10-Minute Shakespeare
John M
  Shakespeare 1
Shakespeare 2
Duke of Venice
Edward De Vere


CHRIS:   We waited a year for you to get here—And now let’s be
     perfectly clear
In our hearts we hold you dear—As family from another place
The reunion so fun—long awaited, designated, rhythm and rhyme
Iambic pentameter time.



BJ   How do you measure a year?
Do you measure it by accomplishments?
Do you measure it by failures?
By successes?



RALPH: There’s the usual way—by your
birthday. That’s accumulative accounting.
     Until you can’t remember.
Then you hope someone will be around
     to remember for you.
Sucks when they’re all gone.

Then there’s that trip around the sun.
That’s pretty definite, but you have to start at the same place in the orbit.

I think trees got it good. They make a ring. And within that ring is the memory of how much rain, sun, nutrients, disease, bugs, fires, what’s going on with the neighbors, and much more … yeah trees got it right.

  FROST: Some days I think new thoughts
some days I get a letter
some days are special to me
some days I get into an argument with a
or an enemy

some days I write poems
some days I’m depressed
and all of a sudden, some days are new
new things happen.

some days the year ends and I start all over again.


JEFF: Measure a year with a yardstick?


JEFF: With a ruler?


JEFF: Measure a year with imagination?

CAST: Maybe …

DAVE: How many years together? How did you meet? How old were you the day you wed?

How many years apart? How did you let go? How long ago did you leave?

Which path gives the greatest happiness? Which path the greatest pain?

How many years until I know?

Why did I learn everything so late? Why did you have to leave?

Which word was your last? Why do we write these questions?

Why does this matter now?

JOHN M:   Let me tell you how I measure a year,
This last year, this blistering attitude oozing pus and profanity
     negative joint stuff
crap and corruption
discouragement, f-ups and dumping on others
its all bout me and whose fault is it anyway?
the counselor, rank-filing me til I self-destruct
pentameter parameter

measure my meandering among the sights of the weighted words
rocking time to sleep
that’s the design you see?

SAVAGE: One day at a time, one minute to the next, second by second, to its fullest
Sometimes, simplicity is best.

BJ   How do you measure a year?
Do you count the days to come?
Do you count the days that passed?
The friends you’ve made?
The friends you’ve lost?
How do you measure a year?

CHRIS: New vistas shining bright—autumn afternoons creating new light
Prisoners who write

We’ve topped walls—cannot hold back—the creativity of this ‘Theater Poetry Pack’
Correlate, this is great—creating the vision—I can’t wait

The production pasted together—I’m waiting to see …

The finished script—Oh, look. It’s me.

SHAKESPEARE 1: Hi, I’m William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the history of the English language.

SHAKESPEARE 2: No. I’m William Shakespeare.

SHAKESPEARE 1: No you’re not.


EDWARD: Hi, I’m Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford and I’m the one who actually wrote all this amazing stuff.

SHAKESPEARE 2: Strength in numbers?

SHAKESPEARE 1: You got it, bro.

SHAKESPEARE 1 & 2: Hi, we’re William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the English language.

CAST: Hi, Bill.

SHAKESPEARE 1: I hate it when people call me Bill.

SHAKESPEARE 2: Doesn’t bother me.

EDWARD: Idiots.

SHAKESPEARE 1: Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time in Venice …

SHAKESPEARE 2: There was a soldier named … Othello.

OTHELLO: Othello was not from Venice but had served as a soldier and defended the Venetians against the Turks in many bloody wars. After a time he rose to the rank of General. One of his friends was a rich senator named …

BRABANTIO: Brabantio … who loved to hear Othello tell of his incredible adventures and would often invite Othello over for lengthy chats. Brabantio had a daughter …

DESDEMONA: Desdemona.

BRABANTIO: Who had many suitors, as she was young and beautiful and bright.

DESDEMONA: Desdemona thought that the Venetians were kind of boring and unimpressive compared to the brave and worldly Othello, and she also loved to hear Othello’s stories.

OTHELLO: They fell in love and secretly got married. Othello’s right-hand man was a fellow named …

IAGO: Iago.

OTHELLO: Othello had just handed out promotions in the Venetian army …

SHAKESPEARE 1: … and Iago found himself passed over for the rank of Lieutenant, which was given to a younger, dashing ladies man named …

CASSIO: Cassio.

IAGO: Iago was enraged by this as he felt he had earned the rank from his bravery on the battle field and his loyalty to Othello.

SHAKESPEARE 2: He also felt that Cassio was unqualified for the job. He hated Cassio and he hated Othello for choosing him.

IAGO: Iago decided to take revenge. First he tells Brabantio that his daughter has been seduced by Othello. Brabantio, as you can imagine, was quite upset.

BRABANTIO: WHAT?! Although he and Othello were friends, Othello was from a completely different culture.

OTHELLO: And Brabantio, who was hoping she would marry a rich senator or something …

BRABANTIO: … decided to have Othello arrested.

SHAKESPEARE 1: As it turns out, Othello was called to a special late-night council because the Turks had decided to try and retake the island of Cyprus, which was ruled by Venice. Anyway, at the council …

BRABANTIO: Brabantio goes off on an angry rant about how Othello seduced his daughter with spells and witchcraft.

OTHELLO: Othello offers a simple story of how the lovers came together.

DUKE OF VENICE: The Duke of Venice says Othello’s story would have won over his daughter, too.

DESDEMONA: Othello’s tale is confirmed by Desdemona when she arrives. Sorry, Pops.

DUKE OF VENICE: The Duke tells Brabantio to get over it so they can get on with fighting the Turks. They need Othello to manage the wars in Cypress. NOW!

BRABANTIO: Brabantio reluctantly agrees to the marriage and warns Othello that, since his daughter deceived him in marrying Othello, he should keep an eye on her.

SHAKESPEARE 2: Well, Iago’s little plan didn’t work. Now, Iago is a scheming and wily character who has a pretty good understanding of human behavior, especially when it comes to spotting a person’s weaknesses.

IAGO: Being a jealous man himself, Iago knows how powerful the emotion of jealousy can be. He figures if he can infect Othello with the poison of jealousy, it could result in the death of Cassio or Desdemona or Othello or all three.

CAST: So off they go to Cypress.

DESDEMONA: Desdemona included.

SHAKESPEARE 1: On the voyage, a nasty storm wipes out the Turkish fleet, who is also headed for Cypress.

OTHELLO: The Venetians survive the storm and decide to kick it in Cypress for a bit to celebrate the peace.

SHAKESPEARE 2: During the feast that evening …

CASSIO: Cassio is left in charge of the guard duties to make sure that the soldiers don’t get too out of hand.

IAGO: Iago, under the pretense of loyalty and love and knowing good and well that Cassio wasn’t much of a drinker, manages to coax the lieutenant …

CASSIO: … against his will …

IAGO: … into a glass or two of wine. And before he knew what happened …

CASSIO: … Cassio was drunk.

RODERIGO: He was provoked into a fight by a fellow that Iago had arranged this situation with previously.

IAGO: The fight got way out of hand.

MONTANO: And Montano, a worthy officer, was seriously wounded by Cassio.

OTHELLO: The commotion caused Othello to be roused from his sleep and …

MONTANO: … finding Montano wounded …

CASSIO: … and Cassio drunk …

OTHELLO: … he heard the whole story and …

CASSIO: … stripped Cassio of his rank. Cassio didn’t understand that Iago had set him up.

IAGO: So, Iago proceeds to the next phase of his plan. He tells Cassio that he can repair his damaged reputation and return to Othello’s good graces by persuading Desdemona to speak with Othello.

CASSIO: Cassio and Desdemona were close friends and during their courtship, Othello often communicated to Desdemona through Cassio.

DESDEMONA: Cassio then meets with Desdemona to enlist her help.

OTHELLO: Just as Othello and Iago are entering through one door, they see Cassio leaving through the other. Under his breath, Iago says …

IAGO: “I like not that.”

SHAKESPEARE 1: The first seed of jealousy was planted. And through a clever and artistically constructed series of conversations …

IAGO: … Iago drops hints to Othello, creating suspicion …

OTHELLO: … that Cassio and Desdemona may be more than just friends.

IAGO: Now, Iago’s wife …

EMILIA: … Emilia, who is also Desdemona’s lady in waiting and close friend, finds a handkerchief that Desdemona dropped as she was leaving for a banquet.

DESDEMONA: This handkerchief is the first gift that Othello ever gave to Desdemona. It is an antique heirloom that Othello’s father gave to his mother, and Othello believes it to have magical qualities as it was made by an Egyptian sorceress.

OTHELLO: Also, his mother told him that if his wife ever lost it that it meant that she was not the right woman for him and he should leave her.

SHAKESPEARE 2: Iago takes the handkerchief from Emilia and plants it on Cassio. Then he tells Othello that Cassio admitted to sleeping with Desdemona. Then he tells Othello that he saw Cassio wiping his beard with the handkerchief.

OTHELLO: Othello, now in a full-blown jealous rage, drops to his knees and formally swears vengeance.

IAGO: Iago swears his loyalty to Othello and joins him in the oath, promising to kill Cassio himself, and help Othello kill Desdemona.


DESDEMONA: Othello asks Desdemona about the handkerchief but she wants to talk about Cassio.

SHAKESPEARE 1: Which doesn’t help her cause at all.


MONTANO: Emilia goes to Iago and tells him: “If you continue in the direction you are going, no one will win. I must also tell you that you are going to be a father and I know you well enough that I know that you would not want to be seen as a tyrant and a murderer in the eyes of your child.” Iago thinks to himself and realizes his wife speaks truth and wisdom and he is overjoyed to hear of his coming child. He sets out to right the wrongs he has created.

DESDEMONA: And they all finish up with a big dance number!

(Big Dance Number: the cast breaks out into a choreographed dance routine.)

(The music stops.)

CAST: What’s up

EDWARD: That’s not what happens.



SHAKESPEARE 2: Awww, I like that ending.


EDWARD: Nope, sorry.

DESDEMONA: Desdemona sees that her husband is tormented.

OTHELLO: Othello accuses Desdemona of infidelity but doesn’t say with whom. He says that he could have suffered any evil the world could throw at him, but Desdemona’s cheating broke his heart to bits. He wished she had never been born.

DESDEMONA: Desdemona is now in a state of sadness and confusion and seeks the comfort of Emilia, who offers a cynical view of relationships, and then eases Desdemona into a heavy sleep.


MONTANO: Emilia goes to Iago and says: “Listen, I understand you are suffering. You feel you have been betrayed, but there is much more to life than a promotion. You have family and friends who care about you, a wife who truly loves you, and people who look up to you for guidance. In time, Othello will come to realize his mistake in choosing Cassio.”


CASSIO: Yeah, what?


DESDEMONA: And they finish with a big Dance number …

EDWARD: Listen. No more dance numbers!


EDWARD: That’s not how the play ends, Desi.

DESDEMONA: Can you guys help me out?

SHAKESPEARE 2: Talk to Eddie.

SHAKESPEARE 1: Yeah, sorry.

DESDEMONA: Desdemona is awakened by Othello.

OTHELLO: She sees the murderous intent on his face.

DESDEMONA: He tells her to say her prayers and to prepare to die.

OTHELLO: He tells her of Cassio and the handkerchief.

DESDEMONA: Cassio can clear me.

OTHELLO: Cassio is dead already.

OTHELLO: He smothers her in her bed.

EMILIA: Emelia appears.

DESDEMONA: Desdemona recovers a bit and declares her innocence …

EMILIA: … and then dies.

OTHELLO: Othello proclaims that he murdered her because she was unfaithful and Iago has proved it.

EMILIA: Emilia denies it and calls for help.

MONTANO: Iago, Montano, and others arrive.

OTHELLO: Othello pleads his case but …

EMILIA: … Emilia reveals the truth about Iago, the handkerchief, and Desdemona’s loyalty.

MONTANO: Iago kills her and escapes.

IAGO: But he is captured and returned.

CAST: Othello wounds him before he is disarmed.

OTHELLO: Othello admits to being a fool but says be still has his honor.

EDWARD: Then, he produces a hidden weapon … and kills himself. The end.

OTHELLO: I’ll say.

SHAKESPEARE 1: Wow. You’re a downer dude.

DESDEMONA: I had to die and I had to be a woman.


MONTANO: We could have at least done the dance number.


EDWARD: You want a dance number?

CAST: That’s what we just said.

EDWARD: Hit it.

(Cast performs the “Salad Days” song.)

EDWARD: Now that’s a dance number that’s a song and dance number. Not that crap you guys wanted to do. Actors.

SHAKESPEARE 1: Hey, Edward whatever-your-name-is, you can’t just treat people that way.

EDWARD: It’s a tragedy—what do you want?

EMILIA & DESDEMONA: Why does it have to go that way—all this betrayal stuff? Why does it have to be this way?

EDWARD: Ask Iago.

IAGO: Teach you betrayal? Kill me now. I’ll have no part. Ask Shakespeare.

RICHARD: How can you just betray someone?

BJ: Men, know your enemy. Know their weaknesses—know their innermost fears, because you are an emotional terrorist. Know, but never reveal this knowledge.

Forfeit a conscience. All is fair in love and war and this is a bit of both. Do not feel and never feel again for this is your driving force. But never reveal your hate, your intentions, or you will betray yourself.

CHRIS: Overlook loyalties, erode boundaries, take what is his and make it yours. Be selfish and unaware. Be gluttonous. Partake of everyone and everything until all is devoured, then blame another. All trust and devotion devoured by the endless hunger of self-indulgence. Be unaware of the pain, unconcerned of the consequence. The lives changed.

BJ: Anything to kick the broken toy.

CAST: Man that’s cold.

DAVE: Yeah, well it doesn’t have to be as extreme as all that.

JOHN: She was waiting at the airport … I guess. I wasn’t there. As she believed, an innuendo— presumption—assumption—expectation—would make me be there.

I was in nowhere-land with nowhere-man—ignoring myself and being numb from the fear of—
“attached to.”

I know so well and crutch upon so severely …

She waited.

Did I call her later? Did she say “John?” Did I explain that I didn’t say that I would be there?
Do I remember or even have an element of mettle within me that will retain what was?

Yes. I do now remember. She was waiting at the airport with her 4-month? 5-month? 6-month-old pregnancy? And I didn’t show. What’s the difference if I did or didn’t call? (I don’t think I did) I didn’t show.







  Being ignored feels like:
standing in a crowded room, alone
or being the last one sitting at a dance
feels like a quiet rock concert

like silent safety
like it’s hard to think.

Being the middle child of 7 kids
like no one’s home
Being ignored feels like decayed leftovers

like “would you accept this collect call?”
it’s being a pawn on chessboard
a sinking fishing boat
an empty pond

the margin of a page
an empty bowl
bread dough without yeast
1 hair on a bald head

Being ignored feels like neglect
like a hollowed out chest
old clothes on the 1st day of school
like straight jacket madness
like wanting to scream


JOHN M: Betrayal feels like the sword of scalpel between my brain of consciousness splitting

smells like pus from open wounds of decay and gangrene

like faint singes of acid on nose hairs as thoughts sift through of her

SAVAGE: My frustration is bodily tension, a spring wound tight, sitting at a table. My confusion is like a bunch of clutter. My focus is like being in a dark cave and seeing a very small light, far away. For some reason my mind has completely shut down and my mind is drawing a blank. I’m lost. Too much silence. No stimulation. Is this what death would be like if one were lying in his coffin?

What will happen when I die?

CAST(Chanting):  What is the answer? Answer the question.

BJ: What is death? Will I know the separation from the ones I love? Will I be conscious of time? Of space? Will I drift into an empty hollow of nothingness?

RALPH: Was I missed? Were they glad? When did you find out? How did you hear? Who told you? Where were you when I died?

JT: If I could change the past, would I want to?

BJ: Will I feel death blanket me? Will I feel the cold hands of lifelessness chill my bones? Will I feel alone?

RALPH: What were you doing? How did you feel? Were you one of the ads or some or many? Like this—were you mad, sad, glad, felt had? felt bad? What else can I possibly ask you now? How can you possibly answer me? I’m dead.

JT: If you could change the past, would you want to?

BJ: Will the strong arms of angels embrace? Will they take me adrift in pure bliss? Will I remember life? Will I remember the good? Will I remember … you?





  What is death?
Is death an end?
Is a beginning necessary?
Will I see?

Will the most beautiful thing I have be superseded by some
     greater thing?
Am I blind to believe my eyes are more beautiful than my heart
     if I cannot feel without them?
Or is it also in my ears?

What is feeling?
Is the heart a vessel of feeling?

Does the heart only speak emotion?
Does emotion exist without the heart?
Will there be pain when my heart stops?

SAVAGE: My coffin would need a radio/multi-disc CD player pumping out tunes until I’ve moved on to my ancestors.

FROST: Today we’re going to show you a recipe for forgiveness.

JT:   I don’t forgive.
I, myself, just hate.
Dwelling endlessly on the wrongs that seem to follow me mentally.
How can I break away from my own prison, caged and
     guarded by others past selfish action?

 (The cast makes cooking noises (sizzling, mixing, chopping, etc.) while pantomiming  cooking.)

FROST: We need a recipe for forgiveness.

Today, we take one part pain. The worst kind of pain you can find. The kind of pain that cramps your gut when you lay in bed at night. The kind of pain you ran from all your life. Take this pain and knead it back and forth across your ribs. Take this pain and smash it through your fingers, get your hands dirty, work the pain, put time and effort into the pain. When it is finally nice and soft, take the pain and put it in a covered bowl and let it sit.

JT:   I don’t forgive.
I do remember and tolerate the presence of wrong doers …
And entertain the thought of forgiveness …
Only so I won’t forget.
Am I a friend? Does a friend forget then forgive or does he
     just forgive?

RALPH: Take an equal measure of humility and arrogance, plus dashes of anger and tranquility. Use a large bowl, so large that you always have room for more ingredients, but not large enough that it won’t overflow when you are done. The overflow will not ruin, but restore. Take a package of “how you feel” and another of “what you need.” Blend them with the insult, temper with sympathy. Season freely with a view of the other side.

JT: I don’t forgive. That endless baggage of all the unforgiven actions of past associations remain with me. I have trained myself to forgive nothing but tolerate the presence of those who wish to be forgiven and evaluate their present actions. For from these actions they will be judged and treated accordingly.

JEFF:   Recipe for forgiveness:
1 or more persons to forgive
2 cups salty tears
4 minutes of talking
3 minutes of crying to each other
1 handshake

JT: If you could change the past would you want to? You can. It’s like cutting your finger so deep you scratch the bone … and look at the knife … and watch your blood drip from it … and experience the full essence of the pain. Then reflect on that experience, and use extra care when you deal with knives. That’s how you change your past. Every hurt that you felt in your past becomes a learning experience to mold your future.

BJ: I want to speak for the ones that walk a middle road. A responsible, realistic road. Unashamed to be seen with or heard in publicall public—all public. Accepted no matter where. A reflection of common decency.

SAVAGE: I want to speak for the kid inside that feels he got short-changed and robbed of his teen years—hell, even younger than that. Robbed of his innocence. No homecoming dance, no prom. I want to speak for the young man who came home from the war and was treated like a pariah.

RICHARD: I want to speak for my mother, who is gone. Left this reality in ‘03. To tell about all the things that I stand for because of her loving embrace. Mother wanted to pass the plate to the hungry, to lend an ear to the hurting, to open the door to the homeless, and drive the point to those in bondage: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

She hurt because I hurt and they hurt and others hurt.

Responsibility, guilt, sorrow, burden, love, refrain.

Wait, stop the strain.

I want to tell you: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

CAST: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

RICHARD: Why not tell it? Hiding only perpetuates the cycle. Looking at others with a prejudice eye while they strive to evolve. The package can’t change itself—it requires a new design, new dimensions, new thoughts, and actions toward it.

I want to speak for my Mother who is gone. Left this reality in ‘03.

Can’t you feel the love? Rise above.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem

BJ: I want to speak for the ones who walk the middle ground. Who do not lift their nose at classes considered to be of a lower kind but select friends by who they are inside. I speak for the ones who dare to live outwardly, inwardly respectable. Honest. Good-hearted, friendly. Those who reveal to others in like terms.

I walk a middle road.

RICHARD: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith says “yes.”

CAST: Yes!

RICHARD: Faith is an open door and mindful consideration of the options it represents.

Faith says “yes.”

CAST: Yes. Amen, brother.

RICHARD:   Desiring to arrive, faith gives us the drive to strive.
Faith is an invisible ladder
a bridge to rest on, crest on and
the avenue to achieve what we believe.
Faith says ‘yes’ when everything else says no.


CAST:   Faith is a map,
we’re lost without it
a divine creed with many different roads,
it directs your step
tells you where you’ve been
shows you where you’re going
like a dream.



BJ: Faith is
the knowledge, the trust,  the belief that
     what you know to be so, IS.

Faith is unseen, invisible, but believed, and known to be there.

Faith is the ship that will sail us to greater horizons, faith is the tradewinds of life.

Faith is the bond that holds together emotion, love is unseen but known.

Faith is the only thing that motivates us to move forward. Faith propels us through the squalls and storms of life’s troubled oceans.

  RALPH: a uniquely human concept. A failing of self awareness. A parable for the knowledge of the unknowable
a construct to enable the human to devise that which is beyond reality.

Faith is forever expandable,
just raise the bar
scheme to find the next imponderable and challenge others to prove it so or not.

At its core, faith need have no basis in fact or reality
proof of or proof of not destroys the self delusion.


JEFF: Faith is a long cloth parachute that is ready to be pulled at the last minute. The question, really, is: will it open at the moment it’s pulled or will that be the day that it all comes to an end and you hit the ground and go splat.



  Every poet paints a picture
My breath is my life
My life is blessed
The rhythm of the oxygen waffling along the walls of my lungs
My page is a group of men in a room, listening
My breath is my imagination
I put the brush aside and paint a picture with my tongue and mind
My breath brings me joy throughout any and all emotions
Bringing the beat of life to my heart, the firing of neurons in
     my brain
I know I’m the author of some of this pain
Without my breath what would I be?
Faith is that oxygen that sustains bodily functions
I would like to take every one of you and put you on the wall
But a worthless old soul with no future, with no life
My poems only paint a picture in the minds of those who listen
My life is blessed
Thought transfusion facilitated by clear gas
We are stars left standing, afraid to be alone
Our lives are blessed.


CHRIS:   What is it that i thought to bring upon the stage?
Inside these walls are so many hidden things
that i guess i hoped to share.
Everyone has talent to some big some small
bringing people together that’s the curtain call.
Opening one’s heart for all to see freely


JOHN: And the long road to this short circle hints not at confusion but a new mind. A reality that is mine. This hint, flowing through the molecules of my vision, flowing through the thick ether of my new world

    right here right now its good to be me
oh yes I’m incarcerate
friends know I’m truly free
what I really mean to say is theater makes minds wander through life’s well-traveled trails
good character and will abounds
for the spoken word never fails.