~ Gertrude ~
With Hamlet gone to England,
I had wondered if madness indeed would leave with him,
but alas, it is not to be.
I can scarce believe the wreckage left now in his wake,
which is brought hard to my eyes and heart,
as Horatio brings Ophelia to see me.
“Her mood will needs be pitied,” says he.
“She speaks much of her father; says she hears
there's tricks in the world; and hems, and beats her heart;
spurns enviously at straws; speaks things in doubt,
that carry but half sense: her speech is nothing.
It would be good for you to speak with her;
for she may strew dangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds.”
“Let her come in.” I sigh.
To my sick soul, as sin's true nature is,
each toy seems prologue to some great amiss:
so full of artless jealousy is guilt,
it spills itself in fearing to be spilt.
Horatio goes out, and brings Ophelia from the hall.
“How now, Ophelia!” I offer, but Ophelia does not speak.
Rather, she looks on me as if a stranger,
and begins to sing.
“How should I your true love know from another one?
By his cockle hat and staff, and his sandal shoon.”
“Alas, sweet lady,” I ask, “what imports this song?”
“Say you?” Once again, Ophelia’s gaze seems empty,
and yet full of terrible knowledge all at one.
“Nay, pray you, mark,” she continues,
“he is dead and gone, lady, he is dead and gone;
at his head a grass-green turf, at his heels a stone.”
“Nay, nay, but Ophelia…” I stammer, as a tear comes to my eye.
“Pray you, mark.” Ophelia’s gaze becomes stern, and hard.
“White his shroud as the mountain snow,
larded with sweet flowers which weeping to the grave did go
with true-love showers.”
Grief and sadness all but bear me down to the ground;
fierce, bright Ophelia, how can this have happened to you?
The knowledge that it is, at its heart, my son’s doing
…and my doing as well, weighs like a stone in my heart.
Claudius enters in, sees us so gathered in our distress,
and looks with troubled eye upon this damaged child.
“How do you, pretty lady?” he asks.
“Well, God 'ild you!” she answers.
“They say the owl was a baker's daughter.
Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be.
God be at your table!”
Claudius looks to Horatio and me in dismay.
What can we say to him?
But Ophelia has no end of discourse, and continues:
“Pray you, let's have no words of this;
but when they ask you what it means, say you this:
to-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
all in the morning betime,
and I a maid at your window,
to be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
and opened the chamber-door;
let in the maid, that out a maid
never departed more.”
“Pretty Ophelia!” Claudius puts a hand to her shoulder,
and would have hugged her, though she will not have it,
and slips away, continuing her wild speech and song.
“Indeed, la, without an oath, I'll make an end on it.
By Gis and by Saint Charity,
alack, and fie for shame!
Young men will do it, if they come to it;
by cock, they are to blame.
Quoth she, before you tumbled me,
you promised me to wed.
So would I have done, by yonder sun,
and you had not come to my bed.
I hope all will be well. We must be patient:
but I cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him
in the cold ground. My brother shall know of it:
and so I thank you for your good counsel.
Come, my coach!
Good night, ladies; good night, sweet ladies;
good night, good night.”
Ophelia then rushes from the room;
My husband gestures to Horatio to follow her.
“Follow her close; give her good watch,” he says, “I pray you.”
Horatio exits as well, and Claudius and I stare at one another.
“How long has she been thus?” he asks.
Oh, this is the poison of deep grief; it springs
all from her father's death. Oh Gertrude, Gertrude,
when sorrows come, they come not single spies
but in battalions. First, her father slain:
next, your son gone; and he most violent author
of his own just remove: the people muddied,
thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers,
for good Polonius' death; poor Ophelia
divided from herself and her fair judgment,
without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts.
Last, and as much containing as all these,
her brother is in secret returned from France;
feeds on his wonder, keeps himself in clouds,
and wants not buzzers to infect his ear
with pestilent speeches of his father's death.
Oh my dear Gertrude, this,
like to a murdering-piece, in many places
gives me superfluous death.”