Inspired by the Ashland, Oregon, Shakespeare Festival

William Shakespeare—Shakspere? Shaksper? Shakespear?
Shackespeare? Shake-and-Bake-speare?—died but did not
Go to heaven. Sent instead to town called
Ashland where, in purgatorial shame,
Was forced to spend eternity in watching
Every play that bore his name replayed,
Replayed and played again in time-looped glory;
Mobius-stripped like Groudhog Day in never-
Ending parody of all including
Both inspired, banal, blank verse and prose.
A centered seat in carbon-copied Globe
Required the Bard to witness New Age, Avant-
Garde and “cutting edge” directors mangle
Syntax, mispronounce and reinterpret
Lear in inner city slum, The Tempest
Lost in inter-stellar space and Hamlet
In a Giorgio Armani suit.
Ere fourscore years had passed he’d had enough.

The Bard:
“Th’ unkindest cut of all. prithee, forsooth,
Gadzooks and . . . well . . . I now must tell the truth.
I can no longer bear the lie. No doubt
The truth will come to light; The truth will out.
My pound of flesh is yours, I bare my breast,
My lean and hungry shame is now confessed.
I did not write all that before you see.
T’is others who deserve the praise, not me.
Such men as Bacon, Marlowe, and de Vere,
Far better than the Bard of Avon, were.
Each one, in turn, with feigned humility
Ascribed to me their works of tragedy
Or comedy as case may be.  The most
Pathetic of the lot (it is no boast)
Were penned by me who could not even script
A decent epitaph for my own crypt.
Andronicus is mine, of course, and e’en
Is Pericles, Timon and Cymbeline.”

With conscience cleared at last he breathed a sigh
And said that now he hoped that he could die
A second time and thus reach heaven where
He ne’er again would gain the praise or share
What’s rightly owed to greater men than he.
Thus Ashland taught him true humility.

The Bard:
“Kind friends, no more debate my misspelled name.
Just call me Will, or Bill, it’s all the same”

With this he passed away, his sins confessed;
And flights of angels took him to his rest.


Jim Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-publilshed four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers. He was delighted when one of his daughters gave him a copy of William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back. He says that given the choice, he prefers to be an optimist.

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6 Responses

  1. Amy Foreman

    Chuckling now–thanks! And, given the choice, I also prefer to be an optimist. 🙂

  2. David Hollywood

    Maybe! Marvelous originality and presentation and cleverness, and for which I say well done and thank you for the arrangement. However, I am more inclined to sense that everything is of a time, and just like the rest of what we learn and inherit and have repeated to us, we are pleased it is there, and appreciate that we have consequently gained another layer that we are glad of – even when it is said and interpreted and mentioned countless times, and more especially, when it might be our own works and efforts. But then maybe the fault is with me, because I still appreciated your poems and direction and creative thoughts. Thank you.


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