Whey to Go!
Bill Long 8/5/06
Saturday Night Muslings
Earlier this evening I was reading Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of Shakespeare's least performed and appreciated plays, when my son showed up with some groceries. He has been living with me on-and-off this summer as he is exploring the world of independence more fully.
Well, I was reading the first two Acts of TG tonight, and in those two Acts Shakespeare uses a lot of word-play and punning in order to pass the time between one conversation and another. A lot of times this world-play isn't very successful, in my mind. Shakespeare was a very young man when he wrote the play (indeed it may have been his first comedy, written in his mid-20's), and as any young or aspiring author will do, he "tries out" some of his puns in order to get some experience. One of the reasons I love Shakespeare is that he is considered a literary genius, perhaps the best in the English language, and yet he made so many mistakes or made so many bad jokes in much of his work. If it is true that a baseball player can make it to the Hall of Fame while getting a hit only one of three times at the plate, Shakespeare made it to the literary Hall of Fame with a much lower average.
Let me give you an example from the first two acts of TG. Puns really are all over the place, so I will just pick at random. Valentine and Proteus (the two gentlemen in question) are having a conversation in 1.1 just before Valentine leaves for Milan on an adventure. Proteus stays behind because he is smitten with love for Julia and cannot imagine leaving her side. Proteus says he will be Valentine's "beadsman," praying for him while he is gone. Then these lines follow:
And on a love-book pray for my success?
Upon some book I love I'll pray for thee.
That's on some shallow story of deep love:
How young Leander cross'd the Hellespont.
That's a deep story of a deeper love:
For he was more than over shoes in love.
'Tis true; for you are over boots in love,
And yet you never swum the Hellespont.
Over the boots? nay, give me not the boots.
No, I will not, for it boots thee not." 1.1.19-28.
Well, I think you can see where S is going, but I am not sure he is successful. Proteus will pray for Valentine, praying on some book but not probably a prayer book. Then we switch in some inexplicable fashion to a "shallow story of deep love" and have Leander swimming across the Hellespont for his daily tryst with Hero. This story is derived from Ovid's Metamorphoses. So "love" provided the bridge to a classic love story. But Leander drowned in the Hellespont, and thus we are thinking of shallow and deep water. I think that is the reason for bringing in shallow and deep here but it doesn't really "work."
But then, having been unsuccessful once, S is undeterred and he keeps trying. Proteus is "over boots" in love, which means that he is powerfully in love. But then we have puns on "boots" for the next few lines, where it can mean the article of clothing to someone's advantage in a situation. After this punning, Valentine has a seven-line speech on love which actually isn't bad--talking about the ultimate futility of love (hence, he is seeking adventure).
Moving to Today and My Son
So, S empowered me to try to use some puns with my son as he headed in from the car earlier this evening. Actually, he was not carrying a full bag of groceries; his only purchase was a large plastic jar of "Whey Protein." Whey protein is advertised all over the Internet. One site has this:
"Whey protein (the highest quality and best form of protein) is incredible stuff. It provides the body with the necessary building blocks to produce amino acids that are used for building muscle tissue. Whoa!"
Just the kind of stuff that a 19 year-old concerned about his "shape" wants to ingest. Maybe his father should think about it, too. In any case, when he was bringing in the whey, I, having just read S's bad puns, couldn't resist. My conversation, without giving him a chance to respond, sounded something like this:
"Hey, got that whey?"
"Did you have to go way down to Winco to get the whey?"
"So, do you know the whey(way) to quick muscle-building and body mass increase?"
"I am whey proud of you for taking care of your body this way (whey)!"
"Whey to go, son!"
All he did was look at me quizzically, and then with what I thought was a hint of appreciation (maybe that was wishful thinking on my part). In any case, he has only S to thank for my weak attempts at punning humor. I do it because S did it, and imitating S is the quickest way to literary fame that I know....
Now, maybe I should turn to writing something useful about some of S's words...
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long