Polonius Is Dead

By: Alex Bernstein

Hamlet, Act III, Scene 4. Queen Gertrude’s bedchamber. Hamlet, distressed, speaks with the Queen. Polonius, her elderly advisor, hides behind the curtains.

POLONIUS: Oh…damn. Well, I didn’t think he’d just walk in like that. Still, standing back here, surely, I might ascertain the cause — nay, the implement — of young Hamlet’s madness.

What’s he saying? What’s he saying? What was that? I can hardly hear a thing. What? What was that? Was that my name? What’s he saying? What?

Well, I wouldn’t’ve stood back here if I’d known I couldn’t hear him. Maybe I’ll just peek. Lousy curtains. He’d run me through if he saw me! It’s just like him. That’s all we need in Denmark — emotional children. Walk backwards like a crab! Indeed! I’ve got your bare bodkin! Bare bodkin this! And how did he know I was a fishmonger? I made quite a nice living fish mongering. Hello, ladies! What are we mongering today? Fish? Fish jerky? Little squib? What’s he saying?

You know…I think I can just make out Gertrude’s backside from here! There’s an ass to kill for! Hmm…now, where’ve I heard that before?

I know. I’ll just step out. Hello! Well hello, Hamlet! Hamlet, right? You’re up late! Terrific sword. What am I doing back here? Praying. No. I live here. It’s a Westinghouse, right? Well, I’m westing! Ba-dump-cha! That’s great for toasts. It’s yours if you — oh, what am I really doing here? Mm. I’m lost. I was in aisle six and — you? Love these curtains. They’re Danish, I think. It would make sense, right? I could’ve sworn there was a window back here. You know what, Hamlet? You need a hobby. Seriously. Knitting? It’s a time killer! Yes. I — talk to myself? Do I? Why, I suppose I do!

Hamlet! Haaaamlet! Ophelia likes you! Yes, she does — I think so — I — Hiding!? Eavesdropping!? Sir! You malign me! You offend me! You piss me off — you —

God! The stench back here! Does no one ever clean?! Eeuch! Gertrude, I love you, but you’re a pig. Smells like juice of vile hebenon! Death for my sinuses. And get some in your ear!? Brrr!

Uhm…Hammy? Excuse me. I’m so sorry. I really must get back. One of my courtesans fell. Yes. On her orisons. Right. And I’m bringing her some ointment. Cortisone, yes. Cortisone for my courtesan’s orisons. I know. I know. It’s complicated. Maybe I should fix him up with that Capulet girl. Mmm. Yes, she’s moody, too.

I know! I’ll play on his madness! Hamlet! It is I — the Ghost of Your Father! Boo! Mark me! Mark — me! You — Hamlet! Mark me! Use permanent markers! Big ones! Hamlet! Avenge me! Avenge me! Kill the King! Jump up and down! Take two steps backwards! Say “hibby hibby nobby nobby tibby tibby ding!”

Oh, poor, poor, mixed-up Danish prince. Dangerous, sure. Too much zest. ADD? Perhaps. What he needs is a good role model. Someone living. Yes, that’s it. Flesh and blood.

Oh — oh — Hamlet — by the by — If you see him again — the King your father — could you ask where he left my sandals? He said he was only wearing them into the garden and now — yes, the leather ones with the gold straps. God, I had them for years! Greek! Specially made. A month’s salary! No, it’s fine, fine. I guess I didn’t really expect them back. Still. If he apparates again — yes, that’d be terrific!

Say — say — what — what was his name again, anyway? We always just called him “King.” Oh, oh, I know! Hamlet! King Hamlet! Say! That makes you a Junior! Hello, Junior! How are you, Junior? Ahp — Junior’s killed someone in a duel! See. That’s much cheerier, yes?

Well, everything’s perspective, isn’t it? You say it’s tragedy! He says it’s comedy! She says it’s a travel monologue! The Murder of Gonzago? Funny! I don’t care what the critics said. I couldn’t stop laughing. A tragedy is — I don’t know — anything by Marlowe! Kidding. A tragedy is some prolonged sword fight with poisoned tips and drinks and everyone dies and all that nonsense. God, it’s so depressing —

Take Claudius. Please! No, really — he’s a pussycat once you get to know him! And what good luck that after your father’s freakish death he was able to step in as new sovereign and husband to Gertrude! Ho! It certainly added continuity to the kingdom! Wasn’t so easy for your mother, either, hopping into the sack toot sweet with your father’s brother! But she knew her obligations to the crown! Now, that’s a queen!

I know — I know — you’re stressed. Seems like everybody’s talking about you, staring at you. Hamlet, that’s not treachery! It’s hormones. Yes. Now — I mean this — I want you to think of me as an uncle. Just like Claudius — no — wait — what? Look — what say you and me — two strapping Great Danes –- head to the commissary — grab a couple flagons of ale –- Super Gulps, sure -– and then, you can tell me anything! About your dad, Ophelia, whatever! Won’t that be swell?! Thatta boy! Come —

He steps forward, absent–mindedly.

POLONIUS: Give your old Uncle Polonius a big —

He is stabbed through the curtains.

POLONIUS: O — I am slain!



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