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Excerpt from an unpublished introduction to an unpublished anthology of contemporary Russian drama.

By John Freedman



аааа Viktor Korkiya (born in 1948) is a poet and playwright whom one study has placed alongside Vladimir Sorokin, Dmitry Prigov (born in 1940) and Lyudmila Petrushevskaya as one of the most significant writers of so-called postmodernist tendencies in Russian drama.[1]а I hesitate to hang the vague "postmodernist" tag on Korkiya for I believe his art outreaches any category we may impose upon him. However, the label does help undermine an even more limiting impression that has gained currency in regards to his art Ч that his dramas are lightweight knockabouts.


аааа Korkiya's farce about Joseph Stalin and Lavrenty Beria, The Mystery Man, or, I Am Poor Soso Dzhugashvili, enjoyed almost supernatural success following its premiere in 1988 at the Moscow State Universityа Theater. (It subsequently was produced in over seventy theaters throughout the Soviet Union.) However, the university theater's interpretations of this and subsequent Korkiya works as trivial farces has blinded many to the plays' depth of insight and mastery of craft. Also contributing to a certain prejudice against the writer is that he usually writes in verse and often builds new works on the structure of classical sources. His plays include such titles as The Invincible Armada (after Lope de Vega), Satanic Comedy (Don Juan), Don Quixote and Sancho Panza on the Island of Taganrog and The Song of the Goat, or, What's Hecuba to Us? (using Euripides' Hecuba as a springboard).


аааа, which was completed in the year 2000 and originally bore the explanatory title of The Late Shakespeare Scholar Alexander Anikst Explains Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Hamlet to Hamlet, is Korkiya's first play written primarily in prose. That and the fact that the piece should be of particular interest to an English-speaking audience were the determining factors in my including specifically this play here.[2]а


аааа Korkiya at his best can create fireworks of comic language and linguistic comedy. In the past I have translated one of Russia's greatest comic playwrights, Nikolai Erdman, and I think it worth noting that I experienced many of the same frustrations and joys in translating Korkiya as I did years ago translating Erdman. Korkiya builds comedy by rubbing a sore spot at length. His dialogue often circles in a single spot as repetition and subtle development slowly lead us to laughter before leaping on to the next cycle. As was true of Erdman and Shakespeare both, puns and elaborate word play are a major feature of Korkiya's style.


аааа For all the farce and tomfoolery, however, Korkiya's Hamlet is one of his darkest plays. (Satanic Comedy, a striking work about death and the devil, is probably the only one that goes further into despair.) The author here has created a world in which every attempt to break through into freedom is denied. The canonical characters of the play are trapped even when they try to swap masks with other characters (as Hamlet does with Polonius and the "new" character of Alexander Anikst, and as Claudius and Gertrude do with characters from Antony and Cleopatra in the second act). Nothing they can do will allow them to avoid their destiny, just as nothing they can do will help them make sense of the roles they must play eternally.


аааа The title character of Alexander Anikst takes his name from Russia's most celebrated Shakespeare scholar of the 20th century, a man who lived from 1910 to 1988 and whose books and articles have educated generations of Russians interested in English theater and drama. His role in Korkiya's play is deeply tragic. He is introduced into the play, perhaps, in a way similar to that of Dante's poet entering hell. But if in the 14th century Dante's poet could remain aloof of all the sad souls accosting him, Korkiya's Anikst does not have that luxury. He is as trapped in the world of Hamlet as a Dantean sinner might be in stinking mire. Tongue-tied, frightened, confused and powerless, Anikst in death is utterly unable to do what his real-life namesake did so famously for so many readers: He cannot explain Hamlet's tragedy.


аааа What do we make of the play's numerous references to birth or rebirth? One implication is that art is a place where eternity can exist. Hamlet, Polonius, Ophelia and the rest are reborn each time their play is performed. Perhaps Anikst has achieved immortality by being "born into" a work of art. Ophelia, for example, teases him of wailing "like a newborn baby." Much later, Hamlet will encourage Polonius by telling him he is "in transition." He goes on to say, "Your birth into a new form is progressing wonderfully. As soon as your umbilical chord is cut you will immediately feel relief!" At the outset of the play, the skull that Hamlet and Anikst repeatedly trade back and forth is said to be that of one who "is not yet born" but "has already died." Life and death, people and ghosts merely change places temporarily until it is time once again to go through the reverse metamorphosis.


аааа I find Viktor Korkiya's Hamlet to be a stirring, complex work that, like the character Anikst, has no answers, but, like the character Hamlet, poses a myriad of intriguing, probing questions.




In Honor of the Great Tragedy's 400th Anniversary (1601-2001)



By Viktor Korkiya



Translated by John Freedman


Original and adapted poetry translated by Timothy C. Westphalen

















and others


Anikst's Prologue


ааааааааааа Ladies and gentlemen!

ааааааааааа Our tragedy is that your tragedy is our tragedy. When we reach the end of the show you will understand what I mean. But by then it will be too late. Therefore, before it is too late, I wish explain to you what, later, there will be no point in explaining.

ааааааааааа In our tragedy, I play the part of the late Shakespeare scholar Alexander Anikst. My job is to explain the unexplainable. It is a profoundly tragic role and only a genuinely great actor can play it. If you doubt that, I suggest you leave the auditorium at once and not watch this show at all. A ticket to leave the theater costs exactly what you paid to enter. What's that? No, it costs twice as much to leave during the intermission.

ааааааааааа During the exodus I would request those remaining to observe a deathly silence. Our tragedy begins with people leaving the theater! It is the author's opinion that all tragedies so begin.

ааааааааааа Ladies and gentlemen!

ааааааааааа The sun glasses I am wearing indicate I am dead. The author maintains that he has consulted with a dream image of the Ghost of Shakespeare and the Ghost told him that, personally, he, the Ghost, has nothing against employing the color of black to indicate aliens from the world of the dead. However, he emphasized he is not actually Shakespeare but merely his Ghost. And also that he doesn't have the right to speak for Shakespeare.

ааааааааааа As you understand, this is an irresolvable situation: Shakespeare cannot appear to the author from the other world in any other form than that of Shakespeare's Ghost, while Shakespeare's Ghost is not Shakespeare for the simple reason that he is a Ghost.

ааааааааааа Ladies and gentlemen! The curtain will now rise and our tragedy will become your tragedy. There is nothing tragic about that; only you ought to be prepared for any eventuality. Including everything inevitable. Because in our tragedy, everything is a tragedy.

ааааааааааа Curtain!


Trumpets. The curtain rises.




Hamlet, dressed entirely in black, stands with a flute in one hand and a skull in the other as if he were a Russian tsar holding a scepter and orb.


ANIKST. I don't believe it!

HAMLET. Why not? As you can see yourself, I exist. Will you permit me to play my flute?

ANIKST. My lord!

HAMLET. (Corrects him.) My good lord. Won't you please hold my skull? Only don't drop it. I don't have another. (He plays then suddenly breaks off the melody. ) Perhaps you would like to play? I'll hold your skull.

ANIKST. (Lovingly.) I don't make music, my good lord.

HAMLET. Why not?

ANIKST. I don't know how, my lord!

HAMLET. Shall I teach you?

ANIKST. (Lovingly.) Act three. The famous "mousetrap," the play-within-the-play. The brilliant episode with the flute.

HAMLET. Very good. These are the stops.

ANIKST. My good lord, I don't intend to play upon you.

HAMLET. Do you truly believe you can explain to me my tragedy?

ANIKST. To a degree, my lord.

HAMLET. To what degree? Pardon me, but what is your degree?

ANIKST. I am a Doctor of Philosophy.

HAMLET. A dead Doctor of Philosophy.

ANIKST. My good lord, I have one request. Please don't call me dead. I find it unpleasant. I wish to remain myself.

HAMLET. Give me your skull. That's my skull Ч I asked for yours. Why do you stare at me so? To resemble yourself is the first sign of death. The living never resemble themselves. In order to become yourself, you first must die. But practically no one can bring himself to do that. Even dead, you wish to conceal your death. Why is that doctor? Perhaps you're not a scholar, but a gravedigger?


Anikst drops the skull.


ANIKST. Forgive me, my good lord.

HAMLET. (Picks up the skull.) There once were eyes here. Living eyes. Now you can stick your fingers in these sockets. Stick your fingers in there. Fear not. Probe the dwelling of what used to be a mind. Perhaps even an immortal soul. Let the dead bury their dead, said Christ. And then was resurrected.

ANIKST. My good lord!

HAMLET. This is I in the form of a skull. Or you. Or he who is not yet born. But has already died. (To the audience.) Ladies and gentlemen! The good doctor Anikst will now pronounce a monologue on life and death.


HAMLET. (Holds the skull out to him.) Only don't drop it again.

ANIKST. My good lord, I can't. The monologue is not my genre.

HAMLET. No tragedy in that. I'll feed you your lines.

ANIKST. No, my good lord.

HAMLET. Then my skull will not save you.

ANIKST. What must I be saved from?

HAMLET. From death after death. Do you see that rug?

ANIKST. You mean that curtain?

HAMLET. A curtain is a curtain. A rug is a rug.

ANIKST. There is no rug here, my good lord.

HAMLET. There is, but it is invisible. Take off your glasses. You look blind in them.


Anikst removes his glasses. His eyes are closed.


аааа Now open your eyes. Don't be afraid, open them.

ANIKST. I can't, my good lord.

HAMLET. You can. You can, but you are afraid.

ANIKST. I cannot do it.

HAMLET. You must. Or you will never see what the invisible rug is concealing... (He disappears behind the curtain.)

ANIKST. My good lord!


Polonius emerges from behind the curtain in a Roman toga and dark glasses.


POLONIUS. Where is he?


Anikst is silent.


аааа Don't play deaf, dumb and blind. Whose ghost are you?


Anikst drops the skull again.


аааа Whose skull is that? (Picks it up, looks it over.) I'm taking the skull. (Disappears behind the curtain.)

ANIKST. My good lord!


Enter the Ghost from behind the curtain. He is covered by a sheet with holes cut in it for the eyes. Anikst bumps into him. They both feel each other as if they are blind.


GHOST. ааааааа O horror!а Horror!а O great horror!

ааа ааааааа Haven't you seen Hamlet, man?а I thought

ааа ааааааа I heard the prince's voice.а Hark:

ааа ааааааа I am the doleful spirit of his father.

ааа ааааааа I am that Specter that wanders Europe.

ааа ааааааа Lord!а Do You hearken?а You're a corpse yourself.

ааа ааааааа O horror!а Horror!а O great horror!


Disappears behind the curtain.


ANIKST. My good lord!


Enter the gravediggers from behind the curtain.


FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. Hey there, dead man!


FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. We are gravediggers.

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. Your gravediggers.

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. I am the first gravedigger.

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. I am the second.

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. We are your gravediggers.

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. We are here to bury you.

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. And we will bury you. (Pulls out a measuring tape and measures the length of Anikst's body.)

ANIKST. (Shouts.) My good lord!

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. Don't shout, dead man. We have work to do.

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. Don't sweat it. You're a Ph.D. and we are doctors, too.

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. You're a dead man and we are dead men.

ANIKST. (Shouts.) My good lord!

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. Do you want to remain unburied?


Anikst is silent.


FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. To want or not to want.


Anikst is silent.


SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. You see? You don't want.

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. To see or not to see?

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. You see? You don't see.


SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. You know who you look like when you shout with your eyes closed?


Anikst is silent.


FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. Okay, now we're going to dress you.

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. You will look just like yourself.а

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. The black shoes must go.

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. Off they go! (Takes off Anikst's black shoes.)

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. And on with the white slippers.


ANIKST. (Shouts.) My good lord!

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. My good lord, is right. Foot a little higher.

ANIKST. (Shouts.) My good lord!

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. That's right, my lord. Now the other.

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. Shroud. (Hands it to his partner.)

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. Shroud. (Demonstrates a straight jacket.)

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. (Sings.) "White his shroud as the mountain snow..."

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. (Catching up the tune.) "A pit of clay for to be dug..."

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. There's nothing I love more than burying doctors!

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. You doctors look good in white.

BOTH GRAVEDIGGERS. а White his shroud as the mountain snow,

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа A pit of clay for to be dug.

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. Sing along, dead man.

BOTH GRAVEDIGGERS. а White his shroud as the mountain snow,

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа A pit of clay for to be dug.


They put the straight jacket on Anikst. Enter Ophelia from behind the curtain.


OPHELIA. That's my song. (Sings.) "White his shroud as the mountain snow, A pit of clay for to be dug." (To Anikst.) Sing along. Don't look at me as my father did or these flowers will wilt. Rosemary is for remembrance; thoughts are brought by pansies. And rue we call the herb of grace o' Sundays. I will weave you a garland. Or are you indifferent to flowers as was my father? You frighten me with that look. Please, won't you sing? (Sings.) "White his shroud as the mountain snow..."

ANIKST. (Unsure of himself.) "White his shroud as the mountain snow..."

ALL. (Together.) "A pit of clay for to be dug..."


Enter Hamlet.


HAMLET. Singing already?(To Anikst.) And you call it a tragedy. Behold this nymph, doctor. Why do you blush now, my soul's idol?

OPHELIA. Don't call me an idol, my lord.

HAMLET. But aren't you my soul's idol? Who are you, then?

OPHELIA. I believe my father is looking for you.

HAMLET. Here? In this grave?

OPHELIA. Your jokes could drive me to suicide. (Leaves.)

HAMLET. Hey there, burial engineers, why so glum? (Gaily.) "White his shroud as the mountain snow/A pit of clay for to be dug."

BOTH GRAVEDIGGERS. а And you, good man, now will be

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа As quiet as a dove.

HAMLET. A fine little ditty, burial engineers. Drink to my madness. (Tosses them a coin.)

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. God grant you die a total idiot.


The Gravediggers leave.


HAMLET. Where is my skull, doctor? Without my skull, I am not I, not Hamlet, nor your good lord. Who would believe my madness? (Unties Anikst's hands.) Do you have bad dreams? Nightmares? How about rats, for instance?

ANIKST. Rats, no. But I often dreamed about you.

HAMLET. As a rat? (Pulls a rat out of his pocket.)

ANIKST. That is a rat, my good lord.

HAMLET. This is not a rat. (Whispers.) A secret: This is I in the form of a rat.


Enter Polonius.


POLONIUS. I beg your pardon, lord. For four hundred years you have been mumbling God knows what to God knows whom and, meanwhile, history is happening!

HAMLET. Well, while it is happening, allow me to introduce you to each other. The late Shakespearean scholar Doctor Anikst.

POLONIUS. The late Shakespearean scholar Polonius. (Extends his hand.)


Anikst shakes it warily.


аааа Prince, history is being made! The king, your father, has died. Your mother, the queen, has married his brother, your uncle.

HAMLET. Would you like to present them my skull as a wedding gift?

POLONIUS. Prince, are you in your right mind? What does this skull have to do with anything?

HAMLET. Not just this skull; my skull. Or do you think I can occupy the royal seat without my skull?

POLONIUS. The royal seat has been occupied by your uncle, king Claudius, lord.

HAMLET. My uncle?

POLONIUS. Your uncle, lord.

HAMLET. No uncle can occupy the royal seat. You said my uncle is the King of Denmark. And the royal seat after the death of the father goes to the eldest son. Ergo, my uncle is my father's eldest son. That is, my older brother. Well, brother may he be Ч I've seen worse in my days Ч but what is this about him marrying his own mother?! (Embraces Polonius.) Brother, don't do it!

POLONIUS. Prince, do you consider me your brother, too?

HAMLET. The doctor maintains that we are twin cousins. But I suspect that for such close relations you lack inborn idiocy.

POLONIUS. I understand your filial feelings, lord. I am a father myself.

HAMLET. Then explain my tragedy to me. And the ghost of my uncle can explain his filial feelings to the ghost of my father.

POLONIUS. Do you wish to displease their majesties, lord?

HAMLET. But you may please their majesties. Tell them I have gone crazy about your daughter.

POLONIUS. Leave my daughter out of this.

HAMLET. Do you want her to lose her faculties of reason? Doctor, explain to this corpse what love is. (Leaves.)

POLONIUS. You must sway him before it is too late. Before he loses his mind and drives you out of yours. Do you remember the law of maintaining reason? Or the law of maintaining memory? E=mc2. Remember that? (Plucks a skull from behind the curtain.) Do you see these black holes?

ANIKST. That's his skull! My good lord!

POLONIUS. Don't shout. He's not here.

ANIKST. He's not?

POLONIUS. No. And he never was.

ANIKST. In what sense?

POLONIUS. Literally. Scientifically. However you want. You aren't here either, by the way.


POLONIUS. Nor I either. There is no such thing as a dead Shakespeare scholar.

ANIKST. I don't understand.

POLONIUS. Why would you want to understand? Get it through your head; you don't exist. Can you grasp that? You cannot! No one is! No one can and no one tries. But he does Ч he tries. That's a tragedy. A real tragedy! You can't imagine what we have gone through for four hundred years! I, in particular. He'll drive you to a tragic end, too. Believe me, he will. Did he already tell you that this is he in the form of a skull? He did. I can tell by your eyes, he did! And did he show you himself in the form of a rat? He did! And that's only the beginning of what he'll show you! Just thank your lucky stars that nobody has cut off your head, like they did to poor Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

ANIKST. I don't believe you.

POLONIUS. They didn't either. (Calls.) Rosencrantz! Guildenstern!


Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.


ROSENCRANTZ. Here we are, my lord.

GUILDENSTERN. Our regards, my lord.

POLONIUS. Tell this unfortunate man what awaits him if he cannot sway the prince.

ROSENCRANTZ. Misfortune awaits this unfortunate man.

GUILDENSTERN. You unfortunate man, misfortune awaits you.

ROSENCRANTZ. Your head will be cut off.

GUILDENSTERN. Your unfortunate head.

ROSENCRANTZ. My lord. Shall I show the unfortunate man the ax?

GUILDENSTERN. Shall I show the unfortunate man a head that has been severed?

POLONIUS. My dear doctor. Shall we show you? Yes. Precisely. To be, or not to be: that is the question! No, no. No need to answer. No point in forcing yourself. (Tucks the skull under his arm.) Your Hamlet is inside of you, dear doctor. I said, inside of you, not in your stomach.


Enter Hamlet.


HAMLET. You are quite right, good sir: I am inside of you and not in the good doctor's stomach. Thank God, you have no need to worry of pregnancy. Conception is a blessing; but as your daughter may conceive, Ч friend, look to 't.


Polonius is motionless.


аааа I thought we had agreed you would not be so obsequious when holding my skull under your arm. A tragic end awaits you, good sir.


Polonius inadvertently drops the skull.


HAMLET. My good sir, that is a skull, not a football.

POLONIUS. I have a son who will avenge me.

HAMLET. And a daughter who will go out of her mind.

POLONIUS. Your tragedy is that you are not a father. (Leaves.)

HAMLET. Dear friends, you are off to study in England.


Enter, one after the other, the Gravediggers, the Ghost and Ophelia.


FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. Oh, I love future corpses to death!

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. Future corpses are my hobbyhorses!

GHOST. We are terribly happy to see you, fellow ghosts.

OPHELIA. I will weave you a garland. Rosemary is for remembrance; thoughts are brought by pansies. And rue we call the herb of grace o' Sundays.

ROSENCRANTZ. Most dear lord, you're getting ahead of yourself.

HAMLET. Really? Is there any self that can be gotten ahead of? Perhaps my self can get ahead of itself? Or maybe there are no selves? Nor any tragedies. Perhaps there is nothing at all. Nothing and no one. (He pulls out his flute and begins to play. Suddenly he interrupts the music.) "People, lions, eagles and partridges, horned deer, geese, spiders, silent fish, starfish and protozoa Ч in short, everything living, everything living, everything, once completing the sorrowful circle, did fade out." (To Ophelia.) Can you portray the Moon?

OPHELIA. What says the Moon, my lord?

HAMLET. It says nothing. I will write the words for you later. "For thousands of years the earth has borne no living creature. And this poor Moon lights its lamp in vain." (To Ophelia.) Light a candle. "Cranes no longer shriek upon awakening in the meadow; and May bugs are not heard in the linden grove." (To the audience.) Wow, this guy had foresight! (Overacts shamelessly.) "Cold, cold, cold. Empty, empty, empty. Frightful, frightful, frightful." (Blows out the candle.) Tell me, most dear lady, are you frightened?

OPHELIA. I am, my lord.

HAMLET. Fear not. It gets worse later.

ANIKST. Don't frighten her, my good lord. (To Ophelia.) That's from The Seagull. It's by Anton Chekhov.

HAMLET. "The bodies of living creatures turned to dust and eternal matter transformed them into stone and water and clouds. And their souls united into one. It is I, I who am the world's universal soul. In my soul live the souls of Alexander the Great and Caesar and Shakespeare and Napoleon and the lowest of the leaches." Doctor, can you feel within you the soul of a leach? You know what? I do! And I can't do a thing about it! "Like a prisoner thrown into a deep, empty well, I don't know where I am or what awaits me. Once in a hundred years I part my lips to speak. My voice resonates sadly in the void, lacking thought, lacking will, lacking the agitation of life." Most dear lady, do you love me?

OPHELIA. I do, my lord.

GHOST. "In all the universe only the spirit remains constant and unchanging."

HAMLET. "Matter and spirit shall unite in glorious harmony and then the kingdom of universal will shall be at hand."

OPHELIA. My lord, did he say "unite"?

GHOST. "But that will come only after thousands and thousands of years when the Moon and bright Sirius and the Earth have turned to dust. Until that time: horror, horror, horror!"

HAMLET. Horror, horror, horror. Do you love me?

OPHELIA. I do, my lord.

HAMLET. Let us talk of love in the light of the Moon.

ANIKST. My good lord, you forgot one spot Ч the one about the devil, the father of eternal matter.

HAMLET. My love, have you a sword?

OPHELIA. A sword, my lord?

HAMLET. A needle? A pin? A hair clip?

OPHELIA. I have a bobby pin, my lord.

HAMLET. I now will show you the father of eternal matter. (Takes Ophelia's bobby pin and plunges it into the curtain.)


Enter Polonius from behind the curtain.


POLONIUS. Prince! You have murdered me! (Falls.)

OPHELIA. Father!

HAMLET. My incomparable lady, do not lose your mind before it is time. My good sir, this is no sea rock and you are no walrus.

POLONIUS. Where am I?

HAMLET. In a theater. We are actors and we are rehearsing an Italian commedia dell'arte. Your daughter is portraying the Moon and these drunken sots (he indicates the Gravediggers) are playing hired assassins. These two mugs (indicates Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) are the embodiment of two-faced hypocrisy. I am the romantic leading man, the son of this ghost. (Extends his hand to Polonius.)

POLONIUS. A strange cast of characters.

HAMLET. Everything the Italians do is strange. They're just crazy about macaroni poetry and phallic symbols. Every Italian is a macaronic poet and every poet is a phallic symbol.

POLONIUS. In what sense?

HAMLET. In a symbolic sense. The play is symbolically titled The Seagull. On the shore of a swan lake there lives a beautiful maiden, the daughter of a courtier. She is in love with a prince. But the prince is not in his right mind. He believes the maiden is a seagull and that he is a swan which an evil sorcerer has turned into a phallic symbol.

POLONIUS. Ophelia! Go home. I forbid you to act in this play.

HAMLET. First you take away my skull and then you leave me without a Moon. My good sir, without a Moon I am as a man without hands. You cannot make a play with hired assassins alone.

POLONIUS. You still have your ghost.

HAMLET. Well, the ghost is untouchable. But you don't believe it exists.

POLONIUS. I don't believe it.

HAMLET. What a pity you can leave nothing untouched.

POLONIUS. (Groping the Ghost.) This is no ghost.

HAMLET. Then who is it? The father of eternal matter?

GHOST. Am I or am I not?

POLONIUS. (Groping the Ghost.) I don't believe so.

HAMLET. Please tell their majesties that the show is canceled. And in its place, show them your phallic symbol.

POLONIUS. Ophelia! Home! On the double!


The stage goes dark. Polonius and Ophelia leave.


HAMLET. Doctor, do you recall that a rat is a mouse of abnormal proportions?

ANIKST. Why abnormal, my good lord?

HAMLET. Because a rat of normal proportions is merely a mouse. Do you know how mousetraps are constructed? (Pulls a mousetrap out of his pocket.) You see, here is a nail on which bait is attached. Here is a spring and here is a steel bar Ч it breaks the mouse's back. Life is a mousetrap, my dear doctor! (Sets the mousetrap.) A man strives for immortality in order to become a ghost. But once a ghost, he ceases to be a man.


Enter Polonius behind Hamlet's back.


аааа (Not turning around.) And here we have a rat of abnormal proportions. You know what Alexander the Great said? He said, "Infectious laughter transforms into universal grief."

POLONIUS. Alexander the Great did not say that.

HAMLET. Maybe not to you. But he did to me. Doctor, cure me of my ghostliness.

POLONIUS. Words, words, words. (Steps over the mousetrap and disappears behind the curtain.)

HAMLET. (Whispers.) He is terrified that you will explain my tragedy to me.

ANIKST. Polonius?

HAMLET. Shh! (Whispers.) That's not Polonius. I killed Polonius four hundred years ago. This is his ghost. He's the one who gave me the mousetrap. He wants me to snuff you out. So that everything will be just as it was in Shakespeare only with you in his place. He can't get it through his head that you and he both are dead Shakespeare scholars.


Fanfare. Enter Fortinbras with soldiers.


FORTINBRAS. Lord Hamlet. Allow me to pass through your lands.

HAMLET. Be my guest, Fortinbras. Only you should know that, alas, none of these lands are mine.

FORTINBRAS. So, seize them, then! I'm on to Poland.

HAMLET. Good luck seizing Poland and Polish girls.

FORTINBRAS. Thank you. (Steps on the mousetrap.) God damn it! (To his soldiers.) Forward, march!


Fanfare. Fortinbras leaves with his soldiers.


HAMLET. I ought to camouflage that. You got a hanky? (Takes Anikst's handkerchief and covers the mousetrap with it.) Now, get thee behind that curtain! We're going to catch him red-handed.


Anikst disappears behind the curtain. Enter Polonius.



HAMLET. Shh! (Whispers.) Our dear, dead Shakespeare scholar wants me to kill you. He's the one who gave me the mousetrap. He wants everything to be just like in Shakespeare. He doesn't understand where he is.

POLONIUS. He doesn't?

HAMLET. No. Do you?

POLONIUS. What are you trying to say?

HAMLET. This is what I'm trying to say: Poison. A relative pours poison into someone's ear while that person is sleeping. Do you have relatives? Mother, father, brother, daughter... Why do you stare at me so? I assure you, I am not your daughter.

POLONIUS. I don't have a brother.

HAMLET. But you do have ears? Beware, friend.

POLONIUS. I'll remember your words.

HAMLET. And please relay them to the king. I believe he also has ears. (Leaves.)


Polonius takes a couple of steps and steps on the mousetrap.


POLONIUS. A-a-a-a! (Tosses away the mousetrap.)


Enter Ophelia.


OPHELIA. Father!

POLONIUS. What, Ophelia?

OPHELIA. I dreamed I saw you in a mousetrap.

POLONIUS. Do you think your father is a rat? (Hides the mousetrap in his pocket.) Ophelia! Fate and Shakespeare have determined that I am both your father and your mother. As your father, I grieve publicly but weep and wail on the inside! As your mother, I can take it no more! Don't throw yourself at that man! A man is an animal in pants! And Hamlet is a prince, not a monk! The more you love, the more terrible it is! You can't let loose the reins on a man! Never! Or he'll run amuck. As your mother, I only want what is good for you. I want... I want... I have no words for it Ч I am choked by tears! As your father, I publicly maintain my silence but I have splinters in my heart! Like nails! I sleep as if on a bed of nails! And as your mother, I cannot sleep at all! My heart aches! And so does my lower back. I can't breathe. And my bones Ч right here Ч ooh, they ache! Daughter! I am not well! I might die tomorrow! He is a prince, Ophelia, and he is free to sow wild oats where he will! He is a ghost, daughter!

OPHELIA. Prince Hamlet is a ghost?

POLONIUS. Prince Hamlet has lost his mind! Believe your mother. Your own mother...


POLONIUS. Ophelia, swear you will not meet with him. Do you swear?


POLONIUS. My child! Never forget your father is near.


Enter Hamlet.


HAMLET. An ass is a goat with ears. A goat is an ass with a beard. A beard is the quintessence of a goat. Ears are the quintessence of an ass.

POLONIUS. Ophelia, go.


Exit Ophelia.


HAMLET. The quintessence of a man is dust and ash. Have you a quintessence, my good sir?

POLONIUS. Do you mean me, lord?

HAMLET. When a man dies, what remains is his quintessence.

POLONIUS. Would you kill me over some pitiful quintessence?

HAMLET. The Massacre of the Innocents is not our tragedy. That is King Herod's territory. (Leaves.)

POLONIUS. We shall see yet who is a babe and who is not. Son!


Enter Laertes.


аааа Laertes! My son! Remember my commandments. Do not play with fire. Do not muddy the water. Do not play the fool. Do not take to the bottle. Do not wag your tongue. Do not lend money. Do not trust women. Do not make mountains out of molehills. Do not cast your sister to the whims of fate.

LAERTES. I shall inscribe them in my heart.

POLONIUS. My son! Prince Hamlet wishes to kill me.

LAERTES. I'll kill him!

POLONIUS. Remember one more commandment, Laertes: Make no promise in vain.

LAERTES. Do you really think he will run you through again as if you were a rat? And that poor Ophelia will go mad again and drown herself? Father, is there really nothing we can change?

POLONIUS. Only Shakespeare can change Shakespeare. We've already killed so many times that one time more or less is no big tragedy to me.

LAERTES. Then what is a tragedy, father?


Enter Hamlet and Anikst.


ANIKST. Tragedy, literally, is " the song of asses," that is, "the ass's song." Tragos in Greek means ass. Oide means song.

HAMLET. Now there's a real tragedy if you are an ass and you have a song.

LAERTES. I'll kill you, lord!


Enter Ophelia. She throws herself between them.


OPHELIA. Father! Brother! My Love! Can you not wait to see me in my grave?

HAMLET. Most dear lady! These are your brother and father?

OPHELIA. Yes, my lord.

HAMLET. Are you certain they are really your brother and father and not their ghosts?

OPHELIA. Oh, heal him, heavenly powers!

HAMLET. Your brother will heal me, do not doubt it. And don't you forget to dip the blade in medicine, Laertes.

POLONIUS. Go now, Laertes. And remember my commandments. Ophelia, see your brother out.


Ophelia and Laertes leave.


аааа As for me, lord, I don't understand you. Why do you continue to play at this comedy?

HAMLET. This great baby amazes me. Absolutely amazes me. Tell me child, do you know how to scream bloody murder?

POLONIUS. I do not, lord.

HAMLET. Then I will teach you, sir. All you must do is open your mouth a little. Then you bend back your tongue, like that. And then force the air out of your chest, like this: A-a-a-a! Only you must have a boneless tongue and you must have air in you that you can force out. Aside from that, nature takes care of everything else.

POLONIUS. Do you wish to make a fool of me?

HAMLET. Lord help us!

POLONIUS. I have always wished you well, lord.

HAMLET. However, you already know how to scream bloody murder.

POLONIUS. I do not, lord. I swear by my daughter.

HAMLET. Nothing but woe with these infants! All right. I will now scream bloody murder and you will swear by your daughter that you wish me well.

POLONIUS. I swear by my daughter, lord.

HAMLET. Wait a minute, I haven't begun to scream yet. (Screams.) A-a-a-a! Doctor, if you are not a ghost...а Won't you join in?


Anikst joins Hamlet in screaming "A-a-a-a!"

Offstage, Laertes, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern begin shouting, A-a-a-a!

Enter Laertes at a run, holding his bared sword. Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are right behind him.


OPHELIA. Father!

LAERTES. What is going on here?

POLONIUS. Prince Hamlet is losing his mind.

HAMLET. Won't you join us, noble Laertes? (Screams.) A-a-a-a!

OPHELIA. O heavenly powers, restore him!

HAMLET. Good sir, please note that I have screamed in your place for the last time.

POLONIUS. Yes, sir!


Polonius leaves with Ophelia and Laertes.


HAMLET. Students, in England you will be taught to play the flute. I will give you a letter of recommendation. Doctor, have you a quill?


Anikst extends to him a ballpoint pen.


аааа Is this a quill? (To Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.) Have you a quill and parchment?


Enter the Ghost.


GHOST. I do. (Hands Hamlet some parchment and a goose quill.)

HAMLET. How is it that those who do not exist have everything? (Writes and then reads aloud.) "To the Humanist-King, Henry VIII. Elsinore, June 12, 2000. (Use the actual date of the performance.) Your Majesty! I recommend to you the bearers of this note, our dear friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I am sure that, in your inherent humanism, you shall reward their merit as justly as you did that of Thomas More.


Anikst does not move.


GHOST. My dear dead man, you do not fear your own posthumous signature, do you? It's me or them.


Anikst resolves to sign and does. Hamlet follows suit.


HAMLET. (To Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.) Students! England awaits you!


Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and the Ghost disappear behind the curtain.


аааа Don't worry, doctor. We are beyond good and evil. We are in eternity where nothing happens. We are in a state of non-being where there are no events. We are present but we do not exist. In fact, nothing exists at all. Nothing and no one. (Looks at Anikst.) I fear I cannot save you.

ANIKST. From death after death?

HAMLET. From universal emptiness.


Hamlet jerks back the curtain. There is nothing behind it. The lights go out. Hamlet walks onto the proscenium. An unseen flute plays quietly.


аааа Diogenes, where is your Tub?

аааа Hippocrates, where is your Oath?

аааа Columbus, where is your Egg?

аааа Plato, where is your State?

аааа Archimedes, where is your Fulcrum?

аааа Caesar, where is your Rubicon?

аааа Newton, where is your Apple?

аааа Mohammed, where is your Mountain?

аааа Planck, where is your Constant?

аааа Pilate, where is your Truth?

аааа Cain, where is your Abel?

аааа Woe, where is your Wit?

аааа Heart, where is your Pain?


The stage goes black. A deathly silence. A flute sounds in the darkness. Up comes an infernal light. Hamlet is not to be seen. Enter Polonius. Under his arms, he carries the heads of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as if they were watermelons.


ANIKST. Is that they?!

POLONIUS. In the flesh. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.

ANIKST. Already?!

POLONIUS. What's to wait for? It only takes a second! Hold this, will you? (Holds out one of the heads.) My shoelace came undone.


Anikst takes the head. Polonius bends over. His shoelace snaps.


аааа Something is rotten in the state of Denmark! How am I going to connect these two scraps now? What a tragedy, my good doctor! (He extends the second head to Anikst who takes it.) Hold it by the hair or you'll drop it. (Stares at Anikst as he ties his shoelaces.) Careful, they're still dripping, doctor. You're all bloody there.


Anikst drops the heads. They hit the floor with a dull thud as if on a scaffold. Total darkness.


ANIKST. (Shouts.) My good lord!


Enter Ophelia.


OPHELIA. What is the matter with you, doctor? You are wailing like a newborn baby. Oh, I know. There is a full moon tonight and you dreamed you are my father and that you are in a mousetrap. Let me rock you to sleep. (Sings a lullaby as if to a newborn baby.) Why are you looking at me like that? No. No, don't look at me like that. I don't want to have that dream. No, no! I don't want to! That is the expression I saw when I drowned.

ааааааааааа There is a willow grows aslant a brook,

ааааааааааа That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream...

аааа Who is that? (Screams.) A-a-a! (She runs out.)

ROSENCRANTZ. Doctor! Won't you hold my unfortunate head?!

GUILDENSTERN. Doctor! Won't you hold my severed head!?

ANIKST. (Screams.) A-a-a-a!


Enter Hamlet.


HAMLET. Is that you wailing like a newborn babe?

ANIKST. My good lord! (Points at the heads.)

HAMLET. You wished to kill me, my excellent good friends.

ROSENCRANTZ. To save you, most dear lord. But you killed us.

GUILDENSTERN. And you, my good doctor, you absolved this murder.

HAMLET. Have you nothing to say? Explain my tragedy to them! (Leaves.)

ANIKST. You see... the tragedy... of the prince...

ROSENCRANTZ. Gaudeamus igitur!

GUILDENSTERN. (To the audience.) This is an old student song.

ROSENCRANTZ. Juvenes dum sumus!

GUILDENSTERN. Let's make merry while we are young!


ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Gaudeamus igitur!

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Juvenes dum sumus!

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Post jucundam juventutem,

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Post molestam senektutem

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Nos habitet humus.


ALL. (Together.) ааааааа Vivat Academia,

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Vivant professores!


Enter Hamlet.


HAMLET. Singing already? That didn't take long. Sing. Sing! Life is short, art is eternal. Eternity is full of sadness, but this sadness is a great joy! (To the audience.) Gaudeamus igitur!


The stage goes black.

Claudius and Gertrude sit on a bed in their regal raiment. Enter Hamlet.


CLAUDIUS. Now, my cousin! Ч No, my son! From now on, Hamlet, you are my son. And I would ask you, as I would my son, to cast off that nighted color, that which makes mourning of the day. Do not seek eternally thy noble father in the dust with your veiled lids.

HAMLET. O king and father, you shall replace my father. O queen and mother, you shall replace my mother.

GERTRUDE. Why replace her, son? I am your mother.

HAMLET. Impossible! Then who takes the place of my mother?

GERTRUDE. But son, why do you need a replacement while I am alive?

HAMLET. But why do you need an uncle in place of my father while I am alive?

GERTRUDE. Son, do you understand what you are saying? Do you wish to upset your uncle who shall replace your father?

HAMLET. Uncle who shall replace my father, forgive him who would stand in stead of your son if he has upset you instead of bringing you joy.

GERTRUDE. Hamlet! Son! You speak not with your uncle, but with His Majesty, the King of Denmark!

CLAUDIUS. 'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, to give these mourning duties to your father: But, you must know, your father lost a father and he lost his. One cannot fill the lives of the living with nothing but sadness.

ааааааааааа Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,

ааа With one auspicious and one dropping eye,

ааа With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage

ааа Have we taken to wife.

аааа Come, join the wedding feast.

HAMLET. Shall I not grow cross-eyed with a hopeful and a dropping eye?

GERTRUDE. Son, don't dare you speak with His Majesty so!

CLAUDIUS. Unprevailing woe shall bear no fruit, Hamlet.

HAMLET. Yes, Majesty, if it is unprevailing. However, the fruits of my woe are not so fruitless. On the contrary. I fear they are so fruitful that in enjoying mirth in death, my mother may grow ripe with child that shall make an uncle of her son. May I lay here in this bed?


Hamlet leaps onto the bed between Claudius and Gertrude and embraces them both.


аааа I find a double casket is too tight for one.

GERTRUDE. You've gone mad!

HAMLET. (Leaps up from the bed. To Claudius.) Farewell, mother. (Leaves.)

CLAUDIUS. He fosters murderous intentions. He will not spare even you, his own mother. And, as for me, Gertrude...!

GERTRUDE. Darling!

CLAUDIUS. Don't cling to me! Polonius!


Polonius crawls out from beneath the bed.


POLONIUS. At your service, sire.

CLAUDIUS. Keep an eye on him. Let me know immediately if you see anything. (He tugs on the curtain.)


Enter Anikst with a skull.


POLONIUS. Where is the prince, doctor?

ANIKST. Here, hold this skull please.


Polonius takes the skull. Anikst pulls out a flute and begins to play.


POLONIUS. I asked you where the prince is.

ANIKST. Are you sure this is not the prince? (Plays the flute.)

POLONIUS. We are both Shakespeare scholars. We are both Ph.D.s. We are both dead. Let's not play games.

ANIKST. Do you know how to play the flute?

POLONIUS. I do not intend to play the flute. I intend to play on you, my good doctor. That's right, don't give me that otherworldly stare. You should know better than anyone that I am no villain.

ANIKST. How do you know I know that?

POLONIUS. It's written all over your face.

ANIKST. My face? (He pulls out a small mirror and looks into it.) I don't see anything.

POLONIUS. Because it's a crooked mirror.

ANIKST. This mirror is crooked? (Looks it over.)

POLONIUS. Would you like to see the crooked nature of the universe with the bare eye?


Anikst puts on dark glasses.


аааа What do you see now?

ANIKST. Nothing.

POLONIUS. If you see nothing, how can you see I am a villain?

ANIKST. What else am I supposed to see?

POLONIUS. An important government official who perished tragically as a result of court intrigues. The unfortunate father of two children. A deceased Shakespeare scholar, like you. Where is the prince, doctor?

ANIKST. Inside of you. Study your innards. And if you don't find him there, hunt for him here in the theater.

POLONIUS. All Shakespeare scholars want to play Hamlet. And it always ends the same. He kills them when he goes after me in the scene where he argues with his mother.

ANIKST. Here is your Danish prince! (Pulls a rat out of his pocket. To the rat.) My good lord! (To Polonius.) The prince is undergoing a moment of self-recognition.

POLONIUS. I would warn you.


Anikst pulls out his flute and plays. He leaves. Enter Ophelia in the guise of the Moon. She rehearses.


OPHELIA. ааааааааааааааа "Signori, I'm the Moon, the satellite of Dreams!"

ааааааааааааааааааааааа No, that's not it.

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа "Signori, I'm the Moon!"


POLONIUS. Ophelia, I forbade you to perform in that play!


Enter Hamlet.


HAMLET. Do you know me, good sir?

POLONIUS. Of course, lord. You are a fishmonger.

HAMLET. Your eyes need checking. You see everything in a tragic light.

POLONIUS. Don't go playing Hamlet with me.а (Leaves.)


Enter Anikst.


ANIKST. To be, or not to be: that is the question!

HAMLET. Want to buy some fish?


Enter Horatio.


HORATIO. My good lord! Everyone is looking for you; no one can find you.

HAMLET. And who are you, my good friend Ч everyone or no one?

HORATIO. I am your friend Horatio. I have been looking for you everywhere.

HAMLET. I was wondering what happened to my friend Horatio. I figured he must be looking for me everywhere. Friend, want to buy some fish?

HORATIO. What is the matter with you, my good lord?

HAMLET. The world is a prison containing Denmark. Denmark is a prison containing my skull. My skull is a prison containing my mind. My mind is a prison containing my thoughts. My thoughts are a prison containing my essence. My essence is a prison containing the whole world. My friend! Freedom is insanity. (Leaves.)

HORATIO. What is wrong with him?

ANIKST. With whom?

HORATIO. Prince Hamlet.

ANIKST. And who are you?

HORATIO. I am his friend Horatio.

ANIKST. Pleased to meet you.

HORATIO. Pleased to meet you.

ANIKST. Are you sure you're a friend?


Enter Hamlet in the costume of a jester. He is holding a rubber phallus.


HAMLET. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

HORATIO. What philosophy, good lord?

HAMLET. Doctor, please explain to him what a Doctor of Philosophy is.

HORATIO. This ghost is no ghost.

HAMLET. This ghost is a Doctor of Philosophy.

HORATIO. I'm not talking about that ghost.

HAMLET. This ghost is not my father.

HORATIO. Are you the son of a ghost, good lord?

HAMLET. That I am, my friend.

HORATIO. If your mother slept with a ghost, then she is a witch.

HAMLET. I am the son of a witch and a ghost. (Leaves.)

HORATIO. Doctor! Look at what a state you have reduced him to.


HORATIO. Hamlet. Prince Hamlet.

ANIKST. Are you sure he is a prince?

HORATIO. If not, then who is?

ANIKST. Who are you?

HORATIO. I am his friend Horatio.

ANIKST. Pleased to meet you.

HORATIO. Pleased to meet you.

ANIKST. Pardon me, but who's friend are you?

HORATIO. What is the matter with you?

ANIKST. You're interrupting my music. (Plays.) He has gone out of his mind. (Plays.)


Enter Hamlet in a ballet tutu.


HAMLET. My friend. I have gone mad.

HORATIO. Why, good lord?

HAMLET. Why does anyone?

HORATIO. No one does, good lord.

HAMLET. Am I really so alone in the universe? My friend, we have been friends for four hundred years. Let's go mad together!

HORATIO. Prince! It is my duty to explain to you your tragedy.

HAMLET. And who might you be?

HORATIO. I am your friend Horatio.

HAMLET. Pleased to meet you.

HORATIO. What is the matter with you, good lord?

HAMLET. Didn't I tell you?


HAMLET. I've lost my mind. (Pulls out a rat.) Buy my fish!

HORATIO. That is a rat, good lord.

HAMLET. Tell your philosophers that if a rat is called a fish then that is what it is. (Leaves.)

HORATIO. Doctor! Do you understand any of this?

ANIKST. And who might you be?

HORATIO. I'm his friend Horatio.

ANIKST. Pleased to meet you. Shhh! A secret Ч To be, or not to be: that is the question.

HORATIO. You've all gone mad!

ANIKST. Shhh! Not everyone. Dead Shakespeare scholars don't go mad.

HORATIO. Who told you that?


Enter the Ghost.


GHOST. I did.

HORATIO. And who are you?

GHOST. This is a secret, but I am Shakespeare.

HORATIO. Pleased to meet you.

GHOST. And who are you?

HORATIO. I am friend Horatio.

GHOST. Pleased to meet you. We ghosts are terribly happy to see you. Tell your philosophers that I am the gravedigger of the human race! (Leaves.)

HORATIO. Doctor! What is going on here?


Enter Hamlet in a jester's costume, weeping streams of tears.


HAMLET. What a tragedy, my friend! What a tragedy! Nobody will buy my fish. But since I don't lose hope that I may still sell some, everybody thinks I am crazy. Friend mine! No one thinks that about themselves. I exist where you are not. (Leaves.)

HORATIO. Doctor! I think I'm losing my mind.

ANIKST. Shhh! (Glances around.) Buy some of his fish.


Enter the Gravediggers.




FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. We are gravediggers.


HORATIO. I'm not a fish!

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. Then who are you?

HORATIO. I am friend Horatio!


HORATIO. A humanitarian!

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. Shall we dismember him?

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. There's an idea! (Pulls out a net and throws it over Horatio.)

HORATIO. (Shouts.) Good lord!

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. Don't shout, fish. I can't work when it's noisy.

HORATIO. (Shouts.) Good lord!

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. For a fish, he squeals like a humanitarian!

HORATIO. (Shouts.) Good lord!


Enter Hamlet in a white shroud.


HAMLET. What have you forgotten here in this grave, my friend? (To the Gravediggers.) Are you burying my friends?

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. A fish, good lord.

HAMLET.а (Throws a coin to them.) I bury my own fish.

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. May you bury the humanitarian who lives within you!


The Gravediggers leave.


HAMLET. What a terrible age we live in! (Removes the net from Horatio.)

HORATIO. What age is that, good lord?

HAMLET. Ours, my friend, ours. (Embraces Horatio and both leave.)


Anikst begins to play the flute then leaves. Enter the Ghost with a telephone receiver in his hand.


GHOST. Hello! Shakespeare speaking. Tell your philosophers that my theater is an explosive device of untold power.


The stage goes dark. Enter Ophelia.


OPHELIA. (Sings.) а In the north, in his own lands

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа There lived a prince, said local lore.


HAMLET. аааааааааааааааааааааааааааа He let in the maid, that out a maid

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Never departed more.


аааа Shall I let you in, most dear lady? It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.

OPHELIA. You are keen, my lord.

HAMLET. Only thanks to you. For here is my stinger. (Pulls out a hairpin.) I return it before dying.

OPHELIA. I never gave you aught.

HAMLET. аааа My honor'd lord, you know right well you did;

ааааааааааааааааааааааа And with them words of so sweet breath composed

ааааааааааааааааааааааа As made the things more rich Ч their perfume's lost.

OPHELIA. Decent girls don't do things like that.

HAMLET. Then I am not a girl. Call me my soul's idol.

OPHELIA. I don't wish to call you an idol.

HAMLET. But I do, my soul's idol.

OPHELIA. You are tempting the Moon, my lord. Are you honest?

HAMLET. Between us girls, I am honesty incarnate.

OPHELIA. Are you so innocent?

HAMLET. I am honesty incarnate and innocence in the flesh.

OPHELIA. I hear you see ghosts.

HAMLET. Would you have it that Hamlet become a ghost? So be it! I am Hamlet, a ghost of himself. I am a ghost and I scorn nothing ghostly.

OPHELIA. Do you wish to frighten me?

HAMLET. I wish to bite you.

OPHELIA. And I Ч you.

HAMLET. Please do. And make it deadly. Is anyone watching? (Looks around.) I have had insomnia ever since my father was poisoned in his sleep. Waking, I sleep and every dream I have is a premonition. (Takes Ophelia's hand.) Do you like my death mask?

OPHELIA. I don't understand you, my lord.

HAMLET. Most people's life masks are much more terrible than their death masks. (Brings her hand up to his face.) Do you love me?

OPHELIA. Yes, my lord.

HAMLET. There are innumerable ways to commit suicide. The most trusty of them is love. If you wish to bite me, now is the time to do it.

OPHELIA. My father forbade me to see you.

HAMLET. But did he forbid you to bite me? Doesn't he seem rather ghostly to you?


HAMLET. (Intimately.) My lord.

OPHELIA. (Intimately.) My lord.

HAMLET. (More intimately.) Yours.

OPHELIA. (More intimately.) Lord.


OPHELIA. My... My Lord! I'm going mad.

HAMLET. Dally with it, I beg of you. Are you crying?

OPHELIA. A girl's tears are but raindrops, my lord.

HAMLET. O nymph, gore my inner voice. (Extends the hairpin to her as if it were a knife.) Is anyone spying on us?

OPHELIA. I don't know, my lord.

HAMLET. You do. But you know I do not care. (Kisses her.)


Enter Polonius.


POLONIUS. Ophelia! You gave me your word.


Ophelia leaves.


HAMLET. Your son wants to bite me!

POLONIUS. Your mousetrap is dated, lord. It was four hundred years ago. (Pulls a mousetrap out of his pocket and hands it to Hamlet.)

HAMLET. Mors occasionalis. Incidental death.

POLONIUS. There is nothing incidental in death on the stage.

HAMLET. Did Shakespeare tell you that?

POLONIUS. I once played in a university theater and was accounted a good actor. I did enact Julius Caesar.

HAMLET. Beware the ides of March, divine Julius. (He takes the mousetrap and leaves.)


Enter Claudius and Gertrude from behind the curtain.


CLAUDIUS. He is fostering murderous intentions. Shut up, Gertrude. (To Polonius.) Do you think he wants to...


Enter Hamlet suddenly from behind the curtain. He is dressed in a jester's costume.


HAMLET. I do not. However, black becomes more white the more it blackens from within. And worms, mother, are those who crawl within from without. They crawl in through the openings of ears; when it is all black before your eyes. I'll bet you like Shakespeare.

CLAUDIUS. I adore him. He's a great tragedian! A true poet! I always see Hamlet in the light of the sixty-sixth sonnet: "Tired with all these, for restful death I cry."

HAMLET. Give me back my skull.

CLAUDIUS. Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Gertrude: a fellow of infinite jest. a' poured a flagon of Rhenish on my head once.

HAMLET. I want the Moon.

CLAUDIUS. And he died.


CLAUDIUS. Gertrude, do not drink.

HAMLET. Tell me Judas, which of Christ's ears did you kiss?

POLONIUS. His cheek, lord, not his ear.

HAMLET. Is that so? And he died?


HAMLET. I knew your brother once. You don't believe in ghosts, do you?

CLAUDIUS. On the contrary, I believe in them well. In their ghostliness.

POLONIUS. Are you a ghost, lord?

HAMLET. I am obsessed with the Moon.

CLAUDIUS. Shut up, Gertrude.

HAMLET. If the prince is sick, he is only sick and knows not what he does.

CLAUDIUS. But what if he is not sick?

HAMLET. аааа So if he is not sick, then he's okay,

ааа ааааааа But the good doctors hold him wholly in their sway.

ааааааааааааааааааааааа O moon, arise!а Eclipse my feeble mind!

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Or else I'll die from the dark thoughts that blind me!

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Don't let the theater become a haven and rest,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа A couch for luxury and damned incest!

аааа (He leaves.)

CLAUDIUS. He must be brought under control. Shut up, Gertrude.

GERTRUDE. Still, as his mother...

CLAUDIUS. Shut up, Gertrude.


Gertrude leaves.


аааа And I don't care how it's done.

POLONIUS. But the queen...

CLAUDIUS. No buts! (Leaves.)


The stage goes dark.

Enter Hamlet. He parts the curtain. The heads of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern stand on pedestals.


HAMLET. How are you, friends?

ROSENCRANTZ. Without us the earth acquired conscience, most dear lord.

GUILDENSTERN. The instant we departed, the earth was made honest, honored lord.

HAMLET. Then that means the world has ended. Strange I did not notice. (Leaves.)


Enter Anikst playing the flute.


ROSENCRANTZ. Doctor! Won't you hold my unfortunate head?!

GUILDENSTERN. Doctor! Won't you hold my severed head!?

ANIKST. (Screams.) A-a-a-a! (Drops his flute.)


Enter Polonius.


POLONIUS. What is the matter, doctor? (Jerks back the curtain.) Don't you recognize me?

ANIKST. You are the father of eternal matter.

POLONIUS. I am a father, doctor. But not of eternal matter. My daughter's name is Ophelia. (Picks up the flute.)

ANIKST. I know.

POLONIUS. Do you know what awaits her?


Anikst is silent.


аааа You do! And yet you play along with that madman! Aren't these heads enough for you?

ANIKST. Stop tormenting me!

POLONIUS. You're tormenting yourself. And I want to help you. I want to give you a gift.

ANIKST. Poison?

POLONIUS. Why poison? Not poison at all. I want to give you a magic flute. (Pulls out a dueling pistol.)

ANIKST. That's a flute?

POLONIUS. A magic flute. It makes inhuman music.

ANIKST. Inhuman?

POLONIUS. Music! You raise this orifice to your lips Ч like this. Then your finger goes Ч not there, but here. And a distorted grimace appears on your face.

ANIKST. A distorted grimace?

POLONIUS. Your own mother wouldn't recognize you.

ANIKST. And no one will recognize me?

POLONIUS. No one. Ever.

ANIKST. And my torments will be at an end?

POLONIUS. Instantaneously! (Puts the pistol in Anikst's pocket.) It is up to you to decide who will be and who will not be. (Leaves.)


Anikst watches him go, and then approaches the curtain and looks into the backstage area. Enter Hamlet.


HAMLET. Are you looking for me?

ANIKST. I am looking for myself.

HAMLET. That's what you should have done in life. However, it's never too late. The world is small Ч no matter where you go you meet yourself. Everywhere where you are not. Especially when you don't exist at all! But, you know, you can find yourself only by coincidence. And even then only if you are seeking the truth.

ANIKST. I am seeking the truth.

HAMLET. Doctor, don't make me laugh before death. You're staring into emptiness again.

ANIKST. I am empty inside. And you are, too.

HAMLET. Not all emptiness is empty. (Leaves.)

ANIKST. (To the audience.) Are all of you ghosts? Is there even one living man among us?


Enter Polonius from behind the curtain.


POLONIUS. There is. I am, doctor.

ANIKST. What about the prince?

POLONIUS. Your dear lord is a figment of imagination! Doctor! Do you really not understand yet that Hamlet is the embodiment of the idea of Man? He is an idea realized in flesh. And, like any other idea, this idea is less than itself. And, like any embodiment, it is richer than all ideas taken together. That is the mystery of it. And that is the tragedy of it.

ANIKST. You mean, my tragedy?

POLONIUS. Our tragedy.

ANIKST. Your tragedy?

POLONIUS. The human tragedy! Omniscient blindness, deafness that hears all, the eternal motion of rest, the immortality of death and the lifelessness of life. When nothing means anything and all is meaningless!


The sounds of marching are heard. Special forces soldiers in black masks pour on stage from offstage, from behind the curtain and through all the entrances to the auditorium. One soldier has a dog on a leash.


CAPTAIN. Clear the stage!


The soldiers pull everyone out from behind the curtain and shove them off stage.


аааа (To the audience.) This show has been canceled! We have information that a bomb has been planted in the theater. Don't panic now! We are certain it is a false alarm, but we must take precautions. Selivanov!

SELIVANOV. (To his dog.) Hamlet! Search!


The dog begins sniffing the stage.


CAPTAIN. Clear the hall!

SELIVANOV. (To his dog.) Hamlet! Search! (He comes down off the stage into the auditorium with his dog.)






ANIKST. My dear ghosts! Your tragedy is that you do not perceive your tragedy as a tragedy. Have you understood that we exist beyond good and evil? Would someone like to hold my skull? Play the flute? Play the father of eternal matter? Play spin the bottle? Kick the bucket? He loses who does not play, my dear ghosts! Shhh! A secret! I am Hamlet! Shhh! Elsinore ought to be destroyed. Shhh. (Leaves.)


Fanfare. The curtain rises. Hamlet stands on his head. Enter Polonius; he looks at Hamlet.


HAMLET. Salve, Caesar! Have you already crossed the Rubicon?

POLONIUS. Forgive an old man, but your youth makes you too blunt.

HAMLET. You think so? And where do you think I'm headed?

POLONIUS. For the grave, lord.

HAMLET. Are we not traveling companions?

POLONIUS. In Shakespeare's tragedy, yes. But in this one... You must be killed, lord.

HAMLET. Thank you for being frank. By the way, am I obliged to you for nothing? I'm at your service. Make it this ear, if you wish. Or this one. I can lie down. (Lies down.) And pretend that I am sleeping. Ah! And here's the flute! O nymph of the night!


Enter Gertrude.


GERTRUDE. Hamlet! What is the matter?

HAMLET. аааа Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа And there I see such black and grained spots

ааааааааааааааааааааааа As will not leave their tinct.

аааа Are you a nymph of the night? May I offer my hand...


HAMLET. And heart?



Enter Claudius аfollowed by Anikst playing the flute. He steps over Hamlet and, continuing to play, disappears behind the curtain.


CLAUDIUS. Gertrude! Go at once!

GERTRUDE. Your Majesty, I am his mother.

HAMLET. Don't argue, mother. Go. The rat will happily replace me in my grave.

CLAUDIUS. Polonius! Do something about him. The queen and I will await you in the throne room.


Claudius leaves with Gertrude.


POLONIUS. (Calls.) Laertes!


Enter Laertes.


LAERTES. Yes, father.

POLONIUS. Laertes! Hamlet loves your sister. She loves him. It is my belief that no one should obstruct their feelings, neither father nor brother. Do you remember my commandments?


POLONIUS. Then go.


Laertes leaves.


HAMLET. I get the feeling you want to marry me off.

POLONIUS. Why not? I thought... (Glances around and falls silent.)

HAMLET. ...that King Hamlet and Queen Ophelia are more to your liking than King Claudius and Queen Gertrude. Isn't that so? Alas, divine Julius! I cannot kill the king if first I don't kill you and Laertes.

POLONIUS. Why, lord?

HAMLET. It's the law of tragedy. The law of destiny. The law of eternity. I am a tragic hero, not a fishmonger. Polonius may not understand that, but Caesar is obliged to!

POLONIUS. Go ahead, finish what you have to say.

HAMLET. Every man will be dead, but not every dead man will become a ghost. Caesarem licet stantem mori. Caesar must die standing.

POLONIUS. That's a nice phrase. But I know one just as good. Fish rots from the head down. (Leaves.)


A fanfare. Enter Fortinbras and his soldiers.


FORTINBRAS. Are you alive, prince? I had heard that...

HAMLET. That what? Don't believe rumors just because you have conquered Poland. How were the Polish girls? They say every one is a beauty.

FORTINBRAS. Are you kidding? I lost the war. (Steps on the mousetrap.) God damn it! (Tosses the mousetrap aside.) Too bad they didn't kill you.

HAMLET. Don't worry, they've got a shotgun wedding planned for me.

FORTINBRAS. That's worse yet! Congratulations! Farewell, prince.

HAMLET. Farewell, Fortinbras.


Fanfare. Fortinbras leaves with his soldiers. Enter Anikst playing the flute.


HAMLET. Ah, a flute!

ANIKST. Don't come near me!

HAMLET. Why not, doctor?

ANIKST. I'm no doctor, I'm a patient! My illness is called mors occasionalis. I must kill you. (Pulls out a dueling pistol.)а

HAMLET. At your service.


Anikst is motionless.


аааа (Hamlet takes the pistol and raises it to his mouth. His face is contorted in a grimace. The pistol clicks Ч it misfired.) I'll let you in on a secret: You have killed me. (He hands back the pistol and leaves.)


Anikst pulls out a small mirror and puts the gun to his mouth. He tries to imitate a grimace on his face. Enter Polonius.


POLONIUS. Having fun, doctor?


Anikst aims the pistol at Polonius.


аааа Aren't you afraid you might kill me?


Anikst's face is distorted in a grimace.


аааа Or yourself?


Anikst raises the pistol to his mouth.


аааа Frightful, isn't it?


Anikst winces with eyes closed and fires.


аааа A fine shot, doctor. Only too bad you missed. (Leaves.)


Enter Ophelia at a run.


OPHELIA. Father? Is that you?


Anikst is silent.


аааа Where did you get that pistol?


Anikst is silent.


аааа Did you fire... at yourself?


Anikst is silent. He throws down the pistol and leaves. Enter Laertes.


LAERTES. Ophelia?! Who was that shooting?


LAERTES. Then who?

OPHELIA. I don't know. (Leaves.)

LAERTES. (To the audience.) What idiot was shooting in here?


Enter Polonius.


POLONIUS. I was. (Picks up the pistol.) Go, Laertes. Don't take words lightly. Remember my commandments.


Laertes leaves. Enter Hamlet.


HAMLET. Fish rots from the head down. O divine Julius, do you know how to say that in Latin?

POLONIUS. Ask them. (He parts the curtain and leaves.)


The heads of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern stand on pedestals.


HAMLET. Wipe away your invisible tears, friends. I am with you!


The stage goes dark.

Enter Ophelia as the Moon.


OPHELIA. ааа Signori, I'm the Moon, the satellite of Dreams!

ааааааааааааааааааааааа With my reflected light, I illumine

ааааааааааааааааааааааа The ferment of ideas, reason's dream,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа That holy terror, to which poets are prone, Ч

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Chaste virgins' crazy quivering

ааааааааааааааааааааааа And the chaste quivering of crazy virgins,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа The incest of our Danish queens,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа The timid footfall of young villains.


ааааааааааааааааааааааа My rays are filling nature's waste-

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Land, and they blind the blind man's eyes,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Our forefathers upon their fathers gaze

ааааааааааааааааааааааа And on extinguished cities and dead tribes,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа As the living God on gods extinguished,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа As children on their fathers, departed and sad,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа But in reflected light that distinguishes

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Each age, I only wash the mad!


ааааааааааааааааааааааа The mind of the enlightened I corrupt

ааааааааааааааааааааааа And turn away from daylight.

ааааааааааааааааааааааа The fruitless fruits of weighty thoughts

ааааааааааааааааааааааа I fill up with the Poet's wasteland.


ааааааааааааааааааааааа And in my wasteland, I erect my own

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Palace of gold!а And everything is in my palace:

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Squirming vermin, man, and the divine Ч

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Whatever you could want Ч the golden palace itself!

ааааааааааааааааааааааа My light, Signori, is the highest light,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа And, Signori, the highest light is termless light,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа The light of veritas, nonexistent in our world,

ааааааааааа ааааааааааа The tears of a Ч perhaps Ч corrupted virgin!


Hamlet appears from behind the curtain.


HAMLET. Does your father consider you a capable actress?

OPHELIA. What about you, lord?

HAMLET. I certainly do.

OPHELIA. Do you not fear I will drown myself?

HAMLET. What from, most dear lady?

OPHELIA. From love, my lord.

HAMLET. Not after the way the Moon played its part.


Enter Polonius.


POLONIUS. Ophelia!

OPHELIA. Farewell, my lord. (Leaves.)

HAMLET. Let's keep this secret, but keep an eye on her. God forbid she really should go and drown herself. Shakespeare saw the future as clearly as his reflection in a pond.

POLONIUS. Ophelia! (Goes out after her.)


Enter Anikst, playing the flute.


HAMLET. I see you are quite at home here. Perhaps now you will explain my tragedy to me.

ANIKST. My pleasure. Your tragedy is called Hamlet. Everything in it is terribly tragic. Hamlet is a tragic hero who experiences a terrible tragedy. His own uncle killed his father. And his own father turned out to be a ghost. Then his own mother married his own uncle. But Hamlet didn't let that get him down. He loved life, the theater and Ophelia. His friend Horatio was a true humanist. He embodied the tragedy of humanism. Ophelia is the image of poetry itself and you cannot look upon her without tears. She goes out of her mind in a nightshirt. Throughout the whole tragedy Hamlet exposes evil. He pronounces the "to-be-or-not-to-be" monologue. This is a terribly tragic part. Everybody is totally ecstatic about it and then, in horror, they all kill each other.

HAMLET. But what's the point of the tragedy?

ANIKST. The point is this: It seems that to be, you must not be. That is what's so horrible and, in horror over that, everybody kills each other.

HAMLET. And that's it?

ANIKST. There are so many meanings in this tragedy, only a madman could count them all. But the basic ones are the quintessence of humanism. All the world's a prison. All people are rats. All brothers are fratricides. All women are perfidious. All fathers are ghosts. All friends are traitors. All kings are villains. All art is reduced to the art of lying. All wine is poison. All words are poisonous. Man is the quintessence of dust. Love is death. Freedom is madness.

HAMLET. Are you not mad?

ANIKST. That is immaterial. (He approaches the curtain.)

HAMLET. Wait. Explain your tragedy to me.

ANIKST. Let him explain it. (He jerks back the curtain, revealing Polonius holding a skull. Anikst leaves.)

POLONIUS. I determined the square root of your skull, lord. And now I return it to you safe and sound.

HAMLET. Don't you believe I love your daughter?

POLONIUS. Kill me, if you will, but I do not.

HAMLET. Why is that, if it's no secret?

POLONIUS. Because you don't believe it yourself. Ask yourself Ч of what consists your love?

HAMLET. Myself? (Addresses himself aloud.) Of what should love consist, my good lord?

POLONIUS. Now answer.

HAMLET. Myself?

POLONIUS. I don't care about your answer.

HAMLET. Nor I your skull.

POLONIUS. See how easy it is?

HAMLET. And of what consists your love of your daughter?

POLONIUS. Ask my daughter.


Enter Ophelia.


OPHELIA. Lord, what do you wish to ask of the Moon?

HAMLET. Of love.

OPHELIA. Love, my lord?

HAMLET. I would ask you this: Do you love the theater?

OPHELIA. I do, my lord.

HAMLET. And of what consists your love of the theater?

OPHELIA. Of the fact that you are my soul's idol.

HAMLET. Aren't you tired of loving an idol? Do you remember that all those playing your part go out of their minds?

OPHELIA. I do, my lord.

HAMLET. Tell your father that he may play the fool no where but in 's own house.

OPHELIA. I will, my lord. But he cannot do otherwise.

HAMLET. Why is that, most dear lady?

OPHELIA. Because he is an actor and he will die on the stage.

HAMLET. What about you, my soul's idol?

OPHELIA. If I did not love him, I could not love you.

HAMLET. But are you prepared to die on stage?

OPHELIA. Of love, yes.

HAMLET. I will weave you a garland. Rosemary is for remembrance; thoughts are brought by pansies. And rue we call the herb of grace o' Sundays.

OPHELIA. The Moon is a heavenly body, my lord. (Leaves.)


Hamlet approaches the curtain. Enter Claudius and Gertrude.


CLAUDIUS. Gertrude, do not drink. (Jerks back the curtain.) Polonius, what are you hiding here for?

HAMLET. He is dead.

CLAUDIUS. Dead? Polonius?!

HAMLET. Julius Caesar. At the hands of Brutus. It's a tragedy by Shakespeare, your Majesty.

CLAUDIUS. I love Shakespeare.

HAMLET. However, we are not staging a tragedy here.

GERTRUDE. What is it, then?

HAMLET. A mousetrap, mother. And here are our spectators. (He points to the heads of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.)

GERTRUDE. Oh my God!

CLAUDIUS. Shut up, Gertrude.

GERTRUDE. That's not Shakespeare! And the dead aren't spectators.

HAMLET. The dead, indeed, are not spectators. And the mousetrap is a metaphor. However, your Majesty, please note that if the mousetrap is imagined, the rat it catches is quite real.

GERTRUDE. They must be buried.

HAMLET. My friends, we do not want our spectators to see in you only the quintessence of dust. Therefore, come give us a taste of your quality! "But who had seen the mobled queen?"

GUILDENSTERN.а But who, O who had seen the mobled queen!

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Inexorable Fate has bent

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Her bowed diadem-crowned brow.

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Blind tears well up in eyes.

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Like a snake her torn robe winds around

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа About her lank and all o'er-teemed loins.

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа The winds lose voice.а The earth below

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Is hush as death.

ROSENCRANTZ. аааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа "Hecuba, whom do you seek?"

POLONIUS. "Cassandra, my daughter. An evil dream have I seen. Perhaps she can tell me what it means."

HAMLET. Mother, look whether he has not turned his color and has tears in 's eyes. (To Polonius.) Where is your daughter? Have her play Cassandra.

POLONIUS. The Moon is in eclipse, lord.

HAMLET. Already? Somehow I had not noticed. However, as her father, you know best. But they say Cassandra, too, suffered eclipses, so that should not harm our tragedy.

POLONIUS. She shall not play Cassandra.

HAMLET. Do you wish to ruin my show?

POLONIUS. This is not a play but a trap for a mouse!

GERTRUDE. What mousetrap is that, Hamlet?

HAMLET. He means the theater. Spectators come to the theater for spiritual sustenance. But they are caught as in a trap for in the theater they are the bait. However, since we are all actors, we are in no danger.

CLAUDIUS. Is there no offense in this play?

HAMLET. Absolutely none, for there is no play at all.

CLAUDIUS. How's that?

HAMLET. Just so. Why make a spectacle of some play when life itself is an incomparable spectacle?

GERTRUDE. But there must be a story. Something must happen on stage.

HAMLET. Oh, it will! And what a story it will be! It is called "The Rehearsal of the Murder of Julius Caesar." Julius Caesar prepares to go to the senate, but suddenly there is an eclipse and... Friend Horatio, where are you?


Enter Horatio and the Gravediggers.


FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. In the most high and palmy state of Rome,

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа A little ere the mightiest Julius fell...

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа аааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа dead

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа Did squeak and jibber in the Roman аааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа аааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа streets.

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood...

HORATIO. "Stars with trains of fire" are comets.

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood...

HAMLET. Please don't shout. Poetry is a cry, not a shriek, of the soul. (Shows him how to recite.) As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood...

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. Disasters in the sun; and the moist star...

HORATIO. "The moist star" is the Moon. Where is the Moon, my lord?

HAMLET. There is no Moon. The Moon is in eclipse. Continue.

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. And the moist star...

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands...

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse...

HAMLET. "Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse," what poetry!

HORATIO. аа And even the like precurse of fierce events,

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Have heaven and earth together demonstrated

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Unto our climatures and countrymen!


Anikst appears holding his flute.


HAMLET. And here is the demonstration! (To Claudius.) He is rehearsing the part of Hamlet and is pretending he is not in his right mind.

ANIKST. I am not rehearsing anything!

HAMLET. Thatta boy! Why rehearse? You can play Cassandra cold.

ANIKST. What Cassandra?

HAMLET. Has the doctor forgotten Cassandra? She is the ancient seer who predicted the fall of Troy. Her tragedy was that no one ever believed her although all her predictions came true. Same as with me.

ANIKST. Then you go play your Cassandra!

HAMLET. That's right! Why should you play Cassandra if all you have on your mind is Alexander the Great?

ANIKST. I don't have any Alexander on my mind!

HAMLET. Thatta boy! Nor do you have a mind Ч and who needs one? A mind only disturbs the sleep of the dead. Or thus spake Aristotle. And, though he was wrong, as always, that is the absolute truth! Stand behind that rug, please Ч you will soon be counting corpses.

ANIKST. I will not be counting corpses!

HAMLET. That's right! Why should you? But counting corpses is as easy as pie. Alexander the Great taught me how to do it and I'll teach you. You count the bodies on fingers you imagine in your head. Three fingers for five bodies. Five fingers for seven bodies. It's very simple, your Majesty, there are always two more bodies than fingers.

CLAUDIUS. Why two?

HAMLET. That's a question better addressed to God. Lord! Why are there always two more bodies than fingers! (Listens for an answer.) Hear that? (To the audience.) Did you all hear that? God clearly said, "Because!" There's no way around it, doctor Ч five fingers: seven bodies. But Alexander the Great taught me to count only live corpses.

ANIKST. What live corpses?

HAMLET. In tragedies, all corpses are live. That intensifies the tragedy. Each spectator, hiding it from all the other spectators, starts to sense his or her own future corpse and mentally prepares to part with life. That's when you can get 'em warm and ready! You'll confirm that, won't you, doctor?

ANIKST. I'm not saying anything more!

HAMLET. The rest is silence. That's what Hamlet says just before dying. Are those your last words, doctor?


Anikst is silent.


аааа The Danish prince inside the doctor has died.


Anikst falls.


аааа And it seems 'a made a good end. Friend Horatio! Put the newborn babe in a carriage.


Horatio rolls out a wheelchair, seats Anikst in it and moves off towards the curtain. Anikst is silent.


аааа There is no actor who can hold a pause better than his own mummy. Maybe that's why contemporary theater is degrading into well-dressed mummification. Which is just what Cassandra predicted.

GERTRUDE. That Cassandra of yours is a she-wolf!

HAMLET. And what a she-wolf, mother! Nothing like you! She comes to Caesar in the morning and screams bloody murder at him: "Don't go to the senate! They'll kill you!" Meanwhile, divine Julius lies in the arms of an Egyptian she-wol..., I mean, prosti..., I mean empress! That would be Cleopatra. And he is so exhausted by her caresses that in his mind he is already in the senate. He thinks, "Well, Plato's my friend..."

CLAUDIUS. You mean, Brutus.

HAMLET. Plato, Brutus, Shakespeare, what's the difference? In our tragedy it's all one and the same.

CLAUDIUS. Three in one?

HAMLET. Why three? Make it as many as you want.а Horatio might be a friend, but so might that she-wolf Cassandra or that rat over there. (Pulls a rat out of his pocket.)

CLAUDIUS. A friend to Caesar?!

HAMLET. Why Caesar's? I mean mine. As it is, Caesar lost count of all his friends which, basically, is what brought him down. Think about it, your Majesty, if he had been a friend of mine maybe he would have suggested running you through instead of this rat over here. (He prods the rat with his sword.)


Polonius falls.


GERTRUDE. Oh my God! What's the matter?

HAMLET. Nothing fatal, mother. He just got a bit wet crossing the Rubicon. Divine Julius! Doctor, help this dead man. Take him to the operation room and attend to his birth.

GERTRUDE. What birth?!

HAMLET. His birth into another world. Shh! That is a state secret.

CLAUDIUS. From me?

HAMLET. From you and no one else. A state secret, indeed, is something everybody knows except the king. (Takes Claudius aside.) Shh! A conspiracy is growing. And I am leading it!

CLAUDIUS. A conspiracy in the form of theater! What a plot twist! What a play within a play! Simple and brilliant. I'm jealous.

HAMLET. I'm jealous of myself. And I swear by his daughter that I have every right to be. The leader of the conspiracy Ч that is, I Ч must kill you, your Majesty!

CLAUDIUS. What?! And that is no secret?!

HAMLET. No secrets here! I will kill you during the rehearsal.

CLAUDIUS. Very impressive! But it would be better to do it during the performance itself! Imagine that. (Strikes the pose of Claudius.) Let the cannons roar and trumpets speak after each of Hamlet's hits! And the king shall drink to Hamlet's health as thunder roars up in the heavens! (He raises his goblet to his lips. A cannon fires. He puts the goblet back down.)

HAMLET. Very impressive. But when do I kill you?

CLAUDIUS. At the end of the show. So when does rehearsal begin? Or has it already begun?

HAMLET. Nothing can begin without your permission, Majesty. Caesar cannot be murdered without Caesar's permission.

CLAUDIUS. Is that so? I believe history testifies to the contrary.

HAMLET. History bears false witness. There is no king who does not know he will be killed. Caesar transforms his assassination into a spectacle. He arrives in a festive toga; his death mask is the mask of Eternity. He is a tragic character who does not leave the stage. Any lowly scoundrel who scratches his way to power will go out of his mind from terror. He will see ghosts everywhere. He will pee in his pants and end his days in a prison he built himself. Even his name will not survive. He will disappear into the void behind the mask of Oblivion. Shall I show you these masks, your Majesty? It makes an engaging spectacle. Here is the mask of Power. Here is the mask of Faith. Here is the mask of Love. Here is the mask of Death. Here is the mask of Friendship. Here is the mask of Glory. Here is the mask of the Homeland. This one is of State Terror. Here is the mask of Mystery. Here is the mask of God. And here is my favorite Ч the mask of Madness.

CLAUDIUS. What mask is this?

HAMLET. The mask of Emptiness, your Majesty. He wears it who can wear no other mask.

CLAUDIUS. And I must choose one of them?

HAMLET. You are not obliged Ч it is your right. Or you may play without a mask if your own face is so secure as to be a mask.

CLAUDIUS. I have no reason to hide my face.

HAMLET. That does you honor. Here is the mask of Honor.

CLAUDIUS. (To Gertrude.) I did not know your son was such an enthusiast of the theater, dear. How do you like these masks?

GERTRUDE. I don't like that I have no idea what is going to happen. And nobody pays me any mind. There must be love in the theater. Where is it, then?

HAMLET. Right here, mother. (Hands her the mask of Love.)

GERTRUDE. This is love? My boy is sick! Love does not hide behind masks. When a woman loves, she dies of love!

CLAUDIUS. What is the matter, dear?

GERTRUDE. I think no one loves me. No one!

CLAUDIUS. Please, dear, don't get so carried away by the wine. Alcohol is poison!

HAMLET. The king is right, mother. By the way, see if there isn't real poison in this pearl. (Bows deeply.) I await your permission, Majesty.

CLAUDIUS. To begin the rehearsal?

HAMLET. After the actors are cast in their roles, which is what I suggest doing now.

CLAUDIUS. Very impressive. I must admit, I had underestimated our kinship. As well as the kinship of our souls.

HAMLET. Majesty! I want to offer you the part of Caesar.а

CLAUDIUS. It will cost me my life.

HAMLET. Yes, but it will be worth it. Brutus doesn't suit you at all. The other conspirators are all just gray mice. They all cut each other up in the end and die.

CLAUDIUS. What about Marcus Antonius?

HAMLET. Mother, your new husband is dreaming of Cleopatra's sweet embrace!

GERTRUDE. What?! (She gives Claudius such a whack that his crown flies off.)

HAMLET. See how easy it is to lose the crown? That's all she wrote!

GERTRUDE. (To Hamlet.) Listen, you moron! Quit playing the fool! Who is this idiot protégé of yours with the flute? "To be or not to be! To be or not to be! To be or not to be!" You could go nuts like that! (To Anikst.) Give me that whistle! (Grabs the flute and knocks Hamlet over the head with it.) Your father is dead! (Hits Claudius with the flute.) And he was your brother! Two total imbeciles! Where is that she-wol..., I mean, that prosti.... Where is she, I ask you?!

HAMLET. I thought of offering you the role of Cleopatra, mother.

GERTRUDE. Me?! (She drops the flute.)

CLAUDIUS. Gertrude, do not drink. (Picks up his crown.)

GERTRUDE. I will drink! And I will play Cleopatra! (Knocks the crown from Claudius's head again and leaves.)

CLAUDIUS. (Picks up his crown.) Did Caesar have a wife?

HAMLET. He did, your Majesty. But she was above suspicion, which played into the hands of the conspirators! (To the Gravediggers and Anikst.) You stand there and you stand over there. And you, doctor... No, better you there, you there and you come in from behind.

CLAUDIUS. As far as I can tell, the rehearsal has begun.

HAMLET. Don't rush things, Majesty. We haven't cast all the actors. Would you like to play a slave?

CLAUDIUS. A slave?

HAMLET. In order to make certain that I kill you... When I say "you," I mean Caesar... In order to make certain that I kill you, I must work out my plan of action. Not in theory, but in a practical sense. Best to do it on a dummy Ч or, better yet, a warm body. I need a warm body, say, a slave.

CLAUDIUS. Don't you have any other parts?

HAMLET. I have a beggar. But he isn't attached to the plot. It's just that while everybody else is cutting each other up, this Roman Diogenes comes out on stage. He's a blind old man with a lantern and he says: "I'm looking for a human!" Every once in awhile he bumps into someone and asks, "Are you a human?" He gets killed last.

CLAUDIUS. What's he get killed for?!

HAMLET. To make him quit bugging people. It's a tragedy, Majesty. The stage must be littered with bodies. Otherwise it's not funny.

CLAUDIUS. So who kills the beggar?

HAMLET. Well, if you play the beggar, I'll kill you happily.

CLAUDIUS. What if I refuse?

HAMLET. That's what I'm counting on!

CLAUDIUS. I don't understand.

HAMLET. That's also part of my plan.

CLAUDIUS. Amazing! Everything is thought out down to the last little detail! Where does it all begin?

HAMLET. That's a surprise!

CLAUDIUS. Hamlet! I am the stand-in for your father, you know.

HAMLET. Good point. All right!а (In a conspiratorial whisper.) Here's a secret: with the dummy.

CLAUDIUS. With what dummy?!

HAMLET. Enter a dummy of Cassandra... I mean: Enter Cassandra with a dummy.


Enter Gertrude in the sheer dress of Cleopatra.


CLAUDIUS. Gertrude!

HAMLET. Bravo, mother!

GERTRUDE. What mother? I am Cleopatra! Salve, Caesar!

CLAUDIUS. Salve, sweetheart. But I'm not playing anything yet.

HAMLET. That is a commonly held misconception, your Majesty. Everyone is always playing somebody. You want to play a spectator?

CLAUDIUS. What kind of a show is it where they kill spectators?

HAMLET. Modern theater isn't queasy about that kind of thing. Most shows are deadly for spectators. Whole theaters-full of them. I just thought I'd symbolically limit myself to one.

CLAUDIUS. Meaning me?

HAMLET. What do you have to lose? Anyway, you're playing yourself, that is, one doomed to die soon. As I am, too, for that matter. And as are all mortals. Life, your Majesty, is a tragedy.

CLAUDIUS. True tragedy is not shouting all the time at everybody from a stage: "You'll die! You'll die! You'll die!" That's not interesting. That's banal. Pardon me, but that's vulgar! True tragedy is a voice whispering in your ear: "Live! Live! Live! Because you, too, soon will die."

HAMLET. In the ear, your Majesty? Do I detect poison in those words?

CLAUDIUS. You do. But that is why we have great tragic poets to measure out the poison in medicinal doses. So that the poison becomes a healing potion.

HAMLET. What does it heal us of? Death or life?

CLAUDIUS. It no longer matters once poison becomes a healing potion. What was that?


Enter Ophelia dressed as Cassandra. She holds a stuffed seagull.


GERTRUDE. What is that dummy?

HAMLET. That is not a dummy. It is a symbol.

GERTRUDE. What does this mean, my child?

OPHELIA. I am told the seagull is a most regal bird. (To Hamlet.) I beg of you, do not tell the king for he may think the bird is I and that my species is the loony. I will weave you a garland. Rosemary is for remembrance; thoughts are brought by pansies. And rue we call the herb of grace o' Sundays. (Places a garland on Hamlet's head.)

GERTRUDE. What is wrong with her?

HAMLET. An eclipse, mother. (To Ophelia.) You are ruining my reputation. (Takes the stuffed seagull away from her.)


Ophelia leaves.


CLAUDIUS. What part does this dummy play in the show?

HAMLET. Doctor, what role does the seagull play in Chekhov's The Seagull?

ANIKST. The title role.


HAMLET. Pay him no mind, your Majesty. He's in character as Hamlet right now.

ANIKST. (Shouts.) I am not in character! I am not in character! I am a character myself! I am a bright, shining image!... that never!... never!... can be erased!... from our tragedy! (Leaves.)

GERTRUDE. To get so worked up over a dummy...

HAMLET. Bravo, Cleopatra! (To Claudius.) Hold this, please.


Claudius takes the stuffed seagull. He looks it over.


аааа The dummy's chief purpose it to distract, your Majesty.


Claudius drops the seagull. Hamlet picks it up.


аааа It will come in handy, believe me. Cleopatra, I would ask you please to symbolically hold this symbol. But here is Marcus Antonius!


Enter Polonius. He wears a Roman toga and dark glasses.


CLAUDIUS. Polonius?! What is the matter with you?

HAMLET. Pay him no mind, your Majesty. He is in character.

POLONIUS. (Shouts.) I am not in character! I am not in character! I am father and mother in one body!

HAMLET. My dear dead man, do not drive yourself to madness. You are in transition. Your birth into a new form is progressing wonderfully. As soon as your umbilical chord is cut you will immediately feel relief! Push!

POLONIUS. (Shouts.) A-a-a-h! You want to make me part with the figments of my imagination! You want me to be among those two fingers more! You want to turn me into a mummy!

HAMLET. Cleopatra! Marcus Antonius is confusing Ancient Rome with Ancient Egypt. Pacify him with some gentle caresses, but keep it clean.

GERTRUDE. Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!

POLONIUS. A-a-a-h! No, not all of me shall die! I sleep as if on nails. I sense in me the soul of a leach! I want to scream bloody murder! A-a-a-h!

GERTRUDE. Sleep, I said! (She hits Polonius on the head with the stuffed seagull.)


Polonius falls.


HAMLET. Now, cut his umbilical cord. (Holds out a knife.)


HAMLET. Mother, are you afraid to kill a rat? I think you have a skewed idea of who Cleopatra is. (To the audience.) Tell your philosophers that gravediggers play kings better than anyone! Mother, give me this cape for a minute. (To the Gravediggers.) Friends! (He tosses the cape over the shoulders of the First Gravedigger and puts Ophelia's garland on the head of the Second Gravedigger.) Stand over there, behind the curtain. (To Polonius.) Divine Julius! At least before you die wouldn't you like to learn how to play Caesar? What have you there? (Takes a dueling pistol from Polonius.) There is nothing dangerous in what we now shall witness. (Aims the pistol at Claudius.) Nothing but love, mother. Nothing but power, king. Nothing but the power of love and the love of power. (To the audience.) "Caesar and Cleopatra"!а The action takes place in ancient Egypt. The rehearsal has begun! (Signals by firing the pistol.)


The curtain opens. The Second Gravedigger (Caesar) stands in the pose of Rodin's "The Thinker." Enter the First Gravedigger (Cleopatra).


CLEOPATRA. What is Caesar up to?

CAESAR. Cleo! Come on in.

CLEOPATRA. Aren't you busy?

CAESAR. For you? Are you kidding? Come on over here.

CLEOPATRA. What's on your mind?

CAESAR. You know... someday somebody will kill me.

CLEOPATRA. Heck, I'll kill myself. (Pulls out a small snake.) This little snake will sink its fangs into me right here.

CAESAR. You carry your own death around with you?

CLEOPATRA. A queen should always have everything at her beck and call. And I give it all to you.

CAESAR. Cleopatra! (Embraces her.)


Cleopatra slips out of his grasp.


аааа You little snake, you! I crave love!

CLEOPATRA. Now's not the time, Caesar.

CAESAR. Snake! I crave love! (Pulls her to him again.)

CLEOPATRA. Not now. (Slips away again.)

CAESAR. Why not? I suddenly saw myself... in a pool of blood... on a marble floor. And all my friends were standing above me. My friends were the assassins! Imagine that, Cleo Ч to become Caesar and then fall at the hands of your friends!

CLEOPATRA. I hate it when people shorten my name.

CAESAR. I see you are out of sorts. Too bad.

CLEOPATRA. What do they call you in Rome?

CAESAR. Me? I am Caesar everywhere. I am Caesar, remember?

CLEOPATRA. Does your wife call you Caesar in bed?

CAESAR. Cleo, come over here.

CLEOPATRA. Why? To call you Caesar in your bed?

CAESAR. Listen, what are you after?


CAESAR. Over me?

CLEOPATRA. Yes, if you really are Caesar.

CAESAR. The truth is what is called the truth. Rome is constructed in such a way that the truth is Caesar and Caesar is the truth.

CLEOPATRA. This isn't Rome. Rome isn't here.

CAESAR. That's not true. Rome is where Caesar is. I'm busy, Cleopatra.

CLEOPATRA. Doing what?

CAESAR. Wielding that which you desire: Power.

CLEOPATRA. Caesar...

CAESAR. Power! Go, I'm busy.

CLEOPATRA. I crave love! (Throws herself at Caesar, wraps herself around him like a snake and stings him with kisses.)

HAMLET. Stop! Thank you, friends! (Tosses a coin.) Drink to my tragedy.

FIRST GRAVEDIGGER. God grant you play it to the end!

SECOND GRAVEDIGGER. To the bitter, tragic end!


The Gravediggers leave.


HAMLET. Mother, will you play Cleopatra?


Gertrude looks at Claudius.


CLAUDIUS. Play whomever you want, dear.


HAMLET. Then cut his umbilical cord. (Holds out a knife.)

GERTRUDE. Do you realize what you are saying, son?

HAMLET. I am not the son of Cleopatra. I am the son of a witch and a ghost. And this here is a rat.


Enter Laertes.


LAERTES. Did you call my father a rat? He thinks we are all rats! (To the audience.) And all of you, too. In his eyes, he alone exists. Everyone else is either a rat or a ghost.

HAMLET. Mark your own words, noble Laertes.


Enter Ophelia.


OPHELIA. (Sings.) а White his shroud as the mountain snow,

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа A pit of clay for to be dug.

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа And you, good man, now will be

ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа As quiet as a dove.


аааа Give me my dove. (Takes the stuffed seagull and approaches Polonius.) Why is he sleeping?

HAMLET. Ask him yourself, my soul's idol.


Enter Anikst. He looks at Ophelia and wipes his eyes with a handkerchief.


OPHELIA. No, no, do not erect idols within yourself. If he awakens, he will take away my dove! My brother discovered the Sea of Rains on the Moon and I am soaked to the bone...


ааааааааааааааааааааааа A willow o'er the water bends

ааааааааааааааааааааааа Us to the only verb: to love, to love, to love...


аааа Friends, do not stare at me in the past tense!

LAERTES. Do you want her to lose her mind again?! To drown herself again?! Doctor, explain love to him.

ANIKST. You can't explain anything to him. He is not a person, he is a symbol! Worse, he is the dummy of a symbol.

HAMLET. Is that my tragedy, doctor?

ANIKST. You have no tragedy!

HAMLET. Then why did you study me your whole life?

ANIKST. That was my tragedy.

HAMLET. Oh, you dummy of my soul. So that was your tragedy?

ANIKST. I am not your dummy! (Tragically.) I am looking for a human!

HAMLET. It's a conspiracy! Against me, the tragic hero of all times and nations! Against our father Shakespeare! Against my great tragedy! Against our tragedy! (To the audience.) Against your tragedy!


Ophelia approaches Claudius.


OPHELIA. Emperor, the ides of March are come.

POLONIUS. Ophelia, go home!

OPHELIA. Let me play Cassandra.

POLONIUS. Fool! What did I tell you? Home!

OPHELIA. I'll drown myself!

POLONIUS. Laertes!


Enter Laertes.


LAERTES. Sister, let's go home.

HAMLET. Cassandra!

LAERTES. Don't move, my lord!

HAMLET. Pardon me, Majesty. I believe it's his rapier that is dipped in healing poison!

LAERTES. Halt, I said! (Draws his sword.)

OPHELIA. Brother, I'm coming.

HAMLET. Ophelia!

OPHELIA. Wait... the seagull! (Pulls out the stuffed seagull.) Who killed it? Why did they kill it? I have forgotten... Do you remember? Give me my hairpin, brother. Can't you bear to part with it? (Tries to wrest the sword from Laertes's hands and wounds herself.) Ah!

LAERTES. Sister!

HAMLET. Cassandra!

OPHELIA. It doesn't hurt a bit. What's this? Blood?

LAERTES. Sister!

HAMLET. Ophelia!

OPHELIA. Emperor, the ides of March are come.

CLAUDIUS. My child!

OPHELIA. (Suddenly staggering.) Oh, it hurts! But there is no pain!

LAERTES. Quick! A doctor!

OPHELIA. I will... weave you a garland.

LAERTES. A doctor! Quick!

OPHELIA. How pale is my poor brother! I do not need a doctor. The Moon shines, it seems, but it does not warm. And if that is so, then what is life to it? (Holds the stuffed seagull out to Hamlet.) My gift. Take it, lord. My lord. Or do you scorn my gift? Who killed it? I do not remember. But it was a good man. He did not let it suffer long. I do not remember Ч perhaps I dreamed it or it was in a play Ч my part was given to another actress and she drowned herself from ecstasy as if she were the Moon. (To Claudius.) You will be assassinated in the senate. (To Laertes.) I remember you. (To Polonius.) And you I remember eternally. (To Gertrude.) You... (To Anikst.) And you... (To Hamlet.) And you I remember eternally... your roles. You always have a sorrowful gaze. Here is the dummy of my love, my lord. (To Laertes.) Brother! For love of me, do not kill him whom I have loved!

LAERTES. Sister!

OPHELIA. Here is the dummy of my soul! I remember you all, eternally, eternally, eternally... (Falls.)

LAERTES. No! I'll kill... I'll kill myself! (Stabs himself.)

POLONIUS. Oh, God! Ophelia! Laertes! Oh, my God! The devil in the flesh! Die! Die! Die! (Throws himself upon Hamlet.)

HAMLET. Now that, your Majesty, is what it means to be Caesar! Veni, vidi, vici! I came, I saw, I conquered! (Holds Polonius off.)

POLONIUS. Die! (Suddenly freezes.)


Hamlet lifts Polonius as if he were a baby.


HAMLET. What is the matter, Caesar?

POLONIUS. I... am... dying.

CLAUDIUS. Is he dead?

HAMLET. I am not a doctor. But it looks like it. What a tragedy, your Majesty! People are dying like flies! (Sets Polonius down.)


CLAUDIUS. Gertrude, do not drink!

GERTRUDE. I am Cleopatra!

CLAUDIUS. What is the matter, Gertrude?

GERTRUDE. Imbecile! As if you didn't know! The drink! The drink! I am poisoned. (Falls.)

HAMLET. Villainy?! Who is the assassin? Who is the victim? Who dared sabotage this show?! Was it you, your Majesty?!

CLAUDIUS. I love Shakespeare! "I summon death! I cannot wait to see it!" Finita la commedia! What are you waiting for? Now you are supposed to shout bloody murder: "Drink your potion: Is thy pearl here? Now follow my mother!" But, you're as quiet as a mouse. Not talking. I'll bet he's going over his monologue in his head. "To be or not to be!" But death in life is much more prosaic. Hamlet! Do it! You kill not your father, only him who takes his place!

HAMLET. In you Ч I kill myself! In myself Ч I kill you! (Seizes Laertes's rapier and plunges it into Claudius.)


Claudius falls.


аааа (To the audience.) And you, mute audience to this act... How am I to limp the hell out of here? Into emptiness? A theater? Eternity? The Moon? The grave? Fortinbras!

FORTINBRAS. (Offstage.) Here I am. I'm offstage, waiting for you to die, my lord.

HAMLET. Then who will finish me off? Friend Horatio!

HORATIO. No, my lord. Please, no. I am a humanitarian.

HAMLET. Doctor, please!

ANIKST. I don't exist. I am dead, my lord.

HAMLET. What about me?

ANIKST. You are an immortal symbol. You are an idea. The Idea of mankind in the flesh.

HAMLET. I am not an idea!

ANIKST. Take him for all in all!

HAMLET. I am a man! A tragic hero! Are you weeping?

ANIKST. (To the audience.) а You, trembling and pale, Silently witnessing the game...

HAMLET. No! No! No! I don't want to hear that. Can't you see I am dying?


Anikst dons dark glasses. He stretches his hands out before him and moves as if he were blind.


ANIKST. I am looking for a human!


Enter the Ghost in armor from behind the curtain. Anikst bumps into him.


аааа Are you a human?


The Ghost is silent. He approaches the front of the stage. Looks at the audience and then disappears behind the curtain. Anikst bumps into Hamlet.


аааа Are you a human?

HAMLET. The rest is silence. (Disappears behind the curtain.)

ANIKST. I am looking for a human! (Disappears behind the curtain.)


From behind the curtain we hear the sounds of a flute. The curtain rises. The Ghost, in the mask of Death, holds a globe in one hand and a flute in the other.


GHOST. I am Shakespeare. And this is my theater, the Globe. (He sets down the globe on the edge of the stage.) My theater is an explosive device of untold power. But there will be no explosion. And there will be no flood. Other than what will be, nothing will be. And cannot be! Our tragedy has ended, ladies and gentlemen! Yours continues! There is nothing tragic in that, only you must be prepared for everything. By which I mean to say, everything that is inevitable. Four captains will now bear Hamlet to the stage and the soldiers will fire the salute. Fortinbras will take the reins of power and everything will reassume its natural course. A flute... A goblet with poison... A poisoned dagger... Poor Yorick's skull...


A dog appears from behind the curtain. He walks to the front of the stage and looks at the audience.


DOG. To be or not to be, you curs!



[1]аIrina Skoropanova, Russkaya postmodernistskaya literatura (Russian Postmodern Literature) (Moskva: Flinta-Nauka, 1999): especially 353-356 and 399-406.

[2]аMy translation is a shortened version of the significantly larger Russian original. Korkiya took part in the editing process and approved the final product.



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