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‘Deleted’ Shakespeare scenes published to mark 400 years

By Alison Flood | April 23rd 2016

To mark the 400th anniversary of his death this week, “deleted” scenes from Shakespeare have been published online. Dreamed up by authors including Margaret Atwood and Jasper Fforde, the hitherto unseen passages add zombies to Hamlet and Star Wars to The Tempest.

Goodreads asked the writers, who also include Malorie Blackman tackling Othello, to write the deleted scenes as part of its “Shakespeare Week” celebrations. Fforde, whose fourth book about the literary detective Thursday Next features Hamlet as a character, took on the Prince of Denmark again with an essay about the “earlier ‘problem’ manuscripts of Shakespeare’s most famous work”.

Pointing to the recent discovery of a Shakespeare first folio on a Scottish island, Fforde also directs his readers’ attention to the “Frightfully Bad” quarto, which “featured Hamlet with the now notorious ‘Scooby Doo’ ending, where King Hamlet turns out to be Fortinbras simply pretending to be a ghost in order to divert attention away from his pending invasion”. Fforde concludes with the line, “now much paraphrased: ‘And were it not for these children of meddlesome countenance, this crown would be mine.’”

But Fforde imagines that the “most contentious” Hamlet draft is “The Comedy of Hamlet, Prince of Zombies”, in which “Denmark has been overrun by a Zombie Apocalypse”. “Details of the action are mostly obscure, but the soliloquy survives where Hamlet muses on whether it is better to be dead or undead: ‘To not to be, or to not to not to be’,” writes the novelist. “It is thought the surviving line: ‘Something Rotten in the State of Denmark’ also refers to the play’s Zombie roots.”

Former children’s laureate Blackman, whose novel Chasing the Stars was inspired by Othello, has written a new scene for the end of the play, in which Cassio tries to get to the bottom of Iago’s actions:

Thy hands and thy feet, they shalt be shackled,

Knave, thou art to be pulled upon the rack

Till thy skin tears and thy bones crack.

The power to forestall such grim torments.

Lies within thine own grasp, if thou wouldst but admit

The why of thy sins and freely repent ...

In response, her Iago howls with laughter. “Iago, though in pain, laughs in Cassio’s face. I don’t believe Iago is a man to feel remorse for what he has done or to explain himself. The scene I wrote above expresses that,” writes Blackman on Goodreads. “Can a person be truly 100 per cent evil? I believe Iago comes close.”

Atwood, whose novel reimagining of The Tempest – Hagseed – is out this autumn, tackles Shakespeare’s last play again for Goodreads. She has written a scene in which Prospero and Miranda are demanding food from Caliban – “Thou toad! Thou fen! Thou cup of dung! Thou wart! / Laggard, bring forth the viands!” – as the ship approaches the island.

Bring me my magic garment! Here’s my luck!

Mine enemies, and sailed within my reach!

Thunder, I say, and darkest clouds boil forth,

The portrait of mine anger! Ariel, strike!

A very different version of Shakespeare’s magician is conjured by Ian Doescher, author of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. In Doescher’s reimgaining, Prospero tells Miranda a story to calm her fears about the storm - a story of how “there shall arise, upon the riven Earth, / Two varied faiths, each with their own beliefs.” Miranda replies:

Two odd and errant systems of belief.

I bid thee, tell me father, who prevails?

Those who are bound unto the sky walker,

Or those who bow unto the mighty kirk?

- theguardian.com

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