No Prozac For Hamlet

by Neil Dennis

Moderator: We have a really unusual case, today, of madness and murder and accusations in royal places. Our guests today are: Prince Hamlet of Denmark and his friend Horatio [in uncomfortable chairs, miked and ready, Horatio tensely distracted, Hamlet poised]--a friend that has supported him, we understand, through some weeks of...would you call it rehabilitation? And over here we have the present Queen and the new King of Denmark, Gertrude and Claudius. Now, Prince, if you will, begin.

Claudius: Why not let us begin? We are on the defensive, here, you know. It is our morality that is being attacked; no one has to attack him, he indicts himself.

Hamlet: [politely] Go ahead, please.

Gertrude: Maybe I ought to begin. I might begin with a mother's admission: I willingly endure a mother's blame for what has happened to my son. He betrays some of my faults but in another way.

Moderator: Now hold on. I think, well...[snickering] we needn't consider mothers too terribly responsible for the inactions or actions or misdeeds of their children these days, do we?

Claudius: This guy killed an old man, drove a girl mad--upset everybody--

Moderator: And we have the specialists waiting to tell us what their examinations and tests have told them about Hamlet's malady, his motives in the killing of Polonius--who may, I am told, join us through the folks behind the Necromantic Hot Line who have agreed to give us a feed today. Now, let's see Prince. [looks obviously at notes] I see you have been charged with but, [glancing up at the people on the set] never tried for this murder?

Hamlet: A question about my sanity came up.

Claudius: It was of course the quick marriage that first set him off, he did not like that rapid move to replace his father.

Hamlet: Would anyone with a any sense of propriety

Gertrude: Boys!

Claudius: I think he still wants to sleep with his mommy because he feels sick [mockingly, in babytalk] and he hopes she will make him feel all better. I am sleeping with his mommy, the Queen, and he wants to replace me.

Moderator: You must've been talking to the doctors backstage, King Claudius. You don't strike me as the sort of man who'd read up on Oedipal connections. Gertrude: He's a good man, but he--

Hamlet: He killed my father, this I know, 'cause the father told me so. So you must die, too, but I couldn't say when.

Gertrude [aside, grim]: See? Here he goes! Slides right off into it. Threatening the king outright....

Moderator: I think we'll bring out some experts on this problem now:

Doctor Jones, Is it?

Jones: Ernest Jones.

Moderator: And you have I think written a popular essay on this subject, called--

Jones: Hamlet and Oedipus.

Moderator: Right, in which you said:

Jones: Don't get out of context. I always said this would happen.

Moderator: You said, in an oft-quoted bit:

"The association of the idea of sexuality with his mother, buried since infancy, can no longer be concealed from his consciousness...the long 'repressed' desire to take his father's place in his mother's affections is stimulated to unconscious activity--"

Hamlet:[groaning] Oh, please--

"--by the sight of someone usurping this place exactly as he himself had once longed to do so...more...the actual usurpation further resembled the imaginary one in being incestuous."

Claudius: How? It says in the Bible, I could almost quote you the verse, that a woman is supposed, is bound to marry the brother of her deceased husband. It's in the Book!

Moderator: This is a subject for another show, one I am sure we'll do, but for now let's stick to his accusations and his reasons for killing Polonius.

Hamlet: I told everybody, didn't I Horatio? Thought he was a rat. Sorry!

Moderator: But good Prince, as much as we'd like to admire you for your firm belief in what a ghost told you, this old man was nothing more than a meddling father watching over his daughter. Did he deserve the treatment you gave him?

Hamlet: But you have to understand my metanoia. And remember how crazy she was, God help her! I don't call it paranoia, for that word has really crazy meanings wound about it; I mean a sort of being above my mind, watching it (and everybody else's) from a somewhat detached position not exactly sub specie aeternitus, but close.

Jones: He is rationalizing his illness. You must admit to feelings of self-loathing, to revulsion for food and joy--

Hamlet: Yes, well, maybe, Doctor, but only to the proper point. I don't know. How is one supposed to grieve; for how long the father, for a wife or mother? Is there some set time period?

Jones: You are in denial, sir!

Hamlet: How can there be manuals for the regulation of grief? I still grieve for my father; he doesn't manifest his ghostly self nearly as much lately.

Jones: He enjoys being manic-depressive, is what it is, good sirs and madams. He has begun to enjoy his disease. This happens. Psychosis eventually will create the sort of psychotic episode he's probably going to tell you.

Moderator: Right. We would get to that sooner or later. You saw the ghost of your father, Hamlet, is that right?

Hamlet ( to Horatio): Speak up, Horatio.

Moderator: Twice.

Hamlet: Once in armor and once in nightclothes. I know how it must sound to you.

Gertrude: Very odd. He talked to it and said it talked to him, but I saw nothing.

Horatio: I saw it..

Moderator: This is Hamlet's young defender. You are a student, it says here...

Horatio: I saw it that night as did the guards on duty. I would not have believed it until I saw it.

Gertrude: (to herself) Why couldn't I see him? It was not to me that his unquiet spirit came with this story. How can I believe in Hamlet's crazed imagination? Horatio looks somewhat dazed b all this; he'd say anything.

Claudius: That boy's lying. Look at him. Obviously frightened or dazed or frozen up by something.

Horatio: This changed my life, sir.

Moderator: Interesting. How so?

Horatio: I began to be interested in alchemy and necromancy and such things. I have a bunch of book here ...Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy... Paracelsus...[reading, oblivious].

Moderator: Okay... Now what exactly, Hamlet, did your father's ghost instruct you to do? Did he say, Go kill my brother? Was it a voice, whispering in your ear...?

Hamlet: [looking askance] I am not normally a bloodthirsty man. I am on most occasions slow to action, stolid, plodding along almost in what I must admit is truly a tergiversational mode. I could have killed you, Claudius, did you know? When you knelt au before God? After the play? Then, Polonius would not have been mistaken for a rat....

Moderator: You don't sound very contrite. We were under the impression that you wanted to make a case for yourself, yet you speak of your victim as a rodent and I think you also referred to his "guts"?

Hamlet: [continuing, unaffected]...and Ophie might still be alive, and Laertes would not have tried to get into St. Elizabeth's Hospice to kill me and gotten himself all messed up...but no, you see, this was my problem, that I did not want to be an avenger-son! That caused it all.

Moderator: Despite what your ghostly father told you.

Hamlet: Despite him, yes. Forgive me, father, Hamlet Senior!

Moderator: [excitedly] Do you see him? [off-stage] Is the feet here?

Hamlet: [peering about with the others] No, I think not.

Claudius: You interrogate an insane man, you-- [sputtering]

Jones: If I may intersperse a word here? There is a certain psychological schema that is set up in cases of extreme self-loathing. You think of people afflicted with this as, well, perfectly harmless to everyone besides themselves, right? Yes? But! There may come that time when this de-struk-tive in-ward-ness turns Out-ward [gesturing broadly] because it is frustrated by the strictures against self-destruction which lie quite deep in the human psyche. Cyclothymics have very irregular, very unpredictable swings and fluxes of affect. Sometimes he is deeply manic--often when around large groups of people; other times he is inconsolable, lonely, solitary, one you must leave alone. It could then happen that--

Hamlet: Please, please let me interrupt here. I must be allowed to defend my inactions.

Moderator: Go ahead.

Hamlet: I was telling you before. I'm not a warrior-type. I could never measure up to that, to what my father the warrior had done. Sorry! No can do. And I tried to say I did not care. And--but-- His death did suppress any minor joys I may have gleaned from my books at Wittenburg. I was already studying mortality. He simply became the latest example.

Gertrude: And that's what made you see the ghost.

Hamlet: And that's why you couldn't see the ghost. You haven't a grain of memento mori in you, Mother--I suppose I should learn to appreciate that quality-- Yet even if the visitations were all created in my mind alone (which they were not!) does that invalidate the imperative he gave me, the gory details of his tortured existence? The mind makes a lot of things, Doctor Jones. Living in my skin, undergoing life through this consciousness, could you make such a keen reductive gnostication about me?

Jones: That is not the way of science.

Hamlet: [under his breath, through his moustache-hairs] Nescience.

Claudius: What?

Jones: What?

Moderator: So what we have here is the case of a prince who may or may not be semi-sane, who, he says, only accidentally murdered an eavesdropping old councilor to the King.

Claudius: And he says I killed his father: I loved my brother, I grieved for him, I could never have killed him.

Gertrude: [tentatively] Never.

Claudius: I'm sorry your son is a cyclothymic. Perhaps it is treatable with unguents, philters of some modern sort? [looking at Jones]

Gertrude: I was a terrible mother. I was a terrible wife. Now I'm a terrible second wife.

Hamlet: Mother, you always do this.

Gertrude: What?

Hamlet: You excuse yourself by reminding us all of your weaknesses.

Gertrude: Is that right? [ to Jones, who nods assent]

Moderator: We did a show on this not long ago.

Hamlet: Who will your believe, mother?

Gertrude: My son or my husband.

Hamlet: If you'll---

Claudius: Now, wait-- [Alarum]

Moderator: I think that's our Necromantic Hot Line feed coming in, folks. We have one of the deceased on the line. Just a minute...are we ready, Claire? Okay...

Ghost: Hamlet, are you there?

Hamlet: Yes, father, I'm here.

Ghost: You forgot, son.

Hamlet: No, father, I'll never forget. This thing of a King will someday be punished, I know it, father. Secret retributions scoot around through the world all the time.

Ghost:: Hamlet?

Hamlet: Yes?

Ghost: Who are all these other people? I can only communicate, you know, with you. The others are hearing static noises. Son, something must soon be done. Purgatory is a lonesome, difficult place.

Hamlet: [sadly] I'm sure it is, father. I think of you.

Ghost: There's nothing to seems like eternity but we are aware that it's not.

Hamlet: Those others include your murderer King Claudius, a doctor, and Gertrude.

Ghost: Talk to your mother.

Hamlet: I've tried, I really have.

Ghost: She hasn't learned to fully express her grief, Hamlet, that's all it is. Sometimes grief makes a woman horny--

Hamlet: [quite shocked] Father!

Ghost: Well, that's just another little sin that'll have to be purged away. It's nothing compared to some of my other sins. I was too bloodthirsty, son. Learn from me.

Hamlet: You do confuse me, old man.

Ghost: Talk to her.

Hamlet: [mechanically] I will.

Ghost: Farewell.

Hamlet: Farewell. So now what do I do? If my mother would stand with me to accuse him? But she cannot. She's too weak. Ophelia, where are your tonight? I could use some female strength to prop up my sagging volition. Soon they will take me back to my fine room at St. Elizabeth's Hospice, with this new example of craziness to study--" he says he had a conversation but all the rest of us heard was static"---and the studiers and gleaners will come by from time to time to interview me anew, to try to stare into my eyes and figure me out. They'll leave and write monographs. A steady die of Prozactm intermingled with "cognitive therapy" for several months, perhaps a year or two: they'll eventually let me out, and by then the newsmongers will have tired of this royal story.

Moderator: And that's our show for today.

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