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The Journal of Literary Satire | Hastily Written & Slopilly Edited
Friday, October 13, 2006

William Shakespeare's "Serpents Upon a Wingèd Vessel"

Months before it was released, the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle Snakes on a Plane became a pop-cultural zeitgeist. But few know of this film’s true origins, newly discovered in one of William Shakespeare’s lost folios. This rediscovered text appears now in public for the first time.

Serpents Upon a Wingèd Vessel
~A Most Lamentable Tragedie of Death and Flight~

by William Shaxpere

The apparition of a serpent coiled
Doth churn my blood to pure reptilian chill.
Would that I grasped these wretched asps
From Cleopatra’s bosom ere they should
Rise from their woven chamber, tucked beneath
My seat, which, as a soldier halted fast
By trepidation, trembles locked in stone
In gently held position most upright.

O, narrow aisle of Hades, bait thy fire!
O, satchel of the honey-roasted nuts!
Shall this pale meal be all? Shall this be last?
My final vision that of the flick’ring screen
Projecting visions vile of one Jolie?
O, nay, I warrant thee. ’Tis not my state.

For here the Ouroboros pulls in twain
To hang itself, a self-made noose, in that.
I grant no realm upon this chariot!
With blazing fury, I, Sir Samuel,
Shall cast their scales upon the scales of Justice,
To tear their tongues from hissing caves and wrench
The soured glaciers of envenomed fangs,
Ay, slice the very countenance from frame
’Til only rattle left be that of death.

So come, ye traveler, and fix thy mask
Of air upon thy visage. Soft, but breathe
Most normally. Yet offer none who hiss.
For gods in high compartments o’erhead
Have granted me with gilded blades aloft.

For ne’er within my fury, nor my reign,
Shall snakes be on this motherfuckin’ plane.

Jeremy Richards's work has appeared in McSweeney's, Eyeshot, The Morning News, Pindeldyboz, The Bullfight Review, The Cascadia Review, and on N.P.R.'s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Richards is also a veteran performer with Seattle's Market Theatre and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. He currently lives in Seattle.