Tag Archives: Royal Shakespeare Company

Claudius

This poem, based on the 81st Psalm, is inspired by the cinematic version of Sir Patrick Stewart’s opening scene in a Palm d’Or-winning performance as Claudius, in Gregory Doran’s 2008 production of Hamlet.

David Tennant stars as Hamlet, which is what drew me in. Rumor has it that if he hadn’t missed a few performances for spinal surgery due to an on-stage injury, Tennant would’ve picked up a Lawrence Olivier Award for this performance. Between these two hard-working actors, you could fill a trophy room to the point of clutter with television, film and theater awards…

The poem is in the voice of Claudius, of course. His opening lines set up Hamlet’s later quip about coronation fireworks being “more honored in the breach than the observance.”

Tonight we shall sing and give thanks,
to salute the strength of our realm.
Lift your spirits and move with the drum,
the tambour and pipe call the tune.
Bring forth the trumpets – the moon is new,
and our fortunes can only grow.
For it is the custom in Denmark,
to toast royal alliances well.
The manners are sensible here,
and this is no novel fashion,
none can remember another.
“A son need not mourn forever,
nor shroud himself in strange despair.
Your grief calls out – I would set you free.
I speak with a king’s magnanimity.
I admit, there is a test in this.
My court is your audience, prince.
I would have you soften your grief.
For how can a king command mourning,
when the queen’s new consort reigns?
I am the head of your royal house,
who names you the throne’s only heir.
Show me your needs and I’ll meet them.
Now you say not one word to us,
and ask no blessing, discontent.
I would give my wife’s son good leave
to take his own counsel, dear prince.
If our people are well moved
to settle on me a king’s cares,
with what alacrity I’d strike
to show our rivals our full strength!
Our enemies would be dismayed,
and back to hell their ghosts would slink.
Acknowledge, prince, my regency,
stay here, drink up the honeyed wine.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Acting, Directing, Dream Ensemble, Music, Poetry, Roll Credits