Monday, March 10, 2014
AGENTS AND BRANDING... IN MERRIE OLDE ENGLAND...
I don’t know if you’ve seen this on the Intergnat, but historians recently unearthed a series of letters between William Shakespeare and Leonard “Swifty” Cojone, a prominent literary agent in Elizabethean times, which I thought you might find somewhat interesting. Here they are, unexpurgated (which means I didn’t mess with ‘em). Well, I didn’t personally purgate them, but the person who put them on the ‘Gnat has taken the liberty of casting them in present-day English for easier interpretation by today’s public school students.
Dear William Shakespeare,
I was recently on holiday, and happened to attend a performance of a play at the new theater over at Stratford (the Globe, which has the best darn popcorn I think I’ve ever tasted! The beer, however... skunky!). A play I understand you’d written, titled Richard III. While I think you’ll agree that you’ll never be a Christopher Marlowe or even a Thomas Nash, I have to confess that I was somewhat impressed by the performance (enough that I could overlook the obvious historical fallacies to which I ascribe the fault to lay at “artistic license.”). I think you have some potential. I do feel it would benefit you to employ a better editor than the one you currently use. For instance, that line, “Now is the winter of our discontent,” is more than a bit ponderous and clumsy. I can doubtless help you with those kinds of things among the other services I can provide.
If you’re not yet aware of whom I am (please indulge me a polite laugh as I’m sure you do unless you’ve been living in Manchester or Newcastle!), I am Leonard Cojone, literary agent extraordinaire. And, it is in this role that I am contacting you, sir. I should like to talk to you about possible representation of your work. I assume you plan to write additional plays?
I take but a paltry ten percent of receipts for my considerable influence in both publishing your work and gaining entree into Europe’s finest theaters.
If you are interested, please reply as soon as possible. I’m not sure how long I might retain interest as there are other playwrights I’m also interested in.
Leonard “Swifty” Cojones, Esq.
P.S. That aforementioned line:” Now is the winter of our discontent” could benefit by being changed to something more accessible to today’s playgoer to something like: “It was a dark and stormy night.” This is the kind of assistance I am able and more than willing to offer should we effect a partnership.
Dear Squire Cojones,
I am so pleased that a gentleman of your considerable influence would see fit to see value in my humble scribbling. I would be delighted to speak with you about possible representation. I am presently penning a new play, a comedy. May I send you a copy for your consideration?
Your Humble Svt,
Well! This poses a problem for me! You say you’re writing a comedy? But, the other plays I’ve seen or am aware of from you have all been dramas. Why would you do this to yourself? To your career? Are you not aware of the value of building a brand? You seen to have secured a bit of a foothold with your dramas (even with the historical errors, not to mention some elements that I would have changed, i.e., the situation where there is far too little violence—only Richard himself dies on stage and I think you know as well as I that our gentle English folks much enjoy far more bloodshed upon the boards than you’ve allowed), and as one who has his finger on the pulse of the public, to venture into another form seems to me to court professional suicide.
Besides, when one says he writes “comedy,” I confess I have to take that with the proverbial grain of salt, sir. It is one thing to claim to have a humorous bent of mind, but my experience has been that those who claim that particular skill, almost always are just not funny, except to relatives and other prejudiced parties.
This presents somewhat of an obstacle for me. I think you may have somewhat of a future in drama and tragedies; I am not so sure that switching to comedies wouldn’t be the kiss of death for your career. I should like to dissuade you from putting pen to humor, sir. If not, perhaps I am not the agent for your future success.
L. Cojones, Esq.
Dear Mr. Cojones,
Please don’t misunderstand. I plan not to abandon dramatic works nor tragedies; I simply possess a wider range of interests and although it is possible I cannot write humor—I do have valued friends who have convinced me that I can. My friend, Francis Bacon, has told me more than once when we are in our cups down at the tavern, that he has often “spurted ale through his nose” at some of the witticisms I uttered. Many times, he has smiled and told me he was going to “steal that line” at some pithy saying I threw out. Might I not send you a copy of the play I am currently putting to parchment, with the working title, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”
Yr Humble Svt,
May I call you Bill? Bill, I believe you are making a tragic turn in your career. Not only are comedies not selling well these days, this appears from the title to have supernatural elements. Well, sir—I am here to report that supernatural plays are over. OVER! Their day has long passed. No theater in England will present a play with supernatural bits to it. Are you mad, Bill? Are you taking meals at the hatters and perhaps accidentally ingested some mercury in your bitters?
Oh, Bill, I wish I could make you fully aware of the professional suicide I see you are making with these foolish notions of writing comedy! You seem to have a bit of a knack at creating drama, but I see nothing but disaster and a sad ending for you should you pursue this folly of mounting a comedic play! The thing is, Billy, through much scientific research and polling, we have determined the only way to create and sustain a profitable career in the theater is by creating a brand for the author. A brand, Bill! That means your name becomes synonymous with a single element. In your case, that brand is tragedy.
If you cannot see the wisdom of this advice and persist in following your foolish and ill-advised tack of persisting with this comedy idiocy, then I have no recourse but to end our communication and withdraw my offer of representation to you. I see no profit in continuing our discussion.
This is a sad day for me, sir. I honestly thought I saw a bit of talent in you. Alas, I was wrong it seems.
Go fucketh thyself. With all possible sooth and dispatch.
So we see, boys and girls, the more things change the more they stay the same…