Competition 53: Hamlet, Prince Of Wenlock

The challenge of supplying something akin to Terence Tiller’s maddeningly lost masterpiece of parody, Hamlet, Prince of Wenlock, provoked some sprightly verse, though not all quite on-rubric and not always with a particularly Housmanic ring. John Wood managed to furnish Much Wenlock with Covid-shuttered shops, Facebook, and Amazon deliveries, as well as noting that The stench of something rotten/Lies thick on Elsinore, while D. A. Prince coined the memorable lines poor Ophelia now reposes/in her watery floral bed.

Shikhandin dispatched Hamlet’s underlings to the sub-continent in search of hemlock, where some wished to remain Not because Hamlet was such a bad prince – it was his soliloquies that made them wince. A quatrain from Julia Griffin asserted that The thought would make anyone’s pen lock, . .. We couldn’t have Hamlet in Wenlock!

But, fortunately, others could, with a variety of entertaining approaches and tone and a greater or lesser admixture of Shropshire laddishness. With thanks to all who took part, below in no particular order are the entries admitted by the gate-keeper of the land of lost content. (Syllable stress to taste.)

Print of grotesque smiling face
On Wenlock castle's windswept tower
The king's ghost speaks: "My brother
Put me to death, usurped my power
And bedded your dear mother."

Poor Hamlet's thoughts are in a whirl.
He paces to and fro,
Feigns madness, rages, tells his girl
“Get thee to Clunbury, go!"

Claudius admits that his offence
Is rank and smells to heaven.
Polonius dies. Gertrude repents.
Ophelia's in the Severn.

Now angels sing the Prince to rest.
He's only in his thirties
But he was skewered in the breast
While duelling with Laertes.

A poisoned sword, a poisoned glass
Complete the deadly game.
Gertrude and Claudius breathe their last.
Laertes does the same.

Young Fforddinbraes in haste arrives
From over the Welsh border.
Pray, pray, you shires, that he your lives
May soon restore to order.

Michael Swan

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Bursts by Wenlock sedge life’s bubble.
A rat behind the arras dies.
Doubt not the doubting lad has trouble:
His Mum with Dad’s assassin lies.

His kindred were of old his anchor
When Yorick fond and witty stood,
But the old king invokes cold anger,
Seeking vengeance for his blood.

There was a time with molten passion
At yonder heaving breast he’d stare,
But sodden womanhood’s a fashion
To follow which is, frankly, rare.

As for Polonius and his diet
Of clichéd maxims, smugly pi,
The wretched man was never quiet.
He got his uppance, devious spy.

A drink of poison does for mother.
The sword slays others one by one.
Prince, Laertes, woman, lover,
All passions, as poor Yorick, done.

Robin Gilbert

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When languishing at Elsinore
   My courtiers chided me,
“Make up your mind, we all implore,
   To be or not to be.
Leave home,” they begged, “and find a bride!
   Forget about Ophelia.
Explore if Wenlock might provide
   A local lass to heal yer.”

And so I came to Wenlock
   A sweetheart here to seek.
But I'd explored all Wenlock's stock
   Of maids within a week.
So, though it makes me far from glad,
   I must return to woo
Ophelia, who’s barking mad,
   While I‘m still Danish Blue.

Martin Parker

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At Elsinore a ghost is crying
‘My brother has just murdered me’.
Hamlet listens to his sighing,
Knows what is his destiny.

He thinks his uncle must be slaughtered
To avenge his father’s death,
If not hung, and drawn and quartered,
He must breathe his final breath.

Hamlet mooches, mean and moody,
Kills a man who proves to be
Ophelia’s sire, then - so rude - he
Tells her, ‘join a nunnery.’

He goes to Shropshire, in a dither,
Returns to find things just as bad,
Ophelia’s dead, drowned in the river,
No wonder Hamlet’s going mad.

He plots a play to show his uncle
In his true and murderous light,
Things explode, like a carbuncle,
Spewing poison and a fight.

At the end of this sad drama
Everyone is dead, save for
Horatio, as silent karma
Settles down on Elsinore.

Katie Mallett

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Here, Wittenberg forsaken,
   In Wenlock north of Clee,
This question leaves all shaken,
   To be, or not to be?
Should we endure, unwilling,
   Time’s arrows, whips and scorns,
Or else, self-killing,
   Depart for unknown bournes?

Unknown, unplumbed, uncertain,
  For prince and ploughman too!
Are prospects past the curtain
  Pitch-black, or sunlit blue?
We fear, when six feet under,
  A sleep by nightmares vexed.
Best stay, and wonder
  Just what comes next.

C. R. Edenhill

Grotesque staring-eyed face