Slings And Arrows

Lost in thought, Hamlet wandered deep into the forest. He sat down on a fallen log, and leaned forward with one elbow on his knee and his hand supporting his chin, rather like The Thinker, although of course he didn’t know that.

“To be, or not to be,” he said quietly, “that is the question.”

“To be what?” asked Rosencrantz.

Hamlet started, and turned. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were sitting on another log, just yards away.

“What are you two doing here?” asked Hamlet.

“Talking about that Ophelia,” said Guildenstern.

“You know, the good-looking one,” said Rosencrantz.

“I keep telling Rosencrantz that she’s bonkers about him,” said Guildenstern.

“Now there’s a consummation devoutly to be wished,” said Rosencrantz.

“Well, I’m telling you,“ said Guildenstern, “absolutely bonkers, she is.”

“Anyway,” said Rosencrantz, “let’s get back to the “to be” stuff. What did it mean?”

Hamlet shrugged. “I was simply asking myself whether living or dying is the better choice.”

“Living, I’d say,” said Rosencrantz. “Because living gives you the option of dying later on, whereas it doesn’t work the same the other way around.”

“You’d be surprised,” muttered Hamlet’s father’s ghost, sitting unnoticed beside them.

“Here, Hamlet” said Rosencrantz, “you’re not thinking of topping yourself, are you?”

“Er, of course not,” said Hamlet. “Look, it’s just a soliloquy.”

“Ah, a soliloquy,” said Guildenstern, nodding in understanding. “That’s different.”

In the days before therapists, soliloquies were how people worked out their problems, essentially letting the voices in their heads out of their heads. It was an unwritten rule that no-one would ever interfere with a person making a soliloquy. This tradition continued for many years, enabling nineteenth-century heroines to speak in fifty-word sentences.

“Work away so,” said Rosencrantz. “Don’t mind us.”

Hamlet sighed, but tried to focus again. “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -”

Of course, interference is not the same thing as interruption.

“Outrageous fortune?” asked Guildenstern. “Have you found hidden treasure?”

“I am Hamlet the Prince,” said Hamlet, haughtily, “not Aaarrr the Pirate.”

“Good point,” said Guildenstern. “Carry on.”

“…or to take up arms against a sea of troubles -”

“Sorry,” said Rosencrantz, “but when you say ’take up arms against a sea’, are you talking about swimming?”

“Don’t be thick,” said Guildenstern. “He means is it better to face up to your problems or sit in a room moping about them like a big girl’s doublet.”

“-and by opposing, end them.” went on Hamlet, through gritted teeth.

“Well, you’ve answered your own question there,” said Rosencrantz. “You’re saying that if you face your troubles, they go away.”

Just as he said this there was a loud roar. A huge bear was lumbering through the forest toward them.

Hamlet stared at it as if entranced. Just as the bear was about to make him not to be, though, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern grabbed one elbow each and dragged him away, backwards.

“Of course,” said Guildenstern, “there are some troubles you don’t oppose, you just take up legs against them, and run like blazes.”

The three exited, rapidly, pursued by a bear.

*

This piece was written for Sidey’s Weekend Theme, which was “ambiguous”.

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