The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: What If The Bard Wrote The Big Lebowski?

We live in an age of mash ups. A few years ago some mal­con­tent came up with Pride and Prej­u­dice and Zom­bies. Our cities are teem­ing with food trucks hawk­ing Kore­an tacos and ramen burg­ers. And chess box­ing is appar­ent­ly a thing. So per­haps it isn’t sur­pris­ing that some evil genius would merge the most quotable movie of the past 20 years, The Big Lebows­ki, with William Shake­speare.

The result­ing book, writ­ten by Adam Bertoc­ci, is called Two Gen­tle­men of Lebows­ki, and it does a sur­pris­ing­ly good job of cap­tur­ing the lan­guage of the Bard while stay­ing true to the orig­i­nal movie. The author report­ed­ly wrote the first draft of the book in a sin­gle sleep­less week­end. An impres­sive feat that the author dis­miss­es in an inter­view with CNN that you can see above.

“Any­body could, giv­en the lack of a social life,” dead­pans Bertoc­ci, “take a week­end with a movie they admired and an author that they knew well and make a sim­i­lar­ly lengthy mash up of it.”

In Bertocci’s fevered rework­ing (read the first 3 scenes for free here), the Dude is recast as The Knave. His bel­liger­ent best friend is Sir Wal­ter of Poland. The hap­less Don­nie is Sir Don­ald of Greece. Knox Har­ring­ton, Mauve’s grat­ing­ly gig­gly con­cep­tu­al artist friend, is in this ver­sion a tapes­try artist. And of course, Da Fino, the PI, who shad­ows the Dude in the movie, is list­ed sim­ply as Broth­er Sea­mus.

But where Bertoc­ci real­ly shines is in his clever appro­pri­a­tion of Shake­speare­an lan­guage. The film’s copi­ous pro­fan­i­ty has been replaced with more Bard-wor­thy epi­thets like “rash egg” or “var­let.” The word “ver­i­ly” pep­pers the Knave’s dia­logue as the word “like” pep­pers the Dude’s. And when Wal­ter wax­es poet­ic about the rules of bowl­ing, he does so in iambic pen­tame­ter.

To get a sense of the dif­fer­ences, com­pare the clip above from the movie with the Bard-ofied text of the same scene below.

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
mon­ey, Lebows­ki?

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!

Per­son­al­ly, I’m hop­ing that the Globe The­atre stages a ver­sion of this.

While you are wait­ing for that to hap­pen, you can see anoth­er scene from Two Gen­tle­men from Lebows­ki above where The Knave and Sir Wal­ter com­mis­er­ate about a rug, which was besmirched by a “most mis­er­able tide.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Big Lebows­ki Reimag­ined as a Clas­sic 8‑Bit Video Game

Watch the Coen Broth­ers’ TV Com­mer­cials: Swiss Cig­a­rettes, Gap Jeans, Tax­es & Clean Coal

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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