Taking a Spin on Shakespeare
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|Much Ado About Nothing Summary||
Scene II (The court of King Claudius and Queen Gertrude. Present are Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, Hamlet, and attendants. The king and queen question Hamlet about his melancholy over his father’s death. They try to cheer him and beg him to stay with them at Elsinorē. Beatrice, cousin of Hamlet enters. The discussion shifts to her feeling about men. Then Horatio enters and is engaged about his feelings toward women. He and Beatrice exchange barbs. The king and queen leave, as does Beatrice, leaving only Horatio. He has brought Marcellus and Bernardo with him to help him report that they have seen the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Hamlet agrees to join them at the top of Elsinorē at midnight in hopes of seeing the ghost.)
Claudius. But now, Hamlet, my new son, how is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Ham. Not so, my lord. I am too much in the sun.
Gertrude. Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off, thou know'st 'tis common, all that lives must die.
Ham. Ay, madam, it is common.
Gertrude. If it be, why seems it so particular with thee?
Ham. Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not "seems." Those threads that unite my garment little matter. Tis not the unions of my cloak, however seamed, good mother, that make us this or that.
Claudius. 'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, to give these mournings to your father. But to persevere in obstinate condolement is impious stubbornness; ‘tis unmanly grief. And we beseech you, bend you to remain here in the cheer and comfort of our eye.
Gertrude. Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet: I pray thee stay with us.
Hamlet. I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
Claudius. A loving and a fair reply, Hamlet. But here your cousin Beatrice comes. How are you, lady? Still seeking the affections of a husband?
Gertrude. (Whacks Claudius) Claudius, do not tease!
Claudius. Gertrude, I but jest.
Beatrice. That God hath sent me no husband, I am upon my knees every morning and evening. I could not endure a husband! Not til God make man of some other metal.
Laertes. But what of Horatio? We should query the heart of one who denies any measure of affection for woman.
Beatrice. You know well, Laertes, that Horatio’s denials can only be known as affirmation.
Laertes. Look comes Horatio now.
Hor. What webs of outrageous fortune are spun my name?
Laertes. Your majestic appreciation for the femine sex. I swear, before I die, I will see thee look pale with love.
Hor. Look you now, Laertes. That woman birthed me, I give her most humble thanks. For her care, I owe much. That she instructed me in the ways of the world, I am forever in her debt. As for marriage, I’ll not. I shall live a bachelor, with neither balice or bliss.
Laertes. Thy protestations curse thee, Horatio. In matters of the heart, the more intense the objection, the more likely it shall be. Such is nature’s poetry.
Hor. I know no poetry that could be so cruel.
Beatrice. My dear Horatio, you know cruelty well, be it poetry or prose.
Hor. Is that so…Lady disdain, Princess of pain? My poetry refrain….
Beatrice. Your poetry is pain—no ideas, nothing remains.
Hor. Nothing is more vile than your choler. Do you know affirmation?
Beatrice. Where affirmation is rooted, I know, and I cultivate it; all you know of affirmation is the word. You only arouse contempt.
Hor. You contradict nature’s law, for I am loved of all ladies, excepted you. Yet I love none.
Beatrice. May women celebrate, else they be troubled with a pernicious suitor, like all men! I would rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man say he loves me.
Hor. Words, my dear, you will never suffer. Sorry is he whose wits leave him long enough to breach such a trust.
Beatrice. Ha! A man could do worse than to flatter me .
Hor. How much more calamitious can matters be!?
Beatrice. Your words are more vacuous than the dead sea.
Hor. I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue.
Beatrice. Thank God no horse is cursed with the speed of yours! I’ve bettered you once again, so I’ll away to better kinder kin. (Beatrice Exits)
Hor. (Yells after she leaves) I’ll not be wooed by your falicitous overtures!
Claudius. Always a merry war ‘twixt Horatio and Beatrice. They never meet without a skirmish of wit passing between them.
Gertrude. True, my lord. I wonder what amorous affect lies in ironic dormancy of their rebarbative exchanges.
Claudius. Rebarbitive, there is a lovely Sesquipedalian word. But, Gertrude, the players are due. Let us prepare for their arrival.
Gertrude. Very good. Their serene artistry cries the book and volume of truth. I eagerly await them.
(exit king and queen)
Laertes. (laughing and with sarcasm) Horatio, how you inspire that civil gentility so much the mark of Beatrice.
Hor. Civil gentility? Nay! Her icy passions know not a measure of humane affection.
Laertes. Spy I a touch of fondness for Beatrice?
Hor. Fondness? Laertes, she speaks barbed daggers. Were her breath as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her; she would infect the North Star.
Laertes. ‘Tis concluded then: you love her!
Hor. Love her! Love Beatrice! Ha! I could not love her were she humanity’s only female. Enough of infantile gamesmanship. I have manly business and come for a private word with prince Hamlet.
Laertes. Horatio, you amuse me. I must go to my father, so I shall leave you with our prince. Goodbye, Horatio.
Hor. Until we meet again, Laertes.
Hor. (approaches Hamlet) How does my lord?
Ham. The truth? Full of despair and without ambition.
Hor. The death of your father weighs heavily.
Ham. As does my mother’s all-too-hasty marriage to my uncle.
Hor. It followed quickly, my lord.
Ham. The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
Hor. One dish for two services. That’s ignoble domestic economy, beneath the standards of Martha Stewart. But that’s her business, not mine. My lord, you must now align your senses, for what I must impart will give you pause.
Ham. No paws, I beg you, but tell me, I beseech you.
Hor. You hear me wrong; I meant a delay in time, not a creature’s limb.
Ham. Then, what is it, Horatio?
Hor. My lord. I saw the king your deceased father.
Ham. My father? When? Where?
Hor. I’ll bring forth Marcellus and Bernardo who, with me, witnessed the figure. They wait outside. Bernardo. Marcellus.
(Enter Marcellus and Bernardo)
Ham. Good Marcellus, hello.
Mar. You look well, prince Hamlet.
Ham. And, Bernardo, how it is with you?
Ber. I am well, my lord.
Ham. What will you have me know, Horatio?
Hor. My lord, two nights together had these gentlemen on their watch, in the dead vast of the night, been thus encountered. A figure like your father...appeared, and with solemn march, did go slow and stately by them. With them yesternight I witnessed the same.
Ham. Where was this?
Ber. My lord, upon the platform at our watch.
Ham. Did you speak to it?
Hor. My lord, I did; but answer made it none.
Ham. Was the figure armed, Marcellus?
Mar. Indeed, two arms it had.
Ham. I mean was the ghost in his armor?
Mar. In full armor, my lord.
Ham. Can this be?!
Hor. As I live, my honored lord, 'tis true.
Ham. I know not what to think. Sirs, hold you the watch tonight?
Mar. and Ber. We do, my lord.
Ham. I mean will you stand guard.
Mar. and Ber. We will.
Ham. I will join you; perchance 'twill walk again.
Hor. I am sure it will.
Ham. Upon the platform, 'twixt eleven and twelve, I'll visit you. Til then.
Mar. Until then, my lord.
Ber. My lord.
(Ber. and Mar. exit)
Ham. My father’s spirit? All is not well, Horatio. If it assume my noble father's person, I'll speak to it. Sit still my soul. Until then, Horatio.
Hor. My lord.
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