"Hamlet: Poem Unlimited"
Return to the Benefit Directory
~ Gertrude ~

I follow Claudius as he flees the play;
how else can I describe his reaction?
Flight indeed it seems,
as if something hellish
has grasped at his heels.
Polonius follows me,
and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern trail him;
what a ragtag column we make
through the halls of Elsinore!
But as we pass through the chapel
Claudius pauses, seeming to collect himself.
He turns, as if surprised
to see us standing there
like sea-wrack in his wake.
“Leave me,” he says.
“I am unwell, make no more of it than that;
do as you will, for an hour, for a minute!”
So he turns from us,
with posture that brooks no argument.
All of us back away,
leaving him to his distemper.
I myself am much out of sorts;
I think perhaps I see these courtiers
flinch as I look to them,
as if they expect a whipping.
“Why do you stand there gaping?” I question.
“We’ve seen enough of actors
tonight, I think.”
This last I aim toward Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
but they affect, purposely or not,
to lack understanding of my meaning.
“Go and get my son,” I continue.
“Let him come to my room,
as I had earlier planned.
The time has come for talk.”
Polonius bows slightly.
“And as we discussed, good madam,” he says,
“shall I stand in hidden attendance
to your discussion?”
“Do as you will,” I snap at him,
echoing my husband’s dismissal of us.
“I care not.
I wish only to speak with my son.”
All exit then, to their tasks,
leaving me standing alone in the hall.
What does all this mean?
Hamlet’s mind may indeed
wander in the dark,
but there is more than madness
in these displays.
Perhaps I am too forgiving.
Something cruel and hateful
hung as a shadow about his play tonight.
How can I not be conscious of his anger?
Such bile spouted by his player queen,
meant for me, I have no doubt;
as harsh a poison as that poured
into the ear of his player king.
Does my son hate me then, in truth?
Oh, that is bitter.
Enough, enough of shadowplay!
When he comes, he must tell me plain
what is in his heart.
I do not believe any more
that it is thwarted or confused love
which drives him.
If hate, then I must to somehow act to mend it.
If truly madness,
then…
God, dear God, I do not know what to do.