Hamlet: Off to England He Goes

Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service—two dishes, but to one table. That’s the end. Hamlet Act 4 Scene 3.

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

Act 4 Scene 3. Hamlet enters the presence of King Claudius. He is in no mood for kowtowing, and towkowing either. Not in no mood at all.

“Hey, Chief,” Hamlet starts off.

Claudius is not amused with Hamlet’s irreverence. “Your Magnanimousness, if you please.”

“Right, Boss,” Hamlet giggles. Could it be that he’s been in the winery? “I thought I would bring my complaint straight to the Big Cheese. That’s you, right?”

Claudius cannot believe his ears. But he nods his head yes.

“We need some new plumbing around here,” The Hamster lets out. “The toilets have a real constipation problem. I went to poop and, man, talk about backup.”

Changing the subject, Claudius asks, “Where’s Polonius’ body?”

“Maybe he’s the reason for all the backup. Could it be somebody tried to flush him away?”

“Where’s the body?” Claudius insists.

“He might be coming to dinner,” Hamlet says. “I really can’t say.”

“Go ahead and say.”

“Since you ask me, he was taking a vaca the last I heard. By FedEx first class.”

“What am I going to do with you, Prince Hamlet?”

“Without a body, there’s no evidence that Polonius didn’t just run off with the farmer’s daughter.”

“Where is his body?” Claudius is now getting in Hamlet’s face big time.

“Whoa, Big Guy, you really need to do something about that breath of yours. Poor hygiene ain’t the way to make friends and influence people.”

Claudius returns to his throne and plops down. “Here’s what you’re going to do. You need to get out of town for a while. So I am going to send you first class to England.”

“Oh, boy, the Coliseum. And I’ll get to see the Pope too. Always wanted to know what a pope looked like.”

“No,” Claudius says. “That’s Rome. England, I said.”

“Oh, goody, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées.”

“That’s Paris, not England.”

“Wonderful. I’ll get to see Michelangelo’s David.”

“That’s Florence, not England.”

“I hear the gondoliers sing,” Hamlet says.

“Not Venice. England,” Claudius is extremely frustrated.

“Not England. I hate fog,” Hamlet resists.

“Yes, England, and you can stay at Buckingham Palace.”

“Well, okay. As long as it’s not the Tower of London. You can catch cold there from the draft.”

“Then it is agreed. It’s what your mother wants too.” Claudius is relieved. Dealing with Hamlet is extremely tiring. The king is going to need a nap soon.

“Oh, if Mom says it’s okay, then it must be okay,” Hamlet wise-guys.

Claudius hands Hamlet an envelope with his tickets and his per diem.

“Well, ta-ta, Big Guy,” Hamlet says. “I’ll see you in Tuscany. And remember it’s a long way to Temporary.”

“You mean Tipperary?”

“If you say so,” Hamlet sashays out the door.

Claudius calls after him, “And take those two Bozos with you.” Of course, he was talking Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Who else?

Since there is always a bard in these kinds of plays, there is a Barde here as well. (In case any of you were wondering, Barde is French for Bard.) Our friendly Bardie sings, “Hamlettown”:

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

Down in Elsinore Castle there was a tragedy
Old Hamlet died, poisoned as poison could be.
Was it a snake bite or was it some other thing
That took down the Dane and Elsinore’s king?

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

It was in the days when the cold winds blow
When all the laughter had turned to snow
The young prince sadly returned to the castle
To find the new king made Hamlet his vassal

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

One night Hamlet saw the ghost of his pater
Dressed in armor just like his dad, his father
Demanding revenge and demanding it quick
“Take out Claudius before you can shake a stick.”

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

Hamlet went mad or so the Danes were led to think
Even his mom said that he wasn’t in the pink
He gave the king’s man a very big tummy ache
Now Polonius will never again awake

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

There was but one thing that Claudius could do
Send Hamlet away to get the king out of the stew
It was off to England with a note to the English
Take off his head to give this plot a good finish.

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England

There’s more to this tale than England could finish
When R and G lost their heads to the British
Hamlet stole the note that was to go to Olde England
And changed it from  Claudius’ original plan

Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to sea
Hamlet, O Hamlet, it’s off to England.

Hamlet: A Meeting in the Hall

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

Act 4 Scene 2.

“Yo, Hamlet,” someone calls out from behind Hamlet as the Prince he strides his way down the hall.

Hamlet turns. “If it ain’t Guildenstern.”

“Rosencrantz, me Lord.”

“I swear I am going to have to get each of you a t-shirt so I can tell the two of you apart.”

“Yes, me Lord. What did you do with the body?”

Hamlet smiles. “Are you the police? If you are going to arrest me, I get my one phone call. I have a ghost in mind to call. You ever talk to a ghost?”

“I have not talked to a ghost. Don’t think I’d like it. And I am not the police.”

“Phew.” Hamlet swipes his forehead like he’s starting to sweat. “Had me worried there, Rosenstern.”

“Rosencrantz, me Lord.”

“Yes. Well, you had me worried. Not many people do that these days.”

“Yes, me Lord.”

“You do that “yes me Lord” business pretty good. You’re going to make a first rate kowtower.You do have your kowtowing license, don’t you?”

“Thank you, me Lord. As I was about to say, His Magnanimousness, would like to see you.”

“Now we’re getting down to business. The king, you say?”

“Yes, me Lord. The king. And he will want the body.”

“Aw, c’mon, Rosenstern, what body would that be?”

“The body of the dead counselor, Polonius.”

Hamlet’s face questions. “Polonius?”

“Yes, me Lord.”

“Polonius is dead?”

“Yes, me Lord.”

“That’s curious. I just saw him hiding behind some drapes. Are you sure he is dead?”

“He is dead, me Lord. Where is his body?”

“Oh, that body. It’s in good care.”

“Where is the body, me Lord?”

“The aliens took it off to Roswell and Area 51.”

“There are no aliens, me Lord.”

“Just kidding.” Hamlet is bemused. “I followed Juliet’s advice, Rosenstern.”

“Advice, me Lord?”

“You know what Juliet advises, ‘Take him and cut him out in little stars.’ That advice.”

Rosencrantz can’t believe his ears. “You didn’t.”

“Aw, but I did,” Hamlet smiles.

Rosencrantz isn’t sure whether to believe Hamlet or not. “Then where are the pieces?”

“Now that is the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. I’d say they are somewhere between here and Bavaria. I FedEx-ed them off to the Witch Doctor, Herr Doktor Frankenstein. He’s been in desperate need of body parts. Better to send them to him than Hannibal Lector, don’t you think?”

“The king will want an explanation, me Lord.”

“Well, he shall get one, now won’t he? Tell the king I am on my way. I just have one stop. I have to go number one.”

“Yes, me Lord.”

.

Hamlet and The Truman Show

For the satirical rogue says here that old men have gray beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit. (Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2)

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

Act 2 Scene 2 (continued). It’s that time, folks. Time to ask if Hamlet is mentally unstable or is he just playing fast and loose ’cause he’s on “The Truman Show”?

Freud says yes. Jung says no. Skinner says he is behaving that way, so it must be true. Adler says he has several rings on the Actualization ladder before he’s happy. Hamlet’s doctor blames it on that bedwetting episode the Hamster had when he was six. Let’s just say that Princey isn’t a happy camper and leave it at that.

Thing is the Hamster can’t get a moment’s peace. Hamlet is having a down-and-out with Ophelia. Mom is down on him for being so hard on the king. Last few days, he’s caught Polonius eavesdropping on him big time. If that ain’t enough, he is strolling down the hall. Out pops Polonius and gives Hamlet the third degree. Man, I would find that a bummer too. He has become a canary in a cage, thanks to Claudius and Mom’s intentions.

Probably Poly came up with the plan to get rid of Dad. That’s some down and dirty plotting. Makes Hamlet wonder if Cain had a minion urging him on. “Ah, c’mon. You will be the Big Man on Campus instead of that smarty Abel. Always egging you on. ‘My sheep are better than your cabbage.'”

Does Hamlet have an antic disposition or is he just feeling blue? He may not be a mentally unstable person. He just plays one of tv. But he sure feels like somebody’s watching him these days.

So Polonius asks him what he is reading. “Who does Polonius think he is?” Hamlet thinks. He doesn’t really care. Just wants to be left alone. Of course, he’s reading words…words…words. Perhaps Hamlet is reading Kierkegaard. Perhaps he is reading Sartre. After all, existentialism is all the rage. And who is a better example of that philosophy than Hamlet?

Or perhaps he is reading one of the Gospels.

Hamlet is so angry. The gall of Polonius. It’s enough to drive a guy mad if he wasn’t already mad. Hamlet does a rhetorical. “Do you know me indeed?” Hamlet gets in his jab. “Just one man in ten thousand is good. (You ain’t him.) A coward dies a thousand deaths. The valiant taste of death but once.” Take that you Poly-want-a-cracker.

Poly leaves and in comes the clowns, R & G. And they talk blah-blah-blah too. He is no more sane to them than he was to Poly. It’s all the sane to him.

Well, there you have it. The guy is play acting, or is he?

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: Spies, Spies and More Spies

It is a wise father that knows his own child.
(The Merchant of Venice Act 2. Scene 2.)

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

And now on to Act 2. Here a spy. There a spy. Everywhere a spy spy. R&G spy. Ophelia spies. Gertrude spies. Claudius spies. Polonius spies, and we know how that turned out. Not good. Even Hamlet does a bit of spying.

Hamlet should get used to it. He’s a royal, the son and the nephew of aking. Royals are always spied upon. Just ask Elizabeth I. But she, like most rulers, is both the spyee as well as the spyer. She may not do it herself. She has minions whose business it is to spy.

Why do I bring up all this spy business up? Act 2 opens with Polonius asking a servant, Reynaldo, to take off for Paris and spy on Laertes. Either Polonius knows his son well or he doesn’t know his son well. It must be important for him to find out. Otherwise he wouldn’t spend a pretty penny to spy on Laertes.

Perhaps Laertes will spend all his money gambling and whoring and getting himself in a real pickle. It will cost Polonius all the money and goodwill he can muster, money and goodwill he has spent a lifetime collecting. Polonius wasn’t always an important official. He was born a poor farm boy who had ambition. He was a regular Danish Horatio Alger.

Polonius wants to make sure that his boy is worthy to be his heir. Otherwise he will have to do the unthinkable and will his fortune to Ophelia.

Just as Act 1 established that there was something rotten in Denmark, Act 2 establishes that nobody trusts anybody. Soon we will see that suspicion turns into suspicion run amok..

“So, Reynaldo,” Polonius stands above Reynaldo. “You go off to Paris. Check out what my son is doing. Then come back and let his father know what dynamite he is playing with.”

“But, Sir,” Reynaldo always calls Polonius Sir, “Laertes is a good kid. He’ll sow his wild oats, then come back home and be your loyal son.”

“The kid wants to be the next Van Gogh. That’s all he talks about.”

“Yes, Sir. But what’s wrong with that?”

“You know how Van Gogh turned out. A missing ear he cut off his own self and poorer than a church mouse.”

“He might turn out to be the next Hans Holbein. Then he could paint the king’s portrait and the queen’s too. And even the prince’s.”

“Not him,” Polonius says.

“Sir?”

“Just take my word for it. The prince isn’t going to be around long enough to have his portrait painted.”