Paper Doll Hamlet.

Act 1, Scene 1.

FRANCISCO:
Stand, and unfold yourself.

BERNARDO:
Uhh… Hold on. [A chain of Bernardos fills the stage. Enter HORATIO AND MARCELLUS.]

HORATIO:
Fear not, we are friends to this – [sees Bernardo chain, looks at Francisco] – you didn’t.

[sounds of shuffling paper, Bernardos proliferate.]

FRANCISCO:
It just slipped out.

MARCELLUS:
[shaking head] Classic Francisco.

FRANCISCO:
Bernie didn’t have to take me literally.

HORATIO:
Don’t pass the buck, man. What does that even mean, ‘stand & unfold yourself’?

FRANCISCO:
Just trying to give guard duty a little formality, a little gravitas, y’know.

MARCELLUS:
Gravitas? The ghost isn’t enough?

HORATIO:
Wait, what?

FRANCISCO:
[clears throat, then says in a “reciting Shakespeare” voice] Bernardo has my place.

BERNARDO:
[muffled, still unfolding] No shit.

FRANCISCO:
[tries and fails to ignore Bernardo]: I give you good night.

[Francisco attempts to exit, but Horatio and the quantity of Bernardos prevent him.]

HORATIO:
Hold on, Frankie, you believe this ghost stuff too?

FRANCISCO:
[mumbling] I saw it.

MARCELLUS:
I told you, H.

HORATIO:
You saw a ghost.

FRANCISCO:
Yes, I saw a ghost.

BERNARDO:
[distant] I saw it too. Guys, I think I’m headed over the castle wall.

HORATIO:
I don’t believe this. You guys are grown men. You went to college.

MARCELLUS:
To be fair, it is like 1300AD or something. Educational standards are… patchy.

FRANCISCO:
And I flunked out. Latin? Who needs Latin?

MARCELLUS:
We’re from Denmark, man.

[Marcellus coaxes Francisco into a high-five. Continuing sounds of shuffling paper as the Bernardo chain grows.]

HORATIO:
There’s no such thing as ghosts.

[Enter GHOST, made of wax paper. Marcellus and Francisco see the ghost. Marcellus starts to snicker, then nudges Horatio, who turns around and sees the ghost. The ghost looks at all the Bernardos.]

GHOST:
Wow. Crowded tonight.

[The shuffling sounds speed up.]

BERNARDO:
[very distant] Yep, I went over the wall.

FRANCISCO:
Doesn’t it look like our dead king? Mark it, Horatio.

MARCELLUS:
Calm down, Frankie. You missed your cue. [to Horatio:] Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.

[Horatio glares at Marcellus, then turns to the ghost.]

HORATIO:
What art thou, because you’re obviously not a ghost, since ghosts don’t exist. By heaven I charge thee, speak!

GHOST:
Hey, what’s with the attitude?

HORATIO:
You can’t walk around wearing a dead king’s face. People will get confused.

GHOST:
Forget it, I don’t need this crap.

[Exit Ghost. The shuffling sounds have slowed down again.]

MARCELLUS:
It is offended.

BERNARDO:
[less distant than before, but still distant] I caught a window ledge, guys. I’m unfolding back toward you.

FRANCISCO:
Jeez, H, you can be so closed-minded. [Marcellus nods in agreement.]

HORATIO:
Closed-minded? That guy was impersonating the dead king. Why didn’t you grab him, you’re the night watchman.

FRANCISCO:
[counting on his fingers] One, he was a ghost, and two, I’m off-duty.

MARCELLUS:
Very assertive, Frankie! [This time, Francisco high-fives the waiting Marcellus with enthusiasm.]

HORATIO:
You’re both idiots.

BERNARDO:
[almost back over the wall] Little help! [Francisco helps Bernardo over the castle wall. Bernardo brushes himself off and catches his breath.] Thanks, man.

FRANCISCO:
You can stop unfolding now.

BERNARDO:
Oh, right. [Shuffling sounds stop.] What did I miss?

MARCELLUS:
Oh, nothing, only the ghost!

BERNARDO:
The ghost was back?

HORATIO:
No such thing as ghosts.

FRANCISCO:
Yeah, the ghost was back. You okay, you need anything?

BERNARDO:
Nah, I’m alright.

FRANCISCO:
There’s still quite a few of you hanging over the side there.

BERNARDO:
Yeah, I know. I’ll get them later. The breeze kinda feels good, y’know?

FRANCISCO:
It’s very crisp. Refreshing.

BERNARDO:
Refreshing, yeah. Like the cool side of a pillow.

HORATIO:
BERNARDO!

BERNARDO:
[unfazed] Hey, H, what’s up?

HORATIO:
Why don’t you unfold yourself in that direction and catch the guy who was dressed up as Dead King Hamlet?

BERNARDO:
Cuuuuzzzzzz that was a ghost.

HORATIO:
Nope. That was an old pale geezer committing treason.

FRANCISCO:
Come on, he disappeared right in front of us.

HORATIO:
I saw him disappear behind a bunch of Bernardos. That’s what I saw. Nothing supernatural, just stupid.

[Francisco and all the Bernardos look sad.]

MARCELLUS:
Whoa, H. That’s harsh.

HORATIO:
Marcy, these guys are the castle’s first line of defense. They need to be on top of their game.

[Enter Ghost, again.]

BERNARDO:
Dude! [pointing at Ghost, others turn to look]

GHOST:
[waves at Bernardo] Hi. Look, Horatio, I think maybe we started off on the wrong foot.

FRANCISCO:
Zounds, the ghost knows your name, H!

HORATIO:
I don’t know what your scam is, man, but –

GHOST:
No scam, Horatio, I was just wondering if you’ve seen Hamlet, or if you know what room he’s staying in. Ever since I died, I’ve just been wandering around. The walls are pointless, and I keep falling through the floor. I can’t remember where anything is. Which is weird, when you think about it – I mean, I grew up here, lived here my whole life, except for when I studied at Wittenburg and –

[Marcellus passes his hand through the ghost’s chest, then through its head. Marcellus, Francisco, and Bernardo all say “Whoa” in unison.]

GHOST:
HEY!

[Marcellus jumps back, Francisco moves several Bernardos in front of himself.]

GHOST:
What’s wrong with you, Marcellus? Boundaries! You know what? Screw it. I don’t want your help. You kids, I swear to god…

[Exit Ghost. Horatio smacks Marcellus on the shoulder.]

HORATIO:
Way to go, genius. Come on, we gotta go find Hamlet and tell him his dad’s a ghost.

FRANCISCO:
Ha! You said he was a ghost. [Horatio makes a threatening gesture and Francisco cowers.]

MARCELLUS:
[staring at his ghost-touching hand] My hand is cold.

HORATIO:
You’re imagining things. Let’s go.

[Exit Horatio and Marcellus, winding their way around Bernardos, with Francisco following after. Bernardo surveys his surroundings.]

BERNARDO:
I hope the ghost doesn’t come back again. That guy weirds me out.

ANOTHER BERNARDO:
Me too.

[The Bernardos stand in silence for a while.]

BERNARDO:
It’s getting cold out here.

ANOTHER BERNARDO:
Yeah.

A THIRD BERNARDO:
And dark. And creepy.

ANOTHER BERNARDO:
Ghosts. [shudders]

[More silence.]

BERNARDO:
Y’think I should… unfold some more? For reinforcements’ sake. It can’t hurt, right?

ANOTHER BERNARDO:
Makes sense to me.

A THIRD BERNARDO:
The more, the merrier.

[Bernardo looks around, then begins unfolding again, slowly at first, then gaining speed. The stage teems with Bernardos. Soon there is no more room for them. Exeunt.]

2 thoughts on “Paper Doll Hamlet.”

  1. Leslie James says:

    Very enjoyable, but worrisome. Are you slightly deranged?
    Love, Leslie

    1. The Hairy Skeleton says:

      Probably more than slightly. Derangement is so hard to quantify.

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