of such a pair, that for all its bungling incompetence is trying to tell us something.


Copyright © 1990 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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