I get emails from readers all the time encouraging me to be more playful and experimental with my writing, so here’s a little experiment, posted quietly on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when no one will be reading. It’s an adaptation of one of my favorite literary passages, Claudius’s soliloquy from Act 3, Scene III of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which Claudius confesses his past sins and offers repentance in his own way. I hope you enjoy it, but if not, even if you think it’s unspeakably awful, take a moment to dive into Hamlet. It is truly excellent.
O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon it,
Many dollars wasted. I cannot take it back,
though my inclination is as sharp as my will.
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And I am a man to his debt bound.
I stand in pause, realizing that I must start again
to recover this neglect. What if this cursed hand
that chooses to spend so easily were weighted down?
Is there not money enough in my coffers
to wash away the interest?
Is there no mercy for the spender,
to avoid confrontation with this offense?
Perhaps I can offer up a prayer
to forestall this great fall
or to pardon my failure?
If I can fix the problem, I may look up; my fault is past.
But, what form of penance shall serve my mistake?
Asking for forgiveness of the debt?
That cannot be, for I still possess
those debts which I earned myself.
My most splendid possessions, my own greed, and my earthly desires
Can I keep these and still wash away the debt?
Oh, the banks of this world are corrupt
Their interest-heavy, gilded hands often shove aside justice
And make it easy for us to fall into greed
By our own hands.
But it is not so in heaven, or in our own life.
There is no shuffling, only facing
the truth of our own nature, and we are compelled
even in the face of excuses and desires
to give into the evidence: debts, no savings, and years of mistakes.
Now it is time to try repentance: to begin to save and pay.
But in my heart, I often wish to be free of it!
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay!
Bow, stubborn knees; and, heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
All may be well.
Overcoming bad financial moves is a modern struggle of the soul, much like Claudius struggling with himself in Hamlet. Hope this inspired you as much as Shakespeare has inspired me.