Notes from the Labyrinth
Unobtainium and Dragons' Bones
Absent from Felicity (Hamlet slash) 
3rd-Jan-2009 01:54 pm
ws: hamlet
ABSENT FROM FELICITY


Fortinbras is not Hamlet.

I wish with all my heart that he were, wish even that I could close my eyes and pretend. But he is a swarthy, swaggering Pole, broad-shouldered, with a warrior's heavy muscle. His hands are hard with calluses; Hamlet's were soft, narrow, the hands of a scholar. Hamlet liked to discuss philosophy in bed, the light rambling voice like a counterpoint to the explorations of those soft, clever hands. Fortinbras does not waste his breath.



Fortinbras comes to me after the funeral, where I stand beside Hamlet's grave. My throat is raw from tears, from words, from the cold, bitter wind of Elsinore.

He says, "You were more than friends."

It is not a question; I do not answer it.

His hands are on my shoulders; his breath tickles my ear. He is standing too close, too close, but I cannot move. I have followed Hamlet for so long, so blindly. Now that he is gone, I do not remember how to walk on my own.

Fortinbras says, "You must be very lonely."

A trite, obvious line, suitable for chambermaids and serving girls. I bow my head, choking back bitter laughter. We are alone in the graveyard, alone with the dead, and I know Fortinbras does not fear the dead. Unlike Hamlet, he is not an imaginative man.

The hands settle into a hard grip. He says, "I am lonely, too. It is difficult to find someone to trust, here in Denmark." I shiver at the disjunct between the voice, with its gentle platitudes, and the hands, the punishing weight, the blunt fingers digging for nerve and bone. I do not know which to believe.

"We do not have to be lonely," Fortinbras says, and under the pressure of his hands I sink to my knees. "I am told that Prince Hamlet was a lonely man. You must have helped with that, Horatio." A shove, quick, brutal, and I only save myself from sprawling across Hamlet's grave by catching at the headstone, a graceless block of granite he would have hated.

Fortinbras says, "Show me."



The Danes do not quite know what to make of Fortinbras: the child of their old king's enemy, but a strong man, a man for whom decisions are easy, policy is clear. After the short and serpentine rule of Hamlet's uncle Claudius, Fortinbras comes as a relief to the court of Denmark. The soldiers and common people are only grateful that perhaps this winter they will not have to die.



I wear black now, as Hamlet did. The court ignores me, as they ignored Hamlet. In Elsinore, if you do not want to see something, then you do not see it. It explained so much about Hamlet to me, when I came to Elsinore: the frenetic brilliance of his wit, his hunger for attention, the way he would touch me, a light pat on shoulder or cheek, just to get me to turn and look at him. He was not the child his father had wanted, and I could imagine him becoming steadily more outrageous as he grew up, constantly devising new schemes to get his father and his father's court to acknowledge his existence.

I am not Hamlet. I do not care if the court notices me or not. I wear black for grief; I wear black for him.



I bring flowers to Ophelia's grave.

I hated her.

Hated her doe eyes and her little soft grasping hands. Hated her for being able to flirt, demurely, with Hamlet when I could do nothing but stand to one side and watch. The loyal friend.

And I hated her because she loved him. I hated her for her pain, her grief. I hated her for going mad. And I hated her most of all for dying. I stood, the loyal friend, and watched Hamlet leap into her grave. Later, I held him while he cried, neither of us knowing that he had less than a day to live. I kissed his tear-damp cheeks and told him I loved him and knew he did not hear me.

If she had risen from her grave in front of us, I would have killed her myself.

I bring her flowers because she loved him, because she died for him. Because he would not let me do the same.



I should leave. I know I should leave. Fortinbras has a country to rule, an uncle to placate. He would not stop me, though he would not help me, either. But if I leave Elsinore . . . I cannot go back to Wittenberg, where every hallway, every street corner, will have some memory of Hamlet as he was. I could not protect that bright Hamlet from his father's dark hand. I cannot face Wittenberg without him. And I have no family, no kin, no place where I can truthfully say I belong. I hoped when I came to Elsinore that it might prove to be such a place, that because it was Hamlet's home, it might become my home as well. But Hamlet died in Elsinore, died of Elsinore. It will never be my home.

But I cannot leave. I cannot leave the pain, the cold, the darkness and the damp and the constant stench of death. I cannot leave Fortinbras, for at least he notices that I am alive.



I want to be haunted. I go up to the battlements at midnight, slipping out of the new king's bed. The sentries eye me warily and skirt wide. The wind scours the tears from my face, but I taste them at the back of my throat, bitter as graveyard dirt.

I stand there until dawn, waiting, but he does not come.



Comments 
3rd-Jan-2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
OH WOW!
26th-Jun-2010 03:34 am (UTC)
Your post is great, I have some common ideas with you.
3rd-Jan-2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
Wow.
3rd-Jan-2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
Hamlet. Slash.

I think I can die happily now. That was amazing. And ohhh the end! That's so sad! *hugs Horatio*
3rd-Jan-2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
Oh bitter, sad, true! Wonderful.
3rd-Jan-2009 09:10 pm (UTC)
.....

So sad. Hamlet was always my favourite Shakespeare.

Thank you for sharing.
3rd-Jan-2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
Oh. Very nice.

... I wonder if I could write KING LEAR slash instead of a commentary for my essay exam next week and still get a good grade.
3rd-Jan-2009 10:43 pm (UTC)
Whom would you slash?

Lear/Fool?

Lear/Kent?

Lear/Kent/Fool?

Oh god make me STOP.
3rd-Jan-2009 09:31 pm (UTC)
This is bitter and beautiful and perfect. Thank you for writing this.
3rd-Jan-2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
This is the coolest thing ever. I love your writing SO much.
3rd-Jan-2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
Ooh, this is lovely. May I link to it on my LJ?
3rd-Jan-2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
Absolutely.
3rd-Jan-2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness gracious. This makes a terrible lot of *sense*. Plus _owwwwwwww_. Oh, Horatio.
3rd-Jan-2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
Damn. That's just...perfect and sad and sharp in all the right kind of quiet ways. And has done more to make me like Hamlet-the-character than anything else did before. It makes me want to go see a good production of the play.
3rd-Jan-2009 11:00 pm (UTC)
Ow! powerful.
3rd-Jan-2009 11:11 pm (UTC)
The way slash is meant to be. ♥ Thankyou for sharing. :3
3rd-Jan-2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
Eeep!

Oh Horatio! I always loved him best, even when studying the play at school, aged 17. He was so human, so ordinary, in a whirling world. Poor, dear lad, he survived and has to suffer Fortinbras's rule, which lacks all love or friendship.

Thank you for showing us a bit about what happened to dear Horatio after the end of the play.
4th-Jan-2009 12:01 am (UTC)
Hamlet died in Elsinore, died of Elsinore.

Yes.

And the last section - the last two paragraphs - are perfect. Usually I might say 'awesome' or 'fabulous' or whatever, and yeah, they are. But what they really are is perfect. You start with the end of the play, and end having come around back to the beginning, although of course also not. It's bleak. The tone is right. The emptiness, the silence is what the story demands.

It underscores, if you think about the nature of ghosts, everything Horatio has said: Hamlet's father's ghost came because he was not finished, still enmeshed, there were still things he wanted/needed that Elsinore could give him. Hamlet was a ghost in Elsinore while he was alive. His death freed him from the last things that could have brought him back to the place he haunted all his life. And that's piercingly sad because it includes Horatio. And Horatio knows it.

And it's real - it's what someone real who was Horatio who was feeling and saying all these things would do.

The whole thing was gripping to read, but it wouldn't have had half the impact on me if it hadn't had that ending.

(Edited because I missed one typo'd "Horation" and it was bugging me.)

Edited at 2009-01-04 12:03 am (UTC)
4th-Jan-2009 02:20 am (UTC)
(I go. I come back.)

Also, Horatio, while still alive has become, not the ghost that Hamlet was, but the absence-of-ghost that Hamlet is. He is not real to the place he inhabits, but unlike Hamlet when he was alive (your Hamlet, in particular) and unlike Hamlet's father's ghost, there is no longer anything driving him toward the living, there is nothing Elsinore can give him any more. But Hamlet, for whom this is also true, is dead, which presumably makes things simpler. Horatio...isn't.


(You know the story has got to me when, hours after I read it and commented at length, I look up from a Dorothy Dunnet novel as I'm turning a page, have a continuation of my train of thought, and without hesitation put the book down and come out to write another comment. This doesn't necessarily benefit you any, especially if my reactions were not at all what you were working for, but it is an indicator of degree of interest, at any rate.)
4th-Jan-2009 12:25 am (UTC)
Beautiful.
4th-Jan-2009 02:22 am (UTC)
I would also like to send out this link in my journal. I'm sure some of my friends will like it.

S'okay?
4th-Jan-2009 02:30 am (UTC)
Yes. Perfectly fine.

It's a public post, and that's on purpose. :)
4th-Jan-2009 02:35 am (UTC) - Now You Have Earned Fic Comment Terminology.
Um. ILU. <3
4th-Jan-2009 03:36 am (UTC)
oh. oh, that is beautiful. Thank you.
4th-Jan-2009 04:29 am (UTC)
Well, damn. I hadn't thought of that possibility before. Hm.

This was lovely, by the way.
4th-Jan-2009 05:59 am (UTC)
*shivers*

that was gorgeous and painful and...I want to say 'haunting', but that's not precisely right, is it?
4th-Jan-2009 11:57 am (UTC)
This makes me want to read Hamlet.
4th-Jan-2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
On rereading -- yet more reasons it sucked to be Ophelia.
5th-Jan-2009 12:16 am (UTC)
That is terribly painful and totally plausible. *whimper*

Also, oh dear. I wrote my thesis, long long ago, about the leftover characters in Shakespeare's problem plays. Now I'm wondering, in a considerably different way than usual, about the rest of them, in the aftermath, after the lights go down.

P.
5th-Jan-2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
Here via tessagratton, and just, oh, excellent!

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