Shakespeare and billiards
I love to read and learn about the history of the game we all love so much. I like to know where it comes from, how the game and its role in society has changed over time, and what events and stories contributed to these changes. When I was reading a few pages in Michael Phelan’s book ‘Billiards without a Master‘, written in 1850, it was the first time I read about billiards being part of the Shakespeare play ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ written in, or around 1606. So, I looked up the play. It goes as follows in Act 2, scene 5:
Give me some music. Music, moody food
Of us that trade in love.
Enter MARDIAN the eunuch
Let it alone. Let’s to billiards. Come, Charmian.
My arm is sore. Best play with Mardian.
As well a woman with an eunuch played
As with a woman. Come, you’ll play with me, sir?
MARDIAN: As well as I can, madam.
And when good will is showed, though ’t come too short. The actor may plead pardon. I’ll none now.
Give me mine angle. We’ll to th’ river. There,
My music playing far off, I will betray
Tawny-finned fishes. My bended hook shall pierce
Their slimy jaws, and as I draw them up
I’ll think them every one an Antony
And say, “Aha! You’re caught.”