Adapted by the author from Act I, Scene iii of The Tragedy of Prince Hamlet and the Philosopher's Stone, or, A Will Most Incorrect to Heaven by William Shakespeare. The beginning can be read here.
The Tragedy of Prince Hamlet and the Philosopher's Stone, or, A Will Most Incorrect to Heaven by William Shakespeare is a completed work of Hamlet fan fiction, available as an e-book. The play is a rewrite of Hamlet that preserves much of the original style, language, and plot, while injecting references to modern culture, epistemology, and ethics. It's perhaps what Shakespeare would have written, had he been simultaneously trying to appeal to audiences of both his time and our own. The Philosopher's Stone, for example, would be familiar to subjects of either Queen Elizabeth.
What is't, Ophelia, he hath said to you?
So please you, something touching the Lord Hamlet.
I am touch'd.
So is it whispered of late.
It is not well for matters touching lords or ladies,
or indeed for matters of lords and ladies touching,
to be confin'd to whispers, for well is it said that
in a small dark space do lies and hatreds breed,
whilst sunlight and fresh air can scour pestilence.
Then will I say it outright:
they say that I am mad.
Ay, quite, but less so than most, alack.
Thou think'st thy fellows lunatic?
Would it were not so,
but as the moth will seek a deadly flame,
as fish bite fast upon the baited hook,
as a mosquito hazards her whole life
for one mere drop of human blood,
though horses, lacking hands,
make safer prey for such a thirst,
and all these madnesses are in-born,
and built within the nature of the beset,
so are there sundry flaws e'en in Man,
God's greatest work.
Born in us are ignobilities of reason and bounded faculty,
born and cannot be plucked out,
but merely built atop,
as a castle on a crumbling promontory.
Thus though have I composed my mind
in the mold of methods of rationality,
yet there be madness in't, and ne'er can it be else.
The word is "never", never "ne'er,"
yet neither "never" is the word, for 'tis not never.
I mean, sir, that your childish follies will in time mature,
for as youth's passion cools wisdom takes its stead.
For me 'tis well youth's passion cooleth slowly,
sith a young blade that cooleth over-fast,
though seeming long and hard,
will not long withstand the use one might wish to put it to.
How now, a young blade?
I mean, sir, a new-forged sword.
A new-forged shoe?
Such an image suits a noble lady better.
Low speech poisons elevated thought.
Indeed, what might a lifetime of it do?
A falseness or a carelessness of speech, repeated oft,
though harmless in itself must balk the mind's great quest
to reconcile all of its imaginings,
to suffer not the thought one thing is so,
when other thought well showeth it is not.
Or else, if one is bold enough to recognize a war twixt two long-held beliefs,
but lacketh the understanding or the will to forfeit the weaker,
then falls the stronger, and so a wrongness spreads within the mind as a contagion.
Thus falsehood doth make madmen of us all, those who are not cowardly enough
to rip their tapestry at the fault, and suffer two unmatched halves,
rather than permit one o'er-treasured nonsense to warp the whole.
Yet those of us who keepeth our minds clear
grow ever stronger in our powers,
'til in our luminous twilight we are a guide,
most oft ignor'd, to those who follow behind.
And then you die.
Fear not: I plan to cure the maladies of age,
that thou might live to see thy wisdom heard.
I would not have it so.
Though my death, 'tis true, impoverishes the world,
the death of death would be the greater loss.
"The death of death would be the greater loss."
Is this among the gems of thought that old wise men may treasure,
having broke through the petty passions that greedy call for life?
E'en so, though in truth did I come 'pon this one early.
I think I had not gained a score of years,
when, worrying o'er the sundry dangers near and far
presented to my person,
I realized suddenly that limits to my span
added to them a beauty and a clarity, and to the world.
And so, calmed somewhat of my fears
and proud of my then-budding intellect,
did I live henceforth as a friend to death,
though certainly neglecting not my prudence!
Then think me mad?
That word is of your choosing and too harsh for my ears.
Your lordship is but young.
I tell you I will cure death will ye, nil ye,
and will have your prattle in my ears for centuries to come.
With years your addled mind may heal as well,
and you may learn in time to be
almost but not quite as wise as me.
I repent charity: I fear Lord Hamlet's wits are snapp'd i'faith.
Go and tell the king!
I will go tell Claudius,
for so is the king nam'd.
My good lord.
You need not play such fearful pranks
just to gain a private audience with me.
I am not the king.
I spoke but the truth.
My father is not addled and you use him ill to say so.
Is not he that speaketh foolishness a fool?
My father's reason is as a light cast through a window,
to shine upon those he speaketh to.
Now in the winter of his years his hair turns frosted-white,
and so too is that window o'ergrown with silver hoar-frost,
so that his light shines through but dimly,
though at its source it is as bright as ever.
His mouth shapes words in ways familiar,
in ways once praised for boldness and for wit,
that now but ill do serve his ends,
and so does hoary speech issue from noble mind.
"Low speech poisons elevated thought."
One cannot separate the word and thought,
for think we not in words? Or well:
Speak not the tired phrases wintry minds have freez'd.
Stick your wit in hoar and you might draw it out diseas'd.
There is a little brook where one might pick a dead-man's-wit,
a flower-name too liberal for those who would be shepherds of my thought,
or a white narcissus if one would therewith grant forgiveness.
A brook whose chuckling current seems to mock the greater waters.
A willow grows aslant and o'er-hangs,
so when this brook fancies himself a looking-glass,
he shows the willow's leaves to be all silver.
Yet willow's leaves are hoar beneath and o'er green.
My willow stoops, but does not deign to show
his green and growing side to those beneath.
E'en if your father's mind can be well split
with greener thoughts above untouched by hoary words beneath,
the proof of wisdom is in action,
and is it not an act to speak?
When I did offer him the gift of immortality,
a gift far better than a dross weed on,
as you'd have it,
a chuckling stream's thin bank,
he did scorn it with well-practiced and remembered patter,
as the false magician's swift and lying words are often called.
Your willow is addicted to magic,
for when all his words are bent to the one task
of pretending to be a wizard,
no true philosophy can be discussed.
And this must serve him grievous ill,
for there is, I fear, no thread that can be wo'en
'twixt hoary patter and the Philosopher's Stone.