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Introducing The Shakespeare Knaves, Jades and Villains Compleat Vengeance Solution. This is a proven way by which to cause the most grievous vexation in the hearts of scam artists and other online thieves.

It’s quite simple actually. It involves sending about 30,000 texts of the complete works of Shakespeare to a person who has deliberately deceived or stolen money from someone.

The idea is not mine. A week ago I read about a man in the west of England who had been a victim of a £80 theft and in retribution, he had sent almost 30,000 text messages of 22 Shakespeare plays to the guilty perpetrator. It is not clear whether this was to reform the individual through poetry and great writing, or to induce moral reflection. Villains in Shakespeare are often beyond such reform, as their wills are already given to earthly lusts and desires. As reform is unlikely, it must have been to instruct and raise up the mind.

While I endorse the idea of seeking some retribution with this technique, I would draw an exception to transmitting the complete works for two reasons. The first one is that there are many very violent passages and scenes in Shakespeare and they may be construed – in today’s litigious world – as in incitement to violence, or to cause some personal harm.

For instance:
“By this hand, I will supplant some of your teeth.” (The Tempest) This one is a classic of its type.

“Your hearts I’ll stamp out with my horse’s heels and make a quagmire of your mingled brains.” ( Henry VI Pt1) Grand and the horse really adds superiority. Probably goes fox-hunting too.

“I will beat thee into handsomeness.” (Troilus and Cressida) Not inherently threatening but may be read the wrong way.

“Thou elvish-marked, abortive rooting-hog!…Thou slander of thy heavy mother’s womb, thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins, thou rag of honour, thou detested-“ (Richard III) The best by far.

It wouldn’t take a very astute lawyer to see some brooding and evil intent in those quotes. No, it’s too risky to be sending that and telecommunications carriers have strict rules about menacing behavior. If a mobile operator saw those quotes they’d suspend the mobile account and there’d be no redress.

The second reason for not sending all of Shakespeare’s works is that many of the plays are too good and by sending all those texts it would be entertaining someone who doesn’t really deserve such favor.

There is a practical way around that conundrum. Not all the plays are excellent. In fact some of them are really very bad. Two Gentleman of Verona and The Comedy of Errors and Pericles are either shambolic or just stinkers. If only the worst plays were sent in text then the culprit, the knave and villain, would suffer terribly.

For me the worst of all, The Merry Wives of Windsor, is like an awful, extended punishment and a play so witless that it might have been written by Benny Hill.

Receiving that play over a few days would be torture. The constant beeping; will it never cease? Enough to go out and get a new device and a new number. That may the undoing of this otherwise perfect stratagem.

Guy Cranswick
27th March 2014