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> > Heiner Mueller. The Hamletmachine
Heiner Mueller. The Hamletmachine
() Dasha 01/12/2008 (4140 )

Translation notes: Muellers original text quotes a number of English words and phrases.

These are outlined below by rectangles, rather than an alternate font or italics, so as not

to disrupt Muellers deliberate use of capital letters and spacing.

1

FAMILY ALBUM

I was Hamlet. I stood on the coast and spoke with the surf BLABLA at my back the ruins

of Europe. The bells sounded in the state funeral, murderer and widow a pair, the town

councilors in goose-step behind the coffin of the High Cadaver, wailing in badly-paid

grief WHO IS THE CORPSE IN THE MEAT-WAGONS STY / FOR WHOM IS

THERE SUCH A HUE AND CRY? / THE CORPSE IS OF A GREAT / GIVER OF

ESTATE The pillar of the population, work of his statecraft HE WAS A MAN WHO

ONLY TOOK ALL FROM ALL. I stopped the corpse-train, sprang the coffin with my

sword, broke it to the hilt, succeeded with the blunt remains, and distributed the dead

progenitor FLESH ENJOINS HAPLY FLESH to the surrounding faces of misery. Grief

gave way to joy, joy into munching, on the empty coffin the murderer mounted the

widow SHOULD I HELP YOU UP UNCLE OPEN THE LEGS MAMA. I lay on the

ground and heard the world revolving step by step into putrefaction.

IM GOOD HAMLET GIME A CAUSE FOR GRIEF

AH THE WHOLE GLOBE FOR A REAL SORROW

RICHARD THE THIRD I THE PRINCEKILLING KING

OH MY PEOPLE WHAT HAVE I DONE UNTO THEE

LIKE A HUNCHBACK I DRAG MY OVERBRAIN

SECOND CLOWN IN THE SPRING OF COMMUNISM1

SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THIS AGE OF HOPE

LETS DELVE IN EARTH AND BLOW HER AT THE MOON2

Now comes the specter who made me, the axe still in the skull. You can keep your hat

on, I know, that you have one hole too many. I only wish my mother had one too fewer,

when you were yet in your flesh: I would have been spared myself. One should sew the

wenches shut, a world without mothers. We could slaughter one another in peace, and

with some consideration, if we wearied of this world or if our necks were too narrow for

our cries. What do you want from me. Is one state funeral not enough for you. Senile old

fool. Dont you have any blood on your shoes. Whats your corpse to me, anyway. Just

be happy that the executioner is delayed, maybe youll still make it into Heaven. Why are

you still here. The hens have been slaughtered. Tomorrow has been cancelled.

SHOULD I

BECAUSE ITS EXPECTED STICK A PIECE OF IRON INTO

THE NEAREST FLESH OR THE NEXT-NEAREST

HOLDING ME FAST BECAUSE THE WORLD SPINS AROUND

LORD BREAK MY NECK FALLING FROM A BEERHALL

2

BENCH

Enter Horatio. Co-conspirator of my thoughts, which are full of blood since the morning

was draped with the empty sky. YOU COME TOO LATE MY FRIEND FOR YOUR

WAGE / NO PLACE FOR YOU IN MY TRAGEDY-PLAY. Horatio, do you know me

still. Are you my friend, Horatio. If you know me, how can you be my friend. Do you

want to play Polonius, who wants to sleep with his daughter, the alluring Ophelia, shes

about to get her cue, see how she shakes her rump a tragic role. HoratioPolonius. I

knew that youre an actor. Im one too, I play Hamlet. Denmark is a concentration camp,

between us grows a Wall. See what grows from the Wall. Exit Polonius. My mother the

bride. Her breasts a bed of roses, her lap a nest of snakes. Have you forgotten your text,

Mama. I stage-whisper WASH THE MURDER FROM THY FACE MY PRINCE / AND

MAKE A CHEERFUL FACE FOR THE NEW DENMARK. Ill make you into a virgin

again Mother so that the King has a bloody wedding THE MOTHERS LAP IS NO

ONE-WAY STREET Now I tie your hands behind your back with the bridal train

because I loathe your embrace. Now I tear apart the bridal gown. Now you must scream.

Now I smear the rags of your dress into the earth which my father has become with the

rags your face your belly your breasts. Now I take thee my mother in his, my fathers

invisible trace. I strangle your cry with my lips. Do you recognize the fruit of your flesh

now go, go to your wedding, whore, broad in the Danish sun shining on the living and the

dead. I want to stuff the corpse in the drainhole so the palace drowns in kingly shit. Then

let me eat your heart, Ophelia, which sheds my tears.

3

2

THE EUROPE OF THE WOMAN

Enormous room. Ophelia. Her heart is a clock.

OPHELIA [CHORUS/HAMLET]

I am Ophelia. She who the river could not hold. The woman on the gallows The woman

with the slashed arteries The woman with the overdose ON THE LIPS SNOW The

woman with the head in the gas-oven. Yesterday I stopped killing myself. I am alone

with my breasts my thighs my lap. I rip apart the instruments of my imprisonment the

Stool the Table the Bed. I destroy the battlefield that was my Home. I tear the doors off

their hinges to let the wind and the cry of the World inside. I smash the Window. With

my bleeding hands I tear the photographs of the men who I loved and who used me on

the Bed on the Table on the Chair on the Floor. I set fire to my prison. I throw my clothes

into the fire. I dig the clock which was my heart out of my breast. I go onto the street,

clothed in my blood.

4

3

SCHERZO

University of the Dead. Whispers and murmurs. From their gravestones (cathedrals)

dead philosophers throw their books at Hamlet. Gallery (ballet) of the dead women The

woman on the gallowsThe woman with the slashed wrists etc. Hamlet observes them with

the attitude of a museum(theater)goer. The dead women tear his clothing from his body.

From an upright coffin with the inscription HAMLET 1 enters Claudius and, clothed and

made up as a whore, Ophelia. Striptease of Ophelia.

OPHELIA Do you still want to eat my heart, Hamlet. Laughs.

HAMLET Head in his hands: I want to be a woman.

Hamlet puts on Ophelias clothes, Ophelia paints a whores mask on him, Claudius, now

Hamlets father, laughs soundlessly, Ophelia offers Hamlet her hand to be kissed and

steps with Claudius/Hamlet Father back into the coffin. Hamlet in pose of a whore. An

angel, the face in the back of the neck: Horatio. Dances with Hamlet.

VOICE(S) from the coffin:

What you killed you should also love.

The dance becomes wilder and wilder. Laughter from the coffin. On a swing a Madonna

with breast-cancer. Horatio opens an umbrella, embraces Hamlet. Freeze in the embrace

under the umbrella. The breast-cancer shines like a sun.

5

4

PEST IN BUDA BATTLE OF GREENLAND3

Room 2, destroyed by Ophelia. Empty armor, axe in the helm.

HAMLET

The oven smokes in cheerless October

A BAD COLD HE HAD OF IT JUST THE WORST TIME

JUST THE WORST TIME OF THE YEAR FOR A REVOLUTION

Through the suburbs blooming cement goes

Dr. Zhivago in sorrow

for his wolves

IN THE WINTER SOMETIMES THEY CAME INTO THE VILLAGE TORE APART

A PEASANT

puts costume and mask down.

HAMLET-ACTOR

I am not Hamlet. I play no role anymore. My words have nothing more to say to me. My

thoughts suck the blood of images. My drama is cancelled. Behind me the scenery is

being taken down. By people who are not interested in my drama, for people, to whom it

doesnt matter. It doesnt matter to me either. Im not playing along anymore. Stagehands

install, unknown to Hamlet-actor, a refrigerator and three TV sets. Humming of the

refrigerator. Three programs without sound. The scenery is a monument. It portrays a

man who made history, a hundred times life-size. The petrification of a hope. His name in

interchangeable. The hope has not been fulfilled. The monument lies on the ground, razed

three years after the state funeral of the Hated and Honored One by those who now rule

us. And the stone is inhabited. In the spacious nose and earholes, in the folds of skin and

uniform of the shattered icon dwell the poorer population of the metropolis. At the fall of

the monument followed, after an appropriate time, the Rebellion. My drama, if it could

yet take place, would happen in the Time of the Rebellion. The Rebellion begins as an

urban promenade. Against the traffic regulations during working hours. The streets

belong to the pedestrians. Here and there an auto is overturned. Evil dream of a knifethrower:

the slow journey down a one-way street to an irrevocable parking-spot, which is

surrounded by armed pedestrians. Police who get in the way are simply pushed aside.

When the procession approaches the district of the rulers, it is brought to a halt by a

police cordon. Groups form, out of which speakers arise. On the balcony of a

Government building appears a man with a badly fitting suit and starts to speak. When

the first stone hits him, he draws back behind the double-doors fitted with bulletproof

glass. From the call for more freedom comes the cry for the overthrow of the

Government. People begin to disarm the police, storming two three buildings, a jail a

police station an office of the secret police, hanging a dozen quislings of the authorities

by the feet, the Government deploys troops, tanks. My place, if my drama ever took

place, would be at both sides of the front, between the fronts, over them. I stand in the

sweating masses and throw stones at the police soldiers tanks bulletproof glass. I glance

through the double-door outfitted with bulletproof glass at the oncoming crowd and smell

the perspiration of my fear. I shake, choked with nausea, my fist against myself, standing

behind the bulletproof glass. I see, choked by fear and loathing, myself in the oncoming

crowd, foam licking at my lips, shaking my fist against myself. I hang my uniformed

6

flesh by the feet. I am the soldier in the tank-turret, my head is empty under the helmet,

the strangled cry under the chains. I am the typewriter. I tie the noose, when the leaders

are hanged, kick the stool away, break my neck I am my own prisoner. I feed my data

into the computer. My roles are spit and spittoon knife and wound teeth and gum neck

and gallows. I am the data-bank. Bleeding in the crowd. Exhaling behind the double

doors. Wordslime bubbling in soundproof speech-balloons over the battle. My drama has

not taken place. The script was lost. The actors hung their faces on the nails of the

garderobe. The stage-prompter rots in his box. The overstuffed plague-corpses in the

audience dont move a finger. I go home and kill time, at one / with my undivided self.

Television The daily revulsion Disgust

at prefabricated babble At manufactured merriment

How do you spell FRIENDLINESS4

Give us our daily murder

For Thine is Nothingness Revulsion

At the lies which are believed

By the liars and noone else Revulsion

At the lies which are believed Revulsion

at the faces of the power-brokers lined and seamed

from the struggle for posts votes bank-accounts

Revulsion A cart of scythes crackling with one-liners5

I go through the streets malls faces

with the scars of the shopping blitz6 Poverty

without dignity Poverty without the dignity

of the knife of the boxing ring of the fist

The brutalized bodies of the women

Hope of the generations

Strangled in blood cowardice stupidity

Laughter of dead bellies

Heil COCA COLA

A kingdom

for a murderer

I WAS MACBETH THE KING HAD OFFERED ME HIS THIRD CONCUBINE I

KNEW EVERY BIRTHMARK ON HER HIPS RASKOLNIKOV AT HEART UNDER

THE ONLY OVERCOAT THE AXE FOR THE / ONLY / SKULL OF THE

PAWNBROKERESS

In the loneliness of the airports

I exhale I am

Privileged My revulsion

is a privilege

Screened by a wall

Barbed wire prison

Photograph of the author.

I dont want to eat drink breathe love a woman a man a child an animal anymore. I dont

want to die anymore. I dont want to kill anymore.

Tearing up of the photograph of the author.

7

I break open my sealed-off flesh. I want to live in my veins, in the marrow7 of my bones,

in the labyrinth of my skull. I withdraw into my intestines. I take refuge in my shit, my

blood. Somewhere bodies are being broken, so that I can live in my shit. Somewhere

bodies are being carved open, so that I can be alone with my blood. My thoughts are

wounds in my brain. My brain is a wound. I want to be a machine. Arms to grasp legs to

walk no pain no thoughts.

Television screens go black. Blood from the refrigerator. Three naked women: Marx

Lenin Mao. Speak simultaneously each in their own language the text IT IS A

QUESTION OF OVERTHROWING ALL SOCIAL RELATIONS, IN WHICH HUMAN

BEINGS ARE...8 Hamlet-actor puts on costume and mask.

HAMLET THE DANE PRINCE AND FEAST FOR WORMS STUMBLING

FROM HOLE TO HOLE TO THE LAST HOLE, LUSTERLESS

IN THE BACK THE SPECTER WHICH MADE HIM

GREEN LIKE OPHELIAS FLESH IN CHILDBED

AND SCARCE AFORE THE THIRD COCKS CROW TORE

A FOOL THE CLOWN-COSTUME9 OF THE PHILOSOPHER

THEN CRAWLED A WELLKEPT BLOODHOUND INTO THE TANK

Steps into armor, splits the heads of Marx Lenin Mao with the axe. Snowfall. Ice Age.

8

5

WILDSTRAINING / IN THE FEARSOME ARMAMENTS / MILLENIA10

Deep sea. Ophelia in wheelchair. Fish wreckage corpses and body-parts stream past.

OPHELIA

While two men in doctors smocks wrap her from top to bottom in white bandages.

Here speaks Electra. In the Heart of Darkness. Under the Sun of Torture. To the

Metropolises of the World. In the Names of the Victims. I expel all the semen which I

have received. I transform the milk of my breasts into deadly poison. I suffocate the

world which I gave birth to, between my thighs. I bury it in my crotch. Down with the joy

of oppression. Long live hate, loathing, rebellion, death. When she walks through your

bedroom with butchers knives, youll know the truth.

Exit men. Ophelia remains on the stage, motionless in the white packaging.

9

Footnotes

1. Reference to the great philosopher and Marxist theologian Ernst Bloch (1885-1977).

2. Note that none of these English phrases are actual quotes from Shakespeare.

3. Pest: literally means plague, but used here as a pun on the Budapest uprising of

1956, which was crushed by Eastern bloc tanks. Note the intriguing reference to

Greenland and some sort of 1970s-style environmental radicalism; Muellers next play,

The Mission, practically overflows with ecological references.

4. Gemuetlichkeit: stronger than friendliness, also cosiness, warmth, good cheer.

5. Pointer: one-liners, also sharp points.

6. Konsumschlacht: consumption-battle, violence of consumerism.

7. Mark: bone-marrow, but also a pun on the two official German currencies, i.e. the

East German Ostmark and the West German Deutschmark.

8. Opening lines of the introduction to Karl Marxs Critique of Hegels Philosophy of

Law.

9. Schellenkleid: reference to the carnival costumes worn during the annual spring

street festivals common to Central Europe.

10. Quotation from a poetic fragment by the 19th century German poet Hoelderin, entitled

simply, Shakespeare. The term translated as armaments, Ruestung, can also mean

armor.

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