The Reactionary Utopian
                     January 17, 2006

by Joe Sobran

     How do you get to first base with the ladies? It may 
be easy if you're as dashing and dynamic as my old friend 
Taki. He is still handsome, athletic, fearless, and funny 
after all these years, and is married to one of the most 
beautiful women this side of Helen of Troy. But what 
about us ordinary mortals? Is there any hope for us?

     Good news, guys! The encouraging answer is a 
resounding yes. The secrets of success with women are 
laid out clearly in an old play called RICHARD III.

     It was originally published anonymously in 1597 and 
later ascribed to someone called "William Shakespeare" 
(not his real name). The title page read quaintly THE 
subtitle "Containing, His treacherous Plots against his 
brother Clarence: the pittiefull murther of his innocent 
nephewes: his tyrannicall vsurpation: with the whole 
course of his detested life, and most deserued death."

     That gives you some idea of the plot, though I think 
it's a little judgmental and apt to prejudice the reader. 
It also leaves out Richard's winning ways with the fair 

     In the second scene, Richard interrupts the funeral 
procession of King Henry VI to woo the mourning Lady 
Anne. Not only does this seem an inauspicious occasion to 
begin a courtship -- so inauspicious that I wonder if 
even Taki could bring it off; but Richard himself has 
killed the deceased, as well as Lady Anne's late husband. 
So he has several strikes against him, apart from bad 
timing. In addition, he is an ugly hunchback.

     Lady Anne serves notice that he's facing an uphill 
fight when she screams, "Blush, blush, thou lump of foul 
deformity!" At this point most men would take the hint. 
When she goes on to call Richard a devil, a toad, a 
diffused infection of a man, a hedgehog, a homicide, and 
a dissembler, and then spits in his face and tells him to 
hang himself, the warning signs are hard to miss.

     For most of us, such expressions as "lump of foul 
deformity" (which I personally would reserve for someone 
like Franklin D. Roosevelt) are apt to touch secret 
insecurities. Coming from a woman we are attracted to, 
they may cause us to get discouraged, to sulk and brood, 
or to react defensively. This is especially true if we 
suspect there is a grain of truth in them. During my 
teens, I used to wilt every time a girl called me that -- 
until I discovered Richard.

     Richard is not one to be put off by a huffy 
reception. Maybe his disability has inured him to initial 
rejections by the fair sex. Or maybe he thinks that 
whatever her lips may call him, her eyes are saying, 
Yes, yes. Or maybe, in traditional masculine fashion, he 
reckons it's just the wrong time of the month with her. 
Whatever the reason, he hangs in there, ignoring the 
verbal abuse, pouring on the sweet-talk, and trusting 
that she just needs to be exposed to his finer qualities 
to see the sensitive human being behind the hump.

     Richard replies to her insults by calling her 
"divine perfection of a woman." He explains that he 
killed her husband only "to help thee to a better 
husband" -- himself. Her first reaction to this is to 
spit, naturally; but still, it's not a line she hears 
from all the guys.

     Well, by now you've guessed the rest. If you've seen 
other plays by "Shakespeare," you'll recognize the 
formula: the guy who perseveres gets the girl. Petruchio 
needs determination to tame Kate the Shrew, Benedick has 
to put up with Beatrice's sharp tongue, and the sharp 
bantering leads to true love in the end. For a 
"Shakespeare" hero, being called a lump of foul deformity 
can be the beginning of a lasting relationship. =But only 
if he refuses to throw in the towel.=

     Sure enough, the Lady Anne relents -- cosi fan tutte 
-- and winds up as Richard's queen. Bygones are bygones, 
and Richard gets on with the business of dealing with his 
nephews and other obstacles to success. The same 
determination that has conquered the Lady Anne serves him 
well in his other endeavors.

     True, the marriage is somewhat troubled. But 
"Shakespeare" can take you only so far; he's good on 
wooing, but after the wedding vows, you're on your own. 
Marriage counseling is beyond his scope.


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