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A play, La Bete, by rhymes beset

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Will Gompertz | 14:29 UK time, Monday, 12 July 2010

Joanna LumleyRhyming couplets are for me
Of dull plays the epitome

They steal the show and dominate
And that I cannot tolerate

The story's only secondary
To the wordsmith's wizardry

When Shakespeare had a story to tell
He found that blank verse worked quite well

True, at times, he'd resort to rhyme
But, thank the Bard, not all the time

La Bete, 'tis writ in rhyming verse
Which, to me, seems quite perverse

As it was written recently
It really didn't need to be

I know it pastiches Moliere
But about that I do not care

There are other ways to capture his tone
Without resorting to rhyming drone

Mark Rylance was a tour de force
As a playwright, one who could be coarse

So, regardless of the rhyme
He gave us all a real good time

David Hyde Pierce deals with the verse-only diet
Although at times he was too quiet

And Joanna Lumley does a good turn
As a princess with time to burn

But if he wants to hear applause
The modern playwright ought to pause

Before he writes a play in rhyme -
It might not stand the test of time and can be really annoying


  • Comment number 1.

    If this is a review, then play on
    so we can at least be persuaded to surf it.
    and through surfeiting extinguish
    any potential glimmer of interest in it.

    If it is not a review, then
    pray what is your point?
    Except, of course, that verse is worse!
    And that applies both to plays, and reviews!


    I am curious why you omitted the grave and circumflex accents from both Molière and La Bête. Does this suggests a deliberateness of attitude or an editorial guideline conflict? We are after all discussing a derivative work (aren't we?) that uses the accents. Even the American 'reviews' used the correct accents in for example the 1999 season at the Court Theatre Chicago, has a decade made the difference? I wonder why the author did not write his play to be performed in Molière's 17 century French - it might have pleased you more!

    From your review I completely missed the essential fact that this pastiche (is it a pastiche?) remains true to Molière as a farce. Should the wits battle be prosaic, rather that in rhyming couplets? The little Molière I have seen in French is harder work, but is just as much fun as the (better) english translations. I think what you are most objecting to is that someone has the audacity to presume that they can in any way match the wit of Molière - they can't, but nevertheless if the result is witty and fun why condemn it just for its (irritating to you) linguistic style? We do, and like, farce and comedy quite well in the UK but it would have been nice to know that this play was part of that gendre!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Couplets require meter and well as rhyme - da DUMB da DUMB da DUMB da DUMB da DUMB.

  • Comment number 3.

    I could not wait to "do Shakespeare" when I was at grammar school, and was surprised when we began not with one of his earlier rhyming works until Whizzer Thompson, our English teacher, explained that a surfeit of rhyme was, in his opinion, totally stultifying to 13 or 14 year old brains, and that getting used to Elizabethan blank verse and prose was an essential precursor to GCE study of Julius Caesar, Winter's Tale and King Lear, literary works which buzz around in my head still.
    Now, almost fifty years later, I realize how right he was, and that my unrhyming taste over my life so far has let me marvel at the Great Plays, and reject rhyme as a dramatic and literary device apart from when used by Victoria Wood or Pam Ayres specifically for amusement.
    Oh, and studying Moliere in the VIth. was like having teeth pulled.

  • Comment number 4.


    Once again I agree with you completely because once again we are so very similar. With our superior, pedantic cleverness and how we know all about the French wits and that. "Even the Americans..." and "da DUMB da DUMB da DUMB" indeed.

    @Christopher James Heyworth

    I read your post but was slightly disappointed that you hadn't tried to be pedantic at all. A missed opportunity perhaps. I do however, wholeheartedly agree with your central point that both Victoria Wood and Pam Ayres have more than surpassed the wit of Molière.


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