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“Come with me,” Says Ophelia, and she stretches out her hand.
This is not her line.
Her line is, “No, my Lord.” Following this line the two of you will have a not very nice conversation,
watch the play-within-a-play, and then you will go up to your mother’s room and kill her father.
His death will set off a chain of events in which Ophelia kills herself, you kill her brother, your mother is poisoned, and then, ultimately, you die.
This is how it will happen. This is how it always happens. This is how it is written.
But this time she does not say, “No, my Lord.” She says, “Come with me, we can leave here, together,” and her hand stretches out towards you, open.
Around you, a hush has descended over the rest of the cast, a hush so dense and deep it is almost tactile. They are all holding their breath, watching you. Your first thought is, “What do I say to cover this up?” Because that is your job.
That is part of the responsibility of being the most famous character in the English language. You smooth things over so the play can go on.
Have you thought about it before, what Ophelia is offering? Certainly. You talk about it all the time at the pub; you, Romeo, Othello, and occasionally a few of the other guys.
“I mean if just once, Emilia were to realize what was going on just a little bit sooner,” Othello moaned one time. “Iago’s whole plan would fall apart.”
“What about me?” Romeo had replied. “Juliet wakes up ten seconds earlier and bang, we live happily ever after.”
“Yes, but then they wouldn’t be the plays they are,” you say. “We wouldn’t be the characters we are. We wouldn’t move people the way we do.”
It’s always you who says things like this. Who brings everyone back down to earth. Sometimes you talk about what it would be like to be a character in a different play. How incredible would it be to be in Much Ado About Nothing or The Winter’s Tale? To watch the woman you love come back to life, time and time again. But this is just pub talk. Who would you be if not Hamlet? What would you do? Ophelia’s hand is still open, stretched out before you.
In the four hundred plus years you have been with her, you have never held Ophelia’s hand. You have never kissed her, never held her in your arms. All you have, all you both have, is the memory of love. After this scene you will kill her father, her brother, and your uncle. You will die, and then you will do it all over again. This is how it will happen. This is how it always happens. Ophelia is asking you to come away with her.
Carefully, you place your hand in hers. In your grasp she feels warm, and soft, and alive.