The English language has two known masters of dialogue. William Shakespeare, and the Coen brothers. Adam Bertocci has now bravely combined the two, creating a full length text called “Two Gentlemen Of Lebowski”. His text opens with a softly strumming lute, and the chorus chanting:
In wayfarer’s worlds out west was once a man,
A man I come not to bury, but to praise.
His name was Geoffrey Lebowski called, yet
Not called, excepting by his kin.
That which we call a knave by any other name
Might bowl just as sweet. Lebowski, then,
Did call himself ‘the Knave’, a name that I,
Your humble chorus, would not self-apply
You can almost hear Sam Shepard scratching himself in his tights as he reads this. Bertocci is an aspiring writer, and the project began as a string of Facebook updates. Once the clever idea took hold, the project came together surprisingly quickly.
Make me to understand, sir, for you are slow of speech as I of step, and I am unsatisfied in motive. When any rug is micturated upon within these city walls, must I stand accountable? Or are you as one of a thousand rogues, fishing for sixpence betwixt another man’s pursestrings?
The vast majority of the film is incredibly well presented in Shakespearean meter. Bertocci’s translation is meticulously detailed, finding the nuances of a joke in one idiom and expertly representing it in another. The whole piece is hilarious, and like the actual film The Big Lebowski, once you start reading, you just get sucked in, finding one new favorite line after another.
On our most holy Sabbath I am sworn
To keep tradition, form and ceremony.
The seventh and the last day rests the Jew;
I labour not, nor ride in chariot,
Nor handle gold, nor even play the cook,
And sure as Providence I do not roll.
Hath not a Jew rights? Hath not a Jew hands,
Organs, bowling-balls, Pomeranians?
If you schedule us, must you not do right?
If we step o’er the line, do we not mark it nought?
The Sabbath; I’ll roll not, God-a-mercy.
Bertocci says “I was already pretty well-educated on the film; it’s one I’m rather fond of, as you might expect. I tried to preserve its little structural tricks as best as possible. In the film, characters are forever quoting each other; in the play, characters are forever quoting Shakespeare. (Actually, there’s a Shakespeare quote or two in the film, while we’re at it!)”
What think you on the female form, O Knave?
The woman’s part in me so gallantly
Manifests itself within in mine art
Commended by the wise as country work;
I paint only those of my own sex.
The very word is said to bother men,
I take no awkward pause, nor balk nor stare,
But only ask, askance, what art this is.
I see no ring to mar if I would kiss’t,
But only oily painting I might stain.
The Knave deciphers nothing in its image;
Thy work has made a nihilist of me.
In faith, the art is only what you will,
And if the word can poison not your ear
Then you’re in luck; some men of lesser stuff
Dislike to hear it, dare not speak its name.
Whereas without a flicker of his eye
A man might speak of King Richard the Third,
Or pose an idle sonnet on his rod,
Or praise the wit of his selfsame Johnson.
As Benjamin Jonson, lady?
Far from being a quick and ill-thought internet parody, Bertocci’s translation stands on its own as an interpretive work. There’s a real hilarity in seeing how he manages to render some of the most famous lines from the film into Elizabethan tongue. Walter’s mantra of “shut the fuck up, Donny” is translated into a variety of iterations. Bertocci’s imagination finds a variety of insults to replace the strident profanity.
Of what dost thou speak, that tied the room together, Knave? Take pains, for I would well hear of that which tied the room together.
Didst thou attend the Knave’s tragic history, Sir Donald?
Nay, good Sir Walter, I was a-bowling.
Thou attend’st not; and so thou hast no frame of reference. Thou art as a child, wandering and strutting amidst the groundlings as a play is in session, heeding not the poor players, their exits and their entrances, and, wanting to know the subject of the story, asking which is the lover and which the tyrant.
Bertocci says “The only real problem with the language was working around the profanity! Let’s just say that in the process I learned a lot of Elizabethan dirty words. But the Coens wrote so naturally that it all translated to the simple elegance of iambic pentameter without much trouble. After all, Shakespeare didn’t write for urban achievers; he wrote for the common dude.”
And monies, and this is thy home-work, boy.
Wherefore silence? What impudence is this?
Thou art killing thy father, Laurence! O!
This hath no end; he never will speak word.
I take thy parchment back, and turn to plans
Of secondary contingence. Look well.
Behold thy car, the corvette, crimson-stain’d,
And see what befalls sinners evermore.
[He raises his sword, and smites the car]
This befalleth when thou firk’st a stranger ‘twixt the buttocks, Laurence! Understand’st thou? Dost thou attend me? Seest thou what happens, Laurence? Seest thou what happens, Laurence? Seest thou what happens, Laurence, when thou firk’st a stranger ‘twixt the buttocks?!
Walter’s Corvette destroying outburst was the most problematic bit of profanity to translate. “Walter’s “This is what happens, Larry” outburst, on the other hand, went through about ten revisions, and I’ve never been quite happy with it; the Coen Brothers wrote that so perfectly that I don’t think even Shakespeare himself could top it.”
Be these the tyrants, Sir Walter?
Nay! These nihilists be, and none to fear.
But few of any sort, and none of name.
Adam has already experienced a rush of publicity, and gotten inquiries about production. There’s a rumor that the Knave himself has perused his fine prose, though no reaction has been officially posted. The full text of his masterpiece is readable here: TWO GENTLEMEN OF LEBOWSKI