Monday, 26 April 2010

Dispute resolution, by Shakespeare

A few years ago, I went to Shakespeare's birthday party. Not, I hasten to add, in his lifetime. The Poet Laureate read a couple of the sonnets, which seemed to me to be a very civilised way to spend an evening. I chatted with Michael Holroyd about his abbreviated legal career, and Tracey Chevalier presided.
Shakespeare's birthday this year was a couple of days ago. This year I found myself at a party to mark World Intellectual Property Day. It's hard to equate that to Shakespeare's birthday - but by a happy coincidence, or perhaps (who knows?) by design it was also Sir Robin Jacob's birthday: and the format of the reception was cheese and wine, and readings. I missed the cheese, drank some wine, and listened to the four readings - and then ate a slice of Sir Robin's birthday cake, which was rather good.
Anyway, the fourth reading was mostly from Shakespeare (As You Like It, Act V, scene IV), and having been chosen by the birthday Lord Justice it was delivered by him, and commended (I hope my interpretation is quite right) as an object lesson in dispute resolution:
TOUCHSTONE. Upon a lie seven times removed- bear your body more seeming, Audrey- as thus, sir. I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier's beard; he sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the mind it was. This is call'd the Retort Courteous. If I sent him word again it was not well cut, he would send me word he cut it to please himself. This is call'd the Quip Modest. If again it was not well cut, he disabled my judgment. This is call'd the Reply Churlish. If again it was not well cut, he would answer I spake not true. This is call'd the Reproof Valiant. If again it was not well cut, he would say I lie. This is call'd the Countercheck Quarrelsome. And so to the Lie Circumstantial and the Lie Direct. 
JAQUES. And how oft did you say his beard was not well cut? 
TOUCHSTONE. I durst go no further than the Lie Circumstantial, nor he durst not give me the Lie Direct; and so we measur'd swords and parted. 
JAQUES. Can you nominate in order now the degrees of the lie? 
TOUCHSTONE. O, sir, we quarrel in print by the book, as you have books for good manners. I will name you the degrees. The first, the Retort Courteous; the second, the Quip Modest; the third, the Reply Churlish; the fourth, the Reproof Valiant; the fifth, the Countercheck Quarrelsome; the sixth, the Lie with Circumstance; the seventh, the Lie Direct. All these you may avoid but the Lie Direct; and you may avoid that too with an If. I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel; but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an If, as: 'If you   said so, then I said so.' And they shook hands, and swore brothers. Your If is the only peace-maker; much virtue in If.
There is indeed. Later, I tried to interest a friend in subscribing to my podcasts. I asked him about his CPD needs, and at the second attempt realised (with his help) that the elevator pitch should go something like: "If I were to ...", thus neatly demonstrating some facility with the subjunctive into the bargain, and effortlessly demonstrating my superiority over the main contender for the office of Prime Minister.
Sir Robin went on to read from Sassoon's "They". Also worth repeating here, though with no obvious IP context (and I don't think Sir Robin tried to find one).

THE Bishop tells us: ‘When the boys come back
They will not be the same; for they’ll have fought
In a just cause: they lead the last attack
On Anti-Christ; their comrades’ blood has bought
New right to breed an honourable race,
They have challenged Death and dared him face to face.’

‘We’re none of us the same!’ the boys reply.
‘For George lost both his legs; and Bill’s stone blind;
Poor Jim’s shot through the lungs and like to die;
And Bert’s gone syphilitic: you’ll not find
A chap who’s served that hasn’t found some change.’
And the Bishop said: ‘The ways of God are strange!’
I wonder whether he's familiar with Morning Heroes, to which I have been listening a great deal recently?

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