Maybe you didn’t know that Shel Silverstein was one of the coolest dudes to ever walk the planet.
I did. I was doing a file search in my computer today and found a gem I hadn’t seen in a while…
WARNING THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS LANGUAGE THAT MY GRANDMOTHER WOULD TAKE GREAT OFFENSE TO.
The following is it…
|HAMLET AS TOLD ON THE STREET|
Now Francisco and Bernardo, they was guardin’ the castle,
Leanin’ on their spears, not lookin’ for no hassle,
Havin’ themselves a brew or two,
When out in the night they hear woo-wooo-wooo.
And here comes this ghost, lookin’ ragged and rank,
In a rusty suit of armor, goin’ clank, clank, clank.
They say, “Hey, Mr. Ghost, are you our dear departed king?”
But the ghost don’t say one motherfuckin’ thing.
He goes, “Wooo-wooo-wooo.” They say, “Hey, we better split,
And go tell Hamlet about this shit.”
So they run find Hamlet, they say, “Hey, sweet Prince,
Your daddy’s ghost been seen runnin’ hither and hince.
He’s all full of maggots and he’s grizzly and grim,
Somethin’s rotten in Denmark and — whew — we think it’s him.”
Hamlet say, “Oh, are you sure it’s my pop?
Did he have matty gray hair with a bald spot on top?
Did he have bright blue eyes that never know fear
And a tattoo says GERTRUDE FOREVER right here?”
They say, “Hey, the thing just flittered by our station,
We didn’t give him no phyical examination.
And we don’t know for sure if your daddy was the one,
But we do know a motherfuckin’ ghost when we see one.”
Hamlet say, “Show me where you spied this spectral klunk
So I see if it’s my pop, or if you was both drunk.”
So they bring ol’ Hamlet to the spot, and then
They wait five minutes and wooooo —
Here he comes again.
He got gray skin, black teeth and hollow eyes,
Beckonin’ like this — young Hamlet cries,
“Hold, spirit of darness, are you a ghostly apparition?”
“No,” says the ghost, “I look like this from malnutrition.
Of course I’m a ghost, but sone, don’t be scared,
And I’ll tell you some shit that’ll fry your hair.”
He says, “You got two relatives, I won’t say which,
But one’s a bloody murderer and one’s a faithless bitch.
Why, I was takin’ a nap in the garden right here,
When my ambitious brother pours some poison in my ear.
And before my body’s even cold he’s wearin’ my pajamas,
Layin’ up in my bed with my crown on his head,
Doin’ somethin’ sinful to your momma.
And the terrible thoughts of what they’re doin’ up there
Is more than a poor old ghost can bear.
So you gotta revenge me on this harlot and this knave
Or else I’ll never rest in my motherfuckin’ grave.”
Well, this information just flips Hamlet out.
He starts walkin’ like this, with spit hangin’ out his mouth.
His eyes are all bleary and his tongue looks worse,
And he’s talkin’ in couplets and blank fuckin’ verse.
I mean the dude is indecisive,
He don’t know how he’d like his eggs,
And he’s got no opinion on tits, ass or legs.
He can’t decide which horse to play at the track,
And when they ask him what suit you wanna wear today?
He say, “Ah…um…gimme the black.”
He calls his uncle a murderer,
Calls his momma a whore,
And he can’t get it up for Ophelia no more.
Oh, and Ophelia? She’s tryin’ her best
To make him feel better,
Wants to polish his crown jewels,
But he won’t let her.
“Stead of sayin’ yea, the fool says nay,
And the whole court’s figurin’ he must be gay.
Well, then in come Hamlet’s oldest friends,
Rosenstern and Guildencrantz,
They say, “Hey there, Ham, you gloomy Gus,
Get up – get down – and party with us.
We brought you some actores,
Some tunes and some lyrics
To put on a play to boost up your spirits.”
Hamlet says, “Hey – songs and skits,
That gives me an idea that could stir up some shit.
We’ll put on a play –
“N” that could be just the thing
To catch the conscience of the king,
If there is a conscience in the motherfuckin’ king.”
So Hamlet calls all the actors, he say, “’Fore this drama starts,
I’m gonna tell you suckers how to play your parts.
You gotta speak the speech like I pronounced it –
Don’t rush it, don’t milk it, don’t drag it, don’t bounce it.
I mean, do it trippingly on the tongue,
Or else I’ll see your thespian asses strung up and hung.
And don’t saw the air with your hands flappin’ wild,
“N’ don’t go mouthin’ my words in some method style.”
Then the lead actor says, “Hey – are we alive?
Or just some talking meat that’s gotta listen to this jive?
I have read this thing you call a script
And it ain’t too bad, it’s got a few little dips.
But with some new dialogue and a few minor edits –
Hey, do you mind sharing writer credits?
But this part about the king? — poisoning his brother?
I play this wile the real king’s watchin’? Sittin’ with your mother?
You must be out of your cotton-pickin’ mind.
He’ll cut out my tongue, he’ll gouge out my eyes,
He’ll boil me in oil and send me to hell.”
Hamlet says, “How about double scale?” – The actor says, “Well…
“I want my name above the title, three percent of the gross,
I want that tall brunette as my dialogue coach.
I want approval of director and a juicy per diem,
And if there’s changes in the script, I got to see ‘em.
I want a dresser, and undresser and a hairdresser, too,
And I gotta-gotta-gotta have the biggest dressing room.
I want an escape clause that lets me out in a month,
And the first thing I insist is that you fire that cunt.
I want transportation to and from every show,
I want complimentary tickets for everybody I know.
I want my brother and my cousin hired to play in the band,
And don’t go tryin’ to sneak in any extra matinees.
And next time you wanna speak to me,
Check with the director first.
Now will you please go away and let us rehearse?”
So Hamlet slinks off, lookin’ for a backer,
Mutterin’ how he’ll never ever talk to another fuckin’ actor.
And him and Horatio, they walk down a ways,
Till they see some clown diggin’ a mouldy grave.
Hamlet picks up a skull, he says, “Who was this sucker?”
They say, “Yorick.” He says, “Yorick? I knew the motherfucker.
He used to be court jester. Hey, Yorick, show us how
You used to make them funny faces – Why ain’t you laughin’ now?
I’ve kissed these lips, I know not how oft.” And Horatio quips,
“Hey, let’s not announce how oft you kissed them lips.
I mean people already talkin’ ‘bout the way you walk,
And the fact that you ain’t givin’ Ophelia no nook.”
Oh, and speakin’ of Ophelia – Polonius, her daddy,
Says, “Hey, that prince is drivin’ my little girl batty.
Got her runnin’ all night and sleepin’ till noon,
God knows what else he got her doin’.
But he’s our royal prince, lord of earth, sky and water,
But he’s also a horny little pimply-faced shithead
Trying to hump my daughter.”
So Polonius calls Ophelia and says, “Listen, darlin’ daughter,
I hope you and Ham ain’t doin’ things you shouldn’t oughter,
‘Cause you let ‘em touch an ankle and they wanna grab a knee,
And they never buy nothin’ that you let ‘em have for free.”
Ophelia says, “Hey, Pop, I know the score,
You think I wanna wind up another palace whore?
I got the dud sendin’ me letters and babblin’ ‘bout the moon,
I really do think his bells are out of tune.”
“Well, don’t you go dingin’ his bells,” says Polonius,
“’’Cause if he throws you in the grass,
I’ll get your big brother Laertes to kick his royal ass.”
Now Laertes overhears his name bein’ bandied about,
He says, “Hey, Pop, you signin’ my ass up for somethin’
My head don’t know about?”
Plonius says, “Son, it’s Hamlet, that loony tune,
Been fed all his life with a silver spoon.
He’s in my face and on my neck,
I mean the dude ain’t playin’ with a full damn deck.
He’s bumblin’ around twirlin’ his crown,
And callin’ me a fishmonger all over town.
And he’s charmed your baby sister with his rhymes and his riddles.
Hey, you think she’s puttin’ on a little weight around the middle?”
Laertes says, “Hey, Pop, she ain’t no baby,
She got a set of jugs tha’d drive any prince crazy.
Now that’s just a natural fact and not lust or incest,
And if she shakes ‘em right, she could be a princess.”
“That’s right,” says Ophelia. “That’s my scheme,
And the way kings been dyin’ ‘round here, I could wind up queen.”
“Enough,” says Polonius. “That Pince has ruined my day.
Now we gotta see his fuckin’ play within a play.
Hell, the place’ll be drafty, the seats won’t be com’fa’ble,
I wouldn’t go at all but these tickets ain’t refundable.
Prob’ly full of symbolism, I won’t understand it,
Shit, I hope it rains and all the critics pan it.”
So they go to the play and everybody’s there.
They got diamonds on their doublets,
They got ribbons in their hair.
Lords, ladies, dogs, babies, all in attendance,
The marquee says MURDER, DECEIT AND VENGEANCE.
ONE OF YEAR’S TEN BEST. DO NOT MISS IT.
So everybody figures it’s another piece of shit.
And they’re bitchin’ ‘bout their seats, buckin’ the line,
Scalpin’ tickets and sippin’ wine,
Rattlin’ their programs, twistin’ in their chairs,
Tryin’ to catch if any celebrities are there.
Then the play begins – and ooh, looky here –
It shows the king puttin’ poison in his brother’s ear.
And King Claudius is watchin’, and — ooh — is he pissed.
He says, “I know who’s responsible for this.”
He calls, “Hey Gertie, come here, hon.
What the hell’s the matter with your jive-ass son?
I give the kid room, board ‘n’ remedial education,
And he calls me a murderer, and other wild accusations.
Hell, I’d sue him for libel for implyin’ that shit.
But the libel laws ain’t been invented yet.
Just ‘cause I’m bangin’ you, he’s givin’ me hell,
I think he wants to hump you his own damn self.”
Queen Gertrude says, “I think he’s goin’ through
An Oedipal rejection, seein’ his uncle
Replace his father in his momma’s affection.”
“Oedipal?” says the king. “The punk is givin’ me some shit.
I’ll send him where I sent his pop if he don’t quit.
So you tell him it’s better to leave some things unsaid,
Or he’ll be puttin’ on his crown without his motherfuckin’ head.”
So the queen runs to Hamlet, she says, “Oh listen, son,
Y’better suck up to the king before some foul deed gets done.
It’s true he wears black socks and Hawaiian shirts,
But that ain’t no reason to treat him like dirt,
Because he is your uncle, and I do wear his ring,
And most of all, he is the motherfuckin’ king.”
“Don’t say mother-fuckin’ king,” says Hamlet. “Please,
Somehow that phrase makes my blood freeze.
My daddy was a handsome dude with dignity and class,
And this fat fool got hair on his back and boils on his ass.
Can anybody get you in their goddamn bed
Just ‘cause they got a crown on their goddamned head?”
His momma says, “Hey, before you go off the deep end,
There’s some things about women you gotta comprehend.
“Now milkmaids and queens, we all have filet mignon dreams,
But when the steak is gone, you will eat the beans.
And when you’re out of beans, you’ll chew the shoes off their feet,
But you eat.
Just picture me – a sweet young thing,
Then boom – my husband’s dead – and this sucker’s king.
So it’s ‘heat the meat and act real sweet’
Or wind up with my ass out in the goddamned street.
I got cellulite, I got varicose veins,
I got a hip gets stiff every time it rains.
And — this — is what nursing a baby can do,
“Course, honey, I’m not blamin’ you,
Though you were such a hungry child,
But life goes on and a queen must smile.”
Then hark – just then Hamlet hears a sound
From behind the curtain – like a mouse skitt’rin’ ‘round.
But it’s really Ophelia’s daddy, spyin’ for the king,
Listenin’ and takin’ down everything.
Hamlet yells, “A rat!” and he stabs at the place,
And kerplunk, out falls Polonius on his eavedroppin’ face.
Hamlet sees it ain’t the king, he says, “Oh shit,
Y’finally do take action and this is what you get.
Now I killed my girlfriend’s poppa and I’m covered with his blood,
How do you explain this to someone you love?”
Then here comes Ophelia, callin’, “Daddy, Daddy dear,
Hamlet, is my daddy in here?”
Well…he is… and he ain’t – but someone should have told the cat
Y’don’t wanna get stabbed, don’t make noise like a rat.
She cries, “Oh, my daddy’s dead and I can see
You stuck it in him like you stuck it in me.
I can’t believe the shit you done to me.
You used to want all – now you want none of me.
Is this your perverted way of makin’ fun o’ me?”
Hamlet says, “Hey then, get thee someplace…
Maybe a … a nunnery.”
“Get me to a nunnery?” Ophelia moans,
“Now that you ate the chicken, you wanna try and hide the bones?
With your poetry and promises you messed up my brain,
You are a dirty dog – and not a great Dane.”
“Please,” says Hamlet, “I’m in a crazed condition.
Can’t you see I’m torn by indecision?
To be or not to be? That’s the fuckin’ question
That’s givin’ me migraines and indigestion.
Should I take arms against a sea of trouble,
Or just walk around goin’ gubble-gubble-gubble?”
Ophelia says, “Hey, you don’t fool me a bit,
You’re fakin’ all this psycho shit,
‘Cause if you’re insane you don’t have to kill the king,
Or marry me or do any damn thing.”
Ham says, “Hey, go bake a cake, or give your booty a shake,
Or take a jump in the motherfuckin’ lake –”
Well, that’s where he made another fatal mistake.
Y’see he didn’t really mean for the bitch to do it,
But she’s gone like a flash, and run, jump, splash,
She’s floatin’ and bloatin’ ‘fore anybody knew it.
“Oh, when it rains it pours,” says Hamlet, “Ain’t no doubt,
Here’s another thing I gotta feel guilty about.”
Well, they have Ophelia’s funeral and everybody’s there.
They got diamonds on their doublet, they got ribbons in their hair.
They’re rattlin’ their beads and twistin’ in their chairs,
Tryin’ to catch if any celebrities are there.
And it’s a pleasant event, until into her grave
Leaps her brother Laertes and he rants and raves.
He’s shakin’ his fist and pullin’ his hair,
Gettin’ his ass tangled up in his underwear,
Jumpin’ up and down in a frenzied fit,
Meanwhile stompin’ her body to shit.
He cries, “FEE-FO-FI, if I find the guy who caused her to die,
I’ll slice him like a pie. I’ll cut out his heart and send it to Peru,
‘N’ I’ll c.o.d. his balls off to Timbuktu,
Ship his dick to England in a registered letter,
And then let him try to get his shit back together.”
Then the king pulls his coat, he says, “Harken to this,
Hamlet’s the dude who fucked up your sis.
And he also stabbed your daddy, too,
And all you do is boo-hoo-hoo? What kind of brother and son are you?
If it was my family I know what I’d do, I’d be on him like a damned tattoo.
Now… there is a sword with a poisoned tip.
It’ll send any sucker on a one-way trip,
‘Cause all it takes is one itty bitty scratch…
Hey, Hamlet, how about a little fencin’ match?”
Well, then the whole fuckin’ place caves in,
Hamlet stabs Laertes and Laertes stabs him.
Then Hamlet turns around and stabs his uncle, too,
While the queen drinks some poison the king had brewed.
So she dies, he dies, Hamlet dies, Laertes dies
On top of where Ophelia lies,
Right next to where Polonius died.
And before you can wink, blink or turn your head,
Chop-stab-slice — every motherfucker’s dead.
Then in walks this cat Fortinbras, he says, “What – is — this?
I have never seen such a fuckin’ mess.
You got skulls and swords, you got guts and gore,
You got bodies piled up from ceiling to floor.
You got broken glass, y’got tangled hairs,
You got blood and wine runnin’ down the stairs.
You got dented armor and ripped up gowns,
You got bent-up crowns just rollin’ ‘round.
Y’got a punctured king, y’got a poisoned queen,
Y’got a sweet prince dyin’ on the mezzanine.
And behind that curtain there’s another dead duff,
And a body from the fishpond just floated up.
Y’got a stiff in the garden with some gunk in his ear,
And a tattoo says GERTRUDE FOREVER right here,
And two guards on the gate tower drunk on beer.
What the hell’s been goin’ on here?”
Well, that was the end of our sweet prince,
He died in confusion and nobody’s seen him since.
And the moral of the story is bells do get out of tune…
And you can find shit in a silver spoon…
And an old man’s revenge can be a young man’s ruin…
Oh – and never look too close… at what your mamma is doin’.
From Playboy, January, 1998