Hamlet: Claudius and the Plan

“High and mighty,
You shall know I am set naked on your kingdom. Tomorrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes, when I shall, first asking your pardon thereunto, recount the occasion of my sudden and more strange return.
Hamlet.”  Hamlet Act 4 Scene 7.

Act 4 Scene 7. Claudius and Laertes in a huddle. Claudius was always a very persuasive dude. He’d lie, he’d cheat and he’d steal to get his way. And he’d even walk all over a dead body. He convinced Laertes’ friends he had nothing to do with the death of Polonius.

“See I told you I was innocent,” Claudius said. “You do believe I am innocent and your friend?” Claudius had pleading in his voice. He may have been a villain but he wanted to be liked too. Don’t we all?

“Why did you not prosecute the crime?”

“It was Hamlet,” Claudius said. “It was Hamlet. How could I? It would have killed his mother. I gotta tell you. I love that woman. And she would never have forgiven me. Plus the dude is more popular than Julius Caesar. You saw the play. You know how hard it was for Cassius to talk even Brutus into taking out the man. Hamlet is like that. If I didn’t use my wits and come up with a better, sneakier way, I would be dead meat. You’ve seen how the Danes get when they are angry. It takes them a while to get angry, but once they do. Man.”

“I’ve lost my dad and my sister has lost her dad. And now you see that once beautiful human being, you see how she is. I want my revenge.”

“Oh, you shall get it. You shall get it.”

Now we get our Kramer. (Link to writing rules.) Entered a messenger.

“There are letters from Prince Hamlet. One for you and one for the queen.” The messenger retires.

Claudius read his letter to himself. “Oh, you have to hear this,” He reads the letter to Laertes. Then said, “He’s coming back to Elsinore and going to tell his story. And in the nude too. Can you believe the gall of that guy? In the nude. And he called me ‘High and Mighty’. Does he know that I am his Magnanimousness. The nerve of that boy.”

“Naked or not,” Laertes said, I will stare at him teeth to teeth. And get my revenge.”

“You sure you’re up to it? You wouldn’t chicken out, would you?”

“How dare you even think a thing. He killed my dad.”

“Then I have a plan.” Claudius always had a plan. Even when he didn’t have a plan, he had a plan. “I have heard that you are an excellent fencer. Even the French say so. Why I ran into this guy from Normandy. He could do nothing but brag about your fencing skill.”

“Was it Lamond?”

“Yes, it was Lamond.”

“I knew it. What a fine fellow he is.”

“When Hamlet heard Lamond’s brag about your fencing skill, you can’t believe how angry he got. ‘I’m a prince. Why don’t people brag about my fencing skills?’ He was so jealous.”

“Jealous, eh?” Laertes said. I know. Laertes was not Canadian. But he could end his sentences with “eh” if he wanted to. “So, what’s your point?”

“You’re going to have a fencing match. And your sword will be untipped. Hamlet won’t notice. He’ll just be glad he’s back in the game and accepted at court and still has you for a friend.”

“I’ll friend that fiend. I’ll tip my sword with some very potent poison. A scratch will do the trick.”

As I said earlier, Claudius always have a backup. “Just in case your poison doesn’t work, or he doesn’t get scratched by your sword. I will give him a cup of wine with poison too. When he takes a break, he will drink it.”

Laertes agreed.

Claudius said, “Just remember that no one else is to know.

Laertes agreed some more.

Then Claudius said, “What’s that sound?”

“Sounds like wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Alan Rickman Reigns

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “Bottle Shock” (2008), a great way to celebrate the wonderful Alan Rickman who died a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know about you but I shall miss his work. I send my condolences to all those who knew and loved him.

I have a new word for you to add to your vocabulary. It is alan-rickman-esque. It means: it’s not what he said, it’s how he delivered the words. Who else could deliver the line: “Call off Christmas” as Alan Rickman did in “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” and get away with it? Who else could play Marvin the Robot in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. Only one other actor, the very alan-rickman-esque Patrick Warburton.

I first came to appreciate Alan Rickman’s alan-rickman-esque charm when he played Professor Snape in the Harry Potters. I liked Mr. Rickman so much I started rooting for Snape. Just the way he said “Harry Potter” would have me in stitches. Not even Tim Curry could do that, and Tim Curry does have a certain alan-rickman-esque quality about him.

Alan’s become such a ubiquitous part of my life these days. When I am having a really bad day, I ask the universe, “Where’s Alan Rickman when I need him?” So you can imagine my delight when I discovered the movie “Bottle Shock”. Alan Rickman was in it. It could have been a dark and stormy night, and I would have watched it. I could have been the best of times or the worst of times, and I would have watched it. You could just call me Ishmael, and I still would have watched it. The genius, the greatest English actor of his time without an Academy Award, was in this movie.

On top of that, it’s about wine. California wine, that is. When was the last time you saw a movie about wine? They don’t make movies about wine, now do they? I did a google search and didn’t find many.There’s Eric Rohmer’s “Autumn Tale (which is unavailable in the U.S.), “Sideways” (nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture), “The Secret of Santa Vittoria” with Anthony Quinn playing an Italian and “Year of the Comet” with the wonderful Penelope Ann Miller. There are a couple of horror films and three with big stars, but not recommendable. Most are documentaries. Only goes to show you how hard it is to make a good movie about wine. “Bottle Shock” is a good movie about wine. Napa wines, to be exact.

There’s three things that are for sure. Forty-two is the answer. It’s a long way to temporary. And, if you are looking for an alan-rickman-esque performance, Alan Rickman is your man. In “Bottle Shock”, he is exerting that alan-rickman-esque-ness with dialogue such as this to the question, “Why don’t I like you?”: “You think I’m an asshole. And I’m not really. I’m just British…and well, you’re not.”

By the way, according to Dr. Vinny of the Wine Spectator, “‘Bottle shock’ or ‘bottle sickness’ are terms used to describe a temporary condition in a wine where its flavors are muted or disjointed. There are two main scenarios when bottle shock sets in: either right after bottling, or when wines (especially fragile older wines) are shaken in travel.”

So pour yourself a glass of Napa chardonnay and slice yourself some cheese. Then sit yourself down and have an enjoyable good time watching the very original alan-rickman-esque actor, Alan Rickman, in “Bottle Shock”. There’s a lot worse ways to spend an evening.

Who would be someone you would want to have a glass of wine with?

Hamlet and the Man Who Could Be Trusted

I would not wish
Any companion in the world but you.
(The Tempest 3.1

Act 4 Scene 6. Horatio found himself a corner to be alone with his thoughts. For an orphan, he had come a long way. First, adopted by King Hamlet to be his squire. Such an honor but he always wondered why him. “Because I can trust you,” the king said when Horatio asked.

It had been that trust that had earned Horatio a scholarship for Wittenberg University. “Go away and become a scholar. Then return and you will be my trusted adviser,” King Hamlet told Horatio. “And watch out for my son. I know I can trust you to do that.”

That same trust earned Horatio a friendship with the prince. It was that same trust that Gertrude found so appealing. And Claudius too.

If someone had asked Horatio why he could be trusted, Horatio would simply have told them the story of a man who could not be trusted. Judas Iscariot. The orphan once heard a priest tell the story of Iscariot. Horatio knew he did not want to be a Judas. So he made sure that he said nothing that would reveal the confidence others had in him. He knew secrets and he kept them.

One minute he was alone, the next a servant stood before him. “Sir, two sailors want to speak to you. They have a letter.”

Horatio gave a deep sigh. It was back to work for him. “I’ll see them.”

The servant left.

Horatio asked himself, “Who would want to send me a letter. Certainly not that girl I fell in love with at Wittenberg. She dumped me for a senior, and a football player at that. Then again, maybe she needs me.”

Before Horatio stood two sailors. Each wore sailor’s boots and sailor’s pants and a sailor’s shirt and a sailor’s hat. The tall one had a white beard that once was red. The short one wore an earring. Yep, they were sailors alright.

“We have a letter for your eyes only,” the tall one said. “But first you must pay the postage due of two gold ducats.”

In those days, there was no Pony Express. There was no carrier pigeons. There was no United States Postal Service. There was no email and there was no text. The only way you could get a letter out of your part of the world was to catch someone on the way to the letter’s destination. Or hire someone to carry your message.

“Who would be sending me a letter?”

“My lord, Hamlet.”

Horatio pulled out two gold ducats from his pocket and handed them to the sailor. The sailor handed him his letter.

Horatio read:
“Horatio, 
When thou shalt have overlooked this, give these fellows some means to the king. They have letters for him. Ere we were two days old at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valor, and in the grapple I boarded them. On the instant, they got clear of our ship, so I alone became their prisoner. They have dealt with me like thieves of mercy, but they knew what they did; I am to do a good turn for them. 
Let the king have the letters I have sent, and repair thou to me with as much speed as thou wouldst fly death. I have words to speak in thine ear will make thee dumb, yet are they much too light for the bore of the matter. These good fellows will bring thee where I am. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hold their course for England. Of them I have much to tell thee. Fare-well. 
He that thou knowest thine, 
Hamlet.” 

There was something about the letter that made Horatio think this wasn’t Hamlet, and yet it was Hamlet. It wasn’t the doubting Hamlet, but a confident Hamlet. The prince had changed. He had gained what had for some time seemed lost. The writer of this letter seemed lighter than air. It was the Hamlet he had once known.

“Wow,” Horatio said. “That is some story.”

“And all true, sir. Never have we witnessed a braver man.”

“Well, follow me. I will take you to the king to deliver his letters. Then you can take me to the man who sent you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And remember, not a word to the king about this other matter. Understood?”

“We understand.”

So, dear Reader, aren’t you surprised? Bet you thought Hamlet was in England, doing the pubs and catching the Bard’s latest play. Looks like he isn’t. Very interesting. Bet Claudius will be surprised too.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Selma

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “Selma” (2014) in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the upcoming Black History Month:

This one left me breathless.

Hamlet: Laertes Returns

His means of death, his obscure funeral—
No trophy, sword, nor hatchment o’er his bones,
No noble rite nor formal ostentation—
Cry to be heard as ’twere from heaven to earth,
That I must call ’t in question.
Hamlet Act 4 Scene 5.

Act 4 Scene 5 (continued). Noise came from the courtyard.

“Alack,” Gertrude said. “What noise was that?”

“Alack?” Claudius asked. “Where did you learn to talk like that?”

“Doofus,” Gertrude gave him that look. You know the one. The one you’re wife gives you when you’ve done a faux pas. And, in case you don’t know what faux pas means, it means faux pas. So there. “I am in a play by Mr. Wonderful. You know, Shakespeare. It’s Elizabethan England and we’re in Denmark. I am supposed to say things like alack.”

The actress playing Gertrude can’t believe she’s in a play with this idiot. She’s supposed to kiss him every so often like they are in love. How did she get cast with this guy? Truman Capote was right when he said, “The better the actor the more stupid he is.” This guy must be really good. My God, she was in Shakespeare and she hated it. The cast was driving her nuts. How she longed to go back to soap operas. At least, she got to kiss men—and women—with good breath.

“Okay,” Mr. Doofus said. “Alack is good.” Then he said his line, “Where are my Switzers? Let them guard the door.” Now hold on. What is Claudius doing with Swiss Guards? He isn’t the pope. Oh, well. Just get on with it. Finish the play and accept that offer from Spielberg. He wants to put you in there with Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks. Can you imagine me with Tom Hanks?

As you can see, actors do act. They can be thinking of stuff a million miles away and we will never know it. It’s a way to pull up an emotion they can’t fake. Sometimes it’s a way to get through a project they really hate. Evidently our Gertrude and our Claudius here hated this production.

Into the room bursts Laertes. Polonius’s son. He left a boy and returned a man. He is like Robert Goulet walking out on stage in “Camelot” for the first time.Gertrude swoons from his handsomeness and faints.

All Claudius can say, “God, he glows in the dark. He must be running for something. Could it be? No, he doesn’t want to be king? Or does he?” That was a lot to say for a guy who was trembling in his booties.

Laertes had a name to live up to. Laertes was a Greek hero. He was one of those Argonaut guys who went off hunting for the Calydonian Boar. Also he was Odysseus’ dad. On that particular day, Laertes was giving the hero business his best shot.

“Oh, you vile king,” Laertes said.

Claudius was stunned. “Who? Me? What did I do?”

Gertrude unswooned and got off the floor.

“You made a bastard out of me and my mother a whore.”

Gertrude stepped in front of Claudius to protect him. Claudius pushed her aside.

“It’s okay. Nothing will happen to me. I am the king. God protects the king. Traitors can’t hurt him.” Had Claudius forgotten what happened to the last king? Had he forgotten what happened to Richard II and Richard III?

“Where’s my dad?” Laertes had fire in his voice. It seemed he already knew the situation. Had a ghost appeared before Laertes and requested revenge? If not, why not? Shakespeare had made up this rule that a ghost appeared before his son and asked for revenge. If it was good enough for Hamlet, why not for Laertes? Also it makes you wonder if Hamlet Senior’s ghost ran into Polonius’ ghost. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall in that conversation?

Hamlet Senior: “You’re going to hell.”

Polonius: “At least, I won’t have to put up with you.”

Anyway back to Elsinore. Now here’s where the conversation got really interesting.

Gertrude said, “But the king didn’t kill your dad.” Was Gertrude ready to give up her own son to save the king? Some mother, huh?

Laertes demands, “How came he dead? I’ll not be juggled with. To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil! I’ll be revenged.”

Pretty scary talk. Only Claudius wasn’t scared. Nothing scared Claudius. He’d killed a king to get where he was. He’d sent that king’s heir off to be murdered. He was feeling pretty cocky. “You want to hurt your dad’s friends as well as his enemies?”

“Only his enemies.”

“I was his friend. Your dad was my best friend. I would not be king if your dad had not stuck up for me when I most needed it. Why would I kill your father?”

Well, you can imagine the big huh that appeared on Laertes’ face.

“I am guiltless of your father’s death and I will prove it to you.”

Just as things are about to get settled, something dramatically interesting happened. Shakespeare pulled a Kramer out of the bag. What’s a Kramer? you ask. In Seinfeld, there was a moment in a scene when things were starting to lull. In walks Kramer to change the direction of the scene. That’s exactly what Shakespeare did. He pulled an Ophelia.

Ophelia entered the room. Again she sang her nonsense, taking Laertes’ breath away with grief. She then leaves.

“Do you see this, oh God?” Laertes cried out to heaven.

Claudius was moved by Ophelia and Laertes. Tears were in his eyes. He wiped away the tears, then got back to the business at hand. Saving his butt.

“Listen, Laertes. Gather your wisest friends and bring them to me. Let them listen to us both and decide who was the guilty party. If they judge me guilty, everything I have, including my life, will be yours. If they judge me innocent, then be patient. I will help you with your revenge. This I promise.”

All I have to say is, “Laertes, you’d better run for cover. The last two he made promises to, Hamlet Senior and Polonius, are now dead.”