I love Shakespeare. I really do! Every year I spend a few days watching a bunch of my favorites. I know, it’s geeky, but I watch the whole extended edition of The Lord of the Rings every New Year’s Eve, too.
But this time I started to get irritated. You know, Shakespeare is a pretty good playwright, I think we can all agree. These plays are really good, and they could be outstanding if ol’ Bill had gotten over just a few bad habits. Like, he’ll set up the kind of plot and characters that make you watch through your fingers going, “Nooooo!” You laugh, you cry, big wow finish and then just as you’re about to get up, recycle your program and stretch your legs – because he does go on – nooooo, you’ve got to sit there and listen to a character who’s so boring he sometimes hasn’t even shown up yet explain what it is just happened.
Like in Richard III, (Act V Scene V for those of you who care, but just turn to the last page), Richmond, who the only reason he’s not dead is he’s so boring that Richard didn’t bother to kill him, says they should bury a bunch of important dead guys, go to church, and make nice. Not a lot of people left to make nice, but they should do it. You’re just now figuring this out? After two and half hours we've got to sit through 41 more lines, ending with “Now civil wounds are stopp’d, peace lives again; That she may long live here, God say amen!” Man. I used to teach middle school. That sounds like stuff I graded on the weekend.
Then there’s Macbeth. It’s great. But he has to spoil it all at the end when Malcolm, who the heck is he, ends the play with a party invitation. “So thanks to all at once and to each one, Whom we invite to see us crown’d at Scone.” I mean, scun. At least now we know how to pronounce the baked breakfast good.
Oh, and Romeo and Juliet! Now there’s a play! He dies due to a lack of cell phone coverage just before she wakes up, she dies just before the emergency responders get there! What a choke-up! Then suddenly here’s this Prince-guy, who we were all horrified Juliet might have to marry because he’s the most boring person in the whole world, with a looooong speech about how sad it all is and how this feud got their kids killed. Yeah okay! We can all get together on that one!
And Hamlet. I really like Hamlet. The character and the movie. I mean the play. But I’ve got problems with it. Like when Gertrude describes Ophelia drowning in the creek. What’s she doing, hiding in the bushes? I mean, she goes into such DEtail. I know she can't exactly call 911, but Jeez, lady, have a heart! Don’t just stand there, DO something!
I think she wanted to silence Ophelia. I think Ophelia knew something and Gertrude wanted her out of the way. 'Cause I'm sure Gertrude knew about her new husband killing her old husband all the time. And by the way, Polonius knew too. Come on. He KNEW. They’re all guilty.
There should be a prequel. I want to see how the uncle seduces Gertrude. There’s a lot of plot set-up that needs to get unpacked. I mean, I had a whole class in college where we argued for HOURS about what Hamlet was doing and what was really going on. The way it’s written now, it’s too confusing. Someone should do it. Jeez, we’ve been waiting 500 years! That’s worse than waiting for the next season of Sherlock.
But then we get to the end. They’re holding a sword fight in the middle of a party – now there’s a great party game, that beats Cards Against Humanity any day! Both Mom and step-dad get killed, plus that whiner Leartes. And Hamlet too! That’s like Game of Thrones where even your favorite guy dies! But Shakespeare has to spoil it all with Fortinbras. We’ve heard a lot about him, but he’s no dum-dum, he waits to show up until everybody but Horatio’s dead. The play’s over! We’ve been sitting there forever and Horatio’s HAD his great flights of angels line. I mean, whatever you think of Horatio – and he is a bit of an egg-head and a cry-baby – that’s a GREAT line. But no! Fortinbras comes on with a bunch of English ambassadors, I never really got why, has a chat with Horatio, claims Denmark because he’s got some vague memory that it really should have always been his anyway, notices there’s a lot of dead bodies and says this “shows much amiss, Go bid the soldiers shoot.”
Bill, we get it. It’s not like a school essay where you tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, then you tell ‘em, then you told ‘em what you told ‘em. We GET it. It’s a TRAGEDY.
Anyway. Shakespeare. You got some good stuff there. Cut out the fat and it’ll be a lot better. Just a little friendly writing advice.