~ Gertrude ~
I have not been able to move,
to leave my room, since Hamlet departed,
dragging the slaughtered remains
of what had once been Ophelia’s father.
It is, perhaps, a trance of grief and horror
that keeps me fixed so.
I do not know the time.
But when Claudius comes, and I hear his voice
calling my name over and over,
I wake a little, and realize it is still the same night.
Still, for a while I can do no more than sigh
and shake my head.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are with him, I see,
and I would wish them gone,
for they are not fit ears to hear what I would say,
should speech return to me.
Claudius speaks again.
What is he saying?
“There's matter in these sighs, these profound heaves:
you must translate: 'tis fit we understand them.
Where is your son?”
I shake my head again,
and point at Hamlet’s old schoolmates.
Claudius turns to them, waving them from the room.
“Bestow this place on us a little while,” he instructs,
and thank God, they leave.
At last, I can speak.
“Ah, my good lord, what have I seen to-night!”
“What, Gertrude? How does Hamlet?”
“Mad as the sea and wind, when both contend
which is the mightier: in his lawless fit,
behind the arras hearing something stir,
whips out his rapier, cries, 'A rat, a rat!'
And, in this brainish apprehension, kills
the unseen good old man.”
My husband gasps, and looks around him,
as if expecting my son to leap forth again,
this time to more focused aim.
“Oh heavy deed!” he says.
“It had been so with us, had we been there:
his liberty is full of threats to all;
to you yourself, to us, to every one.
Alas, how shall this bloody deed be answered?
It will be laid to us, whose providence
should have kept short, restrained and out of haunt,
this mad young man: but so much was our love,
we would not understand what was most fit;
but, like the owner of a foul disease,
to keep it from divulging, let it feed
even on the pith of Life. Where is he gone?”
“To draw apart the body he has killed,” I answer.
“Over whom his very madness, like some ore
among a mineral of metals base,
shows itself pure; he weeps for what is done.”
“Oh Gertrude, come away!” he begs.
“The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch,
but we will ship him hence: and this vile deed
we must, with all our majesty and skill,
both countenance and excuse. Ho, Guildenstern!”
The two men return,
having lurked nearby throughout, I doubt not.
“Friends both,” says Claudius,
“go join you with some further aid:
Hamlet in madness has Polonius slain,
and from his mother's closet has he dragged him:
go seek him out; speak fair, and bring the body
into the chapel. I pray you, haste in this.”
I have lowered my head again, and do not see them go.
So it will be exile for Hamlet,
that very fate I thought to forestall,
by speaking to him,
heart to heart and mind to mind.
But that was all disaster,
and what follows must surely be the same.
“Come, Gertrude,” Claudius implores,
“we'll call up our wisest friends;
and let them know, both what we mean to do,
and what's untimely done. Oh, come away!
My soul is full of discord and dismay.”