Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A COMEDY OF ERRORS ... updated 30th of July

The Comedia Dell'arte of CIT Bulllies
Our tale begins in the halls and corridors of  the palace called CIT and is alas but one of many stratagems and spoils arranged by this company of players. Hiding behind their masks, meeting secretly or sending scrolls up and down the corridors, they were determined to spoil the work of others. Such mischief is not unknown in the halls of public service and its reason cannot always be fathomed. Sometimes it is merely because they can cause mischief - so they do. They love to exercise power for  its own sake. They are puffed up with their own importance and woe betide any servant who sings sweeter, is a better orator or is better at letters than they. Out of sheer jealousy they will seek to sabotage his or her work.

Pantelone the head scribe and Tartaglia his assistant asked Columbina, a very lowly servant to write a collection of scrolls to make information, laws and letters easier for all in the palace to read and understand.  But when the teams of Punchinello and Brighella,  Arlecchino and Ill Capitano and Ill Doctore (who worked alone) found out they were furious and set about trying to make it as difficult as they could for Columbina to do her job.They felt that their knowledge was their power - and they loved making all of the lowly come to them to ask for the right information. They also hated each others team - they all felt they should be the ones to own the new library and if they couldn't, well, they would make sure no one got to have it at all.

They attacked the work of Columbina at every turn finding errors where there were none and constantly complaining to Pantelone every chance they got. Pantolone was a weak character and tended to take the side of whoever was yelling loudest at the time - and it was always the bullies.

The bullies wasted a lot of time and resources on persecuting Columbina and hiding information from her to the detriment of all who worked or studied at the palace. They had plenty of their own work to do but they were jealous of Columbina and wanted the credit for the collection as well as control of what was in it and who could read it. 

Punchinello and Brighella had some old scrolls that were falling to pieces and Tartaglia asked them to give them to Columbina to include in the new collection. Punchinello told Brighella to use every trick she knew to keep the scrolls from Columbina. One trick she tried was to say that no one needed to see the scrolls as they were too difficult to understand anyway and all they had to do was to ask her and she would tell them the answer. So when Tartaglia asked where she would get these answers from - hitting her noggin she said "It's all in here" - she was a very stupid woman.

Il Dottore was jealous of the information he held too - he had some guards come and confiscate some of the scrolls that Columbina had written claiming that none but his august self could possibly be clever enough to write those scrolls even though Columbina had used the palace archives to research the content. Not only that, but she merely transcribed some of his own work from a little earlier that was his responsibility to keep up to date - except now he should be able to relax a bit, get on with his other work, and allow Columbina to do her job.  Yet his need to be in control was phenomenal. He shrieked at her demanding to know where she had gotten such badly written and inaccurate information. She had to tell him that it was his own work. He blundered and blustered and spluttered not knowing what to say when finally he said ... "Well, well, well, it is so out of date I have to look at it again." 

Then the commons began to complain loudly because once they had seen the information that Columbina had posted and read about their rights of pay and and holidays they wanted to look again but Il Dottore insisted they would see the scrolls when he was good and ready and he was not ready. He had the scrolls torn down from the wall and ignored every message scroll that Columbina sent him.

Columbina did not want to tell the commons that Il Dottore had confiscated the scrolls that they were quite entitled to see because that would make the office of the head scribe look stupid and she was a loyal servant. Il Dottore hid the scolls and refused to give them to Columbina for three whole months claiming that he was 'working on them' . So Columbina had to ask Tartaglia for help. Tartaglia went to Pantelone explaining that the budget was about to go to the king and the wastage of Il Dottore would be exposed (not to mention that it was illegal to keep information about their rights from the commons) so Patelone finally ordered Il Dottore to hand over the scrolls he had been supposedly working on for three months. When Columbina opened them, she found they were not altered at all - Il Dottore had merely been stalling.

Meanwhile, Brighella went weeping and crying to her superior Punchinello that she was higher in the kingdom than Columbina, that Columbina was a nobody and was just here to do a job until it was over then they could get rid of her (she did not have tenure), and how dare Tartaglia ask her to help someone as common as Columbina, and she too, refused to part with her information. Then she claimed that she was a very busy and important person and did not have the time to answer Columbina's questions. Also she said, her staff were much too busy also and that Columbina should do her own work - not try to palm it off to someone else. She too had forgotten that the information belonged to everyone in the CIT palace and in the wider land of CIT and was definatley not owned exclusivley by her.

Shortly (as often happened) Columbina heard Punchinello's feet click clacking up the stairways to run into Pantelones office shrieking and demanding that they too got to write some scrolls. This was strange, as they had just finished saying how busy they were and how they could not possibly spare the time to answer questions. Pantelone sighed and shrugged as he usually did at such childish intrusions, but still, he let them have their way. He knew that Tartaglia and Columbina were sensible women and would get the job done somehow. He said to them, "Oh, just give them what they want," even though Columbina and Tartaglia pointed out the time and money wasted on such unprofessional games.

Privately Punchinello said to Tartaglia that he trusted Columbina's skills and good education but that as she was not of noble CIT birth like the teams of Punchinello and Brighella and Arlecchino and Ill Capitano, nor indeed like Il Dottore,  he had to keep them happy. But he said; "It's ridiculous, she (meaning Columbina) could do ALL of their jobs without a whimper".

Meanwhile, Arlecchino and Ill Capitano and Punchinello and Brighella were holding endless meetings about the scrolls. They decided to stall Columbina further by insisting that she make seven copies of whatever she had written that day to be sent to seven designated people. When the seven scrolls came back, Columbina was to open them all, collating and making all of the changes they suggested. This almost drove Columbina crazy because five of the seven (as we have mentioned above) were so jealous they rewrote everything in their own style and often their grammar and spelling were not good.

Indeed, the information the seven insisted on contradicted each other, so she had to tread a fine line of making changes to make them happy without making the information nonsensical. It was not that Columbina did not want help or input, she did. She had been taught at scribe editing school that one set of eyes was never enough, but seven who all wanted their version was ridiculous. And in any case, it was not so much about a good end result but about CIT palace politics and who had to power to have things their own way. Because Brighella supposedly had the ear of the king, she was the most insistent that she must have the final word on the final version of the final scroll. Columbina would send the last version and hold her breath waiting for fireworks. If the scroll was complete and needed no changes, Brighella tried her hardest to find something to criticise and if she couldn't do this, well - she just made Columbina - and therefore the whole kingdom, wait on her whim.

When meeting about the construction of the information in the scrolls, Brighella liked to 'name drop' the kings name. He had paid her a compliment once so she felt she had his ear. She had herself had come from a very lowly background but had been given a title and gained quite some status through it. Indeed, there was no doubt that she did her work well and was very knowledgeable Many said though, how sad it was that she did not then extend the helping hand to those lower than herself of which she had once been a part rather than persecute them. In the meeting Brighella began each conversation in a most simpering style and peppered every point with declarations like ... 'Just this morning as I passed the king in the corridor .... just this morning as I spoke to the king ... just as I sat having coffee with the king ... Then she would pronounce that she had discussed the very issue they were discussing right now with the king and that he had agreed with her. This was very impolitic of her as Pantelone the head scribe was the kings second in command but this never mattered to such as Brighella and the others in their whispering plotting and assassinations.

Next time we will hear about the final showdown for who should own the scrolls between Arlecchino and Ill Capitano and Punchinello and Brighella and of the evil machinations of Arlecchino and Ill Capitano, how they set about getting rid of Columbina, who they got in her place and how that turned out ...


  1. Somwhere between Bocaccio and Jonathan Swift .... good one Louise!!

  2. Actually ... Commedia Dell'Arte CIT style ... a REAL farce

  3. I can now say that this farce was when I worked on the new at the time; ASKCIT and the ridiculous shit all in the admin area, marketing, and the student information centre went on with ... not to mention the doctor - the bat eared twit.