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Thursday, March 03, 2005

My Oxford Joke

In my whole time up at Oxford, I only ever cracked *one* joke that brought my tutor close to mirth.

And it wasn't even a jest of my making.

Some national newspaper had held a competition for the best tabloid newspaper headline reporting the events of Hamlet Act 1, Scene V.

As you recall, this is the battlements scene when Hamlet's father's ghost appears to the prince and blows the gaffe on how he really died:

Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch'd:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel'd, disappointed, unanel'd,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But, howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once!
On the day the winner was announced, I had a tutorial with the eminent and ice cool Roger Lonsdale and, thinking to ease the tension, I mentioned the competition.

"Sounds a bit silly to me, Christopher," rumbled the Prof, "but you're clearly determined to tell me - all right, what *was* the eventual winner?"

"Spook King demands Death Probe"

To his huge credit, Dr Lonsdale allowed himself a smile.

"All right. Yes. That *is* rather good."

I was searching for references/reviews on the net recently for Dr Lonsdale's meisterwork on The Lives Of The Poets and stumbled across your blog. I pop round to see him occasionally and when I went last, I took a printout of your story. He didn't recall the occasion, but had a good chortle at the remembrance of it, as did his wife. I thought it was a lovely anecdote and supremely 'of him'. Thanks for posting it.
Karl - thanks so much for this feedback. God bless the Net, hmm?

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