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King Claudius was in discussion with several lords, whose counsel he had sought after the death of Polonius.
“I have sent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to seek both Hamlet and the body. How dangerous it is that a man like Hamlet is running loose! It would be risky to subject him to the weight of the law -the masses, judging as they do with their eyes rather than their minds, think the world of him. Inevitably they would devote more time to talking about his punishment than talking about his crime. To keep the peace this sudden departure must appear to have been on the cards. A desperate problem deserves a desperate solution.”
The King was interrupted by the arrival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
“Right, what’s happened?” asked the King.
“We can’t get him to tell us where he has put the body, my lord,” said Rosencrantz.
“But where is Hamlet?”
“Outside, my lord, under guard,” said Rosencrantz.
“Bring him to me.”
“You there, bring in the lord!” Rosencrantz bellowed to the guards.
Hamlet, with a sulky expression, was brought in, heavily guarded.
“Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?” the King asked.
“At supper.”
“At supper? Where?”
“Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A banqueting party of shrewd worms are dining with him as we speak. The worm has a regal appetite. We fatten the animals to fatten ourselves and we fatten maggots. Your fat king and your skinny beggar seem like two very different dishes, but they end up on the same table. That’s the end.”
“Alas, alas,” sighed the King.
“A man can fish with the worm that ate the king, and then eat the fish that ate the worm.”
“Meaning?” the King said, crossly.
“Nothing, but it does show you how a king can go through the guts of a beggar.”
“Where is Polonius?”
“In Heaven. Send for him. If your messenger can’t find him there, seek him yourself in hell. If after a month you’ve haven’t found him, then you shall catch a whiff of him as you go upstairs into the lobby.”
“Go upstairs and see if his body is there,” the King instructed his attendants.
“He’s not going anywhere!”
“Hamlet, we are concerned about your safety as much as your actions, so we insist you leave Denmark immediately. Gather your belongings. The ship is ready to sail with the wind. My escorts are waiting to accompany you to England.”
“To England?”
“Yes, Hamlet.”
“Good.”
“So it is, if you knew my thoughts.”
“My guardians know them. But, to England! Farewell, dear mother.”
Hamlet sounded wistful as he said this, certainly more so than when he had confronted Gertrude.
“Your loving father, Hamlet?”
“My mother. Father and mother are husband and wife. Husband and wife are one. My mother. Come, to England!”
Hamlet left with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The King turned to the other attendants: “Follow them closely. Make sure he is on board as quickly as possible. Ensure he departs tonight. Go, the paperwork is almost complete. Quick.”
The King was alone again, believing the final parts of his plan were falling into place. He composed the letter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern would take to England, the letter that would contain Hamlet’s fate: “King of England, if you value my love and respect my power, which you should since you are still recovering from the injuries we administered, don’t ignore my royal command. My letter details my request that you arrange the assassination of Hamlet forthwith. Do it, England. He is the fever in my blood that can be eradicated by you. Till I know it is done, no matter what my pleasures were, my joy has yet to begin.”