What if…William Shakespeare had written The Big Lebowski?
The Dude has met the Bard—and he doth abide.
Join “The Knave” and Sir Walter on a wild tale of mistaken identity, kidnapping, bowling, and a rug that, in faith, really tied the room together—in a sidesplitting Shakespearean comedy of errors and ninepins, told in five glorious acts of iambic pentameter and impeccable period prose.
Already a theatrical hit and a worldwide viral phenomenon, Two Gentlemen of Lebowski comes alive anew in this definitive and lavishly illustrated edition, featuring recently discovered historical engravings, scholarly annotations, and a revelatory afterword from the author.
THE KNAVE’s house. Enter THE KNAVE, carrying parcels, and BLANCHE and WOO. They fight.
Whither the money, Lebowski? Faith, we are as servants to Bonnie;
promised by the lady good that thou in turn were good for’t.
Bound in honour, we must have our bond; cursed be our tribe
if we forgive thee.
Let us soak him in the chamber-pot, so as to turn his head.
Aye, and see what vapourises; then he will see what is foul.
They insert his head into the chamber-pot.
What dreadful noise of waters in thine ears! Thou hast cool’d
thy head; think now upon drier matters.
Speak now on ducats else again we’ll thee duckest; whither the
Faith, it awaits down there someplace; prithee let me glimpse
What, thou rash egg! Thus will we drown thine exclamations.
They again insert his head into the chamber-pot.
Trifle not with the fury of two desperate men. Long has thy
wife sealed a bond with Jaques Treehorn; as blood is to blood,
surely thou owest to Jaques Treehorn in recompense.
Rise, and speak wisely, man—but hark;
I see thy rug, as woven i’the Orient,
A treasure from abroad. I like it not.
I’ll stain it thus; to deadbeats ever thus.
He stains the rug.
Sir, prithee nay!
Now thou seest what happens, Lebowski, when the agreements
of honourable business stand compromised. If thou wouldst
treat money as water, flowing as the gentle rain from heaven,
why, then thou knowest water begets water; it will be a watery
grave your rug, drown’d in the weeping brook. Pray remember,
Thou err’st; no man calls me Lebowski. Hear rightly, man!—for
thou hast got the wrong man. I am the Knave, man; Knave in
nature as in name.
Thy name is Lebowski. Thy wife is Bonnie.
Zounds, man. Look at these unworthiest hands; no gaudy gold
profanes my little hand. I have no honour to contain the ring. I
am a bachelor in a wilderness. Behold this place; are these the
towers where one may glimpse Geoffrey, the married man? Is
this a court where mistresses of common sense are hid? Not for
me to hang my bugle in an invisible baldric, sir; I am loath to
take a wife, or she to take me until men be made of some other
mettle than earth. Hark, the lid of my chamber-pot be lifted!
Search his satchel! His words are a fantastical banquet to work
pell-mell havoc and confusion upon his enemies. There sits
eight pounds of proof within.
Villainy! Why this confounded orb, such as men use to play at
ninepins; what devilry, these holes in holy trinity?
Obviously thou art not a colfer.
Then thou art a man to carry ball in his sack? Thou varlet, a
plague upon your house; I return thine orb to earth.
He drops the ball.
Thy floor cracks in haste, sir; thou art not a man of ample foundation.
Speak, friend; I am but of droplets.
Was this not a man of moneys and repute? Did not Treehorn
speak of chalcedony halls, and three chests of gold, as was hard
food for Midas? What think’st thou?
O undistinguish’d man! We are deceived; this man has put not
money in his purse.
Weep not for grief of my own sustaining, sir. At least I am
house-broken, none to break the houses of others.
If dog you are, in time you’ll have your day;
Waste time, but Jaques Treehorn will you pay.
13 rash egg: impolitically bold child or spawn. ‘Egg’ also calls to mind ‘zero’ (as in the French l’oeuf) and hints at the thugs’ unimpressed reaction to the Knave’s dwelling.
20 deadbeat: a person who evades the payment of, or defaults on, a debt
33 profanes: debases, defiles, corrupts
35 Geoffrey, the married man: Elizabethan mores viewed bachelorhood with suspicion. Men were expected to be married, and often had to be to accept public office or important civic responsibilities.
37 baldric: a belt or sash worn over the shoulder
39 lid of my chamber-pot: a lid is customarily placed upon the pot to contain odours. Leaving it off indicates the Knave’s incivility and lack of a wife.
43 confounded: perplexed. Blanche means ‘confounding,’ though that is not the issue here.
43 orb: sphere
44 ninepins: the sport of kings. Variants and alternate names include loggats, kayles, and skittles. Shakespeare frequently referred to the sport: in The Taming of the Shrew, it is a metaphor for Petruchio’s courtship of Katherine; in Coriolanus, Menenius compares his overcommitted loyalty to the title character to a poorly rolled frame; and, most famously, Hamlet’s line ‘Ay, there’s the rub’ refers to an obstacle deflecting a bowling ball from its course.
45 colfer: a player of ‘colf,’ the Dutch predecessor to the Scottish game of golf. In the sixteenth century, as the modern game filtered down from Scotland, its variants were enjoyed by commoners and royalty alike; Mary, Queen of Scots, was an avid golfer.
46 varlet: a rascal or disreputable character, from the Old French vaslet
50 of droplets: i.e., only has a little urine left. Possibly a reference to the use of the aspergillum to sprinkle holy water in religious ceremonies, as if Woo is blessing the rug.
52 chalcedony: a fine mineral, similar to quartz. Named for the Bithynian port town of Chalcedon.
57 house-broken: versed in sanitary excretory habits suitable for civilised living; in casual speech, meaning docile or peaceably mannered.
“Adam Bertocci has done a stellar job fusing the spirit of Shakespeare with The Big Lebowski. This mashup is one for the ages.” —Scott Shuffitt, cofounding Dude of LebowskiFest and coauthor of I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski
“A blast to read.” —GQ
“Oh my God . . . This is so good.” —The New Republic
“Classic lines and scenes now become even more epic.” —USA Today
“Gadzooks, methinks ’tis all as fine a way to waste an hour or so as I have come across in these four seasons.” —Entertainment Weekly
“The mash-up that toke its time in coming.” —Time Out New York
“Proves that Shakespearean sharp-tongued eloquence is nifty even in the 21st century, if wielded correctly. The play also proved that [The Big Lebowski] was quite Shakespearean to begin with.” —Inside New York
“It's wonderful.” —Metro (UK)
“Should be quite the what-have-you.” —Gothamist
"Arguably one of the most inventive pieces ever created.” —Broadway World
“The greatest thing since Geoffrey Chaucer.” —Cinematical
“We were totally blown away to discover . . . this Swiss f*cking watch of a genius named Adam Bertocci. . . . Verily, Two Gentlemen of Lebowski has to be read to be believed. Zounds!” —The Dudespaper (“A Lifestyle Magazine for the Deeply Casual”)
“Even those of us new to the Dude have become true believers in the Knave.” —TheaterOnline