Monday, March 7, 2016

Shakespeare’s collaborators

That Shakespeare sometimes worked with collaborators (Middleton, Kid, and Fletcher; and possibly Bacon, passim) is well known.   That he once collaborated with Sir Edmund Spenser, it was our own first honor to discover (the fruits of their collaboration may be savored here).
Far less well known -- if indeed known at all, outside the select circle of subscribers to WDJ Prime ™ -- is that, early in his career, before he had made a name for himself, and while as yet uncertain of his talent, young Will Shakespeare did collaborate with none other than P.G. Wodehouse.  Their joint effort was an early version of what was later to become “Hamlet” -- yet conceived, at first, not as a tragedy, but as a drawing-room comedy.  Here is a sample of their peppy, stage-ready dialogue (which, we venture to conjecture, would far better have delighted the groundlings, than the gloomy tale that eventually mounted the boards):

Hamlet:  What ho, well met by moonlight, what?
Ghost [tacit]
Hamlet:  Top o’ th’ gloaming to you, and all that, what?
Ghost [remains as silent as the grave]
Hamlet:  Er… Cat got your tongue?
Ghost [groans]
Hamlet:  Strong silent type, eh.  Can you talk at all?
Ghost: But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul --
Hamlet:  Golly!  Harrow as in, “The toad beneath the”, what?
Ghost: -- freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end --
Hamlet:  Oh I say, that’s good!  One of yours?
Ghost: Like quills upon the fretful porpentine !!!
Hamlet:  ...  -- ?    Eh?A fretful whom?
Ghost:  Er … porpentine.
Hamlet (uncertain of having heard aright, squeegees his ear with a forefinger):  P-porpentine ??
Ghost (blushing over his natural pallor):  Mm… It’s just an expression.

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