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Spoofs & Satire

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Wed

To wed or not to wed? There’s the rub. Revisiting Tom Stoppard’s classic in the era of gay marriage.

Credit: tsaiproject

Arm in arm, Rosencrantz (hereafter ROSE) and Guildenstern (hereafter GIL) enter a tiny, simple chapel and face an empty altar. They are well dressed. They are well groomed. They are confused. They are in good spirits, despite all.

ROSE: Why are we waiting?

GIL: That is the question?

ROSE: What are we waiting for?

GIL: That is another question?

ROSE: (Reaches deep into his coat pocket, pulls out a large coin. He flips the coin, calls it midair.): Heads.

GIL: That’s 78 in a row.

ROSE: This coin has two heads.

GIL: We have two heads.

ROSE: Do you remember that deck of cards?

GIL: I do. Clean-shaven Kings. Bearded Queens.

ROSE: And all those Jacks! Forty-four Jacks!

ROSE Flips coin again.

ROSE and GIL (Together.): Heads.

ROSE and GIL (Forgetting the coin, together.): Jinx!

GIL: Please insert another quarter. For the jinx machine is out of order.

ROSE (Checks his wristwatch.): Many people are late today.

GIL: We are people. We are on time.

ROSE: The invitations?

GIL: Mailed months ago.

ROSE: The RSVPs?

GIL: Received. Only a few came with regrets.

ROSE: Those protesters outside came early.

GIL: They had to fashion signs.

ROSE: Everything is a sign.

GIL: Everything is fashion.

ROSE: Except those dear protesters.

GIL (Checks his wristwatch.): This is very much like a play.

ROSE: Everything is play. We earn no wages.

The Judge said it was the most reasonable ransom note he’d ever read.

GIL: Marriage is play.

ROSE: Marriage is an errand.

GIL: The Judge said it was the most reasonable ransom note he’d ever read.

ROSE: It was a license for marriage that we both did sign.

GIL: True that.

ROSE: And you have the rings?

GIL: You mean nooses.

ROSE: That’s a borrowed cliché.

GIL (Clears his throat to deliver this line.): Borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

ROSE: That is not your line.

GIL: Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. Something blue.

ROSE: Are we here?

GIL: (Makes no reply.)

ROSE: Am I talking to myself?

GIL: You are talking to myself.

ROSE: Is it not today?

GIL: And do you, Rosencrantz, take me, Guildenstern?

ROSE: I have taken you many times, and you have took me.

GIL: But here, in this church, will you take me?

(They are interrupted by a church bell.)

ROSE: Do you hear that?

GIL: I do not hear a bell, if that’s what you’re asking.

ROSE: Oh, well. If you must marry, marry a fool.

GIL: Who said that?

ROSE: I said that.

GIL: But you did not say it first.

ROSE: I did not hear it repeated. Did I say it twice?

GIL: I say, We will have no more marriages.

ROSE: We will have ours.

GIL: We have had ours.

(Simultaneously, they look at their hands and see that they are wearing wedding bands.)

ROSE: Marriage means mischief.

GIL: Marriage means tragedy.

ROSE: Tragedy. Comedy. History. Pastoral. Pastoral-comical. Historical-pastoral.

GIL: Urban hip-hop sit-com. Agit-prop rom-com. Lifetime docu-drama. ABC Afterschool Special.

ROSE: Tragical-historical. Tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable.

GIL: Neo-noir. Retro-grindhouse. Chickflick. Arthouse sci-fi. Spaghetti western.

ROSE: A poem unlimited. Marriage cannot be too heavy, nor can it be too light.

GIL: You can’t be too rich and you can’t be too thin.

ROSE: For the law of wit and the liberty, these are the only men.

GIL: We are the only men…here.

ROSE: And I already know the sequel to this our wedding day.

GIL: I know it too. But what shall we call it?

ROSE: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dads!

William Walsh is the author of Questionstruck, Ampersand, Mass., Pathologies, and Unknown Arts (all from Keyhole Press), and Without Wax (Casperian Books). His short stories and derived texts have appeared in Artifice, Caketrain, Annalemma, Quarterly West, LIT, New York Tyrant, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and other journals. More by William Walsh