Hamlet for the Shakespeare-Impaired

Act 2, Scene 2

[Elsinore. A room in the Castle.  Enter King and Queen with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern]

King: Welcome, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. We always love to have you visit, but this time our reason for inviting you was twofold.  We need your help.  I suppose you've heard that Hamlet's been acting quite nuts lately.  He's like a totally different person.  I know he was upset by his father's death, but there must be more to it than that.  You two were his childhood buddies.  Maybe if you hang out with him for a while you can figure out why he's acting so oddly.
Queen: Gentlemen, Hamlet talks of you often.  You're two of his favorite people in the whole world.  If you could please do us this favor, we would be ever so grateful.
Rosencrantz: Your Majesties, you could order us to do this rather than request.
Guildenstern: But we both agree.  We'll do whatever you want.
King: Thanks, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Queen: Thanks, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.   Now, please go see Hamlet immediately.   You there, show these gentlemen where my son is.
Guildenstern: I hope we can be of some use to you and help Hamlet.
Queen: Me too.
[Exit Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with some Attendants. Enter Polonius.]
Polonius: The ambassadors are back from Norway, sire.
King: Oh, good! Thanks for telling me.
Polonius: Think nothing of it, Your Excellency.  I live to serve.  And, I think I know why Hamlet's insane.
King: Really?  Oh, tell me!
Polonius: First hear what the ambassadors have to say.
King: Show them in.
[Exit Polonius. ]
King:  Did you hear that, Gertrude, dear?  He's figured out why your son is acting so oddly!
Queen: I doubt his problem is anything but his father's death and our over-hasty marriage.
King: We'll figure it out sooner or later..
[Enter Polonius, Voltemand, and Cornelius. ]
King:  Welcome, my good friends. Voltemand, what news do you have from Norway?
Voltemand: Their king send his warmest greetings.  He says he doesn't like how his nephew, young Fortinbras, is marching around with an army, either.  At first he thought he might be getting ready to attack Poland, but after he looked into the matter some more, he found out Fortinbras is really planning on acting against you, sire.  He was pretty mad at the thought that Fortinbras would go behind his back and take advantage of him while he's old and sick.  He gave him a stern reprimand, and Fortinbras swore to his uncle that he would leave you alone.  The King was so happy he gave his nephew a bunch of money and told him he could go attack Poland, instead.
[Voltemand gives King Claudius a paper. ]
Voltemand:  He wants your permission to march his army through Denmark on his way to Poland.  The terms are there on that paper.  He promises not to bother us.
King: This looks all right.  I'll read it over more carefully later and then send a reply to Norway.  Meanwhile, thanks for all your hard work.  Go get some rest before the feast tonight.  And welcome home!
[Exit Ambassadors.]
Polonius: Now that we're done with that peice of business, I'll get down to my other news.  You see, your most glorious Majesties, I believe that Hamlet, noble as he is, has gone mad.  His wits have totally deserted him.  He's bonkers.  Completely nuts.
Queen: Cut to the chase, here, Polonius.  What are you saying?.
Polonius: Madam, your son is crazy.  It's a pity, but it's true.  But why is he crazy, you ask?  I have a theory.  I have a daughter, you know.  She showed me this letter she recently received.  [Reads the letter. ]  "To the celestial, and my soul's idol, the most beautified Ophelia."
And then get a load of this!  "In your heart, my sweet, darling, Ophelia--"'
Queen: Hamlet sent this to her?
Polonius: Please, madam, be patient.  I'll get to that.  [Reads. ]  "You may doubt that the stars are fire...  You may doubt that the sun does move...  You may doubt many truths...  But never doubt that I love you.  Oh, dear Ophelia, I'm not any good at writing poetry.  I can never get the meter righ!  But one thing I do know is that I love you!  Please believe it.  Adieu.  Your forever, Hamlet "  My daughter showed this letter to me like a good little girl, and told me about previoius gestures of the same nature.
King: What has she done about it?
Polonius: What do you think of me?
King: You are an honorable man.
Polonius: Thank you, sir.  Even before Ophelia told me, I suspected it.  I couldn't just sit there and let something improper happen.  So I told her she shouldn't persue a relationship with a Prince, and to send back all his letters and gifts.  She did just that.  So, to make a long story short, he's depressed because she won't pay any attention to him.  Eventually he just couldn't take it any more and he went crazy.
King: Do you think this is the reason?
Queen: It certainly could be.
Polonius: Have I ever been wrong before?
King: I don't think so..
Polonius: [Pointing to his head and shoulder.]  Cut off my head if I'm wrong about this.  I'm going to keep an eye out and see if I can confirm my guess.
King: How can we prove it?
Polonius: You know sometimes he walks for hours here in the lobby.
Queen: So he does.
Polonius: At such a time I'll send my daughter here.  Sir, you and I can hide behind a tapestry and listen.   If he's not pining away with love for Ophelia, I'll move to the country and start a hog farm.
King: We'll try it.
[Enter Hamlet, reading a book.]
Queen: Here comes the poor boy, now.
Polonius: Please, Your Majesties, leave so I can talk to him alone.  Please?
[Exit King and Queen with Attendants.]
Polonius:  Hello, Hamlet.  How are you?
Hamlet: My God!.
Polonius: Do you know me, my lord?
Hamlet: Of course I know you! You're a fishmonger.
Polonius:  Uh...no!
Hamlet: Oh,  Darn.  Well, I hope you're just as honest..
Polonius: Honest?
Hamlet: Yes, sir. The way the world is these days, only one man in ten thousand is honest.
Polonius: That's very true.
Hamlet: You know, if you leave a dead dog out in the sun too long, maggots will form inside it, and then--  Do you have a daughter?
Polonius: Yes.
Hamlet: Well, don't let her walk in the sun, or a baby might form inside her.  Be very careful about that.
Polonius: [Aside.] Hmm.  He's  talking about my daughter.  Yet he didn't even recognize me at first.  He thought I was a fishmonger.  He's far gone.  I remember when I was young I went half crazy with love for young women, but never like this!   I'll speak to him again.  What are you reading, Hamlet?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Polonius: What is it about?
Hamlet: About three hundred pages.
Polonius: I mean, what is the subject of the book?
Hamlet: Slanders, sir.  The awful writer says that old men have gray beards, wrinkled faces, get confused easily, and become weak. Of course, it's all true, but I don't think it should be written down like this.  After all, you'd be my age if you went backward.  You know, backwards, like a crab.
Polonius: [Aside] He sounds crazy, but there's some logic there, too.  Hmm...  Would you like to take a walk outside, sir?
Hamlet: Into my grave?
Polonius: Well, I suppose your grave would be outside, yes. [Aside.]  There always seems to be more than he's saying.  Sometimes people are only somewhat crazy, though.  I think I'll go now and call for Ophelia...  Sir, I shall take my leave of you, now.
Hamlet: You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I would willingly part with.  Except my life.  Yes...except my life...
Polonius: Farewell, my lord.
Hamlet: These tedious old fools!
Polonius: If you're looking for Lord Hamlet, he's right over there.
Rosencrantz: Thanks.
[Exit Polonius. ]
Guildenstern: Hamlet!
Rosencrantz: Old buddy!  Pal!  How are you?
Hamlet: My friends! How are you, Guildenstern?
Ah, Rosencrantz! How are you doing?
Rosencrantz: We're doing fine.
Guildenstern: Can't complain.
Hamlet: Lady Luck has been kind to you, then?
Rosencrantz: Yes..
Hamlet: Just how kind?
Guildenstern: We're on very good terms with her..
Hamlet: Dame Fortune's lovers.  Good for you.  So, what's up?
Rosencrantz: Not much.  Everything's been great.
Hamlet: Oh, come on, now.  Don't lie.  Let me ask you something more specific.  What did you did you do to Fortune that she sends you to prison?
Guildenstern: Prison?
Hamlet: Denmark's a prison.
Rosencrantz: Then the whole world is one, 'cause we like Denmark..
Hamlet: The world is a prison.  There are plenty of jails, insane asylums and dungeons, and Denmark is one of the worst.
Rosencrantz: We don't think so.
Hamlet: Suit yourself.  To me it's a prison.
Rosencrantz: Well, then your ambition makes it one. You desire greater things.
Hamlet: O God, I could be trapped inside a nutshell and think myself a king of infinite space, if only I didn't have such bad dreams.
Guildenstern: Your dreams are ambition, Hamlet. Ambition is the shadow of dreams.
Hamlet: A dream itself is just a shadow.
Rosencrantz: I agree.  Ambition is fleeting.  Like a shadow's shadow.
Hamlet: Then so are our beggars bodies.  And our monarchs and heroes are the beggars' shadows. Let's go find something else to do.  I don't feel like thinking any more.
Both. We'll come and help you.
Hamlet: Oh, geez, no.  You're friends, not servants.  Believe me, I have more servants than I'll ever need.  So, tell me, friends, why are you here at Elsinore?
Rosencrantz: We just wanted to visit you.
Hamlet: I don't have much anymore. I don't even have much thanks to give. But I thank you. But weren't you sent for? Did you come of your own free will, or did someone ask you to come. Come on, now, tell me the truth.
Guildenstern: What are we supposed to say?
Hamlet: Why, anything. But get tothe point. You've been sent here. I can tell that by the looks on your faces. I know the King and Queen sent you to spy on me.
Rosencrantz: Why would they do a thing like that?
Hamlet: You tell me. Come on, guys, spill it. We've known each other too long for secrets. Tell me now, were you sent here?
Rosencrantz: [Aside to Guildenstern.] What should we say?
Hamlet: [Aside.] I'm watching. If they really are my friends, they'll be honest with me.
Guildenstern: Uh...yes, Hamlet, we were sent to talk to you.
Hamlet: And I bet I know why, too. So I'll tell you, so you don't have to betray the King and Queen's trust by spilling the beans. I don't know why, but lately I've been really depressed. Everything looks dark and bleak to me. Humanity is a big joke. I know it's accomplished a lot of fantastic things, but to me we're all just walking dirt. Men aren't anything special to me anymore. And women aren't, either, so you can wipe those smirks off your faces.
Rosencrantz: Women? No, no, I wasn't thinking about women.
Hamlet: Why did you laugh then, when I said "Men aren't anything special"?
Rosencrantz: I was just thinking about how, if men don't interest you, you're going to be bored out of your wits at the acting troupe tonight. We passed them on the way to town and asked them to come perform here at the palace.
Hamlet: Really? Well, I admit that does sound interesting. Their efforts won't be wasted. Who are they?
Rosencrantz: They're the tragedians from the city.
Hamlet: How come they're traveling? I thought they were well off in the city. Why leave all that?
Rosencrantz: I think there was a scandal of some sort.
Hamlet: Are they still as popular as they were when I was last in the city?
Rosencrantz: No.
Hamlet: How did that happen? Are they getting old and boring?
Rosencrantz: No. They're still in top form. I think there was some uproar about their treatment of the children in the troupe.
Hamlet: What, are they all children? Who takes care of them? Anyway, they'll grow up to be actors themselves, most likely.
Rosencrantz: All the same, some of them got sent to jail.
Hamlet: Really?
Guildenstern: It was quite the scandal.
Hamlet: But everything more or less all right now?
Rosencrantz: More or less.
Hamlet: It's not really all that strange. After all, my uncle is King of Denmark, and the people who insulted him while my father was still alive are now spending tons of money for portraits of him. Still, something seems fishy.
[Trumpets sound for the actors.]
Guildenstern: Here comes the acting troupe, now!
Hamlet: Oh, good. Now then, guys, welcome to Elsinore.  But I should tell you...my uncle/stepfather and mother-aunt are deceived.
Guildenstern: About what?
Hamlet: I am only crazy when the wind blows north-north-west. When the wind is
southerly I'm sane.  In other words, don't believe everything you see.
[Enter Polonius. ]
Polonius: Hello, gentlemen!
Hamlet: Whoa, look Guildenstern; there's a giant baby!
Rosencrantz: They say old men sometimes revert to childish ways.
Hamlet: I bet he's coming to tell me about the acting troupe.
Polonius: Hello, Lord Hamlet.  I have news for you.
Hamlet: Funny, I have news for you, too. When Roscius was an actor in Rome--
Polonius: An acting troupe has just arrived.
Hamlet: Buzz, buzz!  Look, I'm a bee!
Polonius: Oh, good grief!
Hamlet: Did the actors come by donkey?  You know, ass?  Hee hee.  I said ass.  Ha ha!
Polonius: Uh...I don't know.  But it doesn't matter.  These are famous, versatile actors.  The best around!
Hamlet: Oh Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure you had!
Polonius: What treasure are you talking about??
Hamlet: Why, "One fair daughter, and no more, the which he loved passing well."
Polonius: [Aside.]  Still tallking about my daughter...
Hamlet: Aren't I right, old Jephthah?
Polonius: If you call me Jephthah, I do have a daughter who I love passing well.
Hamlet: That doesn't make sense.
Polonius: What does?
Hamlet: Oh, yippe yi ki yay, whoopee wow.  Here come some of the actors.
[Enter four or five actors. ]
Hamlet:  Hey, welcome!  Good to see you!   You didn't use to have a beard, did you?  And you, young lady, you were knee-high to a grasshopper when I saw you last.  Welcome, all of you.  Why don't you demonstrate your talents.  Give a speech.
First Actor: What speech, my good lord?
Hamlet: I heard you give a speech once, but it was never acted in the play.  It was a great play.  Very well written. I remember in particular the part where Aeneas told Dido about Priam's death.  Remember that one?  I think it went like this...

You know, that speech.  Remember it?
Polonius: Very well spoken, sir.  Excellent inflection.
First Actor:  Ah, yes, I remember.  I'll continue...

"Now he meets his prey
And they fight a lot
One falls over in the clay
Ilium blazes with fire hot
A huge battle raged
Blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah

Polonius: This is too long. Someone shut him op!
Hamlet: Yeah, well, your beard is too long, too.  Please, sir, go on.  Get to the part about Hecuba.
First Actor:   "But who, O who, had seen the mobled queen--"
Hamlet: "The mobled queen"?
Polonius: That's good! "Mobled queen" is good.
First Actor:

Polonius: For goodness' sake, the dork is crying!  Would someone please tell him to shut up already?!
Hamlet: Okay, fine.  We can hear the rest later.  Now, Polonius, find these actors a place to stay.  They really know how to talk, don't they?  Great stuff.
Polonius: Oh, all right.  I suppose. But I don't like them very much.
Hamlet: God, man, so what?  Lots of people have faults, but if we were all punished for them, we'd all be dead.  Besides, being polite to them even when you don't like them will make you look good.  Now go.
Polonius: Come, sirs.
Hamlet: Follow him, friends. You can perform your play tomorrow.
[Exit Polonius and all but the First Actor.]
Did you hear what I said earlier?  Could you perform "The Murder of Gonzago"?
First Actor: Yes, sir.
Hamlet: Great.  Perform it tomorrow.  If I write a little speech, could you work it into the play somehow?
First Actor: Sure.
Hamlet: Great.  Now follow that old guy and don't make fun of him.
[Exit First Actor. ]
Hamlet:  [To Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.] My good friends, I've got to go now.  Oh, and, again, welcome to Elsinore.
Rosencrantz: Thanks!
[Exit Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.]
Hamlet: Bye!  Well, I'm alone now.  I'm such a poo-poo head!  That silly actor worked himself into such a state that he ended up crying, all over some dumb old play.  He doesn't know any of the people in the play, but he got that upset over them.  Someone who can act that well could really manipulate people, if they wanted to.  But look at me.  I've been trying for umpteen weeks to kill my uncle and avenge my father, but I can't get up the courage to do anything.  But is there anyone scolding me?  Calling me a coward?  Yelling at me?  Tearing out my beard?  No.  But I hate my uncle!  He's a treacherous, evil man!  I'm such an ass.  I haven't anything to restore my father's honor.  His ghost has even visited me, urging me to act.  How much bigger a hint to I need?  But I don't do anything about it but waltz around making sarcastic comments and picking on people.  Man, am I dumb!  Uncle Claudius is enjoying the crown...not to mention my mother...  Ick.  I know!  I'll have this acting troupe put on a play that recreates the events surrounding my father's murder.  I'll watch Uncle Claudius at the performance to see how he reacts.  If he gets angry or comfortable, then I'll know for sure he's guilty.  Just to be safe.  That ghost that visited me might not have been Dad after all.  It could have been a demon sent from Hell to trick me into killing my uncle.  I think I should have more proof before I go around killing people.  This play will be the perfect opportunity to jab at the King's conscience.