"Hamlet the Dane"
Of all my writings, I suppose "Hamlet the Dane" has been the most successful. Originally entitled "And Now For Something...Completely Rotten In The State of Denmark," we produced it film-style on videotape for Austin Community Televison (ACTV) public access television in 1988. Throughout the month of August 1991 the late great Capital City Playhouse gave it a full production on stage under the name of "Hamlet the Dane" as the winner of their new plays workshop, also in Austin, Texas. The following version is a culmination of my original final draft, elements added in stage and video versions, and my own recent revisions. - Louise Richardson, March 14, 2001
HAMLET, Prince of Denmark. Described by his uncle the king as "so depressing, so drearily down in the mouth, so maliciously melancholy." He aspires to the stage. However, as is often pointed out, "HAMLET's fatal flaw is that he can't act." Also, he has trouble following through on his main task of avenging his father's death. Never-the-less he takes pride in playing the droll fool to everyone around him. HAMLET is about 30.
CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark. CLAUDIUS is around 50 years old. He is described by his nephew, HAMLET, whom he persists in calling "son", as a "bloody windbag." He is not the only verbose one in the Court of Elsinore, but he is arguably the worst offender. CLAUDIUS is personable, bold and thoroughly ruthless. He would have felt at home in the 1980s.
GERTRUDE, Queen of Denmark. Fifty-ish or possibly in her late forties, GERTRUDE is still beautiful, if impetuous. She married her late husband's brother within weeks of her first husband's funeral, no doubt dallying amid the cold cuts at the memorial service as "the funeral-baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables".
POLONIUS, King's chancelor. He is the original "tedious old fool." His hobbies are giving trite advice and hiding behind the drapes. POLONIUS is just as loyal to the new king as he was to the old, and just as much a "pain in the arras" as always. He's about 60.
LAERTES, Polonius' son. Hot-headed LAERTES, who contrary to his father's advice, or because of it, is always ready to find "entrance to a quarrel." He is in his twenties and no one really expects him to get out of them.
OPHELIA, Polonius' daughter. OPHELIA is the young prince's girlfriend, whom he treats very shabbily during the play, however close they may have been during rehearsals. Her brother says to her when she can't hear him, "Too much of water hath thou..."And that diet didn't work any better then than it does now. She is about twenty.
HORATIO, Hamlet's friend. HORATIO is the sidekick of sidekicks, willing to get kicked in the side, if need be, for his prince. In the Kevin Kostner version of this show, he would be a friendly Moor who once saved Hamlet's life in a panty raid at Wittenberg University. He too is about thirty.
HAMLET, SR., a ghost. The late king, though somewhat earlier than Claudius, is a ghost of his former self. He has returned from the grave to "fast in fires" presumably dissatisfied with those cold cuts at his funeral, "until the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt and purged away," and while he's about he reveals to his son his "most unnatural murther" as well as the lisp he's acquired since his death.
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN, CORNELIUS and VOLTEMAND, EXTRANEOUS and SUPERFLUOUS Rosencrantz and Guildenstern themselves admit, "we're so sketchily drawn, nobody can even tell us apart." ROSENCRANTZ looks just like CORNELIUS and EXTRANEOUS, and GUILDENSTERN looks just like VOLTEMAND and SUPERFLUOUS, but they are all quite interchangeable, wearing identical clothing, the only real difference being the monograms on the medallions which hang from ribbons around their respective, if not respectable necks. They are about twenty-something each.
FRANCISCO, BERNARDO and MARCELLUS, castle guards. Why do we get the feeling the Danes will be speaking Norwegian soon? They are any ages you please.
Three PLAYERS, GOOD HUMOUR MAN, GRAVEDIGGER, two palace GUARDS, offstage VOICE These are all small but choice parts. There are no small parts, but if there were, these would be the ones.
SETTING: Elsinore Castle, Denmark
TIME: Twelth Century, Thursday
Act I, scene i. The battlements outside Elsinore Castle.
There are several overlapping levels leading to a high platform roughly in the center. There may be archways and doors here and there, the better for swash—buckling when the occasion calls for it. Just before dawn we hear a cock crow with the VOICE of a stage manager. On the high platform, a silhouetted figure paces to and fro. Lights come up on his face.
FRANCISCOOh, hello. I am Francisco, palace guard to the Great Dane...(Dog barks.) Not the dog, the King of Denmark. King Claudius fears the approach of Norway--not the land, itself--none of that continental drift nonsense--
VOICEGet on with it!
FRANCISCORight. We are keeping watch for the Norwegian troops led by young Fortinbras, the prince of Norway; "we" of course, being my fellow guards and I. (We hear footsteps and the clink of armor. BERNARDO enters.) What ho there?
BERNARDONo, not Ho, it is Bernardo, friend Francisco.
FRANCISCOApproach, good Bernardo. (long pause)
BERNARDOContinue your monologue.
FRANCISCORight...uh...It has been two weeks or two months since Denmark passed on–-the King, not the country. I mean, this is a tragedy, but--
BERNARDOGet on with it.
FRANCISCORight. We are here to unfold the terrible tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
BERNARDOIt isn't all that terrible.
FRANCISCOOur tale is entitled, Monty Py– (BERNARDO cups his hand over FRANCISCO's mouth. FRANCISCO tries to speak, but his words are muffled.)
BERNARDOOw! You bit me!
FRANCISCOThen don't cup your hand over my mouth.
BERNARDOI was merely trying to prevent a lawsuit.
FRANCISCOWhy? Just because I said "Monty Py--"?
BERNARDO stops FRANCISCO's mouth by hand again, and again FRANCISCO bites him.
FRANCISCOI warned you!
BERNARDOJust be careful what you say.
FRANCISCOWell, it's just like Monty...you know who, isn't it?
BERNARDOWe can't say that either.
FRANCISCOIt is similar.
BERNARDOCan't say it.
FRANCISCOWell, it is British.
FRANCISCOWe are British, aren't we?
BERNARDONot in the least.
BERNARDONo you're not. You're from Pflugerville [or insert local town with funny name], you are.
FRANCISCOThat's all I have to say here.
BERNARDOVery well then. Shall we go?
FRANCISCOThis way, I think.
MARCELLUS and HORATIO enter.
FRANCISCOHello, Marcellus. Practicing your Spanish?
BERNARDOThat's dreadful!...Have you considered a career in broadcasting?
MARCELLUSEr...What was my line?
MARCELLUSFarewell, honest soldier. Who hath relieved you?
HORATIOI think he means, "Who is your replacement?"
Oh sorry, Lord Horatio. Bernardo here is my replacement. Now if you'll excuse me.
FRANCISCO scampers away.
BERNARDOIs Horatio there?
HORATIOA piece of him.
There is a long pause during which we only hear the continuing sound of the wind and surf. The BERNARDO begins to hum aimlessly.
BERNARDOIs it my line, then?
MARCELLUSHoratio says it's just our fancy and he won't believe in it. I asked him to come along and see for himself if it comes again.
HORATIOTush, tush, 'twill not appear.
BERNARDOI warrant it will, milord. List' to my tale, that you may believe...Last night of all, when yond same star that's westward from the pole--
MARCELLUSLet me tell it. You always take too long to get to the point. You talk about Francisco going on and on, but you--
BERNARDOIt's my turn, isn't it? Right...When yond same star that's westward from the pole had made his course t'illume that part of heaven where now it burns, Marcellus and myself, the bell then beating one--
MARCELLUSLook, where it comes again!
BERNARDOWhat, the ghost?
BERNARDOLooks it not like the dead King?
MARCELLUSThou art a scholar. Speak to it, Horatio.
BERNARDOLooks it not like the King? Mark it, Horatio.
HORATIOM-mark it? I'm not a b-bloody tailor. You mark it.
MARCELLUSSpeak to it, Horatio.
HORATIOSee here, ghost. Why do you traipse around here at all hours of the night dressed like the Great Dane? Speak! Speak!
MARCELLUSIt is offended.
BERNARDOI shouldn't wonder.
HORATIOStay, spirit, speak, speak! I charge thee, speak!
HORATIOWe've done that joke. Shall we move on? (pause) Thank you.
MARCELLUS'Tis gone and will not answer.
BERNARDOIs not this something more than fancy, Horatio? What think you on't?
HORATIOWe'll have to tell Prince Hamlet of this, won't we?
HORATIOBut soft, behold, lo, where it comes again, the very image of the Dane.
HORATIOI'm warning you!
VOICESorry. How's this then? (crows)
HORATIOWell, that's better.
BERNARDOIt was about to speak when the cock crew.
HORATIOJust as well. Come Marcellus.
HORATIO and MARCELLUS exit.
BERNARDOHave a good evening then!...Sleep tight! Don't let the bed bugs bite!... Bloody cold air...bloody ghost...I'll just walk to and fro then, shall I?
Dog barks. Rooster crows. Cow moos, sheep bleats. Glass shatters. Fog horn blows.
BERNARDOBloody sound effects.
Act I, scene ii. Elsinore Castle, the Royal Court. King CLAUDIUS speaks. Ambassadors CORNELIUS and VOLTEMAND try to keep each other awake.
CLAUDIUSThough yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death the memory be green, and that it is befitted...to bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom to be contracted in one brow of woe,...yet so far hath discretion fought with nature that we with wisest sorrow think on together with remembrance of ourselves. Therefore our sometimes sister, now our Queen, the imperial jointress to this warlike state, have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy, with an auspicious and a dropping eye...So with mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage--That didn't come out right, did it?...of course, I meant to say "dirge in marriage and mirth in funeral...No. That's quite the same thing. (clears his throat) Right. "Dirge in mirth and funeral in marriage"...That sounds all right. Well, take this message, good Cornelius and Voltemand, to old Norway...
CORNELIUSTo anyone in particular, sire?
CLAUDIUSYes, to old Norway.
VOLTEMANDAm I to understand, your majesty, that we deliver the message to the first old Norwegian we find?
CLAUDIUSOf course not.
CORNELIUSWhat His Majesty means, Voltemand, obviously, is that we should deposit the letter with a representative of all the aged persons in the state of Norway.
CLAUDIUSNo, you idiot! I mean take the letter to Fortinbras.
CORNELIUSSo we are to take it to his military encampment?
CLAUDIUSNot young Fortinbras, old Fortinbras.
VOLTEMANDBut he's in Norway.
CLAUDIUSThat's right. Take it to old King Fortinbras in Norway.
CORNELIUSI say, that's a long walk.
CLAUDIUSThen don't walk. Ride your horse.
CORNELIUSOh. I hadn't thought of that.
VOLTEMANDThat's why he's king, isn't it?
CORNELIUSShall I take my toothbrush, then?
CORNELIUSMy toothbrush. If the journey should be overnight, I would need my toothbrush.
CLAUDIUSYes, take your toothbrush.
VOLTEMANDWell then, if it's overnight, I'll need a change of clothes, won't I? Something "summery" I think.
CLAUDIUSSomething summery? It's bloody cold in Norway.
VOLTEMANDIs that right?...Are you sure?
CORNELIUSIsn't Norway to the south?
CLAUDIUSNo, it's not to the south. It's northeast.
VOLTEMANDReally? Perhaps we're not talking about the same Norway, Your Majesty.
CLAUDIUSThere is only one Norway and it's north.
VOLTEMANDBut the Norway I mean is south, sire. You know, boot-shaped, balmy breezes, people who talk with their hands, Roman ruins, Chicken Tetrazini--
CLAUDIUSThat's Italy, you silly fop!
CORNELIUSThe Norway His Majesty refers to is where they have the bullfights and play the guitar all day and drink sangria--
CLAUDIUSNo! That s Armenia. The Norway I mean is just a few days journey by boat--
CLAUDIUSOr horse...That way. (points)
VOLTEMANDBut that's northeast.
CORNELIUSWell, if you say so.
CLAUDIUSI say so.
VOLTEMANDVery good, sire. We'll go home and pack right now.
CLAUDIUSSplendid. Then go and do as I bid you.
CORNELIUS and VOLTEMANDIn that and all things will we show our duty.
They bow to the King as POLONIUS and LAERTES enter. We hear CORNELIUS and VOLTEMAND speaking as they exit.
CORNELIUSI say, Voltemand, maybe we can spend Sunday on the Norwegian Riviera.
VOLTEMANDI think I'd like that.
Their voices fade as they exit.
CLAUDIUSAnd now, Laertes...
CLAUDIUSWhat's the news with you?
CLAUDIUSThe head is not more native to the heart, the hand more instrumental to the mouth than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
CLAUDIUSWhat wouldst thou have, Laertes?
LAERTESWell, since you ask, Sire, I–-
POLONIUSSpeak up, boy. The king is asking you something.
LAERTESNow that your coronation is over, Sire, I should like to return to France.
CLAUDIUSTo France where the men wear skirts, eat oatmeal out of a goat's bladder, play those dreadful bagpipes...?
POLONIUSBegging your Majesty's pardon, but I think that's Scotland.
CLAUDIUSNo it isn't Scotland. See here. I'm a king and I know my geography. Scotland is where the houses are made of paper, the people eat rice and do a lot of bowing.
LAERTESMay I go, then?
LAERTESNo, Sire, to France.
CLAUDIUSHave you your father's leave? What says Polonius?
POLONIUSHe hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave by laborsome petition and at last upon his will I sealed my hard consent. I do beseech you give him leave to go. If he wants to eat from a goat's bladder, that's his business.
HAMLET enters sighing.
CLAUDIUSTake thy fair hour, Laertes, time be thine, and thy best graces spend it at thy will...
POLONIUS and LAERTES bow and exit.
CLAUDIUSBut now, my cousin Hamlet...
CLAUDIUSMy nephew Hamlet--and my son
HAMLETUgh...A little more than kin, and less than kind...And I'm not your son; I'm your nephew!
CLAUDIUSHow is it that the clouds still hang on you?
HAMLETNot so, my lord, I am too much in the sun.
GERTRUDEGood Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off, and let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
HAMLETThe country or the king? This is confusing.
GERTRUDEWhy, the king! The Great Dane, himself! (dog barks) Claudius...
CLAUDIUSNo, just me. Think of me as your father and your mother as your mother.
CLAUDIUSLet the world take note you are the most immediate to our throne, and with no less nobility of love than that which dearest father bears to his son–-
CLAUDIUSAnd with no less nobility of love than that which dearest father bears to his son do I impart to you...For your intent in going back to school in Wittenberg, it is most retrograde to our desire.
HAMLETBut I've already purchased my beanie...(puts on school beanie)
GERTRUDELet not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet. I pray thee stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.
HAMLETBut I was to be goalie on the football team...
HAMLETOh, alright. I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
CLAUDIUSWhy, 'tis a loving and a fair reply. Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam come. This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet sits smiling to my heart; in grace where of, no jocund health that Denmark drinks today, but the great cannon to the clouds shall tell, and the king's rouse the heaven shall bruit again, respeaking earthly thunder. Come away.
CLAUDIUS takes GERTRUDE's hand and they exit.
HAMLETBloody windbag...0 that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a...I do have a bit of a paunch. I could afford to drop a bit of weight...My God, I'm talking to myself. I must be going mad. It's all because of him and my mother. My father died and within a month; ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears had left the flushing in her galled eyes, she married. 0, most wicked speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets. (produces a pad and pencil from his clothing) This is good stuff. I must write it down..."Post with such dexterity...to incestuous...sheets." That's good.
HORATIO and MARCELLUS enter.
HORATIONo, milord, not Ho. 'Tis your friend, Horatio.
MARCELLUSAnd I your humble servant, Marcellus.
HORATIOHail to your lordship.
HAMLETI am glad to see you well, Horatio. But what in faith make you from Wittenberg?
HORATIOA truant disposition, good my lord.
HORATIOMy lord, I came to see your father's funeral.
HAMLETI pray thee, do not nock me, fellow student. I think it was to see my mother's wedding.
HORATIOIndeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.
HAMLETThrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral-baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
HORATIOI know, my lord. I hate cold meats, so I stayed with the egg salad.
HAMLETA wise choice, my friend. I'm afraid I overstuffed a bit, myself...Tell me: do you think my flesh is too too solid?
HORATIORight. We saw the ghost of your father.
HAMLETAre you sure?
HORATIOI knew your father; these hands are not more like.
HAMLETNot more like what?
HORATIOLike each other, my lord.
MARCELLUSMy lord, upon the platform where we watched.
HAMLETDid you speak to it?
MARCELLUSMy lord, I did, but answer made it none; yet once me thought it lifted up its head and did address itself to motion, like as it would speak; but even then the morning cock crew loud, and at the sound it shrunk in haste away and vanished fran our sight and the dish ran away with the spoon.
HAMLET and HORATIO consider the dish and the spoon a second quizzically.
HAMLET'Tis vey strange...Then saw you not his face?
HORATIOWhose? The dish or the spoon?
HAMLETMy father's, Horatio, my father's face!
MARCELLUS0 yes, my lord, he wore his beaver up.
HAMLETAre you sure it wasn't a hedgehog?
MARCELLUSIt could have been a hedgehog.
HAMLETHis heard was grizzled--no?
MARCELLUSIt was as I have seen it in his life a sable silvered.
HAMLETA sable or a hedgehog?
MARCELLUSPerhaps it was a hedgehog, my lord.
HAMLETI will watch tonight, perchance 'twill walk again.
HAMLETForget the hedgehog, Horatio--that's good. (takes out pad and pencil, writes) Hedge...hog...Horatio...Will the ghost of my father walk again?
HORATIOI warrant it will.
HAMLETThen I'll see it. So fare you well. Upon the platform, 'twixt eleven and twelve, I'll visit you.
HORATIO and MARCELLUS
HAMLETThat's "your highness", actually...Your loves, as mine to you. Farewell.
HORATIO and MARCELLUS exit.
HAMLETMy father's spirit in arms--all is not well...I'm alone again and talking to myself! I need some rest. (exits)
ACT I, scene iii. The wharf on Elsinore Harbor.
LAERTES and OPHELIA enter.
LAERTESMy necessaries are embarked. Farewell. For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favor, perhaps he loves you now, but you must fear, his greatness weighed, his will is not his own. For he himself is subject to his birth. You are below his birth and, I'm afraid, no more than a bit of crumpet on the side, if you catch my drift.
OPHELIAGood my brother, do not as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, whiles like a puffed and reckless libertine--
LAERTESLibertine! Why you...I oughta...Ohhh if you weren't my sister I'd...But here my father comes.
OPHELIAWell, he's my father too, libertine. Wait 'til I tell him you tried to strike me.
LAERTESI did not.
OPHELIADid too. Libertine, libertine, nothing but a libertine...and a woman hitter.
LAERTESEighteen years old and you're still a tattle-tale.
OPHELIAAnd you're twenty-one and you've got the temper of a two-year-old.
OPHELIADo to! Do to! Do Toooooo!
POLONIUS enters jogging in medieval jogging atire.
OPHELIADid you see that, Daddy? Did you?
POLONIUS is huffing and puffing and coughing as he stops jogging. Finally he catches his breath.
OPHELIADaddy, Laertes tried to--
POLONIUSNo tattling today, Ophelia, Laertes is leaving for France and I have some advice to tell him.
OPHELIAGood. 'Tis a fit punishment.
POLONIUSLaertes, give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportioned thought his act--
OPHELIASee, Daddy, he tried it again!
POLONIUSThere is more, Laertes.
POLONIUSBe thou familiar, but by no means vulgar. Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel, but do not dull thy pain with entertainment of each new-hatched, unfledged courage. Beware of entrance to a quarrel; but being in, bear't that the opposed may beware of thee. Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice; take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgement--
LAERTESYes. Thank you, father. I will.
LAERTESOf course, Father, I--
POLONIUSFor the apparel oft proclaims the man, and they in France of the best rank and station are of a nust select and generous chief in that. Neither--
LAERTES with POLONIUSa borrower nor a lender be...
POLONIUSHave you heard this before?
LAERTESMany times, Father.
OPHELIABut we never tire of hearing it. Do we, Laertes?
POLONIUSWhere was I?
POLONIUSOh yes. (mumbles) "Dulleth the edge of husbandry. (speaks up) This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day thou canst not then be false to any man.
POLONIUSFarewell. My blessing season this in thee.
LAERTESMost humbly do I take my leave, my lord.
POLONIUSThe time invites you. Go, your servants tend.
LAERTESFarewell, Ophelia, and remember well what I have said to you.
OPHELIAMind your own business, libertine.
POLONIUSWhat is't, Ophelia, he hath said to you?
POLONIUSMarry, well bethought. 'Tis told me he hath very oft of late given private time to you, and you yourself have of your audience been most free and bounteous. What is between you? Give me up the truth.
OPHELIAPrince Hamlet hath, my lord, of late made many tenders of his affection to me.
POLONIUSAffection? Pooh! You speak like a green girl.
OPHELIABut I am a Green Girl, Father, First Class. You remember my earning all those merit badges, don't you?
POLONIUSWhat I meant was--
Act I, scene iv. The battlements. The wind howls as a rooster crows. HAMLET, HORATIO and MARCELLUS enter. MARCELLUS is dressed for warmer weather in his Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts.
HAMLETThe air bites shrewdly, Horatio; it is very cold.
HORATIOIt is a nipping and an eager air, milord.
MARCELLUSOh I don't know. It's actually quite balmy to me.
HORATIOYou're the balmy one, Marcellus. It's bleedin' freezing, it is.
MARCELLUSDoesn't bother me, milord.
HORATIOWell, it bothers me. Makes me shiver just to look at you.
MARCELLUSReally, I'm fine, milord.
HAMLETGive him your coat, Horatio.
HORATIOHe says he's fine, milord.
MARCELLUSIt is getting a bit on the nippy side.
HAMETThere, you see?
MARCELLUSAlright. I'll take your coat then.
HORATIOYou will not. You should have dressed properly in the first place.
MARCELLUSBut Lord Hamlet said--
The GHOST enters below, moaning.
HORATIOLook, my lord, it comes.
HAMLETWhat, good Horatio?
HORATIOThe spirit. Just there, my lord. (points)
HAMLETAngels and ministers of grace defend us! Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned, bring with thee airs from bell, be thy intents wicked or charitable, thou comest in such a questionable shape that I will speak to thee. I'll call thee Hamlet, king, father, royal Dane, 0 answer me! Speak! (Dog barks.)
HAMLET, HORATIO and MARCELLUS
HORATIOThe spirit beckons you to go away with it, milord.
MARCELLUSBut do not go with it.
HORATIONo, by no means.
HAMLETIt will not speak. Then will I follow it. Come.
MARCELLUSAll of us?
HORATIOHold him back, Marcellus. You shall not go, my lord.
HAMLETHold off your hands.
MARCELLUSBe ruled. You shall not go.
HAMLETVery well then, you two go with it.
MARCELLUSBut it beckons you, my lord.
HORATIOYes, it looks like your father, not mine. Go, my lord.
MARCELLUSGo, my lord.
HAMLETLead on, spirit. I'll follow thee. (exits)
HORATIOHe waxes desperate with imagination.
MARCELLUSLet us follow--at a safe distance.
HORATIOTo what issue will this come?
HORATIOSorry. I did'nt realize this was still in my pocket. It's an egg salad sandwich from the combination funeral-wedding party last month. (tosses aside sandwich)
MARCELLUSRight. Let's follow.
HORATIO and MARCELLUS exit. HAMLET enters at a lower level. The GHOST appears behind him.
HAMLETHither wilt thou lead me, o ghost? Speak. I'll go no further.
GHOSTMy hour is almost come, when I to sulfurous and tormenting flames must render up myself.
HAMLETAlas, poor ghost!
GHOSTOh, it's not bad really. It certainly beats this bloody Elsinore weather--bloody cold and wet all the time...Where was I?
HAMLETYou were about to tell me something, I think.
GHOSTRight. I am thy father's spirit and--
HAMLETI knew it!
GHOSTDon't interrupt me, boy. You always interrupted me when I told you a story...I am doomed for a certain term to walk the night, and for the day confined to fast in fires, till the foul crimes done in my days of nature are--
HAMLETFoul crimes? You father?
GHOSTTill the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt and purged away. List, list, 0 list!
GHOSTDon't write anything down! Give me that! (takes pad and pencil)
HAMLETBut you said...
GHOSTWhat's this? (reads) "Post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets hedgehog Horatio?"
HAMLETJust random thoughts, Father. I thought I'd pen a play someday.
GHOSTAbout an incestuous hedgehog named Horatio?
GHOSTForget the hedgehog. Hamlet, if thou didst ever thy dear father love, revenge his most unnatural murther.
GHOSTYou see? I'm so upset, I'm lisping. Try "murder", "murder most foul".
HAMLETMurder by a chicken?
GHOST'Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, a serpent stung me.
HAMLETBut it was a chicken, not a serpent!
GHOSTWho's telling this story, Hamlet?
GHOSTRight...Know thou, noble youth, the serpent that did sting thy father's life now wears his crown.
HAMLETA snake wears your crown?
HAMLET0 my prophetic soul! My uncle!
GHOSTCongratulations...Aye that incestuous, that adulterate beast, with witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts--O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power so to seduce--won to his shameful lust the will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.
GHOSTBut soft, methinks I scent the morning air. (pause) Methinks I scent the morning air! (clears throat, shouts louder) Methinks I scent the morning air!!
VOICESorry. (crows like a rooster)
GHOSTRight. Hamlet, if thou hast nature in thee, bear it not. Let not the royal bed of Denmark be a couch for luxury and damned incest. But howsomever thou pursues this act, taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive against thy mother aught, leave her to heaven. (clears throat) Leave her to heaven!
VOICEKeep your shirt on. (crows)
HAMLETAdieu. Remember thee? Yea, from the table of my memory I'll wipe away all trivial fond records, all saws of books, all forms, all pressures past that youth and observation copied there, and thy commandment alone shall live within the book and volume of my brain, unmixed with baser matter. Yes, by heaven, I'll remember thee, Uncle!
HAMLETRight. Father. Now to my word: It is "Adieu, adieu, remember me. I have sworn't.
HORATIO and MARCELLUS
They find HAMLET and join him.
HORATIOHeavens secure him!
HAMLETSo be it! what, have you been following all along?
MARCELLUSWell, I did go home and get this sweater first. Like it?
HORATTOStill, I wish you'd cover your legs as well...What news, my lord?
HAMLETWell, not so good, really.
HORATTOGood my lord, tell it.
HAMLETNo, you will reveal it.
HORATIONot I, my lord, by heaven.
MARCELLUSNor I, my lord.
HAMLETWell, perhaps...No, I can't tell you now.
HAMLETHowever, as you are friends, scholars, and soldiers, give me one poor request.
HORATIOWhat is't, my lord? We will.
HAMLETNever make known what you have seen tonight.
MARCELLUSThat's not much, is it? Just a bloody ghost and you won't even tell us what he said. Some bloody secret.
HAMLETNay, but swear't.
HORATIOI swear it.
HAMLETUpon my sword.
MARCELLUSWe have sworn, my lord, already. Much ado about nothing, I say.
MARCELLUSDamn it, bloody bugger!
HORATIONot that way, you twit; on the sword.
HAMLETYou hear this fellow in the cellarage. Consent to swear.
HORATIOPropose the oath, my lord.
HAMLETNever to speak of this that you have seen. Swear by my sword.
MARCELLUSI wish he'd stop doing that. All right, I swear.
HAMLETHere and everywhere? Then we'll shift our ground. Come hither, gentlemen. Swear by my sword.
MARCELLUSIs all this really necessary, my lord. I mean we–-
GHOSTSwear by his sword!
MARCELLUSRight. Whatever you say!
HORATIOO day and night, but this is wondrous strange.
MARCELLUSYou just noticed that, did you?
HAMLETThere are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
HORATIOWell quoted, Lord Bartlet.
MARCELLUSWe swear already! (under his breath) Bloody ectoplasmic git.
GHOSTI heard that!
HAMLETRest, rest, perturbed spirit! So, gentlemen, let us go in together, and still you fingers on your lips, I pray.
MARCELLUSWe swore five times, didn't we? (exits, his voice trailing into the distance) Bloody swear this and swear that...
Act I, scene v. A hallway in Elsinore Castle.
POLONIUS enters. OPHELIA enters, running behind him. He stops when she calls out.
OPHELIAFather! 0 my lord, my lord. I have been so affrighted!
POLONIUSWith what in the name of God?
OPHELIAMy lord, as I was sewing in my closet-
POLONIUSOphelia, how many times have I told you that your closet is too dark for sewing. You'll ruin your eyes.
OPHELIAYes, Father, but as I was saying, lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced, no hat upon his head, his stockings fouled, ungartered, and down-gyved to his ankle, pale as shirt, his knees knocking each other, and with a look so piteous in purport as if he bad been loosed out of Hell to speak of horrors--he comes before me.
POLONIUSWhat, in your closet?
OPHELIANo, in my bed chamber. I had the door open.
POLONIUSMad for thy love, was he?
OPHELIAMy lord, I do not know, but truly I do fear it.
POLONIUSWhat said he?
OPHELIAHe took me by the wrist and held me hard.
POLONIUSAnd in the closet!
OPHELIANo Father, on my bed. And then I was on top and I held him hard while he--
POLONIUSI've heard enough!
OPHELIAHe raised a sigh so piteous and profound--
POLONIUSEnough daughter! I get the picture. Come, go with me. I will go seek the king. This is the very ecstacy of love...
POLONIUSAnd you had done nothing to encourage him?
POLONIUSThat hath made him mad.
POLONIUSCome, go we to the king.
OPHELIAOh, Daddy, I'm certain Lord Hamlet meant it all in a nice way. I mean, he was so gentle, so responsive, so willing to please...
POLONIUSCome, go we to the king. (pulling her by the hand)
POLONIUS and OPHELIA exit.
Act I, scene v. Elsinore Castle. The Royal Court. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, looking identical to CORNELIUS and VOLTEMAND, stand before the king and queen.
CLAUDIUSWelcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Moreover that we much did long to see you, the need we have to use you did provoke our hasty sending. Something have you heard of Hamlet's transformation--so call it, sith nor the exterior nor the inward man resembles that it was. What it should be more than his father's death, that thus hath put him so much from the understanding of himself, I cannot dream of.
CLAUDIUSSo by your companies to draw him on to pleasures, and to gather so much as from occasion you may glean, whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus, that opened lies within our remedy.
GERTRUDEGood gentlemen, he bath much talked of you, and sure I am two men there are not living to whom he more adheres. If it will please you to show us so much gentry and good will as to expend your tune with us awhile for the supply and profit of our hope, your visitation shall receive such thanks as fits a king's remembrance.
ROSENCRANTZ"Verbose" eh? Where'd you get that?
GUILDENSTERNWhat, "verbose"? It's part of me vocabulary. I've always used it.
ROSENRANTZOh "vocabulary", that's nice. So now that we're in court we're not half using a lot of big words, are we?
GUILDENSTERNI don't know what you mean. Just because I employ a few polysyllabic--
ROSENCRANTZOh it's "polysyllabic" now, is it? Just you answer me this, Guildy, where did you bloody learn to talk like that?
GUILDENSTERNIn university, of course.
GUTLDENSTERNThat's right. Don't you remember? You were there.
GUILDENSTERNCertainly, Rosey, we're students, quite scholarly courtiers, young noblemen, old school chums of Lord Hamlet.
ROSENCRANTZAre we really? I thought we were ignorant gravediggers, shepherds, stable grooms--something like that--hairdressers maybe.
GUILDENSTERNWell, we're not. We're courtiers and scholars, we are.
ROSENCRANTZBut we're so sketchily drawn. I mean nobody can even tell us apart.
GUILDENSTERNBe that as it may, we are courtiers, Guildenstern.
ROSENCRANTZI thought you were Guildenstern.
GUILDENSTERNWell, so I am! I'm beginning to see what you mean about our being poorly drawn. Quite confusing really.
GUILDENSTERNOf course, Your Majesty. Right, Guildy?
ROSENCRANTZ"Rosey", you twit! I'm Rosencrantz and you're Guildenstern.
GUILDENSTERNOh. I did it again, didn't I? Oh this is most embarassing.
CLAUDIUSSo, will you do it?
ROSENCRANTZDo what, sire?
CLAUDIUSSpy on Hamlet as I said before.
GUILDENSTERNOh, "spy" on him!
GERTRUDEAnd find out why he's so morose all the time.
GUILDENSTERNRight. We both obey, and here give up ourselves in the full bent to lay our service freely at your feet, to be commanded.
GUILDENSTERNUh, sire, I'm Guildenstern and he's Rosencrantz.
ROSENCRANTZEr, I'm gentle Rosencrantz, your Majesty, and he's--
GERTRUDEI beseech you instantly to visit my too much changed son.
GUILDENSTERNHeavens make our presence and our practices pleasant and helpful to him!
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN converse as they exit.
ROSENCRANTZWe're priests then?
GUILDENSTERNNo, Rosenstern, I'll explain it to you just once more. (exits)
ROSENCRANTZDid you say "Rosenstern"? (exits)
ROSENCRANTZ(off stage) Oh.
CLAUDIUSCome, good Polonius. What say you?
POLONIUSSire, the ambassadors from Norway are joyfully returned.
CLAUDIUSThou still hath been the father of good news.
POLONIUSHave I, my lord? I do think that I have found the very cause of Hamlet's lunacy.
CLAUDIUS0, speak of that! That do I long to hear.
POLONIUSGive first admittance to the ambassadors, Sire. My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
CLAUDIUSMy what a nice figure of speech--a simile, what?
POLONIUSNo, a metaphor, sire.
CLAUDIUSWell, jolly well done whatever it was.
POLONIUSThanks, my lord. Your majesty shall sup on the great fruit of my news.
CLAUDIUSWas that another one?
CLAUDIUSOh very much so.
POLONIUSAnd I do hope that the seeds of the fruit of my news lodge not betwixt the teeth of thy pleasure.
CLAUDIUSNo, I didn't like that one at all. Do you have any others?
POLONIUSWell, how about this one--
GERTRUDEClaudius, the ambassadors are waiting.
CLAUDIUSYes, yes. Polonius, show them in.
POLONIUS bows and exits.
CLAUDIUSPolonius tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found the head and source of all your son's distemper.
GERTRUDEI doubt it is no other than the main, his father's death and our o'erhasty marriage.
CLAUDIUSStill harping on that is he? I mean it's already been two weeks, hasn't it?
GERTRUDETwo months, dear my lord.
CLAUDIUSWell, there you are then: two months. That's four fortnights, eight weeks, sixty days, one thousand four hundred forty hours. It's eighty-six thousand four hundred minutes! Really, it's quite tedious of him to go on so.
POLONIUS re-enters with CORNELIUS and VOLTEMAND who are wearing sunglasses, having just returned from the "Norwegian Riveriera."
POLONIUSThe ambassadors, sire. (bows and exits)
CLAUDIUSWelcome, my good friends. Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?
CLAUDIUSNot your brother, my brother. I was employing the "royal we".
VOLTEMANDOh, I see...Is he really your brother?
CLAUDIUSI was speaking metaphorically, of course. I and Norway and France and England and Scotland and Flanders and Naples and Castille and Lictenschtein and so forth. Well, you see, we all belong to a small, but exclusive, brotherhood, a fraternity of monarchs: kings, princes, emperors, queens, princesses, czars, sultans, shahs, maharajas...
CORNELIUSBarons, earls, marquises...
CLAUDIUSNo no, none of that riff-raff. An occasional grand duke, perhaps. No, I'm talking about the creme de la crene, the top of the heap, the few, the elite, the regal pinnacle of personages, the special society of stupendous sovereigns...
GERTRUDEMethinks I feel a song coming on.
CLAUDIUSThe chosen of God, the anointed, the possessors of the devine rights of kings!
CLAUDIUS takes GERTRUDE by the hand. They stand as a musical introduction is played. They dance a minuet as the king sings "The King of Clubs."
CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE dance the minuet.
CLAUDIUS takes GERTRUDE's hand and they return to sit on their thrones.
CLAUDIUSWhat news, Voltemand?
VOLTEMANDOh, the news.
CLAUDIUSWhat from our brother Norway?
VOLTEMANDOur brother is Norway?
CLAUDIUSDo I have to sing another song to make you understand?
VOLTEMANDNo!...No, Sire. That won't be necessary. (takes scrolled message from inside his clothes, reads aloud) Most fair return of greetings and desires. Upon our first, he sent out to suppress his nephew's levies, which to him appeared to be preparation 'gainst the Polack"
CLAUDIUSWhat is it in a nutshell, Voltemand?
CLAUDIUSTell me what he said and quickly!
VOLTEMANDBut he didn't say it quickly, Sire.
CLAUDIUSGuards! (GUARDS enter, CLAUDIUS motions, and GUARDS take VOLTEMAND away.) Now, good Cornelius, can you tell me quickly what the message says?
CORNELIUSYes, Sire. (Gulps a deep breath, speeds through message.) Old Norway said Fortinbras couldn t attack us. Fortinbras said "all right". Norway raised his allowance and told him to attack Poland. (Gulps a bigger breath.)
CLAUDIUSGuards! (GUARDS enter.) Take him away! (GUARDS take the bewildered CORNELIUS away.)
Act I, scene ix. Still in the Royal Court
POLONIUSThis business is well ended. My liege and madam, to expostulate what majesty should be, what duty is, why day is day, night night, and time is time, were nothing but to waste night, day, and time. Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief: your noble son is mad. Mad call I it, for to define true madness, what is it but to be nothing else but mad? But let that go.
GERTRUDEMore matter, with less art.
POLONIUSMadam, I swear I use no art at all. That he is mad, 'tis true; 'tis true 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true--a foolish figure. But farewell it, for I will use no art. Mad let us grant him then, and now remains that we find out the cause of this effect--or rather say, the cause of this defect, for this effect defective comes by cause. Thus it remains, and the remainder thus--
CLAUDIUSDoes this have anything to do with Hamlet's madness?
POLONIUSI do so believe, my lord; he is mad for her love. (CLAUDIUS motions GUARD away, POLONIUS reads) "Doubt thou the stars are fire; doubt that the sun doth move--"
CLAUDIUSDon't read the bloody thing aloud! How may we try it further?
POLONIUSYou know sometimes he walks four hours together here in the lobby.
GERTRUDESo he does indeed.
POLONIUSAt such a time I'll loose my daughter to him. Be you and I behind an arras then. Mark the encounter. If he love her not, and be not from his reason fallen thereon, let me be no assistant for a state but keep a farm and carters.
CLAUDIUSWe will try it.
POLONIUSAway, I do beseech you both, away. (CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE stand.) I'll board him presently. (HAMLET stands downstage reading a book which looks very much like a "Pelican" or "Penguin" or "Signet" paperback of "Hamlet") 0 give me leave. (CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE exit upstage.) How does my good Lord Hamlet?
HAMLETWho died and made him king?
POLONIUS indicates the three clownish PLAYERS who now enter from upstage.
POLONIUSThe best actors in the world, either for tragedy, (PLAYERS mime tragedy.) comedy, (PLAYERS mime comedy.) history, (They try to mime each genre as quickly as POLONIUS can speak it, the pace quickening until they exhaust themselves.) pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral--
POLONIUS exits in a hurry. The PLAYERS begin to exit also, but HAMLET calls them back.
HAMLETYou are welcome actors, masters all! (HAMLET meets them halfway up the levels of the stage, gathers them around himself, and the PLAYERS listen as immovably and as seriously as any three stooges or Marxes full of mischief.) Could you perform "The Murder of Gonzago" for us at court tonight? (They mime murdering one another and nod "Yes".) Could you insert a speech of some fourteen lines which I will give you? (They look at one another doubtfully until HAMLET takes a bag of gold coins from his clothing, opens the bag, lets the PLAYERS peer inside, and draws the strings on one of their noses.) Splendid! The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king! (The PLAYERS all applaud, or at least mime applause.) Thank you, so much! I say, could you chaps teach me to act? (The PLAYERS mime trying to hold back uncontrolable laughter.) Everyone says "Hamlet's tragic flaw is that he can't act." I never understood that. (One of the PLAYERS takes his book, HAMLET looks around, the three play keep away with the book, HAMLET looks around again, one PLAYER skims through the pages of the book and taps HAMLET on the shoulder.) Oh, you've found it. (The PLAYER points out something in the book as another player whispers in HAMLET's ear.) Alright, then: To be!" (The third PLAYER mimes for HAMLET to be more forceful.) Very well: "To be!" (One PLAYER pinches HAMLET's lips into a pucker.) "Tuh" (Another PLAYER adjusts HAMLET's posture, the one still pinching the lips.) "Tuh bih." (The remaining PLAYER squeezes HAMLET around the kidneys.) Oooph! (The three PLAYERS mime for HAMLET to try the speech again.) "To be!" (One whispers in HAMLET's ear.) "To be! Or not to be!" (One PLAYER becomes the conductor and the other two are the silent chorus on either side of HAMLET.) "To be to be toooo. A to be to be. To be to be tooo." (HAMLET "to be's" to the tune of "Strangers In The Night" as they all exit together downstage... or other stage directions to that effect.)
Act I, scene vi. Elsinore Castle, the lobby. We see a long curtain or tapestry or arras is stretched across in front of the upper platform upstage. Downstage of it are CLAUDIUS, POLONIUS and OPHELIA.
POLONIUSOphelia, walk you here. (to CLAUDIUS) Gracious, so please you, we will bestow ourselves. (to OPHELIA, handing her a small book) Read on this book.
POLONIUS, OPHELIA and CLAUDIUS all hide behind the arras, but the audience, and presumably HAMLET, can easily see their feet. HAMLET enters, still singing "To be to be toooo". When he reaches downstage center, HAMLET, now every inch an actor, begins doing stretches, and the most bizarre vocal warm—ups possible. Finally, he stops.
HAMLETEnough warm—ups, then.
He climbs the levels to the top platform, takes a stance, and proceeds to perform the most overacted, over—mannered, schtickiest version of the following soliloquy that has ever been perpetrated.
POLONIUS shoves OPHELIA through a slit in the arras. OPHELIA tries to return behind the curtain, but POLONIUS points a stern finger downstage. OPHELIA warily descends the levels toward HAMLET. He turns around when she speaks.
OPHELIAGood my lord, how does your honor for this many a day?
HAMLETI humbly thank you, well, well, well.
OPHELIAI have your letters, my lord. I've been meaning to return them.
HAMLETI never sent you any letters.
OPHELIAMy honored lord, you know right well you did, and with them words of so sweet breath composed as made the things more rich. Their perfume lost, take these again. (takes letters from her bodice; with some difficulty) Take these again, for to the noble mind rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
HAMLETI see...(aside) Now I'll show them some acting! (to OPHELIA, maniacally) Ha ha! Are you honest?
HAMLETAre you fair?
OPHELIAWhat means you lordship?
HAMLETIf you're fair, you really should stay out of the sun.
OPHELIAGo to hell!
She exits in a huff. HAMLET, dazed, stumbles away as he too exits--in the opposite direction. When they have left, CLAUDIUS and POLONIUS step from behind the curtains.
CLAUDIUSLove? His affections do not that way tend. And what is Ophelia on about?
POLONIUSI know not, my lord, but what of Hamlet?
CLAUDIUSHe is either mad or he is the worst actor I've ever seen. There's something in his soul o'er which his melancholy sits on brood, and I do doubt the hatch and the disclose will be of some danger; which for to prevent, I have in quick determination thus set it down: he shall with speed to England for the demand of our neglected tribute. What think you on't?
POLONIUSIt shall do well. But yet do I believe the origin and commencement of his grief sprung from neglected love. My lord, if you hold it fit, after the play let his queen mother all alone entreat him, to show his grief. Let her be round with him, and I'll be placed, so please you, in the ear off all their conference. If she find him not, to England send him, or confine him where your wisdom best shall think.
CLAUDIUSIt shall be so! Madness in great ones must not unwashed go.
Act I, scene vii. Elsinore Castle. The Royal Court. HAMLET and HORATIO enter. They spy the grand procession amassing just offstage.
HAMLETThey are coming to the play. I must idle. Get you a place and note how the king reacts.
HORATIO exits as GLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE lead a court parade from the other end of the downstage area up the levels to the top platform. POLONIUS and OPHELIA follow, with ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN bringing up the rear and carrying the wicker thrones while playing the kazoo fanfare. CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE sit on their thrones. POLONIUS and OPHELIA to one side. ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN stand on either side of the gathered party.
CLAUDIUSAnd step son.
HAMLETAll right then, step son...(playing to his audience) I fare excellent, in faith, of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air, promised-crammed. You cannot feed capons so.
HAMLETMy lord Polonius, you played once in the university, you say?
POLONIUSQuite the contrary, my lord. I was a serious student and was not there to play. There was only that one incident with the goat, but--
HAMLETI mean, you enacted a role in a play.
POLONIUSOh quite, quite. I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed in the Capitol; Brutus killed me.
HAMLETKilled in the Capitol? Sounds rather painful. Stabbed in the rotunda, no doubt. (to HORATIO who enters downstage) Be the players ready?
HAMLET crosses to stand by OPHELIA.
HORATIOAy, my lord. They stay upon your patience.
GOOD HUMOUR MAN enters suddenly with his tray of bottled drinks in appropriate colors.
GOOD HUMOUR MANHot blood, cold blood! Black bile, yellow bile, phlegm!
HAMLETVendor, do get your business done at once. The play is about to begin.
GOOD HUMOUR MANWhat'll ya have, governor?
HAMLETAre they truly good humours?
GOOD HUMOUR MANI dare say they are. Have a taste?
GOOD HUMOUR MANSuit yourself. Your yellow bile is best when fresh. (Wanders among the court.) Hot blood! Cold blood! Black bile! Yellow bile! Phlegm!
GERTRUDEPlease, I'm on a diet.
GOOD HUMOUR MAN exits. There is a kazoo fanfare as those standing sit down to watch the play below. The PLAYERS act out a dumb show, a pantomime of the play to follow.
OPHELIAWhat means this, my lord?
HAMLETMarry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief.
OPHELIABelike this show imparts the argument of the play. (fanfare)
HAMLETSo it does, but what's this nonsense?
A puppet theatre is wheeled out and the plot is repeated with hand puppets.
HAMLETThese short subjects are so tedious.
There is another kazoo fanfare as the lights fade out except for a spotlight on the back of the now turned around puppet theatre. Several pairs of hands now perform finger shadows. We hear OPHELIA and HAMLET speak in the darkness.
OPHELIAMy lord, are these previews of coming attractions?
HAMLETIt's a bloody give away of the plot, it is.
OPHELIAOh, bad show.
The spotlight fades out. When the lights come up again, the stage is cleared of the puppet theatre and all but one PLAYER, who is dressed in a modern white suit with a string tie.
FIRST PLAYERFor us and for our tragedy, here stooping to your clemency, we beg your hearing patiently.
HAMLETWould you get on with it?!
FIRST PLAYERRight. Here we go then. (Strikes a pose, clears his voice and speaks with a deep southern dialect, not unlike "Big Daddy" in Tennessee Williams "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".) Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart gone round Neptune's salt wash and Tellus' or-bed ground, and thirty dozen moons with borrowed sheen about the world have times twelve thirties been, since love our hearts, and Hymen did our hands unite commutual in most sacred bands.
As the FIRST PLAYER extends his hand, the SECOND PLAYER enters, a Williams heroine in a white slip, speaking like "Maggie the Cat", "Baby Doll" or "Blanche Dubois". He takes the hand of the FIRST PLAYER.
SECOND PLAYERSo many journeys may the sun and moon make us again count o'er ere love be done! But woe is me, you are so sick of late, so far from cheer and from your former state, that I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust, discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must. For women's fear and love hold quantity in neither aught, or in extremity. Now what my love is, proof hath made you know, and as my love is sized, my fear is so. Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear; where little fears grow great, great love grows there.
FIRST PLAYERFaith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too; my operant powers their functions leave to do. And thou--
SECOND PLAYER0, confound the rest!
SECOND PLAYERSleep rock thy brain, and never come mischance between us twain!
FIRST PLAYER mimes sleeping while standing.
HAMLETNo, no, they do but jest, poison in jest. (mimes ingesting poison) no offense in the world.
CLAUDIUSWhat do you call the play?
CLAUDIUSAnd which player is the cheese?
The THIRD PLAYER enters, torn T-shirt and all, a Marlon Brando version of Stanley Kowalski, no less, in a method acting tour-de- force.
HAMLETThat would be Lucianus, Duke of Lindburger, nephew to the King.
THIRD PLAYERThoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and the time agreeing. Confederate season, else no creature seeing. Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected, with Hecate's ban twice blasted, thrice infected. Thy natural magic and dire property on wholesome life usurps immediately.
THIRD PLAYER takes a small "Coke" bottle from his hip pocket and "pours" the contents into the ear of the sleeping "King".
HAMLETHe poisons him in the garden for his estate. His name is Gonzago. We shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago's wife. (beat) The murderer gets the love of Gonzago s wife, Uncle!
CLAUDIUSYes. Yes. Hamlet, stop interrupting the play.
HAMLETMy lord, doesn't the plot seem just a little familiar?
HAMLETYou know, "poisons him in the garden for his estate. The murderer gets the love of Gonzago's wife."
CLAUDIUSGertrude, do we know anyone named Gonzago?
GERTRUDEI think not, dear.
CLAUDIUSStep son. And I'm afraid your "Gonzago" just doesn't ring a bell.
HAMLETWhat if he were called "Hamlet Senior"?
HAMLETJust for the sake of argument. And what if Lucianus were "Claudius", eh?
The PLAYERS, sensing the play is over, slink away, exiting to one side or the other of the stage.
CLAUDIUSI'm afraid I don't quite follow you, Hamlet.
HAMLETOh come now. You couldn't possibly be that dense.
CLAUDIUSSee here, Hamlet, we came to see a play and--
HAMLETI'm certain I saw you flinch a bit at Lucianus, uncle.
HAMLETYou did. You flinched and you blinked.
CLAUDIUSCan't help blinking. No one can. It's involuntary.
HAMLETDid too! Did too! Did too! Now admit it!
CLAUDIUSI will not. (rising from his throne) This is absurd. Hamlet, you've completely ruined the play for all of us.
CLAUDIUS holds out his hand and GERTRUDE also stands, taking his hand.
HAMLETWhat, frighted with false fire?
CLAUDIUSYou're a looney. Come, Gertrude.
CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE exit, followed by OPHELIA and POLONIUS, with ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN carrying the thrones and playing an exit fanfare. HORATIO enters.
HAMLETYou saw it. He blinked. Didn't he, Horatio?
HAMLETI do say so, old friend. Leave me now. I've taken to talking to myself as of late and if you were here...well, it would be dialogue and not a soliloquy.
GOOD HUMOUR MAN enters with his tray of bottles.
GOOD HUMOUR MANHere you are, governor!
GOOD HUMOUR MANSix "p", my lord.
END OF ACT I
Act II, scene i. Elsinore Castle, the Royal Court. CLAUDIUS enters downstage followed by ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
CLAUDIUSI like him not, nor stands it safe with us to let his madness range. Me thinks he suspects something——not that there is anything to suspect, you understand--but Hamlet is becoming very dangerous. I shall send the two of you to escort him to England.
ROSENCRANTZTo England? Where giraffes and elephants come from?
ROSENCRANTZTo England where giraffes and whales come from?
POLONTUS enters far upstage.
GUILDENSTERNYes, Sire. (to ROSENCRANTZ) We're going to England! I've always wanted to see the pyramids.
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN exit joyously downstage. CLAUDIUS sees POLONIUS step down towards him.
POLONIUSMy lord, he's going to his mother's closet.
CLAUDIUSTo her closet?
POLONIUSBehind the arras I'll convey myself.
POLONIUSCurtains, tapestry, my lord. I'll hide behind them.
POLONIUSI'll call upon you ere you go to bed. And tell you what I know.
CLAUDIUSYes. I see.
POLONIUSThat exchange was quick enough.
CLAUDIUSBut singularly lacking in punchlines, don't you think?
POLONIUS bows and exits.
CLAUDIUSRight...So I'm alone then, am I? Why do It feel the urge to talk aloud to myself. Most curious. There was something in that play...I think Hamlet was trying to tell me something...0, my offense is rank; it smells to Heaven. (sniffs his clothes) It must be this doublet. I could use a fresh change of clothes. I'll pray a minute and then go bathies.
As CLAUDIUS kneels, bowing his head to pray, the lights dim and we see the silhouette of a cross against the floor while reverent organ music plays. HAMLET enters from high upstage, takes out his sword, steps down a level or two, and soliloquizes.
HAMLETNow might I do it. Now while he's a—praying. Now I'll do it. And so he goes to Heaven, and so am I revenged!...That's right, I'll do it now...This is my chance to off the bastard...If I hesitate I m lost....This really is a bit of luck finding him here like this....I ll just jab him a little in the back. (mimes jabbing) Or in the back of the neck. (mimes jabbing) Yes, I'm going to do it! I m really going to do it!...Let me savor this moment. ("savors" to himself) Good. That's enough savoring. Now I'11 do it...All right. I'11 just raise my sword. (raises sword overhead) And I'll just...Maybe if I took a running start from back here...(Takes a few steps back.) Now I'11—-(CLAUDIUS stands, crossing himself.) Bugger! I almost had him. He's too fast for me tonight.
CLAUDIUS turns around to see HAMLET. HAMLET hides the sword behind his back.
CLAUDIUSOh Hamlet, I didn't see you there.
HAMLETYes. Well...I thought I'd just pray a bit.
CLAUDIUS exits upstage.
HAMLETIt's about time. His offense is rank. It stinks to high Heaven...I ll get him next time. When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, or about some act that has no relish of salvation in it. I'll do it. I really will! (Smells his clothes.) I could use a bit of a scrub myself. I do hope he doesn't use all the bubble bath.
HAMLET exits downstage.
Act II, scene ii. Elsinore Castle, GERTRUDE's apartments. The tapestry, curtains, arras, what you will, is drawn across the upstage platform. GERTRUDE and POLONIUS enter from downstage.
POLONIUSHe will come straight. Look you, lay home to him. Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with, and that Your Grace hath screened and stood between much heat and him. I'll silence me even here. Pray you be round with him.
GERTRUDEI'll be square with him.
POLONIUSI believe that s "round", madam.
GERTRUDEWhatever. Withdraw; I hear him coming.
POLONIUS hides behind the arras. HAMLET enters downstage.
HAMLETMother, what is it?
GERTRUDEHamlet, thou has thy father much offended.
HAMLETMother, you have my father much offended.
GERTRUDECome, come, you answer with an idle tongue.
HAMLETGo, go, you question with a wicked tongue.
GERTRUDEWhy, how now, Hamlet?
HAMLETWhy, how now, brown cow?
HAMLETThe quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, mother.
GERTRUDEHamlet, I don't know what to say.
HAMLETAh ha! Mince phrases with me, will you? I'll set up a mirror where you may see the inmost part of you.
HAMLETI was speaking metaphorically, mother.
GERTRUDEI see. But what is that wild gleam in your eye?
HAMLETWild gleam? Where? (Draws sword, uses it as a mirror.) Where's that blasted mirror?
GERTRUDEWhat wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me? Help ho!
POLONIUS(behind the arras) What, ho! Help!
HAMLETThat's not Ho. Me thinks it's my rat of an uncle. Dead for a ducat, dead! (Jabs arras with his sword.)
GERTRUDEO me, what hast thou done?
HAMLETYou heard him. He's slain. I've offed the king.
GERTRUDE0, what a rash and bloody deed is this!
HAMLETA bloody deed--almost as bad, good mother, as kill a king and marry with his brother.
GERTRUDEAs kill a king?
HAMLETAy, lady, it was my word. (Lifts arras and sees POLONIUS.) Oops.
GERTRUDEOops? Is that all you have to say for yourself? You kill a trusted old friend and counselor and get blood stains all over my nice new arras, and all you can think of is "oops"?
HAMLETThis is really quite embarrassing. I thought he was the king.
GERTRUDEAnd I suppose that makes it alright? Hamlet, honestly, sometimes you just don't think, do you?
HAMLETIt was a bit rash then, was it?
HAMLETWell, he had it coming, always sneaking about and hiding in people's bedrooms. And my uncle, he really has it coming.
GERTRUDEAnd me? Do I have it coming, Hamlet?
HAMLETMother, did you have to marry my uncle and so soon after father died?
GERTRUDEWell, he was just no fun anymore.
HAMLETI dare say.
GERTRUDENo, silly, before he died. He was no fun before he died.
HAMLETAnd did you help to mur—-(GHOST enters.)
GERTRUDEMur? What's "mur"?
GERTRUDEAlas, he's mad. He's balmy as a jaybird.
GHOSTDo not forget, Hamlet. This visitation is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose. But look, amazement on thy mother sits. Speak to her, Hamlet.
HAMLETRight. How are you, mummy?
GERTRUDEHow are you, Hamlet? You've been talking to yourself much too much of late. I'm beginning to worry.
HAMLETBut don't you see him, mummy? (GHOST exits.) There he goes. There.
GERTRUDEWho are you talking about?
HAMLETDad, of course, mummy. Look where he goes even now out at the portal!
GERTRUDEAre you daft?
HAMLETDaft? I'm as sane as you are. Bring me to the test. I'll show you.
GERTRUDEAlright then. (Takes ink blot cards from her bossom.) What does this look like?
HAMLETA weasel. No, it's a whale. Mother, old Polonius already administered this test--with the clouds.
GERTRUDEReally? I don't recall...
HAMLETThat's right, we cut that scene. It was too long.
GERTRUDEUnlike this one?
HAMLETRight. I see what you mean. All right then, I'll get right to the point. (quickly) Confess yourself to heaven, repent what's past, avoid what is to come, and do not spread the compost on the weeds to make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue. For in the fatness of these pursy times virtue itself of vice must pardon beg, yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.
GERTRUDE0 Hamlet, thou has cleft my heart in twain.
HAMLETI have? I really should be more careful with this sword. Are you in pain?
GERTRUDEI'm speaking metaphorically, of course.
HAMLETOf course. And well done too, mother. Right. Well, good night--but go not to my uncle's bed. Assume a virtue if you have it not.
GERTRUDEYou are daft!
HAMLETNow I must go, mother...And don t tell anyone about all this. It really is quite embarrassing, you know.
GERTRUDEI won't tell a soul. Really I won't.
HAMLETI must go to England; you know that.
GERTRUDEYes, I had forgotten what with all this
HAMLETAll what business, mother?
GERTRUDENone, Hamlet. None at all.
HAMLETThat s better. I ll just lug these guts into the neighbor room.
HAMLET begins to drag POLONIUS away.
GERTRUDEWhose guts, Hamlet?
HAMLET exits dragging POLONIUS.
GERTRUDEGood night. Hamlet.
GERTRUDEPromise you won't get angry?
CLAUDIUSWhat is it then?
GERTRUDEClaudius, the fact is...It's so difficult to put this gracefully. Hamlet, our son, sort of...killed Polonius.
GERTRUDENow remember he is our son and it was a kind of accident.
CLAUDIUSHe's your son. He's just my nephew.
GERTRUDEAnd step son.
CLAUDIUSAll right, step son.
GERTRUDEHe didn t really mean to kill him. He thought Polonius was you--I mean...
CLAUDIUSSo that's it!
GERTRUDEOh dear. You won't do anything hasty, will you?
CLAUDIUSHasty!...Hasty?...Of course not. We'll simply send him away at once--for his health.
GERTRUDEOh Claudius. You are so wise and kind.
CLAUDIUSYes. Yes...Ho Rosencrantz! Guildenstern!
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN enter.
ROSENCRANTZI'm sorry, my lord. Ho couldn't make it, but we're here.
CLAUDIUSGood enough. Bring Prince Hamlet before me.
GUILDENSTERNAt once, my lord.
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN exit.
HAMLET(offstage) What's the meaning of all this?
HAMLET is brought in by ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
CLAUDIUSWell, young Hamlet, what do you have to say for yourself?
HAMLETIt's a fair cop; I done it alright.
CLAUDIUSNow, Hamlet, where s Polonius?
CLAUDIUSAt supper? Where?
HAMLETNot where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are eatin' at him.
CLAUDIUSHamlet, your bloody metaphors are beginning to become a bit disgusting. Don't you think?
HAMLETRight. Sorry. I do get carried away with them.
CLAUDIUSHamlet, I'm sending you to England right away until all this blows over.
HAMLETI've always wanted to see England. Thank you, Sire. Perhaps I'll get the chance to ride a camel.
GUILDENSTERNShall we go, lord Hamlet?
HAMLETLet's. Could I sit by the window on the boat?
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERNOver our dead bodies.
HAMLET, ROSENCRANTZ and GUTLIJENSTERN exit.
GERTRUDEOh dear. I hope he gets off before Laertes hears about all this.
CLAUDIUSLaertes...Yes, I had quite forgotten about him. He could make a nasty scene about this affair. Might even blame me...Leave me now, Gertrude. I must--
GERTRUDEI know, talk to yourself. Claudius, I do hope you're not coming down with whatever Hamlet has.
GERTRUDE exits. CLAUDIUS scribbles something on a piece of paper, reads.
CLAUDIUSAnd England, if my love thou hold'st at aught--as my great power thereof may give thee sense--slay Hamlet...Do it England! For like the hectic in my blood he rages, and thou must cure me. Do it! Let a camel run him over. I don't care how you do it, but do it!
CLAUDIUSYes. Quite. Coming Gertrude.
CLAUDIUS exits after GERTRUDE.
Act II, scene ii. Elsinore Castle, the Royal Court. GERTRUDE is sitting on her throne on the top platform. HORATIO enters from downstage and bows, then stands straight.
HORATIOThe lady Ophelia, your majesty.
GERTRUDEI will not speak with her.
HORATIOShe is importunate, indeed distract. Her mood will needs be pitied. 'Twere good she were spoken with, for she may strew dangerous conjectures in ill -breeding minds.
HORATIO exits downstage after bowing. OPHELIA enters. She seems to be wearing the same white slip seen earlier on the PLAYER QUEEN. OPHELIA has weeds and flowers in her hair and in her hands. She strews the stage with these plants. She is not well.
OPHELIAHello Hello Hello. Where is the beautious majesty of Denmark?
GERTRUDE(concerned for OPHELIA's sanity) How now, Ophelia?
OPHELIAHow now, brown cow? I shall sing now. (sings)
GERTRUDEYou mean Hamlet? Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?
OPHELIASorry, wrong song...(sings)
GERTRUDEHow did the other one go?
I'm as corny as--
Kansas in August..."
OPHELIA and GERTRUDE
GERTRUDEMerely singing show tunes, milord.
CLAUDIUSOh Gertrude, Gertrude. When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. First her father slain, next your son gone, and now Rogers and Hammerstein!
There is a noise offstage. OPHELIA hides behind CLAUDIUS.
GERTRUDEAlack, what noise is this?
LAERTES enters downstage, his sword drawn. OPHELIA, behind CLAUDIUS, thrusts her arms underneath those of the king. CLAUDIUS, seeing he has too many arms, folds his behind his back.
CLAUDIUSLaertes, what a pleasant surprise!
GERTRUDECalmly, good Laertes.
LAERTESWhere is my father?
GERTRUDEBut not by him.
CLAUDIUSIt was Ham——(GERTRUDE's hand covers CLAUDIUS' mouth.)
GERTRUDEThat's right, Laertes. It was ham. He choked on a ham sandwich.
LAERTESA ham sandwich?
OPHELIA, still behind CLAUDIUS, sneezes.
LAERTESHow now. What noise is that?
She tries to decorate LAERTES with flowers.
LAERTESOh heat, dry up my brains! 0 heavens, is it possible a young maid's wits should be as mortal as an old man's——(OPHELIA stuffs a rose stem in his mouth. His speech is muffled.)——life. (OPHELTA pulls the stem from his mouth in a hard yank. He has a delayed reaction) All this from--Ow! And all this from an errant ham sandwich? Oh fie on that foul comestible!
GERTRUDEIt was an accident.
LAERTESAn accident! How?
CLAUDIUSHe stabbed your father in the arras!
GERTRUDEThought he was a rat, you know.
GERTRUDEWell, he did say "Oops".
LAERTESOops?" "Oops?" "Oops", is it? I'll give him bloody "oops"! Where is he?
CLAUDIUSAway in England. I sent him there.
LAERTESWell, I'm sorry, but that's not punishment enough!
CLAUDIUS, GERTRUDE and LAERTESWould you shut up?
CLAUDIUSMy dear Gertrude, would you take poor Ophelia to her rooms. I shall comfort good Laertes even here.
GERTRUDE and OPHELIA
LAERTESThis is most monstrous!
CLAUDIUSReally? I thought they were quite good.
LAERTESNot them, Sire. I mean, my father's death. And I can do nothing.
HORATIC interrupts with messages.
CLAUDIUSWhat is it. Horatio?
HORATIOLetters, my lord, from Hamlet. This to your majesty and this to the queen.
He holds out his hand for a tip.
CLAUDIUSShall I have that hand cut off for you?
HORATIO bows and exits.
LAERTESA tip is customary, Your Majesty.
CLAUDIUSIt's bloody Hamlet. He's escaped. I sent him with a note for the King of England to have him snuffed. So Hamlet reads it and offs my messengers Rosen...whatever and...You know, the two Jewish chaps. And now he's coming back to Elsinore.
CLAUDIUSLaertes, was your father dear to you?
LAERTESWas he dear to me? Was he dear to me? My father?! What a bloody stupid--
CLAUDIUSJust checking...When Hamlet returns from England, what would you undertake to show yourself your father's son in deed more than in words?
LAERTESTo cut his throat in the church!
CLAUDIUSGood lad! Just suppose I could arrange a fencing match with you and Hamlet.
LAERTESWhat of it, Sire?
CLAUDIUSSuppose I gave Hamlet a dull rapier and I gave you a nice pointy one.
LAERTESGood show, milord. And I could annoint my rapier with a bit of poison.
CLAUDIUSGood lad! And I could give Hamlet a goblet of poison wine when he's thirsty.
CLAUDIUSBut hark, someone approaches.
GERTRUDEThere is a willow grows 'slant a brook that shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream. There with fantastic garlands did she--
CLAUDIUSYes, yes, my dear. We get your drift.
GERTRUDEBut there's more.
CLAUDIUSWe ll hear it later.
GERTRUDEIt's my only bleeding monologue.
LAERTESAlas, then she is drowned?
GERTRUDEHe gets his bloody monologue. It's not fair, milord.
LAERTESAdieu, my lord. I have a speech of fire!
LAERTES exits with a flourish of his sword.
GERTRUDEOh "speech of fire", that's nice. But what do I get? Nothing, that's what.
CLAUDIUSLet's follow, Gertrude. How much I had to do to calm his rage. Now fear I this will give it start again. Therefore, let's follow.
GERTRUDEBloody men get all the good lines.
GERTRUDE and CLAUDIUS exit after LAERTES. We then hear GERTRUDE offstage.
GERTRUDEDon't you touch me!
Act II, scene iii. A trap door is open at the uppermost platform to represent a grave. A few headstones surround the hole. Inside the grave a circus CLOWN is digging, piling dirt on the surface level. The CLOWN sings.
HAMLET and HORATIO enter from upstage.
CLOWNMy name isn't Sarah, milord.
HAMLETOf course it isn't.
CLOWNNamed after me father.
HAMLETAnyway, whose grave is it?
CLOWNYou lie out on't, sir, and therefore 'tis not yours. For my part, I do not lie in't, yet it is mine.
HAMLETListen to this, Horatio. (to CLOWN) Thou dost lie in't, to be in't and say it is thine. 'Tis for the dead, not for the quick, therefore, thou liest.
CLOWN'Tis a quick lie, sir.
HAMLETQuick lye"; get it, Horatio?
CLOWNFor no man, sir.
HAMLETWhat woman, then?
CLOWNFor none neither.
HAMLETWho is to be buried in't?
CLOWNOne that was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul, she's dead.
HAMLETI'll get him this time, Horatio. (to CLOWN) Tell me, knave, how do you steam a clam?
CLOWNA clam, sir? That I know not.
HORATIOGood one, milord!
CLOWNA skull, sir, that hath lain in the earth three and twenty years.
HAMLETWhose was it?
HAMLETNay, I know not.
HORATIOGood milord, shouldn't we be getting along with the plot. It's rather late now.
CLOWNAll right then; it's Yorick's skull, the king's jester.
HAMLETLet me see. (Takes the skull.)
HORATIOWe ll never finish this play.
CLOWNLet him have his little speech, sir. What s the ‘arm?
HAMLETAlas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times... Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft... (kisses skull) Horatio?
HAMLETI think I'm going to be quite ill. (Gives skull to CLOWN.)
CLAUDIUS, GERTRUDE and LAERTES enter from downstage in solemn procession behind two familiar courtiers who carry OPHELIA s body, a white bundle tangled with river plants and dripping wet. The CLOWN climbs out of the grave and exits.
HAMLETBut soft awhile. Here comes the king, the queen, the courtiers.
HAMLETWho is this they carry?
HORATIOI fear it is the soggy corpse of the Lady Ophelia, milord.
HAMLETOphelia's snuffed it?
HORATIOI fear so, my prince.
HAMLETCouch we awhile, and mark.
HORATIOCome again, milord?
HAMLETLet's hide and listen, Horatio.
HAMLET and HORATIO hide on the edge of the set as the funeral procession reaches the grave site. The courtiers lower OPHELIA into the grave.
GERTRUDESweets to the sweet. Farewell. (scatters flowers over the coffin)
LAERTES0, treble woe fall ten times treble on that cursed head whose wicked ingenious sense deprived thee of! Hold off the earth have caught her once mare in mine arms. (leaps in the grave, making a big sloshing sound) Sorry. (then over—dramatically) Now pile your dust upon the glick and dead till of this flat mountain you have made to o'ertop old Pelion or the skyish head of blue Olympus.
HAMLETWhat the devil is he talking about?
HORATIOBugger if I know, milord.
HAMLETSo he thinks he can beat me at overacting, does he? (shouts) This is I, Hamlet the Dane!
A dog barks offstage.
HAMLET leaps into the grave, also making a big sloshing sound.
LAERTESDevil take thy soul!
LAERTES and HAMLET grapple in the grave.
LAERTESStop treading on my sister!
HAMLETWell, there's not much room in here, is there?
CLAUDIUSWhat the devil is she talking about?
GERTRUDEYou see? I can be as verbose and obscure as anybody.
HAMLET exits followed by HORATIO.
CLAUDIUSGood Gertrude, set some watch over your son.
LAERTESBeg pardon, could someone give me a bit of a lift?
CLAUDIUS grasps LAERTES hand to pull him from the grave and whispers to him.
CLAUDIUSAre you up to doing in Hamlet?
Everyone exits except CIAUDTUS and LAERTES. The CLOWN re-enters at CIAUDIUS' bidding and shovels some dirt into the grave.
LAERTESYou're getting her all dirty. (aside as he exits) Bloody cheap king. Can't afford a bleeding casket.
There is a sudden blackout. In the dark we hear CLAUDIUS complaining to the CLOWN.
CLAUDIUSIn the grave, not my bloody shoes!
CLAUDIUS and ClOWN exit in the dark.
Act II, Scene iv. Elsinore Castle, the Royal Court. HAMLET and HORATIO enter.
HORATIOTo show there are no hard feelings between yourself and yoimg Laertes, milord, the king wishes you to fence a friendly bout before the entire court. But I fear he will best you woefully with his champion skill at swordplay.
HAMLETI do not think so. Since Laertes went into France I have been in continual practice.
On the word "practice" HAMLET pulls his sword from its scabbord, but in one continous motion slings it into the wings of the stage.
HAMLET, waxing philosophical and noble, steps downstage for a brief speech.
HAMLETNot a whit, we defy augury. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now, if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is't to leave betimes? Let be.
HORATIOA beautiful speech, my lord...What the Hell does it mean?
A table with foils is brought in by the two courtiers, "E" and "S", who then bow and exit. CLAUDIUS, GERTRUDE and LAERTES enter. GERTRUDE sits on her throne.
The handshake continues and evolves into an arm wrestling match, each man tryiing to put the other off balance.
HAMLETAnd I really must apologize for driving poor Ophelia to madness.
The pushing intensifies.
HAMLETAnd mistaking your father for a rat, how embarrassing! Still, I don't think he suffered long. Of course, he would have died in ten years or so anyway.
LAERTES increases the pressure.
HAMLET falls on his posterior.
CLAUDIUSAre you quite ready, Laertes?
LAERTES growls affirmatively.
LAERTESLet us choose foils, my Lord Hamlet. (claps twice)
"E" steps forward with an armful of foils. LAERTES pretends to try a few and settles on a certain one whose tip he eyes keenly and then seems to chalk it like a pool cue with a small bag he acquires from the folds of his clothing. HAMLET motions to "E" and takes the entire bundle.
HAMLET swipes the foil about and "E" ducks.
CLAUDIUSSet me the stoups of wine upon the table. ("S" exits) If Hamlet give the first or second hit, ("S" returns with a goblet and a pitcher on a tea trolley.) or quit in answer of the third exchange, let all the battlements their ordinance fire, the King shall drink to Hamlet's better breath, and in the cup an union shall he throw, (picks up goblet) richer than that (raises goblet) which four successive kings in Denmark's crown have worn. (as though toasting) And let the kettle to the trumpet speak, the trumpet to the cannoneer without, then cannons to the heavens, the heavens to earth--
LAERTESCome, my lord.
They fence and HAMLET touches LAERTES in the rear with his foil.
HAMLETJudgement? (to "E") What say you, good Extraneous?
EXTRANEOUSOh...A hit, a very palpable hit.
SUPERFLUOUS pours wine into the goblet and serves it to CLAUDIUS.
SUPERFLUOUS steps forward to receive the goblet.
HAMLETI'll play this bout first; set it by awhile. (to LAERTES) Come.
HAMLET and LAERTES fence. CLAUDIUS motions SUPERFLUOUS to take the wine away to the tea cart. SUPERFLUOUS does so. HAMLET touches LAERTES once more in a buttock.
HAMLETAnother hit. What say you?
LAERTESA touch, a touch; I do confess't.
HAMLET is en guarde, but relaxes his stance to take his argument to CLAUDIUS.
HAMLETHer son and your nephew! (starts back toward LAERTES.)
HAMLETAll right. All right. Stepson. En guarde, Laertes!
GERTRUDEHe's fat and scant of breath.
HAMLETThis is not the time for that, Mother. (aside) Even she's noticed that my flesh is too too solid.
CLAUDIUSGertrude, do not drink!
GERTRUDEI will, my lord; I pray you pardon me. (drinks)
GERTRUDE gestures, offering the goblet to HAMLET.
HAMLETMother, I'm not thirsty yet. I'm fencing now.
GERTRUDECome let me wipe thy face.
HAMLETMother, would you please just let me fence!
GERTRUDEWell pardon me for living, I'm sure... (becomes faint) Hamlet!
HAMLETMother, don't you think you're being just a wee bit over-dramatic?
HAMLETCome, Laertes, fence.
They fence. LAERTES wounds HAMLET slightly. HAMLET attacks IAERTES in anger. En a clinch tney drop their swords, scuffle and end up exchanging foils. They fence with a newly manic intensity until HAMLET runs LAERTES through--the groin. They almost freese in this position.
CLAUDIUSPart them. They are incensed.
HAMLET pulls out the foil with the pop of a champagne cork. HAMLET stands en guarde as IAERTES stands there in pain.
HAMLETCome, again. (GERTRUDE falls.)
LAERTESNever again...Look to the queen there, ho!
HAMLETOh no. You won't catch me with that old trick, Laertes. Besides, I happen to know Ho is nowhere near the castle tonight.
LAERTES falls to his knees.
LAERTESAs a woodcock to mine own springe, I am justly killed with mine own treachery.
HAMLETSimiles to the end... (sees GERTRUDE hunched on the floor) How does the queen?
HAMLETI seem to remember that I'm miffed at you about something, Uncle. Now what's she about?
CLAUDIUSShe swoons at the bleeding.
HAMLETShe's swallowed your bloody pearl! I ought to--
GERTRUDEThe drink, the drink! I am poisoned. (dies)
HAMLETPoisoned! O villainy! Ho, let the door be locked!
LAERTESI thought you said Ho was nowhere near the castle tonight.
HAMLETEnough, Laertes. I'm beginning to lose my temper!
LAERTESHamlet, thou art slain; no medicine in the world can do thee good. In thee there is not half an hour's life. The treacherous instrument is in thy hand unbated and envenomed.
LAERTESThe king...the king's to blame... (dies)
HAMLETOh, that really does it! No more beating around the bush! I'm really quite mad now!
HAMLETNephew!...Now poison, do thy work!
HAMLET corners CLAUDIUS with his foil in one hand and, taking the goblet in his other hand, pours wine down CIADDIUS' throat while simultaneously running him through with the sword.
HAMLETNeph—(CLAUDIUS dies.) Bugger! (raising his foil above his head) This is I, Hamlet the Dane!
A dog barks offstage.
HAMLETRight. (exits in a huff, then from backstage) And I've had enough of you too, doggy!
We hear the dog yelp pittifully. HAMLET re—enters. Looking at everyone left alive on stage, he growls and chases them offstage. Then he notices the audience for the first time. He steps toward a member of the audience.
HAMLETAnd you! What are you looking at! I ought to...I will!
HAMLET seems to go for the person in the audience. There is a blackout and then a scream.