Robert Burns v William Shakespeare

One of the great things about working at DADA in Glasgow was that you could get free reign – within limits – to go off and do stuff that other PR firms would have frowned at. Writing odes for Tunnock’s teacakes (also here), spec movie scripts for beer companies were all part of the natural drive to being more creative than other PR places. The one that I was particularly proud of was this little script we did for Robert Burns as part of the National Trust for Scotland’s drive for a new museum for Robert Burns.

Others had found the Iron Man v Batman video online (based on the Mac v PC ads) and I said I fancied a chance at doing something similar with Burns, which off I went and did in my own time. The talented Breea McGinness came up with a bunch of other characters that would have been cracking for showdowns like this, but I left and Breea moved on too.

Anyway, this was filmed, no doubt the video will turn up at some point – and I’ll link to it when it does – in the meantime have a read and if you enjoy it, go give the NTS some money. (There’s also a great chance to win a Peter Howson £50,000 painting for a tenner here.)

Before it starts, it’s course and rude and wasn’t meant as an insult to anyone, but it’s two writers – known for playing dirty with words when they had to – having a real go at each other. So for anyone offended up front, sorry about that, blame the characters.

(cue Mac v PC music…)

BURNS

Hi, I’m Robert Burns, the world’s best-known writer

SHAKESPEARE

Greetings, and I am William Shakespeare, the world’s best known… pardon?

BURNS

I said I’m Robert Burns

SHAKESPEARE

I didn’t doubt that bit. It was the next bit that vexed me good sir

BURNS

I am the world’s best known writer. Ode to a mouse, a man’s a man for a that

SHAKESPEARE

Ahem. Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet

BURNS

All dead

SHAKESPEARE

I doubt your mouse is in any decent state

BURNS

Sir, while it is true that your penmanship was not too bad, it pales compared to mine – especially when you consider that I also ploughed plenty at the time

SHAKESPEARE

Is that what they called it

BURNS

I was being literal

SHAKESPEARE

Sir, blame me not for the fact that you were not successful enough as a writer that you had to hold down a day job.

BURNS

How dare you! At least people remember my birthday! When’s yours again?

SHAKESPEARE

Sir, your birthday is the only reason you are famous – it is not words which have made you immortal though, but your dinner. How Scottish. Food first.

At least if I was to have a day named after me it wouldn’t sound like an Arsonist’s Conventions

BURNS

No, just a Parkinson’s sufferer with primitive weapons fetish.

BURNS

At least much is known about me – including my face!

SHAKESPEARE

Known to every father and husband in every town you visited.

BURNS

What are you implying?

SHAKESPEARE

You may have been an excise officer but it was not your job to excise every lady from her underwear

BURNS

Jealousy does not suit you sir

SHAKESPEARE

I am not jealous. Happily married was Shakespeare

BURNS

So happy that your parting gift to your wife was your second-best bed. I am amazed there are no odes to love and second-best beds if tis such a sign of love

“My love is like a second best bed, rarely used, occasional bunk” why the sonnets just flow

SHAKESPEARE

Aye, that is about as good as you could get, compared to my lines “Prick me..”

BURNS

Keep yer prick away! I heard the rumours. Again, so happily married that most of your sonnets were about a lad…126 sonnets for a man – including ‘shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ with just 27 for a dark lady.

But sir, I am amazed you can remember a line from that play – heavily adapted from an Italian play was it not?

SHAKESPEARE

Sir, all good writers are influenced by the work of others and by events surrounding them and the company they keep

BURNS

You sir, must have kept the company of a lot of Italians then, to be so… inspired by plays not yet translated into English.

SHAKESPEARE

Blaggard, you are one to talk. With the amount of copycat writing you did, I am amazed a mouse could ever get near you for an ode. Was there ever a work of another which you did not feel you could improve upon?

BURNS:

At least in my work, the lead had a chance of survival. Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo, Juliet…all dead

(beat)

Spoilers behind by the way for those who haven’t read the books.

SHAKESPEARE

You make your leads sound like heroes. Your most famous work tells of a man who having been to the pub, on his way home spies devils and witches having a party

BURNS

Aye…

SHAKESPEARE

Sir, not only does your work advocate drink driving, but your hero is a peeping tom!

BURNS

At least my hero lives to the end!

SHAKESPEARE

Tam O’shanter? Would have been better as William Shatner

“And… drouthy neiborsneibors, meet;

As market days are… wearing late,”

BURNS

A poor impersonation. Back to your books…

SHAKESPEARE:

Books? Sir, my works are not meant to be read.

BURNS:

On that we can agree.

SHAKESPEARE

They are meant to be seen. They are plays not books. That was how I meant them to be seen.

BURNS

If you wrote them. No one else lays claim to have written my words

SHAKESPEARE

Can you blame them?

BURNS:

An insult! My work has all men unite and hold hands

SHAKESPEARE

And you called me queer! You, whose most famous picture has you wearing an apron? Prey tell was that taken after a day’s toil in the field and you were washing your vegetables?

BURNS

SIr! Mason.

SHAKESPEARE

Mace on? Sir, it is no weapon you hold, but an apr-on. Let us be accurate.

BURNS

Accurate? There are more than 80 spellings of your name.

SHAKESPEARE

And I am sure your changing of the family name to Burns from Burness was purely because of the great vowel shortage of 1788 was it? Did the change make writing the family name easier for your children?

BURNS

Of children? What would you know of children?

SHAKESPEARE

That they are taken away from us too soon

BURNS

Aye, ‘tis true

Perhaps good sire, we are more alike than we at first realise

SHAKESPEARE

Is there room for more than worldwide famous British writer?

BURNS

Let’s try this again

SHAKESPEARE

I am William Shakespeare, the world’s best-known writer

(FADE)

BURNS

And I… am Robert Burns, the world’s best-known writer… with hair

SHAKESPEARE

Crivvens!

ENDS