Hamlet: No More Mr. Nice Guy

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

Act 3 Scene 2 (continued).

From the moment Ophelia said, “The king rises.”

From the moment the Queen said, “How fares my lord?”

From the moment Polonius said, “Stop the play.”

From the moment Claudius said, “Give me some light, away.”

Hamlet knew, and he knew big time. The white face on Claudius was not embarrassment. It wasn’t a clown’s face. It was the face of a murderer’s guilt.

Yep, Claudius did it. There was no doubt about it.

“Well, there you have it. There it is,” The Hamster said to his good bud, Horatio. “Claudius done it. There’s no doubt about It.” The Hamster looked for agreement. Even now, he was not about to go out on this limb alone.

Horatio was a man of few words and those words usually backed up anything The Hamster said. Horatio had watched Claudius during the performance of “The Murder of Gonzago”. Claudius’ face left nothing to guesswork. He was guilty alright. So Horatio gave his unqualified yep with a clear conscience.

‘Course, whatever Horatio did or said, he said or did with a clear conscience. It wasn’t necessarily that it was right. He just did it with a clear conscience. That was the kind of guy he was. Also it was a great survival technique. And one thing was sure. Horatio was good at surviving.

So there it was. Claudius guilty as charged. Right. What to do about it? Before that could be discussed, guess who showed? Mr. Dumb and Mr. Dumber. Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Rusancrantz and Guildenstern, of course.

R or G said, “My lord, can I have a word with you?’

“I don’t know. Can you?” Hamlet throws off.

“The king. He’s off in his chamber and he’s extremely bummed, man.”

“Got the blues, eh?”

“He’s angry,” R or G said.

“That’s what he gets for drinking that bad hootch.” Hamlet smiled. He was having way too good a time.

“It’s not that.”

“Maybe you should get him a doctor. I hear his doctor the doctor, Doctor Doctor, is very good at healing a pain in the butt. Can’t heal mine but maybe he can take Polonius’ head out of his rear.”

“But your mom…”

“I thought we were talking the king here. You’re always confusing me. Not only can I not tell who R is and who G is, now you’ve got me confused about who the king is and who the queen is. He’s not wearing a dress again, is he?”

In the Middle Ages, lords wore robes. They may have looked like dresses but they were not. They were robes. Popes and cardinals got to wear dresses, I mean robes too. It was what distinguished a higher-up from a lower-down. Serfs wore pants.

“Huh?”

“It’s getting hard to know who’s wearing the pants around here. Oh, me. I’m wearing the pants.” Hamlet asided, “See, you were wrong. I do have fashion-sense. I’m so New School I might as well be in kindergarten.”

Pants were the new thing. All the young turks were wearing them back at Wittenburg U. Even the ladies had gotten on the pants bandwagon. They were after that workingclass look. Only Elsinore was behind the times fashionwise. It would take a hundred years or a Fortinbras to bring pants–and bras–into style.

“It’s not the king who sent us. It’s your mom.”

“Well, it’s lovely to see you too,” Hamlet said.

“She is upset at your behavior.”

“Now that’s not true,” Hamlet said. “And you know it’s not true. You take that back.”

R or G wasn’t sure what to do. Hamlet seemed to be getting nutsier and nutsier. They decided. “We take it back.”

Polonius announced, “My lord, the queen wants to speak with you.”

“Well, I’d better go then. Tell the queen I’ll be there by the by.”

Hamlet was through playing. He was through pussy footin’. He might not be on a mission from God, but now he was on a mission. He knew what he must do. It was time to get on with the show. Just to show it, he said these words:

‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood
And do such bitter business as the bitter day
Would quake to look on. Soft, now to my mother.—
O heart, lose not thy nature, let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom.
Let me be cruel, not unnatural.
I will speak daggers to her but use none.
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites.
How in my words somever she be shent,
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!

Scary stuff. And I’m talking deep fried, Stephen King, Anne Rice kind of scary. The witching hour indeed.

Hamlet: Entrapment

Whence is that knocking?
How is’t with me, when every noise appalls me?
What hands are here? Hah! They pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.
Macbeth Act 2 Scene 2.

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

Act 3 Scene 2 (continued). Remember that camel through the eye of a needle thing Jesus talked about. Hamlet had a plan. He set a trap for Claudius. But there was only problem with it. That problem wasn’t small like the eye of a needle. It was as big as the Arc de Triumph. Hamlet should have seen it but he didn’t. Hamlet was so into his plan it would be like cutting the nose off to spite the face for him to recognize the easily recognizable.

Basically the plan went like this. He asked the acting troupe to re-enact the crime as the Ghost related it to him. There was a king poisoned by his nephew the way Claudius poisoned Hamlet’s daddy. Then the villain woos the queen. If Claudius is guilty, he will protest such a plot. If Claudius is not guilty, he won’t have a problem with the play. At least, that was how Hamlet saw it.

Claudius saw the scene and he was out of there. Which didn’t prove he did it or he didn’t do it. It only proved that he was upset. He had been set up. If the FBI set such a trap, it would be called entrapment.

Wouldn’t you have left? Say Claudius was innocent of the accusation. He sat, watching a play that accused him of a crime he didn’t commit. Not only was he accused but Hamlet rubbed it in his face. It was out there for all of Castle Elsinore to see, including his wife, the Queen.

What does Claudius do? He storms out. He is angry at Hamlet. Hamlet has forced Claudius to show his hand. But Claudius isn’t showing any hand. ‘Cause a man guilty or innocent would have done the same as Claudius.

Hamlet: Sounds like a plan

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.

Hamlet Interlude 1: It’s good to be the king

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Henry IV Part 2. Act 3. Scene 1.

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

Hamlet Act 1 Interlude. We’ve all thunk the words, “It’s good to be the king.” Perhaps that was what Claudius was thunking. Ham Senior’d ride into the castle courtyard on his big, black stallion, returning from battle victorious over his adversary, Fortinbras Senior, blood still on his sword. All the women drooled over him. Even before he could shake the dust, they were ripping his their bodices off, wanting to have their way with him.

It is at moments like these that Claudius should have reflected on the words of Richard 3 on the Battle of Bosworth Field, “My kingdom for a whore.” Why Richard wanted a prostitute at that particular moment even scholars cannot guess. What motivates a king to say what a king says at any time is often beyond logic.

Richard should have asked for a horse instead. If he wanted a good ride, that would be the best way to go, don’t you think? That way he could’ve gotten out of Dodge real fast. The tides of war were going against him. There was a new sheriff in town and his name was Henry. It was indeed the winter of Richard’s discontent.

One thing was for sure. Richard was no Henry 4. He was more of his namesake Richard 2 than he cared to think. Unlike Henry 5, he could not rally his troops on Saint Crispin’s Day. It was no where near that feast day when he said the “my whore” line, being it was August and all.

So he asked for a prostitute at an inappropriate time. Unfortunately there was no Falstaff to procure one for him. Guess that is what happens when you take on a Tudor. England had asked, “Tu dor or not Tu dor.” And they had decided Tudor would be just fine.

Shakespeare knew a thing about kings. He could easily paraphrase the actor in an ad who said, “I’m not a doctor. I just play one on tv.” In other words, “I’m not a king. I just play one at the Globe.” Don’t forget that Mel Brooks’ Louis 16 stole from Shakespeare when he said, “It’s good to be the king.”

Not.

It was never good to be the king. It drove George 3 mad. If not madness, there was always regicide. And I am not talking Reggie from the Archie comics either. I’m talking guillotine regicide here. Too many kings had lost their heads too many times. If not their heads, other parts of their bodies. Just look at what happened to Nicky 2 in Russia.

One thing was sure. It wasn’t about to happen to Elizabeth Numero Uno, known by one and all as Elizabeth Regina, E.R. Not if she had anything to do with it. She came by her suspicions rightly. She was not forgetting what had happened to her mommy and she was not about to let it happen to her. There were all those English Catholics plotting, and their plots were plotting. They kept saying, “You’re illegitimate.” Of course, she was illegitimate. English rulers all the way back to 1066 and further were illegitimate in one way or another.

E.R.’s strategy: A smell of treason and off with their heads. A lot of folks feel sorry for Mary, Queen of Scots, but don’t. It was her own darn fault. She had lousy taste in men. Even though Mary was caged up like a little birdie, she just couldn’t leave well enough alone. She did her canary impression and sang her head off. Her head literally dropped into the basket.

E.R. knew her history. She knew that her granddaddy poached the crown from Richard 3 who had done his share of poaching. Henry 7 may not have known how to speak poetically. By all accounts he was a plain speaking guy. His son would do that for him. But Seven sure knew how to get a throne. Kick some Richard 3 butt.

Claudius had done what kings always did. He regicided for his throne. Thing was that he didn’t remember his English History 101. He repeated the same mistake Richard 3 did. Richard did a Hansel-and-Gretel and pushed the Princes-in-the-Tower into the oven, then he had them for lunch. What Richard forgot was that there is always a Henry waiting in the wings. Or a Fortinbras. And with some poison claret too.

In Shakespeare’s day, kings mattered. They mattered a lot. The king determined whether the country prospered or suffered. A king was placed on the throne by God and only God could remove him. This was back when folks believed in God, and they knew that you didn’t want to mess with God. You might grow warts or something worse. So, God help you if you de-throned a king. Without a very good reason. And I am talking really good here.

This is why Hamlet hesitated. Hamlet knew he better have a damned good reason to remove Uncle Claudius from the throne. He must be absolutely sure Uncle Claudius murdered his dad. Once he determined Claudius was an assassin, Hamlet not only had the right, he had the responsibility to execute the king.

Shakespeare tackled this question with “Richard II” and his history plays. So he was back in familiar territory. The question he hadn’t answered satisfactorily was what kind of person had the right to do the deed.

If you remember, Bolinbroke had a darned good reason. Richard II stole his inheritance. Yet there were those who never accepted Henry IV as king. They believed what Nixon said in the David Frost interviews. “If the president says it is legal, it is legal.” King Richard II had said the theft was legal.

So what does all this have to do with Hamlet? Elizabeth I, the ruler of Merry Olde England, had enough people try to detach her head that the question was on everybody’s mind. Elizabeth 1 woke up everyday, thinking, “Whose head am I going to have to chop off today?” Her daddy hadn’t raised a fool.

So why did Claudius do it? Why did he murder Ham’s dad? Maybe he fell head over for Gertrude. He returned from Wherever-Claudius-was-returning-from and saw Gertrude. He was beside himself. It doesn’t really matter if that is what happened. He dood the deed. Claudius not only homicided and regicided. He done fratricided. Even Macbeth didn’t go that far. The king was not Mac’s brother. For Claudius, there would be karmic consequences.

Hamlet and the Ten Reasons

“This is the short and the long of it”. -Merry Wives of Windsor Act 2, Scene 2..

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

Act 1. Scene 5 (Continued).

Ten Reasons for Hamlet to Take-out Claudius

1. Claudius did Dad in.

2. Claudius is doing Mom.

3. Claudius is out to do the Hamster in.

4. Claudius is out-acting Hamlet.

5. Claudius is a drunk. That is a polite way of saying that Claudius is an alcoholic.

6. Taking Claudius out would prove that the Hamster is really, and truly, Big Man on Campus.

7. Claudius stole Hamlet’s crown.

8. Claudius couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag. And Young Fortinbras is about to prove it.

9. Behind Claudius’ smile is a mean s.o.b.

10. And Claudius is Claudius.

Can you Readers think of any other reasons Hamlet should kill the big guy?.

 Ten Reasons for Hamlet to Not Take-out Claudius

1. Claudius did Dad in. But that was okay. Dad did his dad in too.

2. Claudius is doing Mom. And Mom is loving it.

3. If Claudius is out to do the Hamster in, he has a funny way of showing it. He gives Hamlet a round trip ticket to England.

4. Claudius is out-acting Hamlet. Hamlet could use a few tips from a better actor.

5. Okay, Claudius drinks a lot. He’s a real party guy.

6. Not taking Claudius out would prove that the Hamster is really a forgiving kind of dude. Ain’t that the Christian thing to do?

7. Claudius didn’t steal Hamlet’s crown. He just borrowed it for a while.

8. Claudius couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag. But he sure is smarter than any Fortinbras and he’s about to prove it.

9. Behind Claudius’ smile is a mean s.o.b. Would you expect less from a king?

10. And Claudius is Claudius.

Can you Readers think of any other reasons Hamlet should not kill the big guy?.