Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3570 Set by Margaret Rogers

What would Shakespeare have thought of Shakespeare in Love?

Report by Grace Elegy

Truly a magnificent response, although it was agonising to select just three winners from so many clever entries. I was particularly saddened to lose Peter Lyon's verses ("Were it my lot to palter with a Paltrow . . . ") and John O'Byrne's solicitor's letter ("Dear Mr Stoppard, We act for a Mr W Shakespeare . . . "). £15 to the winners and honourable mentions to the above-named. I have awarded the bottle of champagne to Cynthia Hall.

NB: We are currently sorting out the money for comp setters for 1998. I'm afraid we don't have an address for Jim Anthony, who set one. Could you get in touch, please?

Darlings, what a lark! Loved it, absolutely loved it! You were all super, every one. And the script! What a leg-pull! And the biggest leg-pull of all the notion that all this utterly English leg-pulling was the work of a Czech who grew up in India. So that launched me on a little quest to find out who wrote Stoppard's plays, since it obviously wasn't Stoppard.

We Elizabethans know a thing or two about this game, and I reckoned the real author would be coded in the texts, so I took his longest title and wrote it in standard five-letter cipher groups. I then looked for a suggestive triangle or so, and blow me! right in the middle, staring me in the face, was:

R O S E N

C R A N T

Z A N D G

U I L D E

N S T E R

N A R E D

E A D . .

Yes, the letters CRANTADL, which anybody can see at a glance anagrams to CARTLAND. So there it is, England's most famous playwright and England's most prolific novelist, one and the same.

Well, we all do it, don't we, darlings? Pip pip, and break a leg!

Noel Petty

To see, or not to see: that is the question:

From Stoppard's pen Tom-foolery doth flow,

That employ to wide-famed players gives.

First Mistress Paltrow, from whose honeyed lips

Hesperidean note is never heard;

Then handsome Joseph, he whose Fine address

Flatt'ry upon th'original doth pour,

Who, represented as slim-haunched youth,

Hath oftentimes to th'Odeon returned

To gaze and gaze upon what never was

Yet ever was desire'd. Ah, me. Alack.

But to resume: as Gloriana doth

Great Judi strut; while, proud but undesired,

With beet'ling brow doth Firth, Darcy no more,

Woo, fortuneless, despised and reviled.

No wetted flesh nor flashing eye he sports,

But with slack purse and gilded doublet doth

Our loves repel: O villainous reversal!

That did mis-cast so kingly a demeanour

Making him mocked of groundlings, while they wait

Upon the next appearance of the dog,

Whereat they roar. What's Romeo to a cur?

A brute, a very brute! but soft you now,

Fair Ethel from yon kitchen doth command.

Wisest is he that brooketh no delay.

Cynthia Hall

Is the fine of your fiennes, to have my fine pate full of fine dirt? To place a stoppard in my barrel of laughs, and play me knock-knee'd, a very lily-liver'd knave who could not tell a quill from a quarto? Faith, here's a strange suit - made of such threadbare stuff that there's no question in't, nor answer neither. 'Tis like a dumb owl no more than a want-wit, unable to woo any but the shadow of a rat. Or 'tis the botchy portrait of some blinking idiot, a sergeant of no arms whose every breath betrays his rank, and found endeavours. Such tediosity is infectious, and such barbarous prattle is like to offend all but a mildew'd ear. No man may sift through such a dish of dung, or else he's bawd. What, should we wait on this improbable fiction, and bruise our palms like rotting plums? A pox upon such pictures! They mountebank my trade, and fool me to my face. I should rather much upon the gizzard of a blind baboon. Hast seen, pray ask me, thou vile worms, this Shakespeare in Love? 'Twas a rough night.

Will Bellenger

No 3573 Set by George Cowley

Jane Jakeman recently wrote in the New Statesman: "New Labour is undoubtedly the Mills & Boon of politics." Could we have an excerpt from a Mills & Boon romance featuring well-known members of the Labour Party. Max 200 words and in by 8 April.

PS Please will you remember to include your telephone number (if you have one) on your entry. We need to get in touch by phone if you win the champagne.

E-mail: comp@newstatesman.co.uk

This article first appeared in the 26 March 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Eating people is wrong