Hamlet: This Week We Mourn

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 4 Scene 7 (continued). A sadness has fallen upon Elsinore, sadder than the day King Hamlet died. A sadness has fallen upon Elsinore. Ophelia is dead. The coroner’s report says she drowned. But we know the True Cause. She died of a Broken Heart.

Gertrude tells us how with these sad lines:

There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

Could it be that with these lines Shakespeare is mourning his son, Hamnet?

As “Much Ado About Nothing” illustrates, love always overcomes hatred. But where is the love in “Hamlet”. It is only Ophelia who loves and there is none who would love her. She has a pure heart. When thinking of Ophelia, for some reason I recall another play. “Antigone.” If Lear is Oedipus, Ophelia is Antigone.

Ophelia is not mad. She has no one. She is lonely. But it is not just lonely the way you and I get lonely. It is an existential loneliness that goes to the depth of who she is. It is a loneliness without the hope of love. It is a loneliness without God. So she dies. This little girl lost. Alone.

The priest says she committed suicide. Since when does falling from a tree and getting your clothes caught on a rock in the water add up to suicide. Ophelia is Catholic. And though she may have stepped out over the edge, I don’t think she commits suicide. No, she drowns and let’s leave it at that.

Alas, Ophelia is dead. Laertes is heartbroken, and he is mourning. Mourning for the sister he never paid much attention to. Mourning for the sister he did not know.

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Hamlet: No More Mr. Nice Guy

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 3 Scene 2 (continued).

From the moment Ophelia said, “The king rises.”

From the moment the Queen said, “How fares my lord?”

From the moment Polonius said, “Stop the play.”

From the moment Claudius said, “Give me some light, away.”

Hamlet knew, and he knew big time. The white face on Claudius was not embarrassment. It wasn’t a clown’s face. It was the face of a murderer’s guilt.

Yep, Claudius did it. There was no doubt about it.

“Well, there you have it. There it is,” The Hamster said to his good bud, Horatio. “Claudius done it. There’s no doubt about It.” The Hamster looked for agreement. Even now, he was not about to go out on this limb alone.

Horatio was a man of few words and those words usually backed up anything The Hamster said. Horatio had watched Claudius during the performance of “The Murder of Gonzago”. Claudius’ face left nothing to guesswork. He was guilty alright. So Horatio gave his unqualified yep with a clear conscience.

‘Course, whatever Horatio did or said, he said or did with a clear conscience. It wasn’t necessarily that it was right. He just did it with a clear conscience. That was the kind of guy he was. Also it was a great survival technique. And one thing was sure. Horatio was good at surviving.

So there it was. Claudius guilty as charged. Right. What to do about it? Before that could be discussed, guess who showed? Mr. Dumb and Mr. Dumber. Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Rusancrantz and Guildenstern, of course.

R or G said, “My lord, can I have a word with you?’

“I don’t know. Can you?” Hamlet throws off.

“The king. He’s off in his chamber and he’s extremely bummed, man.”

“Got the blues, eh?”

“He’s angry,” R or G said.

“That’s what he gets for drinking that bad hootch.” Hamlet smiled. He was having way too good a time.

“It’s not that.”

“Maybe you should get him a doctor. I hear his doctor the doctor, Doctor Doctor, is very good at healing a pain in the butt. Can’t heal mine but maybe he can take Polonius’ head out of his rear.”

“But your mom…”

“I thought we were talking the king here. You’re always confusing me. Not only can I not tell who R is and who G is, now you’ve got me confused about who the king is and who the queen is. He’s not wearing a dress again, is he?”

In the Middle Ages, lords wore robes. They may have looked like dresses but they were not. They were robes. Popes and cardinals got to wear dresses, I mean robes too. It was what distinguished a higher-up from a lower-down. Serfs wore pants.

“Huh?”

“It’s getting hard to know who’s wearing the pants around here. Oh, me. I’m wearing the pants.” Hamlet asided, “See, you were wrong. I do have fashion-sense. I’m so New School I might as well be in kindergarten.”

Pants were the new thing. All the young turks were wearing them back at Wittenburg U. Even the ladies had gotten on the pants bandwagon. They were after that workingclass look. Only Elsinore was behind the times fashionwise. It would take a hundred years or a Fortinbras to bring pants–and bras–into style.

“It’s not the king who sent us. It’s your mom.”

“Well, it’s lovely to see you too,” Hamlet said.

“She is upset at your behavior.”

“Now that’s not true,” Hamlet said. “And you know it’s not true. You take that back.”

R or G wasn’t sure what to do. Hamlet seemed to be getting nutsier and nutsier. They decided. “We take it back.”

Polonius announced, “My lord, the queen wants to speak with you.”

“Well, I’d better go then. Tell the queen I’ll be there by the by.”

Hamlet was through playing. He was through pussy footin’. He might not be on a mission from God, but now he was on a mission. He knew what he must do. It was time to get on with the show. Just to show it, he said these words:

‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood
And do such bitter business as the bitter day
Would quake to look on. Soft, now to my mother.—
O heart, lose not thy nature, let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom.
Let me be cruel, not unnatural.
I will speak daggers to her but use none.
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites.
How in my words somever she be shent,
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!

Scary stuff. And I’m talking deep fried, Stephen King, Anne Rice kind of scary. The witching hour indeed.

Hamlet: 36 ways to respond to the Hamster

Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a
breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest;
but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me: I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at
my beck than I have thoughts to put them in,
imagination to give them shape, or time to act them
in. What should such fellows as I do crawling
between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves,
all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.
Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 3 Scene 1 (continued). Last week we read that Hamlet told Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery.” That is a downright dirty thing to say to Ophelia. She is not Gertrude. She is Ophelia. It’s not her fault for the dastardliness going on in Castle Elsinore.

Oh, sure. She broke a date with him. Because her daddy and her big bro didn’t want her to date a prince. She broke the date in a nice way and she let the star of our show know she still cared for him. Hamlet went over the top. The things he said to her were not nice. Not nice at all.

Well, Uncle Bardie has a list of suggestions for an Ophelia response. Then maybe the Hamster would have calmed down and played nice.

1.    Get thee to an aviary. What you’re saying is for the birds.

2.    Get thee to a brewery. You need a drink.

3.    Get thee to a chum-mery. You could really use some friends.

4.    Get thee to a confectionery. Then you can eat your cake and have it too.

5.    Get thee to a creamery. Ice cream can work miracles on a bad day.

6.    Get thee to a debauchery. You’ve been sheltered way too long.

7.    Get thee to a dysentery. You’re way too backed up.

8.    Get thee to an eggery. You are laying a big one.

9.    Get thee to a fan-nery. You really need to cool down.

10. Get thee to a greenery. You are in such a black mood.

11. Get thee some hosiery. Then you will be fashionable.

12. Get thee to a hug-gery. You need a hug bad, and I’m not in a hugging mood.

13. Get thee to a humbuggery. You’ll fit right in.

14. Get thee some imagery. Then you can be Shakespearey.

15. Get thee to see Mick Jaggery. ‘Cause you ain’t got no satisfaction.

16. Get thee to a Larry. Or a Moe or a Curly.

17. Get thee to a laboratory. Frankenstein needs a new monster.

18. Get thee to a mopery. You’ll have some companionship.

19. Get thee to a notary. Maybe they’ll give you a seal of approval for bad behavior.

20. Get thee to a nincompoopery. You belong there.

21. Get thee to an owlery. You could use some wisdom.

22. Get thee to a perfumery. You’re starting to smell.

23. Get thee to a pharmacy. You need valium bad.

24. Ophelia: “Get thee to an office of psychiatry.”

Hamlet: “I suppose you’re going to bring up that Freudian slip thing, aren’t you? As you can see, I am not wearing a dress.”

Ophelia: “Or a hat.”

25. Get thee to a punnery and stop pun-ishing me.

26. Get thee to a quizzery. You’re asking too many questions.

27. Get thee to a revelry and have some fun.

28. Get thee to a summary. You talk too too much, saying the same thing over and over.

29. Get thee to a topiary. Edward Scissorhands is a real cut up.

30. Get thee to an umbery. You could use some color in your clothes.

31. Get thee some upholstery. Your apartment needs some dressing up.

32. Get thee to a villagery. You’ve been inside the castle too long.

33. Get thee to a winery. It doesn’t matter whether it’s red or white.

34. Get thee to xystery. Nothing like a scraping of the bones to cheer one up.

35. Get thee to a yadda-yadda-yaddary. They’ll appreciate your speechifying.

36. Get thee to a zootsuitery so you can look mahvelous. Simply mahvelous.

Hamlet: Get thee to a nunnery

Take him and cut him in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun. (Romeo and Juliet Act 3 Scene 2.)

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 3 Scene 1 (continued). It’s enough to think the Hamster was a misogynist. This scene sure makes us wonder. No matter how you look at it Hamlet is not treating Ophelia nicely. Why Hamlet’s bad treatment of Ophelia? Could it be that Ophelia is a stand-in for Mom?

For the first time in the play, Hamlet lets loose. We see real emotion from our protagonist. He is no longer thinking. He is feeling. What he is feeling is anger. On top of everything, he knows he is being spied upon and that makes him even madder. How dare his mother, and Ophelia too, act as foils for that villain Claudius. How dare them?

Ophelia smiles and asks, “How are things going?”

Like she doesn’t know. How can she not know that his father is dead? Maybe murdered? How can she not know that the king may be the murderer? It would be like Bathsheba did not know that King David sent Uriah, her husband, off to be killed. Bathsheba knew. So does Ophelia. Women. You just can’t trust them.

“My lord,” Ophelia says, “I have some things of yours. Since we broke up, I need to return them.”

He is thinking, “I didn’t break up with you. Remember you came to me and said, ‘Daddy wouldn’t let you date me.’” Instead he says, “I don’t want them back.”

Ophelia says, “But they are not mine to keep. Please take them. They only cause me pain.”

Well, I’ll show this daughter of Eve. This tool of Satan. “Ha. Are you good or what?”

“What in the name of all that is holy,” Ophelia asks, “are you talking about?”

Our Hamlet is not about to let his mother off the hook. Sure, the words are thrown at Ophelia, but it is Mom that he means to hit. “Get thee to a nunnery,” he throws at Ophelia/Gertrude.

“I am innocent,” Ophelia says. “How can you treat me so evilly? Me whom you professed to love so deeply.”

“Get thee to a nunnery.” Hamlet slams his once-Juliet against the wall. Then he releases her. “Get thee to a nunnery.” At that, he is done with Ophelia. He is done with women. His mother married his uncle within minutes of her husband, his father’s death. Ophelia spies on him for her father and for that Richard III who is king.

This scene also makes us ask if Shakespeare was a misogynist? After all, Hamlet may not be Hamlet in this scene. He may be William Shakespeare. Me, I think not. If we looked at many of his female characters in other plays, we see a variety and sensibility not found in any other writer of that time. And not very often of a male writer since.

Just look at “Romeo and Juliet”. Juliet, not Romeo, is the hero of that play. Then there is Rosalind in “As You Like It”, Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing”, Portia in “The Merchant of Venice”, and Viola in “Twelfth Night”. These are amazing women, fully formed.

No, I think Shakespeare was exhibiting a portion of his grief for his lost son, Hamnet, who died in 1596. He may very well have blamed his wife, Anne Hathaway, for the death. With this play, the anger came to surface and exhibited itself in a way even he had not expected. We will never know. We do know that he will go on to create some of his most memorable women: Rosalind, Cordelia, Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, Imogen in “Cymbeline”, and Paulina and Hermione in “A Winter’s Tale”.

With this in mind, I would nix the whole idea that Shakespeare, and Hamlet, were misogynists. They were just human beings. Like most human beings, they were searching for a way to deal with their grief.

***********

Standing in the hall, alone, Ophelia remembers the man she once loved:

Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!
The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword,
Th’ expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
Th’ observed of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most dejected and wretched,
That sucked the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most solemn reason
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;
That unmatched form and feature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstasy. Oh, woe is me,
T’ have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

Ophelia is not sure how things came to be the way things have come to be. But she deeply feels the loss of her prince. The man that was her Romeo.

Before she can absorb her loss, her father and the king pop out from behind the wall. They have heard everything.

Claudius is the first to speak. “He doesn’t sound crazy. He’s up to something. Something dangerous.”

You’d think Polonius would concern himself with his daughter’s distress. Yet he does not. Instead he responds to the king’s speculation.

Polonius is not convinced “That is indeed someone who is mad with love. For Ophelia. He has been deeply hurt by her rejection. He wants to strike out at her. Maybe we should have the queen examine him. Discover his motives. If she cannot, then send him off to England.”

To England? Why England? The English know what to do with royals that misbehave. They chop off their heads. Just look at Mary, Queen of Scots.

***********

Only Ophelia is left in the hall as the lights dim. Her head bowed with tears. Her arms at her side. She slowly sinks to the floor. The obedient daughter, the loyal girlfriend, realizes her future is looking dimmer and dimmer. It is looking more and more like Ophelia is truly the great tragic figure of “Hamlet”.

She is alone.

Hamlet Didn’t Wear His Hat

OPHELIA (to her father):

My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,

Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced;

No hat upon his head; his stockings fouled,

Ungartered, and down-gyvèd to his ankle;

Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;

And with a look so piteous in purport

As if he had been loosèd out of hell

To speak of horrors—he comes before me.

Hamlet Act 2 Scene 1.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Explanation: It was a fashion faux pas for an Elizabethan man not to wear a hat when he was out and about. Lower class men were required by law to wear a hat on Sundays and holidays. The higher the station the taller the hat. Being a prince, Hamlet would have worn a very tall hat, a hat so tall it would have given Abe Lincoln’s a run for its money.

Act 2 Scene 1 (continued).Ophelia enters the room. Poly Unsaturated is with their Majesties. That is group talk for king and queen.

Poly Unsaturated asks, “Ophie, what’s the matter?”

“O my lord, I have been so affrighted,” Ophie says.

“Could you please speak in plain English the way I’ve taught you?” P U browbeats.

“Hamlet came to see me. He didn’t wear his hat,” Ophie says to her dad.

“Hamlet didn’t wear his hat?” Poly asks.

“Hamlet didn’t wear his hat?” Claudius asks.

“Hamlet didn’t wear his hat?” Gertrude wants to know.

“Hamlet didn’t wear his hat?” Echo echoes.

“That’s what I said,” Ophie says to Poly and the gang.

“Hamlet didn’t wear his hat?” Echo’s echo asks.

“That’s what I said,” Ophie says to Echo’s echo. “I’m not saying this again.”

“Not,” echoes through the room three or four times.

“Oh, shut up,” Claudius commands.

“Yes, Your Magnanimousness,” Echo whimpers away to the corner.

“Oh, what’s the problem now?” Claudius asks, frustrated.

“You hurt the poor thing’s feelings,” Gertie says, then runs over and hugs Echo with a big motherly hug. “He didn’t mean it.” Then to Claudius, “Now did you?”

“Of course, I did,” Claudius says. “I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t.”

Apologize,” Gertie demands.

“Apologize? What the hell for?”

“You’d better apologize.”

“What?” Frustration rears itself up in Claudius’ voice.”I’m The King. Kings don’t apologize.”

Gertrie strokes poor Echo’s hair. “He’s nothing but a meanie. A blue meanie.”

“I am not.”

“Oh, yes you are.” Gertie is crying. “You apologize or no more tiddlywinks at midnight.”

“But I love tiddlywinks,” Claudius protests.

“Then apologize,” Gertrude demands.

“Now I see why my brother hated this job. Kingship doesn’t have the meaning it used to.”

“Apologize,” Gertie demands once more.

“Oh, okay. Echo, I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?”

“I don’t know,” Echo sobs.

“Say it like you mean it.” Gertie glares.

Claudius shakes his head, knowing a loosing battle when he sees one. He gets down on his knees. “I am so so so sorry. Will you please forgive me? Pretty please?”

Echo says, “Oh, okay.” Then she smiles and runs from the room, dancing. “I made the king say sorry. I made the king say sorry.”

Claudius stands up. “Well, I’m glad that’s over. Tiddlywinks tonight?”

Gertie says, “A very special game of tiddlywinks.” She walks over and kisses Claudius on the lips.

“Excuse me,” Ophie says. “But Hamlet did not wear his hat.”

“Oh, shut up,” everybody says and leaves the room.

Ophie in the room all by her lonesome. “But I liked that hat.”