[Medieval music plays]
Voiceover: This is an audio dramatisation from the State Library of Victoria.
Man: It seems that William Shakespeare has just called a break in rehearsals for Hamlet. It sounds to me like the actors are not happy with the plot.
[Restless conversation can be heard]
Shakespeare: I'm doing, I’m doing the best I can.
Man: What seems to be the trouble?
Actor 1: ‘tis the story.
Actor 2: This Hamlet seems not to know if he’s hither or zither.
Actor 1: He needs to write us another love story.
Actor 2: A few changes at least?
Man: Well, Mr Shakespeare?
Shakespeare: I am not changing anything. It is the story of a man surrounded by murder and treachery. Who among you thinks they could do better?
Homer: I believe I could.
Shakespeare: Come closer, I would feign to recognise you.
Homer: I am also a poet. You have heard The Iliad? The Odyssey?
Man: The greatest epic adventures of all time, written by the ancient master storyteller, Homer.
Homer: Who stands before you now?
Group of actors: Oh fancy, goodness.
Virgil [in an Italian accent]: I will also put up my hand.
Man: Virgil, ancient Roman author of the Aeneid.
Virgil: At your service …
[Group of actors speak restlessly]
Shakespeare: Virgil? Homer? Have we to Hades descended?
Homer: Nay, good playwright, but your audience won’t like this hero who does nothing.
Actor: That’s what we’ve been saying.
Virgil: Tell us, William, why this baffled prince of yours?
Shakespeare: Like your hero Aeneus, he is tortured by his humanity.
Virgil: Ah, but my Aeneus is tortured by his duty. His humanity is what spurs him on.
Shakespeare: With my Hamlet, it is human indecision that keeps him prisoner.
Man: Virgil, Homer, you are the greatest storytellers of your time – what is it that makes a great story?
Group of actors: Yes, tell us. You know I prefer a classic to all this modern stuff.
Virgil: Struggle. Struggle is the essence of drama – conflict; duty versus desire.
Homer: Man against man. Men driven to fight.
Virgil: The fight for right always makes the best story. It helps us endure the pain of our own living.
Homer: As long as it has revenge.
Group of actors: Ah yes, revenge. Revenge, now that makes a good story.
Virgil: Ah, fatum – how you say in English? Fate – fate is part of all great stories.
Actor: Man against the gods.
Shakespeare: And what was destined to happen always does.
Man: Wait a minute – are you all saying that we’re not free to change our fate?
Homer: The gods will have their way.
Shakespeare: And this is what Hamlet struggles against – he’s trapped.
Man: Well, that is pretty pessimistic.
Group of actors: I don’t have a problem with that, no. That’s fine.
Virgil: Is it in verse? The public love poetry spoken in dactylic hexameter.
Shakespeare: The English prefer the rhythm of iambic pentameter.
Virgil: Well, what’s a heartbeat between friends?
Man: So I guess the key to a great story is fate?
Shakespeare: I know – we’ll change the end. Fetch me a pen, I think they all need to die.
Group of actors: Huzzah William! Oh a happy ending. Great, it’s come together.
Voiceover: This has been an audio dramatisation from the State Library of Victoria.