Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shakespeare GeekDad

Why I love what I do:


When putting my 4yr old to bed he informed me that we would be playing "a guessing game." Normally this is a superhero guessing game, which consists of him saying things like "I'm thinking of a good guy who wears blue and red with an S on his chest," and I have to guess Superman.


Anyway, tonight he says, "A Shakespeare guessing game."


"Oh, honey, we can't play that," I tell him. "You don't know enough Shakespeare characters. I can tell you a Shakespeare story, though." I'm thinking I'll tell him a quick version of Midsummer or something equally 4yr-old-going-to-bed-safe.


So I tuck him into bed, curl up next to him, and ask what story he wants. He tells me, "A story with Hamlet, and Shakespeare..."


"...wait, you want Shakespeare *in* the story?"


"Yes. And... what else characters did Shakespeare write?"


"Well," I say, realizing now that I'm going to have to improvise, "There was Oberon King of the Fairies, and Puck his faithful assistant."


"Ok," he decides, "A story with Hamlet, Shakespeare, Oberon and Puck."


Oh, wonderful.


"And in the story, Hamlet has to say 'To be or not to be.' Twice."


Great. So, we begin...


"Once upon a time there lived a prince named Hamlet. Hamlet was very sad, moping around the castle all day, because this new king - King Claudius - had taken over the thrown. Hamlet's dad used to be king, but King Claudius threw him in the dungeon and made himself king. Hamlet was not very happy about this, but you just don't walk up to a king and say Hey dude, that's not cool - because if you do that, then he throws you in the dungeon too.


So, Hamlet is out walking the castle grounds trying to decide what do when he bumps into William Shakespeare. "Who art thou?" Hamlet asks.


"I am Shakespeare," Shakespeare said. "I wrote this story."


"Well then if thou didst write mine story," said Hamlet, "Tell me how to get rid of King Claudius and put my dad back on the throne!"


Pulling a pen and paper from his pocket, Shakespeare began to write.


*Poof*


Out of nowhere appeared Oberon, King of the Fairies, and his faithful servant Puck.


"TO BE OR NOT TO BE!" exclaimed Hamlet. "WHO ART THOU?"


"I am Oberon, King of the Fairies," said Oberon, King of the Fairies. "And this is my faithful assistant, Puck."


"Dost thou know how to rid my kingdom of evil King Claudius?"


Oberon thought for a moment, then whispered in Puck's ear.


*ZOOM* In a blink, Puck was gone. Faster than Flash. Almost as fast as Superman.


And, just like that, *ZOOM* he was back again, holding a purple flower.


"TO BE OR NOT TO BE AGAIN!" cried Hamlet, "Where didst thou go so fast?"


Oberon handed the purple flower to Hamlet. "This flower," said Oberon, "Is quite magical. Have your King Claudius merely smell it, and he will fall into a deep sleep. Once he is sleeping, you can take him far away from the kingdom and restore your father to the throne."


Taking the flower, Hamlet went back into the castle. He first bumped into his mother, Gertrude. "Hamlet!" she said, opening her arms to hug him, "You look so much happier today! What a beautiful flower, may I smell it?"


"No!" said Hamlet. "I...ummm....got it for King Claudius."


"That's very nice of you," said Hamlet's mother. "The king is in his office."


Sure enough, Hamlet found Claudius in his office huddled over his paperwork. "What?" asked Claudius, when he saw Hamlet. Claudius didn't trust Hamlet very much.


"Brought you a flower!" said Hamlet. "Smell it."


"Not right now," said Claudius, "Just leave it on the desk."


Leaving it on the desk, Hamlet left. Claudius returned to his paperwork. Soon, though, Claudius raised his arms to stretch and take a little break. Spying the flower, he picked it up to smell it.


*THUNK* He fell asleep so hard and so fast that his head smacked right into the paperwork he'd just been working on.


Once they could hear him snoring, Hamlet snuck into Claudius' office with his friend Horatio. Together they brought Claudius' sleeping form outside, tossed him over a horse's back, and set the horse walking on the road out of Denmark. He was never heard from again.


With King Claudius safely out of the picture, Hamlet went down to the dungeon and unlocked his father, who was restored to the throne. And they all lived happily ever after. The end.



4 comments:

Alexi said...

So, "TO BE OR NOT TO BE" is Hamlet's catchphrase now?

"And now our cousin Hamlet..."

"TO BE OR NOT TO BE!"

"Er, what was that?"

"I said TO BE OR NOT TO BE, Uncle. All the cool people are saying it these days."

Also, I notice you believe Superman can run faster than the Flash. This is patently ridiculous. The Flash can RUN BACK IN TIME ON A COSMIC TREADMILL. The Flash has raced Death himself. And won.

Seriously, Duane, you gotta keep your facts straight. This is serious business. :)

Duane said...

:) Yes, rather than wax existential with my 4yr old as he drifted off to sleep ("No, sweetie, nobody ever comes back from Heaven after they die, so it really could be just an eternal nothingness and we'll never know it. Night night.") I decided to throw it in there to meet the requirement.

Re Superman, you need to live with a 4yr old. The legend of Superman being *it*, being the fastest and strongest and everything elsest, is very important. Daily I am interrogated - is Superman stronger than Hulk? Is Flash faster than Superman? At times I feel bad trying to figure out how to explain to the kids that Superman, by today's standards, was really nothing special. He's a hero from another time.

On a related, amusing note, the boy once invented a game called "If Hulk threw a car at X, what would X do?" He would supply X, I would supply the rest. What would Thor do? Thor would smash the car with his hammer. What would Flash do? Flash would run out of the way. And so on.

Naomi Kimbell said...

Just subscribed. Have seen a bit on twitter but can't wait for the real deal.

catkins said...

Great story, Duane. It's a good thing Ophelia didn't come to visit Claudius and smell the flower before he noticed it! I was a little tense for a minute there that that was going to happen.

As someone who has made a particular study of the transmission of Shakespeare's texts, there is a very interesting error in your post. The first time you use the word "throne" you typed it as "thrown." Having transcribed thousands of words of Shakespeare's texts, I can attest to the fact that the substitution of one homonym for another is a common error, even when the correct form is right there in front of your face. Obviously, you are no Dogberry who does not know the difference between the two words, as you later use the correct word three times.
What makes this so interesting is that similar errors in Shakespeare have led editors to assume that the text was set by a compositor who had the manuscript READ TO HIM by and assistant. They could not conceive that the human brain could be so deceptive as to confuse homonyms on-the-fly, so to speak. You have proven the error of this assumption.
--Carl