An Actor’s Tale: infinite jest

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Dexter Pinenter enjoyed reading Shakespeare, but he loved going to the plays. Eventually he became an actor–a well-paid, highly sought-after, Shakespearean actor. His favorite role was that of Hamlet. Dexter could do crazy at the drop of a hat. He could be mean; he could be funny; he could be dying; he could be slaying. But of all the characters he could portray, Dexter was at the top of his game as Hamlet. Dexter’s career was exceeding his expectations. He was a devout follower of himself. If he’d had a magic mirror he was sure it would affirm that he was the best actor of them all. Until that dull, dimwitted, British historian rolled in like an oily, thick fog….

While Dexter Pinenter was studying at the Royal Academy, it was decided that he change his name for the classical stage. He became Edward Avery Crimwell–a most suitable name for a Shakespearean actor who most likely would be knighted in his later years by the Sovereign. It suited him. Edward left Dexter behind and adopted a persona that reflected a Shakespearean actor with a noble name from England’s distant past. He sported the name smartly and breezed through schools and academies earning degrees, accolades and awards as the best of the young Shakespeareans.

He was performing Hamlet, naturally, in summer stock at the actual Stratford-on-Avon, bathed in the history and elegance of an age long past when Agatha Humphreys was late seating–near stage right. It was Act I Scene 4, when Marcellus says: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” that Edward, standing in the wing, looked out upon the audience, and noticing Miss Humphreys, thought to himself that she was a fairly sour-looking wench. If only he knew….

Now, even the most pedestrian reader is familiar with Hamlet’s words: “To be, or not to be–that is the question….” –Act III Scene 1.  It is a scene in which Edward as Hamlet, excels.  Yet, it was in the graveyard scene of Act I Scene 5, that Hamlet speaks of the long-dead Court Jester, which is only a small part of a maddened soliloquy in a scene resplendent with comic relief–brought about by two grave-digging clowns. Edward could easily recite his lines in his sleep. Unfortunately, he nearly had such a chance.  It was that very night with the sullen historian seated near the stage, that the exhaustion of a stage actor caught up with Edward. He missed his cue. One of the clowns had to prod him with the end of a shovel. With an abrupt start, Hamlet took hold of Edward as Edward took the skull in hand and spoke:

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest,  of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!”

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And then, just as Hamlet’s “gorge rises” and seeming as if part of the scene, Hamlet–Edward Avery Crimwell–vomited at Horatio’s feet. The consummate actor, Edward wiped his mouth with his sleeve and continued his lines. The audience was on its feet. The house was filled with bravos, cheers, whistling, and above all else–applause. Even that wretched fog in the front dissipated and Miss Agatha Humphreys was thrilled, and delighted and we might even say–enamored with the young man’s performance. But, she could not let that interfere with her pending task….


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Flash Fiction Challenge #37 at Thain in Vain
Prompt:  Infinite Jest
Word Count:  528 – Pardon my verbosity
Photos:  Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet

Special thanks to Ms Thain for hosting Flash Fiction Challenge

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11 thoughts on “An Actor’s Tale: infinite jest

  1. Laurence Olivier – born to play Shakespearean roles. I lived your story, Lucy! And I loved the photos of young Laurence. What a gorgeous man – no wonder Vivien Leigh fell for him!

    • Thanks. Did I misspell his first name? I hesitated when I typed in his name but alas, I did not check as I so usually do. T’was a misspent youth, methinks. Thank you so very much darling.. The quality of mercy is not strained between sisters. Lucy

      • Are you speaking of Olivier? I just looked at your credit; looks fine to me. I used to be very fond of the love story of Olivier and Leigh, and read quite a few books about the two.

        Your post made me smile – very witty ‘the quality of mercy is not strained’ between sisters. Loved that! 😀

      • I’ll have my phone. I can always text or email but not while on the surgical floor. I’ll be going to the “joint” floor after a few days and they’ll allow the cell and have wi fi. I’ll try to email you. Lucy

  2. As usual, your stories are filled with interesting details. And as ususal, I’m impressed with your knowledge! I really enjoyed this story and feel inspired to read some Shakespeare! TiV

    • I went to Catholic girls high school and the nuns dragged us to Shakespeare plays all the time. That was in Connecticut which is the state where stage productions from NY test out their plays and of course summer stock. The nuns also would drag us out in the winter ice skating. Nuns love to ice skate. Ever see a nun on ice? Looks like a very large penguin.

      I always disliked Hamlet.so it was a challenge for me to make it seem delightful. Glad you liked it. I’ll publish the 2nd part of the story this weekend. Ta Ta. Lucy ..

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