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: Anybody seen my rubber duckie?

These words are razors to my wounded heart. – Titus Andronicus Act I, Scene I.

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

Act 3 Scene 4. Bedroom Scene. The Hamster thinks he’s alone with Gertie the Queen,  better known as Mom. But they are not alone. What would a scene in Hamlet be without someone spying on someone else. So Polonius is behind the curtains.

Hamster: Why did you marry–?

Gertie: I love him.

Hamster: Dad not good enough for you?

G: I get lonely.

H: Afraid of the dark? Afraid of sleeping alone? I can sleep on the couch and keep the big bad monsters away.

G: It’s not that.

H: Oh, I get it. Claudius has a sword. Dad only had a dagger.

G: No.

H; Or are you just a slut? Sleeping with every Tom, Dick and Claudius?

G: No.

H: My God, Mother, you didn’t sleep with Polonius, did you?

G: No.

G: I just needed somebody who would scrub my back and let me play with his rubber duckie.

H: Aww, now the truth comes out. Dad wasn’t duckie enough for you.

Polonius coughs from behind the curtain. Scares the jumping-jack-flash out of the Hamster. Before the Hamster could stop himself, his dagger was…well, let’s just say it was. Polonius fell. He was dead as a doorknob and any other kind of knob too.

The good news is we are getting somewhere with the plot. We now have Corpse Number One. But don’t worry, folks, there is more to come.

What can we say about Polonius? Here was a man who hid behind curtains. To spy on all. He spied on Laertes. He spied on Ophelia. He spied on the Queen. And Hamlet. Makes one think that he was a regular man from U.N.C.L.E. with all that eavesdropping. By spying, he knew stuff. Like Who Put The Bop In The Bop Shoo Bop.

Hamlet knew the man, who hid behind curtains, was the man behind the curtains. Now the man ain’t hiding no more.

Gertie starts bawling her eyes out.

H: Now don’t tell me you played with Polonius’ rubber duckie.

G: Are you crazy? I would never.

H: Phew. That’s a relief. You had me worried for a minute there.

G: How can you think such a thing?

H: Well, look whose rubber duckie you are playing with.

G: Hmmph.

H: Poor stupid Polonius. That’s what you get for eavesdropping. A blade in the gut, and you’re dead.

G: Oh shame where is thy blush. On the carpet, of course. How am I ever going to get that blood out?

H: Geez, you didn’t feel that way when Dad died.

G: Your dad had the good sense to die in the garden, not all over my beautiful carpet.

Just when you least expect it, Ghostie shows his pretty face.

Hamlet to the Ghost: Back in Act 1. Scene 5. You said you had to urgently return to the flames of purgatory. What happened?

Ghost: Are you sure I said that?

Hamlet: You did and I quote…

Ghost: That doesn’t sound like me.

Hamlet: Well, it was you. And now you’re back.

Ghost: Just to remind you that your dragging your feet on this revenge business. And, please, don’t get scary with your mother. I don’t want her dying from a heart attack.

Hamlet: I’ve been doing my best. And I’ll lay off Mom.

Ghost: Well, okay. I really don’t want to have to make another appearance. That will mean overtime and you know how play producers feel about overtime. They don’t like it. So get with it.

Poof! Ghostie is gone.

Gertie: Just who were you talking too?

H: Oh, you wouldn’t know. Now do me a favor.

G: I’ll try.

H: Don’t play rubber duckie with Claudius no more.

G:But I like his rubber duckie.

H: You want me to clean up my act?

G: Of course.

H: No more rubber duckie with Claudius.

G: (finally): No more rubber duckie with Claudius. (Gertie has her fingers crossed. After all, The Hamster will be in England soon. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, now will it?)

G: (looks over to the corpse): So what are we going to do with that thing?

H: I hear there’s a fellow down the way that is looking for fresh corpse.

G: That sounds downright ghoulish, don’t you think?

H: I think that’s what “Frankenstein” means in Bavarian. Ghoulish.

G: You don’t say.

H: I do say. Seems he wants to bring a corpse back to life.

G: Will Herr Doktor Frankenstein take the corpse c.o.d. or are we going to have to pay for shipping?

H: Either way, I’ll get him wrapped up and give FedEx a call.

The Hamster reaches down and drags the corpse off stage. Gertie goes to see if she can find Claudius’ rubber duckie.

Hamlet: Get thee to a nunnery

Take him and cut him in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun. (Romeo and Juliet Act 3 Scene 2.)

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

Act 3 Scene 1 (continued). It’s enough to think the Hamster was a misogynist. This scene sure makes us wonder. No matter how you look at it Hamlet is not treating Ophelia nicely. Why Hamlet’s bad treatment of Ophelia? Could it be that Ophelia is a stand-in for Mom?

For the first time in the play, Hamlet lets loose. We see real emotion from our protagonist. He is no longer thinking. He is feeling. What he is feeling is anger. On top of everything, he knows he is being spied upon and that makes him even madder. How dare his mother, and Ophelia too, act as foils for that villain Claudius. How dare them?

Ophelia smiles and asks, “How are things going?”

Like she doesn’t know. How can she not know that his father is dead? Maybe murdered? How can she not know that the king may be the murderer? It would be like Bathsheba did not know that King David sent Uriah, her husband, off to be killed. Bathsheba knew. So does Ophelia. Women. You just can’t trust them.

“My lord,” Ophelia says, “I have some things of yours. Since we broke up, I need to return them.”

He is thinking, “I didn’t break up with you. Remember you came to me and said, ‘Daddy wouldn’t let you date me.’” Instead he says, “I don’t want them back.”

Ophelia says, “But they are not mine to keep. Please take them. They only cause me pain.”

Well, I’ll show this daughter of Eve. This tool of Satan. “Ha. Are you good or what?”

“What in the name of all that is holy,” Ophelia asks, “are you talking about?”

Our Hamlet is not about to let his mother off the hook. Sure, the words are thrown at Ophelia, but it is Mom that he means to hit. “Get thee to a nunnery,” he throws at Ophelia/Gertrude.

“I am innocent,” Ophelia says. “How can you treat me so evilly? Me whom you professed to love so deeply.”

“Get thee to a nunnery.” Hamlet slams his once-Juliet against the wall. Then he releases her. “Get thee to a nunnery.” At that, he is done with Ophelia. He is done with women. His mother married his uncle within minutes of her husband, his father’s death. Ophelia spies on him for her father and for that Richard III who is king.

This scene also makes us ask if Shakespeare was a misogynist? After all, Hamlet may not be Hamlet in this scene. He may be William Shakespeare. Me, I think not. If we looked at many of his female characters in other plays, we see a variety and sensibility not found in any other writer of that time. And not very often of a male writer since.

Just look at “Romeo and Juliet”. Juliet, not Romeo, is the hero of that play. Then there is Rosalind in “As You Like It”, Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing”, Portia in “The Merchant of Venice”, and Viola in “Twelfth Night”. These are amazing women, fully formed.

No, I think Shakespeare was exhibiting a portion of his grief for his lost son, Hamnet, who died in 1596. He may very well have blamed his wife, Anne Hathaway, for the death. With this play, the anger came to surface and exhibited itself in a way even he had not expected. We will never know. We do know that he will go on to create some of his most memorable women: Rosalind, Cordelia, Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, Imogen in “Cymbeline”, and Paulina and Hermione in “A Winter’s Tale”.

With this in mind, I would nix the whole idea that Shakespeare, and Hamlet, were misogynists. They were just human beings. Like most human beings, they were searching for a way to deal with their grief.

***********

Standing in the hall, alone, Ophelia remembers the man she once loved:

Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!
The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword,
Th’ expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
Th’ observed of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most dejected and wretched,
That sucked the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most solemn reason
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;
That unmatched form and feature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstasy. Oh, woe is me,
T’ have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

Ophelia is not sure how things came to be the way things have come to be. But she deeply feels the loss of her prince. The man that was her Romeo.

Before she can absorb her loss, her father and the king pop out from behind the wall. They have heard everything.

Claudius is the first to speak. “He doesn’t sound crazy. He’s up to something. Something dangerous.”

You’d think Polonius would concern himself with his daughter’s distress. Yet he does not. Instead he responds to the king’s speculation.

Polonius is not convinced “That is indeed someone who is mad with love. For Ophelia. He has been deeply hurt by her rejection. He wants to strike out at her. Maybe we should have the queen examine him. Discover his motives. If she cannot, then send him off to England.”

To England? Why England? The English know what to do with royals that misbehave. They chop off their heads. Just look at Mary, Queen of Scots.

***********

Only Ophelia is left in the hall as the lights dim. Her head bowed with tears. Her arms at her side. She slowly sinks to the floor. The obedient daughter, the loyal girlfriend, realizes her future is looking dimmer and dimmer. It is looking more and more like Ophelia is truly the great tragic figure of “Hamlet”.

She is alone.

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 Interval 3: What if

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

Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall. (Measure for Measure Act II, Scene I).

Act 1 Interlude. There were only two women at Elsinore. One Hamlet’s mom, Gertrude, and Ophelia who was verboten to date him, Hamlet just didn’t have a girlfriend. No female for some whoppee, none for hanky panky. What if there had been women in the Castle in addition to Gertrude and Ophelia? Here are some suggestions and what these women might say:

Lady Macbeth: You do your Uncle in or I will do you in.

Rosalind (from As You Like It): Let’s go have some fun. You do Tootsie and I will do Yentil.

Beatrice (from Much Ado About Nothing): I’m sorry but I will not marry you. I am not into guys who wear black. Or green. Or blue. Or orange. But you might look nice in purple.

Annie Hall: I don’t care whether you kill your uncle, but you gotta kill that spider.

Emma (from Emma by Jane Austen): Have I got the right gal for you.

Scarlett: Tomorrow is another day to kill your Uncle.

Ana (from Fifty Shades of Grey): So you have a dungeon here in Elsinore?

Martha Stewart: This castle could use some redecorating.

Mary Poppins: Can you say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? If you can, then take a spoonful of sugar and the medicine of revenge will go down. Poof. No more Claudius.

Princess Leia from Star Wars: Use the Force to take Claudius out.

Mommy Dearest: Look, Hamlet, if you don’t do the job, I am going to have to use the coat hanger.

Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter): I’m telling you that Snape is Claudius.

Clarice Starling (from Silence of the Lambs) I will not eat Claudius’ liver with or without fava beans.

Jane Eyre: Why is everybody always saying to me, “To eeyre is Jane”?

Annie Savoy (from Bull Durham): Hamlet, I have just the thing for you. Baseball. You could be a .390 batter if you tried. You certainly have the arm for it.

Holly Golightly (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s): You don’t have any problems that cab money and a trip to Tiffany’s can’t solve, Hamlet.

Mrs. Lovett (from Sweeny Todd): Hamlet, I have the perfect thing to cheer you up. A lovely meat pie.

Alice (in Wonderland): You haven’t seen a cat, have you? We went out on a blind date, then he disappeared. He did have a nice smile.

Eliza Doolittle (from My Fair Lady): Aw garn, I never see’d a castle before.

Guinevere (from Camelot): Hamlet, do you want to join my Round Table?

Daisy Buchanan (from The Great Gatsby): Honestly, Hamlet, Tom knows everything. He may even know where Claudius put the poison. Now could you pass the tea please?

Ripley (from Alien): Your uncle has something growing inside of him, Hamlet.

Lieutenant Uhura (from Star Trek): Beam me up, Captain Hamlet.

Shakira: Just shake those hips, Hamlet.

Jenifer Lopez: You look so bootylicious, Hamlet. We make such a bootylicious couple, don’t you think?

Beyonce: I saw you in the elevator, Hamlet, with Ophelia of all people.

Taylor Swift: Just shake it off, Hamlet. Shake it off.

Mylie Cyrus: I could twerk Claudius dead. I have great aim. And I will just wham him with my wrecking ball.

Lady Gaga: Hamlet, we are going to have to do something about those clothes.

Marge Gunderson (from Fargo): Oh, geez.

Mae West: Why don’t you come up and see me sometime, Big Boy?

Unfortunately none of these were available. Only Gertrude, only Ophelia.

Which pretty much left Ophelia by herself. Gertrude had Claudius. Hamlet had Horatio. Polonius had his scheming and Laertes had Paris. Ophelia had no one. She was alone. Quite alone.