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THE LOW-DOWN ON HAMLET
by
Bernard Miles

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This 'Amalet is quite a serious play.
It all takes place in Denmark where young 'Amalet is the Prince of Wales. His dad’s ghost appears to him on the castle battlements and ’Amalet says: “Blimey Dad, you didn’t ’arf give me a turn.” Then he says: “You’re lookin’ a bit peeky, Dad,” but the old ghost says: “Oh I feel all right in meself.” Well then ’e starts beckonin’ ’Amalet to lead the way to somewhere a little bit more secluded but ’Amalet says “No,” ’e says “After you Dad,” and follows the ghost out.

Well in the next scene the old ghost doesn’t ’arf start tellin’ young ’Amalet the tale. ’E says: “I don’t know if you’re aware of it, Son,” ’e says, ”but there’s been some dirty work goin’ on.” ’E says: “It’s been goin’ the rounds that I was stung to death by a snake but in point of fact I was stung by your Uncle Claud who now wears the crown.” ’E says: “It was like this son. I was ’avin’ a little kip down in the orchard just after tea—we know it was after tea because ’Amalet says ‘He took my father grossly full of bread’; this is called internal evidence y’ see—when your Uncle Claud stole up be’ind me an’ emptied some poison in me ear’ole.” Well the old ghost goes on: “To cut a long story short I was took queer on the Sunday an’ I was dead on the Monday.” An’ ’Amalet says: “Go on.” Then the ghost says: “Well so long Son. I must be getting’ back now,” and back ’e goes.

By the way I ought to ’ave mentioned that young ’Amalet’s mother, the widow of the ghost, ’as gone and married the very man ’oo caused ’er former husband all this inconvenience. And when young ’Amalet has had this interview with the ghost he comes over all funny and ’e ’as to take some of his tablets in order to get it down. Well in the middle of all this unpleasantness poor ’Amalet ’as no friend to turn to. Orphelia, ’is young lady, ’as turned out a big disappointment. Somehow or other she doesn’t seem to be able to come up to the scratch. I don’t know ’ow it is—I think it’s mostly on account of ’er upbringing. She’s been made thoroughly cowed by her father Polonius. He’s the Prime Minister and Head of the Secret Service Department. ’Amalet ’its ’im off a treat. “Oh ’im,” he says. “’E is all for a joke or a tale of bawdy or ’e sleeps.” How well we know that type!

Anyway at the finish Chance steps in. Young ’Amalet sits moping about you see. ’E doesn’t seem to ’ave any go in ’im somehow. So the old king says to ’im: “Look, cousin ’Amalet.” Cousin means nephew in Shakespeare you see. He says: “You’re properly run down. What about a few days at the seaside?” But ’Amalet says: “No, I tell you what I would like Uncle Claud,” he says: “Could we ’ave the local repertory company in to do a show?” And the old king says to Rose and Crantz and Guild and Stern, only two people you see: “Why not?” he says. “It might take ’im out of ’imself a bit.”

Well now Chance steps in again because young ’Amalet arranges with this theatrical company to enact a copy of a play in which the story is so similar to the circumstances of his own dad’s death it’s positively uncanny. “Now then,” ’e says to Horatio, “while this play is progressing keep your eye on Uncle Claud. If ’e blenches we shall know ’e’s the guil’y par’y.”

Well, believe it or not, in the middle of this play the king goes and blenches. No, it’s right honestly. And ’Amalet immediately shouts out “Wormwood! Wormwood!” meaning “I reckon you ought to be locked up.” And then all the lights fuse and the old king rushes out in a panic, shouting for an electrician.

Well, be that as it may, in the next scene young ’Amalet slays Polonius. ’E stabs ’im through the arrahss, y’see, where ’e’s secreted ’imself in order to satisfy ’is curiosity. And so Polonius dies as Aristotle laid down some years before through ’is weak spot. And young ’Amalet pushes ’is body into a little cupboard on the back stairs and leaves it there.

Well a few days later the king says to ’Amalet: “’Ere,” ’e says, “I ’aven’t seen Polonius lately.” And ’Amalet says: “I know,” ’e says. “I reckon ’e’ll be getting ’imself into bad odour.” Anyway now Chance rears its head, because at the finish the old king sees ’e’s up against a dangerous man and ’e sends for Laertes, the brother of ’Amalet’s young lady, who, by the bye, has just done away with ’erself by a watery death because she can’t hold out any longer. An’ ’e says to Laertes: “Look old man,” he says, “I want you to challenge ’Amelet to a duel with a poisoned tip.” So Laertes dips the tip of ’is rapier into unction—no it’s right—and old Claudius puts a poisoned pill into a goblet of wine in case this poisoned tip misses fire—a couple of right baskets I can tell you. Well anyway in the middle of the fight the old queen thinks she’d like a quick one so she goes and drinks some of the poisoned cup. The king shouts out to her “Don’t touch it Gert,” ’e says. “It’s poison.” But ’e’s too late. Then Laertes give ’Amalet a poisoned tip but ’Amalet puts ’is foot on it and gets it away from ’im and gives ’im one back. Then ’e says ’e smells treason an’ ’e rushes up to the king an’ ’e gives ’im a fourpenny one. Then ’e tips the dregs of the wine right down ’is throat and then they all die—the king and the queen and Laertes and young ’Amalet. And then just to round it all off Fortinbras comes in. ’E’s just come back from the pole y’see—or one or other o’ them. An’ ’e comes in without so much as a ‘By-your-leave’ or a ‘May-I?’ an’ ’e sees them all laid out there an’ ’e says: “’Ullo,” ’e says. “Have they been quarrelling again? And down comes the curtain.
 
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