Scott Klavan: Hamlet Parody


Domencio Gnoli

DANISH PRINCE ASSOCIATION PROTESTS HAMLET

The Danish Prince Association (DPA) has protested against the portrayal of their members in the classic play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. At a press conference in Copenhagen on Wed., Fjord Clogsen, head of the DPA, stood amidst a crowd of prominent Danish theater personages, and read a prepared statement.

“Our association feels Shakespeare’s Hamlet portrays an indecisive, weak and disempowered Prince. The play must go.”

The pronouncement brought applause from the gathering, unanimously supporting the DPA’s opposition to Shakespeare’s hero, who famously had trouble making up his mind to take revenge on his uncle, along with his mother, the murderers of his father the King.

“Real-life Danish royalty, such as Prince Aage, Hakkon VII, and Magnus of Holstein, were bold and intrepid,” Clogsen proclaimed. “But Shakespeare’s Hamlet is no better than the reckless and disreputable Fengi. This has perpetuated a negative stereotype.” 

“Elsebeth Skive, Artistic Director of Stor (Big) Teater, Denmark’s largest and most prolific performance venue, has cancelled an upcoming production of Hamlet, and has vowed never to present the play again.

“We took a survey” Skive said, “and 75% of Danish royalty said the play made them feel unsafe. It really was a no-brainer, as they say in the U.S., to take it off our schedule.”

Skive said Stor (Big) Teater is replacing Hamlet this season, with new Danish comedy Viking on Skagen Beach, by Puter Hansen-Lapsen.

Famed Danish leading man Tomato Herringborg made a dramatic entrance at the presser. Dressed in a flowing scarf and flowered vest, he said he was to portray Hamlet, a part many actors wait a lifetime to play, in Skive’s production. But the voluble Tomato seemed content with the cancellation, explaining: 

“The poor fellow dithers, goes that way, this way, this…,” Herringborg said, grimacing dramatically and waving his arms in wide circles. “I kept saying: stay still! Make up your mind! But he couldn’t!“

Herringborg was greeted with grunts of approval by his fellow theater luminaries. “This Dane is too moody for me,” voices piped up in the crowd: “Cheer up, Hamlet!”     

The stage star finished by shouting exasperatedly: “Not to mention the King plays Hide The Medisterpolse with the Queen, his sister-in-law! This reflects badly on our culture!” 

Theater head Skive said that the depiction of Danish Hamlet by the British Shakespeare was Cultural Appropriation. “This subject matter does not belong to Mr. Shakespeare,” she added, emotionally. “Danish identity has been foisted upon us by others.” Skive suggested that the story of Hamlet should have been written by one of the Danish playwrights of the Elizabethean era, Oftan Failmann or Almys Playsaschlag.

Fjord Clogsen admitted the DPA is not optimistic that this protest will keep the play from being performed in the future. So, if the show must somewhere go on, he said, the role should only be played by Danish Princes. Or, failing that, Danes. A quiz should be given to auditioners, Skive suggested, to prove the validity of the actor’s background; questions about local food, history, Olympic athletes. For example: Who is Trine Qvist? (A member of the Danish women’s curling team which won a silver medal in the 1998 Olympics.)  King Cnut the Great was crowned in 1017, who was his father? (Sweyn Forkbeard)  What was the first highway in Denmark? (Hørsholmvejen. Today called  Helsingørmotorvejen, opened in 1956.)

Or, as a last resort, the text of the play could be edited and adjusted, to create a strong-minded, optimistic and effective Hamlet. The DPA handed out sheets with suggestions of cuts and changes to Shakespeare’s text. Excerpts follow, with the changes in Red.  

Act II, Scene II

ORIGINAL:  

HAMLET

What’s the news?

ROSENCRANTZ

None, my lord, but that the world’s grown honest.

HAMLET

Then is doomsday near: but your news is not true. Let me question more in particular: what have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?

GUILDENSTERN

Prison, my lord!

HAMLET

Denmark’s a prison.  

ROSENCRANTZ

Then is the world one.

HAMLET

A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the worst.

ROSENCRANTZ

We think not so, my lord.

HAMLET

Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.

IMPROVEMENT: 

HAMLET

What’s the news?

ROSENCRANTZ

None, my lord, but that the world’s grown honest.

HAMLET

Then is happiness near: because your news is not fake. Let me question more in particular: what have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune, that she sends you to this park hither?

GUILDENSTERN

Prison, my lord.

HAMLET

Denmark’s not a prison. It is a parkA goodly one. Denmark’s one o’ the finest. 

ROSENCRANTZ

We think not so, my lord.

HAMLET

Why, then, ’tis none to you; for everything there is good, not bad; I do not think it so, I know it; to me
it is not a prison. But a park.

 Act II, Scene II

Original

HAMLET:

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

IMPROVEMENT:  

HAMLET

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! We are so much more than a little bit of dust! man delights me: woman too. by my smiling I say so!  (! optional)

ACT III, Scene I

Original:  

HAMLET

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.–Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.   

IMPROVEMENT: 

HAMLET

To be, to be!: that is the answer:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To live: to wake up!
And by awakening to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. To die, to sleep?;
No, to wake up!; perchance to dream: ay, there’s the challenge;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
will not give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes such positive risk of so long life;
For who would bear such a large number of sprightly projects?
I would! Thus I do! Conscience will not make a coward of me!
The native hue of resolution
will never be sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard turn their currents
And now take on the name of action!–Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins forgotten/accepted/forgiven.

(optional word choice)

ACT V, SCENE II

Original:  

HAMLET 

O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o’er-crows my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.

Dies

HORATIO

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
Why does the drum come hither?

March within

Enter FORTINBRAS, the English Ambassadors, and others…

PRINCE FORTINBRAS

Let four captains
Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;…

A dead march. Exeunt, bearing off the dead bodies; after which a peal of ordnance is shot off.

IMPROVEMENT: 

HAMLET

O, I revive, Horatio;
my spirit quite o’er-comes
This potent poison!
I will live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my strong supportive voice;
I will tell him. The rest is joyful noise. 

Jumps up in lively fashion  

HORATIO

Now beats a noble heart. Good morn’ sweet prince!:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy day o’ fulfilling activity!

March within

Enter FORTINBRAS, the English Ambassadors, and others…

PRINCE FORTINBRAS

Let four captains
Bear Hamlet, like a hero, to the stage;

(All the soldiers bear Hamlet happily on their shoulders.

Soldiers                          

Hurrah! Prince Hamlet! Hurrah! 

The press conference ended with DPA head Fjord Clogsen saying: “With these changes there will be an empowered Danish Prince! Or, as we say clearly and unmistakably in Denmark:  “Bemyndigelse, Hamlet! Bemyndigelse! Bemyndigelse!”

Scott Klavan, who usually writes theatre reviews for Escape Into Life, offers us this bit of humor for our summer vacations, a theater story that had up to now gone unreported in the States.

Medisterpolse 

Trine Qvist  

Cnut the Great 

Helsingørmotorvejen 

Hørsholmvejen