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The International Writers Magazine: All the Worlds a Stage

The Pelican Shakespeare
• Oswaldo Jimenez
You look like you’ve seen a ghost! Oh, never mind, I see you’re wearing make up. I thought you’d decided not to audition for the part in the play. I didn’t think you had it in you... well, I mean you had said so many times how much you disliked Hamlet; now, you’re playing the man Hamlet.


How did you manage that? Well, you know that I always wanted to act. This is my only chance to show off what I’ve been practicing for so long. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, of all things.

You know what? What? I don’t like Shakespeare. I mean I don’t like reading Shakespeare. I think it’s boring; really dull.

Dull, huh? Why dull?

Well, you know what I mean. I’ve told you before; I think anything that Shakespeare wrote was not meant to be read, but to be witnessed; you know, like on stage, or the movies, people acting it out; otherwise, Shakespeare is just pure dullness.

I guess so. If you are not interested in his work, it would seem, I guess difficult. But dull? His plays are exciting, for the most part. I know playing Hamlet is tough. I’ve played Hamlet before, but never on a big stage like this one, and not with professional actors, so I’m excited about it. Yeah, I see what you mean; I can see how that could be exciting, but I still think that reading Hamlet is one of the dullest things on the planet to do, much worse than waiting in line at the dentist. What I mean is, well, let me ask you this: If you didn’t have to write a “term paper,” or didn’t have to learn the lines when playing a part, like now, would you read Shakespeare for pleasure? Tell the truth! Would you curl up with Hamlet, or Macbeth, or even Romeo and Juliet, and read it back-to-back? Be honest! Honestly?

Yes, I would! I have done it. In fact, several years ago I read most of his plays while in bed with a cast on a broken leg.
So! Admit it, you’d need to be bedridden with a cast on half your body to endure reading Shakespeare. Admit it!
No, I don’t think so, I know that having read it many times, I’ve learned to appreciate it, and, perhaps, that is the reason why I decided to join the drama club.
I can see that. Well, I guess you’re just a better person than I am.
Wait, wait, I’m not implying that I’m a better person or better educated or anything like that. All I’m saying is that I read the plays and got interested in acting. Not necessarily that I’m in love with the Shake’s work, or that there isn’t an element of ‘dullness’ in some of his work, but his work inspired me to try my hand at acting.
Reading the plays? Really?
You know, I read Hamlet, a couple of times: Once in high school when I was trying to impress Jennifer Loren, and the second time when I took a graduate class in college. I nearly died of embarrassment the first time, and I nearly got my balls handed to me in a platter by this old professor the second time. Let me tell you, Dr. Highsmith was a true scholar, and I don’t just mean the kind that writes a few dry essays about dead poets; this man’s life was his work, and his work was the Elizabethan playwright, Bill Shakespeare. I remember he had a study in a back room of the Special Collections Department in the University library, near the rare book room. I mean, he sequestered himself to work on his Shakespearean studies. Once I happened to go into his sanctum sanctorum, when I needed to hand in a late paper. The sight of it! He had boxes upon boxes of index cards, which he used for his notes; you know, material for his footnotes, and quotes from other scholars on the subject. His desk was nested among dusty shelves, with dusty old tomes that probably had not been opened since the birth of Shakespeare. Anyway, I wrote my paper on Hamlet, the play. Dr. Highsmith nearly had a shit fit. He didn’t agree with anything I had written and he threatened to fail me right then and there!
Well, very simple, I wrote an essay on why I didn’t think Shakespeare was the author of the plays. Even though it’s not a original or new theory, I based it on the work of scholars who have debated the fact. The old bastard nearly burst a blood vessel. He had spent his entire youth and energy trying to make Shakespeare into some sort of hero of the ages, so any hint or mention that he’s not the god of letters he felt he was; and when he read my blasphemous little essay, he nearly put his boot up my butt. My argument was poorly made, poorly researched, and dreadfully written, so I suppose I deserved what I had coming to me. Sadly, I think the poor Doctor expired long before his work was published. Ha!

So let me guess... since you’re not a follower of the Shakes, and you’re not trying for a part, you must be here for some ulterior reason? Does that reason have long legs, red hair, and great boobs?

Do you blame me? I don’t mean to seem heartless or anything, but I think that while romancing Bridget, I might as well get a bit of culture in me, right?
Let me ask you something, nothing related to Bridget. I just want to know why you hate literature so much, I mean I still recall the time when you flushed the “Catcher in the Rye” down the toilet, it cause quite a mess when the toilet overflowed. So, what is it? I mean, for a hater, you know a lot about literature.

It’s not that I hate literature, I just never saw the point of it, you know? I mean, who the hell cares about some imaginary world, when I have my own world to contend with. Perhaps that is why I’m an Engineering major, and not an English major. Clearly there is a need for plays and books, and stories and the like, but, face it, it’s mostly bullshit.

But, you LIKE to be entertained; books and plays and movies, help to relieve stress, too! Don’t you think.

Listen, when I need some levity and need to be entertained I want to see and hear explosions, flying body parts and gratuitous full-frontal-nudity, and some reasonable amount of death and destruction; I don’t want to sit and be analyzed, or try to find the meaning of the Holy Grail. Shit, I want to laugh until Coca Cola comes out of my nose! You know what I mean? Of course there ARE times when I want to think, but I save that time when I’m out there, on my bike or climbing the face of a good freaking rock!

Well, true; I can see where you’re going with this, but the truth of the matter is that we humans are thinking beings, and life is more than exploding cars and mountain climbing. Introspection. That’s what I’m talking about. Sometimes we need to see what’s inside us. Literature, I think, helps us understand the human condition, to vicariously experience the world, when we can’t climb the mountains or witness the explosions; granted that it’s in our minds, but it’s our own doing, our own experiencing; it’s using our own imagination to make up the worlds that are suggested by the work of people like the Shakes. Reading in particular, I know reading makes us think, and imagine. When you go to the movies, even, the moment you watch the images on screen, they are not your images from your mind, that’s the true lie! They are images made up for you, and fed to you through your eyes. Hamlet, when I first read him, was a completely different person than when I witnessed him on stage, or a movie. I’m sure that the moment I speak his lines, it will be my own version of Hamlet, not anyone’s but my own!

Look, I know what you are trying to say. I’m intelligent enough to understand that Art serves a purpose in life. But you have to agree that it’s an escape. People like me go to the movies, some read, some listen to music to escape the realities of our lives. Addiction: alcohol, drugs, what have you, are also a form of escape, and they can become the death of the individual, but it’s all a means to escape the reality of the world we live in. Literature can be useful, but it’s not the reason why the world should crown a man like William Shakespeare the savior.

Wait! wait! I’m not implying that literature is akin to religion if that’s what you mean. I never said that. Nevertheless, there is a reason why the Bible, as literature, is so powerful. The scriptures, they encompass a reality, a reality that is the truth for certain believers. Then, again, I’m not trying to say that the Scriptures are fiction, or that the folks, the believers, who read the scriptures are not in touch with the world.

Yeah? But what if it’s all fiction? Well, that’s a different story, sort of speak. I don’t think I want to get into that argument, not with you, because I know that I don’t stand a chance. Look, look over your shoulder, slowly, it’s Ophelia! Boy, She doth teach the torches to burn bright!

Nice! Thanks for the warning. I see that you have not only memorized Hamlet you have the whole darn catalogue in your head. What do you know about the whole catalogue? Do you recognize the line?

You pecker-head! Just because I don’t take Literature as my bible, doesn’t mean I haven’t read a book or two. So where’s the line from? I’m just going to guess that it’s from the overdone play of Romeo and Juliet. Am I right? or am I right? Yes, you guessed it right. I’m going to bow down to you now. Don’t rip your tights when yo do it!

Ha! not a chance. So are you going to chat with Ophelia the redhead? Or are you just going to lecture me on the wrongheadedness of my lust for the Bard’s work? I’m not gonna bust your balls about it anymore if that’s what you mean. I’ll just sit in the dark over there by the booth and watch you people make fools of yourselves. At least Bridget has something to offer right? Don’t be stupid, I’m here because I’m interested in her interests, not just her measurements, as you so eloquently put it.

Right! She will make a convert of you before you know it. Here, take this, you can follow the dialogue while you hide in the darkness of your ignorance. What is it? The Pelican Shakespeare. Ripped covers and totally dog eared. I’ve read it to near death... have it, and follow our Play!

“Here is the thought that imperfection in the hero cannot....” Oh god, what crap. Don’t bother with the introduction, just leave it, go to the juicy parts, we’re rehearsing the soliloquy, today: Act three, scene one... page eighty-six on the book!

Great, thanks..

Don’t worry, I’ve done it a million times, I won’t need you to shout out the parts where I mess up! Shut up! I bet Shakespeare didn’t write any of this stuff, how could he? He was a producer of plays who probably had no time to get anything done, much less write so much, so well. I bet all the plays were given to him by some Lord, or King, who didn’t want the notoriety of writing for the theatre... which at that time would have been considered below his, or hers, rank in Court... Ah! Francis Bacon! you must be turning over on your grave every time someone mentions Shakespeare as the author of these plays.

Oh, he’s starting... “To be or not to be - that is the question: whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer slings ( ha! the slings) and arrows of outrageous fortune end then... He’s slowing down the production. I knew he didn’t have it all memorized like he said. Who would want to memorize this stuff... “‘Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished..”

God! Hey, so what’s up why are you stopping the rehearsal all-of-the-sudden? Not stopping, just taking five. See the guy on the corner there, “Polonius,” never remembers his lines, and always gets mixed up. He’s a bit of a turd when it comes to discipline on stage, his lines and his acting.. You see, it’s not just about reciting the lines verbatim, you have to have the acting down, too, you know, a play is more than the spoken words...

Aha! Well! that’s exactly what my point was when I was telling you that reading this shit is boring because you need more than just the words; you need the inflection of the voices, the wrinkling of the noses, the flying of spit and the sweat, and all. That’s what I think Shakespeare is all about! That’s what makes this little book worth the trouble! Not just sitting admiring the turn of phase or the clever metaphor, it is how the actor portrays these words when he or she speaks them! Ha! that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, see? I wasn’t wrong now, was I? Do you see my point now Mr. “To be or not To be,” Ha! that is my question! I guess...

I guess you have something there. I’m not sure I totally agree with you yet, but there is something to what you are saying.

Thank you! Thank you! Now, go, they’re getting ready for you...
“To a nunnery, go, and quickly too!”
Stage left, moron!

© Oswaldo Jimenez October 2012
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