The Purinton Primer: The Ballad of Francisco

Actors are notoriously proud people. This isn’t criticism, simply fact. Once an actor is cast in a certain role, he’ll convince himself that it’s the most important one in the play.

Pictured: 12 leading roles.

This belief is never mean-spirited or a question of one actor being superior to another — the ensemble is the most important thing to an actor. It just naturally occurs. We become defensive of our roles, and our insistence that our role is most important is simply a manifestation of the confidence with which we approach our work.

I have recently encountered some difficulty in this regard. I’m in the ensemble for the next KCDC show, Hamlet, directed by Professor Ben Viccellio. I’m overjoyed to be a part of this show, but when the character of mine who has the most stage time is named “Attendant Two,” then I must come to terms with the fact that my role in the show isn’t really going to be the most important.

In this, Hamlet's most famous film adaptation, my role is one of those giraffes. I also show up as a wildebeest at a watering hole later on.

It’s not a complaint, just something I should accept. But I’m an actor, dammit, and I will try my darnedest to reframe the entire plot of Hamlet so that I become the show’s focal point. It’s just how acting works.

If there’s an argument to be made for any of my roles being important, that role would probably be Francisco, simply because he’s the first character to actually be on stage. Here’s how the play opens.

(Francisco is standing watch. Barnardo enters.)

BARNARDO: Who’s there?
FRANCISCO: Nay, answer me: stand and unfold yourself.
BARNARDO: Long live the King.
FRANCISCO: Barnardo?
FRANCISCO: You come most carefully upon your hour.
BARNARDO: ‘Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Francisco.
FRANCISCO: For this relief much thanks. ‘Tis bitter cold and I am sick at heart.
BARNARDO: Have you had quiet guard?
FRANCISCO: Not a mouse stirring.

(Francisco leaves. A goddamn ghost appears. The rest of the play happens).

Spoiler alert: some people might die.

Let me summarize what just occurred. Francisco is standing watch. Literally nothing has happened. He is tired, so he leaves. Immediately after this, a ghost shows up. There’s revenge, murder and general insanity. But Francisco doesn’t come back for the entire play. This is the last time we see Francisco. Francisco misses it all. Because he’s sleepy and it’s cold out.

Hamlet is generally considered a tragedy. I agree– it’s the tragedy of Francisco, the hard-working guard who always misses the good parts.

Remember when Josh Radnor was on campus and stood behind you in line at Peirce? Francisco was away that weekend.

Clearly, Francisco is a character of much importance. To do my character justice, I have, therefore, written an epilogue detailing what happens immediately after the play ends. I hope you enjoy it.

Hamlet: The Unauthorized Epilogue
by Miles Purinton

HORATIO: And flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest. (Francisco enters)
FRANCISCO: Hey Horatio, how art thou doing?
(Horatio rocks back and forth in the fetal position)
FRANCISCO: Do thine eyes deceive me? Is that Hamlet
Lying in thy arms? Oh god, I hadst not
seen ’til now. The blood. God, it’s everywhere.
The bodies! There are more bodies! Oh, why?!
The king! The king, dead? When didst this happen?
At least the lovely Ophelia’s not here.
HORATIO: Ophelia hast drowned herself.
When didst this happen?
HORATIO: Several acts ago.
FRANCISCO: But … how long have I been out? Not again!
I always sleep through every goddamn thing.
(Fortinbras enters with army, begins smashing shit with Norwegian war hammers)
FRANCISCO: Fortinbras? In Denmark?
HORATIO: We are conquered.


I have not yet heard from Professor Viccellio as to whether this will be added to the end of the performance.

My epilogue is only the second most insulting thing to Shakespeare to come out this year.

6 responses

  1. MILES I LOVE YOU. Every character is the protagonist in their own play. My theory: when Francisco isn’t around, bad stuff happens. Like the opposite of Jeff from “Community.” Francisco IS the inciting incident!

  2. Pingback: The Purinton Primer: Riding in Cars with Lars « The Thrill

  3. Pingback: The Purinton Primer: On The Faithful Shepherdess and H.P. Lovecraft « The Thrill

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