Topical Guide 145
BY LUNCH TIME I was a nervous wreck. The entire fourth grade was abuzz about the auditions. It seemed to me that everybody wanted one part or another. Even one of the boys who had already taken a job as a stagehand buttonholed me to explain that he was sure he could play Edmund the Bastard and still work the curtain if I could just rewrite the script so that Edmund didn’t have to be onstage at the opening of acts I, II, or V. I told him I’d have to think about it and dashed off to the boys’ room.
Little Follies, “The Girl with the White Fur Muff”
SCENE II. The Earl of Gloucester’s castle.
Enter EDMUND, with a letter
Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got ’tween asleep and wake? Well, then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:
Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
As to the legitimate: fine word,—legitimate!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
Shakespeare, King Lear, Act I, Scene II
BASTARDY has been good to me. I don’t actually know that I am a bastard, but I’ve tried legitimacy and I’ve tried bastardy, and, on the whole, bastardy has been more rewarding.
For one thing, bastardy gave me the inspiration for the first doo-wop song I wrote, although, because it was a subtle piece of work for a kid my age, no one but I noticed that it was about bastardy.
Inflating a Dog
[more to come on Monday, December 6, 2021]
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