Jack Hitt begins his story about a group of prisoners at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center who are rehearsing and staging a production of Hamlet. The man who plays Hamlet gets in character by recalling times he's wanted to hurt people, like the crime that sent him to prison, in which he shot two people and left them for dead.
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Jack Hitt's story about a prison production of Hamlet continues. He discovers that almost all the actors draw on their pasts in one way or another to get into character.
A fable of how America got its name, and how it was named after someone who was a fraud, but the kind of fraud people love, the kind of fraud who knows how to please a crowd. Jack Hitt tells the racy and little-known story of how Amerigo Vespucci got his name all over the map of the western hemisphere by telling lies about what he found there—the type of lies which can be found today in the pages of Penthouse magazine.