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The Shakespearean Baseball Game

Wayne and Shuster: with Ed Sullivan

Wayne and Shuster

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The sketch parodies a number of Shakespeare's plays, most notably Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Richard III, in the form of a baseball game. Frank Shuster plays the manager of Stratford who tries to rally his team. Johnny Wayne plays Rocky, the team's star batcatcher, who "for ten games has hitless gone."

The Shakespearean Baseball Game was first performed in 1958. It plays up the "Shakespeare craze" set off by the founding of the Stratford Festival in 1953. The beginning of the sketch announces its location as "Bosworth Field (A Baseball Stadium Near Stratford)," an allusion to the final scene in Richard III, which was performed at the first Stratford Festival. The dialogue is written and performed in a pseudo-Shakespearean style that makes use of conventions, such as ending speeches with rhyming couplets (though Wayne and Shuster freely alternated between tetrameter and the more conventional Shakespearean pentameter):

Umpire 1: Hark! The players come. To our
appointed places shall we go, you at first
and I behind the plate. This game
depends on how you make your call.
Farewell! until you hear me cry "Play ball!"

Wayne and Shuster "performed 'literate' comedy, combined with slapstick. They often used classical or Shakespearean settings and characters; on their first Ed Sullivan appearance, for example, they performed a modern murder investigation using Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in a sketch called Rinse the Blood off My Toga, which spawned the popular catch phrase, "Julie, don't go!" After the opening of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival [in 1953] in 1958 they created a baseball-themed skit involving characters from Hamlet and Macbeth. The duo treated these sketches the way singers treat their most popular songs by performing new renditions many times over the years." (see the Wikipedia entry on Wayne and Shuster)

Video Clip: The Shakespearean Baseball Game

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Wayne and Shuster: 50 Years of Comedy. Perf. Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster. Morningstar Entertainment, 2000.
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