There was a call for submissions to a Steampunk Shakespeare anthology in 2010, I made a comment on Twitter about “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Reanimated”. There was enough amused responses that I wrote something up. I spoke to one of the editors of the anthology and they said they were only taking Real Shakespeare plays and sonnets, so my parody wasn’t going to make it in. Still, I was amused enough to finish it, ask some friends for feedback, and finally here it is. Please let me know what you think.
* ACT ONE
*The stage is dark. Lights come on to show the heads of GUILDENSTERN [G] and ROSENCRANTZ [R].*
R: Heads… Heads… Heads… Heads…
G: You’re not still going on about that?
R: Huh? No, along that wall, top shelf. Nothing but –
*The top of the stage lights up, showing the two are in a MAD SCIENTIST LABORATORY. Devices line the walls and, just as R says, the top shelf is full of heads in jars. The bottom of the stage remains in shadow. The two remain stationary and only their heads are in view.*
G: A weaker man might be moved to re-examine his own head, on seeing such a thing.
R (*examines his own head with his hands, which are wearing different sleeves, and then G’s*): Heads… still here.
G: What about the rest of us?
G: Currently we’re just
R: But if the heads are here, surely the rest of us is.
G: How can you tell?
R: I thought you were the philosophical one?
G: I’m the one who’s noticing the rest of us is in darkness.
R (*looks down*): Ah.
G: And we’re in a mad scientist’s laboratory.
*There are furtive gestures.*
G: I have no coins to flip
R: Maybe it’s my turn?
G: Do you have coins?
R: Yes, my second right hand found them in my pouch
G: Oh good, at least *beat* what?
R: Ah, a switch
*The switch is thrown and, to a cascade of sparks and flickers, the whole of stage is lit. R and G are in fact two heads on one body, with four arms and a conglomerate of their clothing and a cavalcade of pipes, bubbling fluid, and an egg timer.*
G: Your second right hand.
G: Is my second right hand.
G: … There is a lot less screaming than I expected.
R: And my beard hasn’t grown, *examines* but my fingernails have!
G: A lot more awake then I expected.
R: It’s more roomy than being asleep in a box.
G: This must mean something
R: Besides the redistribution of limbs?
G: Yes. I guess we were right to be fearful of being too late.
R: Is this ‘late’ beyond “The Late Rosencrantz and Guildenstern”?
G: Well I don’t remember being “the late”, but I remember almost being “the late” and then it was dark.
R: And then we were heads.
R: Each ahead.
G: Ahead of what?
R: Being the late.
R: It certainly looks like a mad scientist’s laboratory.
G: You know what science looks like?
*R looks around, picks up a piece of brass with a cog on it*
G: A circular thing on a flat thing.
R: A circular thing with knobbly bits.
G: But what does it do?
G: Circular things with knobbly bits spin against other… circular things with knobbly bits or perhaps long loops also with knobbly bits. They move things, and why do I hear laughter?
R (*ignoring G’s last sentance*): So knobbly bits are important.
G: Yes. I think it is time to employ the scientific approach again.
R: As that worked so well for us before.
G: Hush. Syllogism the first for today. One: science is meant to do things. Two: A circular thing with knobbly bits is built for the purpose of doing things. Synopsis: a circular thing with knobbly bits stuck to a flat thing doesn’t do anything.
R: It looks good though. Looks like science.
G (*sarcastic*): So looking like science is science.
R: Why would you do science that doesn’t look like science?
G: The scientific approach …
R: to the examination of phenomena is a defence against the pure emotion of fear.
G (*shocked*): where did you hear that?
R: I don’t remember.
G: … We return to the scientific approach. Our last memories have been under the influence of un-, sub- or super-natural forces. First probability, then causality and now locality. This is likely the culmination of all the un-, sub- or super-natural occurrences. Or possibly, un-, sub- AND super-natural. In the state that we are in, given the laughter I’m sure I’m hearing, either we’re mad or everything else is mad, and I’m not sure which is worse.
R: It might not be everything else, it might be everything. But if everything’s mad, doesn’t that mean everything’s on the same level, and thus, sane?
G: I’m reminded. Second syllogism. One, we have never known anything like this. Two, we have just been through something I should very much like to write home about. Three… three… What’s the last thing you remember?
R: What you just said.
G: No, the last thing you remember before this.
R: Ah. Nothing good, everything went black and you were still talking. Not a long time ago. That and the laughter
*by now the laughter is audible*
G: Laughter? That was before?
R: No, it’s now. Outside the door
*The door to the right of stage is flung open and in walks the [S]CIENTIST, who is followed in by the CREATURES. A [F]RANKENSTEIN MONSTER, a [C]LOCKWORK GIRL, a [B]RAIN IN A JAR (carried), and an [I]GOR.*
S *(finishes his laughter*): They’re awake!
*R & G squirm as if trying to get up.*
S: Don’t move!
R: Why do I feel like we’ve been here before?
G (*holds up all four arms, sarcastic*): I think I’d remember this before.
R: How do you know you think?
*G is given pause, S is exasperated*
S: Gentlemen, please.
G: I don’t suppose you do a selection of gory romances with fine cadence and corpses
S: Well, *points to F* he’s made of fine corpses, does that count? And don’t get up I know you were Guildenstern and Rosencrantz
S: Yes, now you are Guildencrantz. Or Rosenstern. *turns to I* You know, I really thought this would have cleared things up somewhat.
G & R struggle to their feet.
R (*brandishes the copper and cog*): What is your line?
S: Science! And the perversion of the natural order therein. A little biology there, a little mechanology there; steam, gears, clockwork and grease. Phrenology for getting ahead and posteriology for being behind. *he taps on the CREATURES as he goes* [F]Grave robbing and cross stitch, [C]intricate mechanisms and buffing metal, [B]chemistry and biological aesthetics, … [I]and him.
R: What do they do?
S: Let your imagination run riot. They are beyond surprise.
G (*waves R back*): And how much?
S: To take part?
G: No. To build
S: Watch- … wait, what?
G: I mean, look at this place. This would take several fortunes, the work of a score, no, four score and seven specialised teams to build and maintain. And you did it all?
S: All. I don’t think you understand –
G: Not only that, but how do you keep this place running? Maintained, I mean, look at him *points at B*. Do you directly keep his tank clean?
S: Well, I have a girl that comes in on Sundays.
G: A maid keeps everything clean and running.
S: She’s very clever.
_G takes the copper and cog from R and throws it at S. Whether it hits or not is up to fate and the skills of the actors_
G: That’s not science. It’s set dressing.
S: It has to look the part, image is very important
G: To science
S: To steampunk
R: Oh good, I’m starving
S: Not steamed punk
R: Oh. I’m sure I’d eat it, regardless of what punk is.
G: But where is the steam, then?
S: It’s implied.
G: Nonsense. He *pointing at F* is breathing, she *pointing at C* is clicking, it *pointing at B* is bubbling and he *pointing at I* is drooling.
R: What, no lisp?
I (*looks offended*)
R: I don’t know why I asked that.
S (*excitedly, nodding at R*): Exactly! The steam is implied, this is powered by convention.
R: Two people in one body isn’t conventional.
S: Depends on the conventions you visit.
R: Let me guess, the ones with Airship pirates
*offstage: Well I not be coming in now, be I? I’m off to the pub.
_All experiments look at each other and leave_
S: I lose more companions that way.
R: Look, I’m sor-
S: *exasperated* No, you look. You just saw an animated corpse, a metal woman, a brain in a jar and a whateverthing walk into a bar. Well, towards one.
R: Is this some kind of joke?
S: Only to those who don’t know the punchline.
G: How does that work?
S: Comedy and tragedy, if it’s happening to you it’s tradg-
G: NOT what passes for your jokes, the science behind your “creations”
S: Steam? Whateveryouwantium? The raw scientific potential of painting something copper and sticking a cog on it?
R: But why? Was it all for this? We weren’t fore-warned so now we’re four-armed?
S: Ah. But “Why”‘s not the question we ask here.
S: Yes. It’s why not? Airships for all ages and empires; exploration by dimensions, mole-machines, rockets and penny-shillings.
S: *aside* inflation. Epic battles, romances by the score, exotic locales and foreign worlds; Climactic science and good versus evil gone wrong. Only occasionally and entirely by accident, wayward experimentation blocking out parts of the sun-
_Scientist’s half of the stage cuts to black_
R: That’s it, then, is it?
G: We’re not dead this time.
R: … I wonder if he can give me a metal arm with guns in it
_R fades out_
G: So much for knowing better next time. Best three out of five?
_G fades out, leaving only a single light on a cog that is affixed against the wall over the door. It falls with the sound of metal hitting someone one the head. Scientist goes ‘Ow’, revealing a clue._
G: Well that mistook fell upon the inventor’s head
S: Oh go kiss a boiler.