The ``great'' room of a Stratford-Upon-Avon cottage. The 1580s. A Fall afternoon, late, darkness descending, rain softly striking the windows. Anne, in her mid thirties, sits at a large table, a pile of books at her elbow, reading. Burning candles on the table. Hamnet and Judith, twins age six, bounce on the large, lumpy bed across the room, roll off the bed, bump their heads, cry, get back on, bounce again, fight, etc.. Susanna, eight, sits across from her mother, writing in an accounts book, sets down pen, pulls her cap over her ears to shut out the sound of the rambnuctious twins.
ANNE (Looking at Susanna, smiling, sympathizing): It will be nice when the rain stops and we can send Hammet and Judith outdoors, don't you think?
SUSANNA: What did you say, Mother?
ANNE (Over annunciating): I said, it will be good when the twins can get some exercise_ outside! Let them torment the ducks and swans.
SUSANNA: Yes, I second that. (Indicating accounts book.) Mother, I need tell you, we're in arrears.
HAMNET and JUDITH (Who have been listening, with a look at each other): Ducks and swans! Ducks and swans! We love chasing ducks and swans!
HAMNET (Taking a swing at Judith): Duck!
JUDITH (Pretending to swoon): Swan! (They roll off the bed in a faint, make sighing sounds.)
ANNE (Harried, but with grudging admiration): They have their father's gift for dramatizing _ and disturbing the peace.
SUSANNA: Mother! Did you hear what I just said?
ANNE: I'm sorry, my dear Susanna. You do so much and are so serious. You were asking what's for dinner? . . .
SUSANNA: No, mother, you see, you weren't listening as usual. I was saying _ we're in arrears.
ANNE: It's not serious, is it?
SUSANNA: Well, yes, of course it is, it's never good to be in arrears.
ANNE: Such a big word _ arrears! (Making fun.) ``The King says/`My army fears/ Another attack/From arrears!' '' (Susanna fixes her with a look.) Well, of course you're right, Susanna. It can't be good to be in arrears. Very serious, yes. Do excuse me.
HAMNET and JUDITH (Climb back on the bed, bottoms up): Arrears! Arrears! Mother's got one, Susanna's got one! Everyone's got an arrear!
ANNE: But I wouldn't worry, your father will provide. He always does. . . eventually.
SUSANNA (Not convinced; grown up): I hope so, dear mother. A few quid would go nicely just now.
HAMNET and JUDITH (Popping into sitting positions): A few quid! A few quid! Mother, Mother, we'd like a few quid!
SUSANNA: You might also let father know Hammet and Judith need stockings. And winter's coming and they will need gloves, too.
HAMNET and JUDITH (Bouncing): We needs stockings! We need stockings! Susanna __ says __ we need stockings! We need gloves! We need gloves! Susanna __ says __ we need gloves!
ANNE (Fingers to temples): Children, children! . . . Rain wear, that's what you need! Get you out of this house and save that poor bed.
JUDITH (Pouncing): Mother, why do we get the second-best bed? Is it because we are little?
ANNE: I have told you, Judith, second-best is just a figure of speech. An affectionate one. It is the bed where you and Hamnet were born and where Susanna was born and . . . Well, let's just say it is very special to your father and me.
HAMNET: And you don't like the first-best bed as much?
ANNE (Rubbing her eyes): That is so, Hammet. It's not near so soft _ it's filled with horse hair, not feathers, like yours. It's just . . . newer, that's all . . . and . . . colder.
HAMNET (To Judith): See? I told you. (Bouncing.) Ours has feathers. (Starting in again.) Ducks and swans!
HAMNET and JUDITH: Ducks and swans! Ducks and _
SUSANNA: Hammet! Judith! If I have to get up! Mother's tired! (The twins freeze. After a bit.) Are you alright, Mother?
ANNE: Yes, thank you, Susanna. Just so much to _ and now that we're in arrears . . . (To Twins.) Thanks, chicks, for being so good. (Takes out paper and quill, looks at open book, copies something from book.)
SUSANNA: You seem not yourself lately. Is that the Holinshed book?
ANNE: Yes, dear.
SUSANNA: For father? A new play?
ANNE (Smiling wanely): Just a little research . . . he asked . . . he's so busy. I help when I can.
HAMNET (A plaintiff sound, to himself): Father, father, where __ is ___ father __ (Judith kicks him lightly in the leg. They look at each other a moment.) Father . . . father . . . (She kicks him again, gently. He looks at her and shuts up. Anne and Susanna look at the Twins for a few moments.)
ANNE (Anticipating her, as she continues making notations): No, I don't know when he's coming home, Susanna, so don't ask. But there's sickness in the city and I wish him home and safe and well.
SUSANNA: I can't imagine much going on in the theatre with sickness about. Is that why we don't visit him?
ANNE: This year, yes. (Suddenly distressed.) And Hamnet's not been well, not been . . . strong. I wouldn't want to take him to London. You've seen _ (She looks at Hammet, regretting saying it. But Hamnet has heard her. He looks at her a moment then falls back onto the bed, stares at the ceiling, twirls a lock of his hair moodily.)
SUSANNA (Sotto voice): Mother?
ANNE (Pause, sotto voice): I shouldn't have said anything, but you know . . . He was the more difficult birth; Judith came first . . . I don't know . . . I worry about him . . . when there's sickness about . . . (Pause.) Hammet? Hammet, dear?
JUDITH: Hamnet, Hamnet . . . (Judith looks at Hamnet then follows suit, falling onto her back, even unto twirling a lock of her hair. Anne and Susanna watch them. A silence.)
ANNE: I'm sorry, Hamnet . . . (Trying to change the mood, louder, change of tone): Anyway, I wrote a few lines your father might like for the new play . . .
JUDITH (Not having moved, staring at ceiling): Father, father . . . (Hamnet kicks her gently, still on his back, she kicks him back, they stay on their backs.)
ANNE (Pause, then briskly.): . . . something I remembered gave me the idea . . . the girl in the new play . . . Ophelia he calls her . . . when your father courted me and I first said no . . . well, we had a kind of row and it was something like this . . . (Pantomiming much of the following.) ``He took me by the wrist and held me hard/Then he pulls my hand to his chest/And, with his other hand thus o'er his brow/He falls to gaze upon my face . . .'' (A dazzling smile.) What do you think? Well, maybe not . . . Of course, he can always improve on it . . .
SUSANNA (A beat): Father took you by the wrist?
ANNE: Well, of course . . . we were quite passion _ . . . intense . . . you know . . .
SUANNA: Did he hurt you?
ANNE: Of course not. He'd never hurt a soul.
SUSANNA (Somewhat dreamy): And gazed into your eyes?
ANNE (Blushes): Susanna, we were very young! . . . Well, he younger, as you and all Stratford-Upon-Avon _ and perhaps London _ know.
SUSANNA: You're beautiful and I don't care what they know. For what play is this? ANNE: He's calling it, I think, ``Hamlet.''
HAMNET (Sits up suddenly, excited): Hamnet?! Mother, is father doing a play called Hamnet? Is it of me?
SUSANNA: No, silly, don't you listen? It's Hamlet! With an ``L.''
JUDITH (Sitting up): Why would he do a play about you? You're too little!
HAMNET (Falls back, stares at ceiling, twirls lock of hair): Oh . . . (Pause.) . . . with an ``L.'' (Pause.) I don't like ``L''s . . . (Bitterly.) I loathe ``L''s . . .
ANNE: Anyway, Hamnet, Hamlet's very like Hamnet, don't you think? . . . so maybe . . .
HAMNET: But not the same.
SUSANNA: One can hardly tell the difference, Hamnet . . . I shouldn't be surprised if father was thinking of you when he made his title.
JUDITH (Looking at him); Anyway, father'd sooner do a play called Judith!
HAMNET: Oh, go to sleep, you. He wouldn't do either. (Judith falls back, twirls her hair, stares at ceiling. They lie side by side, breathing heavily, as children do when they are thinking. Anne and Susanna look at them. The rain suddenly begins to fall harder. They are all silent before its force. )
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...