The Queen knew that in order to gain the support of the villagers and quell their fear of potential retribution by Claudius her appeal to pardon Hamlet must be pursued within a public forum. What better forum could there possibly be than the old village church ?
Due to the sensitive nature of this issue and the need for secrecy, candor and decorum Father Mulcahy advised that there be no public notice issued prior to the meeting itself. The only information that would be made public would be that the King and Queen would be present for the morning service. This information alone would guarantee near capacity attendance.
(Claudius was not pleased with the Queen’s decision to go to the Sunday mass. He knew he needed to attend in order to keep up appearances, however after he was King …..)
Sunday morning finally arrived and the Royal family boarded their coaches and headed down the narrow, cobblestone road that led to the church. There was already a crowd of parishioners standing in the court yard hoping to get a glimpse of the Royal family as they were escorted inside the church.
As before Claudius sat next to the Queen….
Hamlet was sitting inconspicuously in a small side room adjacent to the church altar. Shadow rested comfortably on his lap. Arty …( unbeknownst to Hamlet)… was fast asleep in his jacket pocket.
The table was set….
The first course was the usual scripture readings, hymns and recitations followed by a brief but well-crafted sermon on the subject of forgiveness after which Father Mulcahy made a surprise announcement.
The Queen herself wished to address the congregation.
The Second Course…
You could have heard a pin drop as Father Mulcahy completed his brief announcement…. The Queen stood and slowly made her way to the church pulpit. Her actions were greeted by a mixture of silent awe and bewilderment…. The expression on the face of Claudius was indescribable, but very unpleasant.
Father Mulcahy sat down in his seat as the Queen confidently approached the podium….
The Queen took a deep breath and turned to face the congregation.
Queen Gertrude: (with a strong and regal tone addressing the congregation)
“My loyal friends and subjects of Elsinore we have all just heard a most excellent sermon on the subject of forgiveness. It is my greatest hope that you listened with both your ears and your hearts.
As you are surely all aware my son the good Prince Hamlet was of late involved in an unfortunate incident that resulted in the accidental death of Polonius a fellow citizen who we all respected and admired.
Hamlet was lawfully tried for the crime of assault with a deadly weapon,..
but I will subsequently address that matter in greater detail.
Hamlet was found to be guilty and for his crime banished to England.
What was not fully explained at his trial was the circumstances by which Hamlet became ensnared in this tragic affair.
Polonius had come to my chambers requesting my advice on a sensitive and very personal matter concerning his daughter Ophelia…. It is no secret that Prince Hamlet and Ophelia were much more than friends. It had been my secret hope that one day Hamlet and Ophelia would be wed and eventually become your new King and Queen.
Hamlet loved and respected Polonius. He would never have done anything to harm him in anyway.
By chance Hamlet passed my chambers as Polonius and I were discussing the details of this delicate situation…
…details that best not fall upon the ears of the young Prince.
At my bidding Polonius hid himself behind the curtain before Hamlet entered my chambers. I had been sewing and my supplies and equipment lay strewn across my work table. Hamlet saw the curtain move, believing it was an intruder who meant me harm he grasped the scissors from my work table and rushed toward the curtain to confront the unknown assailant. Unfortunately in his haste to protect me he failed to see a foot stool in his path. …He tripped and fell into the curtain.
The scissors punctured the curtain… mortally wounding Polonius.
Hamlet’s “deadly weapon” was a pair of scissors which he grasped in a desperate attempt to be able to defend me lest the intruder be armed with knife or sword. There was no malice or intent. Hamlet sought only to protect my life. The stabbing was purely accidental. Hamlet tripped and fell.
I know that his original crime was reduced from murder to assault and his punishment was reduced from execution to exile and for that I am deeply grateful; however by a miraculous turn of events Hamlet has been returned here to Elsinore.
His ship was besieged by a group of marauding pirates, but by the grace of God his life was spared. If God himself has chosen to forgive Hamlet and spare his life I hope that all of you can find it in your hearts to do the same.
I have in my hand a Royal proclamation fully pardoning Hamlet and restoring his future claim to the throne. With your approval here and now I will sign this document with all of you as witness.
What say ye my good friends and loyal subjects ??”
A man in the back of the church slowly rose to his feet clapping his hands….“Aye” he replied. ..and then the woman beside him stood slowly clapping. “Aye” she replied.
One by one the members of the congregation rose and affirmed their support of Hamlet and the Queen.
(Reluctantly under the pressure of the intense gazes of the congregation both Claudius and Laertes silently rose to their feet).
Queen Gertrude.. pen in hand.. signed the declaration and held it up for all to see.
With a wave of her hand she summoned Hamlet.
Hamlet stood silently before the Queen.
Queen Gertrude: (holding the signed proclamation before him)
“Prince Hamlet by Royal decree and in witness of your friends and future subjects you are hereby officially pardoned for any and all crimes involved with the unfortunate death of Polonius”
“Welcome home my son.”
The congregation cheered loudly.
Hamlet returned in the Royal coach with Queen Gertrude, Claudius, Shadow …and Arty.
During the ride back to the castle Claudius sat in bitter silence.