The Tragedy of Arthur, by Arthur Phillips

The Tragedy of Arthur

What if your dad gave you a MegaMillions lotto ticket when the jackpot had been ramped up to a bjillion dollars? What if it was the only winning ticket? What if your dad is a master forger?

That is just the superficial set-up. Arthur, our narrator, is a writer, and he is writing the introduction, as is his contractual right and obligation, to The Tragedy of Arthur, by William Shakespeare. What? you say? There is no such Shakespeare play? It wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility for the Bard of Avon to have written a play about the medieval King Arthur and his defense of Britain against the Saxons. But even among the list of possible, disputed Shakespeare plays, there is no even whisper of a King Arthur. This is An Important Discovery.

So why does Arthur get to write the intro? The copy of the unearthed play, of which exhaustive testing was unable to disprove a late 1500s provenance, was in the possession of his father. How did his father come to have the only copy of a heretofore unknown Shakespeare play? That is an excellent question, and the question that Arthur (son, not King, but the identical monikers are not a coincidence. not by a long shot.) contends with in his introduction. He also contends with father-son issues, twin sibling issues, failed marriage issues, parenthood issues, self-worth issues, and identity issues. On top of ALL of that, the name of the main character is the same as the author. This book is jam packed.

And yet, it moves quite blithely along. The first half of the novel is about a dysfunctional family, which is always entertaining. Arthur and his twin sister, Dana, adore their artist father, who’s driving purpose in life is to bring a little magic to the humdrum world. Unfortunately his brand of magic includes criminal activities but little income. So, what’s a failed artist to do? Why forgery, of course. Arthur becomes disillusioned. Dana keeps the faith. Dana is helped by her shared love for Shakespeare with their father. While Arthur appreciates Shakespeare, he wonders, what’s the big deal? He whines about the knee-jerk literary worship of all things Shakespeare, positing that the only difference between the fates of Shakespeare and Marlowe was luck and rich friends. And then his dad gives him the winning lotto ticket, and the second half of the novel is Arthur’s struggle of what to do with it.

Like I mentioned, Arthur is writing the introduction, and the introduction is the novel, which is only half the book. The second half of the book is The Tragedy of Arthur, by William Shakespeare. You decide.

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One Response to The Tragedy of Arthur, by Arthur Phillips

  1. Pingback: The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle Day One and The Wise Man’s Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle Day Two, both by Patrick Rothfuss | Literary Sluts – We'll go to bed with any book!

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