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THE CHARACTERS OF SHAKESPEARE
by
Max Beerbohm

with thanks to Tony 'Cufflinktone'

There once was a king named Macbeth,
A better king never drew breath;
The faults of his life
Were all due to his wife,
The notorious Lady Macbeth.

No doubt you have heard of Othello –
An African sort of a fellow.
When they said, ‘You are black!’
He cried, ‘Take it back!
I am only an exquisite yellow’.

I cannot help feeling that Lear
At the end of his splendid career,
When he strolled in the teeth
Of that storm on that heath,
Was – well, just a little bit ‘queer’.

Hamlet, I’m sorry to find,
Was unable to make up his mind;
He shillied, he shallied,
He dillied, he dallied –
In fact, he was over-refined.

Then Cymbeline. How about Cymbeline?
You could hold in a cup – in a thimble, e’en –
All that is not
Sheer downright rot
In Shakespeare’s presentment of Cymbeline.

The doings of Coriolanus
Shall not for one moment detain us.
It’s clear that we can’t
And we won’t and we shan’t
Be bothered with Coriolanus.

Hats off, however, to Romeo –
One o’ the Montagues, don’t-you-know;
And we mustn’t forget
That dear little pet
Of the Capulet set,
Juliet,
Who asked him why he was Romeo?

The other Shakespearean characters
Are deadly damned dullards and dodderers?
I would warn you to shun
Every one
Of the other Shakespearean characters.
 
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