How may we try it further? (Hamlet Act 1 Scene 2.)
Act 2 Scene 2 (continued). Still in the throne room with Claudius and Gertrude.
Polonius enters. “The ambassadors are back from Norway, sir.”
Claude: “Cool. You are bringing good news.”
Poly: “Only doing my job, Boss. And I think I know what is driving the Prince crazy.”
So what is Claude interested in? He doesn’t want to know what is going on with his relations with a country that might go to war with him. No, he is more concerned with Hamlet, his nephew. Indeed there must be something rotten in Denmark. (I know. We already know that. But I thought it was a good thing to remind us just in case we forgot.)
Claude: “Well, well, tell me.”
Poly is all business. “First things first. Norway and the ambassadors. Then my news.”
Claude: “You do know that I am about to piss my pants waiting to find out your Hamlet news? I’ve waited this long. I guess a little longer won’t matter. But don’t keep me waiting. Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way.”
Poly: “Think of my news as dessert.”
Claude: “Then show the ambassadors in. And make it quicksky.”
Poly goes to fetch like the dog he is.
Claude (turning to Gertie) “Gertrude, he says he’s found out the reason for your son’s insanity.”
Amazing. Talk about talking past each other. Gertie has been sitting beside Claude. Is she hard of hearing? If not, why does Claude have to tell her something she already knows. That Poly is about to share why Hamlet has gone off his rocker. I’m afraid Claude has been in the medicine cabinet a little early. Even if Gertie was deaf, I am pretty sure she could have read lips. She’s a smart cookie. And nobody’s trophy wife.
Gertie (states the obvious): “I doubt it’s anything but the obvious reason: his father’s dying and our quick marriage.”
Claude (hiccup): “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
The ambassadors bring good news. Fortinbras Jr. has been chastised. He has been promised Poland if Claude will let him pass through Denmark. That’s okee dokee with Claude. Thing is nobody has asked Poland. Nobody ever asks Poland. Napoleon didn’t ask Poland. The Tsar didn’t ask Poland. Hitler didn’t ask Poland. Stalin didn’t ask Poland. But guess what? God asked Poland and Poland gave Him a pope. It didn’t make up for Napoleon, the Tsar, Stalin and Hitler, but it helped.
The news is good news. It’s good news for Gertie. Claude off at war. She would miss her regular Friday night frolics in the hay. She loved those Friday night frolics.
It is good news for Claude. He doesn’t have to prove that he knows how to ride a horse. He does not have to prove that he can ride into battle and chop off heads like his brother. He always hated that. It got blood all over his royal duds.
It is good news for Poly. He has grown in the king’s estimation.
It is really good news for the peasants. The peasants really hate war. Their taxes wouldn’t go up to pay for a war. It causes such havoc with the family budget. The men wouldn’t be drafted. It means that the womenfolk have to double up on the work since the men are out getting themselves killed. It also means that the peasant men have to miss their Saturday nights down at the pub, doing what they always do. Pubbing.
It’s a win-win-win for everybody.
The ambassadors leave.
Poly: “Your Magnanimousness and Your Majesty, I just want to butter you up and flatter you a little. You both know I would kiss your hineys from here to God knows where if you asked. You are that good of sovereigns. I mean, Your Magnanimousness, you are Julius Caesar, Charlemagne and Queen Elizabeth all rolled into one. The sun rises and the sun sets at your command.”
The rulers smile down upon Poly. They know he’s right and it’s nice to hear someone acknowledge it.
Poly: “That Hamlet is nuts. Crazy. Off his rocker.”
Gertie: “What do you mean?”
Poly: “I have a letter here that he wrote to my dear daughter, Ophelia.”
He hands the queen Hamlet’s letter. She reads it, then Claude reads it.
Poly: “He called her beautified. Can you believe that?”
Gertie gives him a what’s-wrong-with-that-and-you’d-better-have-a-good-answer look.
Poly continues: “Hamlet is a prince. He is not eligible to marry a commoner like Ophelia. It is a matter of state as to whom he shall marry.” (Did you notice Poly used “whom”, the correct grammarical word. The author of this piece is responsible for that. I hate to brag but aren’t you proud of me?)
Gertie shakes her head, agreeing with Poly.
Poly (thinking phew. That was a close call):”I urged her to end her relationship with the prince. So now he is crazy with love for my daughter. That is the reason he is acting so very strange. And I grieve for him.”
Claude (hoping against hope that Poly is right): “Is there a way to prove this?”
Poly: “I can suggest to Ophelia that she speak to the prince on one of his walks. We can spy on him while they talk.”
Claude and Gertie look at each other.
Claude: “Sounds like a plan.”
Poly: “I think I hear him coming. Let me talk to him. I will worm things out of him even if it kills me.”
The two royals leave. Poly calls to Hamlet walking toward him. Hamlet has a book in his hand.