Wednesday, August 10, 2011

To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin…..

Our August post is from another of our members, Jenny Hine, who recently came across an entertaining Shakespeare parody. Over to Jenny!

Shakespeare has a habit of turning up in the oddest, least expected places, doesn’t he, which I suppose only adds to his continuing fascination and delight for us all!

I was re-reading Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has sat for years on my bookshelf, unopened, when there was this wonderful parody by one of my favourite American writers, which I don’t remember reading before – although I must have. I think it’s extraordinarily clever.

To set the context: Huck has recently met up with two loveable rogues, calling themselves the king and the duke, who travel the countryside along the Mississipi, making money out of gullible folks at country fairs, by staging various dramas of dubious origin. Shakespeare is a favourite and, looking to practise an encore, purportedly from Richard III, the duke comes up with the idea of the Hamlet soliloquy. The king, who is the chief actor, doesn’t know it, so the duke struggles to recall it word for word and teach the king.

'Ah, it’s sublime, sublime! Always fetches the house. I haven’t got it in the book – I’ve only got one volume – but I reckon I can piece it out from memory. I’ll just walk up and down a minute, and see if I can call it back from recollection’s vaults.' This is what he came up with:

To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would fardels bear till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane,
But that the fear of something after death
Murders the innocent sleep,
Great nature’s second course,
And makes us rather sling the arrows of outrageous fortune
Than fly to others that we know not of.
There’s the respect must give us pause:
Wake Duncan with the knocking! I would thou couldst:
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The law’s delay, and the quietus which his pangs might take,
In the dead waste and middle of the night, when churchyards yawn
In customary suits of solemn black,
But that the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns,
Breathes forth contagion on the world,
And thus the native hue of resolution, like the poor cat i’ the adage,
Is sicklied o’er with care,
And all the clouds that lowered o’er our housetops,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. But soft you, the fair Ophelia:
Ope not thy ponderous and marble jaws,
But get thee to a nunnery – go!

Note from Satima: Isn't that a hoot? I’ve also come across a couple of Shakespeare parodies of late. The first was the delightful play, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged), which was recently performed in Perth by one of our top comedy teams, The Big HOO-HAA. You can read my review on Artshub. If you ever get a chance to see Complete Works, don't miss it - it's a scream!

The other parody - also of That Speech from Hamlet, was a most amusing poem called To Word or not to Word, by Jack M. Lyon of the editing site and quoted by permission in Catchword, the newsletter of the Tasmanian Society of Editors. I won’t break copyright by quoting it in full, but the first line “To Word, or not to Word: that is the question” will show you that is a sad complaint about Microsoft’s most popular and most frustrating bit of software!

Our next meeting is on Saturday 20 August at 2.00 pm, when we shall continue our study of Twelfth Night. (We meet on the third Saturday of each month – January excepted – at the State Library of South Australia, and new members are always welcome.)