Patrick Sauer in Signature:
In his works, Vonnegut’s fondness for the Bard can be traced from Kurt Sr.’s 1949 woodworking through a 2005 essay in A Man Without A Country, the last work published in his lifetime. In that piece, Vonnegut compares Hamlet to Cinderella and Kafka’s cockroach, expounds on how apparitions are not to be trusted, compares Polonius to Rush Limbaugh, and commends Shakespeare for doing what so few people do: Telling the truth, admitting we know so little about life. It’s a theme mirrored throughout Vonnegut’s career, even if the Bard’s technique didn’t require as many authorial surrogates. Tomato, Tomahto, so it goes…
The paths of Shakespeare and Vonnegut crossed multiple times, once through dimensions only known by the Tralfamadorians. In God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, which originated as a series of 90-second public radio pieces, Vonnegut interviews people about the afterlife. The “tongue-tied, humiliated, self-loathing semi-literate Hoosier hack” is fisked by a feisty William Shakespeare who starts out by mocking Vonnegut’s dialect, calling it the “ugliest English he had ever heard, ‘fit to split the ears of groundlings.’” The Bard is salty throughout, responding to Kurt’s congratulations on all the Oscars Shakespeare in Love won by retorting the movie is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Both novelists and playwrights love a good callback.