Hamlet: Just a little bit of Poland

Fortinbras: “Go, Captain, from me greet the Danish king
Tell him that, by his license, Fortinbras
Craves the conveyance of a promised march
Over his kingdom.”
Hamlet Act 4 Scene 4.

Act 4 Scene 4. Macbeth had it in for the King of Scotland. Iago had it in for Othello. Shylock had it in for Antonio. Cassius had it in for Julius Caesar. Henry Bolingbroke had it in for Richard II. Richard III had it in for the Princes in the Tower. Hamlet had it in for Claudius. Claudius had it in for Hamlet. And Fortinbras had it in for the Poland.

Some years ago, before he was Norway and had the responsibilities of a future king, Fortinbras was a young rake, free and loose and on the prowl. He would have made a perfect student for Falstaff because he loved to carouse more than Hal ever did. Then he saw her, the Polish king’s daughter. She saw him. They were instant smitten with each other.

Fortinbras went to the king and pleaded for the girl’s hand. The king said no. “I’d rather she marry a bear than a Northman.”

Poland locked his daughter up in a tower, safely away from the riff-raff. He had a husband in mind for her. A man who would make a strong ally. Ivan the Terrible.  Mostly Poland wasn’t looking for Ivan as an ally. He was downright scared of the dude. He’d seen the heads hanging from the walls of Ivan’s castle and heard the screams from the Russian’s dungeons. So it sounded like a real good idea to keep Ivan on his good side.

The thing was that no ruler would last more than two weeks with a name like Ivan the Pussycat. And Ivan was a real pussycat. Scared of his own shadow.

Ivan had this henchman, Rasputin. Raspy convinced Ivan that he had to do something to scare the bejesus out of everybody. To do this, Raspy ordered some fake heads off Amazon and a sound effects record of lots of screaming. Raspy’s plan worked. Everybody thought the paraphernalia was real. Unfortunately they scared the you-know-what out of Ivan too.

Poland’s daughter was not happy at all about her daddy’s scheme. She did a Juliet and sent a note secretly to Fortinbras. “Spring me from the joint. This chastity belt daddy locked me up in itches like crazy.”

Fortinbras showed up at the tower at midnight. Being as good a climber as Spider-Man, he went up the wall like nobody’s business. Threw the future Mrs. Fortinbras across his broad shoulders. Then went back down the side of the tower in no time flat. He headed off to the Justice of the Peace and had the nuptials pronounced.

Fortinbras was prepared. He had brought a big set of pliers and off came the chastity belt. Nothing was going to stop him from her treasure chest. But first she had to go pee and she had to go pee bad. She came back to their hotel room and got into bed. There was a knock on the door. It wasn’t the big bad wolf. It was Raspy. Fortie went out the window first. On the ground three stories below, he whispered, “Jump. I’ll catch you.” She jumped. He missed. She died right there in his arms. Needless to say, Fortie had to get out of town and he had to do it fast. But he would never forget his true love. And he would never forget Poland.

Now he is marching through Denmark to get to Poland. He is out to get even for the loss of his lady love. He had something like twenty thousand men behind him. Actually it was not something like twenty thousand. It was exactly twenty thousand. He could have chosen Sweden but the Swedes didn’t like Norway none too much.

“Captain, go and ask the king of Denmark if we can cross. Tell him we won’t rape and loot and plunder. We just need to get across.”

“Okay dookay.”

Hamlet sees the army and he is impressed. “Just look at those uniforms. Aren’t they mahvelous? Simply mahvelous.”

Rosencrantz agreed. Guildenstern agreed.

Right then and there, Hamlet decided that he had to go back, take out the king and get an army with uniforms just like Norway’s. After all, military strategists the world over know that it is the army with the best uniforms that won the wars. Just look at how well the British did in that little skirmish called the American Revolution. All ‘cause they had such great looking uniforms.

What army do you think has the best looking uniforms?


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.

Young Fortinbras

Thus much the business is: we have here writ
To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras—
Who, impotent and bedrid, scarcely hears
Of this his nephew’s purpose—to suppress
His further gait herein, in that the levies,
The lists, and full proportions are all made
Out of his subject; and we here dispatch
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand.
Hamlet Act 1. Scene2.

Act 1. Scene 2 (Continued). Claudius is not happy. I know he was happy a Wednesday ago. Guess a king has the right to change his mind. He is king, and that is one of the kingly prerogatives.

Young Fortinbras, nephew to the king of Norway and son of the former king, is on the warpath. He’s got an itch. He’s got it bad. Besides, he has something to prove. To show he can kick some butt. That is one way for Forte to prove he would make a terrific king.

This is the Middle Ages. Everybody is Middle Age crazy in those days. Warrior kings are considered saints. Don’t think so. Just look at St. Charlemagne, St. Louis (not the town but the king), St. Edward the Confessor and St. Alfred the Great. I can hear Tony the Tiger saying, “Heeez GRRREEET.”

Anyway, Claudius calls in his Ambassadors to Norway, Cornelius and Voltimand. No, that is not He-who-must-not-be named. The two bow and kowtow before His Magnanimousness.

Claudius sings a pickin’ and grinnin’ song:
Oh, Cornelius. Oh, Voltemand,
To Norway We’re sendin’ you.
Tell that king and tell him well
He’ll be in a lot of screw-you
If he don’t tell Young Fortinbras
Not to get his panties in a wad.
He’s a huffin’ and a puffin’
Like he’s some young almighty god.

There’s a new sheriff in town.
We’re the Baddest Wolf around.
If he don’t let things be
We will blow his house down.

Think our brother was really bad?.
We’re three times worse than he was.
Wherever We ride, the snow melts.
When We decide to show our claws
Goliath would run away scared.
You Philistines ain’t got a chance
We’ll melt Norway and take her down
And make you Norwegians dance

Well, Judgment day is a-comin’
Our wrath like a volcano blow
Our patience is a runnin’ out
Soon We’ll be sending Norway low
But We are a generous man
Fortinbras can stretch his muscles
On the Germans and the Cassocks
And make the Poles his vassals

Voltemand and Cornelius say a quick, “Yes, Your Magnanimousness.”

Claudius responds, “And don’t you forget it.”