Tall, dramatic, Lithuanian, and utterly hilarious, Mrs. McGann was everybody’s favorite teacher. She made a regular practice of issuing impossibly difficult assignments for the first week of school to weed out those unable or unwilling to work at a rigorous college level.1 We knew the twelfth grade AP English curriculum, but never could predict how she would deliver each lesson. From choreographed classroom sword fights to riddle-writing, Mrs. McGann kept us on our toes. We adored her.
One day, immediately following a lively in-class re-enactment of Lady Macduff’s murder, Mrs. McGann announced that we would be reciting a soliloquy. Not just any soliloquy, though; Macbeth’s melodramatic “tomorrow and tomorrow” speech. And we had one week to memorize the passage before performing it for the whole class. We all spent the first half of the week grumbling and groaning about how archaic the assignment was. Who memorized poetry anymore? But in the end, we all learned it. And you know what? We all still know it. Years later, when I see my friends from that class, all one of us has to do is mention McGann or Macbeth, and–in perfect unison–we all launch into the soliloquy.
As a result, it’s perhaps a bit less surprising that, when pondering my recent “picturing Prufrock” assignment for #ds106, this Shakespearean soliloquy popped into my head. So here it is, something that probably never has (and never should) be done, a Macbeth/Prufrock mashup.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Like a patient etherized upon a table,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day.
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned
To the last syllable of recorded time;
In a minute there is time.
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
For I have known them all already, known them all:
I have gone at dusk through narrow streets,
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
Almost, at times, the Fool
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
To lead you to an overwhelming question
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous,
I grow old … I grow old …
There would have been a time for such a word.
Special bonus: I’ve mashed up audio from Ian McKellen and T.S. Eliot so you can hear them read this poetry mashup themselves:
- She then, of course, loosened up by the second or third week, demanding less work but more thinking. [↩]