Hamlet for the Shakespeare-Impaired

Act 1, Scene 1

 Elsinore, Denmark. A platform before the Castle. A guard, Francisco, is at his post. Bernardo approaches.

 Bernardo: Who's there.?
Francisco: No, you first. Who are you?  Stand and unfold yourself.
Bernardo: Unfold myself?  Right here in public?  You pervert!
Francisco:  No, no.  Tell me who you are!
Bernardo:  Oh.  Uh...long live the King?
Francisco: Bernardo?
Bernardo: The one and only.
Francisco: You're right on time.
Bernardo: Yep.  It's midnight, on the dot.  You can go to bed, Francisco.
Francisco: Thanks for relieving me.  It's freezing out here, and I'm bummed.
Bernardo: Anything interesting happen while you were on watch?
Francisco: Not a mouse stirring.  Or an emu or a llama for that matter...
Bernardo: Well, good-night.  If you see Horatio and Marcellus, tell them to hurry up.
Enter Horatio and Marcellus.
Francisco: I think I hear them. Hey, you!  Who are you?
Horatio: Friends of this country.
Marcellus: And loyal to the King.
Francisco: Oh.  Okay.  Bernardo just took over for me.  Nighty night.
Marcellus: Okay.  Bye.
Exit Francisco.
Marcellus: Hi, Bernie.
Bernardo: Hey, Horatio is here!
Horatio: A piece of me, anyway.
Bernardo: Welcome, guys.
Marcellus: So, has the ghost showed up tonight?
Bernardo: Nope.
Marcellus: Horatio thinks we're loopy.  He doesn't believe in ghosts even though we've seen it twice, now.  So I dragged him along to stand watch with us tonight.  If the ghost shows up again he can see it for himself.   And maybe if he's so darn smart, he'll even talk to it.
Horatio: You're a few flakes short of a blizzard..  There's no such thing as ghosts.
Bernardo: Sit down, shut up, and we'll tell you the story again.
Horatio: Ok, fine.  Go ahead, Bernardo.
Bernardo: Once upon a time...well, last night..there were pretty stars, and Marcellus, here, and I were here at like one o'clock in the morning--
Enter Ghost.
Marcellus: Shut up.  It's back again!
Bernardo: Whoa, man, it looks like the dead king!
Marcellus: Well, Horatio, Mr. Smarty-pants, you talk to it.
Bernardo: See, Horatio, we told you so.  It looks like the king, doesn't it?  Check it out!
Horatio: Yes, it does.  I'm amazed but scared!
Bernardo: Go on.  Say something to it.
Marcellus: Ask it a question, Horatio.
Horatio: Uh...what are you doing tramping around in the middle of the night in the dead king's armor, for God's sake?
Bernardo: Uh oh.  I think you ticked it off.
Horatio: Stick around and talk to us!  Please!
Exit Ghost.
Marcellus: It's gone and won't answer.
Bernardo: Well, Horatio, Mr. "I don't believe in ghosts",  you're trembling and pale.  We told you it was real.
Horatio:  If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I'd never believe it.
Marcellus: And doesn't it look just like the King?
Horatio: As much as you look like yourself.  It was wearing the same armor the King wore when he fought the King of Norway.  This is too weird.
Marcellus: We've seen him twice before while on night watch.
Horatio: I'm not sure what to think.  But it certainly is strange.
Marcellus: Now sit down and tell me why we've been forced to keep such tight watch on the castle lately.  They're making cannons and weapons all the time, and the ship builders are even working on Sundays.  Can anyone tell me what's up?,
Horatio: Sure.  At least, the popular rumor.  The last king, whose ghost we just saw, was challenged to a duel by King Fortinbras of Norway.  King Hamlet ended up killing Fortinbras, and, as they agreed in writing beforehand, all Fortinbras' land went to Hamlet.  Now, old Fortinbras' son, young Fortinbras, is stirring up bad feelings in Norway.  He's hired some mercenaries.  It looks like he might attack us and take back the land his father lost in the duel.  And that's why we're being jumpy and stockpiling weapons.
Bernardo:  I thought it was probably something like that.  I bet that's why the late King's ghost is roaming around.
Horatio: Yeah.  When Rome fell, all kinds of weird, supernatural things happened.  You know, the dead walking the streets, comets, and kooky stuff with the sun and moon.  When the natural order gets upset like this, it usually means something bad's going to happen.
Enter Ghost again.
Uh oh.  It's baaaaaaaaaaack.  I'll bug it some more.  Stay, illusion!
Ghost spreads its arms
If you can speak, do so!  Maybe I can help ease your soul.  If you know what's going to happen to the country, tell me.  If you're still roaming the earth because of buried treasure you never got to dig up, tell me!
A Cock Crows.
Make it stop, Marcellus!
Marcellus: Shall I hit it with my pike?
Horatio: Yes, if it won't stand still.
Bernardo: It's here!
Horatio: It's here!
Exit Ghost.
Marcellus: It's gone!  We shouldn't have threatened it, because it's just a spirit and our weapons can't hurt it.  What dorks we are.
Bernardo: It was about to speak, but then that stupid rooster had to crow and ruin everything.
Horatio: Ghosts are summoned away at dawn to return to the afterlife.
Marcellus: Well, listen to the ghost expert.  I've heard that at Christmastime cocks crow all the time and there are no ghosts around at all 'cause Christmas is so holy.
Horatio: I've heard that, too, and I sort of believe it.  Look, dawn is breaking.  I think we should tell young Hamlet about what we've seen.  Maybe his father's ghost will talk to him.  Do you think that's a good idea?
Marcellus:  Sure.  And I know where he is, too.

Everybody exits.