"Absent thee from felicity for a while" ~Hamlet (5.2.289)
My dear friend,
I hope your blessings are with me now. Or, if they be not, I hope that you can come to forgive me in time.
Your dying wish was that I tell your story. Well, tell it I did, Hamlet. Fortinbras listened well, then had me repeat the whole gloomy tale to his court scribes. They often made me repeat a particularly painful part of the story- your accidental slaying of Polonius, or poor Ophelia's decent into madness. I told your story so many times I was well sick of it.
The scribes offered to read me their finished version of your story, but I declined. I have a bound version that they gave me as a present, but why would I need to read what I lived? What I replay endlessly in my mind?
After the scribes had done their job, I believed I had discharged mine as well. I took my leave of Fortinbras and even Denmark. Everything there reminded me too much of you, my lord.
I had a certain cousin in Padua who I believed could help me find new employment. So to Italy I came. And here I am still.
My cousin did not disappoint- He took me on as his own apprentice. My cousin is a master shipbuilder, and these several years I have learned the craft from him. I am now a partner in his business, which is a grand departure from the servanthood of my other life- my life in Denmark.
But, I am avoiding the point, Hamlet. Here we come nearer to the request I have made you.
My lord, when you died, you charged me: "absent thee from felicity for a while." You need hardly have said so. How could I be happy, when my very best friend and good master was dead? I dare say I was without any hint of felicity for well on five years.
But then I finally found some spark- some joy. I laid eyes on a pretty young dear named Bianca. It was the first time I believe I allowed myself to truly forget you, my lord.
And then I discovered she was a widow! I hardly thought it possible, she seemed so much younger than myself- to be a widow already. It turns out (my cousin's wife informed me) that her husband, Lucentio, had died of some illness some years ago.
The whole town gossips that Bianca sent Lucentio to his death with her stubborn, willful ways. But she holds her head up high and saunters along as if she hears naught of this talk. I think the townswomen are envious of Bianca's spark, wit, and strength.
So Bianca and I have been courting. Her wit sparks joy in me, and what others call "willfull" I call "strong." My cousin says that I have been mastered by her, but so what if I have? I was trained to be a servant, after all. And she pays me well in kisses and love.
At last we come to the quick of the matter: I love Bianca, and she loves me. We are to marry.
And, this, my master, is why I ask your blessing. I know your mother married too quickly after your father's death, and I would hate to make that same mistake. But it has been near six years since you have died- certainly you cannot ask me to absent myself from joy for longer.
Bianca is my felicity, Hamlet. I know she will make me extremely happy. My only regret is that you cannot be here to witness our joy. But I know you are with us in spirit.
Requiescat in pacem, my friend.