They killed Shakespeare in the streets of Hackensack in July. They killed him like shabbily-costumed matadors at a Spanish bullfight. Few witnessed the slaughter. In fact, the killers outnumbered those who saw it.
The play was All’s Well That Ends Well, but I was quickly sure it would not end well at all. My date lived in one of the more upscale apartment buildings along Prospect. We stopped in a little tapas place on Main, shared a few small plates, drank some sangria, and pretended we were in Barcelona instead of crowded, small city New Jersey. We discussed the play, a comedy with mistaken identity at its core. It was filled with banter and double entendres. We looked forward to enjoying the play in the cooling evening. How were we to know we were walking into a murder?
The play and Shakespeare himself never stood a chance. How could he in such a noisy little park plaza in the middle of Hackensack. Cars and trucks drove by occasionally honking their horns, strollers talked loudly and laughed as they walked by us, the actors’ spoken lines were muddled, my eyes and ears wandered elsewhere. The scenery was as sparse as a bullring, the park’s semi-circular stage basically unadorned. The players barely costumed. The king had a crown, the women wore dresses, the acting just as mundane. Beautiful Helen was dowdy and cross-eyed. I did not question Bertram spurning her romantically, though he was no prize either. The few audience members were restless.
So the actors conspired and fell upon Shakespeare as he lowed his head sadly just offstage. I only stayed for a few stabs of the banderillas. He bled freely and weakened noticeably as the actors massacred him. I watched morosely, but didn’t stay for the tercio de muerte, the estocado, the final thrust of the sword bringing a merciful death. I couldn’t watch anymore. Let it end, I thought, though not at all well.
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