A little touch of Harry in the night. Henry V Act 4 Prologue.
For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.
Act 1. Scene 2. On one side of the stage, there is a party going on. King Claudius and Queen Gertrude and a roomful of courtiers, dancing, boogeying to the music of The Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Five. It’s a bit James Brown, Rick James and ABBA, thrown into one big stew. The crowd is really getting down as Rosencrantz sings their signature hit, “By the Time I Get To Wittenberg”.
Out on the dance floor, Claudius and Gertrude are so happy. Maybe they are like Ronald and Nancy Reagan. They love each other to an extreme, even above the children, and always singing, “I only have goo-goo eyes for you.” One thing is for sure. They are one happy couple. Of all the couples in Shakespeare, they may be the happiest. Happier than Romeo and Juliet or Anthony and Cleopatra anyway. And they put the Macbeths to shame.
The folks on their side of the stage are really with it. The booze is good. So is the food. And the comradery is the comraderyest. Folks are lining up to shake hands with the king and get a good gander at the queen’s new dress.
Alone on the other side of the stage sits a man in black. I would call him the Man in Black but Johnny Cash already laid a claim to that one. He has such a gloom on his face that it would make one think he invented melancholy. His name is Hamlet. He is the son Gertrude and the Daddy Hamlet, a Prince and heir to the throne, nephew to the current king. He is also the star of the show. He is the reason the play is called “Hamlet”. Otherwise it would have been called “Laertes” or “Ophelia” or “Claudius and Gertrude Make Whoopee Big Time” or “All’s Not Well That Ends With All The Main Characters Dead”.
Claudius glares over at Hamlet. He is thinking, “That young snot of an s.o.b. Who does he think he is? Sitting over there in the corner and taking the spotlight off Claudius.”
Hamlet glares back. To understand what Hamlet is going through, imagine that your daddy suddenly dies. In two shakes, your uncle moves in and marries his wife, then the Board of Directors votes him Honcho-in-Chief to run the family business.
Hamlet (mimicking the crowd): Blah. Blah. Blah.
Hamlet (speaking to the audience): So why am I sitting my ass over here in this downright uncomfortable chair? And with a big frown on my face? They are saying that I look so unhappy Bergman could make an entire film of my sulking. It would show the Swedes a thing or two about melancholy.
Gertrude (to the audience): Gertrude here. But you can just call me Gertie. Everybody does.
Gertie’s thinking a Jack Nicholson kind of thinking when he played the President of the United States in “Mars Attacks” and said to the Maritans, “Why can’t we just get along?” Could be that she is a Libra on the cusp of Scorpio.
Gertie (To Ham): Why are you always spoiling the party? You’d think somebody went and died around here. Don’t you know that this is the very reason your dad and I gave you to poor Yorick to raise. Thinking you would cheer up some. But, no. Your sulk did even him in.
Hamlet: Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Gertie (to Ham): Sure, your father is deceased. But he paid no never mind to me. And to you neither. We were just fodder in his crown. A trophy wife and a trophy son. Do you know how many dumb blondes that man slept with? I don’t know either. I do know it was a lot. He kept a slew of lawyers settling paternity suits. And now you mourn for him.
Gertie (To the audience): Hamlet was a hard birth, you know. Took eighteen hours, and finally there he was. The doctors told me I couldn’t have any more children. I considered it a fair exchange for this one. (Points to Ham.) He was a handsome baby boy. He has his father’s red hair and my eyes and the cutest little dimple.
Hamlet: If I was such a favored son, why did you give me to a clown to raise?
Gertie: It was not my choice but your daddy’s. You were such a sulker he wanted to do something to cheer you up. I can see that it didn’t work. Maybe it’s all that thinking you do.
Gertrude (to the audience): That clown, Yorick, almost cured him of the sulks. Almost but almost only works in horseshoes. Unfortunately Yorick had to get a hold of some bad stew and die from food poisoning. Something called salmonella. That is English for bad stew. Hamlet was seven.
Claudius (to the audience): Claudius here. (To Gertrude) What Hamlet needs is a girl friend. A little whoopee never hurt no one.
Gertie: He had one. Ophelia. Polonius put a nix on that.
Claudius: I am going to have to talk to that Polonius about that.
Ham (again): Blah. Blah. Blah.
Gertie: That’s no way to talk your new daddy.
Ham: He ain’t nuttin’ but a hound dog. Cryin’ all the time. He ain’t never caught a rabbit and he ain’t no friend of mine.
Gertie: What’d I tell you about that sass.
Claudius: Now Ham, Gertie, can we not reason together?
Ham: Isn’t that what LBJ said when he got the USA into that Vietnam? “Can we not reason together?”
Claudius: There’s reasoning together, and then there’s reasoning together.
Ham: Go away. I have a soliloquy to do. I don’t need you listening in. It’s for the audience only.
Claudius (pouts): How come you get to hog all the soliloquies?
Ham: ‘Cause I am the main dude.
Claudius and Gert (together): Well, be that way.
Claudius (to Ham): We’ll leave only if you promise to stay in town. Your mother has missed you a lots and I want to teach you the king business.
Ham looks at his mother. There is a pretty please in her face.
Ham: I’ll stay just to please Mom. But I won’t like it.
Gertie: That’s a good boy.
Claudius and Gertie head for the door.
Claudius: Maybe I can arrange for you to have a soliloquy in “The Murder of Gonzaga”, Dollface.
Gertie: You would do that for me, Sugar Pops?
Claudius: I would even go downtown with you.
Gertie (giggles): Oh, that’s great. I love shopping.