I was doing research for a Global History project (an essay about our 45th president and what made him exemplary) in the New York Public Library when I found the following documents. They were all written between the months of September and November in the year 2016. Together, they provide a record of the presidential campaign of Claudius, the Republican candidate. They are all primary sources that have languished, unread, in the cubicles in the sub-basements of the NYPL--until now.
But before you read this, there’s some background you need in order to understand the significance of the documents. While most of the facts expressed here relate directly to the information conveyed in my textbook, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, there are some chronology and relationship differences. Hamlet Sr. (the Democratic candidate for president) and Hamlet Jr. (Claudius’ nephew and adopted son) are not in any way related; nor are Hamlet Sr. and Claudius; nor are Polonius and Ophelia. Polonius, both Hamlets, Claudius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern are all alive at the beginning of this period of time, but Hamlet Jr. has already committed a murder (of an unknown person) and Ophelia has already committed suicide (she was wronged by an unknown lover; not Hamlet Jr.).
If you truly want to find out what these documents tell us about history, read on. But I wouldn’t if I were you. They expose some of the biggest lies we’re told about the man who may not have really been our greatest president.
November 13th, 2017
Transcript of Speech, Found in Claudius’ Journal
Annotated by Claudius
Republican National Convention
September 3rd, 2016
Speaker: Claudius, Nominee for President of the United States
Fellow countrymen, fellow soldiers, fellow Americans--thank you for nominating me for President. I accept it gratefully, floored by your trust in me to build up this country into the glorious nation that it has the potential to be. (Glorious? No, there is no glory within this nation. This country is a haggard shadow of what it once was. We are all beggars now; the only difference is that some of us know how to wield the sword of opportunity and slay all obstacles in our path in order to reach that one gleaming coin.)
And you will not be disappointed by my efforts. I assure you that I will represent you thoroughly; I will make sure each of your voices is heard. The businessman who looks forward to that moment each night when he returns from work at six o’clock, when he can loosen his tie and see his children run to the door, racing to be the first to greet him. (Wholesome imagery does wonders to win over the gullible public.) The loving wife, busy in the kitchen, laboring over an apple pie, which she will cut into slices; soon, she will slip a thick piece onto a plate that she will bring to her husband. (A classic symbol of America--the pie. They do not realize how foolish they are, loving the portrayal of their country as something fragile, that crumbles in grubby fingers and gets crushed between saw-like teeth, that ultimately disappears.) The college student who aspires to work on Wall Street. The senior citizen who is comfortably situated in a well-equipped retirement community. The doctor who always strives do the best for his patients. The banker who is honest. The CEO who is fair. (Is this all that America is? Pitiful. It would benefit under my command.)
Because this is America. Together, we are America. And we can’t ever give up on our unity, the unity that makes us unique. (There is nothing unique about this grinding mass of people. They are dust. Homogenous particles of dust, just like all others in this world. But I am the king.)
I once knew a girl. Ophelia. (Now that I have the public inspired, I must give them a cautionary tale. Something to sate their innate desire for pain.) She was surrounded by those she loved--she had a father who cared for her, a brother who only wanted to protect her, a partner upon whom she depended. But her partner was a selfish man. He rejected the unity that she gave him, and therefore stole her unity, as well. And you know what happened to poor Ophelia? (They have not noticed how I am spinning the facts. I can sculpt these fools’ perspectives like a master potter.) She took her own life.
Because unity is what keeps us going. It’s what we value as a country and as a community. (What we pretend to value, at least.) It makes us stable and strong. And I promise that as president, I will uphold that sense of unity within our nation. I will build on it. And I will use it to solve some of our most difficult problems. (Or rather, I will fabricate problems so I can solve them heroically and win over the people completely.)
Right now, we’re not in a great place in terms of natural disaster support. The damage caused by the devastating fire that spread through Washington D.C. a year ago (the one I ordered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to set) still has an effect on people’s lives. They’re still rebuilding homes. Schools. Churches. (Use empathy to make them weep. And then guide their tears in the direction of my opponent.)
And when that fire struck, Hamlet Sr. was president. I had faith in him. We all did. But sadly, he didn’t give the right orders to repair all the damage. (Of course, that was because I sent a small army of my loyal followers to follow behind Hamlet’s crew of rebuilders and meticulously re-damage everything they fixed.) And now he’s running for reelection? Voters, I know that you’re a smart group of people, so why would you want this man--this man who failed you--to be in power for another four years? (That power is mine, and if stroking their egos does not work, then I shall crush them until they elect me.)
And then you have your other candidate. Me. As the Governor of Kansas, I dealt with a similar situation to the fire in Washington D.C. But unlike in Washington, you probably didn’t hear about this fire. (For, as they will never deduce, the fire did not happen.) That’s because I keep our fire department functioning so smoothly that the fire was contained within only one block. No one was killed. Barely one person was injured. And even as we speak, my reconstruction team is rebuilding all the property that was damaged. (In an exemplary use of yellow journalism, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have written and published articles about my heroics in case any of these dunces has the idea to do “research” after hearing my speech.) But it had the potential to be a massive threat to one of the greatest states in America.
Once again, thank you for choosing me to represent the great (pathetic) Republican Party. I will not fail you. Vote Claudius for President.
New York Times
September 19th, 2016
Presidential Nominee Denies Scandal
Last week, an anonymous hacker released the contents of Claudius’ email on Huffington Post. A letter in his Sent folder (addressed to Polonius, Governor of Texas) relayed a plan to send his nephew and adopted son, Hamlet Jr, to a boarding school in England to “get him out of the way before the election.”
This week, Claudius responded to these allegations. “These emails aren’t from my inbox,” he claims. “This hacker must have written them himself. I don’t have a son, adopted or otherwise.”
The hacker wrote another article, responding to Claudius’ comments. “In the rest of his emails, Claudius discusses why he does not want his son’s identity to be known. Hamlet Jr. is a known criminal with a diverse and horrific record--culminating in first degree murder.”
Continued on page 5…
Excerpt from the Transcript of the Second Presidential Debate
October 7th, 2016
Moderator: …Thank you for your passion, Mr. President. Now, the next question is about immigration. Do you think that children of illegal immigrants should be granted United States citizenship from birth? Claudius, you will be speaking first.
Claudius: Of course not. This kind of law is a way of saying that it’s okay to cross our borders illegally--it suggests that there are advantages to breaking the law, and that isn’t the image that America needs to project. We need to look--and be--strong and powerful, and that means having very clear laws with no grey areas and no exceptions. Plus, giving citizenship to children of illegal immigrants would mean rewarding a son for his father’s wrongdoing, which doesn’t make sense. If we don’t approve of the father, then why should we do anything to support the son? The son is--
Moderator: I’m sorry, Claudius; your two minutes are up. Now, Mr. President--
Claudius: Excuse me; I need to finish. The son is just like the father--
Moderator: Claudius! You need to allow Hamlet Sr. to speak! Mr. President, what are your views on the matter?
Hamlet Sr.: Claudius, you need to take into account that the policy absolves the son of blame rather than rewards him. The point of this law isn’t to condone illegal immigration. It’s to make sure that an innocent party--a child--doesn’t get punished. It’s heartless to potentially ruin the lives of people who didn’t commit crimes. When we give murderers lethal injections, do we put their seventeen-year-old sons on death row for good measure? Of course not. We don’t kill children in this country. While I realize that killing children and sending them back to their home countries aren’t the same thing, it could have the same consequences. People cross the borders because they’re experiencing hardship where they are. The children of immigrants will have to face those same hardships that their parents were trying to escape, plus they’ll have the disadvantage of unfamiliarity with the country. The policy of granting automatic citizenship is the only moral way to run America.
Moderator: Claudius, your response?
Claudius: Look, Mr. President, you’re spinning my words. Of course I don’t want anyone to die, children least of all. But in your example of the murderer and his son--I ask you, why do you think his son is so innocent? Presumably, the father has passed down some of his values to his son. The son should be monitored to make sure that he isn’t carrying on his father’s traditions. For instance--the father could have left orders to take revenge on whomever convicted him. And if the son does try to take revenge, then whose fault is it? The government’s, clearly. The immigration equivalent of this scenario would be if the son--who was automatically granted citizenship--smuggled in the rest of his family. America would be brimming with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents, all there illegally, all of whom who would have children. There’s already overpopulation in almost all of our states. We don’t need more people, people who will take away the jobs that should belong to real Americans.
Hamlet Sr.: But children of immigrants are real Americans. If they’re born in the U.S.--
Moderator: Mr. President--
Claudius: Excuse me. I was speaking. The definition of American--
Hamlet Sr.: The definition of American isn’t up to you to decide!
Moderator: Claudius! Hamlet!
(End of excerpt.)
New York Times
October 14th, 2016
“Hamletgate” Hacker is Hamlet Jr. Himself
The scandal that has come to be known as “Hamletgate”--the repeated claims that Claudius has a criminal son--has exploded as the anonymous hacker revealed himself to be the subject of the emails. “I didn’t want to accuse Claudius while writing as myself,” Hamlet Jr. said in a recent interview. “No one would have believed me. They would have thought I was just stirring up trouble for Claudius--just a son pulling a prank on his father.”
Seventeen-year-old Hamlet says that he realized on his way to England that Claudius had sent him there so that he would not be a publicity target during the campaign. For three weeks, he wanted to tell America what had happened, until he decided to hack into Claudius’ email and release its contents.
Since then, the public has been in an uproar, and Hamlet thought that investigators were trying to discover his identity. So he flew back to America on a borrowed jet, the Pirate Ship, so that he could expose himself before anyone else had the opportunity.
“I’m not just Claudius’ murderous son, though,” Hamlet stressed earnestly. “The reason I originally spoke anonymously is that I didn’t want people to see me as a part of Claudius. I am not Claudius and I never want to be associated with him for anything other than exposing his lies.”
Claudius was not available for comment.
New York Times
October 29th, 2016
Hamlet Sr. Dies of Sudden Heart Attack
Hamlet Sr. was found dead this morning at 4:32 AM. His wife, Gertrude, found the body in the family’s living room, sitting on the couch in front of the television. When she saw that he was not moving, she called 911, and the doctors confirmed that Hamlet’s pulse had stopped.
The cause of death, while unconfirmed, is suspected to be a heart attack. An autopsy found traces of arsenic in Hamlet’s left ear, but as Gertrude told us, Hamlet (who was slightly deaf) was in possession of a green antique ear trumpet. During the 1800s, when the trumpet was made, scientists were unaware of arsenic poisoning and used the element in green paint and dye. Right now, it is believed that Hamlet used the ear trumpet briefly (which Gertrude confirmed), then sat down to watch television and had a heart attack. It is unlikely that there was enough arsenic in his ear to kill him.
The Democratic Party is scrambling to find a new candidate to replace Hamlet. Only a week before the election, there is not enough time to hold a second primary; instead, the candidate who came in second in the original primary will be taking Hamlet’s spot. Two hours after Hamlet’s death, the Democrats gave a grief-tinged welcome to Horatio, their new candidate.
“I accept this honor with a heavy heart,” Horatio told the press. “Hamlet Sr. would have had a successful second term, and I cannot express my sorrow that he will not have the opportunity.”
Continued on page 7…
Email from Claudius’ Sent Folder (Never Discovered by the Hacker)
Received on October 30th, 2016, at 2:53 A.M. Central Standard Time
To: Polonius <email@example.com>
From: Claudius <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Master plan
Finally, I may lift this putrid veil that I must hide behind in public. It pains me not to be able to tell those fools what I truly think of them--but oh, what one sacrifices for power. Still, I long for the time when I can correspond with you in my true voice.
And it is not just my true voice that I must disguise--I must disguise my true plot as well, for you are my only friend faithful enough to not only understand but also remain silent about my plans. I have ached for the moment when I can profess my cunning. My wisdom. My genius.
For, you see, the death of Hamlet Sr. was no heart attack (as I am sure you have surmised). I ordered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to pour arsenic in his ear while he was asleep. He did not wake; he barely stirred. Until, of course, he stopped stirring altogether. The ear trumpet was a convenient decoy--one that (in all modesty) I used quite well.
“But Claudius,” I am sure you are asking, “you must have known that Hamlet would have to be replaced in the upcoming election. Killing him would not make you President by default. So why would you do this?”
And here, my friend, is the true beauty of my plan. The people have a sickening adoration for Hamlet Sr.--a sense of devotion that I assume comes from being a not-entirely-dreadful president. I could not have won an election against him. But Horatio--Horatio is a different case. He was such a far second in the primaries that I know he cannot develop an image that is more favorable than mine only a week before the vote. I can practically hear the applause of congratulation when I crush Horatio on November 6th.
Of course, there was another reason I had to remove Hamlet Sr. There was far too much attention directed at that disastrous “Hamletgate,” or so they called it. The publicity had almost gotten to the point at which it forced me to issue a response. I knew that anything I said (after initially denying the scandal--damn that Hamlet Jr.) would muddy my reputation further, so I distracted the media with something much more dramatic: death. And--lo and behold!--they promptly forgot about the pathetic Hamletgate. They are so easily manipulated. I do not know whether it makes me want to chuckle or weep.
So! Are you not impressed?
Your friend and future leader,
New York Times
November 7th, 2016
Claudius is Elected President, Mourns the Death of Hamlet Sr.
Last night, America voted Claudius as its next president. But, as he professed, his victory was bittersweet with the death of his former competitor. “How can I celebrate when our nation has lost such a great man?” he asked during his acceptance speech.
He elaborated that while he is honored by the trust that America has in him, he will serve not only for himself but for Hamlet Sr. “I will be an honest, fair, strong president. I can promise you that. And I also can promise that in every decision I make, I will think of Hamlet. I will ask myself, ‘What would he do?’ And I will try my best to keep his memory alive, right here in the White House.”
Claudius has reported that a portrait of Hamlet Sr. has already been hung in the Oval Office, so “I can feel his power and influence with me whenever I work.” It is a truly beautiful tribute.
May these next four years be justly governed by our 45th president, Claudius.
This piece won a Gold Key in the 2015 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.