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Bardolatry

He boasted an iambic ear,
That playwright with insight, Shakespeare;
Yes, Measure for Measure
He’s given much pleasure
With Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear.

The Bard’s jealous fellow, Othello,
Brings lust, unjust murder and bellow—
You’re after a laugh?
Then check out Falstaff
Or Malvolio’s tights of bright yellow.

In mystic Midsummer Night’s Dream 
Titania’s a mean fairy queen;
There’s Puck, of wild antic,
And Bottom, a frantic,
Crass ass who’s an absolute scream.

Try Shylock of harsh bond indeed
Who glides to Antonio’s need—
For flashing his cash
He fishes for flesh
Sans blood—will he ever succeed?

Juliet Capulet gets upset;
Beau Romeo’s life’s under threat.
His name, Montague,
With regret, just won’t do—
Star-crossed love pays the ultimate debt.

King Henry, a valiant peach,
Assures Agincourt’s within reach—
His speech fueled with fire
Stokes tired men’s desire
To charge “Once more unto the breach!”

If sorcery and books are your quest
The Tempest’s a rare treasure chest—
Sweet music, hypnosis,
A monster’s psychosis,
All whirl at a wizard’s behest.

If mystery and history’s your thing
Then Cleo and Tony will bring
A cuddle, a quibble,
An asp and his nibble –
A poisonous price for a fling…

Which brings me to Richard the Third,
The hunchback of arch act and word—
A horse, a damn horse,
For his kingdom, of course,
Leaves everyone shaken and stirred.

You yearn for the taming of shrews?
I’m thrilled to deliver this news—
Kiss-Me-Kate fest
(Cole Porter’s the best)
Will kill Doll’s-House, Ibsenesque blues.

So, let’s raise a glass to each play,
No one will surpass Will’s array—
Did someone shout Chekhov?
The Seagull can peck off!
Much Ado About Nothing, I say!

First published on Expansive Poetry Online

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Susan Jarvis Bryant is a church secretary and poet whose homeland is Kent, England.  She is now an American citizen living on the coastal plains of Texas.  Susan has poetry published in the UK webzine, Lighten Up On Line, The Daily Mail, and Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets).


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43 Responses

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Russel. I simply couldn’t let Will’s birthday pass by without a nod to his grand accomplishments.

      Reply
  1. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    In the spirit of the celebration, if I’ve missed a favorite play of yours – I’d love to read your limerick.

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      Uneasy’s the head with the crown,
      was left out, now my study is brown!
      It may be a bore,
      Part 2, Henry 4,
      but at least it has Falstaff, the clown!

      Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Susan,
      Coming from you, this is a very scary challenge!
      Poor Hastings had good cause to worry,
      For Richard was in quite a hurry
      To have off his head.
      At least one friend had said,
      “You might need it”; but he couldn’t scurry.

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Julian, I love this… the closing line of your limerick is a hoot. Most certainly worthy of my limerick guide to Shakespeare’s plays! Thank you.

    • Frank De Canio

      There was a pert chick nearly psychic
      who with feminine footwear would spike it.
      When her boyfriend asked why
      she wore shoes like a guy,
      she said that she did “As you like it.”

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Huge FUN, Frank – just as I like it, indeed.

  2. Tonia Kalouria

    Susan,
    This is fabulous: a veritable enjoyable Cliff’s Notes romp. So many clever, witty lines! Love it.
    Should be in a Lit text. “He boasted an iambic ear”;
    you wield a diamond tip pen.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Tonia, thank you so very much for this wonderful comment… I’m basking in the glow of your glorious words and grinning with pride. I feel like a diamond-tip-pen diva. I’m going to be insufferable tonight. My poor husband! lol

      Reply
  3. Joe Tessitore

    In a blizzard of marvelous rhymes, “Chekhov … can peck off” is my fave!
    Much Ado About Something, I dare say!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Joe… I certainly pushed rhyme to the limit with “peck off”… and had a good laugh doing it… a grave liberty, some may think, but All’s Well That Ends Well 🙂

      Reply
  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    The use of the limerick form as the stanza structure of a longer poem is a brilliant idea.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, Joe! I ditched the iambs for this one… I didn’t want to embarrass the Bard. lol I’m going to blame Tonia for my lack of humility… that ‘diamond tip pen’ comment has me replying on SCP in a sequined gown and a feather boa!

      Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      An acquaintance did a series of 26 limericks in a kids’ book on the alphabet. It doubled as an intro to major US cities as I recall. I hope she found a publisher for it.

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Julian, the limerick is a great little bite-sized medium to get a short, amusing point across. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed employing it. I can see how it would work with the alphabet.

  5. BRIAN YAPKO

    These are delightful, Susan. A very fun, almost Gilbert & Sullivan-ish read (though you’re missing two of my favorites, “Julius Caesar” and “As You Like It.”) “Ibsen-esque blues” is a riot — maybe because I’ve never been able sit all the way through an Ibsen play. I do, however, love Kiss Me, Kate. Thank you for helping us brush up our Shakespeare.

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      When Julius thought it was cute,
      his trumpet for emperor to toot,
      he cried out, “Alack!
      I’ve been stabbed in the back.
      What? Even you, Brutus, you brute?”

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, I’m thrilled you enjoyed my nod to the birthday bard. I’m also heartened to hear that I’m not the only one who is waiting for the fat lady to sing at the end of the first act of a Chekhov play. The Cherry Orchard had me pining for Portia. It’s been said Chekhov wrote ‘slice of life’ plays… I seriously hope my life never mirrors his art. Thank you very much for dropping by.

      Reply
  6. Frank De Canio

    Susan, fantastic. Where there’s a Will there’s a way and you have it!

    Reply
  7. Gail

    Brilliant, Susan! And for the untutored–namely me!–the limerick form is a rhythm I cotton to quickly. Would those bright yellow tights be cross-gaitered? (I miss reading Shakespeare’s plays with classmates.)

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, Gail! I too loved Shakespeare at school. I had a crush on my English teacher which helped immensely. Before I came to Texas, I worked in a mansion house in England. It was built in Tudor times. It had a topiary and was very atmospheric. Every summer traveling theatres put on open-air Shakespeare plays, which were wonderful… for all the wrong reasons. One year I witnessed the audience calling for the premature death of Romeo! At least no one asked for a refund. lol

      Reply
      • Gail

        I think Mr. Shakespeare would’ve appreciated audience participation. If Romeo needed to die sooner, so be it! I watch a lot of mediocre British programming on PBS, so I can look at the Tudor architecture.

        Mom was an anglophile. I read so much English literature as a child that I used to get docked on my spelling in fifth grade, because I spelled words like ‘gray’ as ‘grey’. I argued my point and won. Now I am more considerate of my audience. Unfortunately, the effects of such consideration are–usually–stultifying. But I enjoy finding and employing the diction that makes a stranger into a friend. I used to bare my teeth just to prove I had the chops, but there’s nothing to be gained by scaring people just because you can. Despicable, really.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Gail, I can most certainly relate to your spelling experience. I have had all sorts of obstacles to overcome here in Texas. When I first arrived, I felt guilty for using an American spelling and rigidly stuck to my English version. I then decided it was rude and silly of me not to adapt… that’s where the problems set in. At first the American and English spellings were obvious. Now, not so much… I speak and spell in Texlish, and have to go over my work constantly. LOL

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, Jim! I love the wordplay… it has me smiling!

      Reply
  8. James A. Tweedie

    Susan,

    Thank you for skipping the Two
    Gentlemen From Verona, it’s true
    With Titus Andronicus
    Shakespeare was baiting us.
    Well done, my hat’s off to you.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      James, I love this and bow to your expert skill with rhymes… Andronicus/baiting us is a stroke of true poetic genius! Thank you!

      Reply
  9. Evan Mantyk

    Thank you, Susan. As promised, a Julius Caesar one, though I think Mr. Freeman has already covered it:

    Read Julius Caesar for action:
    His murderers get satisfaction,
    But great Caesar’s ghost
    Gets satisfied most
    When rises his Empire’s faction.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Evan, this was well worth waiting for – I love “great Caesar’s ghost”. For some reason that line used to conjure visions of Superman on the stage of The Globe. Thank goodness I’ve matured… although, some may beg to differ with my latest ‘limericakal tour de farce!’ lol

      Reply
  10. James Sale

    Fabulous! A brilliant poem Susan, and one that should be on all teaching syllabi as an aide to teaching Shakespeare – so accessible, using the limerick form, but also penetrating. Students could be asked to create their own limericks based on their own understandings of a play. And BTW, as you are almost English, you will certainly remember that genius comedy programme, Black Adder – and I think the only correction to your poem, based on a Black Adder perspective, would be the line: Leaves everyone shaken and stirred. Black Adder would change this to: Leave everyone shaken, The Turd! But a minor quibble. It’s great to celebrate the immortal Bard today as it is his birth/death day, the 23rd April; and also St George’s Day, so quintessentially English.My own best selling book ever is York Notes: Macbeth, which has sold over 100,000s of copies over a 25 year period, so I am literally indebted to Shakespeare. I can’t offer it for free as I don’t influence Pearson, the publishers, much. But I see that the Writing Collective are offering the original novel on Shakespeare’s life for FREE as a download for one day only – TODAY – so if you want some stimulating Shakespearian reading, try this: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Will-Shakespeare-Die-Gordon-James-ebook/dp/B08F567LSS/

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      James, your comment has just lifted me from Texas and sat me in front of the telly giggling with my brother at the antics of Edmund. Hilarious! I will be changing that line in Black Adder’s honor. “The Turd” has me guffawing. And, WOW, your York Notes success is remarkable… I’m sure I bought that version for my son.

      At the age of fourteen, I saw the Scottish play with Timothy West playing the lead at The Old Vic. During the death scene, he had a visible bladder of blood in his hand that wouldn’t burst… unfortunately, I did burst… I burst out laughing along with a few other giggling schoolgirls. We got into awful trouble. It seems these days students can assault and vandalise with impunity.

      Thank you for the book link… unfortunately, it’s not free to us here in America, but I may indulge anyway.

      Happy St. George’s Day to you, James. Here’s a link to a poem of mine in celebration. https://classicalpoets.org/2020/04/23/a-poem-for-st-georges-day-2020-by-susan-jarvis-bryant/

      Reply
      • James Sale

        Thanks Susan – your St George poem is certainly rousing indeed; oh, that England could find her strength of yore! You possibly did buy it for your son – it’s been the standard text for GCSE since 1995, although it has had 4 make-overs since then. I shall not be doing the next make-over – enough’s enough! Poor Timothy – moments actors would prefer to forget. And sorry, I hadn’t realised the link didn’t work for the USA – only the UK got the free offer, apparently – the publishers missed a trick there, then. Keep up the excellent work and I am looking forward to presenting you on the 23rd May at the SCP event – I shall be sending out more information on this to you and the other contributors, this coming week. Ciao!

  11. Jeff Eardley

    We did, “As You Like It” at school,
    And the “Merchant of Venice” was cool,
    But the murder and death,
    That we found in “Macbeth,”
    Was a treat for we blood-thirsty ghouls.
    Susan, what have you started?

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, I absolutely love this! Thank you! What have I started, indeed!

      Reply
  12. David Watt

    I’m certain that Shakespeare would have enjoyed your lively limericks written for the anniversary of his birthday, and the celebration of his plays enduring appeal, even after the passage of centuries.

    Reply
  13. Elizabeth

    Hi Susan! Your poem is wonderful! My daughter’s fourth grade teacher said to a classroom full of parents that Shel Silverstein was superior to Shakespeare. I was outraged and looked around the room to gauge the reactions of others, but no one seemed troubled or disturbed. Shakespeare and all classical literature has been stripped from the public education system. I am not the most intelligent, but Shakespeare quite literally saved my life. Can you imagine life without Shakespeare? Thank you for remembering his birthday and for your very intelligent and thank you for the fun poem!

    Reply

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