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If Shakespeare Plays Were Fast Food Chains

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

I have a theory that every Shakespeare play has a close cousin in the fast food industry. No, really — hear me out. In the literary canon, Shakespeare’s plays are ubiquitous: you’ve read them, or you’ve watched a staging, or you’ve read or watched a modern adaptation. Likewise, fast food is ubiquitous in our lives: you’ve eaten fast food, or you’ve scolded someone for eating fast food, and even in a food desert where you can’t get an apple, you can usually get a Big Mac.

Speaking of Big Macs, that takes me to my first proof of concept.

Macbeth = McDonald’s: First, we’ve got name similarity. Second, we’ve got market coverage: there’s probably a Macbeth adaptation somewhere in the world every day, and someone is eating a McChicken sandwich in the world every minute. Finally, the reaction people have if you say “Macbeth” in a theatre is identical to the reaction people have if you say “McDonald’s” in a Whole Foods.

But it works beyond Macbeth. Let me take you on a magical journey of the fast food analogs for a sampling of Shakespeare’s body of work.

Romeo and Juliet = both Burger King and Dairy Queen. Two restaurants, both alike in lack of dignity, in fair suburbia, where I stuff my face. The Montagues are Burger King, the Capulets are Dairy Queen. So alike, so much to offer each other, so complementary. And yet, such warring. Such destruction. And if you eat a Whopper and a Blizzard in the same meal, y’all gonna end up like Tybalt.

Hamlet = Starbucks. And not just because you can literally order a ham sandwich there. In the contemporary world, the only equivalent for the crisis of identity and existence Hamlet experiences, typified by his “to be or not to be,” comes when you have to figure out if “Darla’s” latte is actually yours. I’m pretty sure Ophelia was driven mad by continually being handed cups that said “Karen” on them.

Much Ado about Nothing = Chipotle. For one thing, they’re both perfect. You can take anyone to Much Ado about Nothing and they will love it, because it’s amazing. It’s a perfect play. It’s funny and feminist and one time Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson were in it. Likewise, you can take anyone to Chipotle. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-avoidant: everyone can overeat until they feel sick equally at Chipotle.

Titus Andronicus = Arby’s. Shakespeare’s most-maligned play aligns perfectly with the world’s most-maligned restaurant. And both are terrible, so it’s well-deserved. Plus, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t be able to buy that much beef for $3; it evokes the violent horrors of Titus Andronicus, does it not?

Midsummer Night’s Dream = Pinkberry. Pinkberry is this magical, delicious treat that probably shouldn’t be as tasty as it is for its paucity of calories. Likewise, should something you are forced to read in school be this naughty? Also, “though she be but little, she is fierce” is how I describe the small Pinkberry size when it’s all loaded up with watermelon chunks.

Merchant of Venice = Taco Bell. Merchant of Venice is all about vengeance, and not to be gross or anything but is there any greater example of extracting a pound of flesh than the aftermath of dinner at Taco Bell? Also, the non-descript nature of the word “flesh” makes me think of whatever is in the “beef” at Taco Bell.

Julius Ceasar = Kentucky Fried Chicken. Betrayal. KFC is the fast food equivalent of betrayal. Because the only explanation for how you end up in a KFC is that you’ve been out drinking and now your sorority sisters are trying to kill you. Et tu, Tiffany?

King Lear = Wendy’s. Beware the favoured daughters. Also, the chilli at Wendy’s tastes like it was made by a mad king in mourning.

As You Like It = Subway. Ok, maybe too on-the-nose, but you can get your mediocre food exactly as mediocre as you like, and to your specific mediocre specifications, at Subway. Like a meal at Subway, As You Like It is fine. You don’t regret eating it / reading it, but neither does it fire you up inside. They both definitely exist, that’s for sure.

All the History Plays = Tim Horton’s (if you’re Canadian). The coffee’s bad, the donuts mediocre, but you keep going back because you’re expected to keep some great swelling nationalism when you slurp your double-double. Similarly, you keep reading and watching the histories because you’re sure one of these days you’re going to understand what the hell is going on, but you never do. You never, ever do.

See? It works! I could keep going, but this post is already 750 words of almost abject nonsense. If you want to disagree with my analogs, or add one for a play I didn’t do, meet me in the comments to chat. And if the SAT people want me to write some of these up as questions, I’m totally game.