Drama

 Essays     Lyrics     Poetry    Fiction

      This monologue is from a play that came about as an outgrowth of a college acting class assignment, in which each student had to write an autobiography of the character he or she would be portraying in a scene that would serve as a final project (i.e. we had to tell the story of our character’s life up to the point he or she first appeared in the play we were assigned).  My character was Hamlet, which indicated to me that his early story would have to be written in the same language, speech pattern, etc. as his later story had been written by the original author — in this case, of course, meaning blank verse.  For whatever reason, my professor had not been expecting such a literal translation of the assignment, and truly shocked me with her overwhelmingly positive reaction (“This is a whole play in itself!”), insisting from that moment on that I perform not  a scene from Hamlet as my final project, but a portion instead of my own Hamlet-related work.
It was subsequently at her urging, therefore, that I went on to create several additional autobiographies  for characters from Hamlet, and in the interest of giving them a practical use outside the classroom, I eventually combined them into this one-act play (which went on to be selected as a finalist in a national playwriting competition, and in various productions of which I also performed).

Gertrude:

O, can it be that I was once a maid,

Carefree, and full of the wonder of life

Which did then lay before me to unfold

And unmask the endless joys in my conceit?

Strange as it now seems, indeed, once ’twas so.

Once I liv’d in blessed peace, a daughter

Of one who served the father of the father

Of my Hamlet, a king who sired two kings …

In those days knew I not I would be queen,

Though, this hope I must admit I did possess;

Yet to be twice so in my lifetime crown’d

Would I have dreaded far beyond my hope.

Indeed, ’twas not the title I desired,

But the means whereby I would obtain it –

The elder son of him who was then king

Did mine eyes follow, prompted by my heart,

And when I knew that I had won his love

My joy could not greatDenmark’s bounds contain!

No joy did I then think could e’er surpass

That which fill’d my heart the day we wed;

Yet, soon I was to find this was untrue,

For when I gave birth to our only child,

A living symbol of love eternal,

Born of the sacred coupling of two souls –

Then did I know my joy was made complete.

And, when still radiant with his victory

O’er his enemy,Norway’s Fortinbras

Did my husband, the new father, return,

O, what pride did swell that kingly heart!

Upon first gazing onDenmark’s new prince

So great was the happiness of the king

That he did feel compelled to share his blessing

With all the peoples the world o’er,

And called for such festivities asElsinore

Had ne’er yet seen, and, I fear, the like of which

These aged walls will not soon see again …

How good it was to see King Hamlet laugh

At the antics of the new clown, Yorick,

And the radiance of his loyal subjects.

For, his gaity did not flow freely then

By cause of grief over his father’s death

Which had come to pass a short while ere.

Too noble to possess vaulting ambition,

Long had he dreaded the day he would be king;

And when the news did on that sad day come

That while riding not far from the castle

With my husband’s brother, Claudius,

The king had taken ill and shortly died,

What melancholy filled the new king’s heart

Despite the attempts of his brother and

Myself to help him peace and healing find.

Yet, when at last the double blessing

Of great triumph and renewal of life

For him on the same day occurred,

Contentment once again did on him rest.

And, though his father could not be forgot

Indeed, the void that in his heart had ope’d

Following his loss did that day begin to fill,

And the sun return’d to shine once more

InElsinore’s clear and beauteous sky.

O, what blessed days did we then share

Dimm’d only by the king’s too oft made journeys

Necessitated by th’ affairs of state.

How sad were I and the young prince on days

When he would bid us a loving farewell

And charge to Claudius our protection,

Who, with the servant, Polonius,

Did provide us well with ev’ry comfort.

Still, did we long for the king to return

And spring nimbly from his steed to greet us.

Ay me, those were such painless blissful days!

Oft then, Polonius’ son, Laertes,

In years like to our young Hamlet,

Would spend countless hours in play with him,

And, with blunt sticks to serve as rapiers,

They would fight pretended duels and all such

Games as young boys are wont to engage in.

What a sad intrusion on his childhood

That good Laertes was so young stripp’d

Of the most fair and gracious angel

That was his mother, requir’d of Heav’n

On the day his sister did to Earth descend

To become his well deserved comfort.

Polonius, who had serv’d with honor

Th’ old king, was raised to higher office

By the compassion of my husband

Who felt deeply the burden of his loss.

For my part, I did all that could be done

To help Laertes and Ophelia,

Left to brave the world without a mother,

Rest assur’d they’d always know a mother’s love.

And my sweet Hamlet, though still of tender age

Did shed tears of grief for his young friend’s loss

And for the babe he look’d on with great wonder …

Happily, the wounds of Polonius

And Laertes, though p’raps not heal’d

Did in time lose the potency of their sting,

And dear Ophelia, who ne’er felt the loss

Was spar’d by their best efforts and my own

Premature knowledge of the harshnesses

Of this world …

Ne’er did a more sweet and loving child

Grace the arms of any mother –

Her face, a reflection of Heav’n itself,

Her spirit, of angel’s breath compos’d –

How could it be else but that as Hamlet

Grew in stature and in heart, he did her

Come to love; ’twas as though God’s wisdom

Had for each th’ other provided,

And I look with happiness to the day

Methinks shall come when they as one be join’d …

Yet, that is in the future; for today

It is my hope that Ophelia’s love

Might assay to depart the great sorrow

That my Hamlet doth now bear.

The loss of so noble a father

Was a great shock to such a gentle heart.

And the comfort I do so wish to offer

Hath been rejected by cause of the marriage

I did enter into as the means

Of seeking comfort for mine own distressed heart.

Indeed, do I know that he hath reason

To be angered with the wedding’s haste.

Yet – must he know I lov’d his father well,

And that my heart can be as deeply cut

As that which beats within the breast of him,

Who is of mine own heart and flesh compos’d.

Doth not he know I could not bear such loss

Without the strength supplied by one

Much stronger than myself?

This strength from Hamlet’s uncle did come

So tenderly that I could not refuse ‘t,

Nor find reason at all that I should do so.

Was not he, beside dear Hamlet and myself,

The best lov’d in allDenmarkby my husband?

‘Tis common in nature to cling to one

Most trusted by the one one did most trust.

The king himself oft placed me in his charge –

Ah, yes, ’tis true that wisdom cried “Delay”.

Alas, the mind in torment oft forgets

The lessons learnt in happiness and health …

And yet, delay would not events have changed,

So, to what purpose act propriety

For the benefit of those who watch’d

And the detriment of me who felt – ?

Ay me, but to think on might have been

Is surely not worth th’ expense of thought.

What yet remains then to be pondered

Is that which might yet be accomplish’d

To speed return of that bright love

Once shar’d by my dearest Hamlet and myself …

Not only for the sake of mine own heart

And that of my beloved Hamlet

Do I wish the sunshine to return,

But as well for all atElsinore

Where my son is ‘bove all others ador’d,

And all now share with him in sorrow

As they once shared with him in happiness.

His friend, Horatio, hath expended

His greatest effort to restore his peace

As hath Ophelia, and e’en the clowns.

Profit thus far hath not to them come.

Yet, do I believe that in God’s mercy

The gift of time will supply their efforts

And Hamlet will smile on us all once more.

Then shall joy be restor’d to the subjects

Who will one day belong to him in word

As they so long have in love and deed …

Ah, I pray that God might grant me length of years

To see Hamlet and his future queen be wed,

And share their joy at birth of a sweet prince

To bless their lives as mine own hath bless’d me.

Yet, in prayer my soul yearns deeper still

That their blessings ne’er with pain be mingl’d

To mar the beauty of their memories

As ‘t hath stolen in to mar my own.

God, be merciful as thou art mighty

ThatDenmark’s days of mourning soon end

And the poison’d tears that Heav’n hath let drop

Be dried by the healing warmth of the sun;

Then mayElsinorebe clothed in peace

E’en as I was once clothed in purity …