Act One, Scene Two

{Inside a Theatre.  PRINCE HAMLET, costumed in royal cloak and crown, struts across the stage.  He hears a smattering of applause from a small audience.}

HAMLET:  To be or to be nothing.  What a dilemma.  Should I suffer these slings, arrows, splinters and jagged shards of fate?  Or put an end to them thus?

(Hamlet sets the blade of a sword under his own neck.)

FARMER (in audience):  Do it!  Draw blood.

(Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, late arrivals, searching for seats, enter through the audience.)

GUILDENSTERN:  The actor presents himself with a complex choice.

ROSENCRANTZ:   Attend to the mission.

GUILDENSTERN:  He wonders if life offers him purpose.

ROSENCRANTZ:   Tell him it does not.

(On the stage, Hamlet addresses a peasant Woman)

HAMLET:  O’ you rogues and peasant slaves.  Join my court.  For, without you, I am my own jester.  I am treasury but treasured not.  And less a king than a kingdom of one ruled by my own empty heart--

GUILDENSTERN:  “I’m not satisfied being filthy rich.”

ROSENCRANTZ:  “I hate being Prince.”

GUILDENSTERN:  “I have to mock my royal family on a stage.”

FARMER:  Shhh.


HAMLET:  Who dares interrupt?  

FARMER:  Enemies of the theatre.

ROSENCRANTZ:  (to Audience) But friends of the family. 

GUILDENSTERN:  The royal family.

(Rosencrantz approaches the stage.  Guildenstern follows.)

HAMLET:  Be happy I reject the crown, Guildenstern.  If I took it seriously, I would amputate your tongue.

GUILDENSTERN:  It was Rosencrantz tongue what said it, Sir.

(Rosencrantz slaps Guildenstern on the back of his head)

ROSENCRANTZ:  I didn’t mean to denigrate the theatre, Royal Sir.  But we came on royal business.

HAMLET:  I care nothing for the throne.  My greater, more glorious passion is to speak the holy words the Creator put in the hands of our great scribes.  You fools.  I pity you.  You’ll never have the pleasure of a passion.

GUILDENSTERN:  We have a passion, Sir.  To serve with abject servility.  At least, I do.

(The men climb the stage)

MILKMAID (in audience, to Farmer):  That strikes me as overly theatrical.

FARMER:  I think it’s quite bold and inventive.

ROSENCRANTZ:  May we discuss a family matter?

HAMLET:  Tell my father I don’t need his tutoring.  I’m busy with affairs of true import.

ROSENCRANTZ:  Actually the King cares little for tutoring right now.

HAMLET:  Does one of his nymphets preoccupy his scepter?

GUILDENSTERN:  He’s had some difficulties.

HAMLET:  Is he ill?

GUILDENSTERN:  He’s definitely not well.

HAMLET:  What disease besets him?

GUILDENSTERN:  Disease is not a problem.

HAMLET:  Is it bandits?


HAMLET:  Rebels?

GUILDENSTERN:  Not really.

HAMLET:  Foreign troops?

GUILDENSTERN:  Something more in the animal realm, Sire.

HAMLET:  This animal which plagues him.  Describe it.



ROSENCRANTZ:  Fiery breath.  Scaley.  Slimy.  And, oh, taller than a tree.

HAMLET:  Is my father hurt?

ROSENCRANTZ:  Hurt doesn’t put it accurately.

GUILDENSTERN:  He’s more dead than hurt, Sir.

HAMLET:  You taunt me.

(Hamlet strikes Rosencrantz on the chin.  He falls.)

FARMER:  Action.  This play has everything.

ROSENCRANTZ:  By order of the royal court, I declare this proceeding shut down.

HAMLET:  My father will hang you.

GUILDENSTERN:  Not in his present condition.

HAMLET:  Then I’ll hang you.

GUILDENSTERN:  That’s the spirit!

(c)2007 Gabby Gruen