Does it not, think thee, stand me now upon—
He that hath killed my king and whored my mother,
Popped in between th’ election and my hopes,
Thrown out his angle for my proper life
(And with such cozenage!)—is ’t not perfect conscience
To quit him with this arm? And is ’t not to be damned
To let this canker of our nature come
In further evil? Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2.
Act 5 Scene 2. I could easily subtitle this one: The Stuff Hits the Fan. But we’re not there yet. First Hamlet must do laundry. Everybody knows that you can’t go to a duel in dirty clothes.
Hamlet retreats to the basement. That part of Castle Elsinore where the dragons are hidden. But Hamlet has dealt with dragons. On the ship to England, he stole into Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s cabin. He read Claudius’ order to chop off his head. So he wrote a new order. It would be Rosenstern’s heads to roll.
“How did you seal the document?” Horatio asks.
“I had my father’s seal,” Hamlet says as he slips out of his clothes. As he stands in his altogether, he throws his doublet, his breeches, his underwear, his collar and his ruff into the washing machine. “The next day our ship was attacked. I escaped to the pirate’s ship. The pirates befriended me as they felt I was escaping from capture. Thus I returned here.”
“So Rosencrantz and Guildenstern went off to their death?”
“They got what they deserved. It is indeed dangerous for lesser men to play with great events.”
“What a king Claudius is,” Horatio concludes.
“Wouldn’t I be damned to let this canker of our nature come in further evil?”
“He will soon know of England and his pawns,” Horatio comments.
“It will be short. The interim’s mine.” Hamlet then moves his laundry to the dryer.
Osric, a courtier, enters the room. “We are so glad you’re back, my lord. The whole court is.”
“Thank you. It’s good to home,” Hamlet lies.
“If you have a moment,” Osric says, “I have a message to convey to you from the king.”
“I can’t wait to hear all the king has to say.”
“His Magnanimousness has placed a large bet on you.”
“Now why would he want to go and do that?” Hamlet asks Horatio. Turns back to Osric and gestures. “You can return your hat to your head as a gentleman should.”
“It’s okay just where it is at the moment. I feel I am in the company of friends. Am I not?”
“Oh, yes you are,” Hamlet says enthusiastically. “Oh, yes you are.” He winks at Horatio.
“A gentleman has arrived at court,” Osric imparts more information. “A fine swordsman this Laertes is.”
“I know him very well. And he has many good qualities.”
“The king believes you are the better man,” Osric assures the prince. “In fencing. So he has wagered a bet that you will defeat this Laertes in a match. In a dozen passes, he will make three hits less than you.”
“What if I say no?” Of course, Hamlet won’t say no. Not only is he confident that he will win the bet, but he will also find a way to do Claudius in.
“The king, and Laertes, would be so disappointed. And myself as well. The court hasn’t of late had much entertainment. Things have been a bit gray around here.” Guess that’s what it’s like when you have no HBO or Internet.
“Then let’s entertain the troops,” Hamlet says, “I’ll finish my laundry. Then take a walk for exercise.”
“I will let His Magnanimousness know. He will be overjoyed.” Osric places his hat on his head and leaves.
“Gee, you just can’t get good courtiers these days. Such riff-raff,” Hamlet says, referring to Osric.
‘Tis true,” Horatio agrees. “A courtier is riff-raff by any other name.”
“Looks like my doublet is done.” Hamlet goes to the dryer and takes out his clothes. “Thank God, I am feeling a bit if a chill.” A fast dresser, Hamlet is all dressed up and ready for a duel before Horatio can say two shakes of a spear.