~ Gertrude ~
Polonius comes to Claudius and me,
and I brace myself for some news or confidence
that the Prime Minister
seems all bursting to share.
The man is something of a pestilence;
wise enough, and true of course,
but dreadfully given to overlong speeches;
a man forever looking to come to the point
while never seeming able to manage it.
“My liege, and madam,” he says,
“to expostulate, what might, should be,
what truly is,
why day is day, night is night,
and time is time,
were nothing but to waste day, night and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit
and tediousness the limbs of outward flourishes,
I will be brief.
Your noble son is mad.
Mad call I it, for to define true madness,
what is it to be nothing else but mad?”
I can only sigh, and wave a weary hand at him.
“More matter,” I implore, “with less art.”
“Madam,” he goes on,
“I swear I use no art at all.
That he is mad, ‘tis true, ‘tis true, ‘tis pity.
Mad let us grant him then, and now remains
that we find the cause of this effect,
or rather, say, the cause of this defect,
for this effect defective comes by cause.
But farewell to that, for I will use no art.
My liege, and madam, you know my daughter.
She had spoken to me in all concern
of your son’s trouble of mind,
and she has given me this.”
Polonius brings out a letter,
and I lean forward now to attend,
for this is of interest.
“To the celestial and my soul’s idol,” he reads,
“the most beautiful Ophelia,
doubt you the stars are fire,
doubt that the sun does move,
doubt truth to be a liar,
but never doubt I love.
Oh dear Ophelia, I am ill at these verses,
I have not the art to reckon in groans,
but that I love you best,
oh most best, beloved.
Yours ever more, most dear lady,
while this body is to me,
“Came this from Hamlet to her?” I ask.
“Some time past,” he responds.
“They have had some falling out since,
that she does not understand.
It troubles her most deeply, and I believe,
unseats him all the more.
Is wounded love not enough to cause a weakness,
a lightness, even a madness?
That very madness that we now all mourn for?”
I sit back, pondering this.
Could Hamlet’s anguish be something so simple,
so pure as this?
Ophelia is beautiful, and keen of mind;
more subtle in her thoughts, I think,
than those of her capable but meandering sire.
If love’s travail is what harrows Hamlet’s mind,
well, that might be mended.
“I will confess,” Polonius goes on,
“that I have opposed liaison between them.
Before your ascension my good liege,
which will now serve us for long years to the future,
a political marriage for the Prince
was in all our thoughts.
But if love rends his mind,
then we must come to know this in surety,
and perhaps then we can choose new wisdoms
for these, our children and charges in this life.”
This strikes a hopeful chord in me,
perhaps dispelling the thought
that has troubled me most:
that my son’s pain is born of his father’s death,
coupled with my perhaps over-hasty marriage.
But how to be sure?
I ask this, and Polonius raises one finger,
places it to his brow, and says:
nothing could be more straight to achieve.”