Shakespeare parodies are common today, but I wrote this one back in the mid-90s.
SIDNEY, a sophomore at Princeton
JUSTIN, friend to Sidney, and a sophomore
BRANDON, a junior
LINCOLN, roommate to Brandon, and a senior
MIKE, friend to Brandon, and a junior
SHARON, a senior
[SCENE: PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, 1990]
[All the characters are black. All are male except SHARON. All grew up middle-class, except SIDNEY, who grew up in the inner city, specifically the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York.]
[Winds swirl through the black trees. Shakespeare lecture over, SIDNEY and JUSTIN stroll out of McCosh and pass Murray-Dodge, a squat brownstone building done in the High Victorian Gothic style. The building is home to the student-run Theatre Intime.]
JUSTIN Yo, it’s kind of hard to believe Shakespeare wrote in Modern English. His language sounds mad different.
SIDNEY But what if we did talk like that? I mean, what if the guys I grew up with talked like that? That would be ill, right?
[SIDNEY stops and shoves out his chest. Turning to JUSTIN, he shouts with a deep, stentorian voice.]
SIDNEY Nay, answer me! Stand and unfold yourself!
JUSTIN Nay. If thou wert a bonny maid, gladly
Would I unfold myself, but as thou art not,
Sirrah, thy lustful lunge I parry.
The multiplying villainies of nature
Do swarm upon thee! Knave, thou wish’st thou couldst
Unfold thyself for thou a wench’s privates
Hast not seen sith thy whore-mother birthed thee.
Come, come, thou speakest with a roguish tongue.
JUSTIN Go, go, thou slayest with a trenchant tongue.
[They head deeper into campus.]
SIDNEY I shall speak daggers to thee, but use none.
I am a lover, not a fighter.
But may Venus favor thee, for in this sex-starved
Wasteland of Princeton, only she who rose
from the sea, that violet-crownèd goddess, mother
of Eros, can thy weather-bitten boots
guide to the open thighs of a Nubian
nymph. By Jove, so few do sprout from this
gray heath, ’tis easier to find the blessed
chalice that kissed Christ’s lips.
SIDNEY If thou art not
with the dusky one thou lovest, love the chalky
one thou art with.
JUSTIN Hark! Behold! ’Tis Negroes
[SIDNEY sees BRANDON, LINCOLN and MIKE loping across campus.]
SIDNEY Auspicious day!
[BRANDON, LINCOLN and MIKE turn in the direction of the shouting. They spot SIDNEY and JUSTIN and walk over with puzzled looks.]
SIDNEY O noble cousins!
BRANDON Ha! The two of you
sound like characters in a Shakespeare play.
SIDNEY Right. But we’re black characters, and the play
Is set in the hood.
[The five of them stroll towards Witherspoon. LINCOLN looks over at BRANDON and grins.]
LINCOLN Thou art an English major.
Thou shouldst be good at this.
BRANDON Shouldst, sirrah? Nay,
I am; I know not ‘shouldst.’ Swounds, thou shalt find
me apt. My arrow shall impale the hind.
[A green BMW M3 cruises past. A David Bowie song booms from within.]
SIDNEY Stand, ho! What demon engine is that?
a horseless chariot! And it playeth tunes
that maketh me want to boogie!
[Brandon gyrates his hips and swings his arms.]
BRANDON “Let us dance!
Put on thy red shoes and dance the blues.”
An afroed Aphrodite, methinks I see
an afroed Aphrodite.
LINCOLN Where, my lord?
BRANDON In my mind’s eye, Lincoln. And yet, to say
the truth, a monstrous Gorgon have I seen
many a time and oft. Come, let’s away
to her most loathsome lair.
LINCOLN We’ll follow thee.
[As the five of them amble past Witherspoon, dead leaves rustle beneath their feet. They enter Mathey courtyard. There SHARON, arms folded, sits in a third-story window. A bare tree stands nearby. The five of them hide behind it. BRANDON steps in front of the others, spreading his stubby arms as if to protect them.]
BRANDON Soft, now, Sir Philip Sidney. All of you,
If thou darest, cast thy valiant eyes upon
Yon beast in yonder window. This Medusa,
This vile Chimera--
SIDNEY: Could you stop? My God,
BRANDON Ay, we beseech thee, Jupiter.
Save us. Upon thy eagle backed, swoop down
from the skyish head of blue Olympus and
with thy dread thunder smite this basilisk.
Cousins, what sunless, pestilent land suckled
her with poisoned breast, I dare not name. The word
alone could cause the very ground to quake
and stars to streak the inky firmament.
But this I can speak: Pimples left dark, gaping
craters on her already-troubled visage.
Her fatal eyes stand far apart like orbs
on the fell hagfish, which doth bore through prey,
Swallowing it from within. When she doth smile,
a black chasm that could engulf the Grand
Canyon doth yawn betwixt her blood-drenched tusks.
I shall scold this lumbering Leviathan,
This snarling hellcat. Sable men, stand back!
[BRANDON steps from behind the tree and stands beneath SHARON’s window. She looks down at him.]
SHARON It’s you.
BRANDON How now, madam?
SHARON I told you: We’re
BRANDON O most vile and insolent shrew! Lay not
That flattering unction to thy bruised esteem
That wings of lust carried me hither. Ay,
Our sometime bed must now be flung to Hades,
But ere that salve-like event, thy ears I shall
Assail once more.
SHARON Why do you keep talking
like that? Are you high?
[BRANDON points at the tree.]
BRANDON Madam, let it be known
Henceforth that thou hast fallen through an ugly
Tree, and yea, thou didst hit each branch, each leaf,
each hapless bird that sang therein.
SHARON Fuck you!
BRANDON Woman, thy name is ugliness. Why wouldst
thou be a breeder of stank monsters? Get
thee to a menagerie!
SHARON Fuck you, you dwarf!
You midget! You’re too short! In more ways than one!
[SHARON slams the window shut, and they all—except Sidney—run, their guffaws ringing against the walls of Mathey. SIDNEY sighs and follows. JUSTIN stops. When SIDNEY reaches him, JUSTIN shakes his head. They catch up with the others, who are standing now and are no longer laughing as hard. Eying BRANDON, Sidney smiles.]
SIDNEY Too short, huh? Ouch! It sounds like Sharon got
The last laugh. Makes you wonder if your friends
Were really laughing at you.
Darest thou wag thy tongue in noise so rude
Against me? Thou section-8 ruffian! Eater
Of government cheese!
SIDNEY Ay, rank homunculus,
I dare for thou art but a dissembling whoreson!
BRANDON Slave! I shall pistol-whip thee and pimp-slap
Thy rump-fed mother! What sayest thou?
SIDNEY I say
thou knowest not with whom thou fuckest. Step
off, bitch. Or thy orbs I’ll blacken, thy ribs crack,
and thy stank buttocks embed my boot betwixt!
Recently, I had to read Hamlet to help a student I tutor. It was great reading it again after all these years. It’s my favorite Shakespeare play and one of my favorite literary works of all time. There are so many beautiful passages. Here is just one…
But first, let me set it up for you. Hamlet has just been visited by a spirit claiming to be the ghost of his murdered father. Before leaving, the ghost commands Hamlet to remember him. Alone now, Hamlet proclaims:
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee!
Yea, from the table of my memory
I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix’d with baser matter.
Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you could make it.