One thought ahead. Two sentences behind.

Cool – Shakespeare


William Shakespeare is a literary giant who towers over all.  Where most writers are lucky to have one piece of literature stand the test of time, Shakespeare has written volumes of outstanding plays, poems and travel brochures.  His works are universally praised even if some of his masterpieces include stereotypes of New York City taxi drivers.  He is the standard by which all others are judged.

There is speculation that Shakespeare was not alone in his literary pursuit.  There is talk he may have taken credit where none is deserved.  There is rumor that he was actually woman of royal birth.  In more obscure literary circles, there is a belief that he was a Belgium draft horse.  Wherein resides the truth?  It is only natural to assume no one person could be responsible for such a body of work.

Perhaps William Shakespeare had a ghostwriter; maybe it was the staff at the Globe Theater whose sole purpose was to polish his plays.  Maybe the staff was not a group of fellow writers but instead a marketing team.  And after the opening night of Hamlet, William sat down with Charles Struthers and his staff to assess the chances of a successful run.

CHARLES: Well done, William!  Yet another fine work!

WILLIAM: Thank you, Charles.  What a relief to finally see Hamlet on stage.  After endless hours, the clouds have lifted and the sun doth shine.

CHARLES: I’m delighted you took time to meet with us.  We watched in awe last night and are quite prepared to discuss this most extraordinary play.

WILLIAM: I understand a questionnaire was handed out after the performance.  I’m interested to hear what the public has to say.

CHARLES: In good time!  But first, let me introduce my staff.  I do believe you recognize one of my associates, Amanda Dooright.

WILLIAM: A pleasure.

AMANDA: And mine.

WILLIAM: How long have you been with us, Amanda?

AMANDA: On and off for three years, but recently I was given a permanent position now that The Globe is on solid financial footing, in good thanks to you.

WILLIAM: We do what we can and cheat the rest.

CHARLES: And our latest addition is Stephen Rook.

WILLIAM: Please to meet you, Stephen.

STEPHEN: It is an honor.

WILLIAM: I wish not to be rude, but I have an engagement with an impatient breed of royalty –

CHARLES: Well, let us linger no longer.  As you know, William, our marketing team has a motto of concentrating on the positive aspects of a project.

WILLIAM: A good motto.

CHARLES: We like to begin every meeting by stating the strengths of a work and move into areas of improvement.

WILLIAM: An interesting strategy.  Has it been successful?

CHARLES: We’ll see.  This is our first project.

WILLIAM: Then what are Hamlet’s strengths?

CHARLES: Overall, splendid!  We could not be further pleased.  Amanda!

AMANDA: The overall response to the play was very positive.  An impressive 88% of the audience said they enjoyed the play.  80% said they would recommend it to a friend.

WILLIAM: What did the 12% have to say?

AMANDA: Oh, nothing significant.  8% found the play boring.  4% fell asleep.


CHARLES: Do not fret, William.  If you break it down, it’s only a handful of people.  Besides 88% is a respectable number.  Stephen!

STEPHEN: In analyzing the responses, we found the strongest area of the play was the plot: Brother kills brother.  Son seeks revenge.  And the audience agreed with an approval rating of 95%.

WILLIAM: My, my, are we not full of praise?

CHARLES: (chuckles) I wish our job was that easy but even with an approval rating in the high 80’s, our staff would like it in the mid 90’s by the end of next week.  You have a strong foundation, William.  With a few, minor adjustments we believe the number can be met.

WILLIAM: What adjustments do you have in mind?

CHARLES: Amanda!

AMANDA: In reviewing the surveys we found a low approval rating when it came to the death of Hamlet.

WILLIAM: How low?

AMANDA: 86% negative response.  The breakdown went: 18% disapproved, 32% disappointed and 36% steamed.

WILLIAM: Steamed?  Does the audience not realize Hamlet is a tragedy?

CHARLES: It’s not a question of whether the audience thinks Hamlet is a tragedy but whether they want a tragedy.  Looking at the numbers, it appears they want Hamlet to live.  Besides, from a marketing perspective, killing the hero is not wise.

WILLIAM: Why not?

CHARLES: It destroys the possibility for a sequel.

WILLIAM: Sequel?

CHARLES: Stephen!

STEPHEN: What you have created in Hamlet, William, is possibility.  He’s young.  He’s smart.  He’s of royal blood.  Killing him off is a poor business decision.

WILLIAM: And if Hamlet were to live?

STEPHEN: We would run him through a series of adventures.  The premise could be: Although Hamlet avenged his father’s death, he is still haunted. Therefore, he gives up his crown and becomes a drifter, a royal white knight for those in need.  With his emotional baggage and his vaunted swordplay, we can run him all through Europe.

AMANDA: Even China!

STEPHEN: Exactly!  And if and when Hamlet’s popularity begins to wane, feel free to knock him off then.

WILLIAM: Interesting…  Anything else?

CHARLES: Amanda!

AMANDA: Although we believe the plot to be strong, we would like it on terra firma.

WILLIAM: How so?

AMANDA: Hamlet thinks his Uncle Claudius killed his father.  Claudius thinks Hamlet may know he killed his father.  But for the majority of the play it’s all speculation.  Hamlet spends too much time moping about.

WILLIAM: And this is a problem?

AMANDA: It does leave the audience waiting.

WILLIAM: Then what to do?

AMANDA: We have Claudius brag about killing the King to someone.

WILLIAM: To whom, God?

STEPHEN: It could work.

AMANDA: I disagree.  Why would a man brag to God about murder?  Would he not fear the Lord’s wrath?

CHARLES: Insightful!  Suggestions?

AMANDA: How about the gardener?  Would not Claudius feel comfortable bragging to someone he can control?  Where he has no control over God, Claudius does own the gardener.

CHARLES: Capital idea!  What do you think, William?

WILLIAM: A gardener?

CHARLES: Mull it over!  Stephen!

STEPHEN: In rereading the play, I thought we needed to put a little more … How do you say?  Oomph into Claudius.  Then it dawned on me over a cup of Darjeeling: Let’s have Claudius move in on Hamlet’s love, Ophelia.

WILLIAM: Claudius is the ruling monarch of Denmark.  He married his brother’s wife.  Does he need another conquest?

STEPHEN: Why not?  Why not amp his odious nature?

WILLIAM: And how does this love triangle play out?

STEPHEN: Quite simply.  Claudius moves in on Ophelia.  Ophelia rebukes him.  He gets rough and Ophelia ends up dead.

WILLIAM: Just like that?

STEPHEN: Just like that.

WILLIAM: Should we have the gardener help?

CHARLES: Collaboration!  I love it.  And for the final dagger, Stephen!

STEPHEN: So far we have a hero who’s had everything he’s ever loved torn from him.  His father… gone!  His lover… gone!  And for the final blow, we have Claudius take away his last hope, his last reason to live.  Do you know who that is?

WILLIAM: His Labradoodle?

STEPHEN: Close!  His best friend.

WILLIAM: Horatio?

STEPHEN: It would be the last stake driven into Hamlet’s heart.

WILLIAM: And how does Horatio meet his fate?

STEPHEN: We could have Horatio accidentally overhearing Claudius bragging about killing Hamlet’s father and Ophelia to the gardener.

AMANDA: It could work.

STEPHEN: Horatio could be in the garden hiding behind a ficus.  But being allergic to tropical plants, he can’t stop sneezing.  Claudius catches Horatio in the act of eavesdropping and stabs him in the back.  Horatio narrowly escapes by jumping into the moat.  From there he swims back to the castle, finds Hamlet, tells his friend of the vile deeds before dying in his friend’s arms.  Thus, Hamlet knows.  He knows.

CHARLES: Well done, Stephen!  Well done!  To signify this moment Amanda has been working on a theatrical poster.  Amanda!

AMANDA: Because revenge is the essence of your play, William, it would only seem logical to have it emphasized on the poster.  Imagine a harsh charcoal sketch of Hamlet holding his wet, dying friend, Horatio, with a caption stating:


CHARLES: With this poster spread across London, we think we can appeal to a particular segment that has lacking in your core audience – the teenage boy.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

WILLIAM: Does it?

CHARLES: Amanda!

AMANDA: William, what do you think of when I mention Hamlet?

WILLIAM: I think of a confused boy in a difficult position.

AMANDA: Although you are close, it’s not quite there.

WILLIAM: I suppose there are statistics.

AMANDA: When asked how they felt about Hamlet’s character, 78% responded in a negative manner.  38% found Hamlet not focused.  27% thought he was depressing.  And 13% saw him as a bit of a whiner.


CHARLES: Do not take the audience’s reaction personally, William.  They are only looking for a hero and not a confused soul like themselves.  I do believe you will enjoy this next part.  In following with a more self-assured Hamlet, Amanda has so graciously updated his soliloquy.

WILLIAM: Another playwright?

AMANDA: I took a creative writing course.  In fact, we analyzed a few of your plays.

WILLIAM: I hope I passed.

AMANDA: Most certainly.  Except for Much Ado About Nothing our class found Hero to be –

CHARLES: Thank you, Amanda.  And to fully appreciate the experience, I have asked Stephen to recite.

WILLIAM: An actor as well.

STEPHEN: Fruits of a liberal arts education.

WILLIAM: Like I said to my wife the other day: There is nothing better than a well-rounded marketing executive.  Well, let us hear it.

STEPHEN: (clears his throat)
To slay or not to slay?
That is the question I ponder today.
Much can be gained in passing.
Is it not better to grow in love than to be rooted in hate?
Is not to forgive – grace? To forget – divine?
To forgive – maybe. To forget – never.
For if I were not to act my father would never rest.
His ragged soul howling, “Revenge, Hamlet! Revenge!”
How could I refuse?
Could I pass this cup?
Revenge, indeed.
But what earthly device to use for this heavenly deed?
Rapier in bedroom? Arsenic at the wet bar?
Candlestick in the library? Horseshoe in the courtyard?
The possibilities infinite. The reward sublime.
The day draws near. The moon hangs low.
Fee! Fie! Foe! Off to slay I go!

CHARLES: Breathtaking!  Simply breathtaking!  What do you think, William?

WILLIAM: How many words did you keep, Amanda?

AMANDA: I believe To, Tis and That.

CHARLES: Let us not get bogged down in semantics.  Plus, we have a bonus.  Stephen!

STEPHEN: In conjunction with the play, a special Hamlet doll will be issued.

WILLIAM: A doll?

STEPHEN: With the purchase of the doll, each child will receive a removable crown, sword and shield. And every time the child pulls the attached cord, the doll will utter: “To slay or not to slay?”  With Christmas around the corner, we hope to move 10,000 units.

CHARLES: What do you think, William?

WILLIAM: Dolls…?  Gardeners…?  Sequels?

CHARLES: Smashing ideas!  Don’t you agree?

WILLIAM: What’s the word I’m looking for?

CHARLES: I’m not sure. You are the playwright.

WILLIAM: Indeed.  Now, I am off to fulfill my engagement.  When I return, I will regard this meeting as….  I’m not sure…  Did one occur?

CHARLES: Did it?


STEPHEN: What happened?

CHARLES: Not quite sure.

AMANDA: Will he take our advice?

CHARLES: You know writers, Amanda: World on their shoulders, having to go at it alone.  We’ll circle back.

STEPHEN: What’s next?

CHARLES: Let’s see. It says on my calendar: “Lunch at D. Marks with William to further discuss revisions.” Well, let me cross out “with William” and off we go.

AMANDA: Does anybody know the soup of the day?

STEPHEN: I do believe clam chowder.

CHARLES: I hope it is fresh.

AMANDA: Or as Williams Shakespeare might say, “Something is rotten in the soup at D. Marks.”

CHARLES: Well said, Amanda!  Well said indeed!

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