“Shakespeare in the Underworld”

[Part I: a selection from The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess]

“A chat with England’s bard will make it clear
that death for stars is still a thing to dread.
I trust you’ll recognize this person here
[Unless you’ve got no brain inside your head].
That’s William Shakespeare–Britain’s treasured dear,
A man among the greatest of the dead.
Now have a conversation with the Bard
To see that death’s a fate that’s always hard.

Before the Bard could say a single word,
He was approached by Richard Number Three
(A king who’s better known as “Rick the Third”).
The Bard inquired, “What dost thou want of me?”
The Third replied, “Thou sland’ring boorish bird,
Thy song hath brought me lasting infamy.
Thy play–a dreadful toy, a trivial thing–
Hath made me seem the worst of any king.

I thank thee–balding, bitter, whoreson, hack–
For making sure that all posterity
Would think me evil with a crooked back.”
Said Will, “To thee, I gave eternity
A famous name–which many hate to lack–
I gave thee as an act of charity.
Without my widely-read and studied play,
How many would recall your name today?”


10 thoughts on ““Shakespeare in the Underworld”

    1. paulwhitberg Post author

      Thank you! I have been using this *New House of Fame* piece as an excuse to write all sorts of craziness. I appreciate you taking the time to provide constructive feedback:)


  1. lucciagray

    Lovely last two lines. So true! RIII is one of my favourite. Shakespeare certainly made him unforgettable, of course, history (and literature) is written by the winners, so the facts are biased… but that’s the price of fame… Shakespeare didn’t make up the facts, he based it on Thomas Moore’s biography, as I remember.


    1. paulwhitberg Post author

      Yes, and More’s biography–like Shakespeare’s play–emphasized RIII’s bad qualities in order to make the beginning of the Tudor line (which began with HVII) seem like a miraculous stroke of luck for England.

      Thank you for your feedback:) I plan to make the Shakespeare section a lot longer. Since he is one of m favorite figures,–my M.A. is in Renaissance Studies:)–I will probably make his scene longer than it should be.

      My favorite plays by Shakespeare are *King Lear* and *HIV [Part I]. Jonson’s *Volpone* and *Sejanus* are my other favorites from the period.


      1. lucciagray

        The Tudor myth which Shakespeare purposefully (or not) contributed to propagate. Nobody can be as evil as Shakespeare’s RIII. I think he’s his most evil character. In any case whatever the ‘truth’ Shakespeare’s psychological portrayal of evil is Fascinating. I Like your favourites, too! I have a soft spot for R&J and 12th Night. I’m not sure why, perhaps I’m an incurable romantic at heart! And I can’t decide whether I prefer happy or sad endings!
        I agree. Please make your Shakespeare section longer. 🙂


      2. paulwhitberg Post author

        Thank you for the encouragement! *12th Night* might be the greatest comedy in English. The humor still holds up beautifully. Shakespeare was unusual in being a great writer of tragedy and comedy. He deserves every word of praise he receives. [His psychological portraits of historical figures were brilliant. Because he so skillfully balanced nearly countless views, his thoughts on most topics are almost impossible to pin down. He seems to have been capable of coming up with equally brilliant cases for opposing sides of issues. The Elizabethan and Jacobean eras were so intellectually and artistically rich that many figures from the period would have been the defining figures if not writing in the age that produced Shakespeare.


      3. paulwhitberg Post author

        Luccia, your encouragement inspired me to write several more stanzas in the Shakespeare section. Although I have written the stanza’s concluding section, I have left open the possibility of adding even more content to the section.

        I’m not sure if the section turned out well, but I am positive that I enjoyed writing it:)


      4. paulwhitberg Post author

        While I certainly don’t think of myself as a talented poet, I appreciate your encouragement and look forward to sharing more work with you:)


  2. Pingback: “Shakespeare in the Underworld” Part II | Miscellaneous Inanities

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