The Queen of Cheese Presents: Shakespeare’s Choose-Your-Own-Adventure

by David Sklar
Originally published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency


If meeting three strange ladies in the swamp
Seems ample cause for murthering the king
To take his crown, turn to page 86.

If this seems kind of sketchy, turn to 12.

– – –

If thou slay’st Claudius while he is praying—
A villain kills your father, and, for that,
You, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven, turn the page to 93.

If thou postpon’st the act until such time
As he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
Or in th’incestuous pleasure of his bed,
So that his soul may be as damned and black
As hell, whereto it goes, turn to page 5.

– – –

If cowards die a thousand times, but thou
Prefer’st to die but once, turn to page 9.

If dying does not bother thee, so long
As thou surviv’st it, turn to 42.

– – –

If, rather than stand prisoner in Rome,
Thou press the venom’d asp against thy breast
Then shalt thou turn the page to 17.

If thou prefer’st to hug a fluffy cat
Then turn instead to page 108.

– – –

If, after being shipwrack’d thou proceed’st
To take thy brother’s name, and don his clothes,
And swagger like a man, turn to page 4.

If trousers please thee not, turn to 16.

– – –

If, having found fair Juliet in her tomb,
Thou dost set up thy everlasting rest,
And take th’apothecary’s lethal draught
To shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From thy world-wearied flesh, turn to page 9.

If thou prefer’st to wait ten minutes, turn
To page 117 instead.

Julius Caesar calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?


COUNSELOR: Did you call just to laugh at us?

CAESAR: Who calls?

COUNSELOR: You did, sir.

CASCA: Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!

COUNSELOR: Wait—are you on speakerphone?

CAESAR: Who is it in the press that calls on me?

COUNSELOR: With reporters? We respect your privacy sir, but we can’t stop them from publishing if you include them on the call.

CAESAR: I hear a tongue, shriller than the music,

COUNSELOR: On your end, or on mine?

CAESAR: Cry ‘Caesar!’

COUNSELOR: This is the Poetry Crisis Line, sir. If you’re calling to order a salad, you have the wrong number.

CAESAR: Speak;

COUNSELOR: I’m here to listen to you, sir.

CAESAR: Caesar is turn’d to hear.

COUNSELOR: But if I’m listening to you, and you’re listening to me, who’s going to talk?

SOOTHSAYER: Beware the ides of March.

COUNSELOR: I’m sorry?

CAESAR: What man is that?

COUNSELOR: I don’t know. Do you? I mean, I respect your privacy, sir. And his.

BRUTUS: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

COUNSELOR: Right. What’s an ide?