“Hamlet” and The Thing

Now is the winter of our discontent. Richard III Act 1. Scene 1.

Act 1. Scene 1 (Continued). What would you do if you met a ghost? Oh, you don’t believe in ghosts. Neither did Horatio. After all, he had taken enough philosophy to know that he was a materialist. If it didn’t exist in the material world, it didn’t exist. Then he found himself stumbling into the first scene of “Hamlet” and all hell broke loose.

Act One Scene One opens and everybody is identifying themselves. You know the guard post is darker than dark ’cause everybody keeps asking who everybody is.

The guard, Francisco, tells Barnardo, his relief, to unfold himself. Ain’t no way that Barnardo is going to unfold himself. He’ll freeze. Don’t know why Barnardo didn’t say back, “Unfold your own self.” Then give Frenchie the finger.

But he didn’t. He did a long-live-the-king, then everything is A-Okay with Francisco. Just about the time Frenchie leaves, up shows Marcellus, another one of the guards. He’s dragged Horatio, Hamlet’s good bud, out of bed.

Once Barnardo identifies Marcellus and Marcellus identifies Horatio, Barnardo calls Marcellus “good”. How does Barnardo know that Marcellus is good? We are only in the first scene and here Shakespeare is telling us that Marcellus is good. Whatever happened to that writerly dictum, “Show don’t tell.”

If Shakespeare is not careful, Jonathan Franzen will be copying him and that will never do. Oh, that’s right. Franzen already does “tell, don’t show” better than a lot of other writers. After all, he is the twenty-first century’s answer to the question of who is the latest version of the great American novelist.

Why doesn’t Barnardo think Horatio is good? Could it be because Horatio is from out of town, so he’s looked down on by all the Elsinoreans? An Elsinorean, of course, is someone who lives in Elsinore. But you already knew that.

Horatio is poor. He is going to school on the G I Bill. He served with Hamlet’s dad when Dad was the King of Denmark and did a slamdunk on Norway. Horatio was the dead king’s squire and Hamlet’s roommate at Wittenberg University, Marty Luther’s alma mater. Go Lions. Horatio and Hamlet are besties. If he were asked, Horatio would say that he is at Elsinore for the old king’s funeral and the new king’s coronation and wedding.

In this story, Horatio is to the hero, Hamlet, what Nick Carroway was to Gatsby. He knows all the missing parts and he still loves the Ham. He is the one who can tell his friend’s side of things long after he is gone.

Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Horatio wanders why Marcellus dragged him out on a knight like this. And for guard duty, at that. He’d been there done that till he didn’t want to done that no more.

“We saw a thing last night,” Marcellus says.

“A thing?” Horatio asks.

“Yes, a thing,” Barnardo says.

“What kind of thing?” Horatio wants to know.

“You know,” Barnardo says, “a thing.”

“Horatio thinks we’re making this up,” Marcellus says. “But I convinced him it would appear as it has two times before.”

“I don’t know what you guys have been drinking,” Horatio says. “Or smoking, but we’re not going to see a thing tonight.” Horatio has a case of the Missouris. He has to be shown. And shown he shall be.

Then they hear the waves, splashing below, making a ruckus. Out of the darkness of the sea below…

The Alamo Song

March 6, 1836: The day the Alamo fell.

When Santa Ana
Was a top banana
Way down Mexico

He ruled the land
With an iron hand
This Generalissimo

He took no crap
From any chap
Gave them the old heave-ho

This boss of the class
He took no sass
From any friend or foe

Well, the folks in Texas
They gave him the hexes
Told him just where to go

Travis and the boys
Against all odds
Faced him toe to toe

This rag-tag band
They took their stand
In San Antonio

Behind mission walls
Stood brave and tall
Down at the Alamo

Davy Crockett came
With his motley gang
A thousand miles or so

Bowie and his knife
Left his wand’ring life
To give Texas a go

For freedom they loved
The freedom to shove
To a place they’d grow

These glory guys;
They were, storywise,
The best we had to show

In ‘thirty-six
They took their fix ‘
Gainst old Mexico

For General Sam
They stood their ground
Many years ago

Heroes all
They stood so tall
Faced that Generalissimo

Now can be told
Just how bold
They stood at the Alamo

Hamlet: What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Romeo and Juliet Act 2 Scene 2

Act 1. Scene 1. A changing of the guards at midnight.

I am confused. What were two Italian guys or Spanish doing in an English play, taking place in Denmark? I am talking Francisco and Barnardo.

At least,Will didn’t use Balthasar. Balthasar makes an appearance in quite a bit of his plays. He appeared in four. And Antonio gets around, jumping from play to play. Bianca manages to get in a couple of plays as well. Petruchio was in both “Taming of the Shrew” and “Romeo and Juliet”.

Could Rosaline in “Romeo and Juliet”, the girl Romeo is pining over at the beginning of the play, be Rosalind in “As You Like It” when she was older.

When Barnardo and Francisco are first introduced on sentry duty, I am wondering if I made it to the right play. Maybe “Hamlet” is going to be another “All’s Well That Ends Well” or “As You Like It” set in Italy. True love wins in those plays. Then I see the Ghost and I go, “Big Whoop.” This play is not going to turn out well.

Makes me wonder why Barnardo is not Bernhard or Bernt. It is a popular name. It means “bear” and the character is a bear of a man. He may actually look like a bear. He may even grunt like a bear. He is not the kind of guy you’d take on in a bar fight, but he’d make a great bouncer. Only thing Barnardo doesn’t grunt in “Hamlet”. He talks and shivers in the cold like everybody else. Doesn’t even seem to be the kind who’d want to fight, though he is doing guard duty. Making sure Norway is not sneaking up to attack Elsinore Castle.

You know, Dino is short for Barnardo. Wonder if Dean Martin wasn’t a Barnardo. Guess that wouldn’t have been a good show biz name.

Then there is this Francisco business. The name means that the fellow is from France. Yet there is not one oui or a parlez vous francais in the whole play. Go figure. Wonder why Shakespeare didn’t call him Franz. That would have been the right name for the right place. But Barnardo and Francisco are only the tip of the iceberg.

Next, in steps Horatio and Marcellus into the scene. They have Latin names. Hey, what’s all these foreigners doing guarding the castle? Where the heck are the Denmarkians?

All this leads me to believe that maybe these folks are hired hands. Mercenaries hired by the king to come up to Denmark and help out with the soldiering. After all, Norway’s itching for a fight and the new King of the Danes still has to consolidate his power. It would make sense to hire some boys from way down South.

Ophelia and Laertes are Greek names. Claudius, Polonius and Cornelius, are more Latin folks.Reynaldo, Polonius’ servant, has a Spanish or Portuguese name. All these characters from way down South leads one to believe that Shakespeare still had “Julius Caesar” on his mind.

Only Gertrude, Osric, Voltemand and Fortinbras sound like they should be in a play set in Scandinavia. And of course, Hamlet. Hamlet was a variation on Hamnet. Hamnet was Shakespeare’s eleven-year-old son who had died four years before “Hamlet” was performed.

Back to the Italians. Next thing we know characters with the names Linguini, Lasagna and Calimari will be showing. Speaking of Lasagna, all this writing is making me hungry for some Italian.

But just what is it with the names?

Naked

Some people feel naked without their cellphones. They can’t go anywhere without them. Otherwise how would their family and friends and work be able to reach them. It’s awful when you call someone up and get a voice telling them they’re not available. Or even worse, the caller gets dead air. Or dead text.

More folks have been driven insane because of that one thing, dead cellphonitis, than in the entire million years or so of Cro Magnon insanity before. It’s a fact. You don’t believe me. Just check the government statistics. Oh, I forgot, Congress considered the funding for the Department of Cro Magnon Insanity an earmark and it’s out. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Some people feel naked without their makeup. And yes, ladies, that includes guys too. Have you seen what Gene Simmons of KISS looks like without makeup. Needless to say he makes Shrek look like Brad Pitt. No, these people can’t go anywhere without their lipstick or eye shadow or mascara.

But me, I feel naked without my lowly pen and pad. I was out and about the other afternoon, and suddenly the Muse, as she is wont to do, drops an idea out of the seventh dimension where all good ideas come from. And what do you know? I had left my pad and pen at home. These days it’s getting harder and harder to remember those juicy little tidbits that might make a good scene or a blog or a story that just needs telling. Unfortunately I had nary a thing to write on and now that brilliant idea has gone kerplop. I know it was brilliant. I just know it because it is the one that I can’t recall.

Which reminds me of the story of Hadley losing Hemingway’s stories on a train when he was living in Paris. Who knows? Maybe it was “A Perfect Day for Bananfish” and J. D. found it when he was off in Europe fighting the Big One for Truth, Justice and the American Way. We do know that the Salinger met the Maestro and was duly impressed.

All I know is that I just can’t place that story that the Muse dropped on my head. I do know it came because the darn thing hurt. It’s somewhere in my pea-brain. I know it is. But who knows. Some guy named Salinger may find it on a train traveling from Geneva to Paris and publish as his own. That is the way of muses, you know.

Has this ever happened to you?