Whoosh! Issue 14 -

November 1997

XENA DOES SHAKESPEARE:
THE CALLISTO EPISODE ARCS



The Allusions (03-147)
     Single Combat (03-07)
     Battlement Banter (08-10)
     The Sarcophagus (11-12)
     Cain and Abel (13-14)
     The Profitability Factor (15-16)
     Hyperion and the Satyr (17-18)
     Playing Hooky (19-22)
     Ophelia Upbraids Callisto (23)
     Duty Calls (24-25)
     The Central Theme (26-33)
     Misanthropic Messages (34-36)
     Dreadful Dreams (37-39)
     A Sound Beating (40)
     The Madness Begins (41-42)
     Treasured Remembrances (43-44)
     The Fishmonger and the Fisherman (45-49)
     The Ladders (50-51)



Xena Does Shakespeare: The Callisto Episode Arcs




The Allusions



Single Combat

[03] In Hamlet, a play by William Shakespeare which really requires no introduction, single combat settles a border dispute between the rulers of Denmark and Norway. In Xena, it settles a dispute between the Israelites and the Philistines [GIANT KILLER (#27)]. Before he is poisoned by his brother, Claudius, the king of Denmark (Hamlet's father) kills the king of Norway. With the king of Norway dead, Denmark gains some contested territory.

[04] We never see this on stage, rather it is told to us through a dialogue between soldiers on watch on Castle Elsinore's battlements:

MARCELLUS: Our last King, Whose image even but now appeared to us, Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway, Thereto pricked on by a most emulate pride, Dared to the combat, in which our valiant Hamlet-- For so this since of our known world esteemed him-- Did slay the Fortinbras, Who by a sealed compact, Well ratified by law and heraldry, Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands Which he stood seized of to the conqueror.
[05] In GIANT KILLER (#27), David kills Goliath thereby by winning contested lands from the Philistines. Xena says to Jonathan, David, and Gabrielle in a strategy planning session, "I propose a winner take all contest. Me against Goliath."

[06] Later Jonathan is killed and the plans change:


[XENA and GABRIELLE discuss the changes.]



GABRIELLE:

Now are you sure the shot to the

forehead will kill him?



XENA:

Positive. But I'm not going to do it.



GABRIELLE:

I understand your feelings about

Goliath...



XENA:

No, Gabrielle, I can't do it. Look

around you. Jonathan was the leader of

these people. If I kill Goliath and then

leave...what do they have left? They

need someone to believe in.



[DAVID approaches Xena and Gabrielle]



DAVID:

Xena. We need to talk...



XENA:

David, I wanted to talk to...



DAVID:

Wait. Let me finish. My people need a

leader. I have to be the one to kill

Goliath.

[07] The previous dialogue in Hamlet leaves one to believe that Hamlet's father was a well respected and loved ruler. A huge vacuum was created at his death. Hamlet saw that King Claudius couldn't fill it. Hamlet knew he couldn't fill it. At least not yet. David also knows that he must fill the vacuum left by his brother.


Battlement Banter

[08] Both Hamlet and BEWARE OF GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (#12) have embattled fortresses. Castle Elsinore, Denmark's seat of power, is on alert. Fortinbras of Norway is stirring up rebellion in the countryside. He seeks to recover lands lost to Denmark in the previously mentioned border dispute as well as seek revenge for the death of his father, the king of Norway.

How mime abuse began


The castle Elsinore watch reports to Horatio.


[09] The castle watch in Hamlet discusses the situation with Horatio, Hamlet's best friend. "Now, sir, young Fortinbras, Of unimproved mettle hot and full, Hath in the skirts of Norway Sharked up a list of lawless resolutes , For food and diet, to some enterprise That hath a stomach in 't." This is a more than accurate description of Callisto's army in CALLISTO (#22) as well as her poisonous intent. She rampages about the countryside with her men torching every village in sight, even killing women and children.

[10] King Menelaus has laid siege to Troy in order to "rescue" his wife Helen. The siege has lasted ten years by the time Xena and Gabrielle arrive [BEWARE OF GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (#12)].


The Sarcophagus

[11] The Mel Gibson movie version of Hamlet (Franco Zeffirelli, 1990) begins with the internment of Hamlet's father in the family tomb. Queen Gertrude unveils her face, takes a rosette from her hair, and kisses it. She then places it on husband's body within it's sarcophagus. In THE QUEST (#37), just as Gabrielle is about to enter the hut where Xena's body rests, she takes off the Amazon queen's mask. She moves toward Xena's sarcophagus. Gabrielle takes Xena's chakram, raises it to her lips for a kiss, and then places it atop Xena's sarcophagus. In SINS OF THE PAST (#01), Xena visits her brother's tomb. She places both hands on Lyceus' sarcophagus.

[12] It is the pose or attitude of grief taken by Queen Gertrude and Xena that is similar:

Who will I braid my hair for now??


Queen Gertrude says goodbye to King Hamlet.


Who will braid my hair now??


Gabrielle says goodbye to Xena.


He taught me to braid...


Xena makes peace with her brother Lyceus.



Cain and Abel

[13] Jealousy rears its ugly head in Castle Elsinore and war torn Troy. The play Hamlet begins with Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, in grief over the death of his father, the king, and shock for the even more recent marriage of his mother, Queen Gertrude, to his Uncle Claudius, who has become the king. Prince Claudius enamored of his brother's wife Queen Gertrude, killed his brother, the king of Denmark. He married Queen Gertrude within a month of the deed.

[14] In BEWARE OF GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (#12), Deiphobus longs for Helen, his brother's wife. Taking advantage of the distractions caused by the war with Greece, he kills his brother, Paris, ruler of Troy, and tries to escape with Helen to start a new dynasty.


The Profitability Factor

[15] The joy of life has been drained from both Hamlet and Salmoneus. King Claudius and Queen Gertrude ask Hamlet to put away grief, to put off wearing the trappings of woe. Hamlet, confused at what to do over the death of his father and his mother's hasty remarriage, rails against God's law against suicide. Depressed, Hamlet utters his first suicide soliloquy. "How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable Seem to me all the uses of his world!"

[16] After Xena's death in THE GREATER GOOD (#21), Salmoneus, the entrepreneur extraordinaire of seltzer water, finds life flat and unprofitable at the death of Xena. One big pun.


Hyperion and the Satyr

[17] Comparisons in Hamlet become characters in Xena: Warrior Princess. In his first suicide soliloquy, Hamlet compares his father to Hyperion the sun god and King Claudius to a satyr.

[18] The Titan Hyperion comes to life after Gabrielle reads a magical scroll in THE TITANS (#07) and Bacchus looks like a satyr in GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (#28).


Playing Hooky

[19] Horatio and Gabrielle spend time away from their respective friends, Hamlet and Xena. Upon the battlements Hamlet greets Horatio. Hamlet asks Horatio why he is there and not in school in Wittenberg . Horatio says, "A truant disposition my lord." Gabrielle leaves bard school in THE ATHENS CITY ACADEMY FOR PERFORMING BARDS (#13) to rejoin Xena. Xena asks why. Gabrielle replies, "While others read about adventure, the two of us can be living them."

[20] Horatio says that he is there for Hamlet's father's funeral. Hamlet suggests that Horatio is there for Hamlet's mother's marriage.

[21] Horatio says that the watch has seen the ghost of King Hamlet:


HORATIO:

Two nights together had these gentlemen,

Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch

In the dead vast and middle of the night,

Been thus encountered. A figure like your father,

Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pie,

Appears before them and with solemn march

Goes slow and stately by them. Thrice he walked

By their oppressed and fear-surprised eyes

Within his truncheon's length, whilst they, distilled

Almost to jelly with the act of fear,

Stand dumb, and speak not to him. This to me

In dreadful secrecy impart they did,

And I with them the third night kept the watch.

Where, as they had delivered, both in time,

Form of the thing, each word made true and good,

The apparition comes. I knew your father.

These hands are not more like.

[22] Hamlet takes this as a dark omen. They agree to meet the following night to confront the ghost.


Ophelia Upbraids Callisto

[23] In the Sir Laurence Olivier version of Hamlet a blonde Ophelia walks the halls of Castle Elsinore. Gorgeous braids frame her face. In CALLISTO (#22), Xena's arch enemy, Callisto, wears blonde braids which also frame her face.

Tomorrow, I wear them as buns above my

ears.


Ophelia wears her braids up while she is sane.


Perhaps I should have used a kleenex.


Ophelia wears her braids down when she goes mad.


My kingdom for a comb!!


Callisto wears her braids down ALL the time.



Duty Calls

[24] Before leaving for France, Laertes warns his sister Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet as he must marry for alliances and not for love. Polonius, too, tells Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet. Ophelia says she will out of her feelings of duty for her father. Her love for Hamlet is put to the test as he appears to decline into madness.

[25] Perdicus asks for Gabrielle's hand in marriage in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29). Gabrielle must decide between staying with Xena or going with Perdicus. As she watches the once valiant Perdicus slide into a pool of self-recrimination and doubt, she decides to marry him. She feels that it is her duty to heal Perdicus with love. She is swept away in it's madness.


The Central Theme

[26] Meanwhile, Laertes takes leave of his sister Ophelia. He tells her to stay away from Hamlet because Hamlet must marry for the sake of the kingdom. She will only be hurt in the process. Polonius, the court advisor, says goodbye to his son, Laertes, as well.

[27] He in turn gives his son advice as Laertes prepares to leave for France:


POLONIUS:

Yet here, Laertes! Aboard, aboard, for shame!

The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail

And you are stayed for. There, my blessing with thee!

And these few precepts in thy memory

Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple then to thy soul with hoops of steel,

But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

Of each new-hatched unfledged comrade. Beware

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,

Bear 't that the opposed may beware of thee.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.

Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not expressed in fancy--rich, not gaudy.

For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

And they in France of the best rank and station

Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,

For loan oft loses both itself and friend

And dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: To thine ownself be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

[28] In DREAMWORKER (#03) Xena also gives Gabrielle advice:


[GABRIELLE practices against an

imaginary opponent with Xena's sword.]



GABRIELLE:

Ha! Let that be a lesson to you. [She

delivers an overhand blow to her

practice tree stump.]



XENA:[Approaching quietly.]

Are you finished with my sword?



GABRIELLE:[Surprised.]

Don't do that!



XENA:

[Taking sword.] This is not a plaything.



GABRIELLE:

I said I'd get some wood. I didn't say

how I was going to get it.



XENA:

You're lucky the tree was unarmed. You

could have been hurt.



GABRIELLE:

Maybe I wouldn't if someone would teach

me how to use it.



XENA:

No!



GABRIELLE:

You know, doesn't it make more sense

that I learn to defend myself? I think

it makes more sense.



XENA:

Don't confuse defending yourself with

using a weapon. When you pull a sword

you have to be ready to kill.



GABRIELLE:

You don't think I know that.



XENA:

No, I don't think that you do. People

are too quick to go for their sword. It

should always be the last resort.



GABRIELLE:

I don't want to learn to kill. I want to

learn to survive.



XENA:

All right, the rules of survival: Number

one: if you can run... run. Number two:

if you can't run, surrender, and then

run. Number three: If you are

outnumbered, let them fight each other,

while you run. Number four:



GABRIELLE:

Wait. More running?



XENA:

No. Four is where you talk your way out

of it and I know you can do that. It's

wisdom before weapons Gabrielle. The

moment you pick up a weapon you become a

target. And the moment you kill...



GABRIELLE:

The moment you kill... What?



XENA:

Everything changes. Everything.

[29] "It's wisdom before weapons Gabrielle," sounds like, "Give thy thoughts no tongue, Nor any unproportioned thought his act."

[30] "The moment you pick up a weapon you become a target....The moment you kill...everything changes," resembles, "Beware Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, Bear 't that the opposed may beware of thee."

[31] "Four is where you talk your way out of it and I know you can do that," mirrors, "Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar."

[32] (I wish Joxer could hear, "Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not expressed in fancy--rich, not gaudy. For the apparel oft proclaims the man..." Of course he did complain about his fifty dinar boots in GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (#28). He also complained about someone messing with his breastplate in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (#32). While he cares about his habiliment, he must be severely "fashion impaired." Nothing else can explain his style of dress except that he is modeled after a Shakespearean character, or two, or three.)

[33] I feel that, "To thy ownself be true..." is the most crucial theme in Hamlet and Xena: Warrior Princess. This especially true when it comes to subtext. Whether it is there or not pertains to one's own perception. Let no one tell you otherwise.


Misanthropic Messages

[34] King Claudius and Xena receive messages of ominous import. Claudius receives a messenger from Fortinbras' uncle who is apparently either an old friend or signatory of the "duel for lands peace treaty."


CLAUDIUS:

Say, Voltimand, what from our bother Norway?



VOLTIMAND:

Most fair return of greeting and desires.

Upon our first, he sent out to suppress

His nephew's levies, which to him appeared

To be a preparation 'gainst the Polack,

But better looked into, he truly found

It was against your Highness, whereat, grieved

That so his sickness, age, and impotence

Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests

On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys,

Receives rebuke from Norway, and in fine

Makes vow before his uncle never more

To give the assay of arms against your Majesty.

Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,

Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee

And his commission to employ those soldiers,

So levied as before, against the Polack.

With an entreaty, herein further shown,

[Giving a paper.]

That it might please you to give quiet pass

Through your dominions for this enterprise,

On such regards of safety and allowance

As therein are set down.

[35] Callisto sends a message to Xena via Joxer in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29). She tells Joxer that all future deaths will be on Xena's hands.


[JOXER's bragging to two boys is

interrupted by Callisto.]



JOXER:[Surprised.]

Whoa, whoa! Callisto, don't make me hurt

you!



CALLISTO:

Joxer, the last time I saw you, you

wanted to join my army. Now you want to

fight me? [Sarcastically] I am so

disappointed.



JOXER:

Yeah, well I turned good. Just like Xena.



CALLISTO:

Yeah? Well, I haven't.



JOXER:

Oh. Well...[Stutters incoherently.]



CALLISTO:

Be a dear and deliver a message to the

good Xena for me.



JOXER:

Sure.



CALLISTO:

Tell her this: She should have killed me

when she had the chance. For every drop

of innocent blood that I shed from here

on out is on her hands as well as mine.



JOXER:

OK.



CALLISTO:

Good boy.

[36] Both King Claudius and Xena suffer from missed opportunities inherent in the messages. Claudius is distracted from further investigation of Fortinbras' intent because of Hamlet's madness. Denmark is eventually over run by Fortinbras' men. Xena is distracted by Gabrielle's marriage to Perdicus. Although, the marriage is conducted in haste to allow Xena to attend before going back after Callisto, it is to no avail. "Callisto: Mistress of Havoc" still is able strike before Xena is set to handle her.


Dreadful Dreams

[37] King Claudius, Ares, and Callisto are not adverse to using poison. Hamlet, Horatio, and the watch see the ghost of Hamlet's father on the battlements that night. The ghost tells Hamlet that his brother, King Claudius, murdered him by pouring poison in his ear while he was asleep:


GHOST:

Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,

My custom always of the afternoon,

Upon my secure hour the uncle stole

With juice for cursed hebenon in a vial.

And in the porches of my ears did pour

The leperous distillment, whose effect

Hold such an enmity with blood of man

 The swift as quicksilver it courses through

The natural gates and alleys of the body,

And with a sudden vigor it doth posset

And curd, like eager dropplings into milk,

The thin and wholesome blood, So did it mine,

And a most instant tetter barked about,

Most lazerlike, with vile and loathsome crust,

All my smooth body.

Thus was I, sleeping, by a bother's hand

Of life, of crown, of Queen, at one dispatched--

Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,

Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled,

No reckoning made, but sent to my account

With all my imperfections on my head.

[38] Much like the ghost visiting the watch in Hamlet, Ares visits Xena with three dreams within a dream in INTIMATE STRANGER (#31). He pours poisonous thoughts into Xena's mind as she tries to sleep after letting Callisto die in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29). Xena sees her mother and the death of Callisto at her hands. Xena tries to wake Gabrielle in the second dream but finds a dead Callisto instead. Gabrielle ties to console Xena in the third dream but winds up comparing Hercules' mercy to Xena's instead.

[39] In the first dream Ares says:


XENA:

Who are you? Ares. What do you want?



ARES:

Want? Well, I told you. I wanted to

welcome you back into my fold.



XENA:

I have no idea what you're talking

about.



ARES:

I'm talking about your execution of

Callisto.



XENA:

That's not what happened.



ARES:

No? Didn't you serve as judge, jury, and

executioner? Or am I missing something?

A young girl was before you. She had

committed unspeakable crimes. Just like

you. You were given a chance to reform.

A chance you never gave Callisto.



[Suddenly at XENA'S feet appears

CALLISTO up to her waist in quicksand.]



CALLISTO:

Xena, help me please! Don't let me die!

You can't let me die. I am you.



XENA:

No!



CALLISTO:

Who are you to judge the things I've

done? [Xena's sword draws her toward

Callisto. The sword aims itself directly

at Callisto's throat.] I can change

Xena! I can change! If you did, I can!

Please help me! Hurry, help me! I'm

scared Xena! Help please! Please!



XENA:

No, Ares, no! Help me! [The sword

impales Callisto drawing an agonizing

scream from her.]


A Sound Beating

[40] Hamlet and Gabrielle both take out their anger on inanimate objects. The ghost asks Hamlet to avenge him but to let Heaven deal with Queen Gertrude for her unseemly haste to remarry. Hamlet swears the watch to silence saying that he will let people think he is mad. Frustrated by his inability to do anything about his father's death Hamlet gives the battlement walls of Elsinore a sound drubbing in the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet. Grief stricken Gabrielle tries to make kindling out of a tree with her staff in THE GREATER GOOD (#21) after finding out about Xena's death.


The Madness Begins

[41] Ophelia's madness begins with Hamlet. He scares her by his appearance alone in soiled and disheveled clothing. Polonius sees the meeting as he lurks in the background. He reports back to King Claudius and Queen Gertrude and tells of Hamlet's madness. He suggests that another meeting be set up between Ophelia and Hamlet. This will give King Claudius a chance to spy. [42] Gabrielle's love madness begins when a bedraggled Perdicus stumbles upon Xena and Gabrielle's camp. He is in the clutches of "delayed stress syndrome." Weary beyond measure of fighting, he tells Gabrielle that it is only the memory of her face that can forestall his dreams of death. He asks Gabrielle to marry him. Over the course of several days Xena gauges the seriousness of Gabrielle's intent.


Treasured Remembrances

[43] Ophelia meets with Hamlet with the pretext of returning certain remembrances that Hamlet had given to her. Hamlet questions her honesty. Ophelia questions his love for her. He throws the remembrance, a pendant, at the ground in disgust.

[44] Xena tells Petracles in A FISTFUL OF DINARS (#14) that she burned his wedding bracelet with the rest of her trash. Petracles tells Xena that he traded her wedding bracelet in return for arms. But at his death he finally gives Xena her wedding bracelet as a remembrance of the love that they once shared.


The Fishmonger and the Fisherman

[45] The comic characters in both Hamlet and Xena: Warrior Princess attempt to reel in their respective quarry. King Claudius sends Polonius to spy on Hamlet. Polonius catches Hamlet in the library.

[46] Hamlet, suspicious of Polonius, continues his pretense to be mad, purposely mistaking Polonius for a fishmonger:


[Enter HAMLET, reading.]



POLONIUS:

Oh, give me leave. How

does my good Lord Hamlet?



HAMLET:

Well, God-a-mercy.



POLONIUS:

Do you know me, my lord?



HAMLET:

Excellent well, You are a fishmonger.



POLONIUS:

Not I, my lord.



HAMLET:

I would you were so honest a man.



POLONIUS:

Honest, my lord!



HAMLET:

Aye, sir, to be honest, as this world goes, is

to be one man picked out of ten thousand.



POLONIUS:

That's very true. my lord.

[47] In CALLISTO (#22), Callisto sends Joxer to catch Gabrielle. Failing at his first attempt, Joxer tries again and again fails. Gabrielle sits Joxer down trying to talk some sense into him.

[48] She asks Joxer what he is good at:


JOXER:[JOXER ropes GABRIELLE.]

Aha, gotcha.



GABRIELLE:

You've go to be kidding.

JOXER: Once I've have you, I'm trading you for Callisto. She'll reward me well. [GABRIELLE uses the rope to haul JOXER toward her. GABRIELLE clobbers JOXER in the nose with her fist.] Oh. Oh. You broke my nose. I hate it when that happens. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. GABRIELLE: [GABRIELLE grabs a convenient rag and roughly puts it in place on JOXER'S nose.] Use this. [Both GABRIELLE and JOXER sit down.] Now why are you attacking me? JOXER: I am a warrior and I'm trying to make a name for myself. GABRIELLE: Well, I got some bad news for you. You're not a warrior. JOXER: Oh, great, hit a man when he's down. GABRIELLE: Listen, I've beaten the stuffing out of you both times that we met. JOXER: Listen, you don't understand. I come from a long line of warlords. It's like a family tradition. GABRIELLE: Hmmm. Well, I'm really sorry but you don't have that warrior thing. JOXER: You don't think so, huh? GABRIELLE: No... But that's all right. That's all right. There are other things that you could do. You know. What interests do you have? JOXER: I like to steal. GABRIELLE: Other than that. JOXER: I like fishing. GABRIELLE: Well, there you go. You'd make a great fisherman. JOXER: You think? GABRIELLE: Yep, absolutely. And I've got a feel for people. JOXER: Thanks. I'm Joxer by the way. [JOXER extends his arm for Gabrielle to clasp.] GABRIELLE: Gabrielle. [GABRIELLE extends her arm.] JOXER: [JOXER twists GABRIELLE'S arm behind her back.] Ha! Gotcha now. [Now angry, GABRIELLE elbows JOXER in the nose.]

[49] Comparisions:

The Thesaurus will be yours if you buy the entire

set!


Hamlet counsels Polonius.


You're supposed to eat the ice cream

SLOWLY!


Gabrielle counsels Joxer.


Both exchanges deal with honesty. Neither Hamlet or Gabrielle feel that they are dealing with honest men.


The Ladders

[50] In the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet, Polonius approaches Hamlet in the castle library. He tries to determine the extent of Hamlet's madness. Hamlet motions Polonius to come closer as if to confide in him. Polonius climbs the ladder to reach Hamlet's side where he is perched atop the stack of books. When Polonius is about half way up the ladder, Hamlet pushes it backwards forcing Polonius to land rather ungracefully. Callisto's fortress consists of ladders reaching to various levels.

[51] It is here that Xena and Callisto step up their competition flinging ladders around like toothpicks.

Here...catch.


Hamlet topples Polonius from ladder.


So...what was it you said about my

acting?


Catch 'o the day. Xena strings up Callisto.


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