I had an idea to tuck this away in a list of prompts for litLAB, but as it developed, it was too fun not to try myself! I’ve reproduced it below as I had originally written it, for a small audience of fellow writers.
IMPROVE ON SHAKESPEARE! Oh yes, you heard me right. First, go watch this Rowan Atkinson/Hugh Laurie sketch here, to get a sense of what Our Will went through. Then read the text of Hamlet’s soliloquy here.
Feel free to look up any Cliff’s Notes or No-Fear Shakespeare you like to get your feet wet! Remember context, too. This speech was not delivered in a vacuum. If you’ve never seen Hamlet (do!), visit the wiki and familiarize yourself with what’s going on in the play to lead to this speech.
When you have a bead on the speech, edit it. Put it in modern terms, keep it in Elizabethan language – it doesn’t matter. What I want to see are vastly different ways of putting the same ideas out there.
Remember that Will was a man of his time – “Shakespeare” the institution is a modern invention. He was a businessman, a working writer, selling seats – so think like he did. Add flavor and color – this is not a sacred proclamation from on high!
Shakespeare protip: yes, yes, I know iambic pentameter sounds scary to the uninitiated, and ZOMG it makes teh Shakespurze totes complicated. But don’t forget punctuation. That still helps you know where to breathe, and what kind of sentence you’re in. So as I’m doing this, I’ve copied the text to a clean doc, and I’m separating it out by the sentence. This will also be helpful in rendering it into contemporary speech, as I aim to do. You can even put it in a table if that helps you stay more organized! Technology will work in your favor here.