Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hamlet at the Workshop


“A little more than kin and less than kind.”

The Elsinorian air around him full of poetic pronouncements,
            straining against their iambic boxes
            and his misguided promise to a ghost in the woods.

He never follows directions.
He doesn’t know that he needs a clear tragic flaw.
He never learns from Sophocles
            how to model the evils of overstepping his bounds.
He has sworn away all bounds,
forever living in the “goodly frame”
            of the eloquent stage in his mind.

The father whose airy armor demands revenge
            is trumped by the un-poetic cruelty of murder.
The would-be father-in-law suffocates on the figurative air he can’t seem to breath,
            mocked by this Danish drop-out at every turn.

The young prince flees the love he desperately seeks.
He is cruel to be kind to be cruel.
Best friends gone, mother a betrayer or, worse, ignorant,
            only the pedantic comrade left,
            not even a shadow of the Protean hero he follows so helplessly.

Pirates, gravediggers, swordfights, staged murders,
            secrets behind every curtain,
            the readers’ eyes widen at every new surprise.

Every 21st century teenager gets Hamlet,
            the comedy, the sarcasm, the hatred of boundaries,
            the chameleon moodiness of him – even though he is a 400-year-old ghost.

So I smile when the workshop leader, addressing 30 teachers, pronounces,
            “All stories fit into this 4 step pattern,”
            proudly pointing to a list of plot devices on a large computer screen,
            the bullet-listness of them demanding self-evident agreement.
My fellow teachers are actually writing this down.

I imagine Hamlet sitting next to me, twirling his quill sarcastically, that smirk on his face.
I wonder how long it would have taken him to get up, push his chair in,
            and walk out of the conference room and into the lobby
            for the illumination of a hot coffee and an ironic Danish.