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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Watercolors of Shakespearean Characters 
~ Bastards, Frauds & Tellers of the Truth  ~


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VERGES & DOGBERRY in
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
by Hannah Tompkins
~~

Verges & Dogberry Watercolor by Hannah Tompkins

 

These two are a pair of comic,-bumbling constables, the Elizabethan equivalent of Laurel and Hardy. Their truth-telling here is more by accident than design and is unfurled in the course of their fracturing the king's English. Using the wrong word at the right time is a source of comedy, while expounding depths they are totally unaware of. They are by nature simple and honest, and despite the fact that they represent the 'law', they also entertain a sense of justice.

Their truth-telling is crucial to the story as t exposes the schemes of the wicked Don John and brings the play to a happy conclusion. (Don John, you remember, is the bastard brother of Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon.)

In charging John's two henchmen before Don Pedro, Dogberry says:
"Marry sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and to conclude, they are lying knaves."      Act V sc.i
And that pretty much spells out the ethical conscience of these two moral monitors. They are like vertebrae in the spine of the plot and give it a unique posture. Their appearance is brief but the impression is lasting. It needs superb acting to animate their comic dialogs, or an intense, highly seasoned imagination in reading.

As their immortal descendants would say "Here's another fine mess you got us into." and then go off into the sunset of the spectator's heart.

In asserting his rank to Verges, Dogberry says: (Act III sc.v)
"..an two men ride of a horse, one must ride behind."
This has the same flavor as Laurel's remark to Hardy:
"I'm not as dumb as you look."


Copyright © 1982 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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