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.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

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.”

Hamlet: Ophelia

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Oh, this is the poison of deep grief. It springs
All from her father’s death, and now behold!
O Gertrude, Gertrude,
When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions. First, her father slain.
Next, your son gone, and he most violent author
Of his own just remove. The people muddied,
Thick, and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers
For good Polonius’ death, and we have done but greenly
In hugger-mugger to inter him. Poor Ophelia
Divided from herself and her fair judgment,
Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts.
Hamlet Act 4 Scene 5.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 4 Scene 5. Some say that it was Elsinore that drove Ophelia mad. Others that it was the death of her father by her lover’s hand. Still others ask where her brother was when she needed him most. But others say that they were all mad. Elsinore could do that to its inhabitants.

There was a time when she was a maiden, running through green fields with flowers in her hair and loved by a young handsome prince. ‘Course those were the days before the prince went away happy, then came back sad. Now she is a bride in black, Grief her husband-to-be.

In her room, she sat and wondered. Was it her father she had seen or was it not her father? The details were unclear. He moaned through a murky fog from a distance.

So she called out, “Please, Horatio, be kind and take me to the queen. I won’t embarrass you but I need to know if it was my father I saw.” Oh, if it only were, and only if only he would speak his love for me.

Horatio went down the hall, trying to convince the queen. “Your Majesty, you must speak with her.”

Queen Gertrude was afraid to face the daughter of the old counselor, the one she last saw fall dead in her chambers. What if Ophelia asked for details? I don’t think I could take that.

Horatio pleaded.

Finally Gertrude agreed, then breathed a sigh. She must do what she must do.

All that came from Ophelia’s lips were words that Ophelia didn’t even understand. And she sang in incomplete thoughts. The song she sang was a prayer but who could tell what her prayer was for. Certainly not Gertrude. And certainly not Claudius.

Something about white his shroud as the mountain snow. Then her mind went wandering. Where she went neither the queen nor the king knew.

Alll they could do was pray, “Deliver her from evil.”

Hamlet: Just a little bit of Poland

Fortinbras: “Go, Captain, from me greet the Danish king
Tell him that, by his license, Fortinbras
Craves the conveyance of a promised march
Over his kingdom.”
Hamlet Act 4 Scene 4.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 4 Scene 4. Macbeth had it in for the King of Scotland. Iago had it in for Othello. Shylock had it in for Antonio. Cassius had it in for Julius Caesar. Henry Bolingbroke had it in for Richard II. Richard III had it in for the Princes in the Tower. Hamlet had it in for Claudius. Claudius had it in for Hamlet. And Fortinbras had it in for the Poland.

Some years ago, before he was Norway and had the responsibilities of a future king, Fortinbras was a young rake, free and loose and on the prowl. He would have made a perfect student for Falstaff because he loved to carouse more than Hal ever did. Then he saw her, the Polish king’s daughter. She saw him. They were instant smitten with each other.

Fortinbras went to the king and pleaded for the girl’s hand. The king said no. “I’d rather she marry a bear than a Northman.”

Poland locked his daughter up in a tower, safely away from the riff-raff. He had a husband in mind for her. A man who would make a strong ally. Ivan the Terrible.  Mostly Poland wasn’t looking for Ivan as an ally. He was downright scared of the dude. He’d seen the heads hanging from the walls of Ivan’s castle and heard the screams from the Russian’s dungeons. So it sounded like a real good idea to keep Ivan on his good side.

The thing was that no ruler would last more than two weeks with a name like Ivan the Pussycat. And Ivan was a real pussycat. Scared of his own shadow.

Ivan had this henchman, Rasputin. Raspy convinced Ivan that he had to do something to scare the bejesus out of everybody. To do this, Raspy ordered some fake heads off Amazon and a sound effects record of lots of screaming. Raspy’s plan worked. Everybody thought the paraphernalia was real. Unfortunately they scared the you-know-what out of Ivan too.

Poland’s daughter was not happy at all about her daddy’s scheme. She did a Juliet and sent a note secretly to Fortinbras. “Spring me from the joint. This chastity belt daddy locked me up in itches like crazy.”

Fortinbras showed up at the tower at midnight. Being as good a climber as Spider-Man, he went up the wall like nobody’s business. Threw the future Mrs. Fortinbras across his broad shoulders. Then went back down the side of the tower in no time flat. He headed off to the Justice of the Peace and had the nuptials pronounced.

Fortinbras was prepared. He had brought a big set of pliers and off came the chastity belt. Nothing was going to stop him from her treasure chest. But first she had to go pee and she had to go pee bad. She came back to their hotel room and got into bed. There was a knock on the door. It wasn’t the big bad wolf. It was Raspy. Fortie went out the window first. On the ground three stories below, he whispered, “Jump. I’ll catch you.” She jumped. He missed. She died right there in his arms. Needless to say, Fortie had to get out of town and he had to do it fast. But he would never forget his true love. And he would never forget Poland.

Now he is marching through Denmark to get to Poland. He is out to get even for the loss of his lady love. He had something like twenty thousand men behind him. Actually it was not something like twenty thousand. It was exactly twenty thousand. He could have chosen Sweden but the Swedes didn’t like Norway none too much.

“Captain, go and ask the king of Denmark if we can cross. Tell him we won’t rape and loot and plunder. We just need to get across.”

“Okay dookay.”

Hamlet sees the army and he is impressed. “Just look at those uniforms. Aren’t they mahvelous? Simply mahvelous.”

Rosencrantz agreed. Guildenstern agreed.

Right then and there, Hamlet decided that he had to go back, take out the king and get an army with uniforms just like Norway’s. After all, military strategists the world over know that it is the army with the best uniforms that won the wars. Just look at how well the British did in that little skirmish called the American Revolution. All ‘cause they had such great looking uniforms.

What army do you think has the best looking uniforms?


Hamlet: Off to England He Goes

Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service—two dishes, but to one table. That’s the end. Hamlet Act 4 Scene 3.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 4 Scene 3. Hamlet enters the presence of King Claudius. He is in no mood for kowtowing, and towkowing either. Not in no mood at all.

“Hey, Chief,” Hamlet starts off.

Claudius is not amused with Hamlet’s irreverence. “Your Magnanimousness, if you please.”

“Right, Boss,” Hamlet giggles. Could it be that he’s been in the winery? “I thought I would bring my complaint straight to the Big Cheese. That’s you, right?”

Claudius cannot believe his ears. But he nods his head yes.

“We need some new plumbing around here,” The Hamster lets out. “The toilets have a real constipation problem. I went to poop and, man, talk about backup.”

Changing the subject, Claudius asks, “Where’s Polonius’ body?”

“Maybe he’s the reason for all the backup. Could it be somebody tried to flush him away?”

“Where’s the body?” Claudius insists.

“He might be coming to dinner,” Hamlet says. “I really can’t say.”

“Go ahead and say.”

“Since you ask me, he was taking a vaca the last I heard. By FedEx first class.”

“What am I going to do with you, Prince Hamlet?”

“Without a body, there’s no evidence that Polonius didn’t just run off with the farmer’s daughter.”

“Where is his body?” Claudius is now getting in Hamlet’s face big time.

“Whoa, Big Guy, you really need to do something about that breath of yours. Poor hygiene ain’t the way to make friends and influence people.”

Claudius returns to his throne and plops down. “Here’s what you’re going to do. You need to get out of town for a while. So I am going to send you first class to England.”

“Oh, boy, the Coliseum. And I’ll get to see the Pope too. Always wanted to know what a pope looked like.”

“No,” Claudius says. “That’s Rome. England, I said.”

“Oh, goody, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées.”

“That’s Paris, not England.”

“Wonderful. I’ll get to see Michelangelo’s David.”

“That’s Florence, not England.”

“I hear the gondoliers sing,” Hamlet says.

“Not Venice. England,” Claudius is extremely frustrated.

“Not England. I hate fog,” Hamlet resists.

“Yes, England, and you can stay at Buckingham Palace.”

“Well, okay. As long as it’s not the Tower of London. You can catch cold there from the draft.”

“Then it is agreed. It’s what your mother wants too.” Claudius is relieved. Dealing with Hamlet is extremely tiring. The king is going to need a nap soon.

“Oh, if Mom says it’s okay, then it must be okay,” Hamlet wise-guys.

Claudius hands Hamlet an envelope with his tickets and his per diem.

“Well, ta-ta, Big Guy,” Hamlet says. “I’ll see you in Tuscany. And remember it’s a long way to Temporary.”

“You mean Tipperary?”

“If you say so,” Hamlet sashays out the door.

Claudius calls after him, “And take those two Bozos with you.” Of course, he was talking Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Who else?

Since there is always a bard in these kinds of plays, there is a Barde here as well. (In case any of you were wondering, Barde is French for Bard.) Our friendly Bardie sings, “Hamlettown”:

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

Down in Elsinore Castle there was a tragedy
Old Hamlet died, poisoned as poison could be.
Was it a snake bite or was it some other thing
That took down the Dane and Elsinore’s king?

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

It was in the days when the cold winds blow
When all the laughter had turned to snow
The young prince sadly returned to the castle
To find the new king made Hamlet his vassal

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

One night Hamlet saw the ghost of his pater
Dressed in armor just like his dad, his father
Demanding revenge and demanding it quick
“Take out Claudius before you can shake a stick.”

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

Hamlet went mad or so the Danes were led to think
Even his mom said that he wasn’t in the pink
He gave the king’s man a very big tummy ache
Now Polonius will never again awake

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

There was but one thing that Claudius could do
Send Hamlet away to get the king out of the stew
It was off to England with a note to the English
Take off his head to give this plot a good finish.

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

There’s more to this tale than England could finish
When R and G lost their heads to the British
Hamlet stole the note that was to go to Olde England
And changed it from  Claudius’ original plan

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England.

Hamlet: A Meeting in the Hall

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 4 Scene 2.

“Yo, Hamlet,” someone calls out from behind Hamlet as the Prince he strides his way down the hall.

Hamlet turns. “If it ain’t Guildenstern.”

“Rosencrantz, me Lord.”

“I swear I am going to have to get each of you a t-shirt so I can tell the two of you apart.”

“Yes, me Lord. What did you do with the body?”

Hamlet smiles. “Are you the police? If you are going to arrest me, I get my one phone call. I have a ghost in mind to call. You ever talk to a ghost?”

“I have not talked to a ghost. Don’t think I’d like it. And I am not the police.”

“Phew.” Hamlet swipes his forehead like he’s starting to sweat. “Had me worried there, Rosenstern.”

“Rosencrantz, me Lord.”

“Yes. Well, you had me worried. Not many people do that these days.”

“Yes, me Lord.”

“You do that “yes me Lord” business pretty good. You’re going to make a first rate kowtower.You do have your kowtowing license, don’t you?”

“Thank you, me Lord. As I was about to say, His Magnanimousness, would like to see you.”

“Now we’re getting down to business. The king, you say?”

“Yes, me Lord. The king. And he will want the body.”

“Aw, c’mon, Rosenstern, what body would that be?”

“The body of the dead counselor, Polonius.”

Hamlet’s face questions. “Polonius?”

“Yes, me Lord.”

“Polonius is dead?”

“Yes, me Lord.”

“That’s curious. I just saw him hiding behind some drapes. Are you sure he is dead?”

“He is dead, me Lord. Where is his body?”

“Oh, that body. It’s in good care.”

“Where is the body, me Lord?”

“The aliens took it off to Roswell and Area 51.”

“There are no aliens, me Lord.”

“Just kidding.” Hamlet is bemused. “I followed Juliet’s advice, Rosenstern.”

“Advice, me Lord?”

“You know what Juliet advises, ‘Take him and cut him out in little stars.’ That advice.”

Rosencrantz can’t believe his ears. “You didn’t.”

“Aw, but I did,” Hamlet smiles.

Rosencrantz isn’t sure whether to believe Hamlet or not. “Then where are the pieces?”

“Now that is the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. I’d say they are somewhere between here and Bavaria. I FedEx-ed them off to the Witch Doctor, Herr Doktor Frankenstein. He’s been in desperate need of body parts. Better to send them to him than Hannibal Lector, don’t you think?”

“The king will want an explanation, me Lord.”

“Well, he shall get one, now won’t he? Tell the king I am on my way. I just have one stop. I have to go number one.”

“Yes, me Lord.”