A Shakespeare Collection

by Susan J. Bryant (May 2024)

The Plays of William Shakespeare —Sir John Gilbert, 1849



He boasted an iambic ear,
That playwright with insight, Shakespeare;
Yes, Measure for Measure
He’s given much pleasure
With Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear.

The Bard’s jealous fellow,  Othello,
Brings lust, unjust murder and bellow—
You’re after a laugh?
Then check out Falstaff
Or Malvolio’s tights of bright yellow.

In mystic Midsummer Night’s Dream
Titania’s a mean fairy queen;
There’s Puck, of wild antic,
And Bottom, a frantic
Crass ass who’s an absolute scream.

Try  Shylock of harsh bond, indeed,
Who glides to Antonio’s need—
For flashing his cash
He fishes for flesh
Sans blood—will he ever succeed?

Juliet Capulet gets upset;
Beau Romeo’s life’s under threat.
His name, Montague,
With regret, just won’t do—
Star-crossed love pays the ultimate debt.

King Henry, a valiant peach,
Assures Agincourt’s within reach—
His speech fuelled with fire
Stokes tired men’s desire
To charge “Once more unto the breach!”

If sorcery and books are your quest
The Tempest’s a rare treasure chest—
Sweet music, hypnosis,
A monster’s psychosis,
All whirl at a wizard’s behest.

If mystery and history’s your thing
Then Cleo and Tony will bring
A cuddle, a quibble,
An asp and his nibble—
A poisonous price for a fling…

Which brings me to Richard the Third,
The hunchback of arch act and word—
A horse, a damn horse,
For his kingdom, of course,
Leaves everyone shaken and stirred.

You yearn for the taming of shrews?
I’m thrilled to deliver this news—
Kiss-Me-Kate fest
(Cole Porter’s the best)
Will kill Doll’- House, Ibsenesque blues.

So, let’s raise a glass to each play,
No one will surpass Will’s array—
Did someone shout Chekhov?
The Seagull can peck off!
Much Ado About Nothing, I say!

Desdemona’s Doppelgänger
a villanelle

He loved her with the passion of Othello.
A spark of darkness flickered in his eye.
He turned her firm and fevered flesh to jello.

He plucked her zinging heartstrings like a cello
Till moonstruck musings made her swoon and sigh.
He loved her with the passion of Othello.

She served him juicy lips of ripe morello
Beneath a blushing cherry-blossom sky.
He turned her firm and fevered flesh to jello.

Her brooding dude eschewed the meek and mellow
To bellow, strut and rut and signify
He loved her with the passion of Othello.

She melted to his whim like soft marshmallow,
All gooey in her gratifying high.
He turned her firm and fevered flesh to jello.

One night a green-eyed beast bit her bedfellow
Who (with a pillow) smothered her last cry.
He loved her with the passion of Othello.
He turned her firm and fevered flesh to jello.

Like Portia

I want her poise. I want her grace. I want her flair to light my face.
I want her cool, her zest and fuel. I want her pluck to bend each rule,
Her wit to conquer fiend or fool. I want to be like Portia.

I want a plop of heaven’s rain to drop its mercy on my plain—
A gentle kiss of tenderness, a soft caress that will address
All strain and stress. I must confess I crave the calm of Portia.

I want to shun the sceptered sway and rise above the earthly fray
To thwart ill will as justice should. I want to garner all that’s good.
I want to join the sisterhood of could-be, would-be Portias.

I want a sweetheart’s hand to hold, a suitor with his eye on gold.
Its glister goads my heart and head—what wooer’s lured by lumps of lead?
In her fair shoes I’ll never tread. I’m falling short of Portia.

All mercy has eluded me. My lack of grace and dignity
Befoul each day and blight each night. I’m burning for a barbarous fight –
To pummel pounds of flesh in spite. I’ll never be like Portia.

Lady MacBeth’s Regret

Soft hands that led her smitten lord to bed
Inflamed the flare and thrust of his desire.
Cool hands that won his trust and soothed his dread,
Now sting and burn in licks of Hades fire.

Slick hands now drip with crimson viciousness
And reek of wicked deeds that sliced at life.
Their smooth allure and sleek perniciousness
Had honed the blade of regicide’s sly knife.

Sore hands are scrubbing skin, a manic task
To scour out damned spot, that shaming stain.
A drench of heady scent will never mask
The stench of sin that twists the brain insane.

She dwells within the dunnest smoke of hell,
Where gore-flecked ghosts and guilt draw terror’s yell.

Remembering Ophelia

His scathing tongue had thrust her to the edge.
It nudged her through the willow’s sunless fringe.
She teetered on that petal-littered ledge
Where Hades howls and bluest moons unhinge
The violet thoughts of agitated minds.
The breath of death, it wreathed her in a kiss
Of fennel fronds and fragrant columbines.
It drew her gasps as surging waves claimed flesh.
She thrashed and then she drowned within a deep
Swirling pool of turbulence and grief.
A prince awash with tears that lovers weep
Stood clouded in a shroud of disbelief.

A shower of flowers rained upon her grave…
Sweets to the stricken heart no soul could save.

Bardic Bots

Will Shakespeare has been rendered obsolete.
Bill’s quillings are a patriarchal scandal.
His iambs lack that fresh, progressive beat.
Barred from Avon is his current handle.
As lost as Lear, as dead as Desdemona,
His wonder will no longer soar on high.
Now robots can compose, the Swan’s a goner.
His dusty folios have bid goodbye.
They’ve shuffled off like Hamlet and poor Yorick.
Alas, the Big-Tech bods now canonize
The soulless with a lick of the euphoric.
This cyber-world of literary lies
Builds bots that trot out sonnets minus heart.
Welcome to the Will-free world of Art.


Table of Contents


Susan Jarvis Bryant originally from the UK, now lives on the coastal plains of Texas. She has poetry published on The Society of Classical Poets, Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, Light, Sparks of Calliope, Expansive Poetry Online, and The Road Not Taken. She also has poetry published in The Lyric, Trinacria, Beth Houston’s Extreme Formal Poems and Extreme Sonnets II anthologies. Susan is the winner of the 2020 International Society of Classical Poets Poetry Competition and was nominated for the 2022 and 2024 Pushcart Prize. She has just published her first two books—Elephants Unleashed and Fern Feathered Edges.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast


2 Responses

  1. There once was a writer named Will,
    The Woke wring with glee through the mill.
    He’s “sexist” and “racist,” where Marx forms the basis
    Of their iconoclastical swill!

    But a poet who’s learned from Will’s style
    Has all the Woke beat by a mile
    For they work to berate what they can’t emulate
    But you did and your poems beguile.

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