Possibly Shakespeare's best-known play. Everyone knows the story of star-crossed lovers who defied their families—the feuding Capulets and Montagues—and ended.... more
I once read all Shakespeare's historical plays in chronological order. Not in the order he wrote them, but in the order of the historical events they supposedly relate.... more
The major issue of contention whenever The Merchant of Venice comes up, of course, is the portrayal of Shylock, the Jewish money-lender, the villain of the.... more
This play ought to be called Brutus, since the central theme concerns that character's decision to join an assassination conspiracy and the repercussions of his action. Caesar is.... more
Hamlet is such a famous play—so much the great drama, the one play that everyone in the world can quote at least six words from—that we usually can't see how strange it.... more
A straightforward play really, about a dysfunctional family. People thinks it's cosmic because of that annoying storm in the middle. That's not my opinion but.... more
Macbeth was actually king of Scotland for seventeen years, though you would never get this from Shakespeare's most popular play. Historians consider Macbeth and.... more
Interesting thing about Othello is that it concerns a man of African heritage who is victimized in a white European society, and yet racism is never the central issue. Othello.... more
Shakespeare's sonnets have been dissected and speculated upon for profound and hidden meanings for years, but I think the best way into them for a novice.... more
Travesties of Shakespeare's works
Mark Twain, 1885
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 thy 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 traveller 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!
Huckleberry Finn, in which two conmen practise "Hamlet's soliloquy"
To write or not to write! That is the Question!
Whether 'tis nobler with the Pen to scribble
The Flights and Fancies of outrageous Nonsense;
Or to lay down the Quill, or forbear to tire
The Patience of the world? To write! to scrawl!
And by that Scrawl to say we utter all
The Horrid Stuff and the thousand foolish Whimsies
Labouring in the Brain—tis a Deliverance
"Devoutly to be wish'd."
"A Parody on the Speech of To be, or not to be, in Hamlet," British Magazine
Alfred Jarry, 1896
ACT I SCENE ONE
PAPA UBU: Shitsky!
MAMA UBU: Oh! such language! Papa Ubu, thou art a big bad boy.
PAPA UBU: What stoppeth me from slaying thee, Mama Ubu?
MAMA UBU: It is not I, Papa Ubu, it is someone else who should be assassinated. PAPA UBU: By my green candlestick, I understand not.
MAMA UBU: What, Papa Ubu, are you happy with your lot?
PAPA UBU: By my green candlestick, shitsky! my dear, verily, verily, I am happy. A man could be happy with less: captain of the Dragoons, an officer who has the confidence of King Wenceslas, decorated with the Order of the Red Eagle of Poland, and former King of Aragon, what more could you want?
MAMA UBU: What! You, who were once King of Aragon, you now think it's good enough to march in a parade at the head of forty attendants armed with cabbage-cutters?when after the crown of Aragon you could place the crown of Poland on your noggin?
PAPA UBU: Ah, Mama Ubu, I can't understand a word you say. MAMA UBU: You're so dumb!
PAPA UBU: By my green candlestick, King Wenceslas is still very much alive; and even assuming he dies, does he not have swarms of children?
MAMA UBU: What's stopping you from massacrating the whole family and taking their place?
PAPA UBU: Ah, Mama Ubu, you are insulting me and you will soon get dumped into the lobster-pot.
MAMA UBU: Ah! miserable wretch, if I got dumped into the lobster pot, who then would mend the seat of your pants?
PAPA UBU: Hey, come on! Don't I have an ass like everybody else?
MAMA UBU: If I were you, it's that very ass I'd want to put on a throne. You could get infinitely rich, eat stuffed sausage all the time, and drive through the streets in a horse and carriage.
PAPA UBU: If I were King, I'd have a big cape made like the one I had in Aragon that those rascally Spaniards impudently stole from me.
MAMA UBU: You could also get an umbrella and a big pea-jacket that goes all the way down to your heels.
PAPA UBU: Oh, I'll give in to the temptation. For shitsky's sakesky, for sakesky's shitsky, if I ever meet him somewhere in the woods, he'll have a hard time of it.
MAMA UBU: Oh good! Papa Ubu, now you have become a real man.
PAPA UBU: Oh no! a Captain of the Dragoons massacrating the King of Poland! Never! I'd die first!
MAMA UBU: (aside) Oh, shitsky! (to Ubu:) So, you will remain poor as a church-rat, Papa Ubu.
PAPA UBU: Oddsbellyzooks, by my green candleskick, I'd rather be poor as a good thin rat than rich as a wicked fat cat.
MAMA UBU: What about the cape? and the umbrella? and the great big pea-jacket? PAPA UBU: Well, what about them, Mama Ubu? Who needs them? (He exits, slamming the door.)
MAMA UBU: Crapsky, shitsky, he was an old meanie, but crapsky, shitsky, I do think I have shaken him. Thank God!—and myself. In a week I may be Queen of Poland.
First Act of Ubu Roi, a parody in French mainly on Macbeth
along with Hamlet and King Lear, translated by David Ball