don’t mess with hamlet!
the winners for carl’s tiny stories competition were announced on thursday and i’d like to say congratulations to all those who won prizes and a big thank you to carl for hosting it. it was such a lot of fun to write that charlotte and my friend stephane also got in on the action!
here is the story that i entered:
arms aching from exertion, our hero does another round of pull ups. muscles gleam under cold danish sunlight. next some bench presses using wooden beams; sweat soaking an indigo tunic. music is pumping through his ears, giving inspiration, “getting strong now…!”.
outside, trudging through snow, shoulders strain against leather straps attached to a snowplough. legs and back burn. thereafter two laps around elsinore’s grounds. almost there…
finally up those steps; reaching the top hamlet thrusts two arms aloft!
you will lose this wager, my lord.
i do not think so: since he went into france, i’ve been in continual practise.
this story made me laugh the whole time while i was writing it. it was inspired by hamlet’s line (quoted at the end of the story) “I do not think so; since he went into France, I have been in continual practice. I shall win at the odds.” which i just find the funniest thing in the world!
let me put this into context. throughout the play very little (if any) mention is made of hamlet’s abilities in swordsmanship or any fighting. hamlet is presented as a thinker, a philosopher. also, hamlet is passive. even though he eventually does get his dagger out eventually he fusses about it so much and makes a real pig’s ear of things by killing polonious.
laertes, from the start of the play is known for his skill with the sword and at the beginning of the play goes france where we imagine he has more practice at sword fighting. laertes is clearly a man not to be messed with in a sword fight. he is also presented as very possessive over ophelia and one is left with the impression that were anyone to hurt his little sister, laertes would come a’knocking.
ophelia goes mad and hamlet is certainly at least a little culpable. laertes comes back, heartbroken and spitting venom. to worsen the odds for hamlet, we see the king backing laertes, egging him on and arranging a false exhibition sword fight, during which laertes will have the opportunity to murder hamlet. and as if things aren’t bad enough, the king plans to poison hamlet too, just to make sure.
when we learn this we fear for hamlet. nothing that shakespeare has showed us about hamlet indicates that he will be able to defeat laertes in a fair fight – nevermind a rigged one! when hamlet receives the challenge and horatio says “you will lose this wager, my lord” it echoes our thoughts.
and then – what does hamlet say? “oh, its all right, i’ve been practicing. i’ll probably win.” just like that – out of nowhere! hahahaha! i love it 😀
at first i used to think its bad structuring or plot management by shakespeare, but now i just love it. why not? must we have seen everything that ol’ hamlet’s been up to? he’s certainly clever enough to anticipate that this was going to happen. besides, hamlet being able to engage in the duel to laertes standard aids the climax of the play and provides the framework for one of the most exciting and dramatic conclusions in drama. so it works.
it still makes me laugh, though. i sort of see hamlet blowing his fingernails dry and nonchalantly saying “yup, i been practicing…”
so i imagined how he’d practice and the idea of him preparing for the duel like rocky seemed very funny. in rocky 4 , rocky prepares for his big fight in a log cabin in winter. as such there is a sequence of him using rustic implements to replicate a gym (he’s gone back-to-basics you see) as such there is much carrying of logs and pulling of snowploughs.
here is rocky doing his rustic thing:
the more i thought of hamlet training in this way, the funnier i found it.
i also started hearing the rocky theme tune after a while and so just had to include it! haha! in case anyone’s curious here are the (very elaborate) lyrics for that song:
Trying hard now
it’s so hard now
trying hard now
Getting strong now
won’t be long now
getting strong now
Gonna fly now
flying high now
gonna fly, fly, fly…