Hamlet and Interlude 5: Civil War(s)

There are more things in heaven and earth. Hamlet Act 1 Scene 5.

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

Elsinore is beginning to smell of death. First Hamlet’s father. Then Polonius. Now Ophelia. And who knows who will be next. As I said, Elsinore is beginning to smell of death.

It is beginning to look like Civil War. Laertes and Claudius against Hamlet. Is this any way to run a kingdom?

Folks are beginning to doubt Claudius. He had a good run at king-ing. Now, not so much. Even the queen has started grumbling. A “I’m not in the mood” kind of grumbling.

Shakespeare’s England had been through this before. The War of the Roses between the Red Rose of the Lancaster family and the White Rose of the York family in the 1400s. The Elizabethans knew what this led to. Chaos.

It had taken a Tudor to bring order to England. He did that in 1485 at Bosworth Field.

So seeing “Hamlet” on stage was a reminder of what could happen. And they didn’t like it. They didn’t like or want another Civil War.

With the chaos of a Civil War came a country that couldn’t prosper. No one got rich, only poorer. A lot of folks didn’t get to die in bed. It meant brother against brother, father against son. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

The Elizabethans didn’t think it was fun. This is one of the reasons many Elizabethans remained Protestant. They weren’t happy about the persecution of the Catholics. But the Pope and the Jesuits couldn’t leave well enough alone. They had to go and stir the pot and persist in overthrowing Queen Elizabeth Numero Uno. The Elizabethans remembered Bloody Mary, and they were not ready to go back to that. Above all, the English wanted order. Elizabeth gave the English something the Roses and Bloody Mary did not give them. Order.

The Danes under Claudius were seeing order break down. At the beginning of Claudius’ reign, Denmark prospered. Now crops started to fail. Parts of the country suffered from drought. Seemed like somebody had an Oedipus Complex. They weren’t sure who. But one thing was sure. Either Claudius and Laertes buried the hatchet with Hamlet or all hell might just break loose. The Danes knew how that turned out, and they were not happy that there’d be a mess to clean up in the end.

Hamlet: Ophelia

Just a note to all you wild and crazy guys. A very Big Thank You for all your continuous support. Uncle Bardie’s Stories & Such now has 500 WordPress Followers. Like the lady said, “You like me. You really like me.” 🙂

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: 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 Real Claudius Moment

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!” —Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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

Act 4 Scene 1. Claudius is in the throne room, kinglying all over the place. He’s got something to prove. Hamlet with his play has gotten to him. Now he’s got to get back his edge. The best way to do that is to throw his crown around.

“Servant, do this,” he says to one servant.

“You there,” he says to another. “Go get me something-or-rather.”

“Where is that Polonius?” he says to himself. “He’s never around when I need him.”

‘Course we know that Polonius can’t be around. He’s a corpse, boxed up and FedEx-ed to Doktor Frankenstein.

Gertie, the Queen, rushes in. Well, actually she doesn’t rush in. She’s a queen. She swishes in.

“My lord, what is that stink?” she says to Claudius.

“It’s the new cologne I am trying. It’s called It’s-Good-To-Be-The-King.”

Gertrude says, “It should be called P U.”

“My dear,” Claudius always called Gertie “my dear”. He liked the sound of it. “I have you know that it’s imported from Paris.”

“I see. So you imported Black Death from the sewers of Paris.” She takes out a big bottle of eau de coulogne and whiffed Claudius with it. “That’s better,” she says. Then she whispers, “Can you empty the room? I have news.”

“But,” Claudius is hesitant, “I am being king here. How can I be king if no one is around.”

Gertie smiles and blows in his ear. “You’re always king to me. If you know what I mean.”

Claudius definitely knows what she means.

“Everybody out,” Claudius commands.

The chamber empties.

“Rubber duckie time?” Claudius is getting excited.

“Not now. Later. After Hamlet leaves town.”

Claudius frowns, disappointed.

Gertie pats him on the cheek. “Sorry, sweetie.” Then she delivers the bad news. “Polonius isn’t Polonius any more.”

Claudius chokes. “Wh-wh-wh-at?”

“He got the P knocked out of his Olonius.”

“I hate it when that happens.” Claudius recovering.

“It’s curtains for him. Hamlet made him dead.”

“He didn’t.”

“He did. And he thought it was you.”

“Well, that’s not good.” Claudius frowns his best frown. It’s time to put a hit on this kid’s head and get him out of the way. He’s become nothing but a troublemaker big time. “I guess it’s England for him. At least, temporarily. Till everything cools down here.”

“He’s going to love England. Big Ben. Winchester Abbey. The Changing of the Guard. Buckingham Palace. Maybe the queen will give him the tour. He’ll love it. I’m sure.”

“So where’s the body?”

“Oh, he FedEx-ed it over to Doktor Frankenstein.”

Claudius thought, Smart lad. Always get rid of the evidence.

Hamlet: My crown, my own ambition, and my queen

Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
The hart ungallèd play.
For some must watch while some must sleep.
So runs the world away.
Hamlet Act 3 Scene 2.

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

Act 3 Scene 3. Two men. Mortal enemies. They have scouted each other out. They now know what each plans and plots. First Hamlet. He set a trap for the king. The king fell into it.

Then Claudius. A-prayin’. There Claudius is down on his knees. There Claudius is praying. But the Lord ain’t list’nin’ to no Claudius. No sirree, Jesus done turned His face away from Claudius. ‘Cause Claudius, he is a sinner. Yes sirree. He a sinning man. The $64,000 question is why does Claudius stop to pray. He ain’t a repentin’ man, that is for sure.

Claudius is not a religious man. Never has been.

Maybe Claudius just needs a folk to talk to. It’s like the serial killer. He calls up the cops and dares them to catch him. It’s that ego talking. He just wants somebody to know how smart he is. Maybe that’s Claudius. He just wants somebody to know. Since God already knows, why not have a heart-to-heart with Him.

No theologian this Claudius. He only sees prayer as having two benefits. Prayer’s there to forestall us from sinning and to pardon us once we have. Well, he has already committed the crime. And he’s not asking pardon. That would mean he has to turn himself in. He likes his job too well.

Hamlet stops. He sees Claudius praying. He draws his sword, a sword that is itching for revenge. It’s an eye for an eye kind of thing. In other words, you kill Daddy, I kill you. But there are rules to this sort of thing. I don’t kill you while you’re praying. That would get you off the hook and send you straight to heaven. Hamlet cannot have that. Hamlet cannot have that.

So it’s on to Mom’s.