Hamlet and the Speakeasy

I can counterfeit the deep tragedian;
Speak and look back, and pry on every side,
Tremble and start at wagging of a straw,
Intending deep suspicion.
Richard III Act 3 Scene 5.

Act 3 Scene 2. Every actor in the world wants to be the director. With one exception. Michael Caine. Sir Michael knows an easy road when he sees one. He learned during his working-class odd-job early life not to make waves. Directors make waves. Partially because it’s their job to piss people off, especially actors and producers. Partially they can’t help themselves.

Now here’s Hamlet. Right up front he wants to piss the actors off. By telling them how to do their job. Here he’s telling them to speak the speak and speech the speech. As if they don’t know how to speak the speech and speech the speak. They ought to. They have done it something like one thousand and fifty-four and a half times.

That half time is stretching it a bit. This visiting acting troupe hadn’t done a good job at the halftime celebrations of the Superbowl between the Martin Luthers and the Torquemada Inquisitors. They did a bit on the Ninety-five Theses. They called it the Ninety-six Thesis because it was the thesis that the Martin Luthers left out. This thesis claimed that Jesus was six feet seven and had played pro basketball for the Nazareth Carpenters. That went against the Church’s teaching.

According to the Church teaching on Jesus’ basketball career, the Good Lord was seven feet tall and had played for the Bethlehem Cradles. The Church had stained glass to prove it. They had Jesus’ contract for forty-five shekels for his rookie year. He played three games, then he was out for the season. He had injuries in his two palms. Something about splinters. Basically it put him out for good. Jesus never played pro basketball again. A little touch football with His Boys but never anything pro. As they say, everybody has a cross to bear and that was His.

Except for that screw-up, this acting troupe had standing room audiences at all its performances. Now here was the Hamster, an amateur, trying to tell them how to do their job. But he was paying the bill, so they let him do his thing. They just didn’t listen and went about their acting biz the way they always did. Professionally.

Hamlet must have thought he was William Shakespeare. Had Hamlet lived it is very likely that he would have gone to London and started his own theater troupe. Now that would have been a hoot. Not.

Hamlet was so good at tragedy he could have been the next Chris Marlowe. When it came to comedy, it was an ix-nay on that. From the evidence we have seen in the play so far, all Hamlet could do was sad, really sad. He would have made “The Massacre at Paris” look like a children’s play.

The Elizabethans would have run from his plays, barfing. ‘Course that would have made him even more popular since the Elizabethans loved to barf. Francis Bacon wrote three treatises on the subject. Queen Elizabeth, for whom the era was named, had contests at court to see who the best barfer was. Leicester won them hands down. Guess that was why he was the Favorite-in-Chief.

Hamlet would have been the one that all those scholars think was The Bard. Alas, it was not to be. But Hamlet still made his mark anyway. Thanks to Horatio, his story became the most popular in all the world. Folks as far away as Cathay would get a taste of it. It would be seen by more audiences than any other drama, except The Game of Thrones. So Hamlet can take his bow.

Now Hamlet gets the chance to produce, direct, and playwright. Who knows? He may even have played the ghost. Just like William the Playwright played the ghost but not the lead. Oh, that’s right. There isn’t a ghost in the Gonzago play. But no worries. Hamlet has written a part for himself. He will Olivier this little tragedy the actors perform. Talk about Multiple Personality Syndrome. Hamlet was a regular Orson Welles. A Mr. Multiple Personality.

Hamlet: As the Plot Turns, Or oh goody, a play

The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king. (Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2)

Act 2 Scene 2. In Syd Field’s language, it’s time for Plot Point One. A plot point is a story event that directs the action in a new, unexpected direction.

Hamlet knows what he knows, and he knows it deeply. To prove it, that is another thing. The universe has turned against him. It has dug a hole for Hamlet, and it is throwing dirt over him. He needs a shovel.

The guy comes home to the castle. His dad is dead. Last he saw Dad he was healthy as a horse. He was bit by a snake and it was bye bye Miss American pie. On top of that, Mom has remarried. To Uncle Claudius, of all people. So he doesn’t get to be King Hamlet. Even for a day.

It would have been nice if Uncle screwed up. He didn’t. Uncle Claudius has this king thing down to a tee. He looks like a king, smells like a king, sounds like a king. He acts like a king, and he is damned good at it.

Then there is the ghost, and he’s dumping the dirt on Hamlet too. Could be his father. But maybe it is a demon or the devil. He dumps a revenge onto Hamlet’s noggin. How will that get dear old Dad out of a purgatory Hamlet did not believe in? This purgatory is a Catholic thing. Hamlet is a Protestant.

Hamlet deep down wants to be king. More than anything. So he is ready to do just about anything. But murder. No way. There’s a little thing called the Ten Commandments and “Thou shalt not kill”. It doesn’t say “except if he’s an s.o.b.”

Maybe Hamlet doesn’t want to be king after all. Even if he did want it, he can’t do the cold blood thing. He needs proof. Not only for others. For himself as well. So how is he going to do that? He hasn’t a clue.

First Polonius shows his face, then R & G with whom he used to play touch football. With whom he no longer has anything in common.

More words, words, words, and none the right ones. Tit for tatting with his old chums, now working for the Dark Lord. Hamlet says, “I have of late…lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition.” In other words, I am so down-and-out these days, I’ve let my LA Fitness membership slide, I am not dating much, and I haven’t smiled in days. No, make that weeks. Hamlet is really, and truly, bummed.

R/G says to the Hamster,” A troupe of actor’s a-coming this way. You know them?”

“I do?”

“Yes, they were the same troupe you knew at school.”

“Oh, that troupe.

Then Shakespeare steps in to speak through the mouths of his actors. He complains how child actors have given his theatrical troupe competition. They’ve been very successful at it of late. He complains that they are biting into the Globe’s revenues. Ticket sales are down.

Hamlet welcomes the troupe. Sees if they’ve still got their chops, for Hamlet knows a bit about acting. More than a bit. Seems he could join the troupe himself if he were not a prince and he was looking for a job. Now comes the Plot Point One. Hamlet has come upon a design which will reveal if Claudius is guilty of his father’s murder or not. He will set a trap.

To the lead player, he requests the troupe do “The Murder of Gonzago”. He shall write a speech for them to insert into the play. It will be such a speech that once and for all proves, or disproves, Claudius’ guilt.

Hamlet now has his shovel. Now for Act 3 when all hell breaks loose.