The play’s the thing

February 6, 2011

(That’s me in the red jacket.  Isn’t the space beautiful?)

Well Bard-a-Thon La Crosse 2011 is now over.  I wish I could have participated more but as it was I made it to all the 8PM readings and a few more.  10 plays in 7 days.  Not bad.  And I enjoyed it tremendously.  One of the most fun things about reading Shakespeare (for me) is noting all the phrases that are part of our language now that have their roots in his works.  For example:

“band of brothers” comes from a speech by the king in Henry V, along with “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” and “Cry God for Harry, England and St. George.”

“Men have died and the worms have eaten them but not for love,” is one of Rosalinds lines to Orlando in As You Like It.

There are a whole bunch of familiar phrases in Macbeth:

I do all that may become a man, who does more is none.” I:vii Macbeth himself

“Be bloody, bold and resolute.” IV:i Apparition

“… screw your courage to the sticking place.” I:vii Lady Macbeth

“… stand not upon the order of your going.” III:iv Lady Macbeth

And of course,

“Double, double, toil and trouble,

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” IV:i  the three Witches

But the play that really stood apart for quotability was Hamlet. We read it on the last evening of Bard-a-thon and after a few scenes I started keeping a tally off all the familiar quotations.  At a guess I’d say it must be the most quoted play in the cannon.  Here’s what I easily recognized:

“… to the manner born” I.iv Hamlet

“… stale, flat and unprofitable…” I:ii Hamlet

“… smile and smile and be a villain.” I:ii Hamlet

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreampt of in your philosophy.” I:v Hamlet

“Never a borrower nor a lender be.”  I:iii Polonius

“There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.” I:iv Marcellus

“… brevity is the soul of wit…”  II:ii Polonius

“Tis true, tis pity, and pity tis true.” II:ii Polonius

“Words, words words.” II:ii Hamlet (again)

“… there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” II:ii Hamlet

“What a piece of work is man …” II:ii Hamlet

“Whats Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba that he should weep for her” II:ii Hamlet

“The plays the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” II:ii Hamlet

“To be or not to be … slings and arrows of outrageous fortune … take arms against a sea of troubles … what dreams may come … the undiscover’d country … ” III:i Hamlet

“Woe is me.” III:i Ophelia

“… miching mallecho …”  III:ii Hamlet (again)

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” III:ii Gertrude

“Let the galled jade wince …” III:ii Hamlet

“… hoist with his own petar.” III:iv Hamlet

“How all occasions do inform against me, …” IV:iv Hamlet

“Alas, poor Yorick.” V:i Hamlet

“Sweets to the sweet.” V:i Gertrude

“… the quick and the dead.” V:i Laertes

“… dog will have his day.” V:i Hamlet

I wasn’t actually looking forward to reading Hamlet that much – the only tragedy I really enjoy is Richard III (or is that actually a history?) – but it turned out to be quite delightful.  Its funny!  All the antics with Polonius’s body in act four are hysterical.  The king sends people to go find Hamlet and see what he’s done with the corpse but they left him alone too long and he comes on stage practially wiping his hands and exclaims, “Safely stowed.”  Then multiple people have to search the castle for it.

Actually Polonius is funny throughout – dead and alive.  His commentary on the rehearsal performance he watches with Hamlet; “too long!” and all his foolish advice and self praise are really laughable.  Polonius never gets sarcasm and that, coupled with his obsequious respectful behavior with Hamlet, lead him into all sorts of ridiculous logical dead ends.  It really seems clear to me that Hamlet’s “madness” at least at that point is completely put on for the dual purposes of mis-direction and mockery.  Its well worth another read if you haven’t seen it in a while!

 

HAMLET
Excellent
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