Scrambled Hamlet

Oh, Shakespeare, Shakespeare,
With a play so fine, 
Wherefore dids’t thou make of Hamlet
Such a misogyne?

 

In plain speech: Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare play, but the misogyny rankles. It’s true that Hamlet’s scornful judgement falls on men and women alike, and it’s true that Shakespeare is quite clear on the sexual double standard between men and women, but at the same time, there’s way too much “Frailty, they name is woman.” I wish the play did more to redeem both Ophelia and the queen.

In any case, the play can perhaps be improved (or utterly destroyed) by a bit of reshuffling. With no further ado . . .

Ophelia’s conversation with Hamlet

(In which Hamlet sensibly takes accountability for his own actions.)

OPHELIA

My lord, I have rememberances of yours

That I have longed long to redeliver.

I pray you now receive them.

Take these again, for to the noble mind

Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.

Take them, my lord.

HAMLET

I did love you once.

OPHELIA

Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

HAMLET

You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. We are arrant knaves all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.

Hamlet’s conversation with the king and queen

(In which Hamlet decides to stay out of the whole affair, or maybe leaves Elsinore plotting a coup.)

KING

For your intent in going back to school in Wittenberg

It is most retrograde to our desire,

And we beseech you, bend you to remain

Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye

Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.

HAMLET

Denmark’s a prison.

QUEEN

Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet.

I pray thee, stay not with us. Go to Wittenberg.

HAMLET

I shall in all my best obey you, madam.

Opehlia’s conversation with the king and queen

(In which the king and queen hold Hamlet accountable for his behavior toward Ophelia.)

OPHELIA

By Gis and by Saint Charity,

Alack and fie for shame,

Young men will do ‘t, if they come to ‘t;

By Cock, they are to blame.

Quoth she “Before you tumbled me,

You promised me to wed.”

He answers:

“So would I ‘a done, by yonder sun, An thou hadst not come to my bed.”

QUEEN

Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?

OPHELIA

He hath, my lady, of late made many tenders

Of his affection to me.

POLONIUS

‘Tis most true,

And he beseeched me to entreat your Majesties

To hear and see the matter.

QUEEN

And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish

That your good beauties be the happy cause

Of Hamlet’s wildness,

and will bring him to his wonted way again.

OPHELIA

Madam, I wish it may.

Laertes’ conversation with Ophelia

(In which Ophelia dodges the whole affair in a clever role reversal, leaving the rest of Elsinore to its fate.)

OPHELIA

My necessaries are embarked. Farewell.

And, brother, as the winds give benefit

And convey is assistant, do not sleep,

But let me hear from you.

LAERTES

Do you doubt that?

OPHELIA

For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favor,

Hold it a a fashion and a toy in blood,

A violet in the youth of primy nature,

Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,

The perfume and suppliance of a minute,

No more.

LAERTES

No more but so?

OPHELIA

Think it no more.

 

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