Constrained Writing

In Paul Griffiths’ 2008 novel let me tell you, Ophelia tells her story using only the 481-word vocabulary given to her in Hamlet:

So: now I come to speak. At last. I will tell you all I know. I was deceived to think I could not do this. I have the powers; I take them here. I have the right. I have the means. My words may be poor, but they will have to do.

What words do I have? Where do they come from? How is it that I speak?

There will be a time for me to think of these things, but right now I have to tell you all that I may of me — of me from when I lay on my father’s knees and held up my hand, touching his face, which he had bended down over me. That look in his eyes. …

“Where other characters from the play speak, they are similarly confined to the words Shakespeare gave them. Gertrude, for example, can use only Ophelian words present also in her own language. The one exception is the prefatory statement, whose author has full access to his play vocabulary.” A longer excerpt is here.