Friday, December 4, 2009

Swords and Beer or How to be King of England

I played college soccer and at the end of every season we would celebrate the months of hard work and physical discipline by having a progressive. You are probably familiar with this type of party.
This is where all the men's soccer players get together and go from one player’s room to the next, drinking a different drink in each room -- staying just long enough to sing “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba -- until finally meeting up with the women’s soccer team at a raging party where red plastic cups of Grainbelt Premium spill onto the warped hardwood floors of some notorious student house a few blocks from campus and the camaraderie of the season crescendos in dancing and vomit.
Unfortunately, when I was in college I didn’t drink.
Not a single goddamn drop.
So, when I went to meet the team in the first room and said I didn’t want a drink, the German captain of our team inquired: “Where are you? In college or in church?”
Everyone laughed and sang together: “I GET KNOCKED DOWN, BUT I GET UP AGAIN, YOU’RE NEVER GONNA KEEP ME DOWN!”
It was all good-natured, but somehow in my naive, self-conscious mind my sobriety was an insurmountable barrier to true fellowship with my teammates.
This, combined with my inability to use a sword, is how I knew I would never make a decent King of England.
According to Henry IV: Part One the most important characteristics for a King of England to possess are the ability to drink beer with the common folk and use a sword.
In the second half of the play Prince Harry returns to help his father fight off the rebelling Percy family, and he apologizes for his wantonness and prodigal absence:

So please your majesty, I would I could
Quit all offences with as clear excuse
As well as I am doubtless I can purge
Myself of many I am charged withal. (3:2)

And later:

I shall hereafter, my thrice-gracious lord,
Be more myself. (3:2)

But the King doesn’t fully accept his apology until they’re on the battlefield and the King is losing his fight to Douglas the Scot. Prince Harry comes in to rescue him and drive Douglas away with a strong showing of swordsmanship. And the King says:

Thou hast redeemed thy lost opinion
And showed thou mak’st some tender of my life
In this fair rescue thou hast brought to me. (5:4)

Despite his truant years, the King reinstates an honorable opinion of his son because of his ability to wield a sword.
And we already know that the Prince is an affluent consumer of grog.

To conclude, I am so good a proficient in one quarter of an hour that I can drink with any tinker in his own language during my life. (2:4)

Convincing? Obviously. But wait, wait, there's more!
This isn’t the only story where we see these are the essential qualities of an English Monarch. There’s another King whose only success came with the drinking of beer and the wielding of weapons.
Of course, I’m speaking of King Ralph.
Ralph is a Vegas lounge singer, who becomes king when the entire royal family is electrocuted during a family photo shoot. He is an American alky with an affinity for strip clubs, so you would think he’d make a lousy King and you’d be wrong.
His blue-collar ways put off some stick-up-their-ass European nobility, but it isn’t long before King Ralph meets up with King Mulambon of Zambezi. They drink beer and throw darts, and afterward, King Mulambon shows Ralph the way they throw darts in his country: chucking spears at targets.
Spear-chucking is not quite swordsmanship, but for the purposes of this absurdly academic essay, it’s close enough. Eventually, Ralph steps down and lets Peter O’Toole take over as King, but not before he uses his bonding session with King Mulambon to create thousands of British jobs! Huzzah!
With such overwhelming evidence from two masterworks of English royal history, it’s no wonder that I wandered away from my soccer-playing comrades the night of the progressive. They marched into the brisk, autumnal night chanting one of Macalester’s many fine soccer cheers. While I trudged dormward, my hands in my pockets, all hope of kinship with the Windsors severed, bound for the white cinderblock room where my friends Bill and Mark and Brett were no doubt watching Twin Peaks and talking about Star Wars, instead of to the sexy, youthful enterprises of the other soccer players whose inebriation and swordsmanship gave them leave to dream a little longer of Buckingham.

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