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Monday, March 3, 2008

Tom Stoppard on Formation Defenses (and Vic Goldberg's "Net Profits Puzzle")

Fennyman: Henslowe, do you know what happens to a man who doesn't pay his debts?   His boots catch fire!

Cut to playhouse interior where the proprietor, Henslowe, is trussed up with his boots being held to a burning brazier Fennyman's henchman, Lambert.   Fennyman, to whom Henslowe is indebted, interrogates Henslowe and instructs Lambert while Fennyman's clerk, Frees, watches.   Henslowe moans in agony.

Fennyman: Why do you howl when it is I who am bitten?   What am I, Mr. Lambert?

Lambert: Bitten, Mr. Fennyman.

Fennyman: How badly bitten, Mr. Frees?

Frees: Twelve pounds, one shilling, and four pence, Mr. Fennyman, including interest.

Henslowe: (moan)   I can pay you.

Fennyman: When?

Henslowe: (moan) Two weeks.   Three weeks at the most.   Oh, for pity's sake.

Fennyman: (gesturing to Lambert)  Take them out.

Lambert pulls a rope lifting Henslowe's boots away from the brazier.  Henslowe sighs with relief.

Fennyman: Where will you find ...

Frees: ... sixteen pounds, five shillings, and nine pence ...

Fennyman: ... including interest, in three weeks?

Henslowe: I have a wonderful new play.

Fennyman: (again gesturing to Lambert) Put them back in.

Lambert looses the rope, moving Henslowe's boots back toward the fire.

Henslowe: (moan) It's a comedy.

Fennyman: Cut off his nose ...

Lambert brandishes a knife and holds it under Henslowe's nose.

Henslowe: It's a new comedy by William Shakespeare ...

Fennyman: ... and his ears.

Lambert retrains the knife to the base of Henslowe's right ear.

Henslowe: ... and a share.  We will be partners, Mr. Fennyman.

Fennyman: Partners?

Fennyman motions for Lambert to desist.  Lambert does so grudgingly, then pulls the rope again to lift Henslowe's boots from the fire.

Henslowe: It's a crowd-tickler.  Mistaken identities, shipwreck, Pirate King, a bit with a dog, and love triumphant.

Lambert: I think I've seen it.  I didn't like it.

Henslowe: But this time it is by Shakespeare.

Fennyman: What’s it called?

Henslowe: "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter."

Fennyman: Good title.

Fennyman motions for Lambert to untie Henslowe.

Fennyman: A play takes time.  Find the actors.  Rehearsals.  Let's say we open in two weeks.

Fennyman throws open the stage curtain and walks toward where the audience would stand and sit.

Fennyman: That’s what, 500 groundlings at two pence a head; in addition, 400 backsides at three pence -- a penny extra for cushions.  Call it 200 hundred cushions.  Say, two performances for safety.  How much is that, Mr. Frees?

Frees: Twenty pounds to the penny, Mr. Fennyman.

Fennyman: Correct.

Henslowe: But I have to pay the actors and the author.

Fennyman: Share of the profits.

Henslowe: There's never any ...

Fennyman: Of course not.

Henslowe: Oh, Mr. Fennyman.  I think you might have hit upon something.

Fennyman: Sign there.

Fennyman gestures to a piece of parchment that Frees has prepared.  Henslowe, his hands still bound, does his best to make his mark while Frees tries to assist by moving the parchment around the stationary quill.

from Shakespeare in Love (Miramax Films 1998).

[Keith A. Rowley]

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