"Hamlet: Poem Unlimited"
Return to the Benefit Directory

~ Ophelia ~

Tonight, I wonder who has betrayed whom?
At first, after Hamlet’s brutal words,
I felt ready to lay the blame on myself.
I already felt a fool in laying our troubles
before our parents,
as their methods left me biting my own tongue
from reproach and distaste.
But with the passing of hours,
I am less inclined to forgive, to understand.
No effort of mine has merited
the harshness with which he lashed me.
What struck me first as crushing madness
now seems half formed of malice and spite.
And now further, we must gather, in social finery,
for a play?
So we must, it seems.
And he seems determined to continue my torment.
As we enter into the broad chamber
that will be our playhouse,
He flits like a dark butterfly about us.
“Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.”
says his mother, but her shuns her, turning to me.
“No, good mother” is his word, “here's metal more attractive.”
He approaches me with what seems
giddy good humor, and lies down at my feet.
“Lady, shall I lie in your lap?” says he.
“No, my lord.”
“I mean, my head upon your lap?”
“Ay, my lord.”
“Do you think I meant country matters?”
“I think nothing, my lord.”
“That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.”
“What is, my lord?”
“Nothing.”
Enough, enough. I feel sick at this grotesque exchange.
The look I give him, for the first time, is one of scorn.
And this terrifies me.
“You are merry, my lord.”
“Who, I?”
“Ay, my lord.”
“Oh God, your only jig-maker.
What should a man do but be merry?
For, look you, how cheerfully my mother looks,
and my father died within these two hours.”
“Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord.”
“So long?” He seems puzzled,
but then I see this is but an opening for more venom.
“Nay then,” he continues, “let the devil wear black,
for I'll have a suit of sables. Oh heavens!
Die two months ago, and not forgotten yet?
Then there's hope a great man's memory
may outlive his life half a year.”
The dumb-show, the prologue of silent players
which precedes the play, enters to take the stage.
A relief, for I can turn away from him.
Enter a King and a Queen very lovingly;
the Queen embracing him, and he her.
She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto him.
He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck:
lays him down upon a bank of flowers:
she, seeing him asleep, leaves him.
Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown,
kisses it, and pours poison in the King's ears, and exit.
The Queen returns; finds the King dead,
and makes passionate action of her woe.
The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes,
comes in again, seeming to lament with her.
The dead body is carried away.
The Poisoner woos the Queen with gifts:
she seems loath and unwilling awhile,
but in the end accepts his love.
As they exit, I shake my head,
looking to Hamlet in troubled wonder.
“What means this, my lord?”
“Well, well,” he answers, “skulkers, and mischief?
We shall see, I think,
and very soon, just what it means.”