Hamlet 2: The Arrows of Fate

Posted on February 12, 2004 by Jenna

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OPEN on a graveyard gate. MARCELLUS and BARNARDO stand on either side. Clad in a swirling black trenchcoat, with his hair slicked back, HAMLET stalks onto the scene. An asp, curled and hissing in the crumbled wall beside the gate, strikes at his ankle. HAMLET cuts it down, a long thin blade hissing out of his sleeve and smiting the snake dead; he whirls his arm around and the blade retracts.

“Marcellus,” he says. “Barnardo. What madness grips you, that you invite me here? Centuries have passed, and more besides, since any spoke to me my father’s name; and if he in his torment wanders still, it matters not. His tidings of murder, he spoke them then to me; and foul Claudius, poisoner of Kings, is dead.”

“These things are true,” Marcellus answers, “and I have witnessed them; yet once again his spirit stirs, and calls you to his grave.”

“Bah,” says Hamlet. “He is a ghost. His words have no interest for me.”

“Yet you have come.”

“I weary of my eternal night,” he says. “The blood of maidens lacks its sheen, and the moonlit world grows dreary. My mailbox swells with endless, pointless spam, the films I craft are stagnant, and Fortinbras is dead. I have no hope for import in this game of yours, but still—I found I craved the distraction of a journey.”

“Then follow me, my lord, and come and find his grave; and you shall see why even vampires may fear the night.”

“Surely we need not hurry,” Barnardo protests. “My circadian rhythms tell me we still have three hours till the dawn.”

Hamlet smiles. “Wait here, good friend, and guard this gate, and know no fear; Marcellus and I shall face this spirit down.”

The gates creak open. HAMLET and MARCELLUS journey inwards, with BARNARDO still and quiet at the gate behind. HAMLET and MARCELLUS stop in front of a twenty-foot tall tombstone. It casts the shadow of a cross across the loam.

“Ah!” cries Marcellus. “It is the horrid shade.”

Hamlet turns. He sees his father’s ghost; and his mouth sets in a thin line.

“Begone, fell spirit. I know not what thou art; but my father is long gone.”

“Gone?” The ghost turns and his stare stops Hamlet cold. “There is no peace for such as I. The heart of God towards sinners is a thing of stone. I have found no forgiveness in these centuries, no surcease, and no end. Did you, my son, my faithless son, imagine that I to Heaven found my way? If there is a Heaven, it is farther than the furthest star, and its gates are closed to such as I.”

“Ah,” Hamlet says, and bows his head. “Then, father, why have you returned? If revenge you sought, revenge you found; in that revenge, my own undoing, and our house of Denmark fallen.”

“I speak to you of murder,” says the ghost. “I speak to you of foul deeds; for your sire, Fortinbras, most ancient of vampires, fell not to mortal hands but to Rosencrantz’s stake!”


“How can I know?” Hamlet asks himself. “Once, true, once my father’s words were sooth; but centuries of torment make a bitter ghost. Perhaps he comes back now only to taunt me with his lies; and can I stake a vampire and friend for nothing more than this?”

“I do not know,” Marcellus says. “I would not trust him. He seemed to bear a monstrous air.”

“I cannot trust,” says Hamlet, “and yet I must; for if Fortinbras met foul end, then like the dawn onto the hills does fall, the duty of revenge must fall to me. What can I do? … a glimmer of hope, it comes to me at last. A vampire movie–that’s the thing, a conscience-catcher with a hidden sting. He’ll watch the film, and I’ll watch him, and take … my answers from his face; and if he’s guilty, raise the stake.”

“Are you sure?” Marcellus asks. “Fortinbras was not without his flaws.”

“It is our way,” Hamlet answers.

Marcellus nods. “What, then, shall this film contain?”

“I’ve bitten the players and made them mine; and for this gift of darkness they serve me still; and I’ll direct, and give it form, and fill it with the truths I know, and great shall stride the vampire King across the stage, and his trembling servants cringe, and then, with cold grey malice, one shall turn, and while the King sleeps in his eternal tomb, gently slide a stake into his master’s heart.”

“Will he not know?” Marcellus asks. “For surely, Rosencrantz recalls you used such a device before.”

“Bah,” says Hamlet. “I am his senior; my blood trumps his; and I shall see the slightest tremblings of his eyes.”

Elsewhere, POLONIUS speaks to ROSENCRANTZ.

“Ah, Rosencrantz. Your time will come soon, to fly to Hollywood and meet with the Danish Prince. For many years, you have lived under my care; and soon, you must depart! So let me place these few precepts into your ears, that you shall fare as well without me.

“Eat of onions, but by no means garlic. Those slaves you have enthralled, and found to serve, bind them to your soul with hoops of steel; but do not hasten to enthrall each girl you meet. Beware the werewolves, and do not fight, but remember, if you must, that they as well fear thee. Taste every maiden’s blood, but give your blood to few; dress to impress, but not with glitzy fashions that in five years shall pall–for the fashions of the day are the zoot suits and stirrup pants of tomorrow, and the reputation that you lose for goldfish shoes is not easily regained upon the morrow. Neither a borrower nor a lender be, but borrow sunscreen if you must; and this above all: do not let Hamlet know the truth, for he has slain vampires more cunning and more terrible than thou.”

HAMLET assembles the movie. Vampiric actors hasten to his bidding. In short order, the opening day draws near, and HAMLET and ROSENCRANTZ fly to Los Angeles, where they sit in the opera box.

“Look well,” says Hamlet, “for this is my magnum opus; and if it proves stale, weary, and unprofitable, then no small sum of my vampiric fortune shall be lost.”

“You jest,” says Rosencrantz, “for in all the world of night, there is no director more skilled than thee.”

The movie plays; and HAMLET watches. On film, the treacherous vampire stakes his King–a King whose resemblance to Fortinbras ROSENCRANTZ cannot find coincidental. ROSENCRANTZ’s pupils shrink; his body tenses; and HAMLET moves to strike.

“Hold,” says Rosencrantz.

“And why?”

“It is not manly that we settle our affairs like this, in theatre and in dark. It is more fit that we should duel, and test our skills in proper fashion; and then, if God is just, the better monster shall prevail.”

“Tomorrow night,” says Hamlet, “be it dark or bright, in a graveyard I shall name.”

ROSENCRANTZ and HAMLET rise. They leave the theater. CLAIRE and BRODERICK, two fans, stand nearby. CLAIRE suddenly gasps and points at them.

“Wow,” says Claire. “That’s the director!””

“Big deal,” Broderick says. “This was his worst movie, ever. He’s gotten all moral and wishy-washy.”

“Alas, poor Hamlet. Let’s pretend we don’t know him, Broderick!”

Claire and Broderick turn up their noses snootily as Hamlet and Rosencrantz pass.

“Later,” Claire says, “I’ll tell all our friends that we totally dissed Hamlet.”

It is NIGHT. The tombstones crowd around. MARCELLUS and BARNARDO lurk in the background. HAMLET and ROSENCRANTZ approach from different directions.

“The rules are simple,” Hamlet says. “Each of us will sing our side of the story. The better singer wins the duel and stakes his opponent.”

“Of course,” Rosencrantz says. He takes up his position.

Hamlet closes his eyes. Then, gently, he sings:

The first and last of all the things I knew:
His fangs.
The blood that flowed from master’s veins to mine
It sang
It filled my heart with life immortal, and with night
And made dead Hamlet Prince again.

Rosencrantz answers:

And yet in every gentle heart a monster hides
And fool
You are if you deny that Fortinbras
Was cruel
He offered me his gifts, but in some moods, gave hurt
And made me yearn that I could find the grave again.

Hamlet frowns. They sing, together:

I cannot say that Fortinbras was a good King to me.
And yet his rule meant many things to me.
He gave me life when life had made an end of me.
And Fortinbras was enemy and friend to me.

Hamlet sits down upon a stone. “He was my liege,” he says. “He was my sire.”

“And mine,” says Rosencrantz. “But you, he let to travel, and to make your films; while I was his jester and his fool.”

“I cannot let you go,” says Hamlet. “Yet I am loath to kill you, when I too have felt the back of our master’s hand.”

“Then stay your conscience; for it has driven you hard and long; and we shall speak no more of this.”

“Perhaps,” says Hamlet. He rises decisively to his feet. “Yes. No more shall I waffle over decisions such as this. Straight to the point, I strike. I will not kill you; therefore, you shall not die. I do not wish to know eternal sleep; thus, I myself shall live. An end to all my vacillations and my sorrows; to Castle Hamlet we must fly, and there revel till the ending of all days.”

The sun crests over the hills.

“Oh, fucking jet lag,” says Hamlet.