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Hamlet Scenario

Set in 1940s Paris, Hamlet is danced against a backdrop of one of the most destructive periods of the twentieth century.

Hamlet returns home from the Front to find that everything he knew has changed. His father has died, his mother, Gertrude, has married his uncle, and the streets of his childhood are filled with enemy soldiers. To his horror, Hamlet finds that his uncle, Claudius, is collaborating with the enemy, and he begins to believe that his father's death was no accident. As these thoughts consume Hamlet, the lines between the real and the imaginary become blurred in his mind, with devastating consequences.

Act 1

Winter – Gare de L'Est – Early evening

Hamlet, in mourning for his father, appears through the steam of a train, alone. People pass him by as he stands, lost in thought.

My father – methinks I see my father.
Where my lord?

In my mind's eye, Horatio.

Hamlet & Horatio. Hamlet: I.2

He has a vision of a dark alley, a scuffle, a beating. It is indistinct and fades. Shadowy memories flood his brain. He remembers a Parisian restaurant in 1939 – a farewell meal for Hamlet, Laertes and Horatio who are joining the army to fight against the Germans, and his mother and father as they dance together.

Paris is occupied, June 1940.

Something is rotten...

Marcellus. Hamlet: I.4

Hamlet emerges from his memories to the reality of occupied Paris. The station is chaotic and frightening. People are being humiliated, arrested and beaten. Hamlet is transfixed, frozen in horror at what he is seeing. He looks round for his mother who was to meet him. Polonius, now working with the Germans, speaks to some of the Nazi officers. He whisks Hamlet away to the official residence of the Head of the Police Department, Hamlet's home before the war.

For look you how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within's two hours.

Hamlet. Hamlet: III.2

Gertrude and Claudius, now married, are hosting a party. There is a Nazi presence everywhere. Hamlet watches Ophelia talking to the Germans and the demonstrative affection between Claudius and his mother. Hamlet leaves, distressed by the collaboration with the Germans and his mother's new marriage.

In his bedroom, Hamlet senses his father's presence, but the image is broken as Horatio and Ophelia come to find him.

My lord, he hath importuned me with love in honourable fashion.

Ophelia. Hamlet: I.3

Laertes interrupts Hamlet and Ophelia's reunion but Hamlet sends him away. Laertes returns with Polonius who pulls the couple apart. When he sees Ophelia is wearing a new necklace, Polonius demands she return it to Hamlet and presents him with a swastika. Forced to leave the necklace, Ophelia is led away.

Now images of the day return to haunt Hamlet – Ophelia and a Nazi soldier; Claudius and his mother kissing; people running from the police at the station. His vision of the brutal beating in the alley returns, this time more graphically. As the man is beaten to the ground he raises his head and Hamlet realises it is his father.

…foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes.

Hamlet. Hamlet: I.2

Hamlet begins to piece his thoughts together. This time he sees his father's office with a Nazi Officer placing a swastika on his father's desk. When he refuses to wear the symbol, the Nazi Officer opens the door and Claudius steps in. Hamlet realises his father would not collaborate and so was replaced by Claudius, who signed his death warrant.

Early morning – Gertrude and Claudius' Bedroom

Honeying and making love over the nasty sty.

Hamlet. Hamlet: III.4

O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets.

Hamlet. Hamlet: I.2

Claudius and Gertrude reach the climax of their love-making. Claudius goes into the bathroom, both of them unaware that Hamlet has been watching them. Hamlet speaks to his mother then follows Claudius and watches him shaving.

As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on –

Hamlet. Hamlet: I.5

Claudius asserts his authority as Hamlet's new father.

To be or not to be – that is the question?

Hamlet. Hamlet: III.1

…it were better my mother had not borne me.

Hamlet. Hamlet. III.1

Hamlet considers suicide and the lasting sleep that might accompany it.

Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?

Hamlet. Hamlet: III.1

Horatio seeks out Hamlet to heal the rift between Ophelia and his friend. Hamlet confronts Ophelia and before a resolution can be found, Laertes escorts Hamlet to his uncle's office.

Polonius, Claudius and the SS are interrogating a member of the Resistance. Hamlet is being shown what will happen to him if he doesn't comply. Hamlet watches Claudius sign and stamp a paper and lock it in a drawer. Gertrude arrives to meet her husband.

As Hamlet leaves he has a vision of his father, sitting in the chair, having been beaten and tortured.

Interval

Act II

The serpent that did sting thy father's life now wears his crown.

Ghost. Hamlet: I.5

Night

Hamlet and Horatio break into Claudius' office to find and steal Hamlet's father's death warrant.

Later – The dining room

Hamlet arrives late for dinner, oddly dressed and wearing his father's coat. His offensive behaviour disrupts the dinner. Hamlet indicates that he knows Claudius killed his father and that he has the evidence to prove it. Claudius leaves Gertrude to discipline her son, leaving Polonius as a hidden spy.

A bloody deed – almost as bad, good mother,
As kill a king and marry with his brother.

Hamlet. Hamlet: III.4

Go not to my uncle's bed

Hamlet. Hamlet: III.4

Gertrude begins to address her son when all of a sudden, Hamlet turns on his mother and rages at her for marrying his uncle. She is initially horrified, but quickly realises his pain and quietly pulls him into her arms. As Hamlet is about to show her the death warrant, Polonius rushes forward to take it. Hamlet stabs him, mistakenly thinking it is his uncle; Polonius is killed instantly.

Claudius returns and finds Gertrude in distress over the body of Polonius. Claudius realises that Hamlet has committed murder. Laertes and Ophelia return to find their dead father and, on seeing the knife in Claudius' hand, Laertes attacks him as the murderer. Claudius denies that he is the killer and Laertes realises that it was Hamlet. Claudius takes out a paper, signs it and gives it to Laertes. This is Hamlet's death warrant.

Oh Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.

Gertrude. Hamlet: III.4

Night – Gertrude and Claudius– Bedroom

Claudius wants to make love to Gertrude but she rejects him. He is now overcome with feelings of guilt. He lies back exhausted on the bed. Hamlet comes into the bedroom. He has a gun. Claudius is convinced he will die. His mother stirs and Hamlet is unable to fire the shot.

The streets of Paris

Hamlet is on the run from The Milice. Horatio finds him and takes him into hiding in the Catacombs.

Night

I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.

Ophelia. Hamlet: IV.5

Gertrude and Claudius attend a formal ball at the German Embassy. Ophelia arrives late, carrying a small posy of little swastikas, which she hands out to the guests, her brother, Claudius and Gertrude. She has now lost her mind, and leaves the ball early.

Night – The Catacombs

Hamlet is alone, in hiding. Horatio brings a message – Ophelia has disappeared.

The street

Ophelia is running through the streets, followed by Gertrude, Horatio, Hamlet and Laertes who are searching for her. Nazi soldiers finally corner Ophelia, violently assault her and leave her for dead. Gertrude is first upon the scene and takes her into her arms as Horatio and Hamlet find them.

Laertes arrives and, on seeing his sister with Hamlet, is so incensed that the two men begin to fight. Claudius arrives with the SS and Hamlet's death warrant and insists Laertes stop the unnecessary fight. Hamlet is taken away to be shot while Gertrude makes one last desperate plea for her son's life.

A gunshot. Hamlet is dead.

Day

A crowd celebrates the liberation of their city and we see the fates of Claudius, Gertrude and Laertes. Horatio is left alone to mourn the loss of Hamlet.

Now cracks a broken heart. Good night sweet Prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

Horatio. Hamlet: V.2