Fractured Shakespeare

Voice Card  -  Volume 27  -  Paul Card Number 12  -  Sun, Feb 21, 1993 10:16 AM

Article 3 of clari.feature.lederer:

From: Richard Lederer
Newsgroups: clari.feature.lederer
Subject: Brushed-Up Shakespeare
Date: 23 Apr 90 04:38:11 GMT
Summary: Looking at Language by Dr. Richard Lederer

April 23, is both the 426th birthday and the 374th deathday of the man who is known as the greatest of the world's dramatists.

William Shakespeare's contemporary, Ben Jonson, said of him, "He was not of an age, but for all time." Jonson was right. For centuries, the Bard has been such a familiar and comfortable presence among us that people have enjoyed playing with his plays and his poems.

Bob McKenty is one among us who enjoys shaking up Shakespeare. Bob desktop publishes a bimonthly collection of light verse called "Lighten Up!" and has privately printed a small collection titled "Brush Up Your Shakepeare: A Curious Collection of Collaborated Couplets." He has kindly granted me permission to share with you some of his humorous two-liners.

Bob seems peculiarly suited to team up with Shakespeare because, as he says in his Foreword, "I live on Avondale Lane in a suburban New Jersey community called 'Strathmore.' In these collaborations with the immortal Shakespeare, I hope to establish my credentials as the 'Bard of Strathmore-on Avondale.'"

In each couplet William Shakespeare has written the first line (italicized) and Bob McKenty has contributed the second. If you'd like to make a game of it, try identifying the particular source of each opening gambit in the following bouts rimes. Answers are provided at the end of today's installment.

  1. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

    Stupid! Take it off when you lie down.

  2. A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse.

    The rising price of beef leaves no recourse.

  3. Out damned spot! Out I say

    Or I'll throw this K2R away.

  4. My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun.

    They're hardly ever seen till noon or one.

  5. Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

    The clerks at five o'clock rush for the door.

  6. Full fathom five thy father lies.

    The hit man saw through his disguise.

  7. God save the king! Will no man say amen?

    The queen has caught him pinching maids again.

  8. The grass stoops not, she treads on it so light.

    She had too many daiquiris tonight.

  9. The clamorous owl that nightly hoots

    Is target for a score of boots.

  10. I'll note you in my book of memory

    Where What's-His-Name and Whosit chance to be.

  11. Speak, hands, for me!

    (I'm Italian, see!)

  12. All impediments in fancy's course

    Are grounds, in Reno, for divorce.

  13. Mastiff, greyhound, mongrel grim

    Have torn the mailman limb from limb.

  14. This music mads me: let it sound no more.

    What do you think you got those headphones for?

  15. Kindness in women, not their beauteous looks

    Won't make the centerfold in Hefner's books.

  16. Let's choose executors and talk of wills.

    How come? I only said I had the chills.

  17. The lady doth protest too much methinks.

    I should have plied her with a few more drinks.

  18. These violent delights have violent ends.

    And tackles and their mean linebacker friends.

  19. I am not in the giving mood today.

    Have them send the Bloodmobile away.

  20. Brevity is the soul of wit.

    Long 'fore now, I should have quit.

Try creating your own collaborated couplets. Your first line can be from any poet you wish, Shakespeare or otherwise, but please be sure to identify the source of each first line.

Odgen Nash, for example, has written, " I think that I shall never see /A billboard lovely as a tree." (Joyce Kilmer, "Trees"), and Edward Watkins " I heard a fly buzz when I died /Of fruit sprayed with insecticide." (Emily Dickinson, "I Heard a Fly Buzz.")


  1. Henry IV, Part 2
  2. Richard III
  3. Macbeth
  4. Sonnet 130
  5. Sonnet 60
  6. The Tempest
  7. Richard II
  8. Venus and Adonis
  9. A Midsummer Night's Dream
  10. Henry VI, Part 1
  11. Julius Caesar
  12. All's Well That Ends Well
  13. King Lear
  14. King Richard II
  15. The Taming of the Shrew
  16. King Richard II
  17. Hamlet
  18. Romeo and Juliet
  19. Henry VI, Part 3
  20. Hamlet