~ Horatio ~
I step quickly to follow Ophelia,
but outside the room, it is hard to see which way she has taken.
Then a great noise and clamor meets my ears,
which sorely distracts me;
a press of men makes for the King’s chamber.
At their head, I see Laertes, Ophelia’s brother.
I let them pass, then move in their wake,
so that I may hear what will now fall out.
The doors are forced and left open;
I look within, and see Laertes confront the king.
“Oh you vile king,” he shouts, “give me my father!”
“Calmly, good Laertes,” says the queen.
“That drop of blood that's calm proclaims me bastard,”
is Laertes’ retort. “Cries cuckold to my father,
brands the harlot even here,
between the chaste unsmirched brow of my true mother.”
Gertrude tries to move between the two men,
but Claudius puts her gently off,
returning to the diplomat’s voice
that has served him so long and well.
“What is the cause, Laertes,
that thy rebellion looks so giant-like?
Let him go, Gertrude; do not fear our person:
there's such divinity to hedge a king,
that treason can but peep to what it would,
acts little of his will.
Tell me, Laertes, why thou art thus incensed.
Let him go, Gertrude. Speak, man.”
“Where is my father?”
“But not by him!” Gertrude hastens to interject.
“How came he dead? I'll not be juggled with:
to hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil!
Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
I dare damnation. To this point I stand,
that both the worlds I give to negligence,
let come what comes; only I'll be revenged
most thoroughly for my father.”
“Who shall stay you?” Claudius questions mildly.
“My will, not all the world,” says Laertes,
“and for my means, I'll husband them so well,
they shall go far with little.”
“Good Laertes,” the king continues,
“if you desire to know the certainty
of your dear father's death, is it writ in your revenge,
that you will draw both friend and foe, winner and loser?”
“None but his enemies.”
“Will you know them then?”
“To his good friends thus wide I'll open my arms;
and like the kind life-rendering pelican,
repast them with my blood.”
“Why,” Claudius is fatherly himself, now,
“now you speak like a good child and a true gentleman.
That I am guiltless of your father's death,
and am most sensible in grief for it,
it shall as level to your judgment pierce
as day does to your eye.”
Behind me, once again there is movement in the hall.
I turn, and see that Ophelia has come back.
As she approaches, my heart beats
with sadness, doubt, and even fear;
for what must follow can only be that
which will wreck souls.