Yesterday was my father's birthday. My mother and I were conferring about what we might give Dad as a gift. Since he loves classic plays, I got the inspiration to perform some pseudo-Shakespeare with my kids. JG has a very low tolerance for bloodshed and would have no interest in anything that's about pursuing romance, so I knew I would have to do some rewriting of whatever play I chose. So here's what we ended up with, a modernized and VERY cleaned-up kids' version of Hamlet -- no death, no bad parents, and nothing spooky:
Prince Hamlet, his mother Gertrude, and his best friend Horatio are in the palace watching TV when a news report comes on saying that the King has died in a car accident. They are all distraught. Claudius arrives at the palace and offers his condolences. He then proposes that Queen Gertrude marry him so that she will have help running the country. Gertrude tearfully decides that while King Hamlet will always be the love of her life, it might be best for the country if she remarries. Gertrude tries to comfort Prince Hamlet and suggests that he and Horatio play on his computer for a while to help them forget the sad events of the day. Gertrude and Claudius then leave to hold a press conference to tell the nation their plans.
Hamlet and Horatio go to Hamlet's computer, where Hamlet discovers that he has a new email. It is from his father! The email says that Claudius is evil and has kidnapped the king and told everyone that he was dead. The email urges Hamlet to help him, to defeat Claudius and force Claudius to set the king free. Hamlet and Horatio devise a plan to scare Claudius, prove his guilt, and then subdue him.
Hamlet announces that a storytelling contest will be held at the palace for everyone in the land to attend. Among the attendees are Gertrude and Claudius. At the storytelling contest, Horatio starts off by telling an innocuous fairy tale. Hamlet is next and tells a story in which a good king is kidnapped by an evil person, but the king's son finds out about it and feeds the evil person a poisoned cookie. During the telling of the story, Claudius becomes visibly nervous. Hamlet and Horatio then pass out cookies for everyone to eat during intermission, themselves included. Hamlet, Horatio, and Gertrude exit to the kitchen to make tea to go with the cookies. While they are out, Claudius nervously switches his cookie with Hamlet's. This is just what Hamlet had expected he would do. Hamlet had put the sabotaged cookie on his own plate. It is not actually poisoned, but contains a sleeping potion.
Everyone returns from the kitchen and they all eat cookies and drink tea. Claudius falls over asleep. Gertrude is concerned and wonders if he is dead. Hamlet explains what he had done and shows Gertrude the email from the king. Gertrude rejoices in knowing that her husband is still alive and expresses disgust at the thought that she almost married the evil Claudius. Hamlet, Horatio, and Gertrude tie Claudius up while he is sleeping. When he awakes, he is told that they know the king is alive and they will not untie Claudius until the king is found. Claudius breaks down and tells them where the king is being held captive. Hamlet takes the keys from Claudius's pocket and he and Horatio rescue the king. Claudius is sent to prison for 20 years. By the time he gets out, the king will have completed his reign and retired, and prince Hamlet will have ascended to the throne. Hamlet says that when he grows up to be king, he wants Horatio to be his chief assistant. Horatio agrees. Hamlet and Horatio are praised by the king and queen for their intelligence and courage.
More squeaky clean than a Disney movie, isn't it? It was our first time putting on a play. JG and BT had a ball being the stars of the show, and my dad loved it. Getting the props together was also fun for them. Plus, they will have the pleasure, at some point in the future, of realizing what a silly goose their Mommy is when they discover the real Hamlet.