The fate of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Hamlet and the pirates
Hamlet's letter to Horatio
Horatio, when thou shalt have overlooked
this, give these fellows some means to the king:
they have letters for him. Ere we were two days old
at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us
chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on
a compelled valour, and in the grapple I boarded
them: on the instant they got clear of our ship; so
I alone became their prisoner. They have dealt with
me like thieves of mercy: but they knew what they
did; I am to do a good turn for them. Let the king
have the letters I have sent; and repair thou to me
with as much speed as thou wouldst fly death. I
have words to speak in thine ear will make thee
dumb; yet are they much too light for the bore of
the matter. These good fellows will bring thee
where I am. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hold their
course for England: of them I have much to tell
'He that thou knowest thine,
But if there had been no pirate ship,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern pose as friends to Hamlet but he no longer
trusts them. Where their loyalty now lies can be gathered from Rosencrantz
when he justifies why they do the king's bidding.
here is what might have happened
The single and peculiar life is bound
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (R&G) set out to accompany Hamlet
to England where he is to be assassinated as ordered in a letter from
King Claudius' which they will deliver. They know nothing of the
letter's content, they are merely postmen. Hamlet does not trust them
and steals the 'murder' letter. He forges a duplicate but swaps their
names for his, and returns it. What else can he do? Destroying the letter
won't work. Obviously a letter must exist.
With all the strength and armour of the mind
To keep itself from noyance; but much more
That spirit upon whose weal depends and rests
The lives of many. The cesse of majesty
Dies not alone, but like a gulf doth draw
What's near it with it. It is a massy wheel,
Fix'd on the summit of the highest mount,
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortis'd and adjoin'd; which when it falls,
Each small annexment, petty consequence,
Attends the boist'rous ruin. Never alone
Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.
If it had not been for the freak, unforeseeable, pirate attack Hamlet
would have gone on to England and been able to save R&G regardless of
what he wrote in the forgery.
Together, Hamlet and R&G would have met the English king. The first thing
Hamlet would say is that Claudius had named him son of heir to the Danish
throne. R&G would concur. Hamlet would say that the Danish ambassadors
will be delivering the same news.
R&G would then present the king with Claudius's commission (actually
Hamlet's forgery). After reading the letters the king would announce
that the letter demands the death of R&G. R&G on hearing this would
appeal to Hamlet for his aid.
Hamlet will tell the English king there has been a mistake.
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark," Hamlet would say.
He would declare the letter is a forgery and although it has the Danish
seal, the seal was known to have been stolen. After considering these
points, it is inconceivable the English king would not discuss the matter
further with Hamlet. Hamlet would says he accepts full responsibility and
the letter be ignored. Hamlet need only say "I don't want them executed,"
and they won't be executed. England as a tributary of Denmark will kowtow
to Hamlet and not act contrary to what he says.
Hamlet could say he is a friend of England and when he becomes the Danish
king would no longer hold England as a vassal state but wish it become an
ally. He might say he would consider marrying the English king's daughter
or niece. But he will not degrade his goodwill mission by sacrificing
the blood of his old school friends. R&G would breathe a sigh of relief
and be safe and thank Hamlet.
If Hamlet were then to speak to R&G privately and lie to them and say the
commission was genuine but he had deliberately lied to the English king
to save their lives, R&G would immediately switch their allegiance from
Claudius to Hamlet, and be eternally grateful and loyal to him. They would
steer well clear of Claudius if and when they returned to Denmark.
Unfortunately for R&G the pirate attack intervened and thus precluded
Hamlet's intervention to stop the executions demanded in the letter.
R&G carried on to deliver the letter which lead to their deaths. Here the
irony had a special twist. Surely, they would have torn their hair in
thinking that Rosencrantz's speech justifying the king's divine right
had turned sour.
Though Hamlet wrote the letter that actually brought about their deaths,
it only happened because they were carrying Claudius's order for Hamlet's
death. Therefore, the real cause of their deaths was getting trapped in
the sequence of events Claudius initiated to hide his murder of King Hamlet.