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.

The Queen of Cheese Presents: Before I Kill You: An Arch-Villainelle

Although I’m not particularly vain,

I’m sure you’d like to know how you will die,

so, first, before I kill you, I’ll explain


my brilliant plan. Don’t bother to complain;

you won’t escape, no matter how you try.

It’s not that I’m particularly vain,


it’s just that after taking all these pains

I would like you to look me in the eye

before I kill you, so I can explain:


a cistern in the mountain gathers rain

through ducts in my enormous statue’s eye

(not that I am particularly vain).


It enters a robotic water main,

which, on command, can self-electrify.

Before I kill you, now, I will explain:


I’ve added some enhancements to my brain—

you’ll nev—What’s that? You’re out? Good grief! Good bye;

good riddance. It’s a good thing I’m not vain;

next time, before I kill you, I’ll explain.


First published in Stone Telling

The Queen of Cheese Presents: The Ballad of Lady Mondegreen

(with apologies to Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Manfred Mann and the Earth Band, Seals and Crofts, Franz Xaver Gruber, Elton John, John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pharrell Williams, Hootie and the Blowfish, Fanny J. Crosby, Bob Dylan, and Anonymous.

Also, Round John Virgin’s loathsome attitudes toward the LGBT community do not even remotely reflect the views of the author. Alas, for the jokes about hearing impairment I have no recourse but to plead fidelity to the source material.)



Ye high lamps, ye low lamps,

Ye bluish hallowgenes,

Have you, miss, heard the story

Of Lady Mondegreen?


If you have heard her story,

You’ve prob’ly heard it wrong.

If you have not, don’t worry;

Feel free to sing along.


She loved the Earl of Moray,

‘E was a ruddy ‘eel.

She said it was electric,

The way ’e made her feel,


But still, she listened poorly

And never asked him why

When he would say, “Excuse me

While I kiss this guy.”


In the blinding light of midnight,

When ladies keep their hearts

Wrapped up like products they employ

To lave their nether parts,


The Earl and Lady Mondegreen

Were strolling in the pines.

A summer breeze was blowing

‘Twixt the jazzmen and the mimes.


The wrathful Round John Virgin

Rode out that silent night,

Burning all the trees up where he rode,

A rocket-man in flight.


Said John, “My Lady Mondegreen,

It cut me like a knife

When you announced that I would find

A fat man on my wife.”


Said she, “I ne’er said aught about

A fat banana knight

But only tried to tell you there’s

A bathroom on the right–


“A place where you can crap alone,

A room without a roof,

To crap alone if you should feel

That happiness is truth.”


Said John, “I want to love you–

The bear says I can’t,

This cross-eyed brute who walks with you

But lays with other men.”


John Virgin drew his rapier

And said, “En garde, you fool.”

Lady Mondegreen said, “Nay,

That is no garden tool,


“And why, sir, do you brandish it

When ladies are about?”

“You brand of WHAT?” Round John was heard

To furiously shout.


And gladly, then, the cross-eyed bear

Stepped up to her defense.

The ants were blowing in the wind,

The ants, they were, my friends.


And Round John Virgin on that night

Was slaughtered by the bear

But not before he’d sliced in half

The Earl of Moray’s ear.


I understand the tale I tell

May sound a little queer,

But every word was verified

By someone who was there.


Ye high lambs, ye low lambs,

Ye sheep of average height,

Did wool get in your ears afore

The tale I told tonight?

The Queen of Cheese Presents: The Tygger

Tygger! Tygger! Bouncing high,

Bumping Hundred Acre Sky,

What intrepid toymaker

Did Stytch thy Joyntes & Stuff thy Furr?


And what Rubber, & what Sprynggs

Formed thy soft Internal Things?

When thy legs began to Pogo,

Whence thy Get-Up? Whence thy Go-Go?


Does thy Boundless energy

Bounce out? Or is it Bound to thee?

When thou Bounced the Baby Roo

Into the pond, didst thou splash, too?


Who did place thy fluff-stuffed head

In a sleeping child’s bed?

While he sleepest, might thou Pounce?

Who can sleep while Tyggers Bounce?


And in all thy wondrous fun,

Art thou indeed the only one?

Frame thy playful symmetry:

Did he who made the Pooh make thee?


Tygger! Tygger! Bouncing high,

Bumping Hundred Acre Sky–

Softly doth the Bear reply,

Cottleston, Cotlleston, Cottleston pie.

The Queen of Cheese Presents: The Show Tune of J. Alfred Prufrock

I have wandered half-

Empty streets before

Like a patient etherized beneath a sheet before.

Women come and go;


They discuss, but I just need to pee.


Do I dare disturb

The whole universe

With decisions and revisions that I might reverse?

Spend the afternoons

Counting coffee spoons

Then decide that I’d like to take tea?


And should I comb my hair forward?

And do I dare eat a peach?

I should have been ragged pincers

That scut across the silt beyond this beach.


I have doffed my socks

On this beach before,

I have wondered if I dare to eat a peach before,

Heard the mermaids sing

Each to each before—

But I don’t think that they’ll sing to me.