A talk with The Bard
Midsummer Night's Dream

By Walter Seton Bunker

I had a dream one August’s night, a dream so vaporous and yet so vivid it passes understanding. It’s hard to know what was fantasy and what reality. In my dream I found myself striding the battlements of Elsinore. The surging North Sea winds sent the surf smashing against the sea wall, sending a spray of salty mist up the castle walls enveloping them in a shroud. As I paced the parapet I sensed a presence. Then a helmeted figure emerged from the fog.

“Who’s there?” I cried, “be you man or specter, reveal yourself.”

From the apparition issued a cavernous voice:

“O, I have trod the boards before

To play the ghost of Hamlet’s sire,

And tell the tale of Elsinore,

Of murder foul and deed most dire.”

The wraith removed his helmet revealing a pale white face with luminous eyes and lofty brow lit by the light of the moon. I stared in amazement. “Is it? Can it be? Are you William Shakespeare?”

The figure nodded gravely and I said, “Oh, Sir. I have long admired you, the peerless prince of players, the paladin of poetry and prose. I pray that you might help me. There are questions I wish to lay on you.

The specter replied, “Lay on, Macduff; and damned be he that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!’”

“Sir,” I replied. “My name is not Macduff. It’s Bunker. Walter Seton Gregory Bunker is my name.”

“What’s in a name?” asked Shakespeare. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

“Agreed,” said I, “but here is what I wanted to say; that is, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Can you help me?”

Shakespeare stroked his chin thoughtfully.  “To be a well favored man is the gift of fortune but to write comes by nature.”

“True,” I said, “and to that end I’ve joined a writer’s club, The Monday Morning Writer’s Group.”

“Do you convene at the Mermaid Tavern?” asked Shakespeare. “I was wont to meet there with Ben Jonson, Kit Marlowe and others of a similar bent.”

“No Sir. Our group meets at the Jo Beth book store off Edwards Road, but their standards are so lofty I wonder if I should be a member or not. Do you think I should be?”

“To be or not to be. That is the question.”

“Yes Sir,” I said. “That’s the question I just asked you. By the way, do you mind if I just call you Will?”

Shakespeare frowned. “As you like it, but I prefer you address me as William Shakespeare.”

“If you will,” I said, “but here’s the problem. Some of the club members are critical of my writing, noting my misplacement of a comma, the abject use of adjectives or adverse adverbs. They particularly commented about my dangling participle.”

A thin smile creased Shakespeare’s lips, “Oh to bear the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

“But that’s not all. I continue submitting stories to various magazines, Writers’ Digest, Poets and Writers, etc., and I never hear a word. The only certainty I have that they even get my manuscript is when I receive my cancelled check in the mail.”

“What fools these mortals be,” said Shakespeare. “But to thine own self be true. There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. But tell me, what have you learned from your association with this noble group?”

I leaned forward, “Oh I’ve acquired a knowledge of the artful use of similes, alliteration, metaphors, hyperbole, where to place a comma and when to take an onomatopoeia. I‘ve learned the function of the colon, the semicolon, the colonoscopy and when a period occurs at the end of a sentence and when it begins at mid-month.”

“Ah yes said the Bard. “Taffeta phrases, precise hyperbole, spruce affection and figures pedantical. But, pray tell, who are the wordsmiths who constitute this classic coterie?”

“Oh, there are writers of every style and grace: novelists, short story writers, playwrights, essayists, historians, writers of travelogues, humorists, poets, writers of memorabilia, and those who tell of deeply personal experiences, brilliant writers all. Some of their tales make us shake with laughter, some move us to tears, others stir us to deep thought and meditation. There are men and women in this club and they come from all corners of the globe – Persia, Scotland, Germany, Cornwall, Kenwood, Dillonvale… ”

The rising sun cast its rays over the parapets of Elsinore and the figure of the Ghost began to fade as he bade me farewell. “Apollo’s chariot ascends in the east and I must take my leave. Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I must say goodnight till . . .”

The specter grew dim leaving these haunting words hanging in the mist, “Adieu, Adieu. Remember me.”

Caught up in the throes of iambic pentameter I could only murmur, “Good night, sweet prince. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

(Walter Seton Bunker is a writer of fiction and of essays. He is a member of the Monday Morning Writers Group in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his keen wit and humor are prized.)

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