When clouds appear, wise men put on their cloaks;
When great leaves fall, the winter is at hand;
When the sun sets, who doth not look for night?
(Richard III, 2.3)
Now here’s where things get greasy. The ghost don’t talk. He is the strong silent type. His little finger motions Hamlet to follow him. Just like Daddy did when he was alive.
“Don’t go, Hamlet,” Horatio pleads, afraid that Hamlet will try to fly or something foolish. But Hamlet is stubborn. He’s got to find out what the big guy is up to.
Next thing the Hamster knows he is up on the roof alone and cornered. Ghostee is out for revenge. And not just any revenge. He wants big time revenge. Big Daddy Hamlet isn’t about to take his croaking lying down. No, sirree. Hamlet’s old man is not going to give Hamlet a Get-out-of-jail-free card.
Seems his Cain of a brother, Claudius, poisoned him. Didn’t even give him time to say his goodbyes one last time to the woman of his dreams, Gertrude. On top of that, he’s roaming around purgatory, trying to cleanse himself of all the blood and guts he spilled. He had a lot to confess. Daddy Hamlet was the original Terminator. He was out to terminate Norway because Norway wanted to terminate him. Now he’s roaming around purgatory. All ‘cause Claudius didn’t give him a deathbed confession.
Hamlet had never been close to his dad. Now here is the Great Santini asking Junior to do in Uncle Claudius for croaking him. Claudius is going to pay, and he is going to pay Big Time. And Hamlet is the Chosen One. Big Daddy is insisting he do the deed. And leave his mother to the fates. They will take care of her.
Well, the ghost has gone and done it. He really has gone and done it. Sure, Hamlet knew there was something rotten in Denmark. There’d always been something rotten in Denmark. The good news was that Denmark wasn’t Sweden. The bad news was that Denmark was Denmark.
Hamlet isn’t sure revenge is a good idea. What is the big deal about croaking the king? Why does it need some revenge. Why can’t everybody just get along.
Everybody did their kings in. Even the Romans. Just look at the Neros. All that fiddling around and nobody had a taste for revenge when they were assassinated. If there was anybody who croaked a ruler and got away with it, it was the Romans.
These days there’s no more croaking the king or the queen. It just isn’t done. You have to wait for Mommy to die, and she never dies. Just look at Prince Charles and Edward VII. Queen Victoria hung around till she couldn’t hung around no more.
Hamlet Has His Doubts.
We’ve all got a bit of Hamlet in us. Hamlet reveals doubts we all have. Did I make the right decision? What if I do this thing? What if I don’t marry her? Do we have enough money to buy this house? Should we try that new treatment? Is this the right school for Junior? What if he don’t ask me out? Should I spend all that money for this school? On and on these questions go. If they’d just go away, we’d be happy. Right?
So here’s Hamlet. He’s seen the damn Ghost. The Ghost says that he’s his daddy. He sure looks like Daddy. With all that armor and all. But what if he isn’t Daddy? What if he’s the devil? Old Scratch? Lucifer? Satan? Didn’t Satan tempt Jesus? Not just once but three times? What if Hamlet’s hallucinatin’? Wouldn’t be the first time some kid has got a bad batch of mushrooms, now would it? What if it was Polonius, and not Claudius, that did Daddy in? Daddy didn’t like Polonius.
What if Hamlet refused to follow the Ghost’s command for revenge? It’s a ghost of an idea, but it’s an idea. Even though the ghost says he’s Daddy, even though the ghost sounds like Daddy, even though the ghost smells like Daddy with his Early Viking cologne, Hamlet can’t be sure. What ghost in its right mind would walk around, asking somebody to kill someone? That went against the Thou-shalt-not-kill Commandment. That would get the ghost in even deeper in purgatory.
Besides this ghost says he’s Hamlet’s daddy and he’s in purgatory, not hell, for his sins. How can that be? Everybody knows purgatory doesn’t exist. Martin Luther says so. John Calvin says so. John Knox says so. It’s not in the scriptures, they all preach. Purgatory is a pigment of the Pope’s imagination. Any good Protestant knows it’s a Catholic thing. And if Hamlet is anything, he is a good Protestant. So he has his doubts.
This is a Revenge Tragedy, and don’t you forget it.
Hamlet is a dead man from Act One on. From the time he sees the Ghost of a Daddy, demanding revenge. For the avenger must die. It is written. It is the tradition of all the revenge tragedies before and Hamlet knows this. He is well-schooled in dramaturgy.
If only Hamlet ignores Big Daddy and elopes with Ophelia to sunny Italy, maybe love can save Hamlet’s hide and he will get to ride the happily-ever-after Disney ride.
‘Course love didn’t save Romeo. It’s hard to escape your fate. But you can try. It’s a lot for Hamlet to think about. And one thing is for sure. Hamlet is good at thinking. It may be the only thing he is good at.
Lazarus returns from the dead.
So now it’s dawn and Hamlet returns from his Agony on the Roof to find Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo snoring. He wakes them up.
“Listen, dudes,” he says. “Nothing happened last night.”
“Nada,” Hamlet lets them know. “On top of that, I need you guys to pretend I am mad. Can you do that?”
“But, Lord,” Horatio says.
“You’re the sanest man I know,” Horatio throws at him.
“Not anymore. Now, swear.”
Barnardo, Marcellus and Horatio swear. Hamlet leaves the stage.
“Why won’t the Hamster tell us what happened?” Horatio asks the air.
“He doesn’t trust us,” Marcellus points out.
“Don’t that beat all,” Barnardo says.
They are feeling like that fifteen-year-old kid who isn’t chosen for the baseball game.