Thursday, April 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Shakespeare 2013

Shakespeare Revisited Cast of Characters: Shakespeare In his fifties Genius The double of Shakespeare, young and dreamy An unkempt room with one chair and a desk. A few pages on the wall, displaying sonnets. Uneven stacks of papers scattered here and there. The play begins with Shakespeare seated at his desk, dipping his pen furiously in the ink-pot. Genius is standing opposite him, smiling to himself. The reed pen glows all of a sudden, as if on fire, and Shakespeare blinks, stunned. Genius bursts out laughing, seeking the attention of Shakespeare. GENIUS Why are you afraid, O Bard of London? You know me, I am sure. SHAKESPEARE (aghast and shrinking) I do not know you. Who are you? GENIUS (edging closer) Bloody sad that you don’t know me! But I know you too well. You are Sheikh Pir. The Poet of the East. Dead and forgotten. SHAKESPEARE (his knuckles white as he clenches a sheaf of papers before him) Dead? GENIUS (laughing contemptuously) More alive than most, who are living in the slums of London, Sheikh Pir. SHAKESPEARE (planting his elbows on the table with a sudden violence) Who are you? Why are you here? GENIUS (his gaze bright and intense) If you don’t recognize your own genius, my friend, then you are doomed. I am here to goad you into writing a Tragedy, which would live forever inside the hourglass of Time. SHAKESPEARE (one snort of a mirth escaping his lips) If I were a genius, I would not be scraping pennies out of the filthy palms of the droolers? Or living in a garret, staging farcical scenes in my head? Besides, I am writing a comedy, not a tragedy. GENIUS (smiling to himself and beginning to pace) Juliet is not the kind of heroine you think her to be. And Romeo is not the prince embroiled in wars, as you perceive him to be. SHAKESPEARE (cupping his chin into his hands) Stratford-upon-Avon is not the place for magicians, young man. Go home, and suckle your brains on goat’s milk. How do you know the characters in my head, if you are that bloody talented? GENIUS (pacing and thinking aloud) Let it suffice for the moment that I know. Your Juliet is Hir, a princess from Jhang. And Romeo is no other than Ranjha, the prince from Hazara. You met them both. They were condemned by the virtue of love, and fated to die together. SHAKESPEARE (his eyes drooping shut) Such alien names. Alien places. If I had been there, had met such people, I would remember. My memory is flawless. GENIUS (halts in his pacing, watching Shakespeare) Genius is a mystery! Remembering, while claiming not to remember? Now you see Hir in the guise of Juliet. Though Juliet herself is a stranger to you. You don’t know how she looks like? SHAKESPEARE (his eyes fluttering open) Juliet is beautiful! Her beauty is engraved inside the mirror of my heart. Hir? I don’t know anything about her, or how she looks like? GENIUS (resuming his pacing) Hir is beautiful. She is the daughter of a king, and a victim of tragic love. Hir’s Romeo is Ranjha, a prince indeed! Hir falls in love with Ranjha, and in return, is consumed by her own love for him. SHAKESPEARE (his gaze following Genius, dreamy and distant) Something inside me is stirring. They get married, and live happily ever-after, don’t they? GENIUS (flashing Shakespeare an enigmatic smile) Truth, even veiled in falsehood, dares not kiss the lips of lies. Hir was forced to get married to a rich curmudgeon by the name of Saida, exiled into the valley of Rangpur. SHAKESPEARE (snatching his reed pen from the ink pot, and writing while murmuring) And she falls in love with her husband. A marvelous ending. GENIUS (mirth spilling from his lips and eyes) Love, a folly most grievous! No woman, if she was wise, would commit such a folly, even if she was marrying for the very first time. And Hir was wise, accepting not her farce of a marriage, and longing for Ranjha. Her longing itself brings Ranjha to her door in the guise of a jogi. SHAKESPEARE (writing with utmost absorption) Would you please leave whoever you are? I am in a bloody rush to finish this Comedy in order to pay my rent, or my landlord would throw me out into the gutters. GENIUS (Standing opposite Shakespeare, his gaze intense and impelling) That means you don’t want to hear the story of Hir and Ranjha? Are your sure? SHAKESPEARE (without lifting his eyes, still writing) Tell me bloody quick then. I want peace and quiet. GENIUS (pacing again) Hir and Ranjha elope. Hir’s parents urge them to return home. Promising them the bliss of home and marriage. Death and doom are lurking behind this promise of wedlock, not the wedding celebrations. Hir’s mother poisons the milk, which her daughter is to drink as a part of the ritual during the wedding ceremony. SHAKESPEARE (dipping his pen into the ink pot) Such tales told by the fools, and sung by the troubadours! Dull and predictable. GENIUS (waving his arms imperiously) Not dull, but tragic! Terrible and inviolate! You don’t want to hear the end, I gather? SHAKESPEARE (jabbing the paper with his reed pen) I am dying to—this second time around, striving toward becoming a rich playwright! If indeed, this is the second time around? What was I before this? A poet? No, don’t bother to answer. Just tell me the ending of this story, and leave. The dawn is nigh and I must finish my play. GENIUS (laughter trilling on his lips) Hir’s maid succeeds in revealing the murderous designs of her mother, but alas, too late! Hir has already taken a few sips from the cup of death. She collapses, but not before Ranjha has snatched the glass of milk, draining it passionately. Ranjha falls at the feet of his Beloved, both joined in Hereafter. SHAKESPEARE (lifting his eyes wearily and watching the Genius dreamily) Romeo and Juliet! It is a Comedy, and it is going to stay this way, since the characters profess to live, not die. You may leave now. I want Juliet to live. She is so very beautiful. GENIUS (vehemently) This play would be a Tragedy! Fates can’t be averted. Juliet is not permitted to disappoint the drooling patrons, who love conflict and the pincers loss and grief. Hir too was barred from disappointing her audience, welcoming death, and tasting the hemlock of immortality. Romeo would die too, by the law and virtue of his own madness, much like Ranjha, earning the title of Sufi and the Lover. SHAKESPEARE (abandoning his reed pen into the ink pot) Hir, this name sounds sweet upon my tongue. And Ranjha, wafting the Scent of Mystery. Did they live? Are they dead now? The Lover and the Beloved—I mean? GENIUS (standing in the middle of the stage, his look opiate) Living forever inside the rosary of songs, sweet and tragic. Worshipped by the young lovers, who still flock to their tombs, dreaming of love sublime and love unattainable. SHAKESPEARE (his gaze fixed to the Genius) Where are they buried? {One fake moon hovers over the stage.} GENIUS Look at that moon yonder. Waxing and waning. Livid and dying. The scarlet lips of fate, sinful as death. A Tragedy most beautiful. SHAKESPEARE (his head drooping over the table) The lily-livered heart of dawn is compelling me to nurture the Children of Tragedy. Hir and Ranjha are singing, holding the Torch of Love. Romeo and Juliet must taste the Soma of Pain. They must divorce Love and Hope. A Tragedy! Yes! A Tragedy most Sublime. A Truth most Supreme! The symphony of Love, Grief, Union. THE END

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