Forsooth Preview: Hamlet, King of Denmark

Creating a cast in Forsooth! is a ton of fun, but it’s also challenging. So in the full version, we’ve given you the option to let us do some of the work.

In the back of the book we’ve included five “Fifth Folio Plays.” The conceit here is that we’ve found a trove of lost and decidedly weird Shakespeare plays. Each Fifth Folio play comes with a complete sample cast, already laid out on miniature ready-to-photocopy character sheets. It also comes with a plot description, giving you the rough shape of the play.

Players can use these in a number of ways. They can serve as an outline for a regular Forsooth! game, letting players sit back and focus on their acting rather than worrying about the plot, or they can use them as a short cut when they want to play a game of the shorter Cliff Notes variant. Or they can simply refer to them as examples of how to craft solid Forsooth! characters and casts.

Some of the Fifth Folio plays are entirely original creations, but others are twisted alternate drafts for beloved Shakespeare classics. Below, we’ve given you a look at one of the latter. Without further ado, we give you:

The Fifth Folio reveals that Shakespeare at one point wrote an entirely different version of his most famous tragedy. Fed up with the groundlings’ complaints that Prince Hamlet was too indecisive, contemplative, and otherwise lily-livered, Shakespeare wrote an alternate version in which the Prince’s madness is no act — he’s actually just crazy, and when his dead dad tells him of Claudius’ crimes, he decides to just take his word for it. By the end of Act I, Hamlet has tied Claudius and Getrude down and set their bedchamber on fire, killing them. A terrified palace crowns Hamlet king.

Claudius’ old advisor Polonius is none too happy with this development, and spends the rest of the play conspiring to bring down the mad king with a reluctant Horatio. First, however, he weds his daughter Ophelia to Hamlet, in a clever bid to dissuade Hamlet from killing him, too. A furious Laertes decides he should spirit Ophelia out of the castle and away from the dangerous king.

Hamlet himself, meanwhile, is obsessed with ferreting out anyone still loyal to his step-father and executing them in delightful fashion. He’s also vexed by an invasion force from Fortinbras.

Things go poorly for the conspirators. In Act III, Ophelia is caught fleeing the castle. Hamlet has one of her feet chopped off in punishment, and tosses her in the dungeon for a fortnight, driving her mad.

In Act IV, Polonius attempts to poison Hamlet, but Ophelia winds up drinking from the cup instead. Polonius had arranged to pin the blame for the poisoning on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are arrested.

The play’s climax is the trial of these two hapless miscreants, during which Laertes claims it was he who killed his sister, and Horatio and Polonius act out their plot to kill Hamlet once and for all.

Click to see the full cast.

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