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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Villainy of Hamlet (Part 1 of 2), Ian Singleton

A story in blank verse having taken place during Hamlet's journey en route to England

Far, far, far from everything
I know, I watch the sun on Elsinore
descend, a deep red stain draped o’er
a blood-drenched stage, so Greek a tragedy.
Peace, wealth, and too much good, methinks,
has caused it all. The kingdom Hamlet ‘tis
a lamb deserving naught but sacrifice.

There’s too much coddling, too much play, and too
much laughter, too much thought, yet more there’s too
much love, and too much good aborts me in
my very act of vengeance. Now become
I murder marked. Good Hamlet slain. I say
my better self lay slain! No one can hear.

Our ship now lurches and I stagger, grab
a cable, grasp its width, the same as dear
Ophelia’s wrist, as I have taken hers
before. The Phönix sails to England, land
of murderers. I stare o’erboard upon
the sea, a phalanx made of open mouths
and each one clacks upon my fortune. Sad
indeed, for I know not the tongue they speak.
Aye, sad to ponder poor Ophelia. She,
methinks, her father same, is victim of
impulsive excess thought. Such is my love.

The sea’s salt lips do gently rock the crew
thus into walking slumber as we scud
across its face. I turn and see the two
grim figures. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!

“I see the lullaby of motion hath
not drowned your passions, friends!” They nod and both
glance tight-lipped at the other. “Friends!
My ever settling and resettling friends!
You both are open at the maw. I see
inside your empty stomachs, troubled minds.
And I as well. Perhaps a sailor’s prized
repast will gorge our yawping guts.”

Again, the two look friend to friend but not

at me. Friend Guildenstern screws up his eyes.
If only I could see inside their lobes
the way the truest knower did, the One
who saw through souls and died for them. I must
be better-witted to match these dullards both,
who make together not a rabble but
a cunning double-headed snake in their
commiserating brains. I shall forbear.

Now down we go below the deck to sit
within the galley. But I bid us stop
before the empty cargo bay. “Why
no goods along with such good company?
What symbol have we yet to show the king's
benevolence except this empty floor
that's stained by old dried blood?”

But Guildenstern
does naught but nod and glance upon the floor.
And Rosencrantz displays a grin and wrings
his palms. “Excuse me, sir. I see no blood,”
says Rosencrantz. He opens wide the door.

Now Guildenstern has passed already, “Nor
did I, my lord. Let’s eat. I’m famished.”

is there although you dare not look!” I scream
in hatchling’s voice. Poor Rosencrantz retreats
himself against the wall and bows his head.
Then Guildenstern returns and steps inside
the hold. He looks upon the floor. “’Tis so,
my lord. But now ‘tis naught but shadow of
a stain. And naught but save for that,” says he.

I brace, send Rosencrantz to run ahead
from fear. “Hast thou no living honor for
spilt blood, though blackened it may be? The air
surrounding causes such corruption, no?”

“Again, sir,” Guildenstern drones on, “you have

surpassed our base morality and shown
your own to be superb.”

“Again, and yet
again,” I mock dear Guildenstern. “Now on
to our respite,” I say.

Dear Rosencrantz
stands far ahead and gestures to the door.
And while he smiles, my thinking turns once more
to blood as if that word, that “honor” word,
made blossom wounds yet halfway healed. But what
of honor have they shown to me, methinks,
that I am sent away? My Lord, I see
no future, still no present, even has
the past forsaken me.

The undergirdle
of the ship is made of crooked warped oak wood.
It keeps the rhythm of the sea that soon
takes hold of every shipmate's heart. Each plank
becomes a rib connected to the spine
and lined from bowsprit to the stern. And all
creeps slow and fast unto this center. If
I lie upon the spine, connected to
that downward-pointed sail, the keel, that is
a dowser from the deep, I could become
aware of each desire, emotion, base
distraction of all men aboard. I need
but listen and each drop of brain would leave
through resting ear and slide along the plank
then whisper into mine each secret known.

It's here I lay myself once entered. “Seest!
He lies there to astonish us,” I hear
the wiser whisper to his friend.

“Good friends!
I shall be thus when I have drunk enough
to meet your ranks,” I say and spread my arms

outstretched such as He suffered. “Sir! You do
right mock our wits severely,” Guildenstern
replies. “Indeed you make it hard to call
you friend.”

At this remark, I stand abrupt.
“’Tis true and better that I keep conceits
like that inside my mouth, deceive my friends
in order that I not offend but smile
and cheat the peace of meaning, honesty,
and manly truth.”

Then Guildenstern sits on
a bench. “Well said, my lord. Here’s drink for you.”
He fetches a tankard. “Please. Continue. Tell
your lesson.”

“O! My lesson, sharpest Guildenstern?
Methinks, ‘tis you who are the man of the
occasion.” Then I slap friend Guildenstern
upon the back and take my seat next to
him on the bench. Friend Rosencrantz stares wide
at both of us and, speechless, lifts his tankard
up and drinks. “I’ll watch and drink while you
debate. For I’m the cleverest triumvir.”
He swigs again.

I keep my cat-fanged smile
and Guildenstern his drooping mug. We stare.
“’Twas low and underdone,” says Rosencrantz.

“Shut up your mouth, you fool, for every crew
man’s sake!,” yells Guildenstern. With this he hands
the tankard back without a glance until,
returned and once more filled, he sets it down
before him.


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