A NIGHT IN ELSINORE  

                                                                            by Richard Nathan  

ACT I

  Scene I

Scene I takes place on a platform in front of Elsinore Castle.  FRANCISCO is on duty.  Enter BERNARDO.

                                                BERNARDO
                        Who's there?

                                                FRANCISCO
                        Nay, answer me.  Stand and unfold yourself.

                                                BERNARDO
                        Long live the King!

                                                FRANCISCO
                        Bernardo?

                                                BERNARDO
                        I am he.

                                                FRANCISCO
                        You come most carefully upon your hour.

                                                BERNARDO
                        'Tis now struck twelve.  

Off stage, there is the sound of someone approaching.  

                                                FRANCISCO
                        Who is there?  Stand ho!

Enter HORATIO, who is dressed rather shabbily and who speaks with an unusual Italian accent.  He is more an antique Roman than a Dane.

                                                HORATIO
                        That's right!  You guessed it.

                                                BERNARDO  
                        What's right?  Guessed what?

                                                HORATIO
                        You said, "Stand Ho!"  That's me!  Ho!  

                                                BERNARDO
                        Ho!  Ho who?

                                                HORATIO
                        Gezundheit!  

                                                FRANCISCO
                        Why, 'tis good Horatio!  How dost thou, Horatio?

                                                HORATIO
                        I don't do much dusting anymore.  I'm a guard now.  
                       
I guard the castle gate, and I do a pretty good job 
                        too.

                                                FRANCISCO
                        Really?

                                                HORATIO
                        Sure.  It's still there.  

                                                BERNARDO
                        Has the apparition appeared again tonight?  

                                                FRANCISCO
                        I have seen nothing.

                                                BERNARDO
                        Horatio, do you know ought of the Ghost?

                                                HORATIO
                        Well, I ought to.  Hey, that's some funny joke, 
                        eh?  

                                                BERNARDO
                        Come, come, Horatio.  Do you know anything 
                        of ghosts?

                                                HORATIO
                        Sure, I knew an old ghost once.  But that was a 
                        long, long time ago.  He's probably dead by now.  

                                                FRANCISCO
                        Look!  It comes again!  The ghost of our late King 
                        Hamlet!

Enter the GHOST, a bright-eyed imp who happens to be mute.

                                                BERNARDO
                        There is the apparition!  

                                                HORATIO
                        I don't believe it.

The Ghost and Horatio joyously embrace.  

                                                BERNARDO
                        Stay illusion!  If thou hast any sound or use of 
                        voice, speak to me!

The Ghost honks a horn.  

                                                FRANCISCO
                        Question it, Horatio.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, Ghost, how ya doing?

The Ghost does a melodramatic death scene.

                                                HORATIO
                        You're dead, huh?  Gee, that's too bad.

The Ghost sits up and nods his head "yes."  

                                                FRANCISCO
                        Ask him about the war!  

                                                HORATIO
                        What war?  

                                                FRANCISCO
                        Ask him if we should go to war with young 
                        Fortinbras!

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, Ghost, should we go to war with Fortinbras?

The Ghost shakes his head "no."  He hold up ten fingers, and then three fingers.  

                                                HORATIO
                        No.  He says Fortinbras is too many.  He thinks we 
                        should go to war with thirteen-bras.

The Ghost slaps his knee and goes into fits of silent laughter.  

                                                FRANCISCO
                        No, no!  You remember, young Fortinbras is the 
                        son of old Fortinbras, who was King of Norway, 
                        until our late King Hamlet killed him and took most
                        of the Norwegian lands.  

The Ghost mocks Francisco's overly-serious manner, and makes faces at him.  Suddenly he looks offstage and panics.  

                                                HORATIO
                        What's the matter?

The Ghost starts to run offstage, but Horatio blocks his way.  

                                                HORATIO
                        Where you going?  What're you doing?  

The Ghost whistles and points to the horizon.  

                                                HORATIO
                        What do you mean?  I don't get it.

The Ghost decides to explain in pantomime.  The Ghost points down.

                                                HORATIO
                        Down?  

The Ghost whistles and nods enthusiastically.  Then the Ghost mimes picking up something and raising it.  

                                                HORATIO
                        What?  Down is up?  You're crazy!  How can 
                        down be up?

The Ghost shakes his head "no."  He holds out a hand to signal that he wants to start again.  

                                                HORATIO
                        Okay.  We start again.

The Ghost mimes putting a cigar into his mouth, and then loping across the stage while raising and lowering his eyebrows.  

                                                HORATIO
                        Wait a minute!  I think I seen that guy before.  Let 
                        me think  ...  I know!  That's the man who comes 
                        to fix the sink!  

The Ghost shakes his head "no."

                                                HORATIO
                        No?  Who is it?

The Ghost mimes holding a baby in his arms, acting like a father.  

                                                HORATIO
                        It's your son?  It's Prince Hamlet?  The one you 
                        named after yourself?  Funny, he looks just 
                        like the man who comes to fix the sink.  

The Ghost threatens to hit Horatio.

                                                HORATIO
                        OK.  Hamlet.   He's your son.  Your son!  

The Ghost mimes proudly holding the baby in his arms.  Then he mimes lifting the baby up.

                                                HORATIO
                        He's going up?  Hamlet's going up?

The Ghost shakes his head "no," and then holds out his hand to signal that he wants to try again.

                                                HORATIO

                        OK.  We try again.

The Ghost again mimes Hamlet loping across the stage.  Then, as Hamlet, he starts silently weeping and crying.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hamlet.  He's sad.  He's crying.  Why's he crying?  

The Ghost points to himself and does his death scene again.  Then he goes back to Hamlet crying, and pointing to where he died.  

                                                HORATIO
                        He cries because you're dead.  He's in mourning.  

As soon as Horatio says, "mourning," the Ghost starts joyfully jumping up and down and nodding "yes."

                                                HORATIO
                        That's it!!!  Mourning!  It's morning ...

The Ghost again mimes lifting the baby.

                                                HORATIO
                        . . .  and something's going up.  The sun is coming 
                        up!  It's morning, dawn!  It's dawn, and the sun is
                        coming up, so you've got to leave now.  OK, I 
                        understand.  Good-bye, Ghost.  I'll be seeing you.  
                       
Good-bye.  

The Ghost exits, waving good-bye and blowing kisses.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, he's a nice ghost.

                                                FRANCISCO
                        Come.  Let us impart what we have seen tonight 
                        to young Prince Hamlet.  

Exeunt.

**********************************************************

Scene II

Scene II takes place in a room in Elsinore Castle.  Flourish.  Enter the KING, the QUEEN, HAMLET (who has his back to the audience), POLONIUS, LAERTES, and OPHELIA.  The King is a slightly overweight man with a beard and a middle-European accent.  His name is Claudius.  Gertrude, the Queen, is a stately dowager-type.  Polonius is a foolish old man.  Ophelia is an attractive blonde who is very clever and very ambitious.   Laertes is a young man, excitable, but not very bright.  In the original production of this play, he was played in a style resembling Daffy Duck (including the lisp), and it worked.

                                                KING

                        Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death 
                        the memory be green, and it befitted us to
                        bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom 
                        to be contracted in one brow of woe, it's time 
                        we faced the fact the old king's dead, and I must 
                        run the kingdom.  I thank you all for your 
                        condolences on the death of my brother, the 
                        late King, as I thank you for your good wishes 
                        on my marriage to his widow, the Queen.  
                       
Now then, on to our royal business.  Young
                        Fortinbras has demanded that we surrender 
                        the lands lost by his father.  I have sent word 
                        to the aged king of Norway, ordering him to 
                        bring young Fortinbras into line!  Not one 
                        patch of land shall we give up!

The King looks around the room.  Everyone except Hamlet looks pleased.  The King looks at Laertes.

                                                KING
                        Now, good Laertes, did you have something you 
                        wished to ask of me?  

 

                                                LAERTES
                        Yes, Sire, your leave and favor to return to 
                        France.  

                                                KING
                        Ahh, France, eh?  I'm told that France is a 
                        lovely country, and I hear they make most 
                        excellent wines there.  Go.  Enjoy yourself.  
                       
And be sure to send some postcards.  
                       
Now, my nephew Hamlet, my son, how 
                        is it the clouds still hang on you?

Hamlet turns to face the audience, and we see his face for the first time.  Hamlet has a big, black mustache that looks as if it might have been painted on, and he smokes a cigar.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Nay, I am too much in the sun!  Get it? That's a 
                        joke.  My real father just died, and now I've got 
                        you for a father, so I'm too much in the sun!  Boy, 
                        that Shakespeare sure could write.  I'd like to see 
                        Francis Bacon pull off a joke like that.  

                                                KING
                        Hmmmmm.  Come, Hamlet, my son, how is it the 
                        clouds still hang on you?

                                                HAMLET
                        I don't know.  Maybe it's because you're reigning.

                                                QUEEN
                        Good Hamlet, I know full well the love you bore 
                        your father.  But cast thy nighted color off!  If he 
                        were here today, do you think your father would 
                        want us to mourn on and on, wearing the same 
                        customary suit of solemn black, day in and day out?

                                                HAMLET
                        Well, he'd probably ask you to change your socks.  

                                                QUEEN
                        Hamlet, . . .  

                                                HAMLET
                        In fact, that's still a pretty good idea.  And while 
                        you're at it, change your husband.

                                                QUEEN
                        Hamlet, I loved your dear, departed father.  No 
                        woman could have loved him more.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Of course not!  No other dame ever had a chance, 
                        not with you watching him like a hawk.  And a
                        fat lot of good it did him,  ...  poor old Dad.  

                                                KING
                        Hamlet, it's unfortunate that your father died, but 
                        fathers have a way of doing that.  My father died, 
                        and his father died before him, and his father
                        died...  

                                                HAMLET
                        Yeah, but uncles go on forever.  Don't you?  

                                                KING
                        Hamlet, why don't you try to think of me as 
                        your father?  

                                                HAMLET
                        OK, bury yourself six feet underground, and I'll 
                        give it a shot.  

                                                KING
                        Gertrude, we must do something about this son of 
                        yours.  

Exeunt all but Hamlet.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt, or at 
                        least that they would turn up the heat a little.  To 
                        think that it should come to this!  My father but 
                        two months dead, and my mother married to this 
                        satyr.  I recall the day they wed.  It was a satyr-day.  
                       
Heaven and Earth, must I remember?  My mother 
                        has married my uncle, and turned me into my own 
                        cousin.  Frailty, thy name is woman.  And woman,
                        thy name is Frailty.  My name is Hamlet, and I'm 
                        ashamed to meet the both of you.

Enter Horatio, Francisco and Bernardo.  Horatio consults with his friends.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, is that him?  

                                                HAMLET
                        Horatio, -- or I do forget myself!

                                                HORATIO
                        Well, I don't know.  Who do you think you are?

                                                HAMLET
                        I'm Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

                                                HORATIO
                        Then you don't forget yourself... not unless you're
                        the man who comes to fix the sink.  Then you got 
                        a problem.

                                                HAMLET
                        This can't be anyone but Horatio.  Don't you 
                        remember me?   We went to school together!

                                                HORATIO
                        Sure, I know you!  You're Hamlet!

                                                HAMLET
                        And you're Horatio!  But I thought you were still 
                        going to school in Wittenberg.

                                                HORATIO
                        No, I left there a long time ago.  I was too smart for 
                        them.

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh really?

                                                HORATIO
                        Yeah.  All the professors said they'd never be able 
                        to teach me anything.

                                                HAMLET
                        Horatio, something is rotten in the state of Denmark, 
                        and I think it's you.

                                                HORATIO
                        That reminds me.  I think I saw your father's ghost 
                        last night!

                                                HAMLET
                        What?  Are you sure it was him?  Did you speak 
                        to him?

                                                HORATIO
                        We spoke.  But he wouldn't answer.

                                                HAMLET  
                        That sounds like Dad, all right.  Listen, boys, this is
                        something I'm going to have to see for myself.  Let's 
                        meet at the top of the castle tonight.

Exeunt.  

**********************************************************

Scene III

Scene III takes place in a room in Polonius' house.  Enter Laertes and Ophelia.

                                                LAERTES
                       
My necessaries are embarked.  Farewell.  And
                        sister, do be
wary of the affections of Prince
                        Hamlet.  Perhaps he does love you now, but he
                       
is subject to his birth, and therefore he must
                        choose a royal bride.

                                                OPHELIA
                       
Laertes, don't be such an ass!  Use your brain for
                       
once!  Do you think for one minute that Claudius
                       
is going to let Hamlet marry a princess?

                                                LAERTES
                       
Huh?

                                                OPHELIA
                       
Listen!  Hamlet has a better claim to the throne
                        than his uncle Claudius does, right?  If
Hamlet
                        marries into another royal family, he'll gain
                        powerful allies to help him win the crown. 
You
                       
think Claudius wants that?  All I have to do is
                       
convince the King that Hamlet's been toying
                        with my affections, and I guarantee you we'll be
                        married before Hamlet knows what's hit him. 
                       
Then I'll
figure out some way to get rid of
                        Claudius, and I'll be Queen of Denmark!

                                                LAERTES
                       
Sister, you're brilliant!  But look, here comes
                        our father!

Enter Polonius.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
Yet here, Laertes?  My blessings with thee! 
                       
And take these few
precepts in thy memory: 
                       
Be thou
familiar, but by no means vulgar.

Enter Horatio.

                                                HORATIO
                       
What's he gonna do in France if he can't be vulgar? 
                       
How's he
gonna fit in?

                                                POLONIUS
                       
Horatio, you're not supposed to be here, are you?

                                                HORATIO
                       
No, but I got two more hours before I'm supposed
                        to go to a secret meeting with Hamlet at the top of
                        the castle, so I got lots of time to kill.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
I was just giving some advice to my son.

                                                HORATIO
                       
That's OK.  I'll add vice too.  I got lots of vice.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
Very well.  Laertes, neither a borrower nor a lender
                        be . . .

                                                HORATIO
                       
That's a good idea.  But you know what?  You're too
                       
late.  Laertes loaned me ten gold kroner this morning.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
Then give it back to him!

                                                HORATIO
                        I can't.  Right after he gave me
the money, I put it
                        down, and then I lost it.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
You put it down and lost it???

                                                HORATIO
                       
Yeah, I put it down on a horse.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
This is terrible.

                                                HORATIO
                       
Yeah, now your son, he's a lender, and what are we
                        gonna do?  Hey, I got a great idea! 
You loan me ten
                        gold kroner, and then I'll pay Laertes back, and then
                        he won't be a lender anymore.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
But if I lend you the money, then I'll be a lender, and
                        you'll still be a borrower.

                                                HORATIO
                       
OK, I got a better idea.  You don't be a lender, I don't
                        be a borrower.  You just give me the
money.  How's
                        that?

                                                 POLONIUS
                        I don't know about this.

                                                HORATIO
                       
You want your son to stay a lender all his life?

Polonius reaches into his money bag and takes out a gold coin.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
But all I've got is this twenty-kroner piece.  Have
                        you got change for that?

                                                HORATIO
                       
No, but I'll take it, just the same.

Horatio pockets the twenty-kroner piece.

                                                POLONIUS
                        At least you can now pay back to Laertes the
                        ten kroner you owe him.

                                                HORATIO
                       
Laertes, you got change for twenty kroner?

                                                LAERTES
                       
No, I'm afraid not.

Horatio turns to Polonius.

                                                HORATIO
                       
Now we got another problem.  I can't give this
                        coin to him.  If 
I give him the coin, he'll owe
                        me money.  If he owes me money, then he'll be
                        a borrower.  He
can't be a borrower if you just
                        told him not to be a borrower!

                                                POLONIUS
                       
But...

                                                HORATIO
                       
Hey, I just got another great idea.  Laertes, why
                        don't you just say you gave me the ten gold
                        kroner?  Then you won't be
a lender!  You won't
                        be a borrower!  You'll just be a nice
guy, like
                        your father!

                                                LAERTES
                        Sounds okay to me.

Ophelia, the only really smart one in the family, is furious with Horatio.  She scolds him, while Polonius and Laertes try to figure out what's been going on.

                                                OPHELIA
                       
Horatio, you're nothing but a cheap, conniving
                        crook!

                                                HORATIO
                       
Yeah, that's me.

                                                OPHELIA
                       
How can you be so dishonest?

                                                HORATIO
                       
One time I tried to be honest, but then I said to
                        myself, "Horatio, to thine own self be true." 
                       
So if mine own self is a
crook, that's what I gotta
                        do. 
Good-bye!

Horatio walks out with his twenty-kroner piece.  Ophelia glares at him.  Laertes and Polonius are still trying to puzzle out what happened to their money.  Exeunt Ophelia, Laertes and Polonius.

**********************************************************

Scene IV

Scene IV takes place back on the platform in front of Elsinore Castle, where Scene I took place.  Enter Hamlet, Horatio, Bernardo and Francisco.  

                                                HAMLET
                        The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.  Say, are 
                        you fellows sure this is where dear old Dad
                        is going to show up?

                                                BERNARDO
                        The ghost has appeared at this very spot three 
                        nights past, my lord, then vanished before the sun 
                        came up.  

We hear the distant pounding of a kettledrum, and a flourish of trumpets.

                                                FRANCISCO
                        What does this mean, my lord?  

                                                HAMLET
                        That's the King.  He has the musicians play while 
                        he drinks.  He doesn't like to drink alone, so he 
                       
has them play eight to the bar.  You see, the King 
                        likes to take a drink before he goes to bed at night.  
                       
Then he likes to take a drink when he's in bed, 
                        especially if the Queen is still awake.  Then the 
                        Queen throws him out of bed, so he has to take 
                        another drink.  Then he's ready to throw the Queen 
                        out of bed, which calls for another drink.  Every 
                        time he takes a drink, he has the musicians bang 
                        the kettledrum.  As soon as the King is as tight 
                        as the drum, he knows it's time to fall asleep.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, that sounds like a pretty good job.  You 
                        think I could be a king?  

                                                HAMLET
                        Well, would you be willing to marry your brother's 
                        wife?  Do you think you could do that?

Horatio thinks this over.

                                                HORATIO
                        I don't know.

                                                HAMLET
                        Well, come on.  Do you want to be king, or don't 
                        you?  

                                                HORATIO
                        If I marry the wife, do I get his mistress too?

                                                HAMLET
                        That's not strictly required.  It's not really part of 
                        the job.  But I'm sure we could work something 
                        out.  

                                                HORATIO
                        Is she pretty?

                                                HAMLET
                        The wife or the mistress?

                                                HORATIO
                        Yes!

                                                HAMLET
                        You'll have to take that up with your brother.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, I just remembered!  I haven't got a brother!

                                                HAMLET
                        Then you'll have to take that up with your parents.  
                       
You do have parents, don't you?  Otherwise, you'll 
                        just have to take it up with your grandparents.

                                                HORATIO
                        I've got a great idea!  Why don't I just take your 
                        wife?  

                                                HAMLET
                        My wife?  I'm not even married!

                                                HORATIO
                        That's all right.  I can wait.

                                                BERNARDO
                        Look my lord, it comes!

The Ghost enters, and is overjoyed to see Hamlet.  The Ghost claps his hands and runs to embrace his son.

                                            HAMLET
                        Dad!

As the Ghost embraces Hamlet, the Ghost sticks his hands into the pockets of Hamlet's coat, pulls out an apple, and starts to eat it.

                                            HAMLET
                        Gee, it's nice to see you, Dad.  

The Ghost nods happily, enjoying the apple.  Then the Ghost beckons Hamlet to follow him.

                                                HAMLET
                        I think you boys better go.  I think he wants to be 
                        alone with his son.

                                                HORATIO
                        All right.

Exeunt Horatio, Bernardo and Francisco.  Again, the Ghost beckons Hamlet to follow him.

                                                HAMLET
                        OK, I'll follow you.

Exeunt the Ghost and Hamlet.

**********************************************************

Scene V  

Scene V takes place on another part of the platform.  Enter the Ghost and Hamlet.

                                                HAMLET
                        Where wilt thou lead me?  I'll go no further.  

The Ghost shrugs, and stops.

                                                HAMLET
                        So, Dad, what's new?

The Ghost points to the apple core, grins, and gestures that he'd like something else to eat.

                                                HAMLET
                        I'm sorry, I don't have any more apples.

The Ghost makes a horrible disgusted face and turns away from Hamlet.

                                                HAMLET
                        Gee, if I'd only known, I...

The Ghost makes a disparaging wave of his arms at Hamlet, and makes another horrible face.

                                                HAMLET
                        Dad, isn't there something you wanted to tell me?

The Ghost suddenly remembers! He claps his hands and sits Hamlet down, and indicates that Hamlet should watch him.

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh.  OK.  You're going to tell me a story.

The Ghost nods his head happily.  Then he reaches into his coat and pulls out a little pillow.  He puts the pillow down on the floor and mimes going to sleep with his head on the pillow.  Hamlet waits for a minute, watching the Ghost sleep.

                                                HAMLET
                        Say, I thought Ghost stories were supposed to 
                        keep you awake.

The Ghost puts his fingers to his lips to indicate that Hamlet should be quiet, while he's sleeping.

                                                HAMLET
                        OK, you're sleeping.  Where are you sleeping?

The Ghost, still pretending to be asleep, holds up his hand, with the back of his hand facing the audience.  Then he pushes up the apple core to the top of his fingers, and mimes plucking an apple.

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh, you're asleep in the apple orchard.  I remember, 
                        you liked to sleep there!  

The Ghost nods "yes."

                                                HAMLET
                        What happens next?

The Ghost stands up, takes the pillow and puts it under his shirt.  He pretends to be fat.  Then he pulls at an imaginary beard.

                                                HAMLET
                        A fat man...  a fat man with a beard...

The Ghost makes an ugly face and mimes yelling and being angry.

                                                HAMLET
                        A fat, nasty man with a beard!  Your brother 
                        Claudius!  

The Ghost nods "yes."  Then he goes back to putting on the nasty, evil face of Claudius.  He stomps around the stage, pulling on his beard.

                                                HAMLET
                        What does he do?

The Ghost, pretending to be Claudius, notices the apple core lying on the stage.  He picks it up, sees that it's been eaten, and brutishly throws it away.  He looks around the stage, and then looks in surprise at the spot where the Ghost was sleeping. The Ghost whips out the pillow, and resumes sleeping at that spot.

                                                HAMLET
                        OK, Claudius found you sleeping.  What 
                        happened next?

The Ghost jumps up, puts the pillow back in under his shirt, and pretends to be Claudius.  He reaches into his coat, and pulls out a bottle of poison.  Then he reaches into his coat with his other hand and pulls out a funnel.  He walks over to where the Ghost has been sleeping, and mimes putting the funnel into the sleeping man's ear, and he pours the contents of the bottle into the funnel.  Then the Ghost whips out the pillow and becomes himself sleeping, with the funnel in his ear, and the poison being poured into it.  The Ghost wakes up and dies horribly.

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh no!  Murder!  Foul and unnatural murder!  
                       
Claudius poured poison into your ear and 
                        killed you!!!  Oh murder most foul!!!

The Ghost sits up and nods his head in agreement.

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh horrible!  Oh, horrible, most horrible!  ...  
                       
Well, what do you want me to do about it?

 The Ghost mimes hitting, kicking, choking, and jumping up and down on someone.

                                                  HAMLET  
                        You want me to take revenge on Claudius?  

The Ghost nods "yes."

                                                HAMLET
                        Well, that sounds fair enough.  What about Mom?

The Ghost shakes his head "no."  He reaches into his coat and takes out a poster-sized picture of the Queen.  He kisses the picture and looks coy.

                                                HAMLET
                        Not Mom.  You still love Mom.  Aww, that's 
                        sweet.  It's crazy, but it's sweet.  Maybe you 
                        should have your head examined, or at least 
                        your eyes.

The Ghost clutches the picture of the Queen to his chest, and looks threateningly at Hamlet.

                                                HAMLET
                        OK!  Don't worry.  I won't hurt Mom.  Just Claudius.  

The Ghost shakes Hamlet's hand and pats him on the back.  Then the Ghost proceeds to put the picture, the pillow, the bottle and the funnel back into his coat.

                                                HAMLET
                        You have to go so soon?

The Ghost points to the horizon.

                                                HAMLET

                        Oh, I see.  The dawn is coming up.  OK, Dad. It 
                        was nice seeing you again.  I'll get your revenge
                        for you.  You can count on me.

The Ghost waves good-bye and exits.

                                                HAMLET  
                        Hmmmm.  Now what am I going to do? 
                        can't just go downstairs and kill Claudius.  
                       
This is only Act I, and we've still got a 
                        whole play to fill up.  I know!  I'll pretend I've 
                        gone crazy.  That won't help me get revenge, 
                        but it should take up a few hours, and it may 
                        liven things up around here.

Enter Horatio, Bernardo, and Francisco.

                                                BERNARDO
                        Lord Hamlet!

                                                FRANCISCO
                        What news, my lord?

                                                HAMLET
                        Listen, boys, I don't want any of you to ever say 
                        a word about seeing that ghost, all right?

Off stage, the Ghost honks his horn.

                                                HAMLET
                        Swear!

                                                BERNARDO
                        Propose the oath, my lord, and we will swear it.

                                                HAMLET
                        Never to speak of what you have seen this night.

                                                FRANCISCO
                        But we haven't seen anything!  

                                                HAMLET
                        Then never to speak of what you haven't seen!

                                                HORATIO
                        I'm not sure I can remember everything I haven't 
                        seen.

Off stage, the Ghost honks his horn.

                                                HAMLET
                        Swear!  Swear that you'll remember to forget 
                        everything you haven't seen.

                                                HORATIO
                        I don't know.  I've got a pretty good memory. 

Hamlet gives each of then a gold kroner piece.

                                                HAMLET
                        Look, I'm going to lend each of you ten kroner.  
                       
Will you remember to pay back this loan?  

                                                HORATIO
                        What loan?  

                                                FRANCISCO
                         We have forgotten everything, my lord!

Off stage, the Ghost honks his horn.

                                                HAMLET
                        Swear!  Swear by my sword.

Hamlet isn't wearing a sword in this scene.  After this scene, he does wear a sword.

                                                HORATIO
                        You forgot to bring your sword!

                                                HAMLET
                        Then cross your hearts and hope to die!

Off stage, the Ghost honks his horn.

                                                HAMLET
                        Swear!

                                                HORATIO, BERNARDO, 
                                                            & FRANCISCO
                        We swear!

                                                HAMLET
                        So, gentlemen, let us go in together; and still your 
                        fingers on your lips, I pray.  The time is out of joint.  
                       
Oh cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!

Exeunt.

**********************************************************

ACT II

Scene I  

Scene I of Act II takes place at Polonius's house.  It's one month later.  Polonius enters.  A moment later, Ophelia runs in.

                                                POLONIUS
                        How now, Ophelia?  What's the
matter?

                                                OPHELIA
                       
Oh my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted!

                                                POLONIUS
                       
With what?

                                                OPHELIA
                        Have you noticed anything peculiar about Prince 
                        Hamlet recently?

                                                POLONIUS
                       
Hamlet?  He's always been peculiar, ... but now 
                        that you mention it, he has been acting very 
                        strangely late.  Why do
you ask?

                                                OPHELIA
                       
He came to my room just now.  He took me by 
                        the wrist and held me hard, then he fell to such 
                        perusal of my face as if he would draw it, and then
                        he raised a sigh so piteous and profound, ... 
                        think he loves me.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
This sounds like the very ecstasy of love!  Have you 
                        given him any hard words of late?

                                                OPHELIA
                       
I've been refusing to see him, as you told me I must.  
                       
You
ordered me to stay away from him because he 
                        would never be permitted to marry someone of my 
                        lowly station.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
I was wrong!  He truly loves you, and your rejection 
                        has driven him mad!  In the morning
e must go to the 
                        King.

Polonius exits.  Ophelia watches him go off.

                                                OPHELIA
                       
My poor foolish father.  How easy it is to lead you 
                        from the truth.  If the King as readily
believes these 
                        lies of Hamlet's love, then soon shall I shall be 
                        Queen of Denmark! 

Ophelia exits after Polonius.   Enter Horatio with the Ghost of Hamlet's father.  They have been listening to the preceding scene.

                                                 HORATIO
                       
Hey Ghost, did you hear that?  It's a good thing we 
                        decided to spy.  That lady's gonna make
trouble for 
                        Hamlet.  I got to
remember to warn him!

 The Ghost nods in agreement.  Exeunt Horatio and the Ghost.

*********************************************************

Scene II

Scene II takes place in a room in the Castle.  This room has an arras (a tapestry wall hanging.)  Enter the King and Queen, followed by ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.  Rosencrantz is a portly fellow with a tiny mustache, who affects very polished manners.  Guildenstern is thin and speaks with an English accent.

                                                 KING
                        Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. 
                        Moreover, that we much did long to see you, the
                        need we have to use you did provoke our hasty 
                        sending.

                                                 ROSENCRANTZ
                        Your Majesties!

Rosencrantz makes a very deep bow.  Guildenstern taps Rosencrantz on the shoulder and points to Claudius.

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
Who's he?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
That's the King!

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
I thought you said the King was dead.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
The old King is dead.  This is the new King!

Guildenstern looks at the King very carefully.

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
He doesn't look very new to me.

Rosencrantz speaks to the King.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
Please forgive my friend, your Majesty.  We've 
                        had a very long trip, and he's tired.

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                        No I'm not.  We had a nap after
lunch...

Rosencrantz glares at Guildenstern, silencing him.

                                                    KING
                        I trust that you have heard something of Prince 
                        Hamlet's transformation.  I don't know
what 
                        may have caused this sudden change in him.  
                       
You are two of
his oldest and dearest friends.  
                       
Perhaps you can tell us what is the matter.

                                                QUEEN
                        Good gentlemen, Hamlet has often talked of you.  
                        I'm sure there aren't two men living of whom he 
                        is more fond.  Please stay with
us awhile, and we 
                        will see that you are well rewarded.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        It will be our pleasure to obey your every command, 
                        your Majesties.

                                                 GUILDENSTERN
                        That's right!  After all, you
are the King, even if you're 
                        not dead yet, so if there's anything we can do to make 
                        your job any easier, just call on us.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
He means we're ready to do whatever you tell us.  The 
                        most difficult task won't be too difficult for us to attempt!  
                       
Isn't that right, Guildenstern?

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
Yes, and the simplest task won't be simple enough for us 
                        to do either.  What is it you want us
to do, anyway?

                                                 KING
                       
Tell us what is wrong with Prince Hamlet!!!

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern confer privately in whispers, then Guildenstern speaks.

                                                 GUILDENSTERN
                       
We heard he's gone screwy.

                                                 KING
                       
We know that!  Find out why he's gone screwy!!!

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
We'll do our best, your Majesty.

                                                QUEEN
                        Go, and find Prince Hamlet!

Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  Enter Polonius.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
My good lord, the ambassador from Norway has 
                        returned!

                                                KING
                        I trust he brings good news.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
That reminds me, I think I have discovered the cause 
                        of Hamlet's lunacy.

                                                KING
                       
Oh?  That is something I long to hear!

                                                POLONIUS
                       
First listen to the ambassador.  My news shall be the 
                        fruit to that great feast.

                                                KING
                       
Go then, and bring in the ambassador.

Polonius exits.  The King turns to the Queen.

                                                KING
                       
Did you hear that?  Polonius thinks he has discovered 
                        the source of your son's strange behavior.

                                                QUEEN
                        I don't think it is anything but his father's death, and our 
                        o'er hasty marriage, but we shall see.

Re-enter Polonius with VOLTIMAND, the ambassador from Norway.

                                                KING
                       
Well, what news from the King of Norway?

                                                VOLTIMAND
                       
The King was very surprised by your letter.  He 
                        thought young Fortinbras was preparing to invade 
                        Poland, but when he found that Fortinbras actually 
                        meant to attack Denmark, he rebuked him most 
                        severely.  Young Fortinbras then promised the King 
                        he would never invade Denmark, but asked if he 
                        might invade Poland instead.  He would like your 
                       
permission to bring his army through Denmark, on 
                        his way to attack the Poles.

                                                KING
                       
Well, that sounds like a reasonable request.  Go back 
                         to Norway, and give young Fortinbras my permission 
|                        to bring his army through Denmark.

Exit Voltimand.  The King turns to Polonius.

                                                KING
                        Now, Polonius, tell us your news!

                                                POLONIUS
                        I have a daughter.  She has told me that Hamlet has 
                        been sending her love letters.  I said to
her, "Lord 
                        Hamlet is a prince, and above thy station!  Avoid 
                       
him!"  She has avoided him, and since that time, he 
                        has gone mad!

                                                KING
                        Could this be true?

                                                QUEEN
                        It may be.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
My daughter has given me an idea.  Prince Hamlet 
                       
often walks alone here in this part of the castle.  
                       
Tomorrow my daughter
will wait to meet him here.  
                        We shall hide behind this arras, and see what happens 
                        then.

                                                KING
                        We will try it.

Enter Hamlet, reading a book.

                                                QUEEN
                       
Look, how sadly the poor wretch comes reading.

                                                POLONIUS
                        L
eave me to talk with him alone.

Exeunt the King and Queen.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
How does my lord Hamlet?

                                                HAMLET
                        Booga-booga-booga!

                                                POLONIUS
                       
Do you know me, my lord?

                                                HAMLET
                        Let's see, ...  Aren't you Abie
the Fishman?

                                                POLONIUS
                       
Not I, my lord.

                                                HAMLET
                        No, I guess that was another play.  It's too bad.  
                       
There were
a lot more laughs in that show.  So, 
                        who are you, anyway?  No, wait!  Let me guess!  
                       
Have you
got a daughter?

                                                POLONIUS
                        I have, my lord.

                                                HAMLET
                       
Tell me, ... does your daughter fool around?

                                                POLONIUS
                       
Never!

                                                HAMLET
                       
Good, because you know what fooling around can 
                        lead to, don't you?  Grandchildren!  And grandchildren 
                        can lead to great- grandchildren!  You know, there'd 
                        be a lot less fooling around here in Denmark if you 
                        old people would just stop having grandchildren!  
                       
And at
your age too!!!  You should be ashamed 
                        of yourself!

                                                POLONIUS
                       
My daughter is a modest, virtuous maiden.  She 
                        will make some man a fine wife.

                                                HAMLET
                       
Good, have her make one for me.  In fact, I'll take 
                        half a dozen.  No, make it a dozen.  Christmas 
                       
is coming up, and I need some gifts for my friends.

                                                 POLONIUS
                        What do you read, my lord?

                                                HAMLET
                       
Words, words, words.  I can never remember this 
                        scene, so I keep a copy of the script in here.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.

Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
Fare you well, my lord.  

Polonius goes over to speak to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

                                                POLONIUS
                       
You go to seek Prince Hamlet.  There he is.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                                    (to Polonius)
                        God save you, sir!

Exit Polonius.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        My most dear lord!

                                                HAMLET
                       
Eh?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
Don't you remember us?  I am Rosencrantz, and 
                        this is my good friend, Guildenstern!

                                                HAMLET
                       
My most excellent good friends!  How do you 
                        both?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Not badly.  Not badly at all!

                                                HAMLET
                       
Oh, really?

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
Yes, we get a big reward if we can find out why 
                        you're screwy.  

Rosencrantz takes Guildenstern aside.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
You weren't supposed to tell him that!  That was 
                        supposed to be a secret!

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                        But he's our friend.  If we can't trust him, who can we
                       
trust?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
We can't trust anyone!  Now whatever you do, don't tell 
                        him the King and Queen sent for us.

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                        You can count on me!

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern go back over to Hamlet.

                                                HAMLET
                       
Tell me, why did you two come to Elsinore?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
Why, to visit you, my lord.  No other reason.

                                                HAMLET
                        You weren't sent for?

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
Yes, we weren't.

                                                HAMLET
                       
I'm glad to hear it.  Who didn't send for you?

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
The King and Queen.

                                                HAMLET
                        That's funny, because I've been dying to tell someone 
                        why I've been acting so crazy, but I wouldn't want 
                        to tell anyone who wasn't sent for by the King and 
                        Queen.

Rosencrantz takes Guildenstern aside.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
What do we say now?

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
Let's tell him we were sent for.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        That's a good idea.

They go back over to Hamlet.

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
My lord, we were sent for.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
Now tell us what's the matter with you.

                                                HAMLET
                       
I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my 
                        mirth. 
Well, maybe not all my mirth, but I certainly 
                        haven't been having a very good time lately, especially 
                        since you boys showed up!

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
I understand perfectly!  You're depressed!

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
Does that mean we can collect the reward now?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
Certainly not!  Hamlet's our friend!  What kind of 
                        friends would we be if we didn't do something to 
                        cheer him up?

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                        Well, if we got the reward, we could go out and buy 
                        him a vanilla ice cream cone.  That
always cheers me 
                        up when I'm decompressed.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
Hamlet's problems are psychological!  He needs to 
                        talk about them, and get them out into the open.

Rosencrantz turns back to Hamlet.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
Why don't you tell us more about how you feel?

                                                HAMLET
                        Very well.  I didn't want to
tell you, but you forced  
                        it out of me.  Oh, I'm so ashamed.  I just found out ...  
                       
I just found
out my two best friends are a couple of 
                        morons.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
No wonder you're depressed!  I'd be depressed too 
                        if I found out my best friends were morons. 
Wouldn't  
                        you, Guildenstern?  

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
I certainly would, Rosencrantz, but I'd still be your 
                        friend anyway, in spite of it!

Rosencrantz suddenly suspects that Hamlet has insulted them.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
Wait just a minute!  I thought we were your best 
                        friends.

                                                HAMLET
                        I hate to break it to you boys, but I don't think either 
                        one of you could pass the aptitude test to become 
                        court fools.

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
We could too!

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
Come, Guildenstern.  We don't have to stay here to 
                        be insulted.

                                                HAMLET
                       
No, you probably don't.  But wait!  Don't go!  I'm 
                        sorry.  It's just that I've been so
insane lately.  
                       
What a piece of work is a man!  How noble in 
                       
reason. How infinite in faculties!  In form and 
                        moving how express and admirable!  In
action how 
                        like an angel! In apprehension how like a god!   
                        There, if that doesn't convince
you I'm crazy, 
                        nothing will! 
Take a look around this castle if you 
                        want to see what a piece of work is a man!  God's 
                        just
lucky he didn't give out warranties!  Oh, I'm so 
                       
depressed.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
We have some news that may cheer you up, my lord.  
                       
On our way
into Elsinore, we passed a gentleman 
                        who said he was going to bring back some players to
                        perform for you tomorrow night!

                                                HAMLET
                       
That's funny.  I was just saying to Horatio how much 
                        I'd like to see a really good play.  

Hamlet addresses the audience directly on the next line.

                                                HAMLET
                                   
(to audience)
                        And I bet you folks feel the same way.

Enter Horatio.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, Hamlet, have I got a deal for you!!!

                                                HAMLET
                        Why is it that suddenly suicide seems like a good 
                        idea?

                                                HORATIO
                        You say you want to see a play, so I go out and I 
                        find the finest players in the land, just for you!  

                                                HAMLET
                       
Really?  When can I see them?

                                                HORATIO
                       
Not so fast.  First you got to talk to their manager.

                                                HAMLET
                        Who's their manager, as if I couldn't guess?

                                                HORATIO
                       
It's funny you should ask.  When I found these 
                        players, they're the finest players in the land, 
                        but guess what?  They haven't
got a manager!  
                       
So what can I
do?  My friend Prince Hamlet 
                       
wants to see a play, but how's he going to hire 
                        these players without a manager?  Then I get a 
                       
wonderful idea!!!  I'll be their manager!

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
Gee, isn't he a swell guy?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                       
He certainly is!

                                                HAMLET
                        How much are you going to charge me to see these 
                        players?

                                                HORATIO
                       
Twenty kroner.

                                                HAMLET
                       
Twenty kroner?  That's not bad.

                                                HORATIO
                       
That's just to see them.  Now if you want them to 
                        put on a play, that's another fifty kroner.

                                                HAMLET
                        What kind of play will they put on for this ... total 
                        of seventy kroner?

                                                HORATIO
                       
Well, there's two kinds of plays.  There's good 
                        plays and bad plays.  If you want a good play, it's 
                        an extra fifty kroner.

                                                HAMLET
                       
Well then, have them put on a bad play.

                                                HORATIO
                       
I'm sorry, they don't do bad plays.  They've got a 
                        reputation to hold up.

                                                HAMLET
                       
A hundred and twenty kroner sounds right for a 
                        hold-up.  Is
that the entire cost?

                                                HORATIO
                        S
ure, that's the whole price.  One hundred and 
                        twenty kroner for a real good play.  Oh, I
almost 
                       
forgot to ask, you don't want them to learn their 
                        lines, do you?

                                                HAMLET
                       
No, I wouldn't think of it.  

                                                HORATIO
                        Cause if you did, that would be another thirty 
                        kroner.

                                                HAMLET
                        Just have them read the lines.

                                                HORATIO
                        They can't read.

.                                                HAMLET
                        On second thought, why be stingy?  Let them 
                        learn their lines!  We've got a deal then!  One 
                        hundred and fifty kroner.  

Hamlet pays the money to Horatio.  Enter Polonius.

                                                POLONIUS
                        My lord, there are some men at the castle gate, 
                        who claim to be players ....

                                                HAMLET
                        Then let them in!  Let them in!

Polonius goes to get the players.

                                                HAMLET
                        I'm really looking forward to this.  It's about time 
                        we had some good sophisticated adult drama 
                        around here.  

Polonius comes back in with the three players:  the FIRST PLAYER is a grumpy, bossy man with a Prince Valiant-type haircut, the SECOND PLAYER has very frizzy hair, and the THIRD PLAYER is a fat, bald idiot.

                                                HAMLET
                        So these are the finest players in the land?  

                                                HORATIO
                        They must be.  No one else can get these prices!

                                                HAMLET  
                        Well, let's see what they can do.  Give me a sample.  
                       
I want to hear something old and classical.

Hamlet turns to the First Player.

                                                HAMLET
                        Do you know "The Death of Priam"?

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        I didn't even know he was sick!

                                                HAMLET
                        Well, that's old, but it isn't classical.  That's one of 
                        the oldest jokes I've ever heard.  How is it that you 
                        don't know the famous speech about the death of 
                        King Priam?  All great actors know that speech!  
                       
Your manager here said that you were the finest 
                        players in the land!

                                                  THIRD PLAYER
                        We are!  We get fined in every town we play in!

The Third Player laughs.  The First Player slaps the Third Player on the forehead, and the Third Player squeals.  

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                        Listen, we're very good at what we do!

                                                HAMLET
                        And what is it you do?  

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                        Mostly we call each other names, make funny noises, 
                        hit each other, and poke each other in the eye.

                                                HAMLET
                        Is there much of an audience for that?

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        Certainly!!!

                                                POLONIUS
                        I have heard of these players, my lord.  They are 
                        very successful.

                                                HAMLET
                        I repeat:  What a piece of work is a man!  How noble 
                        in reason!

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        You still want a sample?  Watch what we can do!  

                                                HAMLET
                        Are you going to hit the fat guy again?  

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        Sure, if that's what you want.

                                                  HAMLET
                        Only if you keep it up until you kill him.  Actually, 
                        I was hoping for something a little more refined.

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        We're very refined.  Whenever we go into a town, 
                        right after we get fined once, we always get
                        re-fined.  

The Third Player laughs.  The First Player slaps him on the forehead, and he squeals.

                                                HAMLET
                        This could quickly become monotonous.

The First Player hits the Second Player on the forehead.  

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                        Ow!!!  What did you hit me for?

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        Variety!

                                                HAMLET
                        Couldn't you do something poetic, with lots of 
                        conflict, a tragedy about man's inhumanity to 
                        man?

                                                HORATIO
                        Why didn't you say that's what you wanted?  
                       
These guys specialize in that!

                                                PLAYERS
                        We do?

                                                HORATIO  
                        Sure!  Do the show I taught you this afternoon.  
                       
You remember, the one with poetry and conflict.

                                                HAMLET
                        What's this show called?  

                                                HORATIO
                        "Simple Simon," by Mother Goose.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Say, I think I know that one.

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        Watch this!

The First Player and the Third Player run off opposite sides of the stage.  The Second Player steps to center stage and clears his throat.

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                        This afternoon, we bring you a classic tale of hunger 
                        and greed, that famous poem known the world over.... 
                        "Simple Simon."

There is a long pause.

                                                HAMLET  
                        Well?

                                                SECOND PLAYER  
                        I forgot how it starts.

The First Player runs on.  He wears a chef's hat and apron.  He slaps the Second Player on the forehead.

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        "Simple Simon met a pie-man..."  

The First Player runs back off-stage.

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                         Oh yes!  (Ahem.)  
                        Simple Simon
                        Met a pie-man
                        Going to the faire!  

The First Player, dressed as a pie-man, and carrying a big cream pie, enters from one side of the stage.  The Third Player, singing stupidly, enters from the other side.

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        La-la-lee-la-la!

                                                SECOND PLAYER  
                        Said Simple Simon,  
                        To the pie-man,

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        Let me taste your ware!

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                        Said the pie-man,  
                        To Simple Simon,  

                                                FIRST PLAYER  
                        Show me first your penny!

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                        Said Simple Simon,
                        To the pie-man,

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        In truth, I haven't any!

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        Oh, a deadbeat!

The First Player hits the Third Player in the face with the pie.

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        Oh!  Vanilla custard!  My favorite!  

The Third Player laughs.  The First Player slaps the Third Player on top of his head, and the Third Player squeals.  All three Players bow, banging their heads together.  Horatio, Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern all applaud enthusiastically.  Horatio turns to Hamlet.

                                                HORATIO
                        Pretty good stuff, eh?

                                                HAMLET
                        Boys, I think you've captured the essence of human 
                        existence, and now that you've captured it, I hope 
                        you'll never let it out again.  No, on second thought, 
                        I want you to perform for Claudius tomorrow night.  
                       
He deserves to see this.  Polonius, show these men
                        to their rooms.

Polonius leads out the Second and Third Players.  Hamlet grabs the First Player by the arm to speak with him privately.

                                                HAMLET
                        Wait a second, I want to talk to you.  Can you play 
                        "The Murder of Gonzago"?

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        Sorry, I never heard of it.

                                                HAMLET
                        All right, can you play "The Queen of Hearts"?  It's by 
                        the same author as "Simple Simon."  You remember, 
                        "The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts..."

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        Yes, my lord, we know that one.

                                                HAMLET  
                        I figured you would.  We'll have it tomorrow night.  
                       
But I've got a few special changes I want you to 
                        put in.  I'll come by and give them to you later.  
                       
Now go to your room!

The First Player exits.  

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        That certainly was a fine performance, wasn't it?

                                                GUILDENSTERN  
                        I'll say!

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Didn't you think the roles were particularly well cast?

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                        I thought the pie was well cast.  Were there rolls in it 
                        too?  I didn't see the rolls.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Go to your rooms!!!

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Good-bye, my lord.

                                                GUILDENSTERN  
                        So long!  

Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, bowing to Hamlet.

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!  Is it 
                        not monstrous that these players here can slap 
                        each other around like that, and I can't even lay a 
                        finger on Claudius?  They hit each other, hurt each 
                        other, and all I can come up with is clever banter!   
                        I
'm nothing but a coward, a Noel Coward!  Well, 
                        maybe not such an ol' coward, more of a young
                        coward.  And after all, I have no real proof that 
                        Claudius killed my father.  All I've got is the word 
                        of a ghost who can't even talk!  I know what I'll 
                        do.  I'll have these players perform something like 
                        the murder of my father.  If Claudius looks guilty, 
                        I'll know he did it!  The play's the thing, wherein 
                        I'll catch the conscience of the King!

Exit Hamlet.

*********************************************************

 ACT III

Scene I

Scene I takes place in a room in the castle.  This is the same room as in Act II, Scene II.  Enter the King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern.

                                                KING
                        And can you, by no drift of circumstance, get
                        from him why he puts on this confusion, grating so
                        harshly all his days of quiet with turbulent and
                        dangerous lunacy?

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern consult with each other in whispers.

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                       
Would you mind rephrasing the question?

                                                KING
                        Have you found out yet why Hamlet's gone
                        screwy?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        We're making progress, your majesty, but he
                        hasn't told us the whole story yet.

                                                QUEEN
                        Well, what has he told you?

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                        He's oppressed because man is a piece of work,
                        who fills out forms with infinite reasons...  and
                        moves like an admiral on an express, and...  and
                        is apprehensive of god,.... and his two best friends
                        are a
couple of morons!

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        But we do have some good news, your majesties! 
                       
Some traveling
players have arrived at the castle,
                        and your son is going to have them put on a play!

                                                KING
                       
Hmmmm, maybe this play will take his mind off of
                        whatever it is that is troubling him so much. 
The
                       
next time you see Hamlet, do your best to keep
                        him in a good mood!

Exit Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

                                                KING
                       
Now Gertrude, I would like you to leave us alone
                        for awhile, while I try to discover what is the matter
                        with your son.  I have sent for him, and Polonius
                       
and I will hide and watch while he meets Ophelia. 
                       
We should be able to tell from his reactions
if it is
                        really love that is causing him to act so strangely.

                                                QUEEN
                       
Very well.  Ophelia, I hope you can do something
                        about all this. 
I do not understand what has gotten
                        into that boy!

Exit Queen.

                                                POLONIUS
                        Ophelia, you stand here and wait for Hamlet.  The
                        King and I shall hide behind this arras.

The King and Polonius exit behind the arras.  Enter Hamlet.

                                                HAMLET
                       
To be, or not to be; that is the question. 

Hamlet starts speaking directly to the audience.

                                                 HAMLET
                       
If you can answer the question, you win fifty dollars,
                        which you'll have to split among the lot of you.  To
                        be, or not to be?  Does anyone have the answer?

Hamlet points to a member of the audience.

                                                HAMLET
                        You?  I'm sorry, anything you
have is obviously no
                        good. 
Including your date.

Hamlet suddenly turns somber.

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh, why don't I just kill myself now, and let you
                        folks go home early?  Better yet, why don't you
                        folks kill yourselves now, and let me go home early? 
                       
You
can take my word for it, you've seen the best
                        part of the show. 
It's all downhill from here.  So
                       
what do you say to a little mass suicide?  Just think
                        of it,  I wouldn't even have to take a curtain call, 
                        and you folks could make theater history.  Well, 
                        come on!  What are you
waiting for?  You're not 
                        afraid of a little death, are you?  Are you?  But then, 
                        maybe you should be afraid.  Who knows what 
                        would happen to you if you did kill yourselves?  
                       
In your next life,
you might have to watch this play 
                        rewritten for Abbott and Costello!

Ophelia, tired of waiting for Hamlet to notice her, calls to him.

                                                OPHELIA
                        Hamlet!

                                                HAMLET
                        What's this?  The fair Ophelia!

Suddenly Horatio rushes on stage, grabs Hamlet, and pulls him over to one side of the stage, away from Ophelia.  Horatio speaks privately to Hamlet.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, Hamlet, I just remembered.  You gotta watch 
                        out for Ophelia.  She wants to marry you so she
                        can be Queen!  

                                                HAMLET  
                        Oh yeah?  We'll just see about that!

Exit Horatio.

                                                OPHELIA  
                        Good day, my lord.

                                                HAMLET
                        Says you!

                                                OPHELIA
                        It's been many days since I've seen your honor.

                                                HAMLET
                        Let's keep my honor out of this.  You'd like to see 
                        my honor, wouldn't you?  Well, that's too bad, 
                        because it's private, see?  My honor's not for sale.  
                       
Not at reasonable prices, anyway.  But for an 
                        unreasonable price, maybe we could make a deal.  
                       
How much honor did you have in mind?

                                                  OPHELIA
                        My lord, I have some love letters to return to you.

                                                HAMLET
                        I'm sorry, you'll have to come up with cash on the 
                        line, or it's no deal.  Letters!!!

                                                OPHELIA
                        You told me you loved me once, and I did believe 
                        you.

                                                HAMLET
                        What?  You expect me to believe that you believed me?  
                       
Isn't that just like a woman!  Well, I don't believe you 
                        believed me, so there!  Now, do you believe I don't 
                        believe that you believed me?  That's a better question 
                        than "to be or not to be?".  

                                                OPHELIA
                        You deceived me, my lord.  You took advantage of my 
                        poor innocence.

                                                HAMLET
                        You've got the poorest innocence I've ever seen!

Ophelia starts acting girlish, trying to charm Hamlet.

                                                OPHELIA
                        But... don't you ever want to be a daddy?  

                                                HAMLET
                        Why?  You want to get adopted?

                                                OPHELIA
                        Not me, Hammy!  I mean, don't you want to have 
                        your own children!

                                                HAMLET
                        Listen, Ophy, I've got enough problems with the 
                        relatives I've already got.  

                                                OPHELIA
                        But don't you think I'd make a good mother?

                                                HAMLET
                        I think you'd make a mother superior, so why don't 
                        you get thee to a nunnery?    

                                                OPHELIA
                        But...

                                                HAMLET
                        Go!

Ophelia speaks loudly so that the King and Polonius can hear her.  

                                                OPHELIA
                        Oh, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!

She turns to Hamlet and hisses a threat at him.

                                                OPHELIA
                        I'll get you for this!

Hamlet shrugs and exits.  Enter the King and Polonius.

                                                KING
                        That did not sound like love to me!  I don't trust 
                        that fellow one bit.  I'd feel safer if he were far 
                        from Denmark,... say in England.

                                                POLONIUS
                        I still think he has gone mad from love for my 
                        daughter.  After the play tomorrow night, why 
                        don't we have his mother speak to him privately, 
                        and I will hide and listen to what they say.  Then, 
                        if you still think he is dangerous, you can send him 
                        to England, or confine him where you think best.

                                                KING  
                        It shall be so.  Madness in great ones must not 
                        unwatched go.

Exeunt.

*********************************************************

Scene II  

Scene II takes place in a hall in the castle.  Enter Hamlet and the Players.

                                                HAMLET
                        Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
                        you!

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                       
Don't worry, your princeship, we'll do everything
                        just like you said.

                                                HAMLET
                       
And no melodramatic gestures!  Don't saw the air
                        with your hands.

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                       
Relax!  I never saw the air with my hands!  I saw the
                        air with my eyes!

The Third Player laughs, the First Player slaps him on the forehead, and the Third Player squeals.

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                       
That's not what he means!  He means don't do this!

The First Player saws the air upward with his hand, as the other Players watch him, and then he suddenly jerks his hand down, giving the other Players whiplash.

                                                 HAMLET
                       
What I mean is, don't overact.  Be natural!  Try to
                        behave like normal human beings.

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                       
I thought you wanted us to be natural.

The First Player pounds the Second Player on the head.

                                                HAMLET
                       
Go!  Make ready for the play.

Exeunt the Players. Enter Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

                                                HAMLET
                        T
he play's about to start.  Go get the King and
                        Queen.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        We will, my lord.

Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  Enter Horatio. Hamlet goes to Horatio and speaks to him privately.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Horatio!  Watch my uncle during the play.  Let  
                        me know if he does anything funny.  

                                                HORATIO
                        Don't worry.  No one does anything funny in any 
                        play while I'm around!

                                                HAMLET
                        Well, that explains a lot.

Enter the King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

                                                HAMLET
                        All right, everyone sit down.  The play's about 
                        to start.

Everyone except Hamlet sits on the floor.

                                                QUEEN
                        Come hither, my dear Hamlet.  Sit by me.

                                                HAMLET
                        No thanks, Mom.  I want to annoy Ophelia.

Hamlet goes over to Ophelia, who treats him very coldly.

                                                HAMLET
                        Lady, shall I lie in your lap?  

                                                OPHELIA
                        No, my lord.  

                                                HAMLET
                        I mean, my head in your lap.

He lies down with his head in her lap.  She remains cold to him.

                                                OPHELIA
                        Aye, my lord.

                                                HAMLET
                        Did you think I meant country matters?

                                                OPHELIA
                        I think nothing, my lord.

                                                HAMLET
                        That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.

                                                OPHELIA
                        What is, my lord?

                                                HAMLET
                        Nothing.

Hamlet waggishly raises and lowers his eyebrows.  Then he turns to the audience.

                                                HAMLET
                        Shakespeare wrote that one.

The Second Player steps out and waits for everyone to quiet down.

                                                HAMLET
                        Quiet everyone!  The play's starting.

The Second Player declaims the prologue to the play.

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                        The Queen of Hearts
                        She made some tarts,
                        All on a summer's day;
                        The Knave of Hearts
                        He stole the tarts,
                        And took them clean away.  
                        The King of Hearts  
                        Called for the tarts,
                        And beat the Knave full sore;
                        The Knave of Hearts  
                        Brought back the tarts,
                        And vowed he'd steal no more.

The Second Player bows to applause and exits.

                                                HAMLET
                        That was just the prologue.  Now the real play 
                        begins!

The First Player enters.  He is dressed as the King of Hearts.  He speaks bombastically.  

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        I am the noble King of Hearts!
                        I want my Queen to bake some tarts.
                        The finest pastries in the land  
                        Are made by her own dainty hands.  
                        Where is the Queen!  I want her here!

The Third Player, affecting a high, shrill voice answers from off stage.  

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                                    (off stage)
                        Hold your horses!  I'm coming, dear!  

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        My own dear wife!  I know that I
                        Will always love her till I die!

The Third Player enters in drag, dressed as the Queen of Hearts.  The First Player is horrified by her frightful appearance.

                                                THIRD PLAYER  
                        Sorry I'm late.  I'd lost my wig.  
                        How do I look?

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        Just like a ... fig-
                        Ure of beauty, your teeth like pearls!

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        Aw, you say that to all the girls.

The Third Player gives the First Player a playful shove, nearly knocking him over.

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        Say you'll be forever true!  

                                                THIRD PLAYER  
                        Certainly, Kingsie!  Who else do you
                        Think I'd go for?

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        For a start,
                        My brother, the evil Knave of Hearts!
                        If I catch you two together,
                        Ever again, I don't care whether  
                        He has a knife, an ax or spear,
                        I'll kill him first, then you, my dear!

                                                THIRD PLAYER  
                        Take it easy!  Please, calm down!  
                        I'm not the type who'd play around!  

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        Ever since that time I caught
                        Him with your tarts I've been distraught!  

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        You can trust me.  Wait and see!
                        I'll behave so faithfully,  
                        I'll bake my tarts for only you!  
                        Cross my heart!  It's true!  It's true!  

Hamlet turns to his mother, as the First Player and Third Player exit, arm in arm, from the stage.

                                                HAMLET
                        What do you think, Mom?

                                                QUEEN
                        The lady doth protest too much, methinks.  

Enter the Second Player, dressed as the Knave of Hearts.

                                                SECOND PLAYER  
                        I'm the wicked Knave of Hearts!  
                        I'd love to grab the fair Queen's tarts,
                        Filled with apples, pears, or plums!  
                        Why speak of the devil, here she comes!

Enter the Third Player, singing and carrying a table.  On the table are a number of small cream pies, and at least one large cream pie.  

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        La la lee la la.

Suddenly the Third Player spots the Second Player, and puts down the table.

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        Hey!  You!  What are you doing here?

                                                SECOND PLAYER  
                        I came to taste your tarts, my dear!

                                                THIRD PLAYER  
                        Have you got rocks inside your head?
                        If the King finds us here, we're dead!

                                                SECOND PLAYER  
                        You think I'm frightened of that bum?
                        That stupid fool!  That twerp!  That crumb!
                        Hey!  I'll tell you what I'll do,
                        I'll kill the King and marry you!

As the Second Player continues telling his plans, the real King, seated in the audience, becomes visibly upset.

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                        I'll wait until he's fast asleep
                        Out in his orchard.  There I'll creep.
                        I'll bring a jar of poison, dear,
                        And I will pour it in his ear!

The King stands, horrified.  At this point, the First Player enters, unnoticed by the Second Player or the Third Player.  

                                                SECOND PLAYER  
                        As soon as that poor slob is dead,
                        I'll arrange that we'll be wed!
                        And you will bake the pies I crave,
                        While he is rotting in his grave.

The Second Player picks up a small cream pie.

                                                KING
                        Stop the play!

The Players are so intent on their play that they ignore the King.  Suddenly, the Third Player (still in his role as the Queen of Hearts) spots the First Player.

                                                THIRD PLAYER
                        I think it's high time that I went!  

The Third Player starts to walk off stage.  The First Player grabs the Second Player and spins him around.  The Second Player accidentally hits the First Player in the face with the pie.  

                                                SECOND PLAYER
                        I didn't mean it!  It was an accident!  

                                                FIRST PLAYER  
                        Why, you...

                                                KING
                        Stop the play!

The First Player picks up a pie, and throws it at the Second Player.  The Second Player ducks, and the pie hits the Third Player.  The King walks over to the Players to stop the play.  

                                                KING
                        Stop the play!

The Third Player picks up a large cream pie and starts to smash it into the face of the First Player.

                                                KING
                        Give me some light!!!

The First Player ducks and the Third Player hits the real King in the face with the pie.  The real King rushes off stage.  The Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern follow the King.

                                                FIRST PLAYER  
                        I think we'd better beat it, boys.  

The Players exit.  Only Hamlet and Horatio are left on stage.

                                                HAMLET
                        Did you see that?  Did you?  Did you see what the 
                        King did?  

                                                HORATIO
                        Yeah, he got the pie I wanted.

                                                HAMLET
                        And he stopped the play before the best part!  
                       
Right before the big musical number!  

Re-enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  They walk hesitantly up to Hamlet.  

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                        We have a message for you from your mother.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Yes?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        She wants to speak to you in her room before 
                        you go to bed.

                                                HAMLET
                        All right.  

He looks at Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who obviously have something else on their minds, but who are reluctant to speak up.

                                                HAMLET
                        Do you boys have anything else on your minds?  

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern remain silent.

                                                HAMLET
                        Do you have anything on your minds?  Do you 
                        have minds?

 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern look at each other, and then Guildenstern summons up the courage to speak to Hamlet.

                                                GUILDENSTERN  
                        We still don't know why you're screwy.

At this point the Players walk in playing recorders.  They do not play very well.  

                                                FIRST PLAYER
                        Since the King didn't seem to like our play, we 
                        thought he might enjoy some music.  Where 
                        is the King?  

                                                HAMLET  
                        Let me see that.

Hamlet snatches one of the recorders.  He looks at it, then hands it to Guildenstern.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Here.  Play upon this pipe.

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                        My lord, I cannot.

                                                HAMLET
                        I pray you.  

                                                GUILDENSTERN  
                        Believe me, I cannot.

                                                HAMLET
                        Please.  I beseech you.

Suddenly Hamlet's voice turns threatening.

                                                HAMLET
                        Play it!!!

Guildenstern is near tears.

                                                GUILDENSTERN  
                        I don't know how to play the pipe.  

                                                HAMLET
                        You don't, eh?  Then you must think I'm simpler 
                        than this pipe!  You think you can get all my 
                        secrets out of me just by asking, but you can't get
                        anything out of this pipe!  You're willing to play on 
                        me, aren't you?  You think it's easier to play on me 
                        than this pipe!  You thought you could play me, so 
                        surely you can play a simple pipe!  Go ahead!  
                       
Play it!!!

                                                GUILDENSTERN  
                                    (weeping)
                        But I don't ... I . . .

                                                HAMLET
                        Play it!  

Guildenstern tearfully tries to play the pipe.  To his surprise, beautiful music comes out.  Guildenstern takes the pipe away from his lips to examine it.  He can't figure out how he managed to play it.  He gives up trying to figure it out, shrugs his shoulders, and happily begins to play again.  Guildenstern continues to play very complicated, rich, classical music.  He plays like an expert, even though he doesn't know how.  Guildenstern stops playing and smiles happily at Hamlet.

                                                HAMLET
                        Excuse me, I think I hear my mother calling.  

Exit Hamlet.  Exeunt all.

*********************************************************

Scene III  

Scene III takes place in a room in the castle.  Enter the King, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  

                                                KING
                        I like him not, nor stands it safe with us to let his 
                        madness range.  Therefore prepare you. 
I shall 
                        execute a commission for you to take him with 
                        you to England.  Go!  Get ready!  

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern bow and exit.  Enter Polonius.

                                                POLONIUS
                        My lord, he's going to his mother's room.  I'll 
                       
get there first and hide behind the arras and 
                       
listen to what they say.  I'll tell you everything.  

                                                KING
                        Thank you, my good friend.  

Exit Polonius.

                                                KING
                        Oh my offense is rank, it smells to heaven.  
                       
I have murdered my own brother.  Prince 
                        Hamlet knows what I have done; I'm sure 
                        of it.  He puts on a mask of madness, while 
                        he plots against me, and I deserve to be 
                        plotted against.  I've killed my brother! 
                        should pray for forgiveness, but how can I? 
                       
I still have my crown and my queen, and I 
                        will not give them up.  I will not show 
                        repentance.  Alas, there can be no 
                        forgiveness without repentance, can there?  

The King kneels, sorrowfully, as if in prayer.  Enter Hamlet.  He is startled to see the King.  Hamlet muses to himself.   The King is unaware of Hamlet's presence.  

                                                HAMLET
                        What's this?  The King! I could kill him now, 
                        while he's alone.  It would be easy.  I could 
                        run him through while he's praying and send 
                        him straight to heaven, which is better than 
                        he deserves ... much better.  He's praying, 
                        which means if I killed him now, he'd go 
                        straight to heaven, ... and I'd be left down 
                        here in Denmark.  He'd like that, I'll bet!  
                       
I can just see him up there, laughing at me!  
                       
Why shouldn't he laugh?  He gets heavenly 
                        bliss, and I'm stuck here with Rosencrantz 
                        and Guildenstern!  He'd think that was pretty 
                        funny, the lout!  Well, I'll show him.

Hamlet strides over to the King.

                                                HAMLET
                        I wouldn't kill you now if you begged me!  So 
                        there!  

Exit Hamlet.  The King is bewildered.

                                                KING
                        Maybe he really is crazy after all.

Exit the King.

*********************************************************

Scene IV  

Scene IV takes place in the Queen's bedroom.  Enter the Queen and Polonius.

                                                POLONIUS
                        He will come straight.  Pray you, be round with him.

                                                HAMLET
                                    (off stage)
                        Mother!  Mother!

                                                QUEEN
                        Withdraw!  I hear him coming.

Polonius hides behind the arras.  The Queen sits in a chair.  Enter Hamlet.

                                                HAMLET
                        Now, Mother, what's the matter?  

                                                QUEEN
                        Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Mother, thou hast my father much offended.

                                                QUEEN
                        Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue

                                                HAMLET
                        Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.  
                       
And thou hast my father much offended!

                                                QUEEN
                        Have you forgotten who I am?  

                                                HAMLET
                        No!  You are the Queen, your husband's 
                        brother's wife; and -- would it were not so -- 
                        you are my mother!  And thou hast my father 
                        much offended!  Let's see you top that!

                                                QUEEN
                        I don't understand a word you're saying.

                                                HAMLET
                        No, you wouldn't, would you?  All you did was 
                        marry your own brother-in-law, my uncle.  
                        T
hat's all you did, relatively speaking.  Did you 
                        ever stop to think where we'd be if everyone 
                        married my uncle?  Why, we'd be up to our ears  
                        in aunts, for one thing, and that's no picnic.

                                                QUEEN
                        I give up!  I can't talk to you.

The Queen starts to stand.  Hamlet pushes her back down into her chair.

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh no, you're going to take a good hard look at 
                        yourself and face the ugly truth.

The Queen panics.

                                                QUEEN
                        What are you going to do?  You won't murder me?  
                       
Help!  Help me!

                                                POLONIUS
                                    (behind the arras)
                        What?  Help!  Help!  

                                                HAMLET
                        How now!  A rat!

Hamlet stabs Polonius through the arras.

                                                POLONIUS
                                    (behind the arras)
                        Oh, I am slain!  

Polonius falls and dies, still behind the arras.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Is that the King?  

Hamlet pulls aside the arras and discovers Polonius.

                                                HAMLET
                        Oops.  Well, I guess the joke's on me.  I just 
                        killed the wrong man!  I'll tell you what, Mom, 
                        you keep quiet about this to Claudius, and I won't 
                        tell him about the strange man hiding in your 
                        bedroom.  

                                                QUEEN
                        Oh what a rash and bloody deed is this!

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh, so now you're going to blame all this on me!  
                       
Some mother you are!  If you hadn't married my 
                        uncle, none of this would have happened, and we 
                        could all be performing "The Merry Wives of 
                        Windsor" somewhere.  Why couldn't you have 
                        stayed married to my father?  My father!  Now 
                        there's an ideal husband!  

                                                QUEEN
                        But your father is dead.  

                                                HAMLET
                        That's what I mean.  He's quiet, undemanding, and 
                        you don't have to cook for him.  But you preferred 
                        to marry a pig like Claudius and make him the new 
                        Danish King.  Claudius!  He's the cheesiest Danish 
                        I've ever seen.  Aren't you ashamed?

                                                QUEEN  
                        Stop!  I refuse to listen to another word!

Enter the Ghost.

                                                HAMLET
                        Now here's a King who knows how to rule!

The Ghost takes out a yardstick and starts measuring things.

                                                HAMLET
                        Hey, this is "Hamlet," not "Measure For Measure!"

                                                QUEEN
                        Hamlet, what are you talking about?

                                                HAMLET
                        I'm talking to him!  Don't you see him?  

                                                QUEEN
                        Who?

                                                HAMLET
                        She can't see you!

The Ghost delights in the fact that the Queen can't see him.  He goes over to her and makes a horrible face right in front of her.  He's having a great time.

                                                HAMLET
                        Yeah, you might as well enjoy yourself.

                                                QUEEN
                        I'm not enjoying this one bit!

The Ghost mimes an imitation of the Queen.

                                                HAMLET
                        What a couple you two make!

                                                QUEEN
                        What couple?  There's only one of me.

                                                HAMLET
                        Yeah, but you're shaped like a pear.

The Ghost suddenly notices the corpse of Polonius.  The Ghost is shocked.  He turns to Hamlet for an explanation.

                                                    HAMLET
                        Yeah, I know.  Say, it's too bad he didn't put the 
                        poison in your ear.  Then everything would be
                        fine.  Are you sure Polonius didn't kill you?  You're 
                        positive?

The Ghost nods his head "yes."

                                                HAMLET
                        That's too bad.  I guess we owe him one.  Maybe I 
                        could get Ophelia to pour some poison in Horatio's 
                        ear.  That would even things up.

The Ghost shakes his head "no," and mimes violence to Claudius.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Yeah, I guess I've still got to avenge your death.  
                       
But after this you owe me a favor.  Fair is fair.

The Ghost nods "yes" and exits.

                                                QUEEN
                        Hamlet, what are you talking about?

                                                HAMLET
                        It's very simple, Mom.  All I want is for you to 
                        behave yourself.  Be a decent woman, the kind 
                        of mother a guy can be proud to take home to his
                        girlfriend.  That's all I'm asking.  And stay away from 
                        Claudius!

                                                QUEEN
                        But Claudius and I are married.

                                                HAMLET
                        Exactly!  He's a married man!  Do you know how 
                        that looks?  Do you?  You and Claudius?  Do you
                        have any idea how that looks?  

                                                QUEEN
                        No, I do not!

                                                HAMLET  
                        Well, do you remember the two baboons we saw 
                        at the circus last year?  Look, Mom, I know you 
                        don't mean to be bad.  It's not your fault; you're just 
                        naturally rotten.

Enter Horatio.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, Hamlet, the King say you gotta pack.  He's 
                        sending you to England with Rosencrantz and 
                        Guildenstern.

                                                HAMLET
                        Tell him I'd rather go to the French Riviera with 
                        Ophelia.

                                                HORATIO  
                        No, he says you've got to go to England.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Well, why not?  I might as well get out of Denmark 
                        until this business with Polonius blows over.

Horatio notices the corpse of Polonius for the first time.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, he doesn't look so good.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Don't worry about him.  It's just a slight case of 
                        death, that's all.  There's a lot of it going around 
                        these days.  

                                                HORATIO
                        I hope it isn't catching.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Come on, help me drag this body out of here.  

Hamlet and Horatio begin to drag out the body of Polonius.

                                                HAMLET
                        Indeed this counselor is now most still, most secret, 
                        and most grave, who was in life a foolish prating knave.  
                       
Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.  Good 
                        night, mother.  

Exeunt Hamlet and Horatio, dragging Polonius.  Exit the Queen.

*********************************************************

ACT IV  

Scene I  

Scene I takes place in a room in the castle.  Enter the King and Queen.  The Queen is obviously very upset.

                                                    KING
                       
There's matter in these sighs.  You must translate; 
                        'tis fit we understand them.

                                                QUEEN
                       
My good lord, Hamlet in his madness has slain
                        Polonius.

                                                KING
                       
He would have killed me, had I been there. 
                       
Where has he gone?

                                                QUEEN
                       
To hide the body.  

                                                KING
                        Rosencrantz!  Guildenstern!

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter.

                                                KING
                        Hamlet's killed Polonius.  Find him, and bring the 
                        body to the chapel.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        But your majesty, don't you think it would be better 
                        if some armed guards or ...

                                                KING
                        Find him and be quick about it!  

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Yes, your majesty.  

Rosencrantz turns to Guildenstern as they start to leave.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        This is all your fault!  If you hadn't played upon the 
                        pipe ...  

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                                   
(weeping)  
                        But I didn't want to play the pipe!  

Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, nervously stumbling and bumping into each other.

                                                KING
                        Gertrude, we must discuss this matter further.  
                       
Oh, come away.  My soul is filled with discord 
                        and dismay.

 

Exeunt.

*********************************************************

Scene II

Scene II takes place in a passage in the castle.  Enter Hamlet, who has just hidden the body of Polonius.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Safely stowed!

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern call from off stage.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                                    (off stage)
                        Hamlet!

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                                    (off stage)
                        Lord Hamlet!  

                                                HAMLET  
                        Who calls on Hamlet?  Oh, here they come.

Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, hesitantly.  They are afraid of Hamlet.  Rosencrantz speaks to Guildenstern.  

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Now whatever you do, don't upset him!  You know 
                        how irritable he's been lately.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Well?  What do you two want?

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                        Rosencrantz wants to ask you a question.  

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Pardon us, your lordship, but we happened to 
                        overhear a certain rumor that a slight accident 
                        might have befallen Polonius, and we thought 
                        perhaps we might offer you our humble assistance 
                        to help you dispose of the ... earthly remains.  If
                        you have no objections, of course.

                                                HAMLET
                        Sorry, boys, the body stays hidden.

                                                GUILDENSTERN
                        Why don't you tell us where you hid it, so we can 
                        make sure we don't look for it there?  

                                                HAMLET
                        Bring me to the King.  

Exeunt.

********************************************************

Scene III  

Scene III takes place in a room in the castle.  Enter the King with ATTENDANTS.

                                                KING
                        I have sent to seek him and to find the body. 
                        How dangerous is it that this man goes loose!

Enter Rosencrantz.

                                                KING
                        Well?  Did you find the body?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        No, your majesty.  He wouldn't tell us where it is.

                                                KING
                        Then where is Hamlet?

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Guildenstern!  Bring in Hamlet.

Enter Guildenstern and Hamlet.

                                                KING
                        Now, Hamlet, where's Polonius?

                                                HAMLET
                        At supper.

                                                KING
                        Supper?  Where?

                                                HAMLET
                        Not where he eats, but where he is eaten.  By
                        maggots.  Do you e\realize that we fatten chickens
                        and cows to fatten ourselves, and we fatten
                        ourselves to fatten maggots.  But who do the
                        maggots fatten?  It's time the maggots learned that
                        there's no free lunch.  So here's your bill for
                        Polonius.  Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were a
                        maggot.

                                                KING
                        Hamlet!!!   Where is Polonius?

                                                HAMLET
                        In heaven.  You can send a messenger to find him. 
                       
If he's not there, seek him in the other place
                        yourself.  If you don't find him in a month, you
                        should be able to nose him out as you go up the
                        stairs into the lobby.

                                                KING
                                    (to the Attendants)
                        Go seek him there.

                                                HAMLET
                        He will stay till you come.

Exeunt the Attendants.

                                                KING
                        Hamlet, I've arranged for you to go to England. 
                        I want you to leave at once!

                                                HAMLET
                        Anything you say.  To England!  Farewell,
                        Mother.

                                                KING
                        I'm your uncle, Hamlet, and your step-father.

                                                HAMLET
                        Well, why not take another step and be a mother. 
                       
After all, father and mother are man and wife;
                        man and wife are one flesh.  You are one flesh aren't
                        you?  You look more like a flush.  A royal flush, if
                        you prefer.

Hamlet turns to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and gestures for them to follow him.

                                                HAMLET
                        Come, for England!

Exit Hamlet.

                                                KING
                        Follow him!  And do not forget the commission I
                        gave you!  Deliver it to the English King!

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Don't worry, your majesty.  We'll take care of
                        everything.  Come, Guildenstern.

Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

                                                KING
                        My commission orders the present death of Hamlet. 
                       
The King of England owes me a favor.  Do it,
                        England!  Until I know my step son is dead, I cannot
                        rest easy.

Exit the King.

*********************************************************

Scene IV

Scene IV takes place on a plain in Denmark.  Enter a CAPTAIN and several SOLDIERS from Fortinbras's army.  Enter Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

                                                HAMLET
                        Good sir, whose powers are these?

                                                CAPTAIN
                        They are of Norway, sir, led by young Fortinbras. 
                       
We await permission from the Danish King for
                        our army to pass through his lands on the way to
                        Poland.

                                                HAMLET
                        What's in Poland?

                                                CAPTAIN
                        The King of Norway would not permit young
                        Fortinbras to attack Denmark, so we are
                        attacking Poland instead.

                                                HAMLET
                        What for?

                                                CAPTAIN
                        Young Fortinbras hopes to gain a little patch of
                        ground, that has no worth for farming or any
                        other value, save as an excuse for the shedding of
                        blood.

                                                HAMLET
                        I see.

                                                CAPTAIN
                        God be with you, sir.

Exeunt the Captain and soldiers.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Will you come, my lord?  We have almost
                        reached the harbor from whence we sail to
                        England.

                                                HAMLET
                        I'll be with you in a minute.  I feel another
                        soliloquy coming on.

Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

                                                HAMLET
                        Twenty thousand men march to their graves for a
                        worthless plot of land.  Why can't I do anything
                        that violent, or that funny?  Everyone thinks young
                        Fortinbras is a great prince because he's going 
                        to kill all those people, and all I've killed is old
                        Polonius.  Some leader I am!  Of course,
                        Young Fortinbras has an advantage -- he's got
                        an entire army to sacrifice for a useless cause. 
                       
Whose lives have I got to throw away?

Re-enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        The boat awaits you, my lord.

                                                HAMLET
                        Tell me, boys, how would you two like to serve
                        your country?

Exeunt.

*********************************************************

Scene V

Scene V takes place in a room in the castle at Elsinore.  Enter the King, the Queen and Horatio.

                                                QUEEN
                        I will not see her.

                                                HORATIO
                        I don't blame you.  She's crazy.  All she does is sing
                        crazy songs all the time, and she's always telling
                        everyone about her father's death, and how it's all
                        your fault.

                                                KING
                        What?  You mean she is sewing discord among 
                        the people?

                                                HORATIO
                        What cord?

                                                KING
                        Discord!

                                                HORATIO
                        What cord?

                                                KING
                        Discord!

                                                HORATIO
                        You keep saying, "dis cord," but I don't see any
                        cord.

                                                KING
                       
I said she sews discord.

                                                HORATIO
                        No, she doesn't sew any cords, but she plays
                        some chords when she sings her crazy songs. 
                       
She keeps acting crazy all the time.  I've never
                        seen anyone act so crazy.

                                                QUEEN
                        Let her come in.  We had better find out if she is
                        stirring up trouble among the rabble.

Horatio exits, and comes back with Ophelia, who seems to be doing an imitation of Hamlet, loping across the stage with a cigar in her mouth.  She carries a lute, or a banjo, or some other stringed instrument.

                                                OPHELIA
                        Where's the beauteous Queen of Denmark?  There,
                        if that doesn't convince you I'm crazy, nothing
                        will!

                                                QUEEN
                        Ophelia!

                                                OPHELIA
                        Oh, feel - yaself!  What kind of a name is Ophelia,
                        anyway??  Is it any wonder the boys all think I'm
                        easy?  Oh well, easy come, easy go.

She starts to strum on the musical instrument she carries.

                                                OPHELIA
                        My first number is, "He Is Dead And Gone."

She sings:

                                                OPHELIA
                        He is dead and gone, lady,
                        He is dead and gone.
                        We did not want him dead and here,
                        So he is dead and gone.

                                                KING
                        She is distracted by her father's death.

                                                OPHELIA
                        Let's not talk about that!  My second number is
                        called "Saint Valentine's Day."

She sings:

                                                OPHELIA
                        Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's Day,
                        And as the sun did shine,
                        I came, a maid, at your window,
                        To be your valentine.
                        Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
                        And opened wide the door,
                        Let in the maid, and made the maid,
                        So she was a maiden no more.
                        By gosh, and by Saint Charity,
                        Alack, and cry for shame!
                        Young men will do it, if they can do it.
                        By cock, they are to blame!
                        Quoth she, "Before you tumbled me,
                        You promised me to wed."
                        He answers:
                        "So would I have done, by yonder sun,
                        If thou hadst not come to my bed."

                                                QUEEN
                        Oh, poor Ophelia.

                                                OPHELIA
                        I'm not finished yet!

Ophelia continues her song:

                                                OPHELIA
                        Quoth she, "That is hypocrisy,
                        For you begged me into your bed!
                        So marry me quick, or I'll cut off thy wick-
                        Ed tongue!"   And so they were wed!

                                                HORATIO
                        Say, does she remind you of the man who
                        comes to fix the sink?

                                                KING
                        How long has she been like this?

                                                OPHELIA
                        Tell me, do you think it's all right for a girl to
                        marry a guy who's killed her father, or is
                        that considered a breach of social etiquette?  
                       
The guy who did it is a real son of a breach.
                       
I don't think my brother is going to like this. 
                       
Maybe you should do something to make
                        it up to him, like name him as your heir. 
                        Heir today, and gone tomorrow!

Exit Ophelia.  The King orders Horatio to follow her.

                                                KING
                        Guard her closely!  Keep a careful watch, I
                        pray you.  Her grief has driven her mad.

                                                HORATIO
                        Don't worry.  I'll guard her.

Exit Horatio.

                                                KING
                        This is all Hamlet's fault! First he went mad
                        and spurned her love; then he killed her
                        father; and now we have had to bury Polonius
                        quietly and without ceremony.  Worst of all,
                        I have heard that Laertes has secretly returned
                        from France, and the people have fed him
                        vicious rumors about his father's death! 

Loud noises come from off stage.

                                                QUEEN
                        What is this noise?

Enter a MESSENGER.

                                                KING
                        What's the matter?

                                                MESSENGER
                        Laertes has returned.  The people have welcomed
                        him and they cry that they choose him for their
                        king!  I fear they will break down the doors!

A crash of doors being broken open is heard off stage.  Enter Laertes.

                                                LAERTES
                        What has happened to my father?

                                                QUEEN
                        Calm down, good Laertes!

                                                LAERTES
                        First tell me what has happened to my father! 
                       
If he was murdered, I must be revenged! 
                       
That is my duty as his son!

                                                KING
                        Believe me, Laertes, I am guiltless of thy father's
                        death, And I grieve for him.  When I tell you the
                        whole story, you will see that you have no cause
                        to blame me.

Enter Ophelia, still doing a mad impersonation of Hamlet.  This time, in addition to her musical instrument, she carries several large bunches of flowers.

                                                LAERTES
                        Ophelia!!!   Have you gone mad?

Ophelia sings.

                                                OPHELIA
                        And will he not come again?
                        And will he not come again?
                        They laid him deep in his grave,
                        'Cause his flesh was decayed,
                        So he'd better not come again!

She hits the King and Queen in their faces with flowers.

                                                OPHELIA
                        Here, have some flowers!  You too! 
                       
Well, aren't you going to put them in water? 
                       
Do you want them to rot, like my father? 
                       
Go put them in water!

The King and Queen exit with their flowers.  Ophelia drops her feigned madness, and speaks quickly to her startled brother.

                                                OPHELIA
                        Hush!  I'm only feigning madness, and while I
                        pretend, I stir up the angry populace, and
                        prepare your path to the throne of Denmark!

                                                LAERTES
                        My path???  But, Hamlet. . .

                                                OPHELIA
                        Hamlet doesn't stand a chance anymore!  It
                        would surprise me if Claudius hasn't already
                        arranged for his death.  My only chance for
                        power is to have you crowned King.

                                                LAERTES
                        What are you going to do?

                                                OPHELIA
                        I have arranged with my handmaidens to fake
                        my own death.  I will appear to have drowned,
                        and the people will be so angered, and Claudius
                        will feel so guilty, he must name you as heir to the
                        throne.  Once that is done, and they lay me in
                        the ground for burial, you must leap into my grave
                        and pray for me.  I will revive as if it were by a
                        miracle.

                                                LAERTES
                        It may work!

                                                OPHELIA
                        It is bound to work, if you play your part.  Just
                        make certain you claim my body as soon as you
                        hear that I have drowned, and don't let anyone
                        examine me too closely.

The King re-enters, and Ophelia immediately goes back into her act of madness.

                                                 OPHELIA
                        I thought I'd marry Hamlet and be a Queen
                        someday, but then my father died and he left
                        me a poor orphaned waif.  I was hoping he'd
                        leave me some money.  Oh well, where there's
                        a will, there's a waif.  Time for me to waif good-
                        bye.  Waif not, want not!  Good night!  Good
                        night!  Good-bye.

Exit Ophelia.

                                                KING
                        Laertes, you must come with me, and I will explain
                        to you everything about your father's death, and
                        when I am done you will understand it was no
                        fault of mine.  I pray you, come with me.

Exeunt.

*********************************************************

Scene VI

Scene VI takes place in another room in the castle.  Enter Horatio.  A SAILOR follows him in.

                                                HORATIO
                        What?

The SAILOR hands a letter to Horatio.

                                                SAILOR
                        Good Horatio, I have a letter for you from
                        Prince Hamlet.    

Horatio takes the letter, and studies it intently without saying a word.  Then he hands it back to the sailor.

                                                HORATIO
                        What's it say?

                                                SAILOR
                        Can't you read?  I thought you were a great
                        scholar at the university at Wittenberg.

                                                HORATIO
                        Sure, at Wittenberg, but this is Denmark!

                                                SAILOR
                        All right, the letter says, "Dear Horatio,  It's great
                        to be in England.  Unfortunately, I'm in Denmark. 
                       
Two days out at sea, we were savagely attacked
                        by a band of pirates, freebooters, and a dozen
                        Shakespearean scholars.  The fighting was fierce,
                        and we were badly outnumbered, so I drew my
                        sword and joined the other side.  Before I knew it,
                        the boats had split up again, and I was stuck
                        with the scholars.  After making me promise never
                        to perform "King Lear," they let me off on the
                        shore of Denmark.  Please have this sailor bring
                        you to me.  I have much to tell you, including the
                        fates of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and
                        King Lear.  No, just kidding.  Nothing about
                        King Lear.  Your friend,   Hamlet."

                                                HORATIO
                        OK, take me to Hamlet.

Exeunt.

*********************************************************

Scene VII

Scene VII takes place in another room in the castle.  Enter the King and Laertes.

                                                KING
                        Now must your conscience my acquaintance
                        seal, and you must put me in your heart as
                        friend.

                                                LAERTES
                        But why haven't you done anything to Hamlet?

                                                KING
                        I have, Laertes, but craftily, so that I will not be
                        blamed for his death by the Queen, or by the
                        Danish people, who for some reason unknown
                        to me, like the Prince.  But set your mind to
                        rest; even as we speak, Hamlet has surely
                        met his death, executed by the King of
                        England.

Enter a MESSENGER.

                                                KING
                        How now?  What news?

                                                MESSENGER
                        A sailor has brought a letter to you from
                        Hamlet.

                                                KING
                        What????

The King takes the letter from the Messenger and reads it.

                                                KING
                        He's back in Denmark, I know not how!

                                                LAERTES
                        Then is he to go unpunished, and someday
                        follow you to the throne?

                                                KING
                        Laertes, how would you like to follow me? 
                        Help me to be rid of Hamlet, and the succession
                        is thine.

                                                LAERTES
                        Say on, good King.

                                                KING
                        We must plan his death carefully.  I know
                        that Hamlet is most jealous of your skill as a
                        swordsman.  You shall have a sporting match
                        with him.  We will arrange that Hamlet's sword
                        shall be blunted, as befits a friendly duel, but
                        your sword shall be unbated so that you may,
                        as if it were by accident, run him through.

                                                LAERTES
                        I'll do it.  And what is more, to make certain his
                        death, I'll anoint my sword with a deadly
                        poison, so that even if I do but scratch him, he
                        must die.

                                                    KING
                        And I'll prepare a chalice of poisoned wine for him
                        to drink, so that if he should escape your envenomed
                        blade, our purpose will hold.

                                                LAERTES
                        And should that fail, I will arrange a chandelier to
                        fall upon him!

                                                KING
                        And I will build a trap door above a pit of hungry
                        crocodiles so that...  No, on second thought,
                        let's just stick with the envenomed sword and
                        the poisoned wine.  That should be sufficient
                        to ensure his death.  There's no point in overdoing
                        it.

They shake hands.  Enter the Queen.  She is very upset.

                                                KING
                        How now, sweet Queen!

                                                QUEEN
                        Your sister's drowned, Laertes!

                                                LAERTES
                        Drowned!

                                                QUEEN
                        There is a willow which grows beside a brook. 
                       
Ophelia went there to pick flowers.  She was
                        holding onto a branch which broke, and sent
                        her tumbling into the brook.  In her madness
                        she did not even try to save herself, but sang
                        snatches of old tunes as she sank beneath
                        the surface of the brook.  When her handmaidens
                        pulled her out, they said she was dead.

Laertes pretends to be overcome with grief.

                                                LAERTES
                        Drowned!

Abruptly, Laertes ends his act and says good-bye to the King.

                                                LAERTES
                        Adieu, my lord.

Exit Laertes.

                                                KING
                        Let's follow, Gertrude!  How much I had to
                        do to calm his rage!  Now fear I this will give it
                        start again; therefore let's follow.

Exeunt.

**********************************************************************************

Act V

 Scene I

Scene I takes place in a cemetery in a churchyard in Elsinore.  There is a deep grave which is almost completed.  Enter a GRAVEDIGGER who starts to finish digging the grave.  Enter Hamlet and Horatio.

                                                HAMLET
                       
I will speak to this fellow.  Whose grave's this,
                        sirrah?

                                                GRAVEDIGGER
                        Mine, sir.

                                                HAMLET
                       
I think it be thine indeed, for thou liest in it.

Hamlet turns and speaks to the audience.

                                                HAMLET
                       
Well, what do you want from a joke that's over
                        400 years old?

Actually, Shakespeare's Hamlet was probably written in 1601.  So until the year 2002, Hamlet's line about should be "Well, what do you want from a joke that's almost 400 years old?"  Then in 2002, the line should be "Well, what do you want from a joke that's over 400 years old."

                                                GRAVEDIGGER
                        I don't lie.  I have dug the grave, and so therefore
                        it is mine.

                                                HAMLET
                       
What man do you dig it for?

                                                GRAVEDIGGER
                        For no man, sir.

                                                HAMLET
                       
What woman then?

                                                GRAVEDIGGER
                       
For none neither.

                                                HAMLET
                       
Then who is to be buried in it?

                                                GRAVEDIGGER  
                        One that was a woman, sir; but rest her soul, 
                        she's dead.

                                                HAMLET
                        I think you'd better dig some graves for these 
                        jokes.  How long have you been a gravedigger?  

                                                GRAVEDIGGER
                        I started this occupation the day our late King 
                        Hamlet overcame old Fortinbras.  That was the 
                        day Prince Hamlet was born.

The Gravedigger continues digging the grave.  He comes upon a skull, and tosses it out of the grave.

                                                GRAVEDIGGER
                        This graveyard's getting crowded.  This skull has 
                        been in the earth a long time.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Whose was it?

                                                GRAVEDIGGER  
                        That was Yorick's skull, the King's jester.

Hamlet picks up the skull and looks at it sadly.  He speaks somberly.  In fact, this is the only time in the entire play when Hamlet is completely and genuinely serious.

                                                HAMLET
                        Alas, poor Yorick!  I knew him, Horatio. 
                        funny little man with a derby hat and a bamboo 
                        cane.  He wore a jacket that was too small and 
                        shoes that were too large.  He used to walk a 
                        splayfooted walk, all the while twirling his cane.  
                       
And he had a tiny little mustache which he used 
                        to twitch back and forth when he was upset.  
                       
He was a funny little man.  And the last time 
                        I saw him, he was a pink-faced, white-haired 
                        old man who kept patting my hand and saying, 
                        "Keep warm.  Keep warm."  It doesn't seem 
                        fair that the comedians should have to die, 
                        just like everyone else.

Suddenly Hamlet is no longer serious.

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh well.

He casually tosses the skull over his shoulder and kicks it away (just as Yorick would have done).  Hamlet hears people approaching from off stage.

                                                HAMLET
                        But soft!  Here comes the King, the Queen, and 
                        the courtiers.  Let's hide and see what's going on.  

Hamlet and Horatio hide behind some gravestones.  Enter the King, Queen, Laertes and COURTIERS.  They carry the body of Ophelia wrapped in a shroud.  The body remains covered by the shroud throughout the entire scene, so we never actually see the body of Ophelia.

                                                LAERTES
                        Lay my sister's body in the earth, and from her 
                        fair and unpolluted flesh may violets spring!

The body of Ophelia is gently placed in the grave.

                                                HAMLET
                        What?  Is that Ophelia?

                                                QUEEN
                        Farewell, Ophelia.  I had hoped you would have 
                        been my Hamlet's bride.  I thought to have 
                        decked your bridal bed with flowers, instead of 
                        thy grave.

                                                LAERTES
                        Speak not the hated name of Hamlet!  His wicked 
                        deed has caused her death!

The Gravedigger prepares to shovel dirt into the grave.

                                                LAERTES
                        Wait!  Hold off the earth awhile, till I have caught 
                        her once more in my arms.

Laertes climbs down into the grave.

                                                LAERTES
                        Oh heaven, I would give up my newly-granted 
                        claim of succession to the throne, to be buried 
                        with her now.  

Hamlet springs up from his hiding place.

                                                HAMLET  
                        Hey!  Get out of that grave!  If anyone has a right 
                        to give up the throne to be buried with her, it is I, 
                        Hamlet the Dane!

Hamlet leaps into the grave.  There is a horrible crunching sound as he lands, and perhaps a moan from Ophelia.

                                                LAERTES
                        Get off my sister!  You just jumped onto my sister!

Laertes pushes Hamlet off of the body of Ophelia.

                                                LAERTES
                        Ophelia!

 

Laertes grabs the body.  Hamlet tries to pull it away, banging the body against the sides of the grave.  There are faint muffled cries coming from the shroud, but no one notices them.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Give her back!

Laertes and Hamlet have a vicious tug-of-war with the body.  Suddenly, Hamlet lets go, and the body slams into the side of the grave with a sickening thud.

                                                HAMLET
                        OK!  OK, I can tell when I'm not welcome.  

Hamlet climbs out of the grave and exits.  Laertes peeks inside the shroud and shudders.  He angrily turns to the gravedigger.  

                                                LAERTES
                        You might as well go ahead and bury her now!  
                       
She's dead.  

Laertes exits sadly.

                                                KING
                        Gertrude, we must set some watch over your 
                        son!  

Exeunt.

*********************************************************

Scene II  

Scene II takes place in a hall in the castle.  Enter Hamlet and Horatio.

                                                HAMLET
                        So much for this.  You do remember all the 
                        circumstance?  

                                                HORATIO
                        Sure.  Your father, he's a ghost, so you go crazy.  
                       
Then you put on a play, but your uncle doesn't like 
                        it, so you kill Polonius.  His daughter Ophelia 
                        wants to marry you, but you go to England with
                        Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, so she drowns 
                        herself.

                                                HAMLET
                        Is that what's been happening?  I certainly am lucky 
                        to have you around to explain these things to me.  
                       
Anyway, let me tell you what happened to me on 
                        the voyage to England.  The first night on the ship 
                        I couldn't sleep, so I decided to get something to 
                        read.  What I decided to get was the commission 
                        which Claudius had given to Rosencrantz and
                        Guildenstern.  I snuck into their cabin and took 
                        the commission.  It wasn't very interesting until 
                        I got to the part that said that for the good of 
                        England and of Denmark, and for the peace 
                        that stands between them, without delay, Prince 
                        Hamlet's head should be cut off!!!

                                                HORATIO
                        Was that the most interesting part?

                                                HAMLET
                        I thought so.  Didn't you think it was interesting?

Horatio is undecided.

                                                HORATIO
                        Well ...  

                                                HAMLET
                        I know the writing was a little flat, so I decided to
                        make a few revisions.  I rewrote the commission 
                        so that it said that for the good of England and 
                        of Denmark, and for the peace that stands between 
                        them, without delay, Hamlet should be given lots 
                        of money and beautiful naked women.  

Hamlet smiles proudly at Horatio.

                                                HAMLET
                        Don't you think that's better?

                                                HORATIO
                        Why didn't you say Horatio should get the money 
                        and women?  Then you'd have something!

                                                HAMLET
                        You mean you'd have something!  I put the commission 
                        back in Rosencrantz's and Guildenstern's cabin.  
                       
Unfortunately, the next day we were attacked by 
                        pirates, and I never got to England.  Oh, I almost
                        forgot, ...  I did make one other small change in the
                        commission, it's hardly worth mentioning, really.  

                                                HORATIO
                        What was that?

                                                HAMLET
                        I told the English King to have Rosencrantz and 
                        Guildenstern put to death.

Horatio looks accusingly at Hamlet, who looks a little embarrassed.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Well, they deserved it, spying on me for Claudius!  
                       
Anyway, this kind of thing suits them.  I can just 
                        imagine their reaction when they find out what the 
                        commission says.  I can see them in my mind's 
                        eye....

Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with the English EXECUTIONER.

                                                ROSENCRANTZ
                        Well, Guildenstern, here's another fine mess you've 
                        gotten me into.  

Guildenstern starts weeping.  He tries to speak through his tears.

                                               GUILDENSTERN
                        But I didn't do anything!  I....  

The English Executioner leads them off stage.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, who's that coming?

                                                HAMLET
                        Oh, that's just Osric, the courtier.

Enter OSRIC, a young courtier.

                                                OSRIC
                        Your lordship is welcome back to Denmark.  
                       
I bring word from the King.  He proposes to 
                        place a wager on a friendly, sporting duel 
                        between yourself and young Laertes.  The 
                        King shall wager that in a dozen passes of the 
                        sword, Laertes shall not exceed you by three 
                        hits.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, that's good!  That sounds like fun.

                                                HAMLET
                        You think so?  All right, tell the King I'll do it, any 
                        time he's ready.

                                                OSRIC
                        I shall tell him, my lord.

Exit Osric.  Horatio also exits, and Hamlet calls out after him.

                                                HAMLET
                        Hey, where are you going?  

                                                HORATIO
                        To place a bet against you.

Exit Horatio.

                                                HAMLET
                        It's nice to have the confidence of your friends.  
                       
There's something that bothers me about this 
                        duel.  My stepfather, who's already tried to kill 
                        me once, has set up a fencing match with Laertes, 
                        who also hates me.  But Horatio seems to think 
                        the match is a good idea, which means I must 
                        be crazy to agree to it!  But what will come will 
                        come.  The readiness is all.  And I don't think 
                        I'm ready yet!!!  

Enter the King, Queen, Laertes, Osric and various other Courtiers and Attendants.  A moment later Horatio enters, having placed his bet.  

                                                KING
                        Come, Hamlet, come and take this hand from 
                        me.

The King gives Laertes' hand to Hamlet.  They shake hands.

                                                HAMLET
                        Laertes, I want you to know that I'm sorry I 
                        killed your father and caused the death of your
                        sister, but I'll forgive and forget if you will.

                                                LAERTES
                                    (coldly)
                        I am satisfied.

                                                HAMLET
                        Then let's play the match.  Give us the foils.

                                                KING  
                        Give them the foils, young Osric.

Osric brings Hamlet and Laertes two identical, bated fencing foils.  Laertes and Hamlet each take one.

                                                LAERTES
                        This is too heavy for me.  Let me see another.

Osric takes Laertes' foil, and goes off stage to get another one.  

                                                HAMLET
                        This one seems OK.

Osric re-enters with a huge unbated sword for Laertes.  It is much larger than Hamlet's sword.  Laertes takes the giant, deadly sword and takes a practice lunge.

                                                LAERTES
                        Yes, that's better.

                                                HAMLET
                        Say, are these weapons all of the same length?  

                                                OSRIC
                        Of course, my lord.

                                                HAMLET
                        I just wanted to make sure mine wasn't longer.  
                       
I'd hate to have an unfair advantage.

                                                KING
                        Very well.  Let the match begin!

Hamlet and Laertes fence.  Hamlet is fairly fast and agile, and his footwork is unique.  He manages to avoid being hit by Laertes' sword.  

                                                HAMLET
                        You know, Laertes, you should play Horatio 
                        sometime.  He's an expert on fencing.  He'll fence
                        anything he can get his hands on.

Hamlet manages to hit Laertes.

                                                HAMLET
                        One!

                                                LAERTES
                        No.

                                                HAMLET
                        Judgment?  

                                                OSRIC
                        A hit, a very palpable hit.

The King offers Hamlet the poisoned chalice of wine.

                                                KING
                        Congratulations, Hamlet.  Here is a chalice 
                        of wine for your refreshment.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Nice try, Claudius, but it won't work.

                                                KING
                        What do you mean, Hamlet?

                                                HAMLET  
                        I know what you're up to, trying to get me 
                        drunk!  I'm staying sober for this match!  

Hamlet and Laertes fence.  Hamlet scores another hit.

                                                HAMLET
                        Another hit!  What say you?  

                                                LAERTES
                        A touch, a touch, I do confess it.

The Queen takes the poisoned chalice.  

                                                QUEEN
                        I drink to thy good fortune, Hamlet.

                                                KING
                        Gertrude, do not drink!

                                                QUEEN  
                        I will, my lord; I pray you pardon me.

She drinks.  The King speaks quietly to himself.

                                                KING
                        It is the poisoned cup; it is too late.

                                                HAMLET
                        Come, Laertes.

They fence for a while, but no one is hit.  They pause.

                                                OSRIC
                        Nothing either way.  

                                                LAERTES
                        Have at you now!

Suddenly, Laertes stabs at Hamlet before the match has started again.  Hamlet is scratched by the envenomed sword.

                                                HAMLET
                        That was an unthrustworthy attack!

They start to fence again in earnest.  Laertes drops his sword.  Hamlet exchanges swords with him.  Hamlet wounds Laertes.  Suddenly, the Queen falls.

                                                OSRIC
                        Look to the Queen!

                                                KING
                        She swoons to see them bleed.

                                                QUEEN
                        No, no, the drink, the drink, -- Oh, my dear 
                        Hamlet, -- the drink, the drink --  

Hamlet picks up the chalice and offers it to her.

                                                HAMLET
                        You want a drink?

                                                QUEEN
                        I am poisoned!

She dies.

                                                HAMLET
                        What???

Laertes falls.

                                                LAERTES
                        Hamlet, thou art slain.

                                                HAMLET
                        Don't be ridiculous!  This is a comedy!

                                                LAERTES
                        Thou art slain!  The treacherous instrument is in 
                        thy hand, unbated and envenomed.  Thy mother's 
                        poisoned.  The King, the King's to blame!  

Hamlet is furious.  He turns to face Claudius.  

                                                HAMLET
                        Thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,  
                        I'll kill you now!!!  

However, before Hamlet can act, he starts thinking again.

                                                HAMLET
                        But which shall I use, the envenomed sword 
                        or the poisoned drink?  The sword would be 
                        more bloody and more certain, but it would 
                        seem too like an honorable soldier's death.  
                       
The poison is a more ignominious end, but 
                        there is little left, and how can I be sure he'd 
                        drink it down.  On the other hand, maybe 
                        I shouldn't kill him at all, now that his treachery 
                        is known to all, but let him live on in disgrace, 
                        until the people do....

Everyone who is still alive yells at Hamlet.

                                                ALL
                        Kill him already!  Make up your mind and kill 
                        him!!!  

                                                HAMLET

                        Oh, what the hell!

Hamlet stabs Claudius with the envenomed sword, and at the same time pours the poisoned drink down his throat.  Claudius dies.

                                                LAERTES
                        He is justly served.  Exchange forgiveness with me, 
                        noble Hamlet!  I blame you not for mine and my 
                        father's death.  Blame me not for thine!  

Laertes dies.  Hamlet collapses, and Horatio goes to him.

                                                HAMLET
                        I am dying, Horatio.  I'd hoped the ending would 
                        be funnier than this.

                                                HORATIO
                        You want me to tell some jokes?

                                                HAMLET
                        I didn't think I'd die, as long as I kept this a comedy.  
                       
Maybe killing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern wasn't 
                        such a funny idea after all.  Horatio, how is it that 
                        you're the only major character to survive?  The 
                        only one in the entire play?

                                                HORATIO
                        It's funny you should ask.  I didn't think I was gonna 
                        live.  In fact, I was so sure I was gonna die, I bet 
                        this guy named Will Shakespeare 200 kroner that 
                        I'd die before the play was over, and what do you 
                        think happens?  I lose the bet!  Just my luck, huh?

                                                HAMLET
                        The rest is silence.

Hamlet dies.  The sound of military drums comes from off stage.

                                                HORATIO
                        Hey, what's that noise?

Osric runs off stage to find out.  He returns.

                                                OSRIC
                        Young Fortinbras, with conquest comes from 
                        Poland.

Enter YOUNG FORTINBRAS and some of his soldiers.  Young Fortinbras has a ski-slope shaped nose, and speaks with rapid-fire delivery.

                                                FORTINBRAS
                        Hi, this is Young "Happy To Be Back In Denmark" 
                        Fortinbras, and I gotta tell you, I thought I'd seen 
                        bloodshed in Poland, but this is ridiculous.  I was 
                        going to give the Danish court a twenty-one gun 
                        salute, but it looks like someone beat me to it.  
                       
You know, a funny thing happened on the way 
                        to the castle.  I ran into the English Ambassador, 
                        and he told me that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern 
                        are dead.  I said, "Who isn't?"  But I love Elsinore, 
                        it's gotta be the only place on Earth where they 
                        built a moat to protect the people outside from the 
                        violence inside the castle.  But seriously, folks, 
                        such a sight as this becomes the field, but here 
                        shows much amiss.  Go bid the soldiers shoot.

Exeunt, bearing off the dead bodies; after which a peal of ordinance is shot off.

********************************************************

THE END

2000 by Richard Nathan.  All rights reserved

The author grants all internet uses to print these scripts for their own, personal, non-commercial use.  No other use may be made without the author's permission.  Without limiting the foregoing, the plays may not be staged without the author's express  permission.

Send e-mail to the author at Richard-Nathan@att.net.

 

 

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