Feb 2: One of the greats

All right, Hamlet. Hamlet. Volume 46 – Elizabethan Drama I (a Marlowe play is thrown in to pad the diversity statistics…although I note that the reading for Thursday is from the Marlowe play. Should I even bother re-shelving? Yes, because I am likely to use the book as a coaster otherwise.)

I also note that the four Shakespeare plays are all tragedies. Typical. I’m going to avoid my usual anti-comedy-bias grousing. Except that of course there wouldn’t be any comedies, because comedies aren’t fancy. Owning the Harvard Classics was supposed to be like having an intellectual set of good china. Comedy is too haimish.

On the other hand, I’ve never found Shakespeare to be that funny on the page, (though it can play great, of course). It’s particularly unfunny (Falstaff) when you’re told how hilarious you’re supposed to find it (Falstaff).

What we got today is Act I, from Scene III to the end of the act.

-- Shit, what am I going to say about Hamlet? Except that I like Laertes’s politic advice to Ophelia – i.e. girl, you’re punching above your weight, romantically speaking. Hamlet will have to make a more appropriate match. Then Polonius tells her the same thing. Poor thing. (But I do like that Poor Ophelia was able to volley back at Polonius – don’t be breaking the girls’ hearts off at school.) Earnest Young English Teacher would no doubt try to show his students that, see, “Ophelia’s dad got on her case, too!”

-- Scene IV. Hamlet looking for the ghost. Another thing I’ve forgotten in my years away from the play is Hamlet’s fancy-lad disapproval for some old-fashioned Danish throwing down:
This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduc’d and tax’d of other nations.
They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition; and indeed it takes
From our achievements, though perform’d at height,
The pith and marrow of our attribute.
or, "Geez! That’s not how we do it in Paris!"

It’s also interesting that, in Scene V, Hamlet doesn’t know that the ghost is his father. I can’t think of a practical reason for him not to know it – it’s equally expositional, or non-expositional, either way – and in some ways it’s a bigger moment if Hamlet realizes it. Maybe it’s just that it takes the scene in a different direction, about what Hamlet is doing now and not what he has to do.

-- The Ghost crying “Swear!” under the stage is a nice touch, too.

I think this excerpt is more for the “neither a borrower nor a lender be” speech (which, I picked up somewhere in my travels, we are supposed to feel superior too – Polonius is a fool), but I wonder also if the excerpt is so early in the play as to get us to read more; it’s like the trailer for the play.

I’m sneezing all over my computer screen so I think that’s enough for tonight.

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