~ Gertrude ~
As I sit on the edge of my bed,
Polonius looks at me with the most grave seriousness.
I wonder what is in the old man’s mind?
Loyalty to the royal family he has served so long?
Yes, that of course.
But his diplomat’s eyes seem also to screen
sadness and anger that is hard to define.
My son has been cruel to his daughter,
and yet that son is his prince and so in many ways,
Yet when he speaks it is as if he thinks not only
of Hamlet and Ophelia as wayward children,
but myself as well.
“He will come straight,” he says, as he conceals himself.
“Look you lay home to him:
tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with,
and that your grace hath screened and stood between
much heat and him.
I'll make myself secret here behind this arras.
Pray you, be round with him.”
Then I hear my son’s voice,
and it tears at my heart,
for it calls as might the child
I once held tight to my breast.
“Mother, mother, mother!”
Then Polonius is gone from view,
and Hamlet is here with me.
I brush a tear from my eye, impatient tear,
that cannot seem to wait for fresh pain to warrant it.
“Now, mother,” Hamlet says, coming close, “what's the matter?”
“Hamlet, you have your father much offended.”
“Mother, you have my father much offended.”
“Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.”
“Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.”
“Why, how now, Hamlet!”
His eyes are so strange and fierce.
Never in my life did I think to fear my son.
“What's the matter now?” he asks.
“Have you forgot me?”
“No, by the rood, not so:
you are the queen, your husband's brother's wife;
and--would it were not so!--you are my mother.”
Why, why does he say he wishes
I were not his mother?
Have I loved him so poorly?
Or does he think me a part of some great crime,
for having come to love a man not his father?
I shake my head, I cannot speak.
The wildness in his eyes is frightening.
And then to my shock he grasps my shoulders
and pushes me back on the bed,
following himself to loom over me,
a condemning finger wagged before my face.
Why are you shouting, son?
What have I done to you?
“Come, come, and sit you down,” he cries.
“You shall not budge;
you go not till I set you up a glass
where you may see the inmost part of you.”
All the pain and doubt of these past days
surely bleeds out in my voice;
so fearful in my own ears!
“What will you do?” I do not know
if I am pleading with him, or demanding.
“Will you hurt me now?”
I cannot help myself, I look to the arras
where Polonius is hidden.
Hamlet has gripped my wrist and it is painful.
I see the curtain stir and part;
for an instant, the face of Polonius,
gaze afraid, seems to weigh what to do
in this place where no diplomacy can serve.