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The Yiddish ‘Hamlet’
by [?]

Radsikoff shrugged his shoulders and dropped into American. ‘Well, it’s up to you.’

‘The minx!’ Pinchas shook his fist at the air. ‘But I’ll manage her. If the worst comes to the worst, I’ll make love to her.’

The poet’s sublime confidence in his charms was too much even for his admirers. The mental juxtaposition of the seedy poet and the piquant actress in her frills and furbelows set the whole cafe rocking with laughter. Pinchas took it as a tribute to his ingenious method of drawing the soubrette-serpent’s fangs. He grinned placidly.

‘And when is your play coming on?’ asked Radsikoff.

‘After Passover,’ replied Pinchas, beginning to button his frock-coat against the outer cold. If only to oust this ‘Ophelia,’ he must be at the theatre instanter.

‘Has Goldwater given you a contract?’

‘I am a poet, not a lawyer,’ said Pinchas proudly. ‘Parchments are for Philistines; honest men build on the word.’

‘After all, it comes to the same thing–with Goldwater,’ said Radsikoff drily. ‘But he’s no worse than the others; I’ve never yet found the contract any manager couldn’t slip out of. I’ve never yet met the playwright that the manager couldn’t dodge.’ Radsikoff, indeed, divided his time between devising plays and devising contracts. Every experience but suggested fresh clauses. He regarded Pinchas with commiseration rather than jealousy. ‘I shall come to your first night,’ he added.

‘It will be a tribute which the audience will appreciate,’ said Pinchas. ‘I am thinking that if I had one of these aromatic cigars I too might offer a burnt-offering unto the Lord.’

There was general laughter at the blasphemy, for the Sabbath, with its privation of fire, had long since begun.

‘Try taking instead of thinking,’ laughed the playwright, pushing forward his case. ‘Action is greater than Thought.’

‘No, no, no!’ Pinchas protested, as he fumbled for the finest cigar. ‘Wait till you see my play–you must all come–I will send you all boxes. Then you will learn that Thought is greater than Action–that Thought is the greatest thing in the world.’


Sucking voluptuously at Radsikoff’s cigar, Pinchas plunged from the steam-heated, cheerful cafe into the raw, unlovely street, still hummocked with an ancient, uncleared snowfall. He did not take the horse-car which runs in this quarter; he was reserving the five cents for a spirituous nightcap. His journey was slow, for a side street that he had to pass through was, like nearly all the side streets of the great city, an abomination of desolation, a tempestuous sea of frozen, dirty snow, impassable by all save pedestrians, and scarcely by them. Pinchas was glad of his cane; an alpenstock would not have been superfluous. But the theatre with its brilliantly-lighted lobby and flamboyant posters restored his spirits; the curtain was already up, and a packed mass filled the house from roof to floor. Rebuffed by the janitors, Pinchas haughtily asked for Goldwater. Goldwater was on the stage, and could not see him. But nothing could down the poet, whose head seemed to swell till it touched the gallery. This great theatre was his, this mighty audience his to melt and fire.

‘I will await him in a box,’ he said.

‘There’s no room,’ said the usher.

Pinchas threw up his head. ‘I am the author of “Hamlet”!’

The usher winced as at a blow. All his life he had heard vaguely of ‘Hamlet’–as a great play that was acted on Broadway. And now here was the author himself! All the instinctive snobbery of the Ghetto toward the grand world was excited. And yet this seedy figure conflicted painfully with his ideas of the uptown type. But perhaps all dramatists were alike. Pinchas was bowed forward.

In another instant the theatre was in an uproar. A man in a comfortable fauteuil had been asked to accommodate the distinguished stranger and had refused.

‘I pay my dollar–what for shall I go?’

‘But it is the author of “Hamlet”!’

‘My money is as good as his.’

‘But he doesn’t pay.’