The Place: Ye Olde England
The Time: Late Sixteenth Century.
A preoccupied-looking man with a ruffled collar enters a shoppe. A bell jingles to signal his arrival. The shoppe-keeper comes out.
Good day to you, sir.
I need a scribe.
You’ve come to the right place, sir. I am a scribe. Not a scribbler, mind you. ‘Scribbler’s’ a whole different kettle of fish. You know the difference between a scribe and a scribbler?
A scribe is careful. A scribbler? Chicken scratchings on paper.
It’s a shame the words are so similar. ‘Scribblers’ are a blight on the profession. No pride of workmanship whatsoever.
They’re new, these ‘Scribblers’ Shoppes.’ ‘Instant copying’, they call it. The work does get done faster, I’ll give them that. But you can’t read it.
You can’t read it! Now I ask you, what’s the point of paying someone good money to scribe something for you, if you can’t make out a word he’s written?
You’re just throwing away your money!
Can we please discuss this job?
Of course, sir. You’ll excuse me for ranting away like that. Pet peeve of mine, those scribblers. ‘Modern times’, they call it. I say, ‘Stick with the old tried and true.’ Know what I mean?
‘Course you do. I mean, you’re here, aren’t you? Now, sir, what can I do for you?
I’ve written a play.
Have you, now? An entire play. I can’t tell you how many plays I’ve started on. Lord of the Scribes. The Ink-Stained Hands. Floozie and the Featherman. Never got past the title.
I need a legible copy for rehearsals.
Can’t do it yourself, is it, sir?
Actors have gone blind trying to read my writing.
That would be your artistic license, there, am I correct? Nobody actually went blind.
They had a difficult time reading it. Now age hath added insult to my hand.
Nicely turned, sir. Precise iambic pentameter.
You know your Shakespeare.
It doesn’t matter.
Now, sir, about this scribing job. Will that be ‘Transcription’ or ‘Mouth to Quill’?
‘Mouth to Quill.’
Our rates are posted, as you see, sir.
You charge double for ‘Mouth to Quill’?
Have to, sir. With ‘Transcription’, I just take your jottings and transpose them into a proper, reading product. Working alone, plain and simple. ‘Mouth to Quill’ now, that’s another matter entirely. We’re together the whole time, you feeding me the dialogue, me, taking it all down. I know you writers. Straining to find the exact word, struggling for the perfectly turned phrase. I copy it down in my beautiful hand, and then it’s, ‘No, no. Let’s make it this instead.’ Before you know it, we’ve thrown it all out and starting from scratch. Takes longer, ‘Mouth to Quill’. A lot longer.
I know what I want to write.
You think you know.
I know. I’ve got in all laid out in my mind.
Wot? The whole thing?
All five acts.
Soliloquies and everything?
Every word and action.
Blimey! And me not remembering to bathe half the time. What’s this play called, if I may ask?
Ah. About a small town, is it?
No. It’s about a prince in Denmark who can’t make up his mind.
Are you sure? Ha-ha. Just making a little joke. ‘Can’t make up his mind.’ – ‘Are you sure?’ Got to tell the wife that one. She’ll bust her corset.’
Maybe I should try somewhere else.
Suit yourself, sir. But we do come highly recommended. We’re a scribing family, we are. It was my ancestors what done the Magna Carta. Not too shabby, if you ask me. 1215, and you can still read it.
All right. We’ll give it a try.
You won’t regret it, sir. I’ll scribe your play up clean as a whistle. And for no extra charge, I might offer some suggestions.
Suit yourself, sir, if you think it’s immune to improvement. Now, sir, which do you prefer? Thick quill or thin quill?