Whoosh! Issue 14 -

November 1997

XENA DOES SHAKESPEARE:
THE CALLISTO EPISODE ARCS



     Missives of Murder (99-100)
     Petaling Prophecies (101-102)
     Suicide or Murder? (103-113)
     A Grave Sense of Humor (114-120)
     Exfoliation and the Charnel House (121-122)
     A Goodbye Kiss (123-125)
     What Is the Price of Revenge? (126-127)
     The Hat Trick (128-130)
     A Pearl of Distinction (131-133)
     Raven Haired Tresses (134-136)
     A Reversal of Fortunes (137-140)
     The Quicksand and the Dead (141-143)
     The Soldiers' Music (144-147)



Xena Does Shakespeare: The Callisto Episode Arcs




Missives of Murder

[99] On board a ship bound for England, Hamlet switches the warrants for his death being carried by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with warrants that state that the bearers should be immediately put to death.

[100] In TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (#32) the recipients of the messages are switched rather than the messages. Joxer delivers a message to Xena, trapped in Callisto's body, from Ares asking that she and nine other warlords meet for some yet unspecified purpose. Along the way, Xena and Gabrielle meet up with Ares who has been stripped of his power, much like Hamlet. Xena and Ares appropriate another invitation to meet with "Ares." With the messages firmly in their respective grasps, they board a sailing vessel along with the other warlords. It bears them to an island of death.


Petaling Prophecies

[101] Flowers and herbs are used to convey meaning in Hamlet and RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29). King Claudius and Laertes are interrupted by the appearance of Ophelia. She carries several herbs and flowers that she passes out while explaining their virtues. She singles out people in attendance and prescribes either a flower or herb for them. All are symbolic. Ophelia's madness gives her clarity into each individual's need. Laertes is taken aback by his sister's madness.

[102] Gabrielle falls into the madness of love. She marries Perdicus. At the conclusion of the ceremony she hands Xena her bouquet. Her prescription for Xena.


Suicide or Murder?

[103] Shakespeare and the Xena production staff both coach the audience on the moral ambiguities of Ophelia's "suicide" and the "murder" of Callisto. The next day Castle Elsinore is in mourning. Ophelia is dead. The branch over a stream upon which she sat in her madness broke. Not being able to swim or not desiring to swim she was swept away to her death.

[104] At Ophelia's gravesite, two grave diggers have a go at reasoning out whether or not Ophelia should have been buried in hallowed ground:


CLOWN 1:

Is she to buried in Christian burial

that willfully seeks her own salvation?



CLOWN 2:

I tell thee she is, and therefore make her

grave straight. The crowner hath sat on her, and

finds it Christian burial.



CLOWN 1:

How can that be, unless she drowned

herself in her own defense?



CLOWN 2:

Why, ' tis found so.



CLOWN 1:

It must be " se offendendo ," it cannot be

else. For here lies the point, If I drown myself

wittingly, it argues an act, and an act hath three

branches--it is to act, to do, and perform. Argal ,

she drowned her self wittingly.



CLOWN 2:

Nay, but hear you, goodman delver.



CLOWN 1:

Give me leave. Here lies the water, good.

Here stands the man, good. If the man go to this

water and drown himself, it is will he, nill he, he

goes, mark you that; but if the water come to him

and drown him, he drowns not himself. Argal, he

that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his

own life.



CLOWN 2:

But is this law?



CLOWN 1:

Aye, marry, is 't, crowner 's quest law.



CLOWN 2:

Will you ha' the truth on 't. If this had

not been a gentlewoman, she should have been

buried out o' Christian burial.



CLOWN 1:

Why, there thou say'st . And the more pity

great folks should have countenance in this

world to drown or hang themselves more than their

even Christian.

[105] Laertes argues with the priest as to whether or not Ophelia be given a more proper funeral:


LAERTES:

What ceremony else?



PRIEST 1:

Her obsequies have been as far enlarged

As we have warranty. Her death was doubtful,

And but that great command o'ersways the order,

Should in ground unsanctified have lodged

Till the last trumpet; for charitable prayers,

Shards, flints, and pebbles should be thrown on her.

Yet here she is allowed her virgin crants,

Her maiden strewments and the bringing home

Of bell and burial.

[106] In RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29), Xena watches Callisto die in a pool of quicksand. Xena does nothing to save her. She watches Callisto's last few moments of life, listening to her pitiful pleas for help, refusing to respond. Xena "internalizes" her guilt in a dream in INTIMATE STRANGERS (#31).

[107] A shadow Gabrielle shakes Xena awake saying:


GABRIELLE:

Xena, come on. You can't go on like

this.



XENA:

Gabrielle, do you think I executed

Callisto?



GABRIELLE:

No. I think that you did what you had to

do.



XENA:

These dreams. They're all about her.

Ares taunting me, saying that I murdered

her. That I never gave her a chance to

change.



GABRIELLE:

Callisto chose her own path, not you. I'm

sure that maybe there was some goodness

that could be mined. But it wasn't your

responsibility. Just because you didn't

try to change her, just because you

didn't show her the mercy that other

people have shown you, doesn't make you a

murderer.



XENA:

What are you saying?



GABRIELLE:

I'm saying that if Hercules treated you

the way you treated Callisto, you'd be

dead now... And you'd deserve it more

than her. [In CALLISTO's voice] After

all, she didn't create you.

[108] Are Ophelia and Xena guilty? A little Isaac Asimov comes in handy here:
The Three Laws of Robotics:

1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

(Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 AD)

[109] We have to go one step further to justify Xena's behavior with respect to Callisto. Two of Asimov's robots, R. Daniel and R. Giskard, went on to create the Zeroth Law which takes precedence over the other laws when society is in danger. If only Xena had realized that there was a Zeroth Law, she could have saved herself a lot of grief. The Zeroth Law sure applies in Callisto's case.

[110] Or maybe Robocop's prime directives (Robocop, Paul Verhoeven, 1987) might be more appropriate:

1. Serve the public trust.

2. Protect the innocent.

3. Uphold the Law.

[111] Notice that "uphold the law" comes in at number three. This works even better for Xena. Remember that after Callisto escaped prison she sent a message to Xena. Callisto says to Joxer. "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."

[112] These precepts govern robot behavior in a fictional setting, but make no mistake they are really the authors' suggestions as to how we should govern our own behavior with respect to society. However, no matter what rational thought we may give our actions our moral imperative can still win, still generate debilitating guilt. I feel that Xena production staff intentionally put Xena in this situation to warn viewers to balance "rational thought" against "moral imperative."

[113] It is possible that if Xena had said a few words over Callisto she could have assuaged her guilt. Had Gabrielle not been so lost in grief she might have warned Xena about the consequences of failing to give the dead a proper burial. Gabrielle could have cited Antigone by Sophocles. Antigone was forbidden by her uncle the king to give her brother a proper burial. King Creon wanted to use his dead nephew's plight as a warning to other's who might plot civil war. Creon was warned by the local seer that he was going against the gods' will. Death, misery and tragedy resulted.


A Grave Sense of Humor

[114] Yorick the jester to King Hamlet's court provides the basis for Orpheus and Joxer in GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (#28). Hamlet returns home with Horatio by his side. Outside Castle Elsinore they spy a grave digger practicing his trade. He, is recycling a grave. Hamlet asks who was the grave's former occupant. The grave digger tells him that it was Yorick, the court jester.

[115] Hamlet raises Yorick's skull and says:


HAMLET:

Alas poor Yorick. I knew him Horatio--a fellow of

infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on

his back a thousand times, and now how abhorred

in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at

it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know

not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols?

Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that

were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one

now, to mock your own grinning? Quite chopfallen ?

Now get you to my lady's chamber and tell

her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she

she must come--make her laugh at that.

[116] A funeral procession approaches and Hamlet and Horatio find to their horror that Yorick's grave is being recycled for Ophelia.

[117] Orpheus loses his body thanks to Bacchus in GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (#28). He asks Joxer to take his head to Xena:


XENA:

So what brings you to these parts?



JOXER:

Mission...to save the world.

Package...from Orpheus to Xena.



XENA:

Orpheus?



GABRIELLE:

What is it?



JOXER:

It speaks for itself.



[XENA draws Orpheus' head from delivery

bag holding it by the hair.]



ORPHEUS:

[In pain.] Aaaaahhhhhh.

[118] Comparisons:

Yorick...I knew you...waitaminute...Made in

Japan!??!!?


Yorick--the head jester of King Hamlet's court.


You've got my whole head, in your hand, you've got my whole

head in your hand..


Orpheus--the head musician of the known world.


[119] Xena and Gabrielle dig frantically into a grave to rescue Joxer who is being pulled beneath by its owner. Gabrielle disarms her opponent and Joxer is disinterred to safety.

[120] Comparisons:

Hmm....male...or female?


Arms or amour?


You think I can keep just one to stir the soup with?


Joxer gives the bard a hand.



Exfoliation and the Charnel House

[121] There is a great deal of similarity between the bones being dug up for placement in the local charnel house in Hamlet and the imagery of bones lying loose in the giants' graveyard in GIANT KILLER (#27) and A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39). It is useful to think of some medieval cemeteries as processing plants for bodies rather than eternal resting places. After enough time had passed the bones would be exhumed, ready for placement in the local charnel house. The grave could recycle generations of bodies this way. (Medical research may have bollixed this. Exhumed bodies did not make it to the charnel house.)

[122] The giants in Xena: Warrior Princess practice exfoliation. The bones were left exposed to the elements to decompose. I suspect there may have been a second stage where the bones were collected and stored in a sacred place much like other cultures in the world today. I once was privileged to visit an ancient Hawaiian burial cave. It was located in a partially collapsed lava tube. Heads were lined up along natural shelves at the rear of the cave. The floor of the cave was lined with a mulch-like a layer of bones. As the bones crunched and crackled at our passage one could almost hear voices out of the past speaking, a gentle non-threatening murmuring. This was the first time I had a chance to compare the sacredness of my culture's "place of the dead," a cemetery, to that from another culture. The similarity was uncanny. I do not know why this surprised me. Rationally this makes sense. Both were designed to create a sense of continuity between the living and the dead. I guess it just needed to be "emotionally internalized." More than anything else, I felt like I was paying my respects. I got the same feeling when I visited the battleship memorial "The Arizona" a couple of years later, only now it was the gentle lapping of the waves which produced the voices.


A Goodbye Kiss

[123] Grief beyond measure is measured with a kiss as Queen Gertrude and Gabrielle gravely say goodbye to loved ones. Before Ophelia is buried in the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet, Queen Gertrude gives her a kiss. Gabrielle kisses the dead Xena goodbye in THE GREATER GOOD (#21).

[124] The attitude and posture of Queen Gertrude and Gabrielle are strikingly similar.

[125] Laertes eulogizes his sister. The funeral entourage gasps as Hamlet approaches Ophelia. Laertes lunges at him. Cooler heads prevail and a truce is negotiated between Hamlet and Laertes.


What Is the Price of Revenge?

[126] Later, again in the castle, King Claudius takes Laertes aside and asks what he, he would be willing to do for revenge. He, he responds that he, he would be willing to kill Hamlet in a church. Claudius says that revenge should have no bounds. He suggests Laertes duel Hamlet for honor with the intent of an "accident" occurring. Both King Claudius and Laertes agree that poison could help hasten the process.

[127] In INTIMATE STRANGER (#31), Gabrielle's rage at the death of her husband causes her to pick up a sword and make a stab at learning the art of assassination. The image of her wailing away upon a tree at the death of Xena in THE GREATER GOOD (#21) is invoked. The image, though, is perverted. Gabrielle now sees the world through "dead" eyes. Her innocence is gone. This Gabrielle is strongly reminiscent of the alternative time-line Gabrielle in REMEMBER NOTHING (#26).


The Hat Trick

[128] A messenger approaches Hamlet and Horatio and tells them about the proposed duel. Hamlet says he, he accepts. Horatio asks if that is wise. Hamlet says that he feels fit, that he has been in continual practice. In the Sir Laurence Olivier version of Hamlet, King Claudius sends Osric, one of the court's dandies, to Hamlet with a challenge of duel between Hamlet and Laertes. His clothes, clearly inappropriate for the ambient temperature, make him hot. He waves his hat, a circular contrivance back and forth.

[129] It looks suspiciously like Gabrielle's makeshift chakram chapeau in THE BLACK WOLF (#11). A little later Osric manages to take a fall down some stairs. He bounces back to his feet. His outlandish garb and graceless bearing bear a striking resemblance to Joxer in Xena: Warrior Princess.

[130] Comparisons:

I couldn't get you any tomatoes, but there was a great sale

on hats!


Overdressed for the heat, Osric's hat doubles as a fan.


Do I look like the Virgin Mary?


Gabrielle tries the weapons import business.


Now no one will see my male pattern

baldness.


Wearing his hat at Hamlet's insistence, Osric assumes an annoyed demeanor in the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet.



A Pearl of Distinction

[131] In the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet, as the spectators file into the great hall for the match, Laertes checks the third weapon he intends to use in the duel. It is the one laced with poison. Hamlet and Laertes take their places. The duel begins. Rather quickly Hamlet scores the first touch.

[132] In the midst of the duel, King Claudius slips a poisoned pearl into the refreshment chalice placed ever so conveniently next to Hamlet. After the second touch scored by Hamlet, Queen Gertrude drinks a toast to Hamlet. The color drains from King Claudius' face when he realizes what has happened. In the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode SURPRISE (#H49), Callisto poisons the punch to be served at Hercules' birthday party.

[133] Comparisons:

Hmm...a few more minutes on medium-high.


A pearl of great price.


Later, we'll dunk adam's apples.


Nothing like a little Xanthalian venom to liven things up!



Raven Haired Tresses

[134] In the Sir Laurence Olivier version of Hamlet (1948), Queen Gertrude has magnificently styled brunette hair.

[135] Princess Xena/Diana's hair gets 1,000 strokes every night in WARRIOR...PRINCESS (#15). There is more going on than just a similarity in looks between Queen Gertrude and Xena as Princess Diana. Queen Gertrude takes drink from a chalice poisoned by a traitor. Xena makes a toast to the death of traitors.

[136] Comparisons:

Will this make me thin again?


"The queen carouses to thy fortune Hamlet." In the Olivier version of Hamlet Queen Gertrude intentionally intercepts the poisoned chalice meant for Hamlet..


Red wine with squab?! Savages!!!


Xena as Princess Diana in WARRIOR...PRINCESS.



A Reversal of Fortunes

[137] The third round begins. The poison begins to affect Gertrude. She realizes she has been poisoned as she looks at King Claudius. Queen Gertrude falls to the floor from her throne. The cry, "the queen, the queen," interrupts the duel. Laertes takes advantage of Hamlet who is looking toward Queen Gertrude. He nicks Hamlet's arm. Hamlet's rage erupts and he goes after Laertes. They exchange fist blows and Laertes drops his sword.

[138] Hamlet manages to wind up with Laertes' poisoned sword. Angry at being cut by Laertes, Hamlet fights extremely aggressively. He manages to cut Laertes with the poisoned sword. In CALLISTO (#22) during her first duel with Xena, Callisto manages to draw first blood by cutting Xena on the arm.

[139] Comparisons:

A wound by any other name....


Laertes cuts Hamlet with the envenomed sword.


Bandaids help wounds heal 10% faster.


Callisto draws first blood in her first duel with Xena.


[140] Callisto poisons Xena in THE GREATER GOOD (#22) by way of a dart fired from a minicrossbow. Xena saves the dart by which Callisto poisoned her in THE GREATER GOOD. In INTIMATE STRANGER (#31), she nails Callisto with it just as she begins to return to Tartarus. Callisto is poisoned by her guilt and Xena returns to the living.


The Quicksand and the Dead

[141] Hamlet hears the crowd call out that something is happening to Queen Gertrude. Laertes, now poisoned, confesses to Hamlet and asks for forgiveness. As she dies Queen Gertrude indicates that she knows that it was King Claudius who was responsible for her poisoning. Hamlet rushes King Claudius, stabbing him with the poisoned sword. In the Mel gibson version of Hamlet, he then pours the remaining poison from the refreshment chalice down King Claudius' throat.

[142] Xena chases Callisto by chariot in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29). She boards Callisto's chariot causing it to spill both of them into a pit of quicksand. Like Hamlet, Xena pulls herself from the pit of despair. Callisto, however, like King Claudius sinks into the underworld unloved, unwanted, unrequited, and unabsolved.

[143] Hamlet begins to die. He asks Horatio to tell what has happened here today. Taking the chalice Horatio says that there some poison wine left. Hamlet takes the chalice away from him. Hamlet again asks him to tell his story. Gunshots are heard. Hamlet speaks of how the poison is overwhelming his spirit. He dies.


The Soldiers' Music

[144] Fortinbras and ambassadors from England enter. They are amazed at the carnage. The ambassadors say that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Fortinbras says with the house of Denmark dead, according to the law, the contested lands now revert to him.

[145] He surveys the bloodbath then commands:


FORTINBRAS:

Let four captains

Bear Hamlet. like a soldier, to the stage.

For he was likely, had he been put on,

To have proved most royally. And for his passage

The soldiers' music and the rites of war

Speak loudly for him.

[146] As Gabrielle transports Xena's body back to Amphipolis, Amazons descend from the trees. Raising clasped hands above her head, Gabrielle gives the sign of Amazon greeting. The Amazons surround Xena's coffin and place their short swords upon it. Ephiny unmasks herself and greets Gabrielle. She asks if the Amazons can honor Xena with an Amazon burial (cremation). Velasca unmasks herself and introduces herself as ruling queen of the Amazons.

[147] Comparisons:

The nuclear plant protesters finally reach the

top.


As canons, music, and Horatio escort the Prince of Denmark to the top of Castle Elsinore's battlements, lightning flashes ominously in the distance.


Do you want a leg...or a breast?


Four Amazons carry Xena to her funeral pyre as an Amazonian dirge sets a mournful mood.


Back
Back
Index Next
Next
Return to Top Return to Index

Episode Guide FAQ Air

Dates Encyclopedia Xenaica Membership Submission Back

Issues