Gertrude, still in her night gown, burst into the room where she thought her husband would be – a private office where he conducted his most secret business. He looked up from the close conference he was having with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. She rushed towards him. He stood up and took her in his arms.
‘These sighs show something serious,’ he said. ‘Tell me what’s wrong. I need to know. Where is your son?’
Gertrude gestured to Rosencranz and Guildenstern. ‘Leave us,’ she said. She began sobbing and she clung to her husband. ‘Ah, my good lord,’ she whispered. ‘What I have seen tonight.’
Claudius waited until his agents had closed the door behind them. Then: ‘What Gertrude? How is Hamlet?’
‘Mad as the sea and the wind when at war with each other,’ she said. ‘In his criminal fit, hearing something stirring behind the curtain, he whips out his rapier, cries, “a rat, a rat!” and in this headstrong mood, kills the concealed, good old man.’
‘Oh! What a serious thing!’ said Claudius. ‘It would have been us had we been there. His freedom is threatening to all of us. To you yourself, to us, to everyone. Oh dear, how are we going to deal with it? We will be blamed because our influence should have kept this mad young man on a short leash, locked up. But such was our love we couldn’t know what was best. Like someone with a foul disease, instead of containing it, we allowed it to infect others. Where has he gone?’
‘To take the body he has killed away. His very madness is over ruled by his remorse for what he’s done, like a small amount of gold in the middle of a mountain of baser metals.’
‘Oh Gertrude, go to bed,’ he said. ‘We’ll ship him away at dawn. We must use all our majesty and skill to deal with his vile deed. Ho, Guildenstern!’
The door opened and the pair entered.
‘Friends, go and get some help. Hamlet has killed Polonius in his madness, and he’s dragged him from his mother’s room. Go and look for him. Be careful. And bring the body into the chapel. Go on, hurry. Come Gertrude, we’ll send for our wisest advisers and let them know, both what we intend to do and what’s been done here.’
She kissed him.
‘Come on, let’s go,’ he said. He spoke with unusual agitation. ‘My soul is full of discord and dismay.’