The Books of To-day and the Books of To-morrow, May 1905


I WENT to book a ticket for to see a modern play:
The man behind the counter said, ‘There’s no such thing to-day.
Every actor who has any self-respect is being starred
In the brightly-written masterpiece of England’s Only Bard.’
It’s ‘Hamlet’ here, and ‘Hamlet’ there,
And ‘Hamlet’ ‘on next week.’
An actor not in ‘Hamlet’ is regarded as a freak.

A pleasant farce with music would, I thought, be to my mind,
But not a single pleasant farce with music could I find.
At every theatre which I sought men answered with a bow,
‘We’ve given up our farces. We are playing “Hamlet” now.’
It’s ‘Hamlet’ this, and ‘Hamlet’ that,
And ‘ “Hamlet”—Mr. Jones.’
Our starving British dramatists are mainly skin and bones.

I went into a music-hall, but soon came out of it
On seeing some comedians in a painful ‘Hamlet’ skit,
And a gentleman who gave some imitations, all alone,
Of other people’s Hamlets, plus a Hamlet of his own.
It’s ‘Hamlet’ this, and ‘Hamlet’ that,
And ‘Hamlet,’ day by day.
Shakespeare and Bacon must regret they ever wrote the play.

I don’t deny that ‘Hamlet’ has its merits as a play:
In many ways it’s finer than the drama of to-day.
But with all respect to Bacon (and his colleague) I protest
That I think the British Public is entitled to a rest.
It’s ‘Hamlet’ here, and ‘Hamlet’ there,
And ‘ “Hamlet”—Record Run.’
It seems to me the masterpiece is being overdone.



Printed unsigned; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work.