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Before there was Hamilton, there was Hamlet.

Rap-Notes: Hamlet is the first of five raps written by Bob Zaslow and performed by rappers Noodle & Hennessy in a midtown Manhattan studio.

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RAP-NOTES: HAMLET  by Bob Zaslow

HAMLET

I’m Prince Hamlet, got a problem with that?

I’m Prince Hamlet, got a problem with that?

I’m Prince Hamlet, got a problem with that?

I’m Prince Hamlet, over here.

RAPPERS

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark

You can smell it over here.

 

HAMLET AND RAPPERS SIMULTANOUSLY:

 

HAMLET:     I’m Prince Hamlet, got a problem with that?

RAPPERS:   Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

HAMLET:     I’m Prince Hamlet, got a problem with that?

RAPPERS:   Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

HAMLET:     I’m Prince Hamlet, got a problem with that?

RAPPERS:   Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

HAMLET:     I’m Prince Hamlet over here.

RAPPERS:   You can smell it over here.

RAPPER 1

Good Prince Hamlet’s melancholy

HAMLET

What? Should I be all bright and jolly?

My dad, he is dead and my mom’s big folly

Is marrying my uncle, gosh oh golly

Well I guess that’s just fine with me

So fine I say, “To be or not to be?”

Should I kill myself? Yo, that’s the question.

Anyone out there got a suggestion?

Should I shuffle off this mortal coil

Or stay alive and try to spoil

What that smiling villain, Uncle Claude

Is trying to do, and prove him a fraud?

RAPPER 1

Now a theme of this play, one of Shakespeare’s best:

Is Hamlet mad or just depressed?

And by mad I mean off his rocker, OK?

Or is he just faking it to get his own way?

RAPPER 2

We ain’t gonna tell you during this show

Mainly because we really don’t know.

But we do know the guy is holding a grudge

Wouldn’t you if your mom got dragged through the sludge?

Wouldn’t you if your dad got drugged in the ear?

And then his ghost croaked out, “Get over here.”

RAPPERS

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark

You can smell it over here. You can smell it over here.

HAMLET

I saw my dad’s ghost in scene 5 of this play,

What he told me chills my bones to this day.

Uncle Claudius, that smiling, wretched villain…

Poured poison in dad’s ear- ‘twas the thing to kill him.

And so he gained the crown, the land, and none other

Than the woman who borned me, the Queen, my “dear” mother.

Frailty, thy name is woman, frailty, thy name is woman, frailty, thy name is woman, ghost what can I do for thee?

And he said, “Hamlet, remember me, Hamlet remember me, Hamlet, remember me, avenge your father’s death.

And I said, “Father, remember thee? Father, remember thee? Father, remember thee?  With my dying breath.”

RAPPERS

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark

You can smell it over here. You can smell it over here.

RAPPER1

Meanwhile Hamlet loves Ophelia mightily

Why not, she looks like Keira Knightily.

But when he starts acting unharmonious

She tells her dad, his name’s Polonious

This dude gives all kinds of good advice

He won’t follow himself, like he don’t think twice

To tell his son, Laertes, “To yourself be true,”

But when he talks to himself, he lies like a shrew.

He says, “Brevity is the soul of wit”

But goes on and on, there’s no end to it.

“Keep an eye on Hamlet” says he to his daughter

Make sure he does what a good prince oughta.”

RAPPER 2

She reports back that the dude is whack

Polonious that hack comes up with an attack

He tells the new king and his new wife the queen

“Hamlet is mad, he could cause quite a scene”

So my advice to you is blah blah blah blah and maybe try

To blah, blah, blah, blah, hire a spy.

HAMLET

But I knew those spies, and so let the worm turn.

They were two of my guys: Rosencranz and Guildenstern!

RAPPER 1

Later, Hamlet sent them out on some wild goose chase,

Their geese got cooked, and they lost more than face.

HAMLET

They had it coming, they were working for my uncle

Which put my disposition in a funkle

In fact of late I’ve lost all my mirth

Nothing delights me, nothing on earth.

Maybe something in heaven, but how can I know?

Unless I kill myself, but not yet, oh no…

I’ve got to prove my uncle whacked my dad,

And I’ve got an idea, not the best one I’ve had.

But not the worst one either, I’ll produce a play-

The murder of a king, then I’ll sit back and pray

That my uncle Claude, that buffoon, blows his cool

And that fraud runs out the room, like a murdering fool.

You thinking why don’t I just listen to the ghost

And do Claude in now, when I want it the most?

Why why why why why why and more whys

Because maybe the ghost’s a devil in disguise! (Yeah.)

Out of weakness and sadness I’ll wait and wait

If you want me, dial, 800-PROCRASTINATE!

But murder, though it hath no tongue, hath teeth

And will bite my uncle in that place underneath.

I’ll have grounds more relative than a ghostly dad

I’ll have found the truth, and it’s mostly bad.

Begin The Mousetrap, ‘cause the play’s the thing

Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king!

RAPPERS

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark

You can smell it over here. You can smell it over here.

RAPPER 1

So the actors spoke trippingly on the tongue,

And when Claude saw the poisoned ear, he started all the fun!

He ran out the room like the rat that he was.

Why didn’t Hamlet kill him then? I guess, just because…

And while Claude was alone praying for forgiveness

Young Hamlet couldn’t get himself to do the bloody business.

Like a Deal or No Deal you see on television

Once he made up his mind… he was full of indecision!

RAPPER 2

So a little bit later, he took it out on another;

He ran up the steps and yelled at his mother.

But Ophelia’s dad, Polonius, who was hiding and uncertain

Said, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

Hamlet thought. “OK, that’s it, Uncle Claude take that!”

Stabbed Polonious through the curtain, but didn’t kill a rat.

He was sorry for a minute, then quickly found his wits

And told his mum to keep mum about all of this.

HAMLET

To make my plan work, mum, I’ll know you’ll think I’m bad

You’ve got to tell the kingdom Prince Hamlet is quite mad.

‘Prince Hamlet is quite mad you all, Prince Hamlet is quite mad

In an angst-ridden free-fall, Prince Hamlet is quite mad.’

RAPPERS

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark

You can smell it over here. You can smell it over here.

RAPPER 1

The King is scared, the King’s been dissed

He’s got to kill Hamlet so he won’t be missed.

“Sail to England, Hamlet, and take this to the king

A personal letter that I sealed with my ring.“

RAPPER 2

He wrote, “Help me put the Hamlet problem to an end:

If you kill the prince, I’ll be your best friend.”

But the letter never got there, ‘cause Hamlet ran away.

And on the road he met the brave young prince of Norway.

Fortinbras was everything young Hamlet was not,

Decisive and bold, probably slept on a cot.

HAMLET

How come if I have a job to do and the means to do it

I’m just biding my time without the nerve to do it?

When honor’s at stake, how stand I then
To have a father killed and a mother stained?

Oh no, that’s it! From this time forth,

My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth!

RAPPER 1

This time he means it, the dude is for real

Meet new improved Hamlet, hey Claude, it’s your deal.

RAPPERS

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark

You can smell it over here. You can smell it over here.

RAPPER 2

Meanwhile, in Act 4, Scene 5,

The play’s ingénue takes a dive

Ophelia’s going crazy, dresses up like a flower

And Laertes, her brother, comes home that hour.

She’s mad as a hatter, he’s madder than hell

And he wants to batter who tolled Polonius’ bell.

RAPPER 1

Then comes something sad in Act 4, Scene 7–

Poor Ophelia drowns and goes to Shakespearean heaven.

Claudius tells Laertes that Hamlet killed his dad

And indirectly killed his sister, now that’s pretty bad.

Laertes OK’s dueling Hamlet with a poisoned sword

And for good measure, poisoned wine, oh my Lord!

HAMLET

Then I met two gravediggers digging someone’s grave.

I picked up a skull that I took to be a knave.

Where be his jokes now, who now can he pester?

“Oh, that’s Yorick’s skull,” he said, “He was once the King’s jester.”

“Alas, poor Yorick,” I said, “I knew him Horatio.

He of excellent fancy my, what a fellow.”

“But who’s this digging for, with the spade that you hold?”

Then I saw the answer and my blood, it ran cold.

For coming up the lane was Claudius the fox

And Laertes, young Laertes, holding up a box.

My insides churned, my cheeks they burned,

Now nothing could be saved

For there lay Ophelia, my love, now up above,

I jumped into the grave.

 

Young Laertes dove in next, his hands around my throat

“Bury me too,” yelled I, “And let the world take note-

That 40,000 brothers could not love her’s much as me

Not 40,000 or just one, her brother, Laertes.”

The King and Queen pulled us apart, she said “He’s mad!” How sage!

For she was right but not insane-mad, no, mine was mad, mad rage!

“Let Hercules, half-god of strength, himself do what he may

For mark my words, the cat will mew and the dog will have his day.

Mark my words, the cat will mew and the dog will have his day.

RAPPERS

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark

You can smell it over here. You can smell it over here.

RAPPER 2

Act 5 scene 2, that’s all she wrote, yo, what am I saying here?

That’s all he wrote, Will Shakespeare, the end is near.

First Claudius bets big on a Laertes-Hamlet duel

Hamlet asks Horatio, “Should I play the fool?”

He says, “Stay away, no swordplay can undo what’s done.”

But Hamlet states the rotten state will soon be quite undone.

Hamlet states the rotten state will soon be quite undone.

RAPPER 1

And so in this corner, young Laertes, his poisoned foil in hand

And in this corner, young Prince Hamlet, with no knowledge of the plan.

Hamlet strikes, “A hit, a hit, Laertes just got hit.”

But when Queen Gertrude sees the poisoned wine, she takes a drink of it.

King Claudius sees but says, “‘Tis too late to stop her now”

And then the poisoned sword wounds Hamlet, but then, oh then somehow…

RAPPER 2

Their swords get switched and sweet irony

Hamlet wounds Laertes who’s down on one knee.

And he shouts out the truth to all about Claude

So Hamlet strikes King Claude with his sword.

Four bodies down, and Horatio grabs the poisoned cup;

Hamlet flicks it away and says, “Let the killing stop.”

HAMLET

Good Horatio, things thus unknown, you shall live on for me,

If you ever held me in your heart you must tell the story-

Tell Fortinbras he’s my choice, with dying voice to end this bloody violence.

The poison quite o’ercrows my spirit now, and the rest is silence.

RAPPER 1

There cracks a noble heart, they said, of men he was the best…

RAPPER 2:

Good night sweet prince, sweet prince, sweet prince…

May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

RAPPERS

Good night sweet prince, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark

You can smell it over here. You can smell it over here. Yeah!

 

THE END

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