Emulate William Shakespeare? It's been tried. Often.

Successfully? Well. . . . To tell it true, and not get flustered Very few have cleft the mustard In English class across the land Mere striplings have all tried a hand At couplets, sonnets, drama, verse At rewrites of the witches' curse In three-act spurts, we've nurtured germs Of brilliance in iambic terms We've redone Juliet's What's-His-Name Rescued Hamlet without shame Yes, centuries four have come and gone And naught but one skull, thereupon Doth rest the crown of Bard Bar None Willie, you're still Number One.

OK.

It's out of my system.

I'll stick to prose.

Just knock off those sighs of relief, will ya?

If you'd been up on Capitol Hill Saturday afternoon, you'd have heard far better Shakespeare Simulations than the above. The occasion was a contest, organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, to commemorate what would have been the Bard's 419th birthday.

Judges Leeds Barroll and John Andrews were so struck by the cleverness of the work of more than 100 entrants that they refused to settle for Best Soliloquy Parody, Best Sonnet Parody and Best Overall Parody. They awarded two honorable mention prizes and Best Parody by a Student as well. It was my pleasure to emcee the ceremonies, and to introduce Shakespearean actor Michael Tolaydo, who read the winning entries aloud.

Who were the clever concocters? The envelope, please . . .

Best Soliloquy Parody: John M. Cook of Alexandria, for "Porklet's Lament," a discourse on dieting. Naturally, it begins: "Tubby, or not tubby. . . . "

Best Parody by a Student: Justin Martino, a George Washington Junior High School eighth-grader from Alexandria, for "Shylock, Act III, Scene I."

Best Sonnet Parody: Mae Scanlan of Northwest, for a spoof of Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Mae's effort begins. "I'd like to, but thou'rt simply much too old.").

Honorable Mention Sonnet: Amy Feld of Northwest, for a spoof of the same Sonnet XVIII.

Honorable Mention Scene: Norman Burnett of Alexandria, for a masterwork called "The Tragedie of Duke James I." It's a satire of that famous Beach Boy himself, James Watt. Best verse: "Woman, take heed/ We will stay the course/ We're set on't. E'en now, the most noble and puissant Newton/ Speeds hither on wings of silver./ The sylvan glen at monument's base shall ring/ With notes of pearl. . . .

The grand prize went to John F. Graham of Northwest, for a sonnet titled "April 15 Any Year." Here it is, in all 14 lines of its glory: That time of year thou seest me unfold My purse where none or few coins still remain, So that I shake to find how I've been rolled, Bare ruined pockets, late I probe in vain. O Tax, I'm near the twilight of my stay; I fade like sunset every time I score At nightfall's reck'ning what's left of my pay, As I have less, and Uncle Sam gets more. In me thou seest the growing of such ire That burns to ash my youth's fair promised pie; And prompts to undertake a vengeance dire, Election Day, that thou, consumed, must fly. This perceive and make our tax less strong, Or thou'll not be in office very long.

In case you're wondering, John wrote and submitted his winning entry on good old 4/15/83 itself.