Adapted from a story by Israel Zangwill. A YIDDISH HAMLET
This Etext is for private use only. No republication for profit in print or other media may be made without the express consent of the Copyright Holder. The Copyright Holder is especially concerned about performance rights in any media on stage, cinema, or television, or audio or any other media, including readings for which an entrance fee or the like is charge. Permissions should be addressed to: Frank Morlock, 6006 Greenbelt Rd, #312, Greenbelt, MD 20770, USA or email@example.com. Other works by this author may be found at http://www.cadytech.com/dumas/personnage.asp?key=130
A Play by F. J. Morlock C 1982
Etext by Dagny
CHARACTERS M. PINCHAS - A Yiddish poet OSTROVSKY - A Yiddish playwright SCHNEEMAN - His toady TUCH WITBERG - A violinist VON MIESES - Another poet, also Horatio HEATHEN JOURNALIST - Also Polonius GRUNBITZ GOLDWATER - An actor manager, also Hamlet KLOOT - his factotum CHARACTERS IN THE HAMLET PLAY THE QUEEN OPHELIA - Mrs. Goldwater
I. AN EAST SIDE CAFE AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, DAY.
The customers are almost exclusively Jewish except for the HEATHEN JOURNALIST. Many are dressed in traditional costumes, with black hats, black clothes and long beards. GRUNBITZ, TUCH and the Heathen Journalist are seated at a large table, awaiting the arrival of Pinchas. SCHNEEMAN and OSTROVSKY sit nearby at another table.
He's coming, this seven-day wonder.
They do nothing but talk about this fool poet from Warsaw. They forget Ostrovsky overnight. Fifty-three plays I've written, fifty-three.
They'll forget him overnight too. This 'Yiddish Hamlet' is sure to flop.
Who knows? The public is fickle.
(PINCHAS enters escorted by WITBERG and VON MIESES, who lead him very deferentially to the table at which the Heathen Journalist, Tuch and Grunbitz are waiting. Pinchas is greeted and congratulated by all and begins to hold forth.)
It is the greatest play of the generation. (complacently) It will be translated into every tongue.
Will you listen to that conceited ass. Wait till Goldwater gets through rewriting it.
I can't wait to see Goldwater squeeze his fat carcass into a pair of tights to play 'Hamlet'.
I, Melchitzedek Pinchas will soon be world famous. See, my initials M. P. make Master Playwright.
OSTROVSKY (to Schneeman)
Also Mud Pusher. Who is this uncombed bunco artist?
He calls himself the sweet singer of Israel.
TUCH (to Pinchas)
But look here Pinchas. You said the other day your initials made Messianic Poet.
And don't they? You call yourself a ward boss, a political leader and statesman and you don't know your ABC's.
(There is a roar of laughter at this sally.)
They can't stand for everything.
No, they can't stand for mad politician. (another burst of laughter) But, as there are many meanings in every letter of the Torah, so there are meanings innumerable in every letter of my name. (ingenuously) If I am a playwright as well as a poet, was not Shakespeare also?
TUCH (sarcastic but not ill natured)
You wouldn't class yourself with that low down barnstormer?
My superiority to Shakespeare I leave to others to discover. I discovered it for myself in writing this very play, but I cannot expect the world to admit it until the play is produced.
How did you come to find it out yourself?
It happened quite naturally. You see when Goldwater was touring with his Yiddish troupe through London, he had the idea of acquainting the Jewish masses with Hamlet, and he asked me to make the Yiddish translation, as one great poet translating another. Well I started the job and then of course the discovery was inevitable.
PINCHAS (munching on some food which he brandishes from time to time)
The play which I had not read since my youth appeared unspeakably childish in places. (brandishing) Take for example the ghost. (munches, then slightly annoyed) This bagel is as stale as a sermon. Command me a cream tart, Witberg. (Witberg goes to a waiter) (resuming) What was I saying?
As yes . . . now, how can a ghost impress a modern audience which no longer believes in ghosts?
That is true.
PINCHAS (sensing approbation, waives his index finger them presses it on the side of his nose)
I translated Shakespeare, yes. But into modern terms. The ghost vanished. Hamlet's tragedy remained only the incapacity of the thinker for the base activity of action.
The higher activity, you mean.
Thought has no value until it is translated into action.
Exactly, you've got to work it up.
Schtuss! Acts are but the soldiers. Thought is the general.
WITBERG (having returned with a cream tart)
It is not much use thinking about playing the violin, Pinchas.
You performers are all alike. Every tune you play, every word in the mouth of an actor, was put there by someone else. (waving his arms) Yet you think you are indispensable!