Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chapter Four, Excerpt

We had got to the top of the battlements on the western side of the castle. Below us, beyond the moat and past a field that had been cleared of trees during my childhood, was the town where I had been born. Raised in the shadow of Kronberg, I had seen the fort thousands of times in all seasons, lights and weather, but I had never stood on the castle walls and looked down upon Elsinore. Despite myself I thought it a lovely view, the houses, mercantiles and offices gathered behind the walls in neat rows along the harbor, the spire of the basilica rising at the northeast corner of the town, Lake Elsinore and the wilderness beyond where thick stands of trees encircled the city walls and protected the inhabitants against centuries of intellectual and philosophical advances. A few lights shone in windows and in the harbor the furled sails of ships glowed ghostly white. It was quite a lovely scene as Rosenkrantz had promised. Though I could well enough see the neighborhood, I could not make out my father’s house from so far in the night.

“Frederik,” I said. “Do you know what a telescope is?”

“Some Greek potion?”

“Nay, it is an optical device that allows a man to see far into the distance. They are a German invention, though doubtless a Dane could build a better one.”

“You would look at your stars with one?”

“Nay, the stars are finite in number and seen well enough on a clear night. I should look at the planets instead. They are closer than the stars, larger and certainly they would prove of more interest to the investigating eye. Ah, Rosenkrantz, to gaze clearly upon the features of the moon!”

“I should rather see the faces on coins, Horatio. Whose face will be on our money when there is a new king, do you think? Young Hamlet?”

“Faith, I know not. I should not wish the throne upon him. He believes that to rule is to sit handsomely on a horse and wear fine armor. Being king is not always valor and glory, Frederik. Being king is trade and treaties, fishing disputes with England, taxes on ships and sheep and wool and wheat, or petty arguments between owners of orchards and owners of granaries. Or perhaps I should say that being king is to concern oneself with displaying the right breed of courtesy to the right breed of courtier. I do not think my friend Hamlet would enjoy this.”

“Nonsense. Every man wishes to be king.”

“I do not.”

“A philosopher king is what you’d be, but surely you would rule if you could.”

“Only were it thrust upon me by necessity.”

“Aye, and every man keeps a wary eye for the call of necessity, that he may finally act according to his deepest desire.”

“Perhaps. In any case, young Hamlet is now being groomed in earnest to take a high place in Denmark’s affairs. He will likely be king after his father.”

“Do you still find in him a worthy man? We have some control in this succession, Horatio.”

The moon was full but a curtain of cloud hung along the eastern sky, spreading the satellite’s white glow but hiding her face. I estimated the aspect between the moon and my father’s house, with me at the crux of the angle. Sesqisquare, I thought, or within an orb of ten degrees or so.

“I like the prince,” I said. “Though he and I are becoming strangers.”

“You move in different orbits.” Rosenkrantz smiled at his cleverness. I also smiled.

“Aye.”

“Well, we shall see. But it is shrewishly cold and you cannot keep me freezing out here all night, Horatio. Tell me: will you accomplish you task here, or will you wait until the court is returned to Copenhagen?”

8 comments:

  1. I liked that, great dialogue. I especially liked the imagery of this line:

    The moon was full but a curtain of cloud hung along the eastern sky, spreading the satellite’s white glow but hiding her face.

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  2. My favorite was..."You move in different orbits."

    Very nicely done.

    I'm assuming neither Frederick nor Horatio gets thrown off the battlement on that particular evening?

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  3. Rick: Thanks! That sentence bugs me, though. Something about the rhythm of it. I'm thinking of changing it to start with "a curtain of cloud hung along..." and restructuring it. But, you know, it likely won't even make it through revisions so why bother doing anything at this point? It's all provisional. Which concept sometimes gives me a headache.

    Anne: That's my favorite line, too. Frederik and Horatio are a nice pair of friends, and I'm glad I thought to throw them together. They didn't get along in previous versions. And no, neither of them gets thrown off the battlement. Though someone (not saying who) fell (by some accounts) into the moat earlier that night.

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  4. Puh-lease tell me it was Polonius!

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  5. Anne: Sorry. Polonius gets lots more stage time; he hasn't even started in on Copernicus yet.

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  6. Very nice, Scott. My favorite is:

    The moon was full but a curtain of cloud hung along the eastern sky, spreading the satellite’s white glow but hiding her face. I estimated the aspect between the moon and my father’s house, with me at the crux of the angle. Sesqisquare, I thought, or within an orb of ten degrees or so.

    I know you said above you don't like the rhythm of it, but it is nice nonetheless.

    This draft is already feeling more centered on Horatio, even through the few excerpts you've shared.

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  7. The first line that Michelle picked was my favorite line as well. The imagery in this excerpt is beautiful. Bravo, Scott!

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  8. Michelle: Yeah, it's solidly Horatio's story, though the current chapter has a lot of Hamlet in it. The middle section of the book is going to be a long metaphysical contest between Horatio and Hamlet, sort of. I'm being purposefully vague, of course. Anyway, I like the bit about Horatio doing geometry in his head.

    Crimey: Thanks! I'm trying to keep the story moving enough that it doesn't get weighed down by the language. Sometimes I can't tell if I'm going forward or standing still.

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