Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shakespeare-Related Poem: "Hamlet Meets Frankenstein" by Kevin Griffith

Griffith, Kevin. "Hamlet Meets Frankenstein." In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare. Ed. David Starkey and Paul J. Willis. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005. 126.

I've greatly enjoyed In a Fine Frenzy, the volume of modern poetry engaging in some way with Shakespeare, even though the Hamlet section has a huge number of poems about Ophelia and far fewer about any other aspect of the play.

The poem below is a remarkable poem that is not focused on Ophelia (though she makes an interesting appearance in the poem).

It starts off with a strange and humorous device, passes through a line about the "official seal" of Denmark (I'd love to see that line on a travel poster for the country, as a matter of fact), and ends with a profound consideration of the nature of tragedy.
Kevin Griffith

Hamlet Meets Frankenstein

For Frankenstein, of course, Hamlet’s central
problem is irrelevant. The monster
offs the king in the first act,
dispatches Polonius quickly with a twist
of the neck, and then terrorizes the kingdom
until he ascends to the throne,
a feared leader, making the phrase
“There’s something rotten in Denmark”
his badge of honor, an official seal.
Ophelia is fished from the river,
brought back to life with a bolt of lightning
and made his bride, a fitting queen.

Meanwhile, Hamlet is still sulking
at the grave site, skull in hand
and three dead kings to contend with,
one still very much in charge.
Remarkably, the play ends like all tragedies:
The dead watch over the living,

and the living wonder why it’s so hard to be alive.

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Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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