This week in Mash History: Whiny peasant becomes first person to declare he doesn't 'get' Shakespeare, 1601

WILLIAM Shakespeare is the most renowned playwright in history, inspiring generations of actors and middle-class ponces to wank on about him like they’re dead clever.

But did you know that the first whiny, pissed-off criticisms of the Bard’s work came during his own lifetime, from a plebeian audience member referred to in historical records only as ‘Maurice the Privy Scooper’? 

While many today regard Hamlet as Shakespeare’s magnum opus, Maurice disagreed, demanding a refund and only shutting up when his wife told him to stop being embarrassing. His outburst, as recorded by the theatre’s clerks, is as follows: 

“Sorry, but I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. Four hours of gaylords in tights talking at each other, then suddenly everyone’s dead. And I risked getting plague for that?

“The wife dragged me along to The Globe because one of her mates was raving about this William Shakespeare guy. Course, when one of my mates suggests watching a pack of dogs fight a bear to the death, she wants a night in. Typical bloody shrew.

“So I put on my best lice-infested shirt, coughed up a bloody extortionate quarter of a penny, and what did we get? Just a Danish guy having rich person problems. Same as the comedies and histories: rich kids depressed because they can’t shag each other or rich kids happy because they do shag each other. Then a rubbish sword fight. The only decent joke in Shakespeare is a bloke called Bottom.

“Haha. Bottom.”

Maurice continued: “Whatever happened to proper plays like in the good old days? Christopher Marlowe, he could write a show. Doctor Faustus, with the devil popping up all the time. There’s a good bit of gore in that, with ‘live quarters broiling on coals’ and some sex if you imagine it. Now everyone’s so sensitive it’s all ‘subtext’ this and ‘subtext’ that.

“If he wants my advice he should make them shorter and jazz them up a bit. Magic, maybe a witch or three, women being played by actual women, that might be popular. I’m just spitballing here.”

And so a mere commoner began the tradition of being a reductive whiner about Shakespeare, a tradition that lives on with GCSE students who’ve had ample time to get the general gist and memorise a few quotes, but left it to two days before the exam, the twats.

Next week: Sputnik, 1957. Was it a bit shit?

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