For Nothing

<(A Lost Shakespeare Play
Recently Discovered)

["Something for Nothing" introduces one of Shakespeare's greatest clowns, Velcro. Here is a sample of his wit in an hilariously funny exchange with Flyspray, a rural constable, and Prosciutto, a fantastical Magnesian nobleman.]

Prosciutto: I' faith an I had a groat I'd give thee a bull's-firkin i' the coster, to cozen thy pate withal!

Velcro: Marry, that were a foot-monger to cry "Fig" of a pox-wort.

Flyspray: O thou base cutlet! Thou orson welles.

Velcro: Nay, but what a pied fitchew this fellow is! An 'twere meet, I had liefer scotch a codpiece than moble this patchy kirtle o'wits.

Prosciutto: Then go to, I say. Ay, sirrah, go up and go out. Go down, go off, go home!

Velcro: La la la.

Flyspray: Out upon 't. Ha' mercy, i' faith. Prithee, marry! Fie! Withy phiz! Gizzle! Flmp!

[They are eaten by a bear.]

§     §     §


<Richard Sauerkraut (1845)

ACT 1, Scene 1
(A Grotto)
In a dank cavern that houses the forge of the gods lives the young hero Eggfried; his brothers Siegfried, a dwarf, Siegmund, a giant, and Siegheil, a toad; and their father and mother Siegar, a dragon, and Siegarette, an end table.

Eggfried rails against having to hang around the grotto with such a peculiar family when he should be out doing heroic deeds. Stealing Siegmund's enchanted bicycle, he defies his father and uses the magic anvil of the gods to forge a sword from it.

While he is at it, he also forges a check on his father's bank account. He names the sword Nothing and sets out into the forest. In a rage, Siegmund invents psychiatry.

Scene 2
(The Forest)
After tripping over a magic rock, Eggfried discovers that he can understand the language of the birds. He asks a little bird how he may become a great hero. The bird warns him that it will require many hours of singing very slow music.

He vows his willingness and the bird directs him to the nearest dragon. He cleverly tricks the dragon into changing itself into a gerbil, but before he can steal its hoard of gold, the dragon tricks him by changing into a music critic. Eggfried flees, reeling from the attack.

ACT II, Scene 1
(Before the Hall of the Giblets)
Eggfried, wandering in a daze, encounters Dristan, king of the Giblets. Eggfried is immediately attracted to Fatlinde, the king's daughter. He has never seen a woman before (except his mother who, after all, was an end table).

When he learns that they are on their way to a song festival he is excited: here is a way to win Fatlinde's heart. "Take me to your Lieder", he sings.

Scene 2
(The Hall of Song)
Eggfried enters the singing contest but causes a scandal when he sings the dirty lyrics to "Louie Louie." The knights advance on him, swords drawn, but Fatlinde intercedes; Eggfried may redeem himself, she says, if he will go to the pope and Rome and ask for absolution, or at least his autograph. Crushed, Eggfried sets out.

The prelude begins softly, with a restatement of the motive of Siegfried's Ineptitude, interwoven with the Tedium motif. Slowly, the themes of the Sword, Deliverance Through Love, and Dental Hygiene begin to swirl around them, representing Eggfried's confused state of mind. Five insistent notes of "Louie Louie" repeatedly interrupt the chaos.

Finally, in a foreshadowing of the catastrophe to come, Sauerkraut's score calls for all the opera's 352 motifs to sound at once. The orchestra being inadequate to the task, it is necessary for the audience to be given kazoos and pressed into service.

Scene 1
(The Banks of the Rhine)
Amid a withered and brown landscape, Fatlinde and her ladies are spinning. When they come to a stop, they see a strange figure floating down the river in a rear-engine, air-cooled swan boat. The boat stops and a dreary and desolate Eggfried alights.

The pope was out to lunch, so his pilgrimage was a failure; at least he was able to get a discount swan-boat fare for the return trip. Fatlinde tells him that a curse came across the land when he left, and she herself has a hangnail that will not heal. She says that she will be his if he renounces his lust for treasure and saturated fats.

At that, Eggfried flings the sword Nothing into the waters of the Rhine. Miraculously, it reverts to its original shape and emerges from the river as a bicycle, ridden by the pope.

A great crack opens in the earth and the two lovers plunge into the smoking crevasse. The Rhine overflows; Valhalla crumbles; Krakatoa erupts; there is a 100 car pile-up on the Autobahn; 5000 red, white, and blue balloons float down from the ceiling; and the opera house is set afire.

As the audience flees in terror, the pope circles the now-ruined stage ringing his little bell, while the two transfigured lovers, clasped in each other's arms, slowly rise toward Heaven.

--- From Culture Made Stupid
Tom Weller
©1987 Houghton Mifflin