HAMLET’S “TABLES” 4 – (Spoiler Alert: MEDIUM)

by Hamlet on January 11, 2012

Hello fellow Danes! This is my Hamlet Blog. I’ve been writing down my thoughts on process since we decided to go ahead with it. There are some parts that are almost short hand while others are a little more didactic (which could make for some bumpy reading), though I’ve tried to smooth it out as much as possible without compromising the immediacy. Thanks for reading!

Oct 1 – I was thinking about To be or Not to be (after drinking till 8 am with Luke and our friend Brandon, who also loves Hamlet.) I was intimating to them that, more and more, it seems to me that, if taken at face value, To be or not to be is in the wrong place. It’s also not much more than a page after “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I”. Hamlet had his explosion in O what a rogue etc , and came to his conclusion (the play’s the thing), and once he’s concluded on something, it’s very evident that he has no trouble going into action whatsoever: witness his behaviour after the Mousetrap. He’s prevented from having his way not because he is unwilling, but because he would prevent Claudius from going to heaven and then he accidentally murders Polonius, and which results in getting him shipped off to England. We can see from his thoughtless pouncing on the man behind the arras that he’s ready for action.

So, why suddenly To be or not to be after admitting to himself that he needs evidence, and that ne need only wait a day to glean that evidence? I posited that it should either be at the beginning of the play, or that it should be spoken in the context of understanding that Hamlet knows that he is being watched. It’s been assumed he’s arguing for and against suicide; I can see that. However, his musings are much less personal than “…or that the everlasting had not fix’d/His cannon ‘gainst self slaugher,” which raise more interesting questions. There is nothing in To be or not to be that is a directly personal expression from Hamlet. He is speaking in general terms, which makes it more of an intellectual exercise than an emotional effluence.

I honestly think that, if it wasn’t so damned famous, people would cut it more often. It is, however, some of the most beautiful poetry in recorded history, so for that alone, I think, it’s worth saving. I called Kurt to express some of my concerns and he said that the idea that Hamlet knows he’s being observed is interesting, but that he would ultimately like to try the piece in earnest in rehearsal first. I suppose everyone has doubt; and it’s very clear that despite Hamlet’s highly active nature (and he is active), he is also very hard on himself. Though, in the vein of doubt, despite his eagerness to act after the player performs, he illustrates some doubt at the end of “O what a rogue…” when he talks about the devil that “hath the power/ T’assume a pleasing shape, yea, and perhaps…Abuses me to damn me.” It’s clear that he wants more evidence, but having read through the speech several times with even a modicum of intention, it’s clear that there is still some serious debate in his soul: purgatory is not supposed to exist, according to Protestant doctrine. Perhaps, taking this debate and extrapolating it over hours of anxious thought could drive someone to discourse, rhetorically, upon the reasons for or against self slaughter. We’ll see where this goes…

Oct 17 – just mere days before the first read. I’ve poured myself some whiskey while going over the script. Today I’m looking at the end of the play. In particular, “Not a whit, we defy augury…” I read it a few times, and suddenly I had the idea that “there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow…” reminds Hamlet of a moment from his childhood where he finds a dead sparrow on the ground. His father is with him, and it’s he who talks about death saying, “if it be now, ‘tis not to come etc, if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, then it will come.” And I think it’s Hamlet who discovers “the readiness is all.” The image originally is from the book of Matthew in the bible, but I don’t think the phrase has the same resonance today as several centuries ago, so I’m going to personalize it through imagery instead, because I think this will be a more interesting choice. I think the memory of that sparrow and being with his father might be the last thought in his mind…or is it Ophelia? Curious. In that case, it’s as though he trades off one batch of guilt for another: his father is avenged, but what of his love? I’m not sure what the answer is yet…I will have to see what comes of rehearsals etc.

Oct 19 – We had the first read today. Despite some stumbling here and there, it went quite well, though I was left with a peculiar feeling. I can’t say exactly what; there’s something about this role that makes people – including myself – expect a kind of genius. I’m not sure if that was conveyed this evening…or was it? Is it even fair to use that word, or is it more absurd? Arrogant? Humbling? Did I expect to be showered with praises? Perhaps I didn’t hit all the marks that I have been anticipating, as I’ve gone through the script very carefully to look for these moments. I didn’t get to the very heights of emotions that I was hoping for – but then again, it’s a read and I was tired (though I don’t think fatigue should ever be an excuse, because who knows how I’ll feel on any given day in January and February?) I suppose I’m suffering from larger anxiety surrounding Hamlet, because it’s the role of roles and everyone is going to be expecting a prodigious performance (at least I am :P). This just means that I’ll need to work trebly as hard to meet and exceed expectations; I shouldn’t get discouraged. Without great risk, there can be no great benefit.


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