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Denmark's New Groove

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[Curtains rise. A room in Elsinore.] 

CLAUDIUS

Good Rosenkronk and Guildensquirrel! You come 
Now at a welcome hour. Your tidings, lads. 
The bloody deed is done?

ROSENKRONK 

                     Well.

GUILDENSQUIRREL 

                               Squeak! Squeak squeak.

ROSENKRONK

‘Tis so, my lord, just as he said. We brought 
Sweet dainties to the king, as you my lord
Commanded: spinach puffs as light as air
To start, then soup and greens--

CLAUDIUS

                                    I did not ask
Thee for the menu. To the point, I pray.

ROSENKRONK

A pity, as it was a rare feast.

GUILDENSQUIRREL

                                    Squeak.
Squeak squeaken!

ROSENKRONK

                So the poison’d cup was serv’d.
The poison for King Hamlet, Hamlet’s poison,
The poison you selected to kill Hamlet.
My friend did bring it forth, o’erflowing with 
Wine rich and sweet, and intermix’d within
There stewed the juice of adders, asps and toads,
All loathsome things that on their bellies crawl
And bring a stupor to the mind and limbs,
And soon a creeping death -- or so we thought.

CLAUDIUS

Thought?

GUILDENSQUIRREL

      Squeak.

ROSENKRONK

                          Indeed. You see, my lord, no sooner
Had he the poison drunk, but up he starts, 
Then down he falls. 

CLAUDIUS

                          I grow impatient. Tell
Me that he’s dead. I need to hear those words.

ROSENKRONK

Well... Out the cup came forth a cloud of smoke
Most wonderous in hue, and when it cleared
We saw the king translated to a beast.
To be precise, the king is now a llama.

CLAUDIUS

A llama?!? He’s supposèd to be dead!

ROSENKRONK

Yeah, weird.



***

 

[Wittenberg. A platform before the castle, haunted by a white figure]

MARCELLUS

Peace, break thee off. Look where it comes again! 
Sounds it not like the king? Mark it, Horatio. 

HORATIO

Most like: it harrows me with fear and wonder. 

MARCELLUS

It would be spoke to.

BERNARDO

                Question it, Horatio.

MARCELLUS

Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.

HORATIO

What kind of scholar do you think I am?!

KING HAMLET (LLAMA)

WHO DARES TO THROW OFF ROYAL DENMARK’S GROOVE? 

 

***

 

[the same ramparts; the same platform; also Hamlet is now there]

KING HAMLET (LLAMA)

If thou didst ever thy dear father love --

HAMLET

Oh, god.

KING HAMLET (LLAMA)

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder!

HAMLET

Murder? 

KING HAMLET (LLAMA)

Murder most foul, as in the best it is --

HAMLET 

My lord, I think you have misunderstood
The fate that’s come upon you. 

KING HAMLET (LLAMA)

                          THIS MOST FOUL -- 

HAMLET

You’re not even a chicken. 

HORATIO

                          [Rimshot noise.]

KING HAMLET (LLAMA)

Oh, for fuck’s sake. 

HAMLET

           No, sorry. Right. Revenge? 

 

***

 

[the same ramparts, the same platform again. Background, Marcellus and Bernardo attempt to cheer King Hamlet (llama) with various diversions. Young Hamlet and Horatio forefront.]

HAMLET 

‘If thou didst ever thy dear father love?’ Sure, okay, but Horatio, I have class! My essay’s due next week!

HORATIO

           Most gentle lord,
I fear me that this work will have to wait.
Dost see that man approaching from the north
And those his minions that attend upon him? 

HAMLET

O my prophetic soul! My uncle! 

HORATIO [in sympathetic agreement]

                          Fuck. 

 

***

 

[Wittenberg’s gate]

MARCELLO

And what relation have you to lord Hamlet? 

CLAUDIUS

Why, I’m his father’s brother’s cousin’s nephew’s
Wife’s step-niece’s great-uncle. Twice removed. 

BERNARDO

Well, we’ll be sure to tell him you came by. 

CLAUDIUS [aside]

They’re hiding something. When I give the word
We search the castle. 

GUILDENSQUIRREL

                Squeaker? Squeaken, squeak?

ROSENKRONK

Good question. Beg your pardon, good my lord,
But as you are indeed lord Hamlet’s uncle
This subterfuge --

CLAUDIUS

           You fool! We’re in disguise! 
[to Bernardo, Marcello and Horatio]
And now, perhaps, if we might take a tour
Of Wittenberg.

HORATIO

           Of course. [aside] The tour’s the thing
Wherein we’ll torment this pretender king. 

 

***

 

[Wittenberg’s stables.] 

KING HAMLET (LLAMA)

How many times must I demand it? Son,
Forget your ‘homework’; only peasants work.
Your duty is revenge, my closest kin –- 

HAMLET (aside)

A little more than kin, but less than kind.

KING HAMLET (LLAMA)

Rain curses and destruction on my brother!
Transform him to a flea, and box him up -–
Then send him to thyself by quickest post –- 
Then smash him with a mighty hammer’s swing!  
(For so he would have done to me, were he
Not too impatient for the shipping time.)
And figure out how best to free me from
This curse most foul, strange, and unnatural.
For what’s less natural than a demon llama?

HAMLET

Well, if my mother were to wed my uncle --

KING HAMLET (LLAMA)

WHAT?

HAMLET

Just thinking about how this could be worse.

 

***

 

[A room in Wittenberg; Claudius, inside, Horatio, out]

HORATIO

Good sir, what do you mean, ‘the door is stuck?’ 
Try jiggling the handle.

CLAUDIUS

           THERE’S. NO. HANDLE.

 

***

 

[Another room in Wittenberg. Hamlet forefront; King Hamlet (llama) behind, in unconvincing scholar’s garb; Rosenkronk shaking Hamlet’s hand enthusiastically, apparently without recognition of either]

ROSENKRONK

Well, this has just been such a pleasant visit.
You have a lovely home.

HAMLET

           This is a school? 

 

***

 

[The same room. Enter Claudius and Horatio; Claudius dust-covered, as one who has recently bust through a wall] 

CLAUDIUS

Now tell us where the talking llama is
And we will burn this college to the ground. 

HORATIO 

Don’t you mean ‘or?’

CLAUDIUS

           ...OR we will burn this school,
I said, unto the ground. 

HORATIO

           This seems to me
A crucial conjunction. 

HAMLET

           Good Horatio
Thou always wert a scholar. Pull the lever. 

[Claudius, Rosenkronk, Guildenstern launched through a trapdoor. Divers alarums.]

CLAUDIUS [a distant scream]

WHY DO THEY EVEN HAVE THAT FUCKING LEVER?

 

***

[Elsinore. A room in the castle.] 

GERTRUDE

Good gentlemen, you’ve brought my husband home
From what adventures I can hardly know. 

CLAUDIUS 

Thanks, Rosenkronk, and gentle Guildensquirrel.

GERTRUDE

Thanks, Guildensquirrel and gentle Rosenkronk. 

[Claudius, in perplexity, looking from man to squirrel. He sees no difference.] 

 

***

[Outside the castle]

HAMLET

I see the coronation flag. Horatio,
How is it that they have outpaced us here? 

HORATIO

I cannot say. We set out first, and made
Good time. By all accounts it don’t make sense. 

 

***

 

[A room of state in the castle.] 

GERTRUDE

This holy day shall Denmark celebrate
Our royal wedding (to a sort of brother
And second lord, but of that awkwardness 
We shall not speak). Be welcome to the palace,
Thyself and thy... companion.

HORATIO

           Thanks.

KING HAMLET (LLAMA, IN LADY’S GUISE)

                          In fact,
We too celebrate nuptials. This my lord
And I were wed just yesterday, and now
We take our honeymoon.

HORATIO

           We what?!

KING HAMLET (LLAMA)

                          And so
Our thanks, most gentle queen, most faithful lady,
O you of whom all Denmark sings your praise:
‘Penelope of Danes! Would that my wife 
Were half so steadfast in her love!’ Whose eyes 
O’erflow unceasingly in grief (no doubt)
For her last king, so recently deceased --

[Horatio elbows the llama]

GERTRUDE

God bless you both for coming out in public.

 

***

[Elsinore. A secret alchemical laboratory.]

ROSENKRONK

Here are my friends. They ride upon my shoulders
And counsel me with oft-oppos’d advice.

HAMLET

Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands, 
come then: the appurtenance of welcome is fashion 
and ceremony. Let me comply with you in this garb, 
lest my extent to the guards (which, I tell you, 
must show fairly outwards) should more appear like
entertainment than yours. You are welcome. But my 
uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceiv'd.

GUILDENSQUIRREL

Squeak squeaken squeak?

HAMLET

I am but mad by north-north-west. When the wind is 
southerly I know a king from a llama.

SHOULDER ANGEL

That seems… specific.

SHOULDER DEVIL

                          No, no, he’s got a point.
Imagine if a llama was the king!

 

***

[Alarums and excursions. The GUARDS and several COURTIERS are translated into animals of divers sorts.]

OPHELIA

Pardon, my lord. I have become a swan.
I beg your leave to go, and nevermore
Be seen within this play; ‘tis farcical.

CLAUDIUS 

You have it.

GUARD

And I, my lord?

GUARD 2

And I?

CLAUDIUS

Yes, fine. You are excused. Well? Anybody else?

GUARDS, COURTIERS

No, my lord, we’re good.

CLAUDIUS

Then fly forth, men! To arms! And get that llama!!!

 

***

[Curtain rise. CLAUDIUS, ROSENKRONK, GUILDENSQUIRREL, ALL are PLAYERS, performing for the COURT of DENMARK; REAL HAMLET presiding]

HAMLET (PLAYER KING)

And: curtain.

REAL HAMLET

           Madam, how like you this play? 

REAL GERTRUDE

I am amazed, and know not what to say.